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Reports: Armstrong Confessed to PED Use; Coca-Cola Company Joins The Obesity Fight; Biden Sends Gun Recommendations to Obama Today

Aired January 15, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The White House pushed for gun control. One report says the president may not even need Congress to make some of these ideas happening.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A long wait for hurricane Sandy relief. It could be over in a matter of hours if Congress comes through.

BERMAN: In the unlikely ally in the war against obesity. Coca-Cola now tackling the issue head on in public.

Very interesting, indeed.

SAMBOLIN: It is. We're going to play some of it for you a little bit later.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us. It is Tuesday morning. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

And he spent years denying any use of performance-enhancing drugs. Now reports say Lance Armstrong admitted doing just that in a storied cycling career that included a record seven Tour de France titles. The confession came during a 2 1/2-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey, which will be broadcast Thursday on her OWN network.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Texas this morning. So, a lot of people are wondering if this is a genuine confession or is it part of a larger PR offensive?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think people will be looking and studying the body language in that videotaped interview on Thursday night to determine just that. And I think, you know, it kind of depending on what you think of Lance Armstrong will probably go a long way in determining how you feel about that.

But, you know, clearly, there's a need to rehabilitate his image after that United States anti-doping agency report that was released back in October. Eleven former teammates coming out and basically accusing Lance Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his cycling career which helped him win seven Tour de France titles. But that interview took place here in Austin yesterday afternoon. Oprah Winfrey, shortly after tweeted -- sent out a brief tweet that said, "just wrapped with Lance Armstrong more than 2 1/2 hours."

He came ready, Zoraida. And he's well known for being a tough interview, well-prepared. According to a source that tells CNN, Lance Armstrong showed up with the interview with a team of advisers and family members, about 10 people in all.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And lawyers. And that "ready" within capital letters. Everybody can't wait to hear what he has to say. We also know that Armstrong apologized to his Livestrong organization. And however you feel about this man, I think most people would agree that they would like to see Livestrong survive. What did he say to those people

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, this is an agency that has been, you know, intertwined with Lance Armstrong as well and they're trying to figure out. So, essentially, separate themselves. You know, Lance Armstrong was basically forced out in November after that report had come out.

But before he went to the interview with Oprah Winfrey, he stopped by the headquarters of Livestrong Foundation here in Austin, Texas and had about a 15-minute meeting, I'm told, with the staff there where he apologized to them for all the stress that he had caused them over the years and also urged them to continue their fight in helping people suffering from cancer.

A spokeswoman for the foundation said -- described the meeting as it was emotional and he choked up for a moment, but we were all glad to see him -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It's going to be really tough for all of them who works so closely with him to fight cancer. So, we're also following reports that Armstrong may actually give back some of his sponsorship money. Do you know anything about that?

LAVANDERA: Well, a source tells CNN that right now, that Lance Armstrong is in talks with the United States Postal Service to return a portion of the $30 million that the agency spent sponsoring the cycling team.

The statement from the United States Postal Service, and this one we got one last night said "We are well aware of the developments surrounding Lance Armstrong and are following the situation closely. We're not in a position now to discuss any of the legal issues associated with these developments and the prior relationship between the U.S. Postal Service and Mr. Armstrong, but we will do so at an appropriate time."

So, it sounds like something is in the works there, but exactly to what extent. We'll have to wait and see on that as well.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ed Lavandera live in Austin, Texas. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Thirty-five minutes after the hour right now.

Vice President Joe Biden's gun control task force is recommending that gun trafficking be defined as a federal crime.

That's what the "Huffington Post" is reporting this morning. And according to "Politico," the White House has defined 19 executive actions where the president may act unilaterally. The White House and other Democrats are mulling these executive orders because of the difficulty involved with enacting new gun legislation through Congress.

President Obama is expected to lay out his proposals formally later this week.

SAMBOLIN: The House set to begin debate on the second part of a disaster bill for victims of superstorm Sandy. Northeast lawmakers have been pushing for the $51 billion relief measure and conservative Republicans have complained the price tag is too high, and it includes spending that has nothing to do with the storm. Final passage could come later today.

BERMAN: Twisted metal and wrecked carriages. This was a scene in Egypt overnight as a train carrying army recruits (ph) derailed outside Cairo. Railway officials say at least 19 people were killed. More than 100 people were injured.

SAMBOLIN: About 150,000 children in New York City will have to find another way to get to school tomorrow? Why? School bus drivers say that they are going on strike. The union says it wants to protect the drivers' jobs.

School bus roots are up for bidding for the first time in 33 years. And city officials say they cannot guarantee that a new bus company will keep current drivers or how much the drivers will get paid either.

BERMAN: So, an update on the political soap opera that is South Carolina. Former South Carolina first lady, Jenny Sanford, announced Monday that she has decided against running for that state's open Congressional seat. This avoids a potential face-off run against her ex-husband.


BERMAN: She says thanks to the current dysfunctional Congress and John Boehner. She can be more productive just being a mom. Listen to what she said.


JENNY SANFORD, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA FIRST LADY: The idea of killing myself to run for a seat for the privilege of serving in a dysfunctional body under John Boehner when I have an eighth grader at home just really doesn't make sense to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Ex-husband, former Governor Mark Sanford, is expected to announce his campaign for that very same seat in the next few days. He resigned as governor after he vanished, resurfaced, and admitted to an fair with a woman from Argentina.

SAMBOLIN: What a crazy story.

All right. Instead of being part of the problem, Coca-Cola wants to be seen as part of the solution with its brand-new ad campaign that is addressing obesity. You're going to take a closer look coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, target practice. The NRA's surprising new mobile app that says it is safe for kids.


BERMAN: So, Coca-Cola, you've heard of them. They are the world's most valuable brand. They've joined the fight against America's weight problem Monday when Coke launched a campaign and aimed at, quote, "finding meaningful solutions to the complex challenge of obesity." Take a look at this new ad they put out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For over 125 years, we've been bringing people together. Today, we'd like people to come together on something that concerns all of us. Obesity. The long-term health of our families and the countries at stake, and as the nation's leading beverage company, we can play an important role.


BERMAN: Very interesting. CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us right now. Elizabeth, what do you think the goal of this new ad campaign is?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's interesting, particularly, John, because they really haven't said a whole lot about obesity even though people have kind of really harangued them and said, wait a second, you guys are selling this product that might be contributing to obesity.

They're trying to say, look, we're aware this is a problem and we are doing our part. So, for example, they point out we're selling smaller sizes of Coke now, 7.5 ounces instead of 12 ounces. They say we have, you know, nearly 200 low-calorie and no-calorie products. They're also saying, look, we're starting to put our calories, you can see it right here on the silver band that says 140 calories so that you know what you're getting.

So, they say that they're really trying to help people make the choices. They're encouraging exercise and they really hope that this sort of quiets down some of their critics.

BERMAN: We've been talking about America's obesity problem for years and years. And soda consumption, by the way, I believe, has been going down over of the last several years, but the question is, how responsible then is soda really?

COHEN: Well, if you look at this, as I said, a can of Coke is 140 calories. Let's say you have two of these a day. That's more than 10 percent of the calories you're supposed to get in a whole day you're just getting just from your soda. And if you look at the sugar consumption, I think that really spells it out.

There are, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, there are approximately nine teaspoons of sugar, right, in one can of soda. That's a lot of sugar. And according to many experts, when you drink your sugar, it actually gets into your bloodstream faster than when you're eating it because when you're eating it, they are, for example, when you eat an apple, there's fiber that is sort of being digested along with it.

It doesn't go into your bloodstream quite as quickly. So, you know, I'm not a soda drinker, but when I watch my friends who drink soda, they can easily drink like three of these in a day. That's a lot of calories. That's a big chunk of your daily calories devoted to something that doesn't have any other nutrients in it.

BERMAN: That really is amazing. Intellectually, I know this to be the case, but when you lay it out like that on the table with all that sugar, it really is mind-boggling. So, what impact then will this campaign have from Coke, do you think?

COHEN: Well, you know, advocacy groups say not much. The Center for Science and the Public Interest says that this is not meaningful. They say that Coke is basically trying to do damage control, that Coke has seen what Mayor Bloomberg has done in New York at limiting soda sizes and limiting their availability and they don't want other people to do that.

So, that's why they think they're doing it. Coke says, no, we're really trying to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against obesity, and they say with all of their no-calorie and low-calorie products, they actually have made a meaningful contribution.

BERMAN: All right. Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta, like we said, this is very interesting, entering the obesity discussion.

COHEN: That's right.

BERMAN: Thanks very much -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You know, when you see those teaspoons there, doesn't that make you go eek? Would you eat all of those teaspoons of sugar?

BERMAN: Lots of different question.

SAMBOLIN: Maybe, right?

All right. Forty-four minutes past the hour. There's an app for that? Coming up, the NRA's new Smartphone game that's giving critics plenty of fire power.

Plus, one amazing -- or woman's amazing transformation from health risk to endurance athlete.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date now.

Lance Armstrong comes clean. Reports say the disgraced cyclist confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he was doping during a storied career that included a record seven Tour de France titles. That interview will air Thursday on Winfrey's OWN network.

BERMAN: The Aurora, Colorado, movie theater where 12 people were killed and 58 injured during a midnight massacre in July is set to reopen on Thursday. Before it does, victims and their families will be allowed to privately visit the 16th theater complex. That's today and tomorrow.

Thursday's reopening is built as a night of remembrance. Some 2,000 tickets will be given to victims, first responders, hospital workers, and volunteers.

SAMBOLIN: And just a month after the school shootings that sparked a nationwide debate over gun control, listen to this, the National Rifle Association has released a new gun app for Smartphones called NRA Practice Range. The free app which is rated for ages four and up went up on iTunes Sunday.

According to the iTunes' description, it includes 3D shooting game that features realistic simulation. In the app description, the NRA says it instilled safe and responsible gun ownership with fun challenges.

BERMAN: A 12-year-old boy in Southern California has been found responsible for the murder of his father who was an avowed neo-Nazi. Jeff Hall (ph) was shot dead nearly two years ago. Both prosecution and defense maintain that Hall's political activities were not the motive behind his killing, but the defense argued that the child was exposed to violence at a young age. Looks like the boy will be held in some kind of detention facility until he's 23 years old.

SAMBOLIN: A Wisconsin woman who once weighed more than 425 pounds -- take a look at your screen right now -- she is now competing in triathlon.

BERMAN: Good for her.

SAMBOLIN: Aimee Smith -- great. Aimee Smith says her weight caused complications when her second daughter was born, so she had gastric bypass surgery, and then -- look at her -- then she started working out. Just one year later and Smith has already completed two triathlons and two half marathons.


AIMEE SMITH, TRIATHLETE: My knees hurt, my back hurt, and I had high blood pressure. I was pre-diabetic. You know, I was going down a bad path. There's a group of us out there that have had weight loss surgery who are athletes now. I can say it. I never was comfortable saying that.


SAMBOLIN: Oh, you are an athlete. You go, Aimee. Now that she considers herself an athlete, Aimee Smith's new goal is to participate in the elite iron man competition.

BERMAN: God speed, lady.


BERMAN: Oh my goodness.

SAMBOLIN: We love you.

BERMAN: All right. There is a winter storm heading for the northeast right now. Brace yourself. Alexandra Steele is live in the weather center this morning. Good morning, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You've got some time in the northeast, but, you know, what we're watching is the stalled out cold front. We've been talking about it for days. The problems, the areas of low pressure keep rising along this front, and with that, we've got rain, sleet, freezing rain, and even snow developing.

So, you know, a quarter of an inch of rain. You'll see it. Roads will be icy. Windshields will be icy, and a half an inch of ice, which you've already seen, believe it or not, adds 500 pounds to trees. So, there's a lot of danger here. Here's where this ice storm warning is. You can see from Memphis to Jackson and then into Southeastern Arkansas, the potential for a quarter to a half an inch of ice.

But then, as we look toward the northeast, what these are in purple are winter weather advisories, and they are for midnight tonight until four o'clock tomorrow morning. We're about one to two inches of snow and a little bit of ice as well, maybe a quarter of an inch. So, we got a lot of inclement weather, kind of waves of rain moving through. We're seeing that.

So, as we look toward the maps in terms of the temperatures, the problems, we've got these temperatures here in the 30s. So, this rain coming down and freezing on the surface where temperatures at the surface are at freezing or below. So, the big picture, here's where the problems are, and believe it or not, this area in the southeast kind of saying in (inaudible) all this moisture for the next couple of days.

So, no bright sunshine through Friday, that's for sure. And then, tonight and to tomorrow, we'll watch it move into the northeast. And west coast, sunny and dry, but we're going to see very cold temperatures, guys, across the country like we've seen.

BERMAN: It's coming. Thank you for the warning, Alexandra. SAMBOLIN: OK. Fifty-one minutes past the hour. A packed hour ahead on EARLY START, the president has his gun task forces recommendation in his hands. Now, will he try to go around Congress? We'll talk to Mark McKinnon from "The Daily Beast" and co-founder of No Labels.

BERMAN: And they are just like us. The stars get flu, too, only, they make it more fabulous.


BERMAN: Jeanne Moos does her thing next hour.

SAMBOLIN: But first, Lady Gaga saying "look at me" again, but is this one way too soon?

BERMAN: Look at her machine gun bra like the one she wore in this video. Too soon, of course, the question coming less than a month after Newtown.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!


SAMBOLIN: It is 55 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with John Berman. We are taking a look at the top CNN Trends on the web this morning.

BERMAN: So, this Lady Gaga person, she knows how to get attention. She performed her hit single "Alejandro" this weekend in Vancouver wearing a machine gun bra. "E!" online has the picture.

Now, she first wore this bra in the music video for the hit single in 2010, but many are now questioning the timing of wearing it again and said she did so just before the community of Newtown, Connecticut, marked the one month anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. It sounds like she has a problem with controversy.



BERMAN: Clearly.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And call him the bathroom bandit. Police in Southest Wisconsin looking for a guy, of course, who they say is stealing the handles off the toilets and urinals, leaving you stuck and not being able to flush. Seriously. So, he has targeted several fast-food restaurants and college campuses, including Marquette University.

Aside from being a thief with, I guess, the greatest sense of humor ever, guys would probably think so, police say they think he may be reselling them somehow. Do you think that's funny?

BERMAN: I think it's strange. Of all the things you can steal and how hard it must be to go to the bathroom in Marquette University. My condolences to you out there in Wisconsin.

All right. Could there soon be a South Park film festival? Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park and the Book of Mormon have announced they're opening their own movie studio. It's going to be called Important Studio. This first venture will reportedly be a Book of Mormon movie.

In a press release, Matt and Trey said "Having worked with several different studios over the years, we came to realize that our favorite people in the world are ourselves." They're good businessmen.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, they are.

The late-night comedians were in fine form last night. Jay Leno had some fun with the Golden Globe Awards, while a grateful David Letterman marked the 13th anniversary of the heart surgery that saved his life.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Very impressive names at the Golden Globes Awards last night. They had the big Golden Globes show last night. Former President Clinton introduced the movie "Lincoln," and then, former Senator John Edwards introduced the show "House of Lies."


LENO: And Daniel Day-Lewis won a Golden Globe for playing Abraham Lincoln. Julianne Moore, she won for playing Sarah Palin. See, the Foreign Press realized that the greatest challenge for any actor in Hollywood, pretending to be a Republican. That is the hardest acting job that they can do, pretending to be a Republican, so they hand out these awards.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": But I said, "Doctor, I'm calling to thank you very much. Thirteen years ago you saved my life." And he says, "Well, Dave, it seemed like a good idea at the time."



LETTERMAN: I had five bypasses.


LETTERMAN: Five bypasses. Yes, that's right. Sure. Who wants to fight?


LETTERMAN: Five bypasses or as former Vice President Dick Cheney refers to it, a checkup. A checkup.



SAMBOLIN: EARLY START continues right now.