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Senate Talks Gun Control; Controversial Super Bowl Ads

Aired January 30, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Breaking news here, a severe storm system has several states on alert right now. Heavy damage has been reported in at least a half dozen states with one person dead in both Georgia and Tennessee. Want you to listen and really watch here. We have video of this tornado hitting a town in north Georgia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like a tornado right near downtown Cartersville at this moment slashing toward I-75. A tornado, apparently about on the ground here in Adairsville, you can see to the right of the funnel, some of the debris now coming up. This is only about a quarter of a mile from our location here on highway --


This tornado here, this leveled a small home. See some of the trailers, it looks around it, cars, flipped 10 cars, we're told.

And now some new footage here, aerial video. This is Tennessee, roofs ripped off, what looks to be some sort of manufacturing plant. A person died when a building collapsed and a man was killed in Nashville, as well, in Tennessee, when a tree fell on his home.

Got a lot of people to talk to.

Miguel Marquez joins me live from Adairsville, which is just about 60 miles north of Atlanta. We also have someone joining us who is very familiar with storms like this, storm chaser and adventurer George Kourounis. And I have Chad Myers here. So we're going to just kind of -- lots of voices, keep this conversation going.

But Miguel on the phone with me, let me just begin with you. Paint the picture of what you're looking at.


I think we're not very far from where that reporter saw that tornado touching down. We are at the Daiki plant right smack in the middle of Adairsville and this place just got hammered. The plant is completely destroyed. There were 150 to 200 people in the plant. We spoke to a couple of workers who were in there this morning. They took refuge in the restroom and they just -- you know, they could feel the pressure on the walls, they could feel it in their bodies. They knew it was coming. And one guy was a Baptist minister and he said, all he could do was pray and pray and pray some more.

They literally thought they were going to die. They were very, very shaken. Amazing, amazing that nobody was killed, that nobody was injured in this building. There are cars overturned up and down the road, the main road through Adairsville right now. They're -- across the street from here is -- it is almost cliche, but it is amazing.

There is one building that is completely destroyed. Another building that is damaged, but not destroyed at all. And just on the other side of that, completely destroyed, another building. This tornado came through here and just was very selective, but completely devastating in the targets it found.

BALDWIN: Yes. It is almost like it sounds like that zigzag we hear so often when we talk about tornadoes. Miguel, thank you so much.

George, let me bring you in. I hope you have a monitor. Have you seen pictures of this, this tornado we have been showing out of Adairsville, Georgia?

GEORGE KOUROUNIS, STORM CHASER: Well, I have seen a few clips from the Adairsville tornado and it looks like something that I would be used to seeing in Kansas in May.

So it is very atypical for this time of year, although we do occasionally get these Deep South tornado outbreaks in late January, February. They tend to be really fast-moving storms and therefore they're quite dangerous. But they do happen. And people that live in that part of the country really do need to watch it pretty much year round. It can happen.

BALDWIN: I just jotted down a note here hearing our reporter there mentioning when he was talking to some of the people who were taking shelter, that they felt pressure on the walls, pressure on their bodies. How is that? Simply obviously pressure from the storm.

KOUROUNIS: Well, the center of the tornado is basically a center of low pressure. So, as one approaches you, your ears are going to pop, just like you're going up in a high elevator or going up in a plane. It will flex the walls. You will get the sound of all the debris hitting the building that you're in and that's what sort of people always describe a tornado as sounding like a freight train going through and that's actually the building around you coming apart.

So that combined with that low pressure makes for a really surreal experience that most people certainly do not want to be through.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, George, it is Chad Myers. It just says storm chaser on your title. I want to not make this sexy.

Would you ever, in your life, consider chasing a storm that was moving northeast at 60 miles per hour, in Georgia, where worlds don't go straight, where trees go down all the time rather quickly? Would you ever consider that to be a safe chase?

KOUROUNIS: Not really, no. I like being out in the great open -- wide open plains where you can see what is going on. When a storm is moving that fast with poor visibility, lots of rain, lots of trees, lots of population, very high population density, it is so dangerous. I do this because I love to do it. And whenever I see someone who needs help, I immediately stop the chase and help them out.

But in a situation like this, where the storms are indeed moving so fast, the danger potential is so high, if there is a tornado warning for your area, don't go out and chase it. I don't even chase that kind of thing. Get into your basement.


MYERS: Fantastic. That's the right answer.


BALDWIN: When you hear a storm chaser saying I wouldn't even go out and chase it, don't even think about it, don't even think about it.

George Kourounis, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: But I want to get to another breaking story, as we have been watching what has been happening in Phoenix, Arizona.

Want to show you some pictures, obviously one person here in a stretcher being rolled out of a shooting situation in this Phoenix, Arizona, area, business center, this sort of business park. According to our affiliates, what we can tell, this happened in and around one of these business areas.

This is a business complex. A suspect has left the area. This is the frightening part, because police, they don't know where he or she is. They're still looking for him right now. But I just spoke with a woman who was sitting in a business area nearby whose daughter-in-law was inside this business complex that is currently on lockdown. Here is what she told me.


CAROL AGUILERA, NEIGHBOR: I called her at soon as I found out what was going on. I called her. She's pretty shaken up. You could hear in her voice she was trembling. She says she's hearing a lot of hearsay but doesn't really know what exactly happened. It just happened so fast and that they're just pretty shaken up.

BALDWIN: For obvious reasons.


BALDWIN: I would be as well. Did she hear shots?

AGUILERA: Yes. BALDWIN: How many shots did she hear?

AGUILERA: I believe it was just a couple that she -- she wasn't -- she's not too sure if it was the shots that she heard, but she said it sounded like some bangs, you know, but she just doesn't want to comment.

BALDWIN: I won't ask any further. We're looking at pictures here of people being taken out on stretchers.


AGUILERA: Yes, they have been evacuating.

BALDWIN: Right. We see dogs here, as we mentioned, the search for the suspect, maybe suspects is on. Let me ask you this, because of sort of your perch. Tell me, are you near a window? What are you seeing?

AGUILERA: Yes, I'm looking out my window and I see SWAT cars, police cars, fire trucks. It is just -- the whole street is blocked off.


BALDWIN: That was Carol Aguilera on the phone with me again. Pictures here from the Phoenix area. We are getting our correspondent Casey Wian up and towards the scene. As soon as we see him or get some information from him, we will bring that to you live here on CNN.

And as this story develops, today, the national debate over gun control is happening where it really counts, on Capitol Hill. The very first congressional hearing on this issue since December Sandy Hook school massacre started this morning. Look at this. The lines here, people on both sides of the issue, they're waiting to get in.

Gun control advocates started with one person who struggled to speak, really was just as powerful as her words, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the target of that mass shooting two years ago this month.


GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Speaking is difficult. But I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying.


BALDWIN: Countering the congresswoman was Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA. See him there in the middle of the -- that's Mark Kelly, but he's there as well. There he is in the glasses shaking hands with Mark Kelly, LaPierre pretty much against everything on the table regarding gun control, including those universal background checks. That's been proposed.

Want you to listen here to Wayne LaPierre's exchange with Senator Patrick Leahy, who is the chairman of this Judiciary Committee. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Talking about gun shows, should we have mandatory background checks at gun shows for sales of weapons?

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: If you're a dealer, that's already the law. If you're...


LEAHY: That's not my question. Please, Mr. LaPierre, I'm not trying to play games here. But if you could, just answer my question.

LAPIERRE: Senator, I do not believe the way the law is working now, unfortunately, that it does any good to extend the law to private sales between hobbyists and collectors.

LEAHY: OK. So you do not support mandatory background checks in all instances at gun shows?

LAPIERRE: We do not because the fact is the law right now is a failure the way it is working.


BALDWIN: Joe Johns, let me bring you in here for me in Washington, because we have been hearing that this one idea of the universal background checks could really be one the one point here in this whole debate that could be agreed upon on both sides, but that doesn't seem to be the case now, does it?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It will be an uphill battle, but there is still a chance.

Some conservatives, both Republicans and Democrats, say they're willing to take a look at universal background checks, in principle, Brooke. But the issue for people who move to the middle on this is there needs to be a system that works and doesn't take away the rights of legitimate gun owners to bear arms.

The NRA, as you heard there, is opposed to universal checks because the current system is broken and the question is how do you write a law to fix it, especially if you want to include private sales and all the other transactions that don't get picked up by the system? And there are a lot of them, Brooke.

BALDWIN: What about this -- the hearing focused as well on this gap in the justice system, that there are laws against drug trafficking, but nothing if you do the same with guns?

JOHNS: Yes. And what you're talking about here, for example, is members of street gangs and drug cartels, say, go into a state that has more permissive laws on firearm sales and they load up the trunk of a car with guns and then they drive to a very restrictive state on firearms and basically sell everything they have got in a parking lot or a street corner.

You're talking about interstate transport of guns for illegal purposes. And right now, believe it or not, there is no federal trafficking law for guns on the books. Clearly, a lot of people in Congress are interested in stopping criminals from having guns, so that on its face is something that seems to be getting a bit of support on the hill, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Joe Johns, thank you.

We want to keep pushing this conversation forward, guns, gun control in the spotlight across the nation. The question we're asking, is there a solution to America's gun problem? Join Anderson Cooper as he looks at this controversial debate in "Guns Under Fire," an "A.C. 360" town hall special tomorrow night. Set your DVRs, watch it live, 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Right now, all eyes on these numbers, all eyes on the Dow here. It is flirting with its all-time high, that closing high of 14164. We're just shy of that 14000 mark here.



BALDWIN: As the Dow gets closer and closer to an all-time high, the economy shrinks. So what gives? And what does this mean for you? I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

(voice-over): Nightmare on the school bus. We will take you inside the hostage situation involving a child and an underground bunker.

Plus, it's got everyone talking. And it hasn't even aired yet. Is VW's Super Bowl ad racist?

And pollution is so bad in one city, one guy is selling canned air in different flavors. Wait until you hear this.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We're getting a little bit more information for you on this story that has been percolating out of Phoenix, Arizona, involving, as you can see, several, several injured, the shooting at a Phoenix business center and that shooter or shooters, according to police, still not found.

They're searching for that individual right this very moment as obviously certain people, victims are being treated for their injuries.

Casey Wian is on the phone with me. He's in the Phoenix area, headed to the scene right now. Casey, what do you know?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the latest information from the Phoenix Police Department is that three people were shot at an office building in Phoenix. All of them had injuries that were non-life-threatening, no fatalities, one injury, though, described as extreme.

The office building is in the medical industry, although it is not a hospital. The building remains evacuated as a precaution. The suspect is described as a white male in his 19 -- I mean, in his 60s. He was described by one witness as having fled the area, possibly in a white vehicle.

We have been monitoring police radio traffic on our way to the Phoenix area and it is clear that officers are searching for two other vehicles that the suspect is linked to and may be in. They're also searching multiple locations and interviewing witnesses.

BALDWIN: Did we lose him? We lost him.

That was Casey Wian explaining they're looking for the suspect. Again, let me just reiterate, a white male in his 60s, fled, possibly according to one witness in a white vehicle. So just a heads-up obviously if you're in and around this area in Phoenix, Arizona, as police are trying to find this suspect.

Let me move on here and take you inside this bizarre cult. This involves allegations of sex slaves, human trafficking, child bribes, forced labor, and a leader who says he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Here he is.

The cult called Defenders of Christ was uncovered just across the U.S. border in a ranch here. This is Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, we're talking about. Two dozen people were found living in a filthy home during this police raid. The Mexican government describes them as hostages.

Rafael Romo is our senior Latin American affairs editor.

You have been doing some research here on this cult. When we talk about this ranch, this filthy home, what happened inside?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: It's just an incredible story of entrapment, exploitation and deception.

We have been looking at this all afternoon and in addition to what the Mexican officials are telling us, that the leader of this cult was a Spanish national, according to Mexican authorities, was not only forcing people to work for him, but what we have learned since is that he was also forcing women inside the cult to essentially become prostitutes, exploiting them for every possible reason, and the way he operated was he would tell them that he would teach them how to perform miracles, essentially how to cure people from cancer.

BALDWIN: Miracles, huh?

ROMO: Even how to bring back the dead.

People eventually, because he was incredibly deceptive, would listen to him and believe him and give him their paycheck, everything they had, and once he had their money, he had them completely. And they basically became their slaves. It is an incredible story of deception.

BALDWIN: It is disgusting. And again we talk about this guy, who calls himself the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. We have looked on the Web site.

This is what the Web site says. Let's just show part of it here with the leader's face, as compared again to that of Jesus Christ. Look at the picture side by side. Who -- Rafael, who is this guy?

ROMO: He is a Spanish national who has been operating, according to authorities, in different parts of the world. He has in several countries in Latin America. And back in about 2009, he goes to Mexico. And at first, he was selling online courses for people to learn something that he calls bioprogramming, which is how to program your brain to teach you to control people's minds.

After that, he assembled a sizable group of people, of followers, and then he started proclaiming himself as Jesus incarnate here on Earth. And after that, everything started getting worse and worse with this guy, the suspect controlling people's finances and eventually their wills. And now he's behind bars, luckily.


BALDWIN: Now he's behind bars.

Rafael Romo, thank you for that. What a story out of Nuevo Laredo.

And now have you seen this yet?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julia, turn the frown the other way around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Dave. You're from Minnesota, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the land of 10,000 lakes.


BALDWIN: This is the new ad from Volkswagen set to debut on Super Bowl Sunday. White guy, Jamaican accent, some people saying this ad is racist. What do you think? Send me a tweet @BrookeBCNN. We will take on this commercial controversy next.


BALDWIN: Volkswagen's new Super Bowl ad is sparking some controversy. Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they're the worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No worry, man. Everything will be all right. Yes, man. Don't fret me, brother. Sticky bun comes soon. Yes, wicked coffee, Mr. James. Julia.


BALDWIN: Let me bring in Geek Factory's branding and social media consultant, Peter Shankman in New York.

Peter, nice to have you on. We love having you on.

Let me say this. A couple of people, you have "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow told CNN this week that this ad is -- quote, unquote -- "blackface with voices." Also ad critic Barbara Lippert called the ad racist on "The Today Show." My question to you is, are those concerns fair? What do you think VW was going for from a marketing perspective?

PETER SHANKMAN, BRANDING AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT: From a marketing perspective, they were going for fun. VW has been known for fun.

First of all, they're the ones who did the Darth Vader commercial two years ago with the little kid and these people weren't complaining about, you know, racism towards citizens of Tatooine. This is a fun commercial that targets people having a good time and ways to cheer up. I saw the commercial as soon as the promos hit. I didn't think it was racist in the slightest. It's a funny commercial. It's cute. There is no offense intended. I think they're really -- they're looking for controversy where none exists.

BALDWIN: I can just hear the other side saying, Peter Shankman, those are citizens of Tatooine vs. real life actual people from Jamaica, not quite the same comparison.

SHANKMAN: It's true, but you're not looking -- to compare it to blackface is a stretch.

It's not an issue where -- blackface was demeaning, derogatory. This is poking fun in a good -- not in an insulting way to Jamaica. All the ads in Jamaica, visit Jamaica, Jamaica tourism, they all show the same things with the same voices and the same people having a good time. I just think it is a stretch to say it is a racist ad.

BALDWIN: And what is the saying? There's no such thing as bad P.R. Right? The fact we're talking about it is something they probably love, including, let me just get to the next one.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: Because Kate Upton, lovely lady, I have seen her in person at the White House Correspondents Dinner -- she rocked the cover of swimsuit edition of "Sports Illustrated," but here you have this lovely lady clearly distracting the fellows from washing a car, this Mercedes ad, kind of. Watch part of the clip.

Peter Shankman what is this all about here?

SHANKMAN: You really are asking me to criticize an ad...

BALDWIN: I'm not asking you to criticize a darn thing. But isn't this -- isn't this -- it's a like a teaser ad to an ad, isn't it?

SHANKMAN: It is. It is a teaser ad to an ad. This is, keep in mind, the same person who did an ad for Hardee's or Carl's Jr., where she's basically making love to a burger at a drive-through restaurant.

These ads are designed to shock. They're designed to get people to talk about them. And if you read anything more than half an inch into them, it is possibly time to get a hobby. You're not looking at -- they're not sitting there going, OK, we're going to design ads to insult people and to get people upset. They're designed to make you watch them over and over again on YouTube, watch them at the Super Bowl and talk about them.

If there is no humor in the ad, the ad has not been effective. And we're talking about it right here, as you guys are constantly, what, three or four times a day now. So, it's certainly doing its purpose.

BALDWIN: I just love that she's not the one actually washing the car.

SHANKMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

BALDWIN: It is these guys who are drooling watching her watch them wash the car.

Peter Shankman, thank you very much. See you next time.

SHANKMAN: Thank you, Brooke. All right.

BALDWIN: New developments here out of our breaking story. We want to take you back to what we know involving Syria.

The Syrian military is claiming that Israel has bombed a research facility. And we now know what kinds of missiles were used here. Stay right there.