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X Games Athlete in Critical Condition; Boy Scouts Rethink National Ban on Gays; Strong Sales for Ford; NFL Funds New Research on Football-Related Injuries; Diversity Problem in the NFL

Aired January 29, 2013 - 09:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for being with us. Now to Carol Costello, "CNN NEWSROOM" begins right now.

Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you both and good morning to all of you.

Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM, defying gravity and flirting with death. The thrill-seeking X Games turns somber with word that one injured athlete has taken a turn for the worst.

Protecting the NFL shield and NFL players. The league and the union near a deal to fund research on concussions and other injuries.

President Obama on the road and on message for a chief priority of his second term today, he wraps his arms around a new Senate plan to reform the nation's immigration system.

And it seems logical if you're a safe driver you should pay less for car insurance. Too bad that's not the case anymore. The difference in price quotes might shock you.

NEWSROOM starts now.

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

We begin with the adrenaline-fueled X Games, and new questions this morning as the high-flying competition become too extreme, too dangerous. Twenty-five-year-old Caleb Moore who competes in snowmobile freestyle is in critical condition this morning after this bone-jarring crash just a few days ago.

After Moore came up short on the landing his 450-pound snowmobile -- you can see it there -- tumbled over him. "USA Today" is reporting Moore has chest and head injuries.

Danger and thrills are a big part of the X Games and its appeal to younger audiences. On Sunday it wasn't just the athlete in danger but the crowd that scrambled to get out of the way of a runaway snowmobile.

Crashes also draw fans. Remember this iconic fail from 2007? Skateboarder Jake Brown soars into the sky, loses control and plummets 45 feet to a thunderous crash, amazingly, he walked away with only bumps and bruises but he's one of the lucky ones.

Jason Blevins covers the X Games extensively for the "Denver Post." He was on hand for Caleb Moore's crash and has spoken to Moore -- he has actually had spoken to Moore before the event.

Jason, welcome and good morning.

JASON BLEVINS, STAFF WRITER, "DENVER POST" (via phone) Good morning, Carol.

COSTELLO: Any more word on Caleb Moore's injuries?

BLEVINS: Last update from the family was that he remained in critical condition and is being observed and monitored in the hospital there in Grand Junction.

COSTELLO: Can you -- can you describe his injuries for us?

BLEVINS: He was knocked out after you saw that sled hit him in the head and when he came to he was being treated at the local hospital in Aspen for a concussion when they found bleeding around his heart so they air-lifted him to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction where, after I guess he had Friday morning sort of emergency heart surgery and complications from that surgery led to a brain injury or brain complications is what the family says.

COSTELLO: And sadly he wasn't the only athlete injured in the Winter X Games, right? There were five or six athletes injured, too.

BLEVINS: Yes, his brother, who followed him, was injured on the same jump, only moments later, separated his pelvis. A couple of female skiers were injured on the slope-style course.

COSTELLO: And, you know, every time a serious injury happens, you know, the question arises, are these X Games too extreme? Are they getting to dangerous?

BLEVINS: You know, it's a good question but, you know, we see injuries in every top level sport. You watch NFL, you see guys carted off the field on a regular basis. This is -- these are athletes that are -- you know, at the very top of their sports, the very, very edge, pushing the envelope, standing in the horizons and really showing what's possible.

And with that -- you know, with that real push and progression comes increased risk. And you know I talk to these athletes all the time and they speak very plainly that they know the risks and they assume the risks and they prepare for themselves, they train, they work hard. You know, they use a variety of tools to learn these tricks from foam pits and air bags to, you know, gym practice on trampoline.

They work very hard to mitigate the risk but the risks do obviously increase as you push the sport into new realms and new tricks.

COSTELLO: Definitely so. Jason Blevins of "The Denver Post" thank you so much for joining this morning.

BLEVINS: Thanks.

COSTELLO: Another possible victory for gay rights advocate, the Boy Scouts of America on the verge of allowing openly gay scouts and scout leaders. It's a stunning development since the Boy Scouts re-affirmed its ban on gays just seven months ago.

It's an issue that's been gaining support for decades. More than a million people have signed petitions and protested the ban, some Eagle Scouts even returned their medals. But even if that national ban is lifted, local troops may still be able to exclude gay members.

James Dale is a former assistant scoutmasters who was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being gay. He sued and lost when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts' right to exclude gay members. He's joining us now.

Good morning.


COSTELLO: So, James, why do you think the Boy Scouts suddenly shifted its position?

DALE: I think this has really been a long evolution of America that's taken place and the Boy Scouts just kind of -- are finding themselves on the wrong side of history. When you have the president of the United States just last week talking about the civil rights movement from African-Americans to women to gays and lesbians, it really kind of squarely puts the Boy Scouts in the past and I don't think that's a place they could afford to be anymore.

COSTELLO: So is lifting the ban enough? Because there's some thought that the Boy Scouts will just leave it up to individual troops to decide.

DALE: Of course. I think this is a great first step and a conversation that they're having but when they expelled me in 1990 from scouting and when they upheld the right of the United States Supreme Court in 2000, it was a top-down policy. The Boy Scouts have ruled with a tight fist and said that no gay member can be a part of the Boy Scouts, whether youth or adult, so likewise if they're going to end this policy they need to end it from the top-down, and say, we as the Boy Scouts of America are against discrimination.

COSTELLO: The Boy Scouts of America still exclude atheists and agnostics as leaders. Would you support lifting the ban on them, too.

DALE: I would definitely in support of the Boy Scouts opening up their ranks to everybody. And benefiting in the positive things that I took away from the Boy Scouts. But I think the issue on the table right now that they're talking about is the gay issue specifically.

COSTELLO: And just a last question for you, would you consider being a scout leader again? DALE: I have a nephew now and I would really love to be there with him if he joins the Boy Scouts but again I think that it has to be a top-down policy. The Boy Scouts can't -- you can't go this far and then just do half the job. You've got to finish the job. They've got to stop discrimination.

COSTELLO: James Dale, former assistant scoutmaster, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

DALE: Thank you for having me.

COSTELLO: The battle for same-sex marriage now gaining new allies from big business, eBay, Marriott and Armani are among 13 big national companies forming a new coalition organized by the Human Rights Campaign. The goal, eliminating the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Later today President Obama launches his second term push for immigration reform that will embrace for the most part a plan already unveiled by a bipartisan group of senators. Both parties say they're willing to compromise to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), SENATE MAJORITY WHIP: The difference I think on the ground is we have to put together a bipartisan bill in the Senate and in the House to send it to the president. It's going to look different than what I might write or the president might write but it certainly is going to reach the same goal, to make sure that these 11 million people living in America have a path to legalization first and then to citizenship.


COSTELLO: President Obama said to be ready to unveil his own plan if the proposals fall apart in the Senate. Lawmakers in the House are also said to be working on their own immigration plan.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg getting some Internet buzz for an abrupt end to a reporter's questions. Granted Jason Mattera is well-known for his pointed jabs and what he sees as left-leaning causes, here he asks Bloomberg how he can support gun control when he's surrounded by well-armed security.


JASON MATTERA, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Look at the team of security you've got. And you're an advocate for gun control? In the spirit of gun control will you disarm your entire security team?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll get back to you.

MATTERA: You'll get back to me? Would you like a sip of my soda?

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: Mattera is a conservative radio show -- talk show host. That mention of soda, by the way, is a dig at Bloomberg's ban on huge sugary sodas. Mattera's video posted online shows one member of the security detail approached him twice more asking for I.D., the confrontation ended without incident.

Business booming is four of the nation's second largest automaker reported stronger sales and earnings in the last quarter of 2012.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange, just tell us how good it it is.

Good morning.


Ford had a strong finish to last year and posted a 54 percent rise in profit in the final three months of 2012 so that actually tops expectations. You look at sales especially in North America they jumped but Europe continues to be a big problem for the company, in fact Ford's operations there actually posted a loss which when you think about it not so surprising when you consider the region. It's been dealing with the debt crisis for years now.

The company has announced plant closings and job cuts to try and stem the bleeding in Europe, which has hit the other major automakers as well, but we talk about this a lot when we talk about earnings, what everybody sort of looks at is what's going to happen going forward and because it's more important than what just happened and the outlook for Ford at this point is very good even with issues in Europe hanging over their heads.

Ford is expecting North American profits to continue to be strong especially with the new model of the F-150 coming out, I'd say in about 2015 we're hearing. Shares, though, of Ford are down about 1.5 percent in the premarket, Carol. That's because of those worries about Europe -- Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, let's talk about the workers. I mean, are things looking up for them, too?

KOSIK: They are, so what the automaker said recently is that it's actually adding 2200 salaried jobs this year. It happens to be the biggest addition of white-collar workers in a decade, and that's on top of 8100 hourly and salaried positions that it added last year.

Now this strong earnings and job growth that's happening at Ford, that's good news for investors, too, because Ford also announced a couple of weeks ago that it's going to be doubling its quarterly dividend so at this point with Ford, I guess everybody is winning, nice to see the comeback for the auto industry for sure -- Carol.

COSTELLO: For sure. Alison Kosik live at the New York Stock Exchange.

Concussions may grab headlines but other football injuries are part of the story. We'll tell you how the NFL and the union are trying to help improve players' long-term health.


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

A 22-year-old man sits at a Dallas jail accused of pointing a laser at a police helicopter. According to the "Dallas Morning News" the man says he did it to see how far the light would go. You can see the laser beaming into the chopper from the camera on board. The FAA says this happens all the time. Last year there were 3400 incidents reported nationwide. This is dangerous for those flying those helicopters, folks.

In Omaha, Nebraska, it sounds more like a scene out of a movie, several manhole covers propped their -- popped their lids and shot out flames after an underground explosion. Utility officials say a transformer blew, leaving thousands in the dark for a short period. They're still trying to figure out how this all happened.

A 16-mile stretch of the Mississippi River remains closed near Vicksburg because of an oil spill. The Coast Guard says it has five contracted vessels helping with clean up and skimming operations. Still unclear exactly how many gallons leaked after two barges struck a bridge on Sunday morning. The barge that started leaking was carrying 80,000 gallons of oil.

A Barnes & Noble near you could soon be out of business. The last National Book Store chain tells "The Wall Street Journal" it plans to close at least 20 stores a year for the next decade. It's been finding competition from Amazon and the growing popularity of e-books.

The spotlight on football-related injuries has mostly focused on concussions over the last few years. There are bone-rattling NFL hits and many injuries and illnesses, though, you may not hear about. Now, the NFL and the players' association, the union, are finalizing a deal to fund a $100 million Harvard study.

Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us with more on this study.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, this will really -- it will be interesting to see what they find here because nothing quite like this has ever been done. So, in essence, this is what they're thinking about doing. Take 1,000 players and really follow them, look at their medical records, get measurements and look at all sorts of stuff, and then pick your 100 healthiest, and pick your 100 sickest, and then compare them.

And one of the things that they will likely be looking for is how much does football have to do with it. Are they sicker because they play a certain position? Are they sicker because they played for a longer period of time? And we're talking about current players and former players.

And so this is something that's been negotiated and talked about. The NFL says nothing is more important than the health and safety of their players.

And if you're really into this,, my colleague Stephanie Smith has a wonderful article.

COSTELLO: I was talking to two NFL players yesterday about concussions and one of them is going to donate his brain to science in essence and he said, it's difficult to know exactly when the injuries occurred, did it occur when I was playing as a little boy, did it occur in high school? Did it occur in the pros?

Will this study address that?

COHEN: Well, I imagine that is one of the things they will address, that they will ask players, when did you start playing? Did you have problems at this age? Did you have problems at that age? I mean, a thorough study.

And with this much money I assume it's going to be thorough, they are going to ask those kinds of questions.

COSTELLO: Yes, $100 million.

COHEN: Yes, that's a lot.

COSTELLO: That's good though, isn't it? That will get something done.

COHEN: Right, one would hope so.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

COSTELLO: We're going to talk more about this plan to cut down on football-related injuries at the top of the hour with the NFL players' association chief, DeMaurice Smith.

Another big issue in the NFL is the lack of minority head coaches. There were eight openings following the end of the regular season, all of those jobs were filled by white men. Two members of the Baltimore Ravens organization took time from the Super Bowl to address this disparity.

Joe Carter from HLN Sports is in New Orleans to cover the Super Bowl.

What'd they say, Joe?

JOE CARTER, HLN SPORTS: Hi. Good morning, Carol. You know, there's two sides to this issue obviously. Some people believe that the vacancies that were filled were filled by qualified people, they just happened not to be black men. And the other side of it says, well, us as a country, we're progressing in social issues like the acceptance of gay marriage, reelecting a black president, but the NFL, the most popular sport in this country, is taking a step backwards on the social issue. And so we asked Jim Caldwell, he was head coach for the Indianapolis Colts. He's the current offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.

We also asked Ozzie Newsome this question. He is the current general manager for Baltimore Ravens and one of the few black general managers in the NFL.

We asked them about what they thought of the lack of hiring in all the openings, and that's eight head coaches and seven manager positions that are open and here's what they had to say.


JIM CALDWELL, BALTIMORE RAVENS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: There's been a lot of very intelligent men that have looked at it and said, hey, let's look at this thing and talk about it in-depth. So I think that's going to happen.

OZZIE NEWSOME, BALTIMORE RAVENS GM & EXEC. VICE PRESIDENT: Among the diversity working group committee myself, that commissioner had put me on years ago, are we going to work to get better? Yes. But all we can do is to put people in front of people.


CARTER: So, obviously, that's a hot button topic that will be dissected and looked at much closer as we head on to the weeks coming. But, today, it's a lighter issue, a much more event to cover, and that's media day -- the circus known as media day. Thousands of the media around the world will be entering that building behind me there to talk to players and coaches, also fans are allowed to watch us work basically.

And for 25 bucks, they can get a seat. They also get a little radio so that they can listen to what the players have to say to our questions.

COSTELLO: Come on, Joe.

CARTER: One of the big stories lines the media day today is, of course, Jim and John Harbaugh, the family affair --

COSTELLO: Wait, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, somebody is going to pay 25 bucks to watch you ask questions?

CARTER: Yes, isn't that great?


COSTELLO: That's bizarre.

CARTER: One of the questions going to be asked, we're going to ask about Jim and John Harbaugh, of course, the Harbaugh brothers, it being the first time in Super Bowl history that two brothers will face each other, two head coaches will face each other. And the story's become so big, Carol, that their parents, Jackie and John, will be holding their own press conference tomorrow, and then, John and Jim will be holding their own press conference together on Friday.

So, it is certainly a family affair here in New Orleans and a topic a lot of people want to know a lot about. We're wondering where are Jackie and Jack going to sit during the Super Bowl, we'll find that out as well as many things about the Harbaughs as the week goes on.

COSTELLO: Because if they sit there with the other fans, the cameras will be on them all the time and they have to keep their faces impassive. That will be so hard.


COSTELLO: Joe Carter, thanks so much.

A Baltimore Ravens super fan has won a trip to the Super Bowl thanks to this performance.


COSTELLO: Even the dog was confused.

Keith Letourneau went absolutely crazy after the Ravens beat Denver in the playoffs, his wife, Rachel, caught his hysterics on camera phone and, of course, she posted it on YouTube.

Well, the video went viral, leading to representatives from a credit card company visiting the Letourneau home.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- you and your wife, to make wear in New Orleans when we send you to the Super Bowl.

LETOURNEAU: Yes -- what?!


COSTELLO: Oh, man, I wanted him to scream again. Letourneau says he knows the ravens will win. He calls them a team of destiny.

On the eve of the Super Bowl, CNN is live in New Orleans with our take on the biggest sporting event in the country, what it means to the city, how it became a cultural phenomenon and so much more. Join us for "Kickoff in New Orleans," a CNN bleacher report special, Saturday afternoon 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

He's been pushing new gun measures. But in an interview, President Obama says at Camp David, they go skeet shooting all the time. Seriously.

We thought it might be an interesting talk back question -- Obama skeet shooting: on target or telling?, or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. The question for you this morning, Obama skeet shooting: on target or telling?

At face value, it's a silly argument, the president skeet shooting? Whatever. But it seems nothing is silly when it comes to debating gun control in America.

It all started with an interview in "The New Republic." President Obama said, quote, "Up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time." The editor was stunned.


CHRIS HUGHES, THE NEW REPUBLIC: We knew a little bit that he fired Remington on Secret Service firing ranges and things like that in the past. But this idea of him going up to Camp David and skeet shooting regularly and enjoying it is sort of a new side to the president that I at least hadn't seen and I don't think a lot of others had either.


COSTELLO: That includes Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee who says, why now, Mr. President?


REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSE: If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this? Why have we not seen photos? Why has he not referenced it?

At any point in time, as we have had this gun debate that is ongoing, you would have thought it would have been a point of reference.

I tell you what I do think. I think he should invite me to Camp David and I'll go skeet shooting with him and I bet I'll beat him.


COSTELLO: As to why there are no photos, White House spokesman Jay Carney hedged.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is there a photograph of him doing it?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There may be, but I haven't seen it. YELLIN: Why haven't we heard about it before?

CARNEY: Because when he goes to Camp David, he goes to spend time with his family and friends and relax, not to produce photographs. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Again, whatever!

Still, why did the president feel the need to bring this up at all? If he wanted to win over gun rights advocates, skeet shooting isn't exactly on target. The NRA said, quote, "The Second Amendment is not about shooting skeet and it's not a tradition. It's a fundamental right upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court", end quote.

So while Obama seemed to be reaching out, however awkwardly, to gun owners, the whole thing may have backfired.

Talk back question for you -- Obama skeet shooting: on target or telling?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.