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President to Push for New Gun Control Legislation; Interview with Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth; Lance Armstrong Confesses to Doping; Boeing Dreamliner Model Experiencing Technical Problems

Aired January 16, 2013 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. Our STARTING POINT this morning: a fiery crash in the heart of London. A helicopter hit a construction crane, crashes to the ground during rush hour. We'll have a live report with breaking details in just a few moments.

Then, President Obama unveils his new expansive gun control agenda this morning. Does it mean another battle on Capitol Hill?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A nightmare for Boeing. An entire 787 Dreamliner fleet grounded after a series of disasters. How dangerous is this problem?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And a wintry mess across several state this morning. We're talking flash floods in the southeast and a commuter nightmare in the northeast.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we talk to Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes, two-time cycling champion John Eustice, and recording artist Swizz Beatz.

It's Wednesday, January 16th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking news.

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Let's begin with breaking news. A developing story out of London this morning, where a helicopter hit a crane and crashed into a construction site near a busy commuter hub. It all happened during rush hour. Two people have been confirmed dead. Two more taken to area hospitals, and we are live at the scene of the crash in London. Erin McLaughlin is live at the scene in London. Erin, give us a sense of what's happened, and what's happening now?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Hi, Soledad, what we can piece together from various eye-witnesses we have been speaking to. Around 7:45 this morning, very foggy morning here in London, a helicopter flying very low and very fast according to one eyewitness, collided with a -- with a 50-story residential tower called St. Georges wharf. It was being under construction when the helicopter collided with the crane, a crane, at the construction site. It went spiraling down to the ground according to one eyewitness, making a very loud bang when it hit the ground.

They allowed media access to see the exact area where the helicopter crashed. There was charred rubble all over the ground. We understand two were killed in the incident, including the pilot of the helicopter. Nine treated for injuries at the scene. And still the matter of the crane, Soledad, dangling precariously over the construction site in central London.

O'BRIEN: Erin, thank you for the update on that story.

And this is just in to CNN as well. We're learning Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is leaving the administration. He told president Obama he plans to step down from the U.S. department of interior in March. Salazar expected to return to his ranch and family in Colorado.

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the shootings in aurora, the firefighter ambush in Webster, New York, the president officially unveiled his gun control plan. It happens today. What we know about it so far. It calls for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines holding more than ten rounds, and more funding for mental health programs.

In the months since those shootings in Newtown the gun control debate has only intensified and membership in the National Rifle Association is said to be surging as a result. They've also lowered their prices. The NRA touting some 250,000 new members have joined, vowing to fight the president's plan too. They say their Second Amendment rights are under attack. White House correspondent Dan Lothian is following all those developments for us this morning. Dan, good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. The White House sees this package that the president will be rolling out later this morning as a comprehensive way to try to curb gun violence. And so the president will be doing something we've seen in the past. When he is trying to get something through congress, he involves the public. When he makes the announcement later on this morning, he will be surrounded by young kids. These are kids the White House said who wrote intimate letters to the president after the Connecticut shootings. That in itself is also under attack, getting criticism that the president is using kids as props as he pushes this policy.

That, though, will be the backdrop as the president lays out what sources say will be the comprehensive package focused on an assault weapons ban, also pressing for a ban on high-capacity magazines, and this is the new part, with more than 10 rounds. This should impact gunmen who won't be able to fire off as many rounds as quickly as we've seen in some of the shootings. Universal background checks, anyone who wants to purchase a weapon, either at gun shows or private sales will have to undergo strict background checks, not only criminal, but mental health she cans as well.

O'BRIEN: How tough is it expected this fight will be? We know that the president is facing very strong opposition from the NRA. What's the estimation on this?

LOTHIAN: You know, it is going to be very, very tough, because as we have seen, the president coming out with his proposals today, the NRA pushing back with an ad today, very critical of the president, calling him a hypocrite.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the president's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?


LOTHIAN: That ad will be running on the Sportsman's Channel, where a lot of viewers who are gun owners and also posted online. Clearly a very tough fight ahead as the president tries to convince Congress to do some things, but also expected to do some things on his own through executive action.

Dan Lothian for us this morning, thank you, Dan, appreciate it. Stay with CNN for of course for special coverage of the president's announcement. It begins with Wolfe Blitzer at 11:30 a.m. eastern time today.

New York is now the first state to tighten gun laws after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill that if it was enforced would make New York one of the toughest places to buy, sell, or own a firearm. The bill cracks down even harder on assault weapons, banning any semi-automatic with a detachable magazine and one military style feature. It also limits magazine clips from seven rounds from ten rounds. Most gun licenses have to be renewed every five years. Background checks will be required at all gun sales, including private sales.

Other stories making news this morning, John Berman has a look at that for us this morning. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. An icy, slippery dangerous morning for a lot of people on their commute, a winter storm with snow, sleet, and black ice posing a threat from Texas all the way to Maine. Dozens of accidents reported on the road, at least 200 flights were grounded and delays piling up in the New York area for flights. Jennifer Delgado in Atlanta with the latest.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, John. When you came, you were looking at rain. Leave shot at Central Park. We've been dealing with snow across parts of the north. Let's go to the video. We should show you it's foggy out there, yes, snow, and also looking at mixed precipitation.

It's not just New York City, as I take you over to our radar here, a lot to talk about, rain, heavy rain toward the south. Still lingering mixed precipitation, moving through parts of the Ohio valley and Tennessee valley, a lot of that moving its way out toward the east. A lot of it will be coming to an end in the morning hours.

As we move up toward the north, areas like Pennsylvania as well as New York, we'll see some of the snow and some of these locations, two to four inches of snowfall. For the major cities like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and for New York, we'll see rain for most of the day. Warnings and watches, a winter weather advisory for parts of the northern mid-Atlantic until 11:00 a.m. and parts of New England until 4:00, and Maine, until 11:00 tonight. In addition to the snow out there, you can see most of it will be to the north of interstate 80, where the highest snowfall totals will be. We'll watch that, of course, the heavy rainfall. People need to be careful out there. A lot of travel delays as we go throughout the day. Snow totals. Back to you, John.

BERMAN: A lot of slow going in the northeast. Jennifer, thank you very much.

We have more trouble to report for Boeing. Two major Japanese airlines have grounded their fleets of 787 Dreamliners after an emergency landing in Japan. This is the series in the latest problems with the jets. A Japanese ANA Dreamliner made an unscheduled landing Wednesday after reports of a battery alarm and strange smell in the cabin.

Two people were killed when police say a domestic violence erupted in gunfight at a community college parking lot in western Kentucky about 90 miles from Lexington.

And this was a chaotic scene at a business school in St. Louis when a student reportedly shot an adviser in the chest before shooting himself. Both men were taken to St. Louis university hospital, and both are expected to survive.

Ten weeks after the storm, the house has passed a $50 billion relief Bill to help people in the northeast community recovering from super- storm Sandy. After the delay that infuriated many local leaders, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued a joint statement praising House members for coming together in a unified bipartisan coalition, saying "We anticipate smooth passage when this package moves back to the Senate floor for final approval and for this long-awaited relief to finally make its way to our residents." People here will be quite grateful when it happened.

O'BRIEN: And quite upset it took so long to make it happen. John, thank you very much.

We still don't exactly know how far Lance Armstrong is going to go with his confession that he made to Oprah Winfrey. We won't get a chance to see it until tomorrow. It won't be far enough, though, according to folks at the world anti-doping agency. Officials say nothing short of Armstrong admitting under oath that he used performance enhancing drugs will get him to reconsider their lifetime ban. CNN's George Howell is live in Austin, Texas. That of course is Lance Armstrong's hometown. How has what he has said and we'll see tomorrow, how is that playing in his hometown?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning. Fair to say it is a very different feeling than it was some 12 years ago when I was a reporter here in Austin, covering Lance Armstrong. I also grew up here, Soledad. So my hometown, I remember watching Lance Armstrong come along. Here is a guy who not only inspired people around the world as an athlete, but inspired people as a cancer survivor. For the city of Austin, Texas, he was a source of pride. Now you can't help but feel as you say here in Texas, taken for a ride, a little disappointed about what we will hear on Thursday. That's really what you find on the streets of Austin, Texas, when you talk to people. However, people have not lost sight of the good things he's done throughout his career. Take a listen.


DAVID WAINWRIGHT, AUSTIN RESIDENT: It's sad. I mean, he's our Austin boy and we're -- again, I'm saddened about it. I don't like it. You know, people make mistakes. He made some mistakes. But as far as like tarnishing the legacy, at the very least what he's done for cancer, I have no problem with him continuing on in that role.


HOWELL: So people hope that what happens Thursday will not cast a cloud over the cancer charities that he has headed. At this point, everyone waiting to hear him say in his own words after years of lying about it that he did take part in doping, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a personal question as a local. How do you feel about it? Does the quality of the admission matter to you? Does it have to be a contrite did I it? What are you waiting to hear?

HOWELL: You know, when I think about the celebrations that I covered, as a local reporter here, you would see kids who were inspired by Lance Armstrong, people who wanted no follow in his footsteps, cancer survivors inspired by this life that he led.

But now we're learning a lot of that was not so truthful, that a lot of it was a lie. And quite frankly, covering the rise in what seems to be the fall of the city's hero, a hometown here, it's hard, sad, this is a guy who a lot of people looked up to. It will be hard for me and a lot of people I'm sure to watch him after years of saying he didn't do it, admit to doping tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm interested in seeing exactly -- everybody, of course, right, about exactly what he said and how contrite he is. Does he mean it or is this so I can move on to other businesses I want to do?

Bottom hour, we'll talk with John Eustice, a two-time cycling champion and analyst as well. He called Lance Armstrong's first Tour de France race. We'll chat with him about the latest developments in this confession.

Up next, when President Obama lay out his new gun agenda, which will happen today, it's expected to create a strong reaction on Capitol Hill. It already has. So how will his own party respond to what's on the table? We'll talk with Congressman Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran that comes from a family of marksmen. She says she will be the calm voice on this issue. And there's business news. What are you talking about?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We're talking about Dreamliners and the Dreamliner problems, grounded in Japan. How serious is the problem for Boeing and how serious is it for travelers? We'll tell you.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Today, President Obama unveils his plan to curb gun violence in America. The issue of course is being debated all across the country, including last night on a special edition of "Piers Morgan Tonight." Take a look.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: I want to clarify what you're saying to me, that you would need an AR-15 to protect yourself against your own government.

SCOTTIE HUGHES, BROTHER MURDERED BY NANNY'S SON: Let's look at that right now. Tomorrow we have 19 executive orders coming down. It kind of sounds like they're mandates. In the last six years we have actually had natural disasters where police have cleared out of those cities, and the people who had weapons were safe. We don't know what will happen. Tonight, we might have a bright, sunny America, but who is to say what will happen in the future.


O'BRIEN: Some people make your head hurt when they speak. Wow. And that was one of those moments. She doesn't know what executive order is.

We want to speak this morning with Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois. She was just voted into Congress. Thank you for talking with us. This debate is very heated and very angry. That woman just talking from Piers Morgan's show last night, you hear that not infrequently, this sense of I have Second Amendment rights, the government might come to get me, and if I have to use it to protect myself against my government, I mean, some of that is starting to sound a little bit nutty to me. How do you be the voice of calm, as you said you want to be, when the debate is like that?

REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, (D) ILLINOIS: I think we need to remind people that the majority of Americans are not on those extreme ends. And let's start off by saying that we all want our children protected. Those NRA ads, saying that the president's children, his daughters are protected, don't you want yours protected the? Really, the whole goal is to ratchet up the calm. Let's look at the weapons, make sure marksmen can continue to have their weapons they use for marksmanship. But we need to ban those who have the functionality to kill a bunch of folks in a few seconds and be careful how we go about this.

O'BRIEN: Many people have said, and forgive me, Congresswoman, for interrupting. Many people who said what you have just spoken about, the assault weapons ban is very unlikely to pass. I heard that from high-ranking Republicans and high-ranking Democrats, that if you look at the list of the president's proposals, and a little graph of this, assault weapons ban, high-capacity magazine ban, universal background checks, more funding for mental health problems, that first one, the assault weapons ban, a lot of people say that's not likely to happen.

DUCKWORTH: I will look and see what the proposal is. I'm interested in the definition of what an assault weapon is more than I am interested in what it looks like. We also need to take a look at the thing things we should pass right away. The background checks -- people should not be able to buy weapons at gun shows without background checks. We need to do a much better job of that. Nobody needs a 30-round magazine to go hunting. If you are using a 30-round magazine to go hunting, are you a very bad shot.

O'BRIEN: David Keene, the president of the NRA, he talked about his daughter in the military, as you were, and I know you shot automatic weapons obvious in the military. And have you an owner's license I.D. card now.


O'BRIEN: Here is what he told Wolf Blitzer about that very thing, why she likes her AR-15. Listen.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: High-capacity magazines, why do people need those?


BLITZER: You have an AR-15?

KEENE: I do not. But my daughter does.

BLITZER: What does she need it for?

KEENE: My daughter, like most people who served in the army. She served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, like to shoot for fun at the range, and in competition, the same gun they learned on or something similar to the same gun. She was in the army, learned on a military weapon. This is the semiautomatic civilian version. It's the only gun she owns. She likes to go to the range, likes to shoot it.


O'BRIEN: That's his answer as to why someone needs an AR-15, my daughter, for example, likes target practice. What's wrong with that?

DUCKWORTH: I like target practice as well. You don't need to rely on an AR-15 for target practice. And isn't the protection of our most vulnerable the most important priority here, to make sure that our kids are protected, to make sure masses of people are not easily killed, but also maintaining the rights of people to go to target practice? You don't need an AR-15 to go to target practice. And if you enjoy firing it, you can enjoy firing some other weapon as well, and those may not be fully automatic.

O'BRIEN: The president as we know could enact an executive order. And some who said as you heard in the sound bite earlier, there might be as many as 19 executive actions. Some of them owuld include, demand agencies provide data for background checks that would accompany gun sales, could appoint a director at the bureau of ATF. We also know that there are some other options for him on the table.

A sheriff in Oregon, in Linn County who said this "Any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the president offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Linn County, Oregon." What do you make when a sheriff basically says if it offends the constitutional rights of his citizens, he is not going to go ahead enforce it?

DUCKWORTH: If he doesn't uphold the laws of the land, he's an elected official, I think this is something for the voters in his area to make a decision on.

Look, we have to do something to make sure that we fix the problem of gun violence in this nation. I think background checks are a good start. And making absolutely illegal and adding something like mandatory jail time for someone who purchases a weapon for someone who is not legally allowed to purchase a weapon, as was the case in upstate New York, is something we can pass.

But to up this rhetoric the way the sheriff is jumping into this. The way the NRA is ratcheting up the rhetoric does help us get to the end what we're trying to get to, which is protect the Second Amendment, allow marksmen and outdoorsman enjoy the right to do that but protect our children who should be able to go to school or people should be able to gather on the street corner. You have to have the right to gather on street corners as well without being under threat from someone who is not mentally stable enough to even own weapons, but got someone else to buy weapons for him.

Let's bring down the rhetoric, talk about it, and I'm going to be looking very carefully what the president presents. May not agree with him on everything, but we're going to take a look and make sure those things that we can pass, let's pass those first.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, we appreciate your time.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, it has been a nightmare for Boeing, the company's Dreamliners grounded after the sixth serious incident in the first 16 days alone. We'll tell you what that means for travelers coming up next.

The STARTING POINT team is headed in to join the conversation next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You are watching STARTING POINT. Our team this morning, Michael Skolnik is with us, editor in chief of, Abby Huntsman is back, Chris Frates is with us, reporter at "National Journal." Nice to have you all with us. Let's talk about what is a big, big, big bummer for Boeing. What is going on with the Dreamliner? It has such a lovely name, but it's become such a big, hot mess.

ROMANS: Another big incident overnight. Another emergency landing in japan, forced to make an emergency landing there. Now have you two major Japanese airlines pulling it off of the line, won't even use these. You can see the pictures there. A couple of people injured. A smoke alarm in the cockpit adding to a series of concerns, Soledad, about whether this very complicated, much anticipated jet is safe.

O'BRIEN: In Seoul, South Korea, Richard quest standing by. There are lots of questions about the implications of these incidents and what it means for the future of the Dreamliner. Richard, it looks bleak and bad at this point.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it doesn't look particularly good when you have an evacuation on the runway in such dramatic circumstances, six incidents since the beginning of the year. Here is the worrying part. There is no common theme to any of the incidents, a cracked cockpit, a fuel valve, smoke alarm, lithium batteries.

And so for Boeing and the FAA and the Japanese authorities to determine what might be behind it, it becomes that much more difficult.

And everybody is keen to say, and does say, and I think it's true, is the plane is safe to fly, and that's because there are so many safety systems within the aircraft that it is a safe form of transportation. Having said that, it is certainly a huge inconvenience to the airlines, it's an embarrassment to Boeing, and I would say it's a concern to the traveling public when you have half the airlines taking the planes out of service and half of them still flying them.

ROMANS: It's so interesting, Richard. This is a high-tech, long haul aircraft. One of the aircraft -- some of the carriers have been hoping be able to fly this thing, so you are at any time two or three hours from a place to have an emergency landing, or eventually five hours away at your biggest destination, away from an emergency landing. Little things like this make you not want to be in a place two or three hours from an emergency landing.

You are talking about the ETOPS certification, extended operation over water. An ETOPS means you can be three hours away. It's a twin engine jet, that should not be a concern in any shape or form. Boeing has to get to grips with why this plane is having so many glitches in such a short period of time. That's not my words. That comes from the Japanese ministry in Tokyo, which says it is a serious incident and they have to sort it out. However, all that being said, the plane is at the absolute extremities of technology. It was inevitable we would see some of these problems, and now we have got to find out which airlines, which are flying, and most important of all, what are the reasons for their faults?

O'BRIEN: You know, as you started off by saying they are doing an evacuation on the tarmac, not exactly something that makes you feel good about the plane are you on. Thank you, Richard, appreciate it.

We're following breaking news out of London this morning, the very latest on the fiery chopper crash that happened in the center of the city.