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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Some Travel Restrictions Lifted in Cuba; Increased Gun Control Laws Become More Popular; Interview with Connie Mack; Good to be Golden; "Breaking Bad" Actor Doing Good

Aired January 14, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


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SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live this morning from Newtown, Connecticut. Ahead, we'll be talking with former Florida Congressman Connie Mack. We'll talk about gun control and what grieving parents and survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre should be doing now one month in.

First, though, John Berman has a look at the other stories making news this morning. Hey, John, good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad.

It's been exactly one month since the deadly school the shooing in Newtown. And a new poll shows the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the nation's gun laws has spiked. Check out this Gallup poll out today. 38 percent of Americans want stricter gun laws. That's up from 25 percent a year ago. The biggest change was among men, believe it or not, who jumped 17 points, and but women increased a modest 10 points.

The flu epidemic is widespread in all but three states. Those lucky three is California, Hawaii, and Mississippi. And in the New York City the big trouble involves trying to get vaccinated. There's been a run on vaccines in some pharmacies and urgent care centers since Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency.

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BERMAN: Cubans are eager to take advantage of looser travel restrictions that are taking place today, and the U.S. is bracing for them as well. Patrick Oppmann is live in Havana to tell us more. Patrick, what exactly are these easier requirements?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Your life in Cuba sometimes can seem like a constant fight against regulations and red tape, but of all the rules here, perhaps none were more hated than these travel restriction that's have been in place since shortly after Fidel Castro took power here. And these restrictions were really to keep the exodus of people from leaving from taking place. And so some of the restrictions were that it was sort of a labyrinth of different kinds of paperwork you had to fill out. People weren't allowed to leave with their children. Professionals, particularly doctors, were prevented from leaving so that the country wouldn't have a massive brain drain.

But that's all changed starting today, and it's going to be much, much easier for Cubans to travel. They'll only require a passport, but still some people will need visas to be able to visit most countries. Despite those obstacles, John, despite the high cost of travel for many Cubans, we'll see lines around the block at many passport offices here in Havana. People are very eager to travel.

BERMAN: Patrick Oppmann live in Havana this morning. Big news for thousands and thousands of Cubans this morning. Thanks very much.

Lance Armstrong has a lot riding on his sit-down today with Oprah Winfrey. The disgraced cyclist is expected to make an apology and a limited confession to doping in the Oprah interview, which is set to air on her network on Thursday. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after the U.S. anti-doping agency determined he was doping for years while at the top of his game.

So Justin Timberlake is back in the music game this morning. Overnight he released his first single in seven years. The song is called "Suit and Tie." He collaborated with Jay-Z on the song. Take a listen.

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BERMAN: We can all rejoice, Justin Timberlake back on the music scene. That song is available on iTunes. Let's go back to Soledad in Newtown. Hey, Soledad.

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

As we mentioned all morning long, we've been coming to you live from Newtown, Connecticut, where exactly a month ago today, a gunman killed 20 children and six adults. It all happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school. As a result of that tragedy, the White House put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a commission to stop gun violence. Tomorrow the vice president is going to give his recommendations to the president. We're joined this morning by former Congressman Connie Mack, a Republican from the state of Florida. He and his wife, former Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, usually join us on Mondays. She had a little logistical trouble with her plane. So this time you're representing the family by yourself. It's nice to have you with us.

FMR. REP. CONNIE MACK, (R) FLORIDA: Great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: This morning, in just a few hours, Sandy Hook Promise will be meeting here holding a press conference to announce their strategy for grassroots efforts to combat gun violence. What would you say individuals should be doing and proposing to make a real change, that's tangible, actual, three years from now real change? MACK: I think the voice of the American people are very strong. The members of the Congress and Senate need to listen to the people of this country. So they should exercise their right and really their responsibility to engage in the debate. The more the people engage in the debate, the better it's going to be and the better product we'll have at the end.

O'BRIEN: It was interesting to me to hear John Berman was talking to Senator Joe Manchin a little bit earlier, and he was talking about, along with Jon Huntsman, and they were saying for this group that they're coordinating, no labels, looking for solutions to gun violence sort of across the aisle, bipartisan support for that. Senator Manchin said that people in Congress don't even really talk to each other. I want to play a little bit of what he said.

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SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: The first time that I've had a chance to even talk, to even talk and meet with some of my colleagues on the Congressional side of the House, was through a No Labels problem-solving meeting. The problem is the American people, they don't know we don't know each other.

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O'BRIEN: They don't know we don't know each other. I keep calling him governor. Of course, he was governor. He's now Senator Manchin. Explain to me how that works or doesn't work. How is it possible you don't know your colleagues in congress?

MACK: It is very sad. I know many times I would look up on TV, and I would see somebody, and the name would come up and say member of congress, and I'd go, I don't even know who that is. It's because every week on Mondays we fly in. We start votes at 6:30. On Thursdays we leave. There is no time for anybody to get to know each other. And when we're in Washington, we're all running to our different committee hearings and doing our work. So there is no real time to get to know each other.

And a lot of problems we're seeing in Washington is because there's no trust. There's no trust between the House and the Senate, between the Congress and the presidency, between Republicans and Democrats. When my father was in the Congress and you had leaders from both parties that got to know each other. They spent time, families getting to know each other, and that made it much easier to try to come to some sort of compromise because there was trust that develops over time.

O'BRIEN: Senator Manchin's right. I was completely surprised by that. That said, then, what should Congress be doing in order to do something that prevents gun violence down the road, or is it, in your estimation, just not possible to prevent it?

MACK: Well, I don't think you're ever going to stop bad people from doing bad things. We can try to legislate it away, but it's just not going to happen. They'll find other ways. Bad people who want to harm others will find a way to do it. We can continue to pass other laws, but all that does is restrict law abiding citizens of this country's rights.

O'BRIEN: But there's an analogy, right, with, let's say, speeding. There will always be the guy who does 100 miles an hour. Those laws kind of keep most of the people most of the time to 65 miles an hour, and you hope that because of those laws, we all sort of -- most of us who are law abiding, and motor vehicle of us, even those who are probably not law abiding, stick to this thing because the law tells them that.

That said, there's always going to be the outliers who are going to do what they do anyway. So not just gun control, we could create a number of laws that at least mitigate some of the potential for problems. No?

MACK: Again, I think it's very hard to mitigate those problems when we're talking about a very small percentage of people in this country, and to create laws that are going to keep them in check when we know there's mental health issues, it's not just the guns in this case, it's mental health and other things. To craft legislation that's going to box just those in who we're trying to box in is very difficult. In fact, I would say it's impossible to do. Bad people will find a way to do bad things.

O'BRIEN: You could track guns better, and then you could make sure you stop bad people from getting access to guns, which might help.

Someone was talking earlier -- I think it was the president of the NRA. He said the president may not want to spend his political capital trying to get an assault weapons ban through the congress. Do you think that the point he's making is correct, or do you think the president would not necessarily spend political capital in his second term when he clearly was very moved by the murders that took place here?

O'BRIEN: I think you'll see the president, the White House, will try to act, and whether or not they get something done remains to be seen. There's going to be a lot of things that are happening along the way. We've got a debt ceiling issue that the president's going to have to deal with. There are a lot of other issues the president's going to have to deal with, immigration reform. I think the president's going to have to spend time on this whether he wants to or not.

Connie Mack, nice to see you.

MACK: Nice to see you.

O'BRIEN: Please tell your lovely wife we're sorry she lost all her luggage and was stuck at the airport.

MACK: Sorry, honey.

O'BRIEN: We'll get back to John Berman with a look at some of the other stories ahead this morning. John?

BERMAN: We'll be talking about the Golden Globes. Ben Affleck didn't get nominated for an Oscar, but his surprise win at the Globes may be vindication. We'll have that, the other surprises, and the big snubs in a live report.

Plus, he's known for his role on "Breaking Bad," but actor Steven Michael Casada has a new role to play, real life school board member. Find out why he's going into global politics. That's live. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. It was a memorable, big night in Hollywood at the always star-studded Golden Globe awards. Ben Affleck rebounded very nicely, thank you, from his Oscar snub with a win for best director. And to top that off, "Argo" bested "Lincoln" for best dramatic film, which throws a little more uncertainty into the Oscar race with just six weeks to go.

CNN's Nischelle Turner has more.

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TINA FEY, WRITER/ACTRESS: It's getting sloppy in here, everybody. Look hot drunk Glenn Close is.

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NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: The Golden Globes are usually one big irreverent party, and co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler kept the zingers coming.

AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: Kathryn Bigelow is nominated tonight. And when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.

TURNER: The drinks and jokes were flowing, but there were, you know, awards to be handed out. Guess who had the best reason to celebrate.

FEY: "Argo."

TURNER: The Iran hostage thriller earned the night's biggest prize, Best Drama, and director Ben Affleck, who didn't receive an Oscar nomination this year, was a winner as well.

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: I don't care what the award is, when they put your name next to the names that she just read off, it's an extraordinary thing in your life.

TURNER: "Lincoln's" Daniel Day Lewis and "Zero Dark Thirty's" Jessica Chastain took the top acting awards and both saluted their directors, Steven Spielberg and Kathryn Bigelow.

DANIEL DAY LEWIS, ACTOR: And Steven Spielberg, you've given me an experience that I will treasure until the end of my life.

JESSICA CHASTAIN, ACTRESS: Katherine Bigelow, you've done more for women in cinema but didn't take credit for.

TURNER: No misery at the "Les Miserables" table. The film won best musical or comedy and earned honors for first time Globe winner Hugh Jackman and supporting actress Anne Hathaway.

ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS: Thanks for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self doubt.

TURNER: On the TV side Show Times "Homeland" took top drama honors, "Girls" won comedy series and the Best Actress Golden Globe for its creator and star Lena Dunham.

LENA DUNHAM, ACTRESS: This award is for every woman who's ever felt like there wasn't a space for her.

TURNER: Speaking of women, Jodie Foster honored with the Cecil B. De Mille Career Achievement Award provided the night's most emotional moment.

JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: I will continue to tell stories, but it will be my writing on the wall. And I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.

TURNER: And former President Bill Clinton surprised everyone when he came out to salute "Lincoln". In the end, they laughed, they cried, and of course, the party continues.

FEY: Good night.

POEHLER: We're going home with Jodie Foster.

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TURNER: Yes it was certainly a big night for "Argo" and also for "Les Miserables". But the question is will this momentum carry into Hollywood's biggest night, the Oscars, next month? You know, not necessarily. More often than not, it's the Guild Award shows, like the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild that provide a better barometer as to who will walk away with Oscar gold.

Now "Lincoln" may not have won the big prize last night but the Golden Globes were not short of presidential moments like we showed you. Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance on stage at the ceremony to introduce the movie "Lincoln".

You could tell by the reaction of the audience, nobody saw this one coming. He received roughly a 30-second standing ovation, had a couple of brief remarks about the movie, describing it as a tough fight to push a bill through a bitterly divided House of Representatives. Winning required the President to make a lot of unsavory deals that had nothing to do with the big issue.

He paused and then added, "I wouldn't know anything about that." He was really good. He's still got it. But I love the line that Amy Poehler said once Bill Clinton left the stage last night. She came up and said, "Oh my gosh, what a great moment. Hillary Clinton's husband."

BERMAN: The place went bonkers -- the place went bonkers when she said that. TURNER: They did. He's still got it, doesn't he, John?

BERMAN: He does. You know but not many places where Clinton could go will be overshadowed and Jodie Foster really did seem to overshadow almost everything last night.

TURNER: Yes.

BERMAN: Nischelle Turner in Hollywood, always great talking to you. Thanks very much.

TURNER: Sure.

BERMAN: And ahead on STARTING POINT, an Amber Alert to tell you about this morning. We're getting word a toddler was taken from her Florida bedroom overnight. We'll have the details next.

And you know, you may know him as agent Steven Gomez on the hit show "Breaking Bad," but actor Steven Michael Quezada is jumping from the small screen to a local school board. Really? We'll ask him why live.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone.

This just in to CNN. Florida police issuing an Amber Alert when a toddler they say was taken from her bedroom last night. Two year-old Denise Hernandez has black hair, brown eyes, she's three feet tall. Police say her parents put her to bed last night around 10:00. When they went to check on her an hour and a half later, Denise was gone. Authorities say there are currently no persons of interest in this case.

Other news now dirty air in Beijing we're talking about here. A record high pollution levels is just plaguing that city. They prompted what's called an orange fog warning. Children have been ordered to halt outdoor activities and some plants have shut down production. Reports of respiratory problems and the sale of masks have sky rocketed due to hazardous breathing conditions. Unfortunately this is nothing new for the Chinese capital. Last year heavy haze and smog forced the cancellation of almost 700 flights at Beijing airports.

The 2013 National Hockey League season is set to begin on Saturday, finally. Teams opened training camps yesterday as players returned to the ice for the first time following the four-month lockout. The shortened NHL season will be 48 games instead of 82. Yes, there will be the playoffs.

All right. So one of the stars of the award winning TV drama "Breaking Bad" will soon have a new role, school board member. Steven Michael Quezada, who plays DEA agent Steven Gomez, is running unopposed for a seat on the school board in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is also where the hit series is primarily shot.

Quezada now joins us from Albuquerque. Thanks for joining us this morning.

STEVEN MICHAEL QUEZADA, ACTOR, "BREAKING BAD": Sure it's my pleasure.

BERMAN: I should start out by asking. You know "Breaking Bad" is a really popular series, there's a lot of buzz with it's been nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes -- never won. You're about to you know finish up your last season here. Will the last season be the lucky one?

QUEZADA: I'm hoping that it will be. I mean, the cool thing about our fans is that they believe we've already won. So just to be in those -- in that category, we're OK with it.

BERMAN: So when most actors would be finishing up a series like this, maybe looking for -- for a new work, a movie role, another TV job, you're running for school board in Albuquerque. That doesn't seem very glamorous.

QUEZADA: No, not at all. But it's nothing new for me. I've been working with kids through YDI since 1987. I've done gang intervention programs. My concern for education in New Mexico has always been there. I'm one of those kids that struggled through school and I feel that I kind of fell through the cracks. And I have three kids right now that attend APS charter school.

And so I found myself in a position where I really needed to help them and really help the rest of the kids here in New Mexico to have that type of edge and get a good education and have you know -- have that whole pride and confidence and being able to move forward with their lives.

BERMAN: So is school board it for you, or is this the beginning of a long political career?

QUEZADA: School board is it for me right now. I still need to go out and work. And so the good news about New Mexico is we bring a lot of movies, a lot of television series out here. So I'm hoping that I continued to work out here in New Mexico along with being a part of my community. Just because I'm an actor it doesn't mean I shouldn't be involved in my community. And I think that it's something that I need to do and something that's calling me.

BERMAN: One of the things people do tell us is that actors are people too. The series, a lot of it is shot in Albuquerque. Any of the other cast members get involved there in the city?

QUEZADA: They do. Brian Cranston has helped me start some programs at Youth Development Incorporated, some actors corps program. We believe that it's time to train the kids here in New Mexico for television and for film work and because of the work that's coming out here. And so he's helped me start some programs there, and -- and they're involved.

They care about what's happening in New Mexico. They've been making their money here for the last five, almost six years.

And so you get involved when you live somewhere and work that way. And Brian and the rest of the cast are -- are awesome, great people, and they've invested in New Mexico.

BERMAN: So since you're entering politics, let's get into some politics here and ask you some political questions. Your show has a fair amount of violence in it.

QUEZADA: OK.

BERMAN: You know, a lot of guns, a lot of shooting, some of it very graphic, right now. There is a big national discussion right now about gun violence. What do you think the role of the media is in that?

QUEZADA: Well, you know, it's a matter of what people are watching. And I think a lot of the writers are just seeing what's popular and what's not. In reality, we've really got to look at what kind of guns are out there and really what guns you really need to protect yourself and which ones are a little overboard and ones that are made for war.

So I absolutely agree with some of the gun control, but I also know that it's a TV series. It's made for enjoyment. I think a lot of video games probably are a little bit too graphic myself.

BERMAN: You have three kids, though. Ever get queasy about shooting some of the scenes you do on "Breaking Bad"?

QUEZADA: Well, my kids don't watch "Breaking Bad". So I'm OK with what I've got to do. Really it's about feeding my family. It's really hard just to get a role. So it's really hard to choose. I'm not one of those rich actors. I know a lot of people probably look at me and say, that's one of the rich guys from TV. I'm not.

I struggle like everybody else out here in New Mexico to pay my bills every month. I'm on the lower end of that. And so I have to work. But I think a lot of -- the big actors really get to choose what they're doing. And you know, they have to be careful what they're doing if that's what they are concerned about.

BERMAN: All right. Steve Michael Quezada, you are one of the good actors. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

QUEZADA: Thank you.

BERMAN: And good luck on the school board going forward.

QUEZADA: I appreciate it.

BERMAN: Let's go back to Soledad, who's live in Newtown, Connecticut -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: All right John, thank you. "End Point" is coming up next.

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O'BRIEN: Our "End Point" this morning. In just about two hours, we'll hear from the folks at Sandy Hook Promise. They say they're committed to keeping what happened here at Sandy Hook Elementary School from happening anywhere else again. They've invited folks from other mass shootings to speak. Those folks say, listen, we're here to show there is a path ahead, a path that may be just one month in. And those folks here in Newtown, Connecticut, cannot quite see yet.

They're being embraced by people around the country today. You want to stay with CNN for complete coverage of the one month anniversary of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Tonight Anderson is going to be live from here with "AC 360"; that will happen at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Up next, Carol Costello. Good morning, Carol.