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In the Grip Of The Flu; Prep for Next Week's Inauguration; Big Hunt for Burmese Python; Newtown, A Month Later

Aired January 14, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Scouring the everglades for snakes, really big snakes. The hunt is on in Florida starting today.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Disaster at sea one year later. a solemn remembrance of the scene of a cruise ship catastrophe.

BERMAN: And dress rehearsal for the big day. Stand-ins for the president and First Lady run through the plan for next week's inauguration. I wonder if the Chief Justice is doing a little rehearsing. He may want to think about this time around.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty-one minutes past the hour. It is Monday morning. We're glad you're with us.

So, we begin with the flu epidemic. It's affecting all but three states now. The CDC says the only state spared widespread flu are California, Hawaii, and Mississippi. Congratulations to all of you. In New York, getting a flu shot is becoming tougher and tougher. There has been a run on the vaccine at some pharmacies and urgent cares centers since Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency.

Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us now live. Elizabeth, what exactly do health officials mean when they call this an epidemic?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What they do every year, the Centers for Disease Control, looks at the number of people who are getting sick and dying from flu and from pneumonia, which is often related to flu. And when it reaches a certain level, they call it an epidemic. And while this word is big and scary, I do want to note that, typically, every year there's an epidemic.

This is not the only year. Now, this is probably going to be a particularly bad flu season at the end of the day. This is clearly not a good situation. But as far as epidemics go, typically, it's an epidemic every year.

SAMBOLIN: So, Governor Cuomo declared a public health emergency in New York. What does that do? COHEN: You know, among other things, what it does is it tells pharmacists you can go ahead and vaccinate minors, because usually, they say with minors, forget it, pharmacists. You can't do it. They have to go to their doctor.

But what's interesting is that we called many pharmacies in the state of New York and they said, well, we know that we can vaccinate minors, but we're choosing not to. So, it's unclear how well that particular directive is working.

SAMBOLIN: Elizabeth, I tried to get a flu shot over the weekend for myself and for my children. So, we drove around from pharmacy to pharmacy. I should have just made phone calls. And we could not find any flu vaccines. I haven't called the doctors office and they're out of the flu shot also. Why is that that there are these shortages that are happening now?

COHEN: No, Zoraida, we're told that it's a distribution issue, because in certain parts of the country, there are enough shots. And in certain parts of the country, as you have learned, there aren't. And I think it's probably pretty straight forward. The governor declares a state of emergency. People want to get flu shots.

They're just weren't enough getting in there at the moment. Not talking about Tamiflu, which is what we're seeing now. That's something different talking now about vaccinations. So, I think the bottom line lesson of this is, we shall listen to the Centers for Disease Control and get our shots when they become available which is October.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, no kidding.

COHEN: I know I'm sounding judgy here, and I can say this to you because you're my friend, but I took my kids to get a flu shot in October, because I didn't want -- because I didn't want to face this kind of thing. And I was actually surprised. I think several public officials went sort of, you know, got cameras and everything and they got their shots recently.

And I got to tell you, I was thinking, jeez, that worries me. Why are they getting their shots in January?

SAMBOLIN: No, I totally get you. I appreciate the judgments, actually, because maybe next year, I will be much smarter. I have one last question for you, because we're asking a lot around here. I've been sick for a week now. There are a lot of people walking around here sick also trying to figure out do we have the flu? Are we contagious? And how do you know that it is the flu?

COHEN: You know, it can be tough to know whether something is the flu or some other virus. So, I'm going to give you sort of one rule of thumb and then some specifics. The rule of thumb is when it becomes a whole body experience, it is much more likely that it is the flu. So, let's go over some of the specifics.

With flu, it's sudden onset. You feel perfectly fine and then you feel like basically you got hit by a bus. That's how people have described it to me. Body aches. You don't usually get body aches with a cold. Cold tends to be neck up. Also fever, which you can get with other viruses. Fever is often a symptom with flu and fatigue.

And when I say fatigue, I don't mean like I'm so tired. I think I want a nap. I mean, like, I cannot get out of bed. Right, exactly. I've had several friends who had the flu this season and they were like can't get out of bed, like having trouble walking to the bathroom kind of fatigue.


COHEN: Amen.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you for all of that. We are going to heed all of your advice and warnings. Elizabeth Cohen live for us.


SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: You're in trouble. She is judging you.


SAMBOLIN: I deserve it. I totally deserve it.

BERMAN: Yes, you do.

SAMBOLIN: You have not vaccinated your children --

BERMAN: We got flu shots in like November.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I thought you told me you had it -- your wife hasn't had a flu shot.

BERMAN: Most of us.


BERMAN: Three out of four of us had the flu shots months ago.

SAMBOLIN: All right. No more judgments. No more judgments.

BERMAN: All right. It is 35 minutes after the hour right now. It has been one month now since life in Newtown, Connecticut, changed forever when 20 children and six adults were killed, of course, inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School. At a public forum last night, community residents debated the future of the building where the massacre took place.

Some favored demolition, and some construction of a memorial while others said it should be renovated.

SAMBOLIN: And a somber occasion in Italy. The "Costa Concordia" wrecked off the Tuscon Coast a year ago Sunday. Survivors and victims' loved one marked that occasion with wreaths, a memorial plaque, and many, many tears. A boat horn sounded 32 times, one for each victim.

Concordia's captain was on Italian TV yesterday saying that he is not responsible. He's accused of abandoning ship. He claims he just fell into a lifeboat. He could face manslaughter charges. The ship is still in the water on its side. It could be September before it's ready to be hauled off the rocks.

BERMAN: Cubans are eager to take advantage of looser travel rules taking effect today. Now, most Cubans will be able to leave the island with only a passport, stay abroad for two years and even take along small children. As a result, the U.S. state department says it is preparing for a possible increase in Cuban visa requests.

SAMBOLIN: And a dress rehearsal in D.C. as preparations for next week's presidential inauguration kick into high gear now. Stand-ins for President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as their wives took part in an elaborate preview. They watched the presidential escort from the capitol's east steps including the U.S. Army Band, the Old Guard, Fire and Drum Corps and Honor Gguard members from each branch of the military.

BERMAN: So, it is an unprecedented hunt for a potential man eater. Hundreds of big snake wranglers from hard-core hunters to complete beginners are taking part in a Florida competition meant to thin out that state's Burmese python population in the Everglades. It kicked off over the weekend.

John Zarrella is there. So, John, how is the python hunt going so far?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, you may be able to tell I'm on the payment out here and, you know, you just never can tell where those pythons are going to show up. But it did go pretty well. For Florida wildlife officials told me yesterday that they did have reports of hunters getting some kills. Exactly how many, they don't know at this point.

May have some results in today when the pythons, the remains of these pythons are brought into some of those stations that are set up around South Florida for that purpose to register these particular kills. Now, 700, more than 700 people signed up to go out during this month long hunt which did, as you mention, kick off on Saturday. But, quite frankly, it's not going to be that easy to find these snakes.


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

JORGE PINO, FLORIDA FOSIH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COMMISSION: If we remove one snake from the ecosystem, we've done a good thing. So, imagine, if 700 people are out there and they all bring one snake, that's 700 snake -- less snakes that we have on the ecosystem. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: You know, now, they've recorded snakes down here in the Everglades up to nearly 20 feet long these pythons. They're not venomous, but they're invasive species, a constrictor. And they are literally taking over many parts of the Everglades because they have no natural enemy -- John.

BERMAN: Twenty feet long, and it kind of sticks with you when you say that. There is some debate on whether hunting these pythons is actually humane. This is what a spokesman from PETA, the animal rights group said. "Reptiles have slow metabolisms which mean when they are beheaded, they can suffer up to an hour before they actually die."

So, PETA is asking if this hunt is going to go forward, that they limit the ways pythons can be killed to ways where the brain is destroyed immediately so that they do not suffer. So, how are officials there responding to these concerns?


BERMAN: We appear to be losing John in the midst of the danger with the pythons there. We hope he gets his microphone back and stays safe from our mistake (ph) there.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. This could cause heart palpitations in some car lovers. GM has rolled out the 2014 Corvette Sting Ray. It shares only two parts with the 2013 model, so it's like the company built a totally different car. Prince might need to re-record his song.

GM borrowed some details of the 1963 model, so there are some retro going on here. Officials also say the sting ray is faster. They get better mileage than the current Corvette. No word on the price, though, but they say if can you afford the 2013, you can afford the 2014. It will be in the showroom this fall.

BERMAN: If you already bought the 2013, you may not be shopping for the 2014.

SAMBOLIN: Why not? A little bit of an upgrade there.

BERMAN: Man, I like how you roll.


BERMAN: Forty minutes after the hour right now. We're going to go live to Newtown, Connecticut, where some residents are banding together for a cause that strikes a deep port in their community.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-three minutes past the hour. This morning, Vice President Biden will meet with members of the House of Representatives as part of the task force that he's heading up on reducing gun violence. The task force is expected to make its recommendations tomorrow. It has been one month now since the Newtown school shooting.

A group of Newtown residents called Sandy Hook Promise will mark this very sad day by holding a news conference today. They plan to unveil a national grassroots initiative to reduce gun violence. The group will be joined by families of victims and survivors of other shootings as well. So among them, we have Stephen Barton, a survivor of last summer's Aurora movie theater shooting.

He was shot in the face, neck, and the chest before he was able to escape. Stephen now works as an outreach and policy associate for mayors against illegal guns, excuse me. He also grew up about ten minutes from Newtown. And Lori Haas will also be there. Her daughter, Emily, was shot twice during the 2001 Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Luckily, we're happy to report that she survived. And Lori is now the Virginia organizer for the coalition to stop gun violence. Thank you both for being with us this morning. Stephen, I want to begin with you. What do you hope to accomplish today?

STEPHEN BARTON, AURORA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: You know, I'm here, first and foremost, to support the families and the community and to really support this amazing grassroots effort that has sprung up through Sandy Hook promise.

SAMBOLIN: But what are you hoping will come out of this?

BARTON: Well, I mean, I think it's really important to remind the American public, you know, just one month ago, 20 children were killed and six educators. And you know, it's important to keep that in the forefront of people's minds as we move forward and try to figure out how we can prevent these things from happening in the future.

SAMBOLIN: And Lori, we all struggle with what do you say to the parents who have lost children. And you know more than anyone what it's like to be in the shoes of the Sandy Hook moms and dads. You're going to be meeting with the victims' families and fellow survivors today. What are you going to tell them?

LORI HAAS, DAUGHTER WAS SHOT DURING THE VA TECH MASSACRE: Well, first, as Stephen suggested, it's to offer my support and my concern and compassion. You know, every circumstance is different. Every family is different. And the path they're on is particularly unique. They may be on the same path. But their reaction is their own.

So, I would never suggest or give advice to someone who's on that path. I can share my experiences, you know, what worked for my family, you know whether some of the challenges we faced in the aftermath of a mass shooting. But I'll just share my experiences and hope that that in some small way offers some support. SAMBOLIN: I'm sure they're going to be grateful to have you. Stephen, the gun industry has long opposed an assault weapons ban. Any measure will likely face a high hurdle getting through Congress. And here's what we're hearing the plan will include. Realistically, what do you think can get done?

It's up there on our screen. It's universal background checks, limiting high-capacity magazines, encouraging more gun violence research, strengthening mental-health checks. From this list, what do you think, realistically, will happen?

BARTON: Well, I mean, I think all of those measures are valuable. But, you know, the bottom line is that we need to have background checks for every gun sale in this country. Right now, 40 percent of gun sales are private. So, under federal law, there is no background check. There's no, you know, there's no check on who that person is who's buying that gun.

So, to me, I mean, that's the most important thing. I also think that's probably the measure that has the most support. But, you know, just because opposing groups are challenging the administration on certain measures doesn't mean they should back down, you know? As I said before, I mean lives are at stake.

Twenty-six people died a month ago. And 33 people are murdered every single day in this country with guns. So, we have to keep that in mind as we're moving forward. And I think the administration is certainly keeping that in mind.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people are fighting for a ban on assault weapons. And here's what the president of the NRA said yesterday on CNN. I want you to listen to this.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFFLE ASSOCIATION: When a president takes all the power of his office, if he's willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions. You don't want to bet your house on the outcome. But I will say that the likelihood is that they're not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress.


SAMBOLIN: So Stephen, as you work for the mayors against illegal guns, is that part of the platform and do you think that it actually has a chance?

BARTON: You know, I do. Certainly, I do. You know, we saw exactly what assault weapons can do about a month ago in Sandy Hook. So, I think lawmakers haven't forgotten that. I mean, it's an important measure. I certainly think Congress will give it the consideration that it deserves.

SAMBOLIN: Stephen Barton, Lori Haus, I thank you very much for joining us this morning. Just very quickly, Lori, how is your daughter doing?

HAUS: She is doing fine and she's a teacher herself. She teaches five-year-olds. So, this hit home to her and my family in a very big way. So, we understand that impact. And like Stephen, we're working to do what we can to prevent gun violence in this country.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, we really appreciate your time this morning and your continued effort there's. Stephen Barton and Lori Haus, thank you.

BERMAN: Forty-nine minutes after the hour right now. We're going to talk about Ben's revenge. He got snubbed by the academy. Ben Affleck comes up big at the Golden Globes. You bring it, Ben. We'll have that coming up after this break.


BERMAN: Fifty-two minutes after the hour right now. Let's bring you up to speed.

The nationwide flu outbreak is widespread in all but three states. Lucky states, California, Hawaii, and Mississippi. But, in New York City, there is a big hassle and involves trying to get vaccinated. There's been a run on the vaccine at some pharmacies and urging care center since Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency.

SAMBOLIN: Another gang rape case rocks India. The latest incident happening over the weekend. Seven men allegedly attacked a married 29-year-old woman after she boarded a bus. The bus driver allegedly speeding past her stop taking her to an undisclosed address where he and other men allegedly attacked her.

She survived the attack, but a similar attack in December cost a 23- year-old woman her life and it sparked intense protests.

BERMAN: So, how do you get to the NHL? Practice. Hockey training camps are now open. Players returning to the ice for the first time since the four-month lock out ended. The shortened NHL season, 48 games instead of 82, will begin on Saturday.

SAMBOLIN: Redemption at the Globes. "Argo" won Best Dramatic Film at the Golden Globes, and Ben Affleck beats "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg to win Best Director just days after his Oscar snub. The night's other big winner, "Les Mis" winning Best Film in the Musical or Comedy category, along with wins for its stars. That's actor Hugh Jackman, best supporting actress Anne Hathaway.

BERMAN: "Les Miserables."

SAMBOLIN: I know you love --

BERMAN: I just like saying --


BERMAN: All right. SAMBOLIN: We have a packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including the python hunt is on in Florida. Haven't you always wanted to do this? Earlier, we told you about the reward for the hunter who bags the biggest python. One was found with an intact deer in its stomach.

BERMAN: -- always want to hunt giant snakes?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I have. So, are they in danger? Are you in danger for hunting them?


SAMBOLIN: This hour, we'll ask wildlife expert and TV host Jeff Corwin.

BERMAN: And is there a draft on this train? Highlights of the worldwide no pants subway ride.


SAMBOLIN: I heard you participated in that.


BERMAN: What are the low lights of that?


SAMBOLIN: But first, he's a quarterback, Tim Tebow was supposed to be a now he also has his own viral touchdown move. Move over Tebowing. It's all about "Kaepernicking." It's coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty-eight minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with John Berman. We're taking a look at the top CNN Trends on the web this morning.

BERMAN: And what is trending, you know, Tebowing so last year. Now, it's all about "Kaepernicking," calling Kaepernick. The touchdown move has exploded all over the web. There it is right there. San Francisco's second year QB has gone from backup QB to national sensation in a matter of months. Why? Because he's actually very good. Now, his move is easy.

All you have to do is flex your arm and kiss the gun, even though, his legs actually did most of the damage yesterday. Check this out. Even pint sized fan Sarah Redden (ph), has it down in her new Niner's wrap.

SAMBOLIN: Can you do it?

BERMAN: I don't know. I guess, there's a joke there that I don't know. We didn't show a video of that. I could do it, but I would get makeup on my sleeve.

SAMBOLIN: On your guns. (LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Which you know, I know that is a problem a lot of people don't have.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Fifty-eight minutes past the hour. 6,000 people plus 34 truck loads of snow equals really good times. Seattle's snow day may have set the Guinness record for largest snowball fight in the world this weekend, beating the Republic of Korea which set the record with more than 5,000 snow throwers. This was a few years ago. Oh my goodness. What a ball. Organizers trucked in 162,000 pounds of snow for the throw down.

BERMAN: The long national nightmare is over. Justice Timberlake is back in the music this morning. Overnight, he released his first single in seven years. It's safe to go outside again. The song is called "Suit and Tie." He collaborated with Jay-Z on the song. Take a listen.


BERMAN: You know, that reminds me --


BERMAN: -- why we've missed Justin Timberlake for so long. The song is available on iTunes.

SAMBOLIN: Could you make out any of the lyrics --

BERMAN: I have no idea what he just said.

SAMBOLIN: All right. EARLY START continues right now.