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U.S. And The War In Mali; Playing Chicken With Debt; Report: Armstrong Used Performance Enhancing Drugs

Aired January 14, 2013 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, war in Mali. As Al Qaeda threatens to take control of the African country, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says America will have a role in the fight.

Plus, President Obama holds a news conference and practically dares Republicans to shut down the government.

And another brutal and horrific and barbaric rape in India, what will stop it? The star of "Slumdog Millionaire" Freida Pinto has a big idea. She's our guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, war in Mali. A deadly conflict between al Qaeda-linked militants and the Malian government is escalating and the United States is getting involved. Islamic militants who have controlled Northern Mali for months are now threatening to take control of the entire country.

The militants' move towards the capital, Bamako, prompted France to take action over the weekend. France put boots on the ground and went all in, bombing rebel training camps and other targets. So what will the United States do?

A Pentagon official told me this afternoon that the U.S. will participate in Mali, but, and I want to make sure I put quotes around this, "is still deciding what that looks like." Now when we went to the Mali border last summer, I saw firsthand how dangerous the situation is.

Today, we spoke to some of our sources on the ground, including the military commander of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic group Ansar Dine. He told us that the militants are, in his words, excited and would, his word again, welcome U.S. troops on the ground.

He also said the French bombs have killed civilians and that France is signing a death warrant for French people around the world, opening the gates of hell. Omar said the militants will fight to the end and this will be a long war, more dangerous than Afghanistan or Iraq.

Now we also spoke to a fighter from a tribe who lives in Northern Mali. You saw him there this summer. He said the fighting in some towns in Northern Mali has been fierce over the weekend and he also said something important for American policymakers to consider. His friends who are not Islamists are being paid by Omar, the Islamist you saw a moment ago, being paid by Omar and other militants to fight, and they're taking that money and they are fighting against the French.

The United States has already tried to help Mali. United States trained Malian army commanders, some of whom defected to fight with the Islamist. So if the United States becomes more involved in the war, will the Islamists threaten the U.S. directly?

Secretary of State's spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked that very question today.


VICTORIA NULAND, SPOKESWOMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: I think we're all well aware of the requirement to be vigilant about our own security, including in the homeland, but that's why it's so important to get this operation done and get it done right.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Rudolph Atallah, the Defense Department's former Africa counterterrorism director, Geoff Porter, an adviser on political and security risk in North Africa. He has briefed the FBI on the situation, and Chris Lawrence, our Pentagon correspondent.

Chris, let me start with you. The State Department says we have to do the job right. The Defense Department says we're still deciding what our involvement will look like, but the United States will be involved in Mali. What are you hearing tonight as far as U.S. intervention?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin, our sources are telling us that they are narrowing down the options. Piloted planes to gather some intelligence is one option. Drones, although one official told me those are in very high demand with things going on in Yemen and Afghanistan, Libya and other areas around the world.

He said look for possibly some air lift capacity, in other words, big cargo planes that would allow the French to get more equipment to where it's needed in Mali and refueling capability.

In other words, the French jets that are doing some of the bombing, these American refuelling tankers could pull up alongside them, and the French jets could refuel in air so they could go longer and further without having to come back to a base.

BURNETT: And some interesting options. And of course, they're still eager to try to say there won't be, you know, mass combat troops on the ground, but that is not on the table at all.

Rudy, the leader of the Islamist group, Ansar Dine, one of the commanders we spoke to was certainly full of bravado. I want to make sure I'm using the word we because he won't speak directly to a woman, so I wasn't able to ask those questions directly to him.

But we asked if he was concerned about U.S. involvement, and the words he used were excitement and welcomed. You know, essentially bring it on. Obviously, there's a lot of bravado in all of that commentary.

He wouldn't answer a direct question when we said how many fighters do you have? He didn't want to talk about that at all. The question is how much of this is bravado or how big of a threat are these rebels?

RUDOLPH ATALLAH, FORMER AFRICA COUNTERTERRORISM DIRECTOR, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: Well, the threat is very real. Actually the person that you spoke with is a guy named Omar (inaudible), with a red beard. The thing is they're all bolstered by al Qaeda and the Islamic Maghreb, and from the beginning, we have seen AQIM, for short, how aggressive they can be in Algeria.

They're responsible in 2007 for two truck bombs that devastated a U.N. building in Algiers and also the -- one of the justice buildings. They have had multiple suicide bombings over the years, and these are the guys that are training the militants.

So the threat is very real. The other thing is for France, is 10 percent of the French population is North African, in some generation or another. What we're seeing among the Islamists is there are some foreign fighters who have poured in and some of them have had some experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. So this is definitely a concern.

BURNETT: And Jeff, you know, France surprised a lot of people. Although the Pentagon was clear to tell me today, look, we were giving advance warning of what France was going to do. So there is no intention between the U.S. and France on this.

But there's supposedly been a force getting ready to go in and deal with this, of African fighters. The U.N. today said it would be ready within weeks. That's the umpteenth I think we have heard that, that there is going to be this African force dealing with this within, quote/unquote, "weeks." Why has it taken so long for anyone to get involved?

GEOFF PORTER, CEO, NORTH AFRICA RISK CONSULTING: Well, I mean, I think up until 2012, AQIM, I mean, I disagree with the other guest, Mr. Atallah, up until 2012, AQIM in the Sahara was a marginalized group. It was an ineffective group. It was good at kidnap for ransom, but it wasn't a real terrorist organization.

The delta that changed all that, that changed AQIM, was the inflow of fighters from Libya and weapons from Libya. So there's been -- we were caught a little flat footed because of the changing implications of Libya or AQIM, and subsequently, it has taken time to identify who the right forces to deploy in Northern Mali would be.

BURNETT: What about the United States? Chris, does the Pentagon believe that African and French forces can solve the problem and that the U.S. is going to be able to keep to its very clear intention, which is not to put combat troops on the ground?

LAWRENCE: Yes, right now, Erin, our sources here are telling us there's no plan whatsoever to put U.S. boots on the ground there, but there is concern about what the end game is going to be.

They believe that some sort of deployment among the French and the African Union when it gets going could probably dislodge the militants that pushed them back from the territory their gained, but military sources I've talked to have also wondered what then.

They don't -- they know that the African Union can't stay in these towns forever. They say that Mali's army has already proven it can't fight these terrorists effectively.

BURNETT: And obviously, a big black eye for the United States in the terms that they trained so many of these Malian commanders, as the "New York Times" is writing about today. Eric Schmidt, who I know is in the region right now, was saying, you know, they were training a lot of those guys.

The United States should have been well aware that people likely to defect, and defect they did. I spoke to Leon Panetta last month about Mali directly when I was in Afghanistan with him, Rudy. I want to play you what he said about going after al Qaeda. Here it is.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have to go after al Qaeda wherever the hell they're at and make sure they find no place to hide. Let's not forget, the main goal of al Qaeda is to attack the United States. And we're not going to allow that to happen again. And if we're not going to allow it to happen, we have to go after them, in Yemen, in Somalia, and yes, in Mali if necessary.


BURNETT: So Rudy, what form of going after them in Mali entail? And will this be, as Omar has tried to say, a war as dangerous as those United States fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, which of course, he's obviously saying for PR reasons in part.

ATALLAH: Well, let me start off by saying, you know, I respect what Mr. Porter said, but AQIM, although weak, is still very capable. So it's not something to kind of slough off and forget it's not there. What Mr. Panetta is actually saying is the spaces where they're actually migrating to, and i.e., now there's no longer a fight in Iraq.

What we're seeing as a migration back of the North Africans that we're fighting in Iraq back into this space. They have training camps. I have been watching this for a very long time. They do have the level of sophistication with the weapons, and they're very capable.

And so the Sahara region, we're talking about Northern Mali, the size of France, these guys have adequate places for not only training, but areas to hide. In terms of rooting them out, it's focusing on the leadership that makes up AQIM, Ansar Dine and (inaudible) and the others.

BURNETT: All right, and a quick final word to you, Geoff, the United States in terms of defining success here, what did it learn from Iraq and Afghanistan? You can't eradicate and make it perfect?

PORTER: Right. I think they're going for containment strategy. If you can walk back AQIM to where in the Sahara, not AQIM in Algeria, as your other guest mentioned, but AQIM in the Sahara, if you can walk them back to where they were in 2008, 2009, 2010, contain them in North Western Mali, I think that would be a satisfactory outcome for the U.S. and for France.

BURNETT: Right. This may surprise a lot of people. They would think the U.S. would want to get rid of them completely, but obviously that that appears at least from your view to not be the case. Thanks very much to all of you. We appreciate it and we're going to keep following the story, of course.

Still to come, President Obama draws a line in the sand and dares Republicans to cross it.

Plus, a legendary hacker and activist commits suicide, and his parents say the United States government is to blame.

And another woman gang raped in India. What will stop it? Freida Pinto of "Slumdog Millionaire" comes OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, playing chicken with the debt. Today, President Obama said again, he is not going to negotiate with Republicans about raising the debt ceiling.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If the Republicans in Congress have made a decision that they want to shut down the government in order to get their way, then they have a vote in the House of Representatives to do that.


BURNETT: The problem, Republicans say that's exactly what they're going to do. OUTFRONT tonight, David Frum, former special assistant and speech writer to President George W. Bush and Daniel Altman, economics professor at NYU. Great to see you both.

David, the president himself saying, look, I acknowledge it, a government shutdown is a real possibility. House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington State told "Politico," I think it's possible we would shut down the government.

So here we are, we're getting to a problem. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said mid-February and early March is as long as he can go before the whole things implodes. So who blinks first?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, this is one of the situations like in the monkey cage at the zoo where the monkeys bang each other chests and pop themselves up and look as ferocious as possible. The president is escalating this confrontation.

He wants to take every alternative off the table, no trillion dollar coin, no 14th amendment option. You do it my way or we plunge the public credit of the United States into bankruptcy. And the Republicans are responding equivalently by saying to the president, we're not scared. We're not scared of you.

Now it's very clear that the Republican leadership does not want this kind of a confrontation. John Boehner has repeatedly said so. But the president -- but the president is trying to force the appearance of a confrontation in order to magnify the political impact of a republican climb-down when it eventually happens, as it will.

BURNETT: All right, so Daniel, let me ask you, Ben Bernanke came out today and weighed in on this whole thing in a way that might shock a lot of people because he said, you know what, to hell with the debt ceiling, although he said it in Ben Bernanke style. Let me let him say it.


BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: I think it would be a good thing if we didn't have it. I don't think that's going to happen.


BURNETT: So would it be better if we didn't have a debt ceiling at all?

DANIEL ALTMAN, ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NYU'S STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Yes, absolutely it would. This is a silly thing, which ought to happen automatically because our debt is going to grow along with our economy from year to year.

Especially it's going to grow in times when we need to spend a little more to juice our economy. But you know, Bernanke has very little credibility with the Republican Party because Republican leadership last year actually sent letters to him saying stop with your quantitative easing and your other extraordinary measures to juice this economy.

They're already angry at him, so Bernanke saying we should from the drop debt ceiling is not going to do anything in Congress.

BURNETT: Not going to make it any worse. You know, David, part of the problem is the debt seems to go up and good times and bad times and no one ever seems to have the courage to cut it, but the debt ceiling itself is a very bipartisan thing in terms of raising it.

Seventy six times it's been raised since 1962. And the number one president in terms of raising it, the winner is Ronald Reagan at 17 times. You know, that might shock a lot of those -- people who like to see him as the paragon of responsible debt management spending and taxes.

FRUM: The irony is, of course, we're having this discussion at exactly the moment when the debt and the deficit -- the deficit is shrinking more rapidly than at any time since the end of the Korean War. In fact, in December, we had a deficit for the month of $260 million, not $260 billion, $260 million, which in Washington is practically almost the budget.

That's the smallest monthly deficit in five years. Some of that is artificial. It's people pulling transactions forward because they were afraid of higher tax rates in 2013. But for the first three months of 2013, we have a rapidly shrinking fiscal 2013. We have a rapidly shrinking deficit. So we are in a way chasing a vanishing problem.

BURNETT: Which is interesting, of course, energy policy that would allow for some things that are dirty and some of things that are not so dirty would completely perhaps get rid of this problem after a while. Do you think we're headed for a full stalemate?

ALTMAN: Well, you know, it's such a shame. I think David is right because we have low debt service right now. We're paying less interest on our debt than we had in the Reagan and Bush administrations before because interest rates are so low.

BURNETT: But they're going to go up one day.

ALTMAN: They're going to up, but not for several years. I'll say it, we should be borrowing more at 30-year, 3 percent terms, so that we can invest in the long-term growth of this economy. This is not the time for further austerity and cuts.

If we were even to consider that right now, it would be a disaster. And what we're doing right now as the president correctly said today, is actually making our economy seem more risky and hurting ourselves now even without a default. We're already doing damage today.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you. Now, John Avlon is cofounder of "No Labels," a bipartisan group dedicated to breaking the gridlock in Washington. The group met in New York today. Our viewers who know you, John, should not be no surprised you go by "No Labels," but where do we go from here?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this is what is so stunning right now because as you heard David say, this chest pounding is really right now, the fever has got to break or we're going to go over the cliff.

Congress is the single biggest impediment to the economic recovery. Erin, I spoke to Jon Huntsman and Joe Manchin, Republican and Democrat co-chairs of "No Labels" today and asked them what they think about how we got here and how we go forward. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R), FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: We have forgotten how to do the art of the deal. It's been so long since this government has put together any kind of deal between parties. Heaven forbid the next generation come up thinking this is the normal way forward. This is not the normal way forward. This represents a broken system.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN III (D), WEST VIRGINIA: If we quit thinking about the next election and start thinking about the next generation, we're going to make it through our lives just fine. It's what we're living behind and they're going to have to come together sooner or later.


AVLON: So, Erin, there you heard it. It's the short term thinking creating potentially huge long-term costs for the American economy.

BURNETT: Now, John, the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating was a big problem, of course, it hasn't yet resulted in higher interest rates. So a lot of people might say, look, who cares? Let's be complacent. Let's not worry about another downgrade. Who cares? Do people in Washington get it or that's it's important or are they going to just --

AVLON: Erin, it almost seems to be an afterthought in all of the chest thumping and sort of positional bargaining today. No one is even talking about it because the short-term impact of a default would be so extraordinary. Here's the thing.

Maybe we shouldn't call this the debt ceiling at all. Maybe we should change it the downgrade ceiling or the default ceiling maybe that would change some of the politics around this because this game of chicken is just sick.

BURNETT: I think that's very right, sometimes semantics can make all the difference.

AVLON: Absolutely.

BURNETT: Thanks so much to John Avlon.

And OUTFRONT next, a legendary hacker and activist commits suicide and his parents blame the government.

And the Lance Armstrong apology tour has officially begun, but is he really coming clean? What he said and did not say today.


BURNETT: Breaking news, "USA Today" reporting Lance Armstrong has confessed in his interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used performance enhancing drugs in his cycling career. OUTFRONT tonight, Brent Schrotenboer, "USA Today" sports writer who has spoken to a person familiar with the interview. What can you tell us? I'm just looking at the tweet that Oprah just sent out a few moments ago that said, just wrapped with Lance Armstrong, more than 2- 1/2 hours. He came ready. She put it in capitals. What did he tell her?

BRENT SCHROTENBOER, SPORTS WRITER, "USA TODAY": Well, he followed through in his plan to confess to doping in his cycling career, although the details are a little bit sketchy right now because the interview did just conclude in the last couple hours.

I understand there's a confidentiality agreement about the contents of the show because it's not going to air until Thursday, but the plan all along for him was to use this venue to confess, to make an admission about doping and his cycling career, which is something he's never done before.


SCHROTENBOER: He's denied it for years and he's attacked those who talked about it for years. So it's a significant development.

BURNETT: Attacked and attacked aggressively, he's denied these allegations so many times. Many people who thought there was no way he could be telling the truth believed him just because of the power and passions with which he denied it.

Assuming -- now that he has admitted to something, now that you have confirmed he has, what happens now? And is he going to face perjury charges that could cost him an incredible amount of money?

SCHROTENBOER: Well, the last time that he testified under oath about this and denied taking performance enhancing drugs was in 2005, and that was in Texas. It was in a lawsuit in Texas. And that was seven years ago, so that's beyond the statute of limitations, as I understand it.

So I think he's clear there, but certainly, there's a lot of legal risk for him. The federal government had considered prosecuting him for fraud, but they dropped that case without explanation in February. I don't think he's at risk there.

But on the civil level, civil lawsuits, he faces a considerable liability in tens of millions of dollars. I think their strategy there with Lance and his lawyers is that they can deal with it and negotiate and settle.

BURNETT: Try to move on.

SCHROTENBOER: And deal with it as it comes.

BURNETT: Now, Brent, you also report that Armstrong is trying to reconcile with his former teammate, Floyd Landis. Now, of course, Floyd Landis one of the first to accuse Lance Armstrong of using performance enhancing drugs to that relationship has got to be, I don't know, icy, rocky. I don't know what words to use to possibly describe it. Was it surprising to you? Are they going to make up?

SCHROTENBOER: I don't know if they're going to make up. I know Lance, it's in his interest to try. And they have hated each other for years, so that's going to take some time. Floyd Landis has filed a federal whistle blower's suit against Lance Armstrong alleging that he defrauded the U.S. Postal Service of millions of dollars when they were cycling for the U.S. Postal Service cycling team.

If Lance is able to reconcile with Floyd, perhaps Floyd could be convinced to drop that suit. But I think Floyd is aware of that and certainly he is hostile toward Lance because of the way that he attacked him and portrayed him as a fraud for such a long time.

So that's something that it's going to take time to mend some fences. Who knows if that will ever be repaired, that relationship, but the strategy for the Armstrong camp at this point, by coming forward now and finally confessing, it's long-term.

They do not expect forgiveness overnight. They do not expect people to drop their grudges against him overnight. They're looking at like a five-year, 10-year process where they hope that history will judge him favorably and starting with his confession today.

BURNETT: All right, well, thank you very much, Brent. Of course, as we said, "USA Today" reporting that Lance Armstrong has now formally confessed to using performance enhancing drugs in an interview that just wrapped up with Oprah Winfrey.

OUTFRONT next, the legendary hacker and activist died over the weekend, and his parents blame the U.S. government. We'll tell you why.

And another woman gang raped in India. This one -- as barbaric if not more barbaric than what you've heard recently. Freida Pinto is the star of "Slumdog Millionaire." She talked about her own experience and what it's going to take the change the situation forever.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We start with stories we care about, where we focus on reporting from the front lines.

And we begin with a 16-year-old who has pleaded not guilty to charges he shot at his class mate. Bryan Oliver is being charged as an adult for last week's shooting in Taft High School in California. He's charged with two counts of attempted murder after he allegedly shot and injured two people, one seriously.

Criminal defense attorney John Ronis (ph) tells us he's not surprised prosecutors are charging Oliver as an adult because if he's convicted, the penalties, of course, are much higher than they would be if he were charged as a juvenile. And we now know why the cause of death on actress Natalie Wood's autopsy report was changed. It was changed to drowning and other undetermined factors. Los Angeles chief medical examiner, after reviewing the original autopsy report said that Wood, and this is amazing after all this time, had fresh bruises on her arms when she died. Now, those marks combined with all of the questions about her mysterious death in 1981 led to the coroner making the change. The sheriff's department says the case is still open.

Marti Rulli, co-author of a book "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendor," which pointed out inconsistencies in the original autopsy report tells us she hopes that Ms. Wood will finally receive the justice she deserved.

And now, some good news to report. Former President George H.W. Bush has been released from a Houston, Texas, hospital. He first went into the hospital back in November because of bronchitis and he ended up having to stay.

In a statement to OUTFRONT, Bush's doctor says the former president will not need any special medication when he comes home. He'll just need physical therapy.

And we have just learned tonight when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. A lot of you have been waiting for this date, and we've got it. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce has announced Clinton will testify before his committee on January 23rd. In statement, Chairman Royce says the hearing will focus on why the attack wasn't better anticipated and what leadership failures existed at the State Department.

Well, it's been 529 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says even though the economic recovery isn't going as fast as he'd like, he's cautiously optimistic about the economy over the next couple of years. That's as good as it gets, guys, cautiously optimist. From a guy like Ben, that's a ringing endorsement.

And now, our third story OUTFRONT: Fingerprints wanted. Maryland's Governor Martin O'Malley proposed a sweeping new gun law today. And what it's going to do is require prospective gun owners to submit to digital fingerprinting. The plan also includes banning assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, requiring gun safety courses and background checks.

O'Malley's proposal goes further than his fellow Democratic governors. And Maryland House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell, a Republican, tells OUTFRONT, the reality is Martin O'Malley is trying to get to the left of Andrew Cuomo in New York because he wants to run for president in 2016.

I love how they all run to the left and run to the right. OUTFRONT tonight, Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative blog,; former Obama administration official Rosa Brooks; and our legal analyst, Paul Callan.

Erick, let me start with you. Martin O'Malley obviously not the only politician that everybody presumes has 2016 ambitions who is stepping out in the gun law fray. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, of course, wants to expand the state's assault weapons ban and limit magazines. Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal wants a law to keep guns away from the mentally ill.

So, how much is this push really about positioning for 2016?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think some of it definitely is about 2016. But some of it is they want to be seen as doing something. And they hope if they're seen as doing something now, by 2016, the particulars may be forgotten, particularly by gun rights advocates and a lot in the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party. But they'll look at them as doing something.

But as well, I don't think we should downplay that a lot of Democrats for a long time have wanted to do something about guns. And with the incident in Sandy Hook and this past summer's incident in Colorado, they feel like they have momentum on their side.

BURNETT: Let me ask you, Rosa, you know, as we just said, Maryland's House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell, he's a Republican fr9om the eastern shore of the state. That's where I grew up. There are a lot of people there who are passionate about their guns. I was there this weekend and I never heard so many guns going off actually. And that was saying something.

He tells OUTFRONT that none of the gun control proposals would appear to actually prevent the tragedy in Newtown. He then adds, "This looks like crass opportunism from politicians who want gun control."

And Martin O'Malley responded to this, saying this is not about political gain. It's about the public safety.

But, O'Donnell does have a point that these new laws would not prevent Newtown, and Newtown, of course, is what's sparking this whole conversation.

ROSA BROOKS, FORMER OBAMA ADMIN. OFFICIAL: I think Newtown is what's sparking the whole conversation, but it's not the only gun violence issue the United States has to grapple with, obviously. It's an opening.

And on the one hand, I agree. You can't be too cynical when it comes to politicians. I'm sure all of these guys are thinking about 2016.

That said, I think governors in particular have a really strong incentive to care about gun control issues in general because states and municipalities are often the ones who bear the cost of gun violence. It's the emergency room treatment, it's law enforcement, et cetera. They're the ones basically who pay the bills. So, they have a pretty strong incentive to want to crack down.

BURNETT: It's a fair point. And, Paul, let me ask you, though, when you actually look at the facts of it. You look at Maryland. It's already a state that is pretty solid. It only ranked fifth in firearm murders.

Current Maryland law, magazines of 20 rounds cannot be sold. You can own them, though, which appears to be a loophole. You have to have a background check when you buy a regulated gun. So, there's still that other loophole. And buyers have to take gun safety course online.

So, will the proposals being put out today noticeably make those laws tougher?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It won't make a difference, because, you know, when you get back to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, you've got a high capacity clip being used in a semiautomatic assault rifle. None of these proposals, with the exception, of course, New York, which already bans all of this stuff.


CALLAN: They already have the strictest gun control laws in the country, but none of these other proposals would prevent a relatively high capacity clip or a semiautomatic rifle. And the truth is in the details. You know, they say, oh, we're going to ban assault rifles. Well, define an assault rifle.

You know, you look it up to see what the definition is. It's a rifle that's a military-style rifle. Well, what does that mean?

In the end, what you have to ban is a semiautomatic rifle, one where when you pull the trigger, you can fire numerous rounds in a fairly short period of time. And nobody is proposing that.

So I'm not so sure that any of these proposals are anything but cosmetic.

BURNETT: It starts to affect hunters.

Eric, it's not just the Democrats. As I mentioned, Governor Bobby Jindal, he's also put something forth focusing on mental health, and Chris Christie has been very open about the fact over the fact, over the past couple of years, when I've heard him speak in public, that he is way left of the Republican Party on gun control, and he's very proud of the fact that New Jersey has among the toughest gun control laws in the country, and incredibly proud of it.

So, is this a new message for Republicans in 2016, that they have woken up to the fact that more than half Americans support tougher gun control after Newtown?

ERICKSON: Well, you know, it depends on where the message shifts. I think Republicans like Bobby Jindal are shifting it in the direction it needs to go, which is mental health. I mean, as we just heard, most of these laws wouldn't have done anything to prevent Sandy Hook. But probably mental health between what happened in Arizona, and what happened in Colorado, and what happened in Sandy Hook, mental health issues are a big player in those.

And let's not forget handguns. No one is talking about handguns which kill a lot more people than assault rifles or semiautomatic rifles.

BURNETT: Which is also a fair moment.

Paul, Mayor Bloomberg's criminal justice coordinator said something I want to quote. Gun laws matter because states with strong gun laws tend to receive illegal guns and states with weak gun laws tend to export them. So, I guess the question is if that's the case, you keep getting tougher laws, it just increases the market for black markets. New York, for example, gets its guns from states with very weak law, say, like Virginia.

CALLAN: Well, this is absolutely true. And in the end, you have to look at a national form of legislation that would restrict high capacity clips and maybe semiautomatic weapons.


CALLAN: But the political will to pass that legislation, I just don't think is there. So much of the country believes in rifles and having the ability to have a semiautomatic weapon. I'm not so sure that you'll get the votes to pass that kind of legislation.

BURNETT: Rosa, will Andrew Cuomo become the face of gun regulation in America if he's able to pass what New York now has on the table, which would go from already being one of the toughest states to being even tougher?

BROOKS: It's clearly what he would like to do. But, you know, if I can get back to that earlier point, I think that, yes, having tight gun control laws in a particular state can spark the black market. But there's a strong correlation between the overall level of gun violence and gun deaths and the tightness of the gun control laws in a particular state. States with tougher gun control legislation have fewer gun-related homicides. As I said, hard to un-tease the causation and the correlation, but it does seem to have a real impact.

I think the real irony on this, you ask if the Republican Party -- the Republican Party is to the left of the Republican Party on gun control. And you actually look at Republican voters, they are much more strongly in support of gun control than their own party leaders are.

BURNETT: All right. Well, that would be an interesting point. Thanks very much to all of you. We appreciate it.

And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: Suicide of a tech giant. Aaron Swartz is a name you may or not be familiar with. He was only 26 years old. He was found dead in his New York City apartment on Friday night. But he's best known as the creator of Reddit. It is one of the most powerful tools online for sharing information.

Now, he was also, though, remembered as a hacker, as a programmer, and as an activist. And his parents are now putting the blame for his suicide on the U.S. government and one of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

Dan Simon is OUTFRONT.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A brilliant computer programmer, a world-class university, and a federal prosecutor -- a three-way collision that some speculate led to a deepening depression for 26-year-old Aaron Swartz.

Swartz was best known as the co founder of Reddit, a widely used social news and entertainment Web site built around user submitted content. President Obama even used Reddit to reach more than 5 million voters in his re-election campaign, most of them young people.

In his short life, he became a folk hero, pushing to make web content free. But with prosecutors pressing serious charges, Swartz hanged himself Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. His lawyer said he doesn't know what put him over the edge, but the notion of prison time had Swartz deeply worried.

ELLIOT PETERS, SWARTZ'S ATTORNEY: But I know this case was weighing heavily on his mind and it was a significant source of stress for him.

AARON SWARTZ, REDDIT CREATOR: It's the freedom to connect, like freedom of speech or like the freedom to murder.

SIMON: The case stemming from Swartz's passionate belief for a wide open, free Internet. It dates back to July 2011, when he was indicted on charges of stealing millions of academic articles and journals from a digital archive at MIT -- the charges could have landed him in prison for up to 35 years, along with a million dollar fine.

PETERS: I think that they tried to turn a mole's hill into a mountain. They, in the kind of old time language, they really tried to make a federal case out of it.

SIMON: The archive network, which stood to be harmed the most, declined to press charges. Nonetheless, the government proceeded.

Swartz's family released this pointed statement. "Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death." MIT's president said the school is launching an investigation to examine its role in the prosecution.

When the Boston-based U.S. attorney first announced the indictment, the press release said, quote, "Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data, or dollars."

(on camera): The U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts has now formally dropped the charges against Swartz. The court filing merely states, quote, "In support of this dismissal, the government states that Mr. Swartz died on January 11th, 2013."

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


BURNETT: All right. Another week, another gang rape in India. The victim this time left hanging from a tree and no one has been arrested.

The star of "Slumdog Millionaire" Freida Pinto is OUTFRONT next to talk about her own experience and what can be done to stop this.

And then a story that is going to remind you about your favorite teacher and why you loved that person so much.


BURNETT: Let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C.360." Hi, Anderson.


Yes, I'm back in Newtown, Connecticut, tonight, one month since the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School -- the shootings that changed this town forever. To their credit, this town has not given into bitterness and grief. That's what's so remarkable and that's what we're going to be talking about over the next hour as we talk to spiritual leaders and community leaders.

Newtown is determined to heal and move forward. We'll talk to many here about those plans.

We'll also talk to Gary Tuchman. Soon after the shooting, as you know, letters began arriving literally from around the world. People from around the world wanting to let Newtown to know that they were not alone. We got a look at all the letters which are being saved for a permanent memorial here.

We also are going to hear tonight a special rendition of "Amazing Grace" from none other than country star Kenny Chesney.

You may remember Grace McDonnell. We'll talk to her parents. Grace was killed in the shooting. And Kenny was one of Grace's favorite singers. She used to sing his songs waiting for the school bus with her mom.

Kenny Chesney recorded "Amazing Grace" for us and we'll play that for you, as well, tonight.

All of that at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: Fifth story OUTFRONT: Two more cases of gang rape in India. One shockingly similar to the brutal rape and murder last month of a 23-year-old woman, a story that's captured the world's attention. Six suspects now have been arrested in the gang rape of a 29-year-old who was taking the bus to her family's village on northern Punjab province on Friday night. The bus driver and conductor are among the accused.

And in another case, a woman traveling with her 10-year-old son to New Delhi was dragged off a train, gang raped, strangled, and then hanged. No arrests have been reported in this truly brutal attack.

Actress Freida Pinto is famous for her role in "Slumdog Millionaire" and she's speaking out now for the first time against these horrific crimes. And she's OUTFRONT tonight in an exclusive interview.

And, Freida, thank you so much for taking the time. And these stories, the most recent two, horrific and brutal stories of rape. A woman has been hanged.

As a woman growing up in India, do these stories shock you?

FREIDA PINTO, ACTRESS: You know, Erin, growing up in India, I remember picking up the newspaper almost every day, and by the time you reach the fourth and the fifth page, there'd be a little column in the corner that would be dedicated to a rape case that was reported.

And the sad part is that those rape cases are just reported and there was no follow-up after that. It kind of made me wonder as a girl growing up in India if forever as a girl, I would have to live in the fear of this might just happen to me.

BURNETT: And I know that you found out about the rape of the 23- year-old woman, the one that has galvanized the world and caused so many protests in India. You were landing in Bombay, you had been in a film festival in Dubai. It was a holiday time.

PINTO: Right.

BURNETT: What was your reaction to that? Were you -- were you surprised when that rape, given what you said about it being in the paper every day, when that rape was the one that inspired and motivated people?

PINTO: In a way, actually, I was -- what was shocking was the reaction. And I think it was a very appropriate and much required reaction. Would have been wonderful if it happens many, many years ago, but the fact that it happened finally is what is really important. I hope these voices don't die out because what happens in situations like I was telling you, even growing up, just reading about them and you read them every day, and it's sickening to read them every day, to the point that you don't want to read it after a while.

And I hope it doesn't reach a stage as that, that you kind of let it pass. You want something to be done, and these voices cannot be shut down anymore. And the youth are so powerful, so they need to continue.

BURNETT: And, Freida, I want to talk a little about your upbringing. But, you know, first, to let everyone know, I mean, this has been a part of what you are and what you have been fighting for. Professionally, you played a victim of sexual violence in two films, "Trishna". And your breakthrough role, of course, as Latika in the award-winning "Slumdog Millionaire," you're treated as property there. And I want to play a clip where you got your face sliced in that film. Here it is.


BURNETT: It's horrific just to watch it, you get Goosebumps and, obviously, it's a dramatized event. But when you look at that, is that dramatized or is that a reflection of reality?

PINTO: Well, denigration of women in society, in a misogynistic society, is not uncommon. It's heard of, and it happens not just in India, but it happens in so many parts of the world.

Us women as actors, we portray these roles in the hope that someone will listen and want to make a change and not just a film role that was played and then forgotten or just praised for the performance of the -- for how good the film was.

BURNETT: I know you experienced firsthand, the fear of men. And I know your mother did also.

PINTO: Right. One of her first horrifying experiences was when she was traveling, and she had one of these men on a delivery bike decided to kick her in the chest for a good feel, if you please, and he sped away with a laugh on his face. And my mother was so petrified, so shocked, she did not know how to react at that point in time. So she decided to carry stones in her bag so she could attack him the next time she saw him.

You never really think it could happen to you, right? So you continue with your everyday life. It's not about the dress you wear because -- or the kind of clothes you wear because how would you then explain the rape of a 4-year-old child or a 65-year-old woman? You wouldn't be able to explain that.

So you continue living thinking that I'm going to be fine. And then one fine day, you're just marked for such brutality.

BURNETT: Now, Freida, we keep hearing that the young woman's rape will spark change in India, but the two rapes that have happened since that horrific act are barbaric also, as we described.


BURNETT: So, I mean, I guess the question is: do you think anything will change or will there just be a hue and an outcry and it will essentially go back to the way it was before?

PINTO: You know, Erin, I love being an optimist, even in situations like this, because that's all you can do after a while. As soon as you become cynical, you kind of end up living a life of extreme dread and fear as well.

And I want to be hopeful, and so, I want to live in the hope that this change can happen. It's not going to happen overnight, and we are not going to be idealists about that. It's going to take time.

But that's why I feel we cannot be once again put into a situation of forced amnesia. We need to keep this fight alive. We need to keep the protest alive.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Freida, thank you very much for taking the time to share all your thoughts with us.

PINTO: Thank you so much. Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And still to come, the OUTFRONT team crashes a birthday party, a pretty incredible party. We're going to take you there next.


BURNETT: We've all had teachers who made a huge difference in our lives, but we don't always have the opportunity to say thank you. One school was able to do just that this weekend when they honored the woman they call granny.

Agnes Zhelesnik is the home ec teacher in a Sundance School in North Plainfield, New Jersey. She's worked at the school for 17 years teaching the children how to cook and sew. The staff and students at the school adore her and affectionately refer to her as granny.

Now, the nickname comes from the fact granny is 99 years olds. And her story is amazing. For six decades, she worked at home as a wife and mother. She didn't even begin teaching until a position at Sundance came up in 1985. She was 82 years old when she first started teaching.

Since then, she's had a huge impact on her students' lives and a lot of them return on Sunday for her 99 birthday celebrations. Hundreds attended, they presented her with a quilt, a cake, and 99 red balloons. And one by one, they spoke at length about what granny means to them.

They also performed, singing, dancing, playing instruments and rapping. One boy even stripped down to his undershirt for a spirited version of "I Feel Good", and it was all for granny. After the end of the party, after hundreds of well-wishers hugged and thanked her, we had a chance to talk to granny about why she's still working.


AGNES ZHELESNIK, TEACHER, THE SUNDANCE SCHOOL: I saw people younger than me, and they stay home, but I don't have to stay home. I just get up and come here, and the children come in and see me. They want to know what we're making today.

That's the only reason why I come here, is the children.

My advice? Just be happy, I guess. Just do what you have to do to take care of kids.


BURNETT: That's pretty amazing. Here's to granny and to all of the teachers you had and we had who had made us into the people we are. For more of granny's celebration, including the performances, as some of them are really worth taking an extra longer look, visit our blog at

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.