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Stricter Gun Ban to Be Unveiled; Women to be Allowed in Combat; Home of the World's Worst Weather?; Manti Te'o Talks about the Hoax; The Battle Over Smartphone Dominance

Aired January 24, 2013 - 09:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad. Happening now in the NEWSROOM, a standoff, a champion of gun control unveils sweeping new vision that could impact and outrage millions of Americans.

On the front lines. Women will finally get to serve in combat areas but not right away.

Above the world and well below zero, you think it's cold where you are? The researchers at this observatory say they have the world's worst weather.

And soon it will be hard to find a large soda in New York City, but now there's a new argument to keep those giant drinks around.

NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning, I'm Carol Costello, thank you so much for being with us.

And in just a couple of hours a strict, new gun control plan will be unveiled and brace for a loud outcry from millions of gun owners and their ultra powerful lobbying group the NRA. The latest push coming from Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who authored the nation's original ban on assault weapons in the 1990s, but this ban would reportedly be much more strict.

It would trap current gun owners and outlaw the future sale of some handguns and shotguns.

Joe Johns is our crime and justice correspondent. He joins us from Washington.

So I understand that Senator Feinstein is going to show up holding a Bushmaster.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know if she's going to be holding it but we do know that she is going to have some weapons present that would be banned under her proposal, that would include Bushmaster. As you know, they're fairly well- known. A Bushmaster was, we believe, used by the shooter in Newtown, Connecticut. Now we know the broad outlines of what Feinstein is likely to propose. It's been public for weeks. What we're looking for is the detail, we expect a revised ban, as you said, on the so-called military style assault weapons led to believe that means banning the sale, transfer, importation or manufacturing of about 150 firearms, some rifles, even possibly handguns, shotguns, fitted with, for example, detachable magazines, and having at least one characteristic that the creators of this proposal see as making it suitable for military use.

The issue here is going to be what qualifies as an assault weapon. Gun rights advocates say the term is mostly arbitrary and that Feinstein would be banning characteristics that are aesthetic or cosmetic.

The important question, Carol, right now is whether any proposal like this could get through the Republican-controlled House. That's a very tough order.

COSTELLO: Yes, because we know the NRA has been fighting this and it's the fight I guess only going to get more strident.

JOHNS: I think so. The NRA is against any type of assault weapons ban. They say it wasn't effective back in 1994 when it was put into effect and that it puts dangerous weapons in the hands of criminals who essentially don't follow the law. Something else that could be part of this legislation, of course, is creating a registry for any weapons that were obtained before this ban goes in place.

In a speech this week one of the NRA's leader's Wayne LaPierre said that was just totally unacceptable to the NRA -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Joe Johns reporting live from Washington.

We'll of course have live coverage for you of Feinstein's news conference. She will unveiled that new gun control plan. That's scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Eastern in just about two hours from now.

The military is making a major change to the way its staff combat troops. For the first time in history women will be allowed to serve on the front lines but don't expect to see changes right away.

Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence tells us why.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army infantry, Marine recon, even Special Ops, on Thursday, they all opened to women for the first time. The Pentagon is eliminating its ban on women in combat, but there's a catch.

(On camera): Did you know today's army would be so different than the one you joined?


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Staff Sergeant Kelly Rodriguez deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan and became one of the first female combat medics to work directly with Special Operations Forces.

RODRIGUEZ: It worked out because in future deployments that unit has taken several females to do -- to do that mission.

LAWRENCE: In recent years the Navy opened submarine duty to women and the Marines Female Engagement teams walked foot patrols with combat units. But there's a catch to opening the infantry. All jobs won't open immediately, and the Pentagon left itself some wiggle room.

Sources say the services have to assess each job and unit to see if and when it'd be feasible for women to be integrated without losing combat readiness. A senior Defense official says certain Special Ops or infantry units may ask the secretary for an exemption to the rule, and Congress will have to be notified of each job that opens up before it takes effect.

It's a stark contrast to how the Pentagon ended the exclusion of gays serving openly or "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." There was no staggered approach that integrated openly gay troops. A Defense official told CNN it's the difference between personal behavior and physical ability. He said gay troops were already in units whereas women will be going into some for the first time. But many in uniform and on Capitol Hill say females on the front lines will hurt not help the military.

REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: To have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission essential tasks of those units and that's been proven in study after study, just from a matter of, I mean, it's nature, you know, upper body strength and physical movements and speed and endurance and so forth.

LAWRENCE (on camera): Sources say Leon Panetta has set a deadline. He wants the assessments completed and women integrated as much as possible by January, 2016 but Panetta is on his way out the door. This is one of his last acts as secretary. Sources tell me the man nominated to replace him, Chuck Hagel, has been briefed on these changes but so far, Hagel has not made any public statements one way or the other.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.


COSTELLO: All right. The big story for most of us is just how cold it is and it's -- and it's not going to get warmer until this weekend. So far three deaths have been reported in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and in North Dakota, winds and snow created whiteout conditions. In Washington, D.C., federal offices are open today but with an inch of snow expected, federal workers have the option of staying home to avoid the mess.

In upstate New York, it's the big dig-out with more snow on the way, a band of lake-effect snow stretching 150 miles. It's going to bring more and more snow to cities that have already seen up to two feet of the stuff and this bitter cold means, of course, broken pipes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Very busy, no heat calls mostly today, we got a church down in (INAUDIBLE) Center with no heat. We've got to do that and a couple of frozen water lines, that's it so far.



COSTELLO: That's it so far. In Maryland a cell tower worker had to be rescued because of the bitter cold. He was 180 feet up. The wind chill is about 10 degrees when its legs started cramping and its hands went numb. Somehow he managed to call 911 and a co-worker actually scaled the tower, got him to a guideline and was able to rappel down with him. Wow.

And check this out in Vermont. These strange mounds are popping up everywhere. They look like giant cinnamon rolls but they're actually called snow rollers, formed as strong winds of roll across wet snow as it's nearing the melting point.

One of the coldest places on the plan actually is New Hampshire's Mount Washington observatory. At the summit this morning it is a brisk 23 degrees below zero.


With a 64-mile-per-hour wind, making the wind chill 67 degrees below zero. For researchers it's a point of pride. They've actually trademarked it as, quote, "the world's worst weather."

I'm joined now from Washington, New Hampshire, by Brian Fitzgerald.

Hi, Brian.


COSTELLO: I hope you're inside. Oh, you are inside. I can see you now.

FITZGERALD: Yes. Yes. Staying inside as much as possible.


COSTELLO: What does that kind of weather feel like? I can't imagine that.

FITZGERALD: The best way I've heard it described is think of yourself diving into a very, very cold pool of water.

COSTELLO: And just staying submerged for a while?


FITZGERALD: Yes, it doesn't matter how well you're covered up. The air finds a way in no matter what, so you're going to feel the cold one way or another.

COSTELLO: So what do you do for fun when it's 63 degrees below zero or feels like it?

FITZGERALD: Mostly indoor activities, though there is a lot of work that goes on outside as well. We're constantly deicing our instruments up here, and if it warms up a bit, yes, we can do a little bit of hiking, maybe a little skiing but not on a day like today.

COSTELLO: No kidding. You're a weather expert, that's why you're there. I just wondered for example in Chicago just a couple of days ago it was 47 degrees and then the very next day it plunged to 28 degrees. And it's only gotten worse from there. Why is this happening?

FITZGERALD: Well, along with Chicago right here in New Hampshire, we kind of live along a zone where we get influences both arctic air and then also some very warm tropical air, so up here, we actually broke our all-time monthly record for January just two weeks ago at 48 degrees, and here we are and we were minus 35 yesterday so that's the influence of arctic air coming down from Canada whereas just two weeks ago it was lots of tropical moisture coming up from the Gulf and elsewhere.

COSTELLO: So last year was sort of a year of weather extremes. Should we expect this kind of thing for 2013, where it's, like, warm for a spell and then it gets frigidly cold?

FITZGERALD: That seems to be the trend. Up here we focus a lot more on current some conditions and short-term forecasting, but certainly it's very possible. Last year was certainly a wild year and the past decade has been as well.

COSTELLO: Well, thank you, Brian, for joining us this morning and stay warm. But I guess you're used to it.


FITZGERALD: Yes, a little bit, although it's still pretty cold.

COSTELLO: I bet. Thank you so much.

FITZGERALD: Take care.

COSTELLO: OK. From the world's worst weather to a tropical paradise, don't you wish you were here in Aruba right now? We just had to show you this picture after showing you one of the coldest places, you know, in America.

The temperature in Aruba is supposed to hit 85 degrees today. Let's just look at that for a minute. OK. We have to move on into reality now, sorry.

The girlfriend was fake, the heartbreak was real, that's what Manti Te'o is saying as he begins his very public campaign to repair his image and his future career in the NFL. The Notre Dame star says he was a victim of a hoax but he admits he continued with the story of his girlfriend dying even after learning she never actually existed.


MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME LINEBACKER: My story, I felt, was a guy who in times of hardship and in times of trial really, you know, held strong to his faith, held strong to his family and I felt that that was my story.

KATIE COURIC, ABC NEWS: Even if that hardship was perhaps exaggerated?

TE'O: No, it was what I went through was real, you know, the feelings, the pain, the sorrow, that was all real.


COSTELLO: CNN's George Howell is here with more of what Te'o is expected to say later today.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is interesting, isn't it? You know?

COSTELLO: It is. It's like -- it's like a train wreck and you can't stop watching it.

HOWELL: So many twists and turns, so many different characters. You know? So here's what we've got. It's confusing but here's what we've got. It's a relationship between two people online who basically never met. Te'o insists, you know, he had every reason to believe that his girlfriend was real but in September, he got some information, he was led to believe that his girlfriend died of cancer.

So, Carol, fast forward to December, this is just before the Heisman Trophy ceremony, two days before that he got a call from someone, claiming to be the girlfriend, maybe -- I don't know if it was a woman, maybe a man, speaking in a woman's voice, who knows, but basically saying that she was alive, but at the same time when Te'o faced the press that day, he said that his girlfriend was dead, and Katie Couric asked him about that. Take a listen.


COURIC: You stuck to the script.

TE'O: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: And you knew that something was amiss, Manti.

TE'O: Correct.


TE'O: Well, if anybody puts yourself in my situation -- Katie, put yourself in my situation, this girl who I committed myself to died on September 12th. Now I get a phone call on December 6th saying that she's alive and that I'm going to be put on national TV two days later, and to ask me about the same question, you know, what would you do?


HOWELL: Now, Carol, there was never a Lennay Kekua. That was a fake online I.D. so that's the first thing, and Te'o insists that he had nothing to do with this hoax but Katie Couric asked him for proof that this was a longstanding relationship and he did show her phone records and even gave some insight into what they would talk about, one of their most recent conversations. Let's listen.



COURIC: She came out of her coma when she was on the phone with you, that the phone was next to her.

TE'O: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: What did you hear on the other end of the line?

TE'O: Obviously it was just breathing at first, and it was one of those where, you know, she was just breathing and then she started to kind of whisper my name, and I jumped for joy. I was like, she's out. You know?


HOWELL: So it will be very interesting to see what he has to say today. You know, was he duped here? You know, was he a victim of this Internet phenomenon called catfishing, you know, where you create an online fake I.D. and people believe it. We'll hear more from him to get his insight, his explanation of what happened here.

COSTELLO: So bizarre.

HOWELL: It's interesting.

COSTELLO: Yes, it is interesting. George Howell, thanks so much.

We're also hearing from the so-called dead girlfriend, the woman whose photo was used to create the fake online identity. Diane O'Meara says she wasn't in on the hoax, she never met Manti Te'o but she said she did hear fro the acquaintance that Te'o blames for the ruse. She said he called and apologized to her.


DIANE O'MEARA, IDENTITY STOLEN ON MANTI TE'O HOAX: He reached out to me a day or two days before the story broke and relayed to me that he, in fact, was stalking my profile for five years, taking my photos and he created --

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, ANDERSON COOPER 360: For five years he was doing this.

O'MEARA: He created this identity that was not me. It was this Lennay Kekua with my face on it.


COSTELLO: O'Meara says she heard from a number of women with similar stories, they say their images were also stolen to create fake online identities.

And there is new fallout from Lance Armstrong's doping admission to Oprah. Two California men have filed a class action lawsuit against Armstrong and his publishers alleging fraud. The pair say they bought Armstrong's books "It's Not About the Bike" and "Every Seconds Counts" based on a false belief that the rider's claims in those books were true. Of course, we know Armstrong doped during all seven Tour de France wins.

But this isn't the first time that a lawsuit like this has been filed. You might remember, author James Frey was successfully sued by readers over false claims in his memoir "A Million Little Pieces". That happened in 2007.

The family of the late Junior Seau is suing the NFL. They say his suicide last year was the result of the brain disease triggered by the violent hits he took touring his 20-year pro career. The family claims the league knew the long term risks of those hits, but sat on the information. The suit accuses the NFL and helmet maker Riddell, Incorporated, of wrongful death.

There's a new argument in New York about the big sugary drinks and whether they should be made available to everyone. And it's not because of your health.


COSTELLO: Eighteen minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

The New York Police Department is now being sued by a woman who was wounded by officers during a shooting outside the Empire State Building back in August. Police fired several shots to kill a man outside the skyscraper, and some of those bullets ricocheted, hitting several bystanders. The woman's attorney says the officers were not properly trained for that type of situation.

Beyonce did not sing live. That's what an inauguration official is telling CNN. The pop star's come under criticism for her rendition of the national anthem during President Obama's inauguration.

The inaugural official says it was Beyonce's decision because she arrived late Sunday night and didn't have time to rehearse with the U.S. Marine Corps Band. Beyonce has yet to talk about her performance.

The NAACP and Hispanic Federation are fighting New York City's ban on large sugary drinks, saying it's unfair to small minority-owned businesses. The groups claim larger competitors like 7-Eleven and grocery stores get a pass because they're regulated by New York state and not New York City and exempted from the law. The ban is due to go in effect in March.

To technology now: the battle for smartphone dominance is heating up. New report says Samsung could release the latest version of its popular Galaxy phone this March.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.

So is Apple shaking? Because we know what its earnings report was.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Apple is kind of quivering a little bit this morning. I tell you what, though, that iPhone 5 is going to look so passe, Carol. Get ready for the smartphone wars, they heat up this spring.

There are reports out there that Samsung is going to be unveiling the Galaxy S4 in late March, early April and the latest Apple rumor is that the next version of the iPhone could hit the street as early as June, either called the iPhone 6 or iPhone 5S.

Plus, throw in Blackberry 10 coming out next week. That's expected to shake up the smartphone sales to businesses.

So, clearly, the competition is getting fierce while Apple is only getting a small piece of the smartphone pie.

Screen size is really going to become a key battleground on the consumer front, Carol. The Galaxy S4 will reportedly have a bigger screen than the S3. And Apple, yes, Apple could go for a bigger screen. Possible explanation for why Apple cut the number of screen orders for the iPhone 5.

So, there are a lot of rumors out there, Carol. But sometimes where there's smoke, there's fire -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Just be strange that apple is following someone else with its technology ideas.

Let's talk about Apple just a little bit longer. It's trading lower after record profits. Why aren't investors happy?

KOSIK: Oh, yes, talk about the share price. We're 10 minutes before the opening bell, get ready for Apple to tumble 10 percent, when the bell rings. That's despite Apple reporting record profits and selling 48 million iPhones in the latest quarter. That's more than half a million iPhones sold every single day, in October, in November, and December combined.

But you look at those shares, already down close to 30 percent since September's record high. So, yes, what the heck is going on with the stock? You know, part of it is the old mantra, buy low and sell high. And for many investors, they bought shares when they were lower and wanted to take a profit before the higher capital gains taxes kicked in this year.

Other investors are clearly choosing to exit now competition with heating up so it's really becoming a huge factor. There are a lot of quality alternatives out there. You look at the tablet and smartphone arena, Carol. It's getting crowded, but, you know, they still sold 48 million iPhones and almost 23 million iPads in the latest quarter. You know what? Apple even sold 12.6 million iPods.

So, come on. Let's, you know, keep the finger off the panic button. Let's not get too crazy just yet, Carol.

COSTELLO: That's Wall Street, isn't it? Panic, panic, panic, then don't.

Thanks so much, Alison Kosik, reporting live for us this morning.

Fighting words from House Speaker John Boehner, he says President Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. Do you agree? That's our talk back question today.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day.

The question for you this morning: do you agree with John Boehner? Will President Obama try to annihilate the Republican Party?

Republican, remember that word because it might go the way of the dinosaurs, annihilated not by a giant meteor but by President Obama. That's if you believe Republican House Speaker John Boehner.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So we're expecting here over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration, as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party. And let me just say, I do believe that is their goal, to just shove us into the dust bin of history.


COSTELLO: The House Speaker was talking to a group of mainstream Republicans a day after President Obama laid out his agenda in his inaugural address. That agenda includes climate change, gun control and gay marriage, issues only a Republican House can block. Hence, Boehner argues the president needs to totally annihilate to achieve his liberal agenda.

The White House has not responded but it's an odd turn-around. Just two years ago, we were hearing this from Senate Minority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Some have said it was it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term. But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.


COSTELLO: After that, Democrats worried Republicans were trying to annihilate the Democratic Party, in part by trying to destroy unions, the most vivid example of that, Wisconsin. The Republican governor successfully pushed a bill that stripped collective bargaining rights for most public unions. Ohio and Michigan followed Scott Walker's lead with mixed success. And now, it seems the tables have turned.

Now, if you believe Boehner, the Democrats want to annihilate the GOP. So the talkback question for you: do you agree with Boehner? Will Obama try to annihilate the Republican Party?,, or tweet me @carolCNN. I'll be right back.