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All Eyes on Sistine Chapel Chimney; Boy Scouts Wrestle with Gay Scout Leaders; How Vatican Makes White, Black Smoke; Mississippi Passes Anti-Bloomberg Bill

Aired March 13, 2013 - 13:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tell us what they do to the actual ballots before they burn them, how they assemble them.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Of course, after that second bank of three cardinals is done counting the ballots, the Latin word for "I vote for" is "I lego," "I elect so and so," so those ballots are collected and each is pierced with a needle through the "O" of "I lego."

CUOMO: Every single one in the same place?

ALLEN: Every single one, 115 ballots, and they're knitted together so you have a pack of them. And that's, of course, what's deposited in the famous stove at the back of the Sistine Chapel.

We should say, of course, there isn't normally a stove in the Sistine Chapel. There isn't normally a chimney. Remember earlier today there was a brief scare about whether some of that smoke had issued out into the Sistine Chapel itself, potentially either aggravating some of the cardinals or perhaps damaging --


CUOMO: They did say there was no smoke and there may be a reason for that. Tell us.

ALLEN: It's happened in the past. As I say, that installation isn't normally there, so therefore the fitting isn't exact. In conclaves in the past centuries, it has happened where the chimney malfunctioned and smoke spilled into the Sistine Chapel and they had to step out. There's reasonable concern about whether or not that might have happened today.

CUOMO: This is an interesting conversation to have because, while we're having it each of us has to keep looking at the chimney.

It's tough for you, John, because you're staring at us and giving you our profile.

But we don't know the names on the table, but we know they will very likely change in some way if this vote comes black?

ALLEN: You can take it to the bank, if there's no pope elected tonight, when those cardinals go back to the Casa Santa Marta, the hotel on Vatican grounds where they're staying -- you know, unless the situation is one candidate is just a couple votes short of the two- thirds majority. If the other scenario plays itself out, which is votes have been divided across two or three candidates and it doesn't look like any one of those candidates is going to any time soon get to that threshold of 77 votes, which would represent two-thirds, they're going to have an awful lot of heavy lifting to do tonight to figure out either, A, can we reconfigure the alliances so one of those candidates gets more support? Or, do we have to go shopping among the lengthy list of plausible but B-list candidates we carried into this exercise?

CUOMO: The feed we're looking at on our screen has a little busy video around it. We're looking at a separate feed at the same time just so you know at home. What you see there is not smoke coming out of the chimney. Just so you know as you see that at home. We'll keep on watching. It is almost imminent now. We have to be within some degree of a few minutes because this should be when the second vote is being tallied.

We'll stay on smoke watch for now. Back to you in the studio.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Gentlemen, thanks so much. We'll check back with you as we all continue to be on that smoke watch.

So the science behind the smoke. Chad Myers will be with me in a moment after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. As we continue to watch the chimney there over the Sistine Chapel, of course you're hearing a lot of discussions about the white smoke or black smoke. What does it mean? White smoke meaning the cardinals have elected a new pope. Black smoke meaning no candidate has a two-thirds majority.

Let's bring in our Chad Myers to get a better understanding as to how they do that.

How do they make black smoke emerge versus white smoke? What's involved?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Considering this is going on for centuries, it's interesting we're using pyrotechnics to get to these colors.

We'll get to the graphic to show what's going on. Two separate furnaces or stoves. One will burn the documents, the ballots. And one will burn the chemicals that will move the white or the black smoke up the chimney. They actually come together. These two chimneys will come together as one and then go up to the top. So there's the smoke going up the top. And before the smoke comes out they preheat the inside of the chimney and they turn on an exhaust fan just in case. So we talked about the smoke --


WHITFIELD: Clear it up. So there's no confusion.

MYERS: It's going up one way or the other.

WHITFIELD: They don't want gray.


MYERS: They had that with Pope John Paul --



MYERS: -- like in 1876, or whatever that was.

So this is almost the same as a snap cap. You know those white things you throw on the ground on the fourth of July, snap? If you put that together with lactose, as long as you're not intolerant, it will burn white. The other thing the black is almost would be a sparkler. It's kind of that potassium chloride. There's the white with the pine tar and the black is a little more stable but putting together a little bit of coal tar and the sulfur in that burns black. It will go up the chimney. Yesterday, we could tell it was black.

WHITFIELD: It was very black. In abundance.

MYERS: This morning a little gray and then turned black. I believe that was because the ballot caught on fire first and the gray smoke went up and the black smoke caught up to it. That's what really came up.

WHITFIELD: Oh, fascinating stuff.

All right. Of course, we're all riveted.


We're all watching that chimney. And the world is watching.

MYERS: And the bird.

WHITFIELD: And the bird. Yes, the bird with the Twitter handle.


But it's flown the coop for now. It's Twitter handle still very active.


MYERS: I don't know what it is.

WHITFIELD: There's all kinds of fun dialogue going on.


Chad Myers, thanks so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: As we continue to watch there, the Sistine Chapel to see what kind of plume of smoke we're going to see coming out of that chimney.

We'll have much more right after this.



WHITFIELD: It's the most popular chimney all around the world. And people are there with their hats and their umbrellas in Rome awaiting a signal from those 115 cardinals there in the Sistine Chapel wanting to see whether the smoke is going to be white or black. Either one signifying of the outcome of the vote as the cardinals try to select a new pope. We'll keep a close watch on it.

Meantime, here in this country, the Boy Scouts of America, as a national organization, is still wrestling with whether to allow openly gay Scouts and openly gay Scout leaders. So they are taking a rather direct approach. They're asking parents and Scouts straight out, yes or no, is there a place for gays and lesbians in Scouting? A list of questions went out to more than a million Scouts and leaders asking their opinions about camping together, sleeping in tents together, and what they would do if Scouting was open to gays and lesbians.

I want to get our Lisa Sylvester to join us now from Washington. And from Pittsburgh, Jennifer Tyrrell, a Cub Scout den leader forced out of Scouting because of her sexual orientation.

Lisa, you first. Tell me about this survey how it went out and what kind of reception it's receiving.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Fred. This survey went out as an e-mail to about a million registered volunteers and parents. And we've got just a sample of one of the questions. I'm going to read it for you. It says, "A gay male troop leader along with another adult leader is taking a group of boys on a camping trip following the youth protection guidelines of two-deep leadership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the gay adult leader to take the adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip"? Now, the answers range anywhere from totally acceptable to totally unacceptable.

All of this comes as the Boy Scouts' national executive board, they put off a vote in February on whether or not they should lift the outright ban on openly homosexual Scouts and troop leaders. And now they are expected to make a decision in May.

The group in a statement said today, quote, "We are currently in the listening phase where the BSA's committees engage key stakeholders for input and develop a summary report. Part of this process is to survey a variety of key stake holders." Conservative groups though, they have said that opening up the organization, that it runs counter to many troops chartered by churches where the doctrine of faith openly opposes homosexuality.

On the other hand, you have the gay rights groups saying the Boy Scouts shouldn't be endorsing discrimination.

Also I should mention, Fred, the fact this survey it was actually conducted by a conservative group called North Star Opinion Research. And that is a Republican polling firm, headed by a Republican strategist. And some critics are suggesting maybe these questions that they were written in a very specific way to illicit a very specific kind of response. We've reached out to North Star and we're still waiting to hear back.

But the Boy Scouts, they say it was a third party, it was fairly done. The survey was fairly done. And so now they're waiting for the responses.

WHITFIELD: And so what will happen with those responses?

SYLVESTER: Well, the Boy Scouts of America, they say they're going to listen, they're going -- it's about a million responses that they're going to get from the volunteers and parents. And they're also reaching out to previous Scouts, people who have been in the Scouting program before. They're going to take all this information and they're going to use it to make part of the decision. It's not going to be solely the basis for the decision, but it's one aspect of what they will use to ultimately decide what they should do in this case.

WHITFIELD: All right. Lisa, thanks so much.

Meantime, Jennifer Tyrrell out of Pittsburgh now.

You were a Cub Scout den leader. What's your thought on this survey taking place? Especially the sequence in which this survey has come out?

JENNIFER TYRRELL, FORMER CUB SCOUT DEN MOTHER: Well, I had a chance to look at some of the survey questions. And they're definitely poorly written and very leading. To say it's a third party, it's fine. But they're definitely leading.

I feel like if the Boy Scouts wanted an expert opinion on this, they could really go to everything that's already been previously documented, the fact that gay people are no more likely to harm a child than anyone else, the fact that the American Medical Association has said that this type of policy, this type of discrimination is very harmful to children. They really don't need to continue to have surveys and call-ins.

I personally delivered 1.4 million signatures myself and a bunch of other folks to Dallas headquarters last month saying, hey, these 1.4 million people want Scouting to be changed. And that's what we want. We're not looking to take down Scouts. We want to be a part of Scouts. And we're telling them that there's absolutely no reason that gay people can't safely join Scouts. They've safely been there already. They just want to be there and be able to be who they are.

WHITFIELD: What were some of the questions on this survey that you thought were leading if not offensive?

TYRRELL: Well, the one that your other guest had mentioned about the camp out. To me, it's geared to inflict some sort of fear response. It's gay panic. Oh, my gosh, you know, this is -- my child's going to be alone with a homosexual. Well, gay people are not predators. There's really nothing to worry about. They're not looking to prey on other people. It's just -- the question is supposed to make you afraid so that you want to -- in my opinion.

One of my favorite questions was, I'm going to say it's about myself personally, a lesbian den leader and her son, Johnny, join, and they ask her to be a den leader even though she's gay and they all know she's gay and then she --


WHITFIELD: You felt pretty definitive they are talking about you.

TYRRELL: I'm pretty sure. I blogged about it on my blog at pittsburghlesbiancorrespondence, if you want to check that out.

WHITFIELD: We'll have to check that out.

Jennifer Tyrrell, thanks so much for joining us.

Lisa Sylvester, also joining us from Washington.

Appreciate both of you.

All right, super-size. You know what I'm talking about. Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying no, but some Mississippi lawmakers say, yes, please. How they are trying to push an anti-Bloomberg bill that would prevent limits on what consumers can eat.

And live pictures right now of that famous chimney above the Sistine Chapel there in Vatican City. We're keeping a close watch. Will the smoke be white or black?

More after this.


WHITFIELD: We're nearing an end to the second session of voting for the 115 cardinals there in Vatican City. You're looking at the chimney above the Sistine Chapel. When smoke does arrive, it will signify whether there is a decision or not, black or white smoke. And, of course, as that happens, we'll get to it right away.

Meantime, back in this country, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's push to ban the sale of large sugary drinks in his city would have gone into effect yesterday if a judge hadn't said "not so fast." A win for soda companies, a loss for supporters of anti-obesity policies. Now lawmakers looking on from Mississippi are saying, not in our state. They approved a measure known as the Anti-Bloomberg Bill. And it is now on the governor's desk.

Joining us now, Dr. Sandra Moore, from the Morehouse School of Medicine, and on the phone with us now, Greg Holloway, the legislator who ushered this bill through the Mississippi House.

So, Greg, you first. Why have this piece of legislation?

STATE REP. GREGORY HOLLOWAY, (R), MISSISSIPPI (voice-over): Well, first of all, Senate Bill 2687 states that the Mississippi legislature retains the authority to make decisions about regulation on food. And Mississippi municipalities would not experiment with regulatory bans and restrictions of food products.

We believe that food is already highly regulated to ensure safety by four different regulatory agencies, the USDA, the FDA, the State Department of Health, and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce.


HOLLOWAY: And we just believe that this will take away individual freedoms.

WHITFIELD: So in a state that has very high numbers of obesity, you're nervous about an effort to try to restrict, I guess, sugary drinks, et cetera. Why?

HOLLOWAY: We just believe that -- that they can do that in conjunction with these four regulatory agencies, but we reserve the right for them to come to the legislature and ask for permission to do that, and not just political subdivisions have any authority to just go out and do it, because it could be very detrimental if we're not doing it all, you know, all together. We don't -- we believe that it is -- if it is arbitrarily and capriciously done, it can cause more damage than it can good.

WHITFIELD: That's what a judge in New York said, this is arbitrary.

Dr. Moore, in your view, to have legislature -- to have a bill, to have it on the books that there are restrictions in place to try and maintain the weight of the populace, you like that or not?

DR. SANDRA MOORE, MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I think communities have to be empowered to make good decisions at the community level and so the community wants more information. When communities don't have enough information or access to those things that are going to make their lifestyle healthier, you start to get concerned about what is happening for the community, where people live, work and play.

WHITFIELD: Where are you on the Mississippi effort to say, if anything, we don't want to go the path of what New York's attempt was?

MOORE: Well, I think you can do both as extremes. And being one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, if you take the control out of the local community, the community may not even know what is in their food. They may not have access to what is in their diet, and also have excessive access to poor health choices, so excessive sugary drinks, excessive candies. You really get concerned, do they have the opportunities in place to even live a healthier lifestyle?

WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Sandra Moore, thank you very much.

Gregory Holloway, thank you for joining us as well.

We appreciate that and appreciate the continued discussion about it.

Meantime, we continue to watch and wait on that chimney right there over Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. We'll have much more of our coverage of the waiting and the watching game of the cardinals' vote for a new pope.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Our coverage continues right after this.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Inside, 115 cardinals are on their fifth ballot. Outside, a chimney with many pairs of eyes upon us as we sit here, waiting, to see when this smoke will come, we must be getting close to when the second vote of the afternoon session is being tallied and completed. Then it will be burned.

But, John Allen, senior Vatican analyst here for CNN, you have added a couple of facts to the equation that could explain something going on beyond simple tallying. What else could be going on that could prolong this session?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: One possibility is the cardinals could be praying the night prayer of the Catholic Church, called Vespers, in the Sistine Chapel before they decide to leave and make their way to the Casa Santa Marta.

Another possibility -- that's the spiritual possibility. The more human possibility is that in-between the two ballots, typically, there is a bathroom break because there are no restrooms inside the Sistine Chapel. Depending on how long that takes, you can add five, 10, 15 minutes to either side of the equation.

CUOMO: Allow me to introduce the Broglio issue. Broglio, the cardinal from Argentina, believed to have finished second to Ratzinger last conclave. This time, barely mentioned in the speculation leading up to this. A retired cardinal told me today, we do that at our own risk because he would be the perfect candidate to bring both sides together if the big names don't get it done in the early rounds of vetting. Does that make sense to you?

ALLEN: It does, Chris. Listen, when I did my profile of cardinal Broglio to the run-up to this. One of the things frustrating for a journalist -- this is an election. When you're trying to find out who is up and who is down, in normal elections we have empirical data to work with. We look at polls, crowd size, campaign war chests. We don't have any of that.

CUOMO: Here we look at a chimney.

ALLEN: We look at a chimney.

CUOMO: The chimney is all there is.

ALLEN: But one thing we have to go on in this case is past performance. We know that Cardinal Broglio was a serious candidate last time.

CUOMO: Do we know how he's reacted since learning he was almost pope?

ALLEN: As you know, the cardinals take a vow of secrecy about what goes on in the conclaves. Cardinal Broglio has never directly addressed what happened --


CUOMO: Has he been active, has anything betrayed in his countenance or his actions?

ALLEN: I think he was a very humble man prior to that moment. I think he has continued to be a very humble man after. I don't think he's comported himself any differently as an almost pope. I think he's continued to be a widely respected leader for the church in Argentina and Latin America.

Now, the problem is he's now eight years older than he was last time around. He's 76. He's had a couple of health scares. And on the back of a pope who has resigned, sighting age and exhaustion, I think those would be serious question marks.

CUOMO: Does he represent significant reforms in the areas that matter? Has he been an outspoken critic of the sex abuse scandal? Has he been someone pushing to do things differently for Vatican accountability with finances? Is he anywhere on those?

ALLEN: The child sex abuse scandal has not erupted in Argentina the same way it has in the United States and Europe. But on the few occasions where he has commented on it, he has taken what you would consider the kind of reform line, which is support for zero tolerance, support for purification, so on.