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Gun Control and the GOP; Coca-Cola Company Joins Obesity Fight; School Bus Strike to Strand 150,000 Kids; Flu Hits Hollywood

Aired January 15, 2013 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Lance Armstrong, confession? Reports say he admitted doping to Oprah Winfrey, but how far did disgraced cycling great go?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The unlikely ally in the war against obesity. Coca-Cola now tackling the issue head on in public.

SAMBOLIN: And a surprise from a Supreme Court justice. Clarence Thomas shocks court watchers by doing something he never does.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Very nice to have you with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Tuesday morning, about 30 minutes after the hour right now. Glad you are with us this morning.

The president has his gun task force recommendations in his hand. Yesterday, during the president's press conference, the last one of his first term, he said he'd be reviewing some steps that he could take to advance gun control priorities. President Obama gave a preview over the items he thought should be addressed.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you can count on is, is that the things that I have said in the past, the belief that we have to have stronger background checks, that we can do a much better job in terms of keeping these magazine clips with high capacity out of the hands of folks who shouldn't have them, an assaults weapon ban that is meaningful, that those are things I continue to believe makes sense.


BERMAN: So, Mark McKinnon is a contributor to "The Daily Beast". He is also the cofounder of No Labels, which is a bipartisan organization dedicated to overcoming fighting in government. Good luck with that.

First of all, before you started No Labels, you have advised a lot of Republicans, over the last several years, a lot of very powerful Republicans who have traditional stances on gun control. Now, you're saying you think the Republicans are missing the boat on this issue. MARK MCKINNON, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: This is an issue where my point with Republicans is politically they need to be for something. We had a catastrophic event and when these things happen -- first of all, you need to look at policy, but you need to adapt and evolve to the environment.

So, the important thing, as I've written, is just to find a couple of items and be for it rather than saying we are against everything, and backing the NRA position which is more guns in schools, which is actually not a Republican position, because that would cost $5 billion. It would take away control from schools.

BERMAN: If you look at the polls here, there are a couple of issues that do get Republican support. This is from Pew here. On background checks, you have 87 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Republicans, that's a lot of Republicans to support that.

On news controls to keep the mentally ill from buying guns, 78 percent of Democrats, 86 percent of Republicans.

But here's the thing, when you go beyond that, almost every other issue, the federal database, the assault weapons ban, ban on semi automatic weapons, high ammunition sales on the clips, a minority of Republicans. It's less than 50 percent of Republicans support on all those issues.

MCKINNON: Well, there are at least two or three or four items listed on that list and some of the things the president is talking about that Republicans do support, should support, have nothing to do with attacking the Second Amendment. And my point is, don't be defensive about it, don't wait for the Democrats to come out with an agenda and then simply respond to it.

Have a Republican agenda, let's have a Republican plan on guns.

BERMAN: But, you know, we've both live on planet earth here. And on this planet earth, politically speaking, that we live in, what would happen?

MCKINNON: How about planet of Texas?

BERMAN: If the Republican from Texas stands up next week and says, OK, let's support these gun control issues.

MCKINNON: Well, I think actually they get a lot of points, to say, listen, we want to protect our rights, but we want to make sure that we do background checks, that we make sure that the wrong people don't get them. We do mental health checks. Those things just make common sense and I think people would look at that, and say, well, great.

Republicans have got a clue. They're recognizing that our society is changing. The violence is overwhelming us for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do -- some of it doesn't have to deal with guns, but it has to do with better mental health background checks.

BERMAN: On planet earth, your planet Texas, do you think there's any chance of that happening?

MCKINNON: I think something is going to happen. I absolutely do, and if Republicans don't get onboard and acknowledge and be part it, then I think we'll continue to dig our ditch deeper.

BERMAN: So, while I have you here, Mark, you are from Austin, Texas --


BERMAN: -- which is the home of Lance Armstrong. I heard you were on the board --


BERMAN: -- of Livestrong.


BERMAN: There reports that Lance made this apology and confession to Oprah last night.


BERMAN: As someone who knows him, what's this like for you?

MCKINNON: It's been devastating. I mean, the whole thing has been. But I'm glad that Lance is coming forward. The thing I'm most concerned about, of course, is the foundation and the work that we've done over the years for cancer survivors and people living with and through cancer.

But I'm encouraged by what we're seeing so far, which is that people are sticking with the foundation. Years ago, John, we decided to rebrand Lance Armstrong's foundation Livestrong because we thought that some day, something could happen and we wanted the foundation to live beyond one person, whether it's Lance or anybody else he might pick be running the foundation, we wanted to live on its own and have its own brand and not be contingent on any one person, including Lance.

BERMAN: I think everyone agrees they want Livestrong to continue to prosper. As you know, you know, he's vehemently denied using performance enhancing drugs over the year, and in some cases viciously attacked writers and co-riders who said he has. You know, I don't know what he said to you over the years, but do you feel somehow betrayed now?

MCKINNON: You know, I think about -- yes, I do. I think he's got a lot of apologies. I think he's got to crawl over a lot of broken glass and drag the sackcloth. I think the one thing they can't take away from him, John, is cancer survivorship. And he does that story, it gives great hope for millions to people, like my wife who lived through. And so, there is a lot of good work he can continue to do there if he's willing to sacrifice and make clear that he's sacrificing for the cause, and that he's willing to serve a cause that's greater than himself.

BERMAN: The Oprah interview really has to be just the beginning.

MCKINNON: Well, it's interesting from what she's saying and what I heard from his -- when he went by Livestrong yesterday. It seems pretty heartfelt. So, we'll see.

BERMAN: All right. Mark McKinnon, it's great to see you -- cofounder of, an organization worth checking out in these coming weeks and months to be sure.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much. Thirty-five minutes past the hour.

Taking a look at the top CNN trends this morning.

If you a nickel for every time Supreme Clarence Thomas has spoken during oral argument, you'll have a nickel. Thomas broke his near seven-year silence yesterday not to make a legal point but to actually make a joke.

And here's the poetic punch line. The official court reporter didn't include his words because of all the laughter in the room. Some things I guess are better left unsaid.

BERMAN: All right. The drama that is South Carolina here. Former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford left nothing unsaid, announcing Monday that she is not running for Congress in that state. She avoids a potential face off against her ex-husband who is going to be running for Congress in that state.

She mocked the idea of working under John Boehner and said she could be more productive just being a mom.


JENNY SANFORD, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA FIRST LADY: I'm not running. I have no interested. The idea of killing myself 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.


BERMAN: You know what? Eighth graders are more fun to spending time with, too.

SAMBOLIN: That is correct.

BERMAN: Her ex-husband, Mark Sanford, resigned as governor of South Carolina after admitting an affair with a woman from Argentina. He is expected to announce his campaign for Congress in the coming days.

SAMBOLIN: Those eighth graders are challenging though, just like the members of Congress, right? Professional golfer Rory McIlroy is following in the foot steps of Tiger Woods. It's not just on the links. reports that McIlroy has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Nike said to be worth $200 million. So far, he's won only two major championships. But at the young age of 23, it is expected he will win many more titles in the future.


BERMAN: Only Tiger Woods for a long, long time.

SAMBOLIN: That's great for him too.

BERMAN: That's a good point.

Thirty-seven minutes after the hour right now. And instead of being part of the problem, Coca-Cola wants to be part of the solution with its brand-new campaign addressing obesity. We're going to take a closer look, coming up.


BERMAN: It's January, but it feels like Christmas because of Soledad O'Brien.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": -- brings to you the gift of me this morning, telling you what's coming up on "STARTING POINT" ahead.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Of course, we're going to talk about Lance Armstrong, who sat down with Oprah, and is backpedaling after years of denying the use of performance-enhancing drugs reportedly, he is now fessing up to Oprah? We'll that confession rehabilitate his image. It's all in what he said, right?

Then with the North American Auto Show underway, I will say auto, I'm from Long Island. We're looking at the top car commercials from last five years, including --


O'BRIEN: -- the little boy who thought he was using a force to turn the car on.

And, then, Miss America, the newly crowned Mallory Hagan is from New York. And she's going to talk about her big win as well as a passionate stance on gun control and on guards in the classroom. And then, also, what her platform will be for the year ahead.

BERMAN: Very cool.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you. O'BRIEN: That's all ahead.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks for the gift of you.

O'BRIEN: Merry Christmas.


BERMAN: This is what you got me after all that.

O'BRIEN: The least I could do.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, all right. It is 41 minutes past the hour.

Soda giant Coca-Cola joined the fight against America's weight problem Monday, launching a campaign aimed that, quote, "finding meaningful solutions to the complex challenge of obesity." Take a look.


NARRATOR: For over 125 years, we have been bringing people together. Today, we'd like people to come on something that concerns all of us: obesity. The long-term health of our families and the country is at stake. As the nation's leading beverage company, we can play an important role.


SAMBOLIN: CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us this morning.

Nice to see you, Elizabeth.


SAMBOLIN: So, I watched the entire campaign. What is the goal of this campaign?

COHEN: The goal I think is for Coca-Cola to say, look, we're going to acknowledge that there's an obesity epidemic in this country, which they really haven't done up until this point and say we're doing something, are doing our part.

So, for example, we are emphasizing that they have nearly 200 low and no calorie options. They are emphasizing that they are making smaller sizes of some of their drinks, 7.5 ounce rather than the 12 ounce and they're also emphasizing that they are putting the calories out there on the front. It says right there, 140 calories and saying we are not just fighting it, we are putting it out there how many calories our products have.

SAMBOLIN: We have been talking about America's obesity epidemic for years now. But how responsible is soda really. You have this wonderful elaborate display earlier. It seems like sugar really here is the problem. COHEN: Right. Sugar which, of course, adds up to calories. So, take a look at this. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, sodas have about nine teaspoons of sugar in one soda. So, you are getting all of that when you drink a can of soda.

And when you add the calories up, you know, one can is 140, a lot of people drink more than one can, that's 280. That's a lot of calories. That's more than 10 percent of the calories you're supposed to get in a day and you're getting just in your soda.

So, there's a real concern that people are slugging these things down and a lot of doctors say when you drink your sugar it goes into your blood stream a lot faster.

SAMBOLIN: And so, what impact do you think does that this ad campaign is actually going to have?

COHEN: You know, it's interesting. Advocates say they don't think it's going to have much of an impact. The Center for Science and the Public Interest came out saying they don't think that this is meaningful, and they think Coke is just trying to do damage control. They think Coke is seeing what Mayor Bloomberg did in New York with limiting the sizes of sodas and they are afraid of that happening in more cities and they are afraid of taxes on their soda.

So, they think this is a total sort of damage control thing. Coke, of course, said that's not true. They say these contributions are meaningful and really will help Americans lose weight and they say it already helped Americans lose weight.

SAMBOLIN: You know, when I watched it, I thought it was more like a rah-rah campaign and look at us and look what we've done in order to decrease the amount of soda that kids are drinking in school, for example.

I would love to put those nine teaspoons out there and say, look, this is what you are consuming.

So, thank you for that this morning. We really appreciate that. Elizabeth Cohen, live in Atlanta for us.

BERMAN: Look at all those.

SAMBOLIN: I know. It just -- it makes you think, I would never put nine tea spoons of sugar in my mouth.


BERMAN: All right. Forty-five minutes after the hour right now. Flooding, rain, icy roads. Trouble making weather is on the docket and it's all ahead in here to the northeast. Alexandra Steele with a look at all of that.

Hey, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning to you guys again. Well, here's the deal. What we've got is the stalled front. In an essence, areas of low pressure just kind of riding along in and it's bringing everything from rain, sleet, to freezing rain, and eventually, some snow as well.

Really Philadelphia south, that's kind of where the problems will be today. We'll talk about what happens tonight and tomorrow in a second. But Dallas, right now, has some sleet, some freezing rain and some snow falling. Temperatures there at about 33 degrees. It's only going to be for the next couple of minutes, it seems.

We're going to see shake this off by the next hour or so. But still, here's where the freezing rain, the ice storm warnings are for today. Memphis flying in and out of jacks (ph) and all the way to Arkansas. The potential for a quarter to a half an inch of ice and even a quarter of an inch of ice does damage to power lines, sags on tree, a half inch of ice adds an extra 500 pounds to the trees.

So, a lot of weight. Here's what's happening in the northeast. Winter weather advisory, these are folks from midnight tonight through tomorrow at four o'clock, maybe one to two inches of snow here in the northeast. In Central Pennsylvania, maybe around state college, maybe a little more than that, two to four inches of snow with the maybe a tenth of an inch of ice included.

So, here's the big picture. The prom (ph) -- this moisture falling into temperatures that at or just below 32 degrees and a cold day for the balance of the country save maybe just Southeast Georgia and into Florida, guys.

BERMAN: All right. Alexandra, thanks very much.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-six minutes past the hour.

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

BERMAN: Six months after that massacre in Aurora, Colorado, the movie theater where 12 people were killed is set to reopen on Thursday. Before it does, victims and their families will be allowed to privately visit the 16th theater complex. They'll be able to visit today and tomorrow.

Thursday's reopening is billed as a night of remembrance. The city is distributing some 2,000 tickets to victims, first responders, hospital workers. and volunteers.

SAMBOLIN: It should be tough for a lot of family members there.

And Wal-Mart is getting ready to do some hiring, a 100,000 U.S. military veterans over the next five years, they say. Today, the company will announce details of an ambitious hiring program that will provide a job to any service member who has received an honorable discharge within the past year. The new hiring program will begin on May 27th. That is Memorial Day.

BERMAN: So, a painting dropped of at a Goodwill store in Virginia is an original artwork by 19th century artist Giovanni Battista Torriglia. I think I said that right. He's a famous artist. He really is. It shows an elderly woman sipping a cup of tea and is to be sold at auction tomorrow. An appraiser puts it worth at $12,000 to $18,000.

SAMBOLIN: It was dropped off in a Goodwill store in -- go check your attic, folks. Can you imagine what could be just lying around?

So, the flu has no boundary as even the rich and famous, apparently, get it, though, it looks so much better.

Jeanne Moos with the glamorous side of getting sick. That's coming up.


BERMAN: There she is. Washington, D.C. where it's now 42 degrees and cloudy. It's going to be 43 and rainy later today. Of course, on Monday, the inauguration.


BERMAN: We will all be there.

SAMBOLIN: Nice and chilly. We're going to enjoy that brisk weather there in Washington, D.C.

BERMAN: The president will take the oath of office for the second time in two days, doing a post-Sunday and Monday, but Monday for everyone to see, including us. So, please join us for that.

Meanwhile, 51 minutes after the hour right now.

And parents of about 150,000 New York City school children are going to have to find another way to get their kids to school tomorrow because school bus drivers say, they're going out on strike. The union says it's trying to protect the drivers' jobs. School bus routes to New York City are now up for bidding.

City officials say they can't guarantee whether a new bus company will keep the current drivers or how much the drivers will be paid.

SAMBOLIN: And for the first time in nearly two months, President George H.W. Bush is waking up at home in Texas. He was released yesterday from a Houston hospital where he'd been treated for bronchitis-related cough and other health issues. The former president is 88 years old.

BERMAN: You know, that's great news. You know, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush actually joked that the former president has to go from getting all that care in the hospital to his primary caregiver being Barbara Bush.


BERMAN: And then Jeb Bush -- to apologize to his mother.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding. You don't say that about your mom.

BERMAN: So, the flu bug has hit Hollywood, leaving celebrities wary of over-mingling.

SAMBOLIN: And TV anchors are up in arms offering their arms for close ups so they get their flu shot. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's a symptom seen in people who don't have the flu.


MOOS: They find flu jokes funny.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": This flu season is so bad, Hugh Hefner is washing down his Viagra with Theraflu. That's how bad --

MOOS: Even the glamour of stardom can't ward off the flu. There was Jennifer Lawrence at the Golden Globes protecting Ryan Seacrest by not shaking his hand.

RYAN SEACREST, HOST: Thanks, Jennifer. No, I hope -- oh, you have the flu. All right. Here. If you fall, lean on me.

MOOS: But three seconds later, she forgot her scruples and latched on to the next guy who held out his hand. Stars, they're sick like us, spewing germs.

HUGH JACKMAN, ACTOR: Thank you, Hollywood. Sorry, I'm the tail end to this flu and I was kicking myself for not getting the flu shot, but it appears, actually, you don't need one. I feel great.

MOOS: Yes. But will Hugh Jackman's wife be feeling great after that double kiss?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meryl Streep is not here tonight. She has the flu, and I hear she's amazing in it.


MOOS: At least Meryl Streep apparently had the sense to stay home. Jimmy Kimmel created a public service announcement aimed at workers who won't leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you still here?


MOOS: If you do happen to be home with the flu, here's a Facebook app for you. "Help! My friend gave me the flu."

(on-camera): The point is you feel really lousy so you want to blame someone for making you feel that way.

(voice-over): The app tries to find which of your Facebook friends made you sick by examining their post, perhaps, they wrote of having symptoms before you, so CNNMoney tech reporter Laurie Segall

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Evidence of sneezes, vomiting.

(on-camera): Why is this ridiculous?

(voice-over): Ridiculous but fun.



MOOS: But instead of pointing the finger, point the needle.

(on-camera): TV people were quick to bear arms allowing their own arms to be shocked while getting a flu shot.

(voice-over): From CNN's Anderson Cooper --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The light is glaring off your white arms.


MOOS: To the executive producer of the Ellen show.




MOOS: The award for most infectious may go to Jennifer Lawrence, but those little flu shot whimpers are kind of infectious, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh don't -- ah!

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SAMBOLIN: Anderson was showing off his gut --


BERMAN: Anderson will be getting shots every day on his show for the next year, apparently. SAMBOLIN: Look good. Coming up, today's "Best Advice" from the daughter of a living legend.

BERMAN: And later on "STARTING POINT," the high profile opportunity in their entertainment industry that Ann Romney reportedly turned down.


BERMAN: Just a few minutes left, and as always, we wrap it up with the "Best Advice."

SAMBOLIN: And we asked May May Ali, daughter of the boxing legend, the best advice that she has ever received.


MARYUM "MAY MAY" ALI, MUHAMMED ALI'S DAUGHTER: Sincerely listen and think before you react.


BERMAN: Hear that?

SAMBOLIN: I love that.

BERMAN: Listen.


SAMBOLIN: You have a problem with that, don't you, John Berman?


BERMAN: That's right. That is all for EARLY START this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.