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CNN SUNDAY MORNING
220 Dead in a Brazil Nightclub Fire; Ice, Freezing Rain Push Through Midwest; Postal Service Facing Budget Crisis
Aired January 27, 2013 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): From CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
Still using snail mail? Stamp prices are going up today. Will it rescue the ailing Postal Service? I'll ask the woman tasked with saving it.
A new tell-all book has scientologists raging. Anderson Cooper describes the mystique behind one of the most secretive organizations in the world.
The SAG Awards tonight. We'll give you a preview of who's likely to win one of Hollywood's biggest honors.
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KAYE: Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye.
We begin with breaking news of a devastating fire in Brazil. Just moments ago, we got these first pictures of the tragedy there. In the last few minutes, we've gotten word of a massive jump in the death toll from the nightclub blaze in Santa Maria, in Brazil. Officials there now telling CNN that 220 people are dead, 220. That is up from the 90 that we were originally told.
This is among the deadliest fires of this type in history. It was 10 years ago that 100 people were killed in the Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island. This fire today in Brazil is more than twice the size of the fire in Rhode Island. The cause of this fire is still under investigation. But reports say pyrotechnics may have caught some of the club's sound proofing on fire.
In these kinds of disasters, people are more often killed by being trampled to death or from the smoke than by fire itself. As we continue to watch these live pictures of this scene there, we will get some more information and a live report from Brazil in just a few moments from now.
And back here at home, an ice storm making its way through the Midwest, a major storm pushing through the plains into the Great Lakes. It is leaving as much as a half an inch of ice on roads, trees, power lines. Heavy snow is also possible.
I'm joined now by meteorologist Samantha Mohr.
Samantha, good morning to you. So, where is that all headed?
SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now, it's headed into St. Louis and Chicago. So what a mess it is going to be throughout this afternoon with the ice accumulating, as you said. And it always to form first on those elevated surfaces, so bridges, overpasses, freeways.
Slow down, take it easy because it is going to be a rough go for a while, as this moisture moves from the desert southwest.
Record rain, by the way, in Phoenix yesterday. One of the top 10 wettest days ever in recorded history in the Valley of the Sun. That moisture starting to push more into the nation's midsection.
So, still a few showers left in Arizona, but really the bulk of the activity here centered in on St. Louis right now, where freezing rain has been reported. Trace amounts so far, more expected. It could see a tenth of an inch of ice. And, of course, you know that is enough to make it very difficult to navigate the roadways.
So, stay at home if you can in the St. Louis area this morning. Also in Chicago, throughout this afternoon, we expect to see conditions go downhill. You can see that wintry mix approaching the Chicagoland area right now. So we expect to se it move in throughout the late afternoon hours.
And by the time you think about bed time, things improving. In fact, the frontal system on approach throughout the afternoon, once it passes through Chicago and in through Milwaukee, we'll see it turn into a cold rain. So, road surfaces should start improving tonight and then tomorrow, I think the problem areas will be in Cleveland and over in toward Pittsburgh, Randi.
So, we'll keep our eye on this throughout the day.
KAYE: All right. Samantha Mohr, thank you very much.
Now, to the intensifying gun debate that is stretching across the country. Right now, gun control advocates are hoping a weekend protest in Washington will bring real change. Thousands of protesters marched on the National Mall yesterday. Survivors of mass shootings were also there. They called on Congress for tighter gun control.
March organizers say it's not about taking people's guns.
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MOLLY SMITH, CO-LEADER, WASHINGTON GUN CONTROL MARCH: We're not talking about hunting rifles. We're not even talking about handguns to protect your own home or your small business. We are talking about assault-style, military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines -- the things that make it possible to kill with horrifying efficiency.
Weapons of war turned on little kids. And that's what's got to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Across the street from that rally, a smaller group of gun rights activists protested against new gun control measures.
The gun debate also seems to be motivating crowds of people across the country to go to gun shows. Take a look at the long lines at this gun show just outside Atlanta. Some people were there to buy their first gun. But others were eager to buy assault weapons like the AR-15 because some lawmakers want to ban them. And that is driving up the price of certain guns and ammo.
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JOHN ORSZULAK, GUN OWNER: Ten years ago I could buy 1,000 rounds of ammo for my AR-15 for $100. Now, it's nearly 50 cents a round. A thousand rounds would be pushing $600, $700. Gold hasn't gone up that much in price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: And as Congress preparing to take up the gun debate this week, Vice President Biden is taking his plan to prevent gun violence on the road. He talked with officials from Virginia Tech Friday about background checks and mental health issues.
In Arizona, nearly 50 hikers have been rescued after being stranded in a national forest, trapped by raging floodwaters. Rescue crews, searched for hours on foot and in the air, using infrared technology to make sure everyone got out OK. Record rainfall near Tucson caused that flooding.
Now, back to the breaking news out of Brazil. Two hundred twenty people have been killed in a nightclub fire in Santa Maria.
Joining us now on the phone is CNN's Shasta Darlington.
Shasta, good morning. So, do we know any more about what caused this fire? Are they still looking possibly at the pyrotechnics?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, that's right, Randi. They still haven't determined what caused it. They do know that it was the acoustic insulation that caught fire. Basically, the blazed just ripped through the establishment. And this was a large nightclub that could fit 3,000 people.
They don't know how many were in at the time. But, unfortunately, the death toll just keeps rising. When I spoke to the coordinator of civil defense a short while ago, he said 90. When I called him back, he said they now confirmed 220 bodies pulled out. And the vast majority were killed from asphyxiation, taking in the smoke, breathing in the smoke, and not the flames themselves. Obviously, the lights went out and people didn't know where to turn. A lot of them locked themselves in the bathroom. They hid in corners.
They said they found people just looking for any place they could, or bodies sort of piled up in the corners of the establishment, Randi.
KAYE: And, Shasta, are investigators still on the scene? I'm just curious what else they might be finding?
DARLINGTON: They are, Randi. They are digging through the rubble. They want to find any and all bodies, any survivors.
I spoke to one of the hospitals. There are three local hospitals and they said they had more than 50 people in turn with injuries. Obviously, other hospitals have more. To make sure everyone is getting the care they need and they find all of the victims. So, that's what they are still doing.
And then, of course, the real hard work will begin trying to discover the cause of this and why they couldn't get people out in time, Randi.
KAYE: Do we know anything about the fire alarm system, whether or not the doors were locked? I remember, we talked a lot about this a lot 10 years ago after the Station fire in Rhode Island.
DARLINGTON: We really don't, Randi. In fact, the man I talked to, the colonel I talked to said they didn't have any idea if the fire alarms went off, sprinklers went off. They didn't know, whether security guards reacted the way they should in the situation.
These were all things that they would have to investigate over time.
KAYE: And this is a pretty popular club. I mean, from what I understand, a couple thousand people a weekend visit this?
DARLINGTON: That's right. It's a very popular club and on top of that, this is the summer in Brazil. It's the end of the summer for many university students and for working professionals. This was the last weekend before they head back to class or to the office. So, you can imagine, a lot of people out having fun, Randi.
KAYE: And to we have any sense of the ages of the people who were in that club?
DARLINGTON: I was told it was popular among young people, around 20 years old. But I don't know the ages of those killed, those injured. Details that we'll be hoping to find out in the coming hours.
But I can't imagine with so many university students heading back into class this week and next, that that's what we'll discover that we had a lot of young people in this club.
KAYE: And what about Brazil's president? From what we are understanding, he is cutting short a visit to Chile to come home? Are you hearing -- she -- are you hearing that as well?
DARLINGTON: I knew that she was in Chile, I hadn't heard she was heading home. But as these numbers climb, I wouldn't be surprised. This is a big tragedy.
KAYE: All right. Shasta Darlington for us, we'll check back with you in about 20 or 30 minutes from now for another update. Thank you.
And back here at home, the price of stamps is going up. I'll tell you what it will cost you to send a letter now.
KAYE: Welcome back. Thirteen minutes past the hour now.
The United States Post Office needs money, a lot of money. So starting today, it's going to cost you a little more to send your mail. If you are just want to send a normal letter to grandma, that will cost you a penny more, 46 cents. And a postcard goes to 33 cents.
But it doesn't end there. It now costs you $1.10, up from 85 cents, to send a letter to Canada and Mexico. And $1.05 for most other destinations.
Now, overall, prices for mailing and shipping will increase by about 4 percent.
U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Ruth Goldway joins me to talk about this.
Ruth, good morning to you.
Let me show you this first. The net loss of the U.S. Postal Service was about $16 billion last year. That's more than triple the $5 billion in losses the year before.
So, is the post office going broke? I mean, is a penny more for a letter really going to turn things around?
RUTH GOLDWAY, CHAIRWOMAN, U.S. POSTAL REGULATORY COMMISSION: A penny will bring about another billion in revenue to the postal service this year.
But the issue with regard to the big deficits relates to the fact that the Postal Service has to prepay a fund that will pay for future retirees' health care benefits over the next 75 years. It's an accounting mechanism put into the law in 2007, requiring the Postal Service to pay $5.5 billion a year that has added up to enormous deficits that the postal service simply can't pay. So, if you look at the operating deficit of the Postal Service last year, it was about $2.5 billion and they are hoping to reduce that deficit this year. But the burden that they have with the big health care payments is creating enormous pressure on the Postal Service and making difficult to adjust to the future.
KAYE: So, then, I guess what is the answer then? I mean, can we just cut to the chase? What price do we really need here to get the Postal Service out of debt?
GOLDWAY: Well, you know, the Postal Service, if we figure out how much money they would need and how they could raise prices, you'd have to raise about 25 percent or more. And, of course, given the competition with the Internet, you are much likely to get fewer pieces of mail and raise the prices even more.
So, simply raising prices is not the solution. I think the government, the Congress has to look at a way to reduce the burden that the Postal Service has with the payment they have been saddled with, and they have to give the Postal Service more flexibility in terms of offering more products and working with state and local government to share costs.
KAYE: So, unlike other federal agencies, the Postal Service doesn't receive taxpayer support, though it has borrowed $15 billion from the U.S. Treasury. So, how much more does it need to survive?
GOLDWAY: The Postal Service is a separate agency, wholly owned by the government, but independent. So, it's financed by the people who pay for stamps. And all money is circulated that way. And they get about $65 billion a year in revenue from stamps, and that would cover their expenses if they could reduce their payments for health care retiree benefits funds and if they could increase revenue with some non-postal products.
It's not going to be easy, though, because the money that goes into this health care benefit fund is called part of the federal assets, and if you eliminate that requirement from the Postal Service, you're going to increase the federal deficit. No one wants to do that.
So, the politics in deciding how to help the postal service move forward is complicated. Although I think there's goodwill on both the Democratic and Republican side to try and find a solution this year.
KAYE: We will add that to their list. Ruth Goldway, thank you very much. Appreciate your time this morning.
GOLDWAY: Thanks for your interest.
KAYE: A wedding gift they'll never forget. One couple who put off their party for 12 years gets a little bonus for finally saying "I do".
KAYE: Welcome back, everyone. Twenty minutes past the hour now. Glad you're with us.
President Obama says he expects football to gradually become less violent. The president tells "The New Republic," quote, "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football." President Obama says he is particularly concerned about college players who suffer concussions and other injuries. He's less worried about the NFL where players are grown men who are paid well.
The full interview appears in the February 11th issue.
The Super Bowl is a big stage and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo plans to take advantage of the media attention. He says he wants to use the spotlight to talk about issues that are important to him, like marriage equality and anti-bullying. Ayanbadejo has been outspoken in the past about his support for same- sex marriage.
Super Bowl weekend will be extra special for one Baltimore couple. They're getting married.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, so much, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.
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KAYE: And guess what? They're not teary eyed of all about the wedding there. Instead, it's about the wedding present. A local car dealer and Baltimore Ravens player Gino Gradkowski gave the team tickets to the big game.
Daisy and Jim have been together for 12 years since the last time Baltimore made it to the Super Bowl. They said they would get married once they made it again. Jim and Daisy plan to get married in New Orleans while they are down there watching the Super Bowl.
Congratulations to them.
How's this for sibling rivalry? The head coaches of the Super Bowl-bound Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are brothers. Jim and John Harbaugh are known as ultra-competitive, even ruthless.
So, how will they face of against each other on football's biggest stage? And what about their parents? Will they take a side?
Our Brian Todd has the report.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They have tried to downplay the family angle, but it's virtually impossible.
JOHN HARBAUGH, HEAD COACH, BALTIMORE RAVENS: Well, I don't think you ever put your family aside, you know, but well, yes, the priorities. Yes, we have jobs to do.
You know, all of us have a job to do. Jim has a job to do, all his coaches, all our coaches, all our players. Everybody is going to focus on doing their job.
TODD: John Harbaugh is talking about the fact he and Jim are about to become the first brothers ever to be head coaches against each other in a Super Bowl. John's Baltimore Ravens against Jim's San Francisco 49ers.
Inundated with the story, sick of it already, the family still managed to have some fun when John snuck onto a conference call his parents were having with reporters in recent days, posing just as a caller from Baltimore.
JOHN HARBAUGH: Is it true that both of you like Jim better than John?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do not. John? Is that John?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that John Harbaugh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom was ready to come right through this phone. I'm so happy that Joanie recognized your voice.
TODD: Sister Joanie recognizing the voice just in time. The parents vow to remain fiercely neutral on Super Sunday out of fairness and also knowing what their boys are made of.
(on camera): How sickly competitive are these guys?
MIKE WISE, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: If both were in the downer party, I don't know who would survive.
TODD (voice-over): A fire stoke while their father, Jack, spent 43 years as a high school and college football coach. The stories have become instant sports legend.
(on camera): Once, when their dad was coaching Western Kentucky University, the program ran out of money, Jim, then a star NFL quarterback, and John, an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, volunteered to help the program for free. They turned it around, and nine years later, the school won a Division 1AA national title.
(voice-over): But there's also a provocative side. In little league baseball, Jim once hit a girl batter with a pitch because she was crowding the plate. Jim's anger for opposing coach for what one thought was running up a score, and for once bouncing passed the coach while celebrating a win. In the Super Bowl --
(on camera): Two teams with ruthless coaches, vicious defense is what if things get out of hand and there are fights? WISE: Two Harbaughs enter the steel cage and one leaves.
WISE: If it's a contentious game and it gets ugly, I want to look at the post-game handshake. But how much of it is genuine and how much of it is -- well, I got to appear like I like my brother.
TODD: Their teams went at it once before on Thanksgiving Day 2011.
JIM HARBAUGH, HEAD COACH, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: I'm proud of him, I love him. I'm his biggest supporter. Probably next to his wife, but, you know, this week, this is something we are trying to beat.
TODD: That time, Jim's 49ers lost to John's Ravens. This time, their mom said she's hoping for a tie.
Brain Todd, CNN, Washington.
KAYE: And this to tell you about. The Australian Open men's final is over. Novak Djokovic wins. Yes, he beat Andy Murray in four sets. It was pretty tight in the beginning there, a couple of tiebreakers. It's pretty interesting.
Novak Djokovic, the first ever to win three straight Australian Open titles. Murray had beaten him in the U.S. Open last year. So, you can bet he's pretty excited about coming back and winning this one.
We're following breaking news this morning of a massive nightclub fire in Brazil. Two hundred twenty dead. We're getting new some new images and we'll share with you, next.
Plus, a survivor of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech took center stage as thousands went to Washington to call for tighter gun control. But if counter protest proved once again that the gun violence debate ignites passion on both sides.
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HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-FIRST LADY: The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this fast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.
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KAYE: Mortgage rates ticked up this week, but they still remain at record lows. Have a look.
KAYE: Welcome back, everyone, to CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I'm Randi Kaye. Thanks for being with us this morning.
A nightclub fire in Brazil is now one of the deadliest in history. Officials tell CNN that 220 people were killed in the fire at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil. The cause of this fire is still under investigation. We're just getting video from the scene.
But reports say pyrotechnics may have caught some of the club's sound proofing on fire. That you may recall is similar to what happened at the Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island 10 years. One hundred people died in that fire.
Joining us now is Shasta Darlington. She's on the phone with us from there.
Shasta, can you tell us, and what do you know about this? What is the situation there right now?
DARLINGTON (via telephone): Well, Randi, numbers are rising. We have been talking about this as they pull bodies out of this nightclub. And so, when we were speaking just about a couple of hours ago, they were talking about 90 dead. Now, it's 220 dead. And of course there's scores, dozens and dozens of injured.
So really we're waiting for the whole situation to stabilize. Remember this was a really big, popular weekend, just before university students go back to school. A lot of people are out on their summer break.
So this nightclub can hold up to 3,000 people. We don't know how many were inside when this fire broke out. But we can assume that there were a lot of people obviously with this many dead and it's just going to be a really sad and tragic low point obviously in Brazil's history already -- Randi.
KAYE: And how similar are they say this might be to that fire in Rhode Island, the Station fire? Because there it was the pyrotechnics that had led to the sound proofing foam on the walls and the -- the ceiling that caught fire?
DARLINGTON: I think it's too soon to say, Randi. I mean, one of the men I talked to from civil defense says that he is -- he is convinced it wasn't the pyrotechnics. There are other people from the fire department who are saying that it was, so I think if we -- to really draw any direct parallels, it's just too soon. We have to wait and see what investigators find out.
Obviously the sound proofing did play a role and that will be something to take into consideration in the future. As will the response to these tragedies. Many people of these people have locked themselves in the bathroom. Have sought, they couldn't see where they were going. They were trying to escape the flames and in the end they died from asphyxiation, from smoke inhalation.
So obviously something isn't working in these nightclubs when this -- when these tragedies do happen, people just aren't getting out in time. And that is obviously something that people are going to have to review and they're going have to come up with solutions for how to deal with this -- Randi.
KAYE: Right. And certainly with 220 bodies now recovered, they'll have to go through that gruesome process of identifying them. Do we have any sense of the ages of the people who were in that club, who go to that club?
DARLINGTON: Our understanding is that it's a nightclub for fairly young people, late teens, early 20s; at this point, we don't know the ages of the victims. The fire broke out apparently around 2:00 a.m., 2:30 a.m. Look, you know a party going crowd. I don't -- I think that that's what we're expecting the investigation will conclude that these were young people at the end of their summer break letting loose when this -- this tragedy happened.
KAYE: Shasta, we're also being told that there are some reports that the death toll has gone up to 245. Can you confirm that? Or will you be able to confirm that for us and get back to us?
DARLINGTON: Yes I will definitely look into that and get back to you. What the regional director -- coordinator of civil defense told me when I last spoke to him is that they confirmed 220. But they were still on the scene, so those numbers can definitely vary, Randi.
KAYE: Yes it sounds like they might be going up and will continue to go up sadly. Shasta Darlington, great reporting there I appreciate that. Thank you.
Thousands of gun control advocates marched on Washington yesterday. Many were motivated by last month's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 first graders dead. The event also drew counter protesters including some who argue that restricting access to weapons would make the country even more dangerous.
Chris Mozingo has the report.
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LORI BENNETT, PARTICIPANT IN MARCH FOR GUN CONTROL: We need to be heard.
CHRIS MOZINGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lori Bennett is not accustomed to events like this. This is her first demonstration.
BENNETT: Newtown just tore my heart out. Honestly I didn't feel this emotional since 9/11.
MOZINGO: Marching behind a banner that says "When we stand together, we stand a chance." Some demonstrators targeted the NRA with their signs, while others held up names of gun violence victims. Across the street, a counterdemonstration, Dick Heller was there.
DICK HELLER, GUN RIGHTS ADVOCATE: It's a dangerous city when people are disarmed. MOZINGO: Both rallies come a day after Vice President Joe Biden hit the road to promote the President's plan for new firearm laws. Several high-powered speakers addressed the crowd at the Gun Control March. But perhaps the most powerful testimony came from Colin Goddard a survivor of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
COLIN GODDARD, VA TECH MASSACRE SUVIVOR: We need to challenge any politician who thinks it's easier to ask an elementary school teacher to stand up to a gunman with an AR-15 than it is to ask them to stand up to a gun lobbyist with a checkbook.
MOZINGO: The Independent Firearm Owners Association president says gun violence won't be solved with a ban.
RICHARD FELDMAN, PRESIDENT INDEPENDENT FIREARM OWNERS ASSOCIATION: What is going to be the impact on the future ban of those magazines and guns, on criminals or crazy people? Zero, nada.
MOZINGO: But Lori Bennett hopes for better odds than that.
BENNETT: You know the bottom line is we can't prevent all of the violence, but if Adam Lanza went into that school without all of those bullets, lives would have been saved.
MOZINGO: I'm Chris Mozingo, reporting.
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KAYE: Reports of child labor, violent physical abuse and celebrity black mail. It sounds like a new crime drama, but we're actually talking about a new book on the Church of Scientology.
KAYE: For today's "Faces of Faith," we're talking about scientology and the church's history with controversy. In the new book "Going Clear" author Lawrence Wright interviews dozens of ex- church members about the church's link to Hollywood and accusations of violent physical abuse. CNN's Miguel Marquez breaks down the allegations in "Going Clear".
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a being. An intelligence, a consciousness.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Going Clear", in scientology is reaching a higher level of consciousness and clearing one's self of past subconscious events. Scientologists believe "Going Clear" gives them access to a life force and they become what they call OT's or Operating Thetans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a body, you have a mind, you are a Thetan.
MARQUEZ: Lawrence Wright in his new book, "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief". The author puts scientology in its status as a religion under a microscope. Among other things Wright focuses on scientology's obsession with celebrity through its most famous defector writer/director Paul Haggis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step away.
MARQUEZ: He won two Oscars for his film "Crash". Haggis says he left the church after his daughter's coming out as a lesbian forced him to take a hard look at scientology. He discovered accounts on anti-scientologist Web sites about children working for hours on end, this from NBC's Rock Center.
PAUL HAGGIS, FORMER SCIENTOLOGIST: It's horrible treatment these kids had. Terrible, they're made to work so often and all day long in these terrible conditions. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) them for that. Yes, they should be taken down for that.
MARQUEZ: In a statement, the church says "It diligently followed and continues to follow all child labor laws in every state or country in which it operates. The church says complaints about children being forced to perform chores for long hours are unfounded."
In Wright's book, Haggis said he found himself in trouble with the church when he crossed its biggest celebrity Tom Cruise, who had worked for years to recruit director Steven Spielberg into the church. Haggis says Cruise blamed him for foiling his efforts.
The book delves into the tight relationship between Cruise and David Miscavige the organization's leader. In 2004 Miscavige awarded the actor Scientology's Freedom Medal of Valor.
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: These are the times now people, ok these are the times we will all remember. Were you there? What did you do?
MARQUEZ: Karen Pressley worked in Hollywood's celebrity Center in the 1980s and was part of Scientology's Vanguard or Sea Horde.
KAREN PRESSLEY, FORMER SCIENTOLOGY: When David Miscavige took over the leadership of the Church he decided to focus on -- on celebrities, because the name of scientology had lost so much power, he felt that bringing big names into scientology was the way to build credibility back.
MARQUEZ: Before Cruise, John Travolta was scientology's biggest star, joining the church before his breakout role as Vinny Barbarino in the 1970's sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter." Researching and writing the book over three years Wright found Travolta had a troubled relationship with the church, threatening to be ousted as gay if he didn't fall into line.
In the book Miscavige is quoted as using a gay slur when speaking privately about Travolta. The church calls that "a scurrilous lie from an unreliable source." Travolta has never publicly addressed his sexual orientation. He's been married to Kelly Preston since 1991. The church (inaudible) told CNN "It adamantly denies that it has, or would ever disclose or threaten to disclose a member's private information." But Pressley says she experienced Miscavige's abuse, herself. She left the church in 1998 after being deemed SP, or "suppressive person". She says she have been sent for punishment in 1990 at the church's sprawling Gold Base in the desert east of Los Angeles.
PRESSLEY: We were made to do hard labor, half of every day. And then the other half of the day, we were spent on our rehabilitation program where we were to confront our treasonous actions to scientology.
MARQUEZ: In its statement the church said the rehabilitation workforce is a completely voluntary program of spiritual rehabilitation and the claims of abuse while participating in the program are false. It even included a waiver that Karen Pressley, then Karen Schless signed, in 1990, indicating she entered the program voluntarily. She told CNN she signed the document under duress.
Wright follows Miscavige's rise to scientology's top spot after the death of its founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1986. Miscavige is portrayed as a ruthless and cruel leader, at times using physical violence to get his way and punish subordinates. Claims again church leaders vigorously deny in the book and to CNN in 2009.
TOMMY DAVIS, FORMER SCIENTOLOGY SPOKESMAN: The allegations are absolutely untrue. There is nothing of the sort as they are describing by Mr. Miscavige.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So Mr. Miscavige has never kicked somebody.
DAVIS: Absolutely not.
COOPER: Never punched somebody.
DAVIS: Absolutely not.
COOPER: Never strangled somebody?
DAVIS: No, never, never, never.
MARQUEZ: The Church of Scientology says Wright's book is full of many mistakes, unfounded statements and utterly false facts. It is infused with religious bigotry. The church says it is evaluating all its legal options. So far publishers in the U.K. and Canada have shied away from publishing the book.
The church has launched this Web site, a point by point rebuttal to each chapter. Still sales are soaring; today "Going Clear" is its second printing.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: The Screen Actors Guild Awards is tonight. So we're going to give you a preview of the snubs and the surprises of the season.
But first -- a question for all you political junkies watching this morning: "Has a movie about a President of the United States ever won the Oscar for best picture?" See if you know the answer, you can tweet me @randikayeCNN.
KAYE: All right. So before the break, I asked you if you knew the answer to this question right there. Has a movie about the president of the United States ever won the Oscar for best picture? The answer -- nope, never, ever, ever. So if "Lincoln" wins -- if -- it would be the first time.
The folks at the bad lip reading website, they are at it again. This time, turning their attention to the inauguration. Here is their spin on what the president and chief justice had to say. Watch this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, repeat after me. I'm proud to say yo mama took a Cosby sweater.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm proud to say yo mama took a Cosby sweater.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elvis Presley had sex appeal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elvis Presley had --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll do the spaceman boogie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll do the spaceman boogie.
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VELEZ-MITCHELL: Not all fun and games though in Washington this week. On Thursday, California Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to ban more than 150 types of assault weapons. Gun violence is a very personal issue for her. You may recall she was the one who discovered the body of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and supervisor, Harvey Milk after their assassinations in 1978.
"STATE OF THE UNION" host Candy Crowley joins me now from Washington. Candy -- good morning to you; you're going to be speaking with Senator Feinstein on today's show.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: Right, because you know these things have happened fairly quickly. We saw the President react so emotionally after the murders of all those children in Connecticut. Then we saw him mention it in the inaugural address. Dianne Feinstein has now re-introduced -- she was the author of the first assault weapons ban which expired about eight years ago.
The question isn't whether the conversation is moving rapidly. The question is whether the bill will move rapidly and not a lot of people give it a huge chance of passing, at least the assault weapons part of it. We want to talk to her about the chances of that, whether she has talked to some of the Democrats who have voiced some reservations if not outright opposition to this bill. And to just kind of try to size up the chances because it is one thing to talk about it, as you know, it's much, much tougher to pass it.
KAYE: Yes, certainly -- certainly so. Candy Crowley, nice to see you; thank you very much.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Randi.
KAYE: And keep it here for "STATE OF THE UNION". It starts in about ten minutes, 9:00 a.m. Eastern time right here on CNN.
All right. Now, let's get you back to that breaking news we've been talking about this morning -- that devastating fire in Brazil. In just the last few moments we have gotten word on a massive jump in the death toll from the nightclub blaze there. It happened in Santa Maria. Officials there now telling CNN that 245 people are dead -- that's up from 220 which we were reporting just moments ago.
This is among the deadliest fires of this type in history. I want to bring in CNN's Shasta Darlington. She's in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Shasta, so what -- what is the very latest from there. I would imagine that investigators are still on the scene.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Randi. They still are.
This is what enables, unfortunately, these numbers to keep rising. The fire started at local time around 2:00, 2:30 -- so this is late morning. They're still digging through the rubble. They're still looking for both victims and survivors and so these numbers just keep climbing.
This is a city that's actually close to the southern border of Brazil. It's a good three-hour drive from the biggest major city nearby. So the information is definitely in flux. We could see numbers climb even further, especially once the three local hospitals treat all of the injured who've been sent there. Some of these people have been injured very seriously. We'll have to see how well they recover.
Now, again, we're obviously trying to figure out what the cause of this fire was. There's been a lot -- there's been a lot of reporting that it was pyrotechnics display and that is one of the lines of investigations. But there are other officials who believe that while it happened during the pyrotechnics display, that wasn't actually the cause.
It will take time to really work out all of the details of the causes, why people weren't evacuate in time, why so many people were killed Randi.
KAYE: And Shasta as we talk here we are looking at these new pictures coming in to us here at CNN. You can see the chaotic scene as rescuers are trying to pull possibly survivors, but mainly bodies from the nightclub there. I guess do we know -- did most of these people die from the fire itself or from the smoke?
DARLINGTON: No, unfortunately, Randi, most of them died from asphyxiation from smoke inhalation. This was a dark nightclub. It's very likely that all of the lights went out once the fire started. This was what one of the investigators on the scene told me. They couldn't find the exit doors, even if they were open. We don't know that yet, of course.
Some people locked themselves in the bathroom, somehow thinking that that would keep them safe. Others just ran into dark corners, hoping that that would keep them away from the flames. While it did obviously keep them away from the flames, the establishment filled with smoke and the vast majority of people died of asphyxiation -- Randi.
KAYE: A terrible scene there which I know you will continue to watch and report on for us. Shasta Darlington, thank you very much. Appreciate that.
We'll take a quick break now and we'll be right back.
KAYE: We'll maybe I've been making a fake movie, but the film "Argo" has a real chance of taking home a Screen Actors Guild Award tonight. The film is only nominated in two categories but it's the heavy favorite in a prestigious best cast category after a fantastic showing at the Golden Globes.
So who will win tonight? Well, let's find out. I'm joined by Jawn Murray, editor at AlwaysAList.com and celebrity journalist David Caplan. Good morning to both of you guys. I know you are all excited about tonight.
So Jawn, let me start with you on this. There are a whole lot of award shows out there. What makes the Screen Actors Guild different?
JAWN MURRAY, EDITOR, ALWAYSALIST.COM: What makes the Screen Actors Guild different is that this celebrates the actor. It's the actor's colleagues, their peers that nominate them. And instead of you winning awards for the body of work to film, the TV show et cetera, it's the actors that win the award. So it's the ensemble instead of best picture.
KAYE: And David, what do you think of tonight? Is it a preview for the Oscars, do you think?
DAVID CAPLAN, CELEBRITY JOURNALIST: Yes, you know, I think definitely. You know, you see what wins and it's people like "Oh, so maybe it does have a chance." But I think, you know, we have seen a lot of movies tonight that we're going to see have already gotten nods at the Golden Globes, for example, but there's really a history that what happens at the SAGs definitely echoes what we're going to see at the Academy Awards.
KAYE: And let's talk about the awards. Jawn, best cast, who do you think will take it home?
MURRAY: I think it's going to be "Silver Lining Playbook". I really think that this film is great -- getting great momentum going into the SAG show tonight and people are really, really just gravitating towards this film.
KAYE: And David.
CAPLAN: I was going to say the same thing. I think it's a great movie. I also think it's an actor's movie, since their peers are voting. People really love Jennifer Lawrence. They love Bradley Cooper and there's this really great acting in it. So I think we're going to see -- I agree with him.
KAYE: What about "Lincoln"?
CAPLAN: I think "Lincoln". I think "Lincoln" is going to get it's nod with Daniel Day-Lewis getting the best actor. I don't know about film.
KAYE: All right. And also, of course, it's also about television, not just the movies as we said. So who could take home best comedy Jawn?
MURRAY: "Modern Family". People are in love with this show. It is a great show and it keeps great moment. And I think it's going to take home the prize tonight.
KAYE: It is always so funny. David, what do you think?
CAPLAN: I'm going to say the same thing, "Modern Family". But I have to tell you there's a lot of nostalgia with "30 Rock" and "The Office" both ending. So it's possible, that could be a surprise. That a lot of the people voting sort of they want to just give it a nice farewell to it. So it will interesting to see.
KAYE: Comedy is an easy one. But what about best TV drama, Jawn?
MURRAY: "Homeland". Let me tell you "Homeland" was snubbed last year. It was a controversy. It didn't get any nominations, very much like "Scandal" this year so I'm mad about that. But I think Homeland is going to get it as a redemption for last year.
KAYE: And David you agree with that?
CAPLAN: I actually agree with "Homeland". Maybe a second a possibility, "Breaking Bad".
KAYE: You agree with everything, you guys. CAPLAN: You know what; I think this year --
MURRAY: We're on the same page. We're on the same page.
CAPLAN: I know. We compared notes beforehand. But I think maybe "Breaking Bad" would be maybe a second because everyone loves that show, Bryan Cranston's great in it. So that's possible if you're looking at the acting.
KAYE: Yes. What about the red carpet? You expect we'll see a pretty good scene there, John?
MURRAY: Well, listen, Randi. It's called the SAG Awards, but be assured, everything will still be tight tonight. Everyone will still have their botox treatments and be looking their best.
KAYE: Oh, boy. David, you want to add to that?
CAPLAN: I think it's going to be great. We're going to see a lot of botox and hey a lot of amazing dresses. You're going to have Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence. I think, you know, they go all out. It's going to be amazing tonight. You know, the best part of these awards show are the free shows. So that's what they'll be watching to occur.
KAYE: I know, we love to watch. And this is also a big drinking event, isn't it. Isn't everybody at the table again.
MURRAY: Yes. Suzanne Goine is the chef that's preparing beef, salmon, and vegan dish and they'll be drinking Gallow wine and (inaudible) champagne. So it's a party, you know, like you like it.
KAYE: No drinking games, though, from what I understand, right?
MURRAY: Yes, because it's unhosted. It has just a narrator and a lot of presenters.
KAYE: All right. Well, I'm sure it's going to be fun. We'll be watching. We'll see if your picks really do come true. Jawn Murray, David Caplan -- nice to see you both.
CAPLAN: All right. Thanks a lot.
KAYE: And tonight, don't miss A.J. Hammer, he's going to be rubbing elbows on that red carpet with the Hollywood elite. Maybe he'll be reporting back on all that botox those guys were talking about. He'll be Live from the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild award show. It all happens tonight at 6:30 Eastern time, right here on CNN.
All right. Well, thanks, everybody, for watching today. I appreciate it. Have a lovely Sunday.
"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now.