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Four Hostages Freed in Algeria; Notre Dame: Star Duped by "Sick Joke"; IOC Strips Armstrong of Olympic Medal; Cancer Mortality Down 20 Percent from 1991 Peak; Boeing's 787 Dreamliner Grounded Worldwide; Seaside Heights Boardwalk Roaring Back; A Nation Of Cheaters

Aired January 17, 2013 - 10:00   ET



JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- body part she emerged. It looked like a birth.

NICOLE DOLL, KPTV REPORTER: She looked relieved. She was actually pushing and bracing her hand trying to help herself out.

LT. RICH CHATMAN, PORTLAND FIRE AND RESCUE: When she got about that last foot and looked over and she just said, I'm coming out.

DOLL: And it looks like we're just waiting -- she's out.

MOOS: Delivered to safety after four hours. Her husband was on hand and he delivered a couple of kisses before she was wheeled off. Her glasses survived the fall so at least this wallflower could see the jam that she was in. Is that the sound of rescue equipment or the thump of her heart? Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM, a ferocious football player bruised and battered by a shocking revelation. That dying girlfriend that he so publicly mourned never even existed?

Kids and politics, they are coming together in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and now some are expressing their outrage.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I've been watching the children- as-human-shields show that is now going on at the White House.


COSTELLO: He's not the only one. Why this scene at the White House has some conservatives furious and why they are taking aim at President Obama's agenda.

I hope you like your job because you might be there until you're 70. That's the recommendation from one influential business group for fixing Social Security.

And the great python hunt is on. We'll tell you which Florida lawmaker is getting in on this serpentine safari. NEWSROOM starts now.

All right, we have some breaking news to report on that hostage situation in Algeria. As you know, Islamic militants kidnapped up to maybe 27 people, workers for that natural gas company. And it's part owned by British Petroleum, BP.

We believe that three Americans were held hostage. At some point today, the Algerian military raided the kidnappers' compound, wherever they were holding them hostage, and the Algerian state-run television station is now reporting that four hostages have been freed, two British citizens, one French citizen, and one Kenyan citizen.

They say nothing about the Americans being held captive, but they do say there are a number of casualties. Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is with me to tell us more. What were you able to find out, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That it's simply a chaotic situation. That's how Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described to ABC News during an interview. Officials in both the State Department and the Pentagon say it is very, very difficult to get a handle exactly on what is going on.

They know that an operation is ongoing by the Algerian security forces, but as to the numbers of dead, of wounded, how many kidnappers there are still in there, how many hostages, especially American hostages are still left in there, all of that really is in flux.

And I would really be hesitant to try to get pinned down on specific numbers at this point because from all accounts from everything we've heard, the situation is very fluid and chaotic right now.

COSTELLO: And I know you're going to keep an eye on it for us. If you find out anything else, please tell us. We'll put you on the air again. Chris Lawrence is reporting live for us this morning.

Now what may be the most shocking death of someone who never existed, there are new questions about Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o and the girlfriend who is nothing more than an internet fabrication.

So who's the real victim of this hoax? Is it Te'o, one of the best college players in the country or the nation's sports fans who feel duped by all those tearful stories of his soul mate's death?


MANTI TE'O, LINEBACKER, NOTRE DAME: The most beautiful girl I've ever met. Not because of her physical beauty, but the beauty of her character and who she is. She was just the person that I turned to.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: CNN's Ted Rowlands is peeling back the layers of this bizarre and riveting story. Ted, there are reports will hear from the player himself, Manti Te'o, any word on that?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the university is under the assumption that he will come forward and speak publicly somehow in the next few days, but we've reached out to Te'o's agent and nothing so far in terms of details.

What is he going to do, a press conference or just a single interview? The bottom line here, Carol, is that there are a lot of unanswered questions in this story. One thing we do know for sure is that the folks here at Notre Dame are standing by their star football player.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): University of Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick fought back tears while discussing Manti Te'o at a late news conference. He is convinced Te'o was the victim of an elaborate hoax.

JACK SWARBRICK, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, NOTRE DAME: The thing I am most sad of, sad about, is -- sorry. That the single most trusting human being I have ever met will never be able to trust in the same way again in his life.

ROWLANDS: During the football season, the story of the star linebacker enduring the death of his girlfriend and grandmother on the same day transcended sports. People from around the world were touched by how in love Te'o seemed to be with Lennay Kekua, the girl he called his soulmate.

TE'O: I cried, I yelled, never felt that way before. This is six hours ago, I found out grandma passed away, and you take, you know, the love of my life.

ROWLANDS: On the day of his girlfriend's supposed funeral, Te'o played football. After the game, Notre Dame's football coach, Brian Kelly, actually awarded the game ball to the girl we now know doesn't exist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to award this game ball to Lennay, and I'd like Manti to have this ball to take back to Hawaii.

ROWLANDS: Te'o told his coaches about the hoax on December 26th. Notre Dame kept the truth under wraps, despite the fact that the media was still telling the story leading up to the national championship game.

SWARBRICK: From the outset, we established a parameter that this was Manti's story to tell. We wanted to know if it would be told. We wanted to know at the appropriate time when it would be told, but that it was his to tell.

ROWLANDS: Many of the people including one of the reporters that broke the hoax story doesn't think Te'o's story adds up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Te'o's story that he is completely innocent in this doesn't really shake through with us.

ROWLANDS: What still isn't clear is why didn't Manti Te'o ever mention that he never actually met Lennay when talking about how much he loved her? How did the story about how they first met at a football game start and if it wasn't true, why didn't he correct it? And how could he have been so in love with someone he had never actually met face to face?

SWARBRICK: You know, I think as Manti tells the story, you will see the same thing I saw, it does fully line up.


ROWLANDS: Manti Te'o has released a statement. A portion of that statement reads, talking about his girlfriend, "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

Carol, the bottom line here, there are still a lot of questions that people have for Manti Te'o.

COSTELLO: So many questions. Ted Rowlands reporting live for us this morning. Coming up in half an hour, we'll talk with a sports journalist who interviewed Te'o's teammate. The teammate says Te'o lied, but the media blew the story up. We're going to talk more about that at half past the hour.

More trouble surrounds Lance Armstrong. Today, the International Olympic Committee stripped from his bronze medal. Armstrong took third place in the men's road cycling individual time trial at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

The IOC, the Olympic committee is now asking Armstrong to return that medal. The disgraced cyclist has completed in three different Olympic Games including the 1996 games in Atlanta.

Now this news comes hours before we finally hear Lance Armstrong's reported admission to using performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong's 2-1/2 hour interview with Oprah Winfrey will be shown over the next two nights.

Peter Flax is the editor-in-chief of "Bicycling" magazine. Cycling has had -- good morning, how are you?

PETER FLAX, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "BICYCLING" MAGAZINE: Good morning. I'm OK. At least today Lance can feel like he has the second strangest sports story of the day.

COSTELLO: I never thought anything could overshadow the Lance Armstrong story, but I was wrong.

FLAX: Yes, it's a strange day. COSTELLO: It really is. OK, so Lance Armstrong has been asked to give back his bronze medal. Do you suppose that the Olympic committee will say eventually give back all of your medals?

FLAX: Well, I think this is the only Olympic medal he will have to give back although he competed in multiple games. I think this is the only one that they are going to ask for and one of the ironies is that the man who got the silver medal and the person who came in fourth who presumably would get bronze are already people who have been convicted or implicated in doping scandals. So the whole thing is pretty messy.

COSTELLO: Wow. So there is a real possibility that cycling may be dropped as an Olympic sport, at least for a time?

FLAX: Yes, that's one I find hard to believe. It seems like punishing today's amateur athletes that are much cleaner than the athletes that were in Lance Armstrong's time isn't the solution and I suspect they will work something out instead of that.

COSTELLO: What do you want to hear tonight when you sit down and watch Armstrong's interview?

FLAX: You know, I think a lot of the little details of when he makes admissions and when he acknowledges. The collateral damage he caused to people who were close to him and how earnest he seems about, you know, it must be an enormous struggle for him to stand in front of Oprah and the nation and explain what he did.

But you know, a lot of the little details of whether he can actually say sorry, whether he can actually see like he fathoms the problems he caused. You know, that's the stuff I'll be looking for.

COSTELLO: I mean, you love the sport of cycling. You've built your life around the sport of cycling. Aren't you angry?

FLAX: Sure. Sure. There are so many emotions happening at once for people that are in love with the sport. You know, it's a heartbreaking moment to see the person that's widely thought of as the greatest American cyclist of all time having to go before Oprah and breakdown and cry to admit sins that a lot of us already knew for years that he had committed. So it's a strange night for sure.

COSTELLO: Peter Flax, editor-in-chief of "Bicycling" magazine, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

FLAX: Good to be here.

COSTELLO: Cheating athletes, politicians, even average Americans are doing it. Coming up in 10 minutes, I'll take a closer look at why we cheat. It's our Talk Back question today.

And today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, a CNN NEWSROOM special report with more on the psychology and the science behind cheating, join Brooke Baldwin at 3 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And this is just in to CNN. The overall death rate from cancer in the United States has dropped 20 percent from its peak more than 20 years ago. This new report is coming from the American Cancer Society. That means nearly 1.2 million cancer deaths have been prevented in that time.

The report also projects there will be 1.6 million new cancer cases this year. But overall cancer cases are declining for most types of cancer. So what does this all mean? With me now is Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society. Welcome, Doctor.


COSTELLO: So these figures, they are just released this morning and you must be feeling good.

BRAWLEY: This is really good news. I mean, you can look at survival, you can look at the number of people getting cancer and you can say, since survival is increasing we must be doing something well, but you can also debate that.

Nobody can debate it when the number of people dying is actually going down, 1.2 million people who are alive today who would have died of cancer if we had not started cancer control programs back in the '60s.

COSTELLO: What types of cancer are we talking about?

BRAWLEY: Most cancers, especially the big ones, half of all people who get cancer get lung cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreas cancer, or breast cancer. They are all going down. They are all going down by more than 30 percent, as a matter of fact.

COSTELLO: Wow. So is it that fewer people are getting those types of cancer or is it just we've advanced so far in medical technology that we're able to take care of them?

BRAWLEY: In the case of long and colorectal cancer, we are actually are seeing less people getting those diseases. Lung cancer is going down dramatically because the smoking cessation starting in the 1960s and '70s is actually working now.

Colorectal cancer is going down because colonoscopy can actually prevent cancers by finding polyps before they become cancerous. In other diseases such as breast and prostate cancer, it's very likely that we have some improvements both in early detection as well as very importantly improvements in how we treat the disease and improvements in alcohol.

COSTELLO: OK, but there's still a long way to go sadly?

BRAWLEY: There's a lot we can still do. The report actually shows that we can save a lot more lives if we simply started doing what we know we should be doing.

COSTELLO: And just give us one simple example. BRAWLEY: We need to start fighting obesity epidemic. Obesity causes cancer as well as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I cannot leave without saying 20 percent of Americans still smoke.

COSTELLO: I know. It breaks your heart, doesn't it, because it's just so unnecessary?

BRAWLEY: There is no such thing as legitimate use of tobacco.

COSTELLO: Dr. Brawley, thank you so much for being with us today. We appreciate it.

BRAWLEY: Thank you.

COSTELLO: The age of retirement could be getting pushed up to 70, yes, 70. We'll tell you who is pushing that plan, who might be taking it seriously?


COSTELLO: It's 17 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories, the nightmare continues for Boeing's Dreamliner. The FAA has ordered Boeing 787 aircraft to stay on the tarmac. Planes will not be cleared for takeoff until there is proof their lithium batteries are safe and there is no telling how long that might take. Governments around the world have also grounded the Dreamliner.

A New Jersey boardwalk damaged by Superstorm Sandy will soon be back to its former glory. The town of Seaside Heights has approved a $3.6 million deal to rebuild the mile long boardwalk by Memorial Day. The construction is said to begin within 10 days.

It's not just 10s and 20s anymore. Chase and PNC Banks are launching cash machines that can dispense the money you need down to the dollar. So when you want 54 bucks, you won't need to pull out 60. Chase says it's already put as many as 400 of the new more precise ATMs on the street and it plans to double that number by the end of the year.

Staying with your money, an influential business group thinks you should be working until you hit 70. Yes, you would not be able to retire and collect Social Security benefits until the age of 7-0, 70.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. I think many of us were expecting this to happen.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not a huge surprise, but you know, this kind of discussion is going on especially among what is known as the "Business Round Table." And what this is, it's a group made up of more than 200 CEOs, including the heads of some of the biggest companies in this country.

A small sampling for you, it includes the Jeff Immelt of GE, Ford's Alan Malaly, Marissa Myer, the new Yahoo! chief executive, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Pepsi (INAUDIBLE) and also the heads of Bank of America, Caterpillar and Microsoft. It's a group that's been around for 40 years and it's founded on the belief that businesses should play an active role in shaping public policy. OK, so today they are going after the retirement age in this country. They want to raise it from 67 years old to 70.

Now you would be exempt if you're 55 and older so it would have time to sort of settle in. Now this round table says it will ensure that Social Security and Medicare are actually solvent for the next 75 years. That's really behind the reason for the suggestion of moving the retirement age higher.

This group is also in favor of updating the (INAUDIBLE) for the cost of living adjustment by switching to what is known as chained CPI. You may remember that term from the fiscal cliff debate. That's a measure of consumers prices that actually takes into account how consumers -- their sentiment is, how they change their behavior when the prices of certain goods change.

It's really seen, Carol, as a more accurate reflection of the cost of living, but it is controversial. It didn't make it into the final bill. Also, the group is proposing to make changes to Medicare raising the age when you're eligible for that as well -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange.

Sports stars, politicians, college students, they all have cheaters in their rank. So why do we cheat, anyway?


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to Talk Back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning: why do we cheat? Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Olympic medal. So was it worth it? Why do so many people take the easy way out?


COSTELLO (voice-over): We've become a nation of cheaters because cheaters win.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, THIRD BASEMAN, YANKEES: I did take a banned substance and you know, for that I'm very sorry and deeply regretful.

COSTELLO: But Alex Rodriguez still gets to play for the team and hold on to his s $275 million contract.

BRUCE WEINSTEIN, THE ETHICS GUY: Sometimes people who realize they won't be punished if they do something wrong will go ahead and do something wrong. There have to be consequences to the behavior for there to be a change in the behavior.

COSTELLO: Consequences. Yes, Bill Clinton was impeached, but he got a standing o at the Golden Globes. So it's no surprise the former bud of 1,000 Appalachian Trail jokes Mark Sanford is back in the news. Despite his teary confession, he's now running for Congress. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider training, but she and her inmate bounced back with a TV show with a successful line of products for Macy's. Cheaters never prosper, right. Watch

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did I ever consider cheating? Honestly, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I would. I would most definitely consider cheating.

COSTELLO: These kids inadvertently promoted a Hollywood movie about cheating on your SATs. The star, Scarlett Johansson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to steal the answer to the test?

COSTELLO: Fantasy? No. I can't count how many news stories I've done on kids cheating. Look at the word, cheater. It's awful, but educators say that many kids would rather cheat than fail. This young woman who asked us not to use her name or university was a cheater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of students, they feel very stressed and pressured and get cornered and trap themselves. They mentally trap themselves and feel like they have no other way out. So then they cheat.

COSTELLO: That brings us back to Lance Armstrong because it makes you wonder, did he cheat because he felt stressed or pressured or cornered or did that come later when the money and prestige started rolling in?


COSTELLO: So the Talk Back question today: why do we cheat? or you can tweet me @carolcnn. Of course, your responses come later on in the NEWSROOM.

Also today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, a CNN NEWSROOM special report with more on the psychology and science behind cheating.


COSTELLO: Just about 30 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories and thank you for being with us. New developments out of North Africa, just minutes ago, Algeria state-run news agency say no Americans were among the four hostages just freed in a military operation.

CNN cannot independently confirm this report and it's still not clear how many Americans are morning the oil workers or the natural gas workers captured by Islamic militants yesterday.

President Obama about to name his next chief of staff, sources tell us, Dennis McDonough will become the fourth person to get that title. He'll oversee the staff, manage the president's schedule and decide who gets to him. McDonough currently serves as deputy national security adviser. Kids and politics, normally the only time you see politicians showcasing children is during the campaign but not today. Not after Sandy Hook. Kids stood behind the president as he unveiled his gun control proposals. Those who propose any gun regulations were incensed by that.

Rush Limbaugh calling those children, in his words, human shields, and the reaction from Texas Governor Rick Perry wasn't much better. In a statement Perry said in part, "The piling on by the political left and their cohorts in the media to use the massacre of little children to advance a pre-existing political agenda that would not have saved those children disgusts me personally."

But the NRA used children, too, specifically the president's children, to illustrate what he calls elitist hypocrisy. The Obama administration called that repugnant and cowardly.

So let's talk about. Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist and a CNN contributor, and Will Cain is a CNN contributor and also writes with the Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Maria, the president highlighted one little girl in particular. Her name is Julia Stokes. She's 7 years old. She wrote this moving letter telling the president she was afraid to lose her brother and sisters and then Rush Limbaugh promptly mocked her and the other children in attendance. Listen.