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Boy Scouts Consider Major Reversal; Tragedy Repeats Itself in Brazil Fire; American Woman Missing in Turkey; Chris Brown Under Investigation; Immigration Deal Revealed
Aired January 28, 2013 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: In just a couple of minutes, a group of senators from both sides of the aisle set to announce a compromise on immigration. But one of the questions is, will it mesh with the president's announcement that will come tomorrow?
I'm Brooke Baldwin. Let's go straight to this.
Just in to CNN, a sudden about face from the Boy Scouts of America. We are now getting word that the group may drop the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.
Chris Lawrence, want to go straight to you here, which obviously this would be a huge reversal. To be clear, this is not a done deal. What do you know?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it's big news and it potentially has the possibility of affecting hundreds of thousands of families all across America. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and their parents, scout leaders, everyone would be affected by this change in policy if it goes through.
Here's some background. CNN has been going back and forth with the national organization on some other issues. And we just learned basically that they are considering reversing that ban and opening up the national organization to the fact that there would be no national statement excluding anyone on the basis of sexual orientation.
But as I read the e-mail from the director of the Boy Scouts of America, what I see basically is that they would leave it in the hands of the individual scout packs, Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout packs. They would be able to sort of set their own rules and take it out of the national conversation.
BALDWIN: So, take me back, though, Chris. I mean how did all of this begin? Wasn't this -- this was all because of a pack in Maryland, was it?
LAWRENCE: Yes. There was a pack locally here in Maryland that basically adopted a nondiscrimination policy. They even put it on the website saying, we're not going to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation. The problem was, their charter was due to be renewed here in just a couple of weeks and they were in danger of losing their charter because that statement ran -- conflicted with basically what the national Boy Scout organization's philosophy was. Remember, it was just about six months ago that the Boy Scouts reaffirmed their ban on gay scouts, gay adult leaders, lesbian adult leaders, after about a two-year review. They took two years, really looked at this issue and the conclusion that they came to back in July was, this is something that we feel parents, churches, should discuss. Sexual orientation should not be part of the Boy Scout culture. And so they said, we're going to keep it. So here you are, just six months later, and we're hearing they're actively considering dropping that ban.
BALDWIN: Which would be a huge, huge change once it is a done deal. We, obviously, will stay on it and report it.
Chris Lawrence, thank you so much. Keep us apprised of that.
Also this we're watching here. Two days before what is expected to be a major Capitol Hill showdown on gun control, the president meets with those on the front lines of gun violence in America, police chiefs, sheriffs, just this afternoon. Here are the pictures. He and the vice president sat down with law enforcement leaders from all across the country, including those from Aurora, Colorado, from Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Newtown, Connecticut, all sites of mass shootings just in this last year. And the president wants their take on his gun control measures. We reported on those 23 executive actions he has proposed, several proposals as well for Congress to take up and pass. Once again, the president, the vice president putting the pressure on lawmakers to act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way that we're going to be able to do everything that needs to be done is with the cooperation of Congress. And that means passing serious laws that restrict the access and availability of assault weapons and magazine clips that aren't necessary for hunters and sportsmen and those who are responsible gun owners, who are out --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Now, I mentioned this Capitol Hill showdown because, let's be clear, this is not just between, of course, the political parties here, but two familiar opponents. You have Senator Dianne Feinstein of California who, just a couple of days ago, introduced this assault weapons ban legislation. And Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president. These two will face one another Wednesday during a Senate judiciary hearing, according to the website, it's called "What Should America Do About Gun Violence."
But, it will feel like debate deja vu for Capitol Hill watchers because those two were on opposite sides, this was back in the early 1990s when this first assault weapons ban passed. That, as you know, has since expired. But their arguments are now coming back to life. So we went into the archive and we found Feinstein and LaPierre from two decades ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA (May 2, 1994): But you've also, at some point, have got to say, enough is enough, otherwise -- I mean the NRA will not say that you should not permit the civilian sale of bazookas. What we're talking about is a weapon crafted for war that floats around the streets of our cities, that puts our police in a position of being outgunned by the bad guys, that has kids killing kids with them.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE V.P., NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION (December 9, 1993): It's more regulations on honest people that a million times a year honest people use a gun in this country to defend themselves from criminals the system will not control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What legitimate gun owner would -- why -- what harm would there be to legitimate gun owner if they couldn't have more than a 10-round clip? Let's put it --
LAPIERRE: But it's a cosmetic solution that's going to do nothing in the real world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. Here's this guy -- here's --
LAPIERRE: The fact is, there are millions and millions of magazines out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying --
LAPIERRE: You can change a clip that fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Now, fast-forward to these two just this past week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: I think you reach a point, as I said earlier, where enough is enough. Do military-style assault weapons belong on the streets of our cities? And the answer, according to the united states conference of mayors, according to major chiefs of police, according to the largest police organization in the world is, absolutely no.
LAPIERRE: We must accept less freedom. Less than the criminal class and the political elites. Less than they keep for themselves. We're told that limits on magazine capacity or bans on 100-year-old firearm technology, bans that only will affect lawful people will somehow make us safer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That hearing starts 10:00 Wednesday morning. And including other people to testify here. You have Nark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman and mass shooting survivor Gabby Giffords.
Now to that absolutely horrible nightclub fire in Brazil. We're getting new information here from state media reporting that three arrests have been made and a fourth person is being sought, which, in this whole fire, claimed the lives thus far of 231 people.
This is how it played out on Brazilian television. I mean look at these people and the smoke here. The smoke pouring out of the overcrowded club as people, unconscious, were dragged one after the other after the other on to the sidewalk. Witnesses say the ceiling there caught fire when the band lit some sort of pyrotechnic device. A stagehand reportedly tried to put it out, but the fire extinguisher didn't work. The flames spread within minutes. Desperate onlookers tried to just break holes in some of the brick walls to try to find places to get people out. One survivor describes trying to get out of there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATHEUS VARGAS, SURVIVOR OF NIGHTCLUB FIRE, (through translator): When I was trying to get out, the staff stopped me and I yelled, "fire, fire," but the security guards were not realizing what was going on. I think many of them thought they were just riots or the people were trying to get out without paying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: More than 100 funerals are set for today. And when you look at the victims here, a lot of them were college students. They were just out and about over the weekend celebrating their last weekend of summer vacation before heading back to school.
And this fire in Brazil, it is eerily reminiscent to that deadly nightclub fire in Rhode Island. It will be 10 years next month. That's when 100 people were killed. Attorney John Barylick represented victims and families in that tragedy, helping to win a $176 million judgment. He wrote a book, it's called "Killer Show," and it details that devastating fire, its causes and the heartbreaking aftermath. And John Barylick joins me now from Providence, Rhode Island.
And, John, we were talking just a couple of months ago here at CNN about this book of yours and I immediately, when I saw the news out of Brazil, I thought of you, I thought of Rhode Island, the pyrotechnics, the foam you brought in to show us how highly flammable it was. I mean there were many similarities, were there not?
JOHN BARYLICK, AUTHOR, "KILLER SHOW": Hello, Brooke. Yes, this is like a recurrent nightmare. There were many parallel facts, at least as Brazil's situation has been reported.
BALDWIN: Run through a couple of them. What else? What else was similar?
BARYLICK: Well, according to initial reports, we have improper use of pyrotechnics in an unsuitable venue, we have flammable wall coverings, we have gross overcrowding, as we had at The Station. And we have staff that seems woefully undertrained to deal with emergencies.
BALDWIN: I read your opinion piece on cnn.com and you wrote this, "you would think the world would have learned from it. You would be wrong." You go through what happened in Rhode Island, what happened in Bangkok, in Russia, in Argentina. What needs to change? I mean obviously nothing -- nothing substantial really has for this to happen again.
BARYLICK: Well, I hope things have changed in the United States. I know that certainly in Rhode Island they have changed.
BALDWIN: How have they?
BARYLICK: We've tightened up our fire code in -- we've tightened up the fire codes in several respects, particularly in the requirement to sprinkler buildings with large capacities. They can't be grandfathered in as easily. Also, preshow announcements are being routinely made showing people where exits are. On the other hand, Rhode Island has back tracked a little in making pyrotechnics more available to the general public. So we've had some slippage there as well.
BALDWIN: So I enjoy going to live shows. I mean, what's your advice for someone who -- am I supposed to sit by the exit? Am I supposed to not go to a show where they wouldn't have fireworks? I mean what are some pieces of advice you would share?
BARYLICK: I think the takeaway, Brooke, is that we're our own best fire marshals. We can't rely on the promoters or the club owners to look out for us. So when you come to the venue, look at the venue. See if it looks well maintained. See if the staff looks at all trained.
When you go to your seats, see if you pass through any narrow pinch points that might affect your ability to get out. And most importantly, when you get to your seat, check out the nearest exit. It probably won't be the one you came in by. And share that information with your friends before the show starts. That's the best way you can protect yourself.
BALDWIN: Yes. I loved your piece of advice. If you think something's going wrong, trust your gut, get out.
John Barylick, author of "Killer Show."
BALDWIN: Absolutely. Thank you.
We have more tips on protecting yourself from a crowd. Go to cnn.com. Click on "staying safe" under the Brazil nightclub fire story.
What was supposed to be a dream vacation for one New York mother here turns into now this missing person investigation, as the woman, this mother, vanishes. And investigators are combing through clues left in her hotel room.
Plus, one day before the president kicks off his push for immigration reform, senators from both sides of the aisle here unveiling their plan in a matter of minutes. We're going to hear it live right here on CNN.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime. Back on January 7th, this 33-year-old mother of two, her name is Sarai Sierra, she left the U.S. for the very first time. She is a budding New York photographer. Headed out alone on a trip through Turkey. She was supposed to return to Newark, New Jersey, last Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN DIAZ SIERRA, HUSBAND OF MISSING WOMAN: On the day she was scheduled to arrive, her father went to the airport to go pick her up at the time she had given him. And he was there too long. So I called United Airlines and they had told me she was never aboard the flight. She'd never even arrived at the airport at Turkey.
BALDWIN: So we know she didn't get on the flight. We also have learned that her passport and medical documents were found in her Istanbul hotel room, though her iPhone and her iPad were not.
CNN International's Hala Gorani joins me here on what more we know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
I know her husband and brother are heading over to Istanbul. Do they have any leads?
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying according to what we were able to figure out that the consulate in Istanbul is actually aware of the fact that this American citizen has been essentially -- has disappeared a week ago.
We know she travelled to Turkey on January seventh. We know she was meant to return on the 22nd. She last spoke to her family on January 21st, last week, a day before she was meant to fly home.
You can imagine, though, that the family when her father went to the airport to pick her up not finding her on the flight asked the airline if she even checked in, the airline told the father she has not checked in. That, of course, led to the -- to a very -- a situation where the family was extremely worried, asked the hotel, as you mentioned there in the lead-in to me, the passport and personal documents of Sarai Sierra were found in the hotel room, though her iPhone and iPad were not, leading people to believe perhaps she was out doing sight-seeing.
We know she wanted to go there to take pictures. She had a travelling companion that cancelled, which is the reason she went alone for several weeks. And right now, of course, the question is whether there are leads that are going to help this family locate their loved one.
BALDWIN: Hala, what about just looking at Turkey, big picture. I mean I was just talking to someone the other day, who was headed to Istanbul, on my bucket list, you've been, obviously it is a culture very different from ours here in the states.
In terms of danger level, how high is it really? GORANI: Oh, not high at all. I mean when you travel abroad and don't know the language, you know, it is better to have somebody with you, it is better to take somebody from the hotel, maybe a guide or something with you. But turkey is not a country in which I feel any way threatened, any more so than a European country.
But you always have to be careful when you travel alone in a country you don't know, especially if it is a language you're not familiar with, tell people where you are at all times, make sure that the hotel, the person at the hotel knows what your itinerary is. I mean, that's one of the things that you could do.
I wouldn't be comfortable travelling alone in a European country in a remote area. I would always make sure that I have somebody with me. So those are the types of precautions.
But as a country, Turkey is not at all the kind of country I would categorize as dangerous to travel in alone whether a man or a woman. The question is going to be, it has been a week now and we know the brother and the father of Sarai Sierra have travelled, travelled out yesterday evening, we understand, and should have arrived in Turkey and they're now going to try to cooperate with authorities, who we understand spoke to one of the hotel managers where Sarai was staying to try to figure out where she is.
BALDWIN: Hopefully at the hotel, there is surveillance video. We're hoping she's OK.
CNN is reaching out to the family but their priority is finding her and bringing her home.
Hala Gorani, thank you so much, for me on that one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Now, to singer, Chris Brown.
Oh, yes. Could be into trouble with the law, again.
Police now wanted to talk to the pop star after an incident inside a music studio and involving a parking spot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Chris Brown under investigation by police for allegedly punching someone over a parking space.
L.A. police responded to a fight near a West Hollywood recording studio last night, where witnesses told police that Brown was involved in some sort of brawl in a parking lot. Those witnesses say Brown hit someone and left the scene before police arrived.
And while authorities haven't officially named the victim, check this out. Grammy-nominated singer Frank Ocean says he was involved. How do we know? He tweeted about it.
FRANK OCEAN, SINGER: "Got jumped by Chris and a couple of guys. Lol. Cut my finger. Now I can't play with two hands at Grammys."
BALDWIN: CNN has reached out to both Brown and Ocean for comment, haven't gotten anything back from either of those guys.
But let me bring in entertainment journalist John Murray.
John, welcome back.
Chris brown, first of all, he's on probation. So if this is all true, all these allegations, we're talking some trouble, are we not?
JOHN MURRAY, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Yes. And he just got a stern warning, Brooke, in November from his probation officer where the judge gave him a stern warning because he had a positive drug test. So, you know, Chris keeps getting lucky.
Every six months there is an incident. Last summer, there was the bar brawl with rapper, Drake. Then the cell phone snatching incident with a fan in Miami. Before that, something else. It is just, like, you know, the blowup at "Good Morning America," he just can't seem to stay out of trouble.
BALDWIN: What's going on? Why? He's talented. He's a talented young man.
I'm calling on Iyanla on that. Maybe he is the first subject of the season on "Iylana, Fix My Life." No one can understand after so many breaks this kid keeps getting in trouble.
Let me give you the back story here with Frank Ocean. This relationship started two years ago, yes, two years ago. They started having some tension here. So some of Chris' associates who said they were his cousins recorded a video of them trying to fight Frank following him in a car and the video went viral.
So, this relationship has been combustible for quite some time and it sounds like at the studio everything came to a head.
BALDWIN: So, that's what is happening on apparently Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.
We have to talk about this though because an after party, you have Taye Diggs, right? So, he's at the SAG Awards. The Screen Actors Guild Awards, last night.
When he gets home with his wife, someone is apparently, what, trying to break into their house and what did he do?
MURRAY: Well, someone did break into the house. You know, and Taye went into defence mode. He has a 3 1/2-year-old child with his wife who is Broadway superstar, Idina Menzel.
So, Taye, gets the criminal, he holds him down for 20 minutes until the police gets there. So, I mean, if they're casting a superhero movie in Hollywood, Taye Diggs would be the ideal candidate either that or tonight he'll be on WWE's Monday Night Raw. Because he's got a hidden talent that we didn't know about.
BALDWIN: Taye Diggs, check. Loved him in "Rent," by the way, many years ago.
John Murray, thank you very much. Entertainment journalist for us today.
Keep us all honest here as I'm checking the clock, couple of minutes away from this group of senators, this bipartisan group unveiling their plan, their blueprint here on immigration reform. Will it gel, though, with the president's plan?
Remember, he's unveiling his plan tomorrow in Las Vegas at this major speech. We will take this event live there on the Hill. You will hear both sides of this debate right after this.
Near the bottom of the hour here, I'm Brooke Baldwin live in New York.
JOHN KING, POLITICAL EXPERT: And I'm John king in Washington.
Any minute now senators from both parties about to present their plan, a framework, for overhauling our nation's immigration laws. But, an important reality check, Washington littered with old reform plans that started, Brooke, with lots of fanfare, only to go nowhere.
BALDWIN: That said, John King, this could be a true political breakthrough.
Live pictures, we're awaiting this news conference any minute now. Keep in mind the timing here. This comes one day before president Obama will be revealing his plans in Las Vegas.
So what you're about to see and hear is really both sides of this whole debate. But, first, we have a symbol along with you, John King, our political experts to guide us through all of this. We have chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, for us on the Hill. Chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, there for me in our Washington bureau. And several others who we'll talk to in a minute.
But Dana Bash, I want to begin with this. The optimism, it seems, pervasive, right, on the Hill, and we have heard that the time is right for immigration deals before.
You were in the room back in 2007 when Senator Ted Kennedy was talking. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED KENNEDY (D), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS: Now it is time for action. Two thousand seven is the year we must fix our broken system. We must strike while the iron is hot. I've been around here long enough to know that opportunities like this don't come very often. The American people are demanding a solution. The president is committed. Senator Reed has made this a priority. Senators from both parties are now determined to solve this crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Dana Bash, he says, "Striking while the iron is hot." Why is the iron hotter now than it was five, six years ago?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The November election. I mean it is as simple as that.
Republicans knew immediately when they saw the election results. Not only that, the overall electorate was much more Latino, 16 percent. But that Mitt Romney did worse than any Republican, a candidate had done in three or four presidential elections. It was just terrible news for Republicans. And they understood that.