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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Can't Escape Flu Outbreak; The Battle Over Sandy Relief; Today's Travel Weather; Python Hunt Kicks Off; One Month Since Newtown Shootings; Gun Control Plan Expected Tuesday; Increase In Support For Gun Restrictions; Japan Investigating Dreamliner Leak; Antique Cannon Alive; Golden Globes Recap; Jodie Foster: In Or Out?

Aired January 14, 2013 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You are watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live from Newtown, Connecticut, this morning.

Ahead, we'll talk about President Obama's potential executive order on gun control. We're talking to Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy about what the president actually can do as well as Vice President Biden's expected recommendation. That's coming up in just a few moments.

First, though, we want to get an update on some of the other stories that are making news. John Berman has got that in New York. Good morning, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad. So the nationwide flu outbreak, it's just about everywhere, in all but three states, in fact, those lucky states, California, Hawaii, and Mississippi.

In New York City, the big hassle involves trying to get vaccinated. There's a run on the vaccine at some pharmacies and urgent care centers since Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency.

Debate resumes today in the House of Representatives over two bills that address Sandy relief aid. Despite opposition from House conservatives, the bills are expected to pass providing an additional $50 billion to the hard hit northeast.

Lawmakers in the affected areas including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had been outspoken critics of those that have stood in the way of this much needed aid.

Who would have thought that people in Los Angeles could go to Boston to escape the cold? It's freezing cold out west, but balmy in the northeast. It's soaking wet down south. Meteorologist Alexandra Steele joins us with a look at all of this. What's going on, Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right, you're right. It's 37 right now waking up or going to sleep in Los Angeles. It's almost 50 degrees in New York City. So what we have is a change in the trough, and we'll talk about where those changes will come and who will get warmer and who will cool down. But right now 2,100 miles, you've got essentially a stalling cold front. So there's rain from Maine all the way to Texas. It's really slowing down. Thus, we've got two to four inches of rain expected. You can see in the next 48 hours really here is the bull's-eye.

Potentially the more four or five inches of rain here right along the eastern seaboard. That will cool things down as well. But also, an ice storm warning and some sleet on the back side of this, so really kind of a myriad weather scenario here with rain, sleet, and even some ice developing maybe just one-tenth of an inch.

But on those bridges and overpasses, that's where we'll feel it especially coming home tonight for the evening commute around places like western and eastern North Carolina, and eastern Tennessee. Record warmth we had it yesterday.

They were wearing shorts, and they were swimming outside in Atlanta, Georgia. Charlotte, it was 75 yesterday, Wilmington, 78, record breaking temperatures. Breaking records from the 1800s.

So with all that moisture around m northeast and the mid-Atlantic, fog advisories posted. That should lift around 7:00 or 8:00 tonight, John. Here's the warmth that's getting smaller and smaller, and much of the country, 20 degrees below average.

BERMAN: All right, Alexandra Steele in Atlanta, thanks very much.

All right, this is going to get your attention, 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 the state's Burmese python population in the everglades.

This kicked off over the weekend, and our very brave John Zarrella is there right now. So John, our question, how is the big snake hunt going so far?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, state wildlife officials told me yesterday that they know that some of the hunters have killed snakes. They don't know how many yet. We'll probably find out a little better idea later today when they start bringing the snakes in to drop off points.

They have to bring them in within 24 hours, and, John, the bottom line is that Burmese pythons are an invasive species. They have no natural enemy, and they can grow and they've been spotted in the everglades nearly 20 feet long.

Now, state wildlife officials say they understand they're never going to be able to eradicate the snakes. The hope is that they can at least control them through hunts like this, but finding them is not always that easy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 FISH 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 less snakes that we have out in the ecosystem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: So how did they get there? Wildlife officials believe that pet owners dropped them off in the everglades, ten, 15, 20 years ago when the snakes got too big to handle, and there may be up to 100,000 of them out there, but John, let me show you a sign here. The reality is that you got a much better chance in Florida of seeing one of those, an alligator, out here than you'll ever have of actually seeing a python -- John.

BERMAN: You know, I don't really want to see either, but thanks very much, John Zarrella. Keep your eyes open and stay safe down there. All right, let's go back to Soledad in Newtown, Connecticut.

O'BRIEN: All right, John . Thank you. As we continue reporting this morning from Newtown, Connecticut, where the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened exactly one month ago, we have a conversation with Connecticut's brand new senator, Democrat Chris Murphy. Newtown was part of his district back when he was a congressman.

Here to talk about that, nice to have you, sir. We appreciate your time this morning.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for being here.

O'BRIEN: You have been meeting with the families that have been affected by the tragedy. Give me a sense of how the community is doing one month in.

MURPHY: Listen, this is a tragedy that has layers of grief to it. So this is going to take months, if not years. The families are still reeling, and what you are seeing now is the sort of second and third layers of grief coming.

The first responders and the teachers and the administrators who are now just sort of grappling with what they saw, the fury of the first couple of weeks is over, and now they're settling back into a life that is fundamentally transformed.

This town is never going to be the same, and, frankly, we're just starting to understand how impactful this event really was.

O'BRIEN: It must be just a huge struggle. For the people who lost loved ones, for those that survived and were a part of it in any way. Outside of that, there's also, of course, this raging gun debate that's been happening.

Let's talk politics for a minute. The president of the NRA says, listen, assault weapon ban will not pass. That legislation will not pass. I'll play a little bit of what he said over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: When a president takes all the power of his office, if he is 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 would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You have said you disagree with that, that you think, in fact, it would happen. Why are you confident?

MURPHY: Well, that's his job to say that it can't pass, but the NRA is reeling right now because they are fundamentally out of step with where this country is now, and, frankly, where gun owners are.

The fact is that everything did change when this tragedy happened in Newtown. The president was transformed. He is personally committed to an assault weapons ban and a high capacity magazine ban in a way that he never has been before.

O'BRIEN: But he mentioned political capital, and that's a very, I think, interesting question, right, which is a president does not want to spend political capital on an issue that he is not 100 percent certain is going to be able to pass. Do you think he has a point with that?

MURPHY: Well, I think is he going to spend political capital. When the president came to Newtown, he walked in to the school. The first thing he said to those of us who are there to greet him was that the day that this tragedy happened was the worst day of his presidency.

And so I think with two, you know, little girls just like I have two little boys, he has been personally changed by this, and what we're seeing is that, you know, Democrats that used to vote in lock step with the NRA, even Republicans in this last week are saying that they're going to break with these guys because they realize they're not representative of even where gun owners are.

O'BRIEN: So let's show the polling for support for gun control measures. This poll was done on the 17th and 18th of December. Ban on semiautomatic 62 percent, ban on extended ammo clips 62 percent, require gun registration with government 78 percent of people who were polled support that.

But I think there's also a sense from some folks that poll was a month ago, and as you know and I know, over time people's reactions to a tragedy starts to wane, and they don't necessarily feel the same devastating emotion they felt a many ago. Do you see that change happening?

MURPHY: I don't. I mean, I just do think this was a tipping point, and what's going to happen here is that this community is going to go out across the country and make sure that this moment doesn't pass. You're going to have 20 families who are not going to let Congress sort of sit on the sidelines here.

And so I just don't think that this is going to go away, and frankly, I also think this isn't the last tragedy. If we don't change the laws, there is going to be another madman who walks into another school, another office building with an assault weapon, with 100 round magazine, and cause even more mass destruction.

I wish that were the case, but if you don't change the laws and take these guns out of the hands of these criminals then this is going to happen again.

O'BRIEN: What should happen to the school?

MURPHY: Well, listen, I don't think that this community can go back to that school. I think it's up to them, but I think the state and the federal deposit are going to be there to help them build a new school if that's what they want. That's going to be Newtown's decision, but I have a feeling that's the way that they're leaning.

O'BRIEN: Senator Murphy, thank you for being with us this morning. He is a Democrat from the state of Connecticut and used to be a congressman right here in Newtown.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the horrific shooting here has put gun control obviously front and center, and many folks are demanding the president does something. So we'll talk a little bit more about that political capital question. Is there a risk to the president politically to take some kind of action?

Ron Brownstein from the "National Journal" is going to join us up next. He says no.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're coming to you this morning live from Newtown, Connecticut. Today marks one month since the tragic shootings that took so many young lives and so many lives overall.

Vice President Joe Biden is going to be meeting with the House of Representatives, and finalize the recommendations that he'll give based on meetings that he has had with his gun task force and groups across the country.

He is expected to recommend a couple of things, universal background checks and limiting high capacity magazines as well as encouraging more research into links between violent media and gun violence. He is also going to likely suggest stronger mental health check.

Ron Brownstein joins us this morning, talk a little bit about the politics behind gun control. You know what is interesting. People had said that the president has not and we know for a fact he was not at all aggressive about pushing gun control in his first term. So what is -- what does aggressive mean now and can he be aggressive without taking a political liability?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, it's sobering to be in this place here at this time. I just want to say that. But I think the president is going to be more aggressive here in his second term on this. I mean, gun control is an issue that divides the country very closely. I think almost exactly in half.

But the reality is that the half of the country that is open devoting for Obama, in fact, voted for him in November still is a strongly pro gun control constituency and the large extent Democrats, as I think we've talked about before, have been paralyze on this issue by the fear of losing voters they've already lost.

Mostly blue collar white men, more rural voters and so I think the key for the president is going to be to build a coalition that includes not only Democrats, but those blue state Republicans. That's the big difference between the politics of gun control and Congress from the 1990s until today.

In the 1990s, those blue state Republicans felt pressure to support it. Today, Democrats are divided by geography and Republicans are united by ideology.

O'BRIEN: So walk me through some of the options. It sound there's kind of a couple of catch, right, you could go through Congress and I'm talking legislation or the president could go to issue an executive order. Talk to me first about an executive order. Obviously it would have to be around laws that already exist. What are his options potentially on the table?

BROWNSTEIN: Pretty limited. I mean, I think on executive order, they are going to have elements of executive action in the package that are coming out with this week, but they will acknowledge from the White House themselves that the big things that people are most concerned about universal background checks.

Another attempt at an assault weapon ban which, of course, passed and then lapsed under President Bush, and then limits on high capacity magazines, all of that has to go through Congress.

Areas like tougher prosecution of gun crimes, tougher prosecution on lying on background checks, executive order freeing up more research, federal research into gun violence has been limited. They can do that from executive order.

O'BRIEN: -- congressional.

BROWNSTEIN: No, that's executive, but the big ones, assault weapons, high capacity magazines and universal background checks, that has to go through Congress.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. OK, so when you look at the polling on this. Here's a poll and it was done December 17th and 18th. The question was, favor major restrictions on guns or making guns -- all guns illegal, now 52 percent as you said roughly split right down the middle. After the Aurora shooting, that number was 47 percent, after the shooting in Tucson that injured Gabby Giffords, 48 percent. When you look at support for gun control measures, ban on semiautomatic assault guns, 62 percent, ban on extended ammunition clips, 62 percent, requiring gun registration with the government, 78 percent.

Has a month that's passed changed those numbers because, frankly, you and have I both seen that there's interest that drops off after the emotion of a national tragedy.

BROWNSTEIN: So the longer term trend is that since the 1990s until now, support for gun control has diminished, and it was higher. But now, as we see in these numbers, it basically divides the country almost exactly in half that assault number in the CNN poll is actually higher than some of the other polls which, again, come out pretty close to 50-50.

There's no question this is a polarizing issue. But the difference, I think, Soledad, is that in the 1990s Democrats were more dependent on the voters who don't like gun control. Those more blue collar rural voters, both in Congress and in the presidential coalition.

In 2012, President Obama lost overwhelmingly among those voters already and still won 51 percent. That is the big difference. There is now a majority coalition at least at the presidential level that does support action on these issues. The question is can you translate that to Congress?

There the key the blue state Republicans. People forget 38 House Republicans voted for the assault weapons ban in 1994. That allowed it to pass even though about 77 Democrats voted no.

O'BRIEN: The country is not as partisan --

BROWNSTEIN: And as polarized. So the key issue here is going to be whether gun control advocates from Mayor Bloomberg to the other groups can put pressure on those Republicans from suburban swing districts, who in the 1990s were willing to vote for gun control, have not been so since because the Democrats are always going to be divided by geography on this issue.

O'BRIEN: Fascinating to watch. Ron Brownstein, "National Journal," nice to have you with us. Certainly appreciate it. Much more to talk about this morning as we continue our special edition of STARTING POINT coming to you from Newtown, Connecticut.

Going to be talking with Roxanna Green, you might remember her 9-year- old daughter was killed in that attack in Tucson, Arizona. It really about the two-year anniversary of that, we'll talk with her straight ahead.

BERMAN: Then more problems for the Boeing Dreamliner. The latest issue to plague the aircraft in moments.

Plus, vindication for Ben Affleck, his surprising win at the Golden Globes. Plus, other highlights from Hollywood coming up next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Some top stories we're watching this morning.

Japan is now investigating a second fuel leak on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Japan Airlines owns the jet. It started leaking over Tokyo just days after a leak in Boston. U.S. authorities are also looking at problems with the 787 including a battery fire.

So it could have been a blast from the past, and believe me, this would not have been a good thing. Workers cleaning an antique cannon that was last fired more than 200 years ago were shocked to find it was still loaded with gun powder and a cannon ball.

Officials with New York Central Park Conservancy said the cannon once fired from a British warship. Officials removed nearly two pounds of gun powder and disposed of it at a gun range.

All right, the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards was a night of celebration and vindication for one Hollywood star. After being passed over for Oscar nomination for best director, Ben Affleck took home the Golden Globe for best director, and his film "Argo" won best film. I think that was a surprise.

The show was hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who got one of their biggest laughs at the expense of the director of "Zero Dark Thirty" Katherine Bigelow actually reeling her husband "Avatar" director, James Cameron.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY POEHLER, COMMEDIAN: I haven't been really following the controversy over "Zero Dark Thirty," but when it comes to torture, I respect the lady who spent 20 years married to James Cameron.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Everyone seemed to love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I'm joined now by Bradley Jacobs, a senior editor for "Us Weekly." I want to start by actually talking about some of the people who won awards last night and the most stunning, you know, Ben Affleck. He was stiffed by the Academy just days ago, yet he walks away with best director and his film wins.

BRADLEY JACOBS, SENIOR EDITOR, US WEEKLY: This was the worst best week of Ben Affleck's career. Thursday morning he got snubbed. It had to be a terrible morning in the Affleck household, but Ben, he wins win big. He comes back to win big at the Golden Globes.

It's amazing and sort of a game changer for him because now -- this is what people are talking about, how ridiculous it is for there to be five directors nominated for best director for the Oscar and not include Ben Affleck, who won the Golden Globe. BERMAN: I guess my question is it's a game changer not just for him, but what about "Lincoln?" I mean, everyone thought "Lincoln" was going to run away with this last night. Everyone assumes it win best picture for the Academy awards. Does this change --

JACOBS: Everyone assumed it would win. To see Ben Affleck win over Steven Spielberg was incredible. You know, I still do think ultimately that Spielberg will win, but now it's come down to basically "Lincoln" versus "Silver Linings Playbook." These are the two movies left where there's a best picture and best director nomination. Unless there's some crazy write-in situation with Affleck, you know, it could happen.

BERMAN: "Silver Linings Playbook," which by the way, did not do very well last night.

JACOBS: Well, Jennifer Lawrence won for best actress and gave probably the worst speech of the night. She definitely seemed 22 up there on the podium saying, I beat Meryl in a joke that really fell flat.

BERMAN: On the subject of the speeches, one of the things that really is getting the most buzz from last night was Jodie Foster. She accepted really a Lifetime Achievement Award and gave a long and very heartfelt speech that clearly moved a lot of people. Let's listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family, coworkers, and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met.

Now I'm told every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private lives with a press conference, a fragrance, and a primetime reality show. Everyone might be surprised. I'm not Honey Boo-Boo child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So what's really interesting, people have talked about Jodie Foster being gay for a long time, but she hasn't really discussed it publicly, and she sort of discussed it publicly last night. What do you make of her statement?

JACOBS: She was very conflicted still it was clear. There was never a, yes, I'm a lesbian moment. You had to read really between a lot of the lines there. She's always been intensely private. I think a lot of it started with the John Hinckley case while she was at Yale.

She was a very young person thrust into this moment she didn't want to be in. And even through all her biggest years, winning the Oscar for "The Accused" and "Silence of the Lambs," she never wanted to bring the media into her personal life. She's refused to. Even though the climate has changed, reality stars have changed a lot of it. Celebrities are increasingly much more open. She really refused to be up until now. She's 50 years old. She's winning this Cecil B. Demille, and she felt like it was time to finally set the record straight.

BERMAN: A lot of people said it felt like a retirement speech last night. Does it feel that way to you?

JACOBS: But then -- immediately after what she said, I'm not retired. She's just saying, I'm prepared to now -- you know, if the world thinks of me as a 50-something lesbian actress and those are the only parts I get, I'm prepared for that. I don't think that's going to be the case for her.

BERMAN: Bradley Jacobs from "Us Weekly," always nice to have you here. Thanks for being with us this morning. Let's go back to Soledad in Newtown.

O'BRIEN: All right, John, thank you.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, as we continue our live coverage from Newtown, Connecticut. We are taking a look at the one- month anniversary of that shooting, where 20 children and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School were gunned down in their school.

We'll talk to survivors of similar mass shootings and talk about gun control. We'll talk with former Governor Jon Huntsman and Senator Joe Manchin.

BERMAN: How widespread this epidemic has become? We're going to talk with Elizabeth Cohen at the top of the hour. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Our STARTING POINT one month later, we're live this morning from Newtown, Connecticut, marking one month since 20 first graders and sis staffers were gunned down inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School. This morning we take a look at how the community is coping today and their plans to help prevent another tragedy.

BERMAN: Then a flu epidemic widespread across 47 states with vaccines running low. Where we stand and what you need to know to protect you and your family.

Plus, Hollywood celebrates its own at the Golden Globe Awards. We've got the surprises and the snubs, plus --