Return to Transcripts main page


Cold Temps Kill 3; Women Are Smoking More; Panetta Officially Announces Womens' New Combat Role; Tracking Guns Through Parents; Guns, Bullets Made into Jewelry.

Aired January 24, 2013 - 13:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Subfreezing temperatures hitting much of the northern United States has killed now at least three people. Turns out, some of the victims might have had alcohol or drugs in their system, which could have contributed to their deaths.

I want to talk a little bit about this. Elizabeth Cohan joins us.

We get it, being out in the cold, you have to protect yourself. Too much, that's not good either. You put these two things together, it is a much bigger problem.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I think people think, I'll drink to warm up. You have heard people say that.

MALVEAUX: The hot toddy.

COHEN: Exactly. Exactly. And the reason why you feel that way is when you drink blood flushes to your skin so you actually do feel warmer. That is what happens. However, when the blood is flushing to your skin, it is not going to your vital organs. If you are drinking in regular temperatures, it is not a big deal. If you are drinking and it is extremely cold and the blood is going to your skin instead of to your organs, it is a problem. One compounds upon the other.

MALVEAUX: Talk about another problem. We are talking about smoking. There is a new study that says women are smoking like men. What do they mean by that?

COHEN: That is not a good thing. Women are smoking more like men, which means women are smoking more cigarettes per day and starting at a younger age, which is more like a man.

MALVEAUX: In this day and age?


MALVEAUX: -- it's no good for you?

COHEN: Right. The messages have got out and fewer people are smoking but the concern is that the women who still are smoking are smoking more like men. So you see death rates becoming more like male death rates. So if you take a look at this, looking at women who smoked in the 1960s, they were three times more likely to die compared to women who didn't smoke. In the 2000s, they are 26 times more likely to die. Again, smoking more cigarettes, starting at a younger age.

MALVEAUX: Is there any way -- a lot of people try to quit and they do quit. Do they lessen their chance? Is there a cutoff where, I am no longer at risk for all of the things that makes smoking so bad?

COHEN: Right. I suppose if you are 120 it wouldn't matter. It does matter. Quitting really works.

Take a look at this. If you quit between the ages of 25 and 34, you are going to add 10 more years to your life than if you hadn't quit. As you can see, the numbers go down as you get older. It is better to quick younger than older. You will add more years to your life if you quit. So Quit. It's never too late to quit.

MALVEAUX: And there is scientific research to back it. You might as well.


COHEN: I hear people say, I have been smoking my life, I'm 50, what is the point? There is a point because you will likely live longer than if you didn't.

MALVEAUX: Never too late.

COHEN: Never too late.

MALVEAUX: We gave all the smokers a push here.

COHEN: Their lungs will thank them for it.

MALVEAUX: We have been waiting for secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, to officially announce the U.S. military lifting the ban on women in combat roles. Let's listen in.


LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: -- has been to remove as many barriers as possible for talented and qualified people to be able to serve this country in uniform.

Our nation was built on the premise of the citizen soldier. In our democracy, I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to protect the nation. And every citizen who can meet the qualifications of service should have that opportunity.

To that end, I have been working closely with General Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have been working for well over a year to examine, how can we expand the opportunities for women in the armed services. It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation. Women represent 15 percent of the force over 200,000. They are serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield. The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission. For more than a decade of war, they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism. 152 women in uniform have died serving this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proven their willingness to fight and to die to defend their fellow Americans. However, many military positions, particularly in ground combat units, still remain close to women because of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule.

Military and civilian leaders of this department have been taking a hard look at that rule based on the experiences of the last decade. In early 2012, we announced the series of modifications to that rule which opened up more than 14,000 new positions to women, including positions that were co-located with ground combat units and certain positions below the battalion level. These changes have been implemented and the experience has been very positive. Every time I visited the war zone, every time I have met with troops, reviewed military operations and talked to wounded warriors, I have been impressed with the fact that everyone, men and women alike, everyone is committed to doing the job. They're fighting and they are dying together. And the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I believe that we must open up service opportunities for women as fully as possible. And therefore, today, General Dempsey and I are pleased to announce that we are eliminating the Direct Ground Combat Exclusion Rule for women. And we are moving forward with a plan to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service. In a few moments, after we speak, we will both sign a memo that will resend the '94 barrier.

Our purpose is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the best qualified and the most capable servicemembers regardless of gender and regardless of creed and believes. If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job -- and let me be clear, I'm not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job. If they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation.

Having conducted an extensive review, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have developed a very thoughtful approach to integrating women into occupations across the force. I strongly agree with their guiding principles and the specific milestones that they propose. We are all committed to implementing this change without compromising readiness or morale or our war-fighting capabilities. Positions will be open to women following service reviews using the Joint Chief's guiding principles and following Congressional notification procedures established by law. For this change in policy to succeed, it must be done in a responsible, measured and coherent way.

I'll let General Dempsey describe our plan of action in greater detail.

The bottom line is that further integration of women will occur expeditiously even as we recognize the need to take time to institutionalize changes of this importance. The steps we are now announcing today are significant and, in many ways, they are an affirmation of where we have been heading as a department for more than 10 years. Nevertheless, it will take leadership and it will take professionalism to effectively implement these changes. I am confident in our ability to do that because I am confident in the leadership that General Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have demonstrated throughout this process. This has truly been a team effort and I deeply admire the extremely thorough and considerate approach that they have taken.

I want to express my deepest thanks to Marty Dempsey for his leadership and all of the service chiefs who have been working on this issue and, as a group, came forward with the recommendation that we are implementing today.


MALVEAUX: I want to talk to somebody who has a very personal perspective on this landmark moment. That is Kayla Williams. She is an Army veteran who went to war in Iraq. She's also Arabic linguist who wrote her memoir about her time in uniform, called "Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army."

Kayla Williams, good to have you there.

Just give me your reaction.

KAYLA WILLIAMS, U.S. ARMY VETERAN, ARABIC LINGUIST & AUTHOR: I am almost overcome with emotion. This is a tremendous validation of my experiences and what so many hundreds of thousands of American women have gone through serving with honor and distinction in combat.

MALVEAUX: Why part of the fight? Why was this so important to you?

WILLIAMS: When I first got back from Iraq, I had people ask me if I was allowed to carry a gun because I was just a girl, which showed me how much misunderstanding there was about the roles women are playing on combat today. I went on foot patrols in Baghdad. We took small arms fire. But when I got home, my then-commander in chief said, there are no women in combat. It felt like a betrayal of everything that we had been through and the women who had died and had been taken prisoner of war and been severely wounded. To see this change coming today, this announcement by Secretary Panetta validates our experiences, the service, the sacrifice and the tremendous hard work, honor and integrity of all of these great women.

MALVEAUX: We are seeing some amazing pictures of you in action. A lot of things people ask, they say, well, is it possible that women would be able to physically do the same job as men in the front lines. How do you respond to that?

WILLIAMS: Women have been doing the same jobs in many ways for the past decade, as Secretary Panetta just said.

The other important thing to remember is that, while it is true that not all women can do all of the requirements, neither can all men. The important thing here is to make sure that the right people are in the right jobs and that anybody who has the qualifications can serve in whatever position they are best suited for.

MALVEAUX: Respond also -- this is something that people have been debating for quite some time now about the potential of putting women in danger, if they are in a combat position, to be taken advantage of, whether some sort of sexual assault or something else. How do you respond to people who say that that puts women in a more vulnerable position for that to happen?

WILLIAMS: I would say this ignores the reality that women are already out there as medics, doing military intelligence work, like I did, and in so many roles. We're already there. There aren't front lines like there were in previous conflicts. And we are there already.

In terms of the fact that women can experience sexual assault, of course, that is a tragic reality, but we mustn't pretend that men cannot also be sexual assaulted.

MALVEAUX: Kayla Williams, congratulations. I know this is a very important moment for you and for so many women that serve our country in the military.

Thanks again. We appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for having me.


A Missouri lawmaker wants parents to tell the schools if they own guns. Is this a violation of privacy or a smart way to track and keep track of the weapons?


MALVEAUX: The fight for gun control is expanding far beyond the nation's capitol. A state Senator is proposing a law that would hold parents accountable if they had a gun in the home. A parent of a child would have to notify the school if they have a gun. The parent would be charged with a misdemeanor if they recklessly store the firearm so the child can get access and bring it to school. They would be charged with a felony if the child injures or kills a person with it.

The author of that bill, State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal, is from Jefferson City, Missouri, and joins us.

First of all, why focus on the parents? Give us a sense of why you have decided that is the way you want to go on this?

STATE SEN. MARIA CHAPELLE-NADAL, (D), MISSOURI: Let me tell you one thing. I live in one of the urban cities of America. And what we have been experiencing is a large number of youth either burglarizing homes or getting involved in gangs. Some of these parents actually know that their children are committing these crimes. So I wanted to address this issue head on. I think that every single child's life is valuable and not one child's life is more valuable than another. And so I did want to put some accountability into the hands of parents.

Let me tell you what happened right before we had Connecticut. We had, in my school district, where I serve as a school board member, we had a 12-year- old girl kill a 12 year old. After Connecticut, just two days later, we had a 17-year-old kill another 17 year old. So I wanted to address the issue.

MALVEAUX: It is a tragic situation that's happening in your community. I know there are parents reacting to this new proposal of yours, and I want you to listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It concerns me a bit because I think the parents that would have no problem registering their guns aren't the ones you have to worry about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe a student obtaining a weapon without the parents even knowing about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand what they are trying to do but making us notify them if we have guns is not going to deter the behavior, what makes people do what they do with guns.


MALVEAUX: Senator, what do you make of that? The parents seem to be peeved that this is a violation of privacy. Why do they have to tell you whether or not they own a gun or not? If they are responsible people, they are responsible people, responsible parents. They don't have to say anything. It's not your business.

CHAPELLE-NADAL: Absolutely, I understand where the parents are coming from. Here's the deal. One of the parents who has a gun may be a victim of a burglary. If that gun is stolen, it has nothing to do with the parent, but that gun is now in the illegal possession of a person who is not the owner of it. If there is a crime that is committed, we just want to make sure that that owner is exempt from anything happening.

But at the same time, the school district has the opportunity to encourage and also educate parents on safe keeping of their guns. That's what we are trying to do, is raise the consciousness of people and let them know that anyone can be impacted by this at all. The 12- year-old who was killed by another 12-year-old, grandpa left the gun out.

MALVEAUX: I understand, certainly. It's a tragic situation.

We will be following the story to see how far it goes to see, if you have the support you need to push it through in your community.

But we appreciate your time.

Again, State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal. Thank you very much.


MALVEAUX: New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker has a new project. It's actually a jewelry line. And what this is all made of, though, that's the strange thing about the story. We will explain that, next.


MALVEAUX: Designer jewelry is being fashioned from guns and bullets. The weapons being seized by police or turned in in these buy-back programs. The line is called the Caliber Collection. Some of the proceeds are going charity.

Ben Kain, of affiliate, WFSB, has more on how this all started.


BEN KAIN, REPORTER, WFSB: Jewelry for a Cause began with inexpensive jewelry schools and groups could buy and resell as fundraising tools.

JESSICA MINDICH, JEWELRY FOR A CAUSE: We've worked with over 300 schools across the country and we have a couple of retail lines that are sold in stores across the U.S.

KAIN: A portion of the profits from retail sales go to organizations like the Alzheimer's Foundation and the Red Cross.

MINDICH: It's been so wonderful because people feel really good making these purchases. It's jewelry that sparkles with good intentions.

KAIN: Recently, the company began the Caliber Collections, making bracelets taken from the streets of Newark to symbolize guns and gun violence of streets.

MINDICH: Where there is a shell casing, there was once a bullet. I thought it was an important part of the story. We have illegal guns and a crime scene and shell casings on the ground.

KAIN: Orders are coming in from people committed to the cause and others who have been the victims of violence.

MINDICH: People who have had destruction in their lives due to illegal guns, and they are also really proud to wear this as a symbol of support and comfort.

KAIN: The bracelets come packaged in what look like evidence bags to drive home. They carry the serial numbers from confiscated guns.

MINDICH: It's not just another piece of jewelry, it's a symbol, it's a message.

KAIN: And the effort doesn't end there.

MINDICH: 20 percent of the proceeds from the Caliber Collection is backed to fund gun buy-back programs. We have already donated $20,000 to the Newark Police Department and -- after six weeks of sales. KAIN: Jessica says, of the thousands of e-mails she has gotten about all of this, virtually none have been negative.

MINDICH: They are feeling like they are wearing a symbol that change can happen. It's not the only answer.

KAIN (on camera): Yes.

MINDICH: It's just something that I can do.


MALVEAUX: You are looking at a vanity license plate ordered but never created. Why one man is saying that the state of Georgia refused to make his plate because it is considered what they call "profane."


MALVEAUX: Take a look at this. Vanity license plates you cannot buy in Georgia. Why are they being banned? The word "gay" appears in the plates. According to the application, the state of Georgia prohibits any tag that may adversely affect public safety or is offensive. James Gilbert, who requested a plate like this one you see here, is suing. According to Reuters, Georgia's attorney general declined to comment.

An MIT grad student thought it would be neat to show where every single person lives in the U.S. on a map. He created this unbelievable picture. Each one of these dots represents one person. That is 341 million dots. The map allows you to zoom into the local level to see where everybody lives. Wow. Dangerous, I think.

That's it for me. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Don Lemon.

Hey, Don.