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CNN NEWSROOM

Is Timberlake "Biggest Male Pop Star?"; Man Rushes Stage During Mayor's Speech; HBO's "Girls"; Get A Physical Or Else; Pot Tourism

Aired March 19, 2013 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I hear you. Kevin, let me talk to you because I woke up this morning. I read an article by your colleague, Andrew Romano.

This is what he writes about Timberlake's new album, "It's an inventive production, precise, subtle vocals, relentless hooks, push your love girl with its strutting beat, crafty metaphor, will sound particularly excellent on the car stereo this spring.

And Andrew went on to say that Justin Timberlake is this generation's Elvis Presley. Do you agree with your colleague?

KEVIN FALLON, REPORTER, "NEWSWEEK" AND "THE DAILY BEAST": I do. I do. You know, listen, there has been in the past few generations there hasn't really been a male pop star who sort of risen to the status of Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley. Justin Timberlake is sort of the closest thing that we have to that.

We've seen Beyonces and Rihannas and Madonnas all rise, but there really hasn't been someone of the Elvis or Michael Jackson variety. And I think that old school entertainer is what Justin Timberlake brings to the table.

BALDWIN: I have to say when I read that line about he's our generation's Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley. I heard grumbles around my corner of the newsroom. Tom, would you agree? A lot of people say Bruno Mars surpasses Timberlake when it comes to the sheer musicality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Bruno Mars wrote smarter songs this time, but to get to the point about Michael Jackson, you know, they didn't start calling Michael Jackson the "King of Pop" until he was four or five singles into the "Thriller" record.

And I would say the best jury on this is we'll see in August. If there is still a Justin Timberlake single from this record on the radio and still sort of running things commercially, then, you know, I'm prepared to re-evaluate this record.

But I think right now, this is a good triumph of a press agent who pulled every button imaginable to put Justin Timberlake where he is.

BALDWIN: Which brings me to my final point, I was sort of thinking about all of this and I'm curious because you have Justin Timberlake, the musician, Justin Timberlake the actor, Justin Timberlake the restaurateur. You know, he has, what like $35 million in MySpace.

I mean, he's got his fingers in a lot of parts of the world and I'm wondering if sort of his musicality has trumped by his celebrity and if that then hurts him. But then you think about the Beatles and the Elvis Presleys who it only helped them. I mean, I don't know what I think.

FALLON: If you look at the Michael Jacksons and the Elvis Presleys, they have empires and I think that's what Justin Timberlake is building for himself now, the celebrity empire and I think you need that if you want to be called the "King of Pop." And that's something that Bruno Mars and Usher just don't have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and he certainly is a diversified entertainer and I give it up to him all day long as an actor and he is indeed building that. But the Beatles built it on song craft. They wrote real songs over and over again for years and years and years.

And really what you're lacking at with Justin Timberlake is a catalogue of maybe seven, eight, nine chart stopping hits. A lot of stuff on the earlier records is competent, but doesn't rise to that level of enduring greatness. And I think this record doesn't have, but one or two things that we'll even want to remember.

BALDWIN: A.k.a. preschoolers with stock puppets. I appreciate your candor both of you, Tom Moon, Kevin Fallon. Thank you both very much.

Want to get now to show you some video, it shows how, yes, some people have total nerve and will do things most of us would not. Let me set the scene, the mayor of Kansas City Sly James is giving his state of the city address. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR SLY JAMES, KANSAS CITY: Those early efforts resulted in 5 billion --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This mayor just got through talking about exactly what --

JAMES: Well, that was unfortunate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That was unfortunate he says. Police took that man into custody. The mayor said he had no problems with what he wanted to say, only a, quote, "small problem with the method." Wow.

Coming up next, my hot topics panel faces off. Lily Tomlin says HBO's "Girls" is too sexual, doesn't have enough range. But isn't that all TV these days especially when you're talking Showtime and HBO?

Plus CVS Pharmacy, have you heard, asking employees to get a physical. If not, pay up. Is that fair?

And looking to attract tourists with a little marijuana. Our panelists are standing by, "Hot Topics" and the reveal next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: To the buzz stories now. For the next 20 minutes, you know the deal. We tackle the "Hot Topics" that will definitely dominate your dinner conversation tonight. First on our list today, HBO's hot comedy series "Girls." So here is some of the show, which stars actress and show creator Lena Dunham.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone who treats my heart like it's monkey meat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look like a max canteen ager.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you still have sex with me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it's appropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't take you anymore. You think that everyone in the world is out to humiliate you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you're 11 pounds overweight, you don't struggle?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am 13 pounds overweight and it has been awful my whole life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: If you watch "Girls", you know, the scenes, it's a lot of skin, gets a little dirty, gets uncomfortable, a lot of detail. And while critics and fans love it, one well-known actress, Lily Tomlin talked to "Vanity Fair" this month. Here's what she said. This is part of her quote.

"I think it's too sexually focused, it should have more range. But the sexuality is what will bring the big audience and a lot of young girls I suppose puzzling over what to do and what not to do or how to do it."

Let me bring in the panel today. We have Rachel Sklar, social entrepreneur and founder of "Change the Ratio," Dolvett Quince, trainer on "The Biggest Loser," from "Essence" magazine, we have the managing editor, Vanessa Bush, and we also have political comedian, Dean Obeidallah.

Welcome to all of you here. Dean Obeidallah, let me begin with you. I don't know if you watch the show at all, but listening to Lily Tomlin, do you think she has a point?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: I think -- forget talking about the sex. Lena Dunham is naked all the time. Do they not have a wardrobe budget on this show? She's walking out withOUT pants. But I'll be honest with you about the sex it's part of the character. It's part of the story line.

They're not objectifying women like we see on show after show. So I have to defend Lena Dunham frankly on this one. I think it's part of the show. It's the creative process and she should have every right to do this.

BALDWIN: Vanessa, do you agree or disagree?

VANESSA BUSH, "ESSENCE" MAGAZINE: I kind of disagree. I mean, I was really struck by what Tomlin was saying about how, you know, I wouldn't give myself away that easily, so clearly there is still an ambivalence that we have about our sexuality, our sexual freedom and how we should express it.

BALDWIN: Let me jump in. So I think what you're trying to say, part of what Lily Tomlin, one of the fallouts of feminism the girls become more accessible, maybe not wisely accessible. A lot of young girls are expected to give a certain sexual act now, young, young girls, as far as I can perceive, maybe 12, 13 years old. That's a right of passage I suppose, as a feminist, I don't want those girls to be used. Is that what you're getting at, Vanessa?

BUSH: Absolutely. I mean, obviously they're making choices, creative choices and that's their right. However, they do have to realize the influence that they have on young women who are watching the show and --

RACHEL SKLAR, FOUNDER, "CHANGE THE RATIO": I think it's pretty clear on the show if you watch it that the girls in the show are not presented as role models per se. They are presented as -- girls are presented as characters, 20 somethings fumbling through, trying to figure out how to become fully formed humans.

And for me, I would actually like to see the girls focus more on safe sex and maybe reading a newspaper, but that's not what the show is about. It's not an after school special that I remember from my youth. You know, it's requiring the audience to do the heavy lifting of drawing their own conclusions.

BALDWIN: Dolvett, I want to get to you. Listen, I happen -- I was at the Golden Globes, I was on the red carpet and I talked to Lena Dunham. I asked her precisely this. I'm a fan of the show. But for a bunch of different reasons, I asked her why are you so totally pushing the envelope? Here's what Lena told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: You push the envelope in the show. I mean, it makes people come back, I'm sure it offends some people. But at the same time, why do you want to embrace that element and do those things?

LENA DUNHAM, CREATOR OF "GIRLS": I feel like, yes, when you're at HBO, they definitely don't bleep anything out, but I also felt like there was a certain realism lacking from the portrayal of women in their 20s and I thought part of that lack was from shying away from sexual content and from political content. And I really just wanted to make a show that captured the lives of my friends, a complicated group of girls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Dovett, what's wrong with that idea?

DOLVETT QUINCE, TRAINER, "THE BIGGEST LOSER": Honestly in my opinion, nothing. At the end of the day, I think this is the expression of young women today. Young women who have a voice and Lena Dunham has done a great job in expressing that voice.

It's a modern day "Sex in the City." A little more controversial, but again, to her point, viewers will tune in for that reason. You know, hopefully, they'll have better content in the future in terms of making contraception something that's public and educational, but it's not a bad choice. It's a great show.

BALDWIN: I could go on. We have to leave it there because let's talk health insurance. This is something that got all of us talking this morning. You know, give us personal medical information or pay hundreds of dollars. This is the message from CVS to its employees now. Is it an invasion of privacy, is it fair business practice? We'll weigh in on that one next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A new policy from a national drug store chain is triggering all kinds of controversies. The company, CVS, they call it is motivation. Critics call it retaliation. Here's how it works. CVS, they ask their employees to get medical screenings and must report the screenings to their health insurer.

I'm talking body weight, body fat, blood pressure, glucose, all according to the "Boston Herald." CVS is based in New England. Now, "The Herald" says if an employee does not do this, he or she then has to pay 600 bucks more a year for the company health insurance.

CVS says it would pay for these employees to go to the doctor to get the screenings for its reported 200,000 workers. And here is an important note, CVS says all screening results would remain private between the worker and the insurer. The move is to help employees become more aware of his or her health. Healthy employees keep company's costs down. As our trainer health guy, what's wrong with this?

QUINCE: You know, I have to be honest with you, absolutely nothing in my opinion. We always complain about the obesity issue and how health and fitness has-of-something has to be done. Finally, there is a company encouraging people to say, look, either pay or take care of yourself.

BALDWIN: There are people that say you're discriminating against the sicker employee, am I really sure my information is private? What do you say to them?

SKLAR: That's the difference between encouraging and compelling. I think there's a really big difference. If CVS wanted to encourage their workers, they could offer some sort of break on insurance or financial incentive to get people to do it voluntarily. Once it's defactor compelled --

QUINCE: That's the problem, people don't do it voluntarily.

BALDWIN: Some companies do offer financial incentive. Go ahead, Vanessa.

BUSH: Really in my opinion, I mean, it seems like the intention was positive, but what they're doing is really punitive because you're not rewarding people for -- I can see rewarding people for achieving their fitness goals and that's an option that many companies offer as opposed to having someone monetarily penalized.

BALDWIN: So instead of get your BMI or pay money, instead you get the money in return like a reward. Is that what you're saying?

BUSH: Yes, exactly.

QUINCE: So you think people would respond better to rewarding them to do weight loss instead of taking it away from them, taking money from them? I think people --

BUSH: Money talks.

QUINCE: I think they're -- money definitely talks.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Dean.

QUINCE: You have to do something or else.

OBEIDALLAH: One thing that I don't like, CVS is saying this is a voluntary program for workers. If you don't do the voluntary program, you're fined $600. That's not voluntary at all. That concerns me.

Second you gather data on employees about who is sick, who potentially has diabetes or heart problems, you know what, those cause higher insurance costs. Maybe they'll look for excuses to fire employees. It's a tough job market and you can fire them for any reason if you don't have an employment contract.

BALDWIN: Let me let everyone know what CVS says, "Benefits program is evolving to help our colleagues take more responsibility for improving their health and managing health associated costs.

An initial step to accomplish this goal is a health screening and wellness reviews so that colleagues know their key health metrics in order to take action to improve their numbers if necessary. I'm hearing some of you saying you should be paid, some of you makes sense that you have to pay up as an incentive.

But let's talk vacations, certain special kind of vacation. How about a trip aboard a cannabis Cruise, staying at a bud and breakfast? Yes, a Washington state entrepreneur has visions of using marijuana to attract tourists, but not everyone is loving this idea. We'll weigh in on that, pot tourism, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Here we go. A Washington State man has a vision for his state to better capitalize on cannabis. Washington last November approved recreational pot smoking and a man told our Seattle affiliate King TV he would like to see cannibal cruises, Mary Jane Members Social Club and so much more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: License certain cabs where the driver is sealed off, bud and breakfast are being used in California.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Forgive as I'm laughing at myself now. I've been corrected, apparently, I said cannibal and of course, I meant, cannabis. Let me move on. He's talking bud and breakfast, pot tourism may be the future, but should it really be?

And right now that's the question. If it can be, entrepreneurs are finding out that a lot of federal regulations are getting in the way of this. Remember, under the federal law, marijuana is still illegal.

Rachel, let's begin with you. If you live in Washington State, look, it's one thing to have someone maybe smoking in their own home, but this is public, maybe it's a cruise, maybe it's a party. How would you feel having stoners getting high in your state on vacation?

SKLAR: Why is everyone harsh on the mellow man? You know, I think we have booze cruises and Seattle is already a Mecca for a certain kind of, you know, very effective stimulant, i.e. coffee. So they're taking it to the next step.

I think as the law evolves, we will see entrepreneurs such as this taking it to the next level and taking it to the market and seeing if there's a demand. As long as it exists within the framework of legality, might as well just see what happens. But put this way, a cannibal cruise would be much worse.

BALDWIN: I said cannibal, cannabis. Dean, let me go to you. I got a tweet, this could be just as damaging as going to the Napa Valley and drinking your faceoff, drinking too much wine. Do you see that as the same or no?

OBEIDALLAH: Actually, it could be similar, but the voters of Washington State said this is fine. So why not make some money off it. Bring tourists in. They'll get high. They will buy a lot of nachos, pizza, and junk food goes through the roof. Maybe other states get competitive, Oregon legalizes ecstasy. They get people go there. Why not? You know what, Brooke? They do state lottery and gambling is potentially worse than getting addicted to marijuana. So for me I have no problem with it. I don't smoke pot, but they legalized it. Why not take advantage of the business opportunity of this.

BALDWIN: You bring up the business opportunity. So we reached out to visit Seattle, a private non-profit. They initially said they would be open to this kind thing, but now they're saying this to CNN, quote, "I have no plans," this is the president of visit Seattle.

"I have no plans to market tourism dollars towards it. If things become more solid in terms of how the federal government views it in the future, that could change. For now not changing anything we're doing now."

Vanessa though, sort of to Dean's point, I mean, supporters say it could raise as much as $500 million for the state. A figure many analysts say is overstated, but does it matter? If you're bringing money in to the state, does it matter where the money comes from? Would that bother you?

BUSH: You know, we allow -- we get funding from the lottery, we get funding in putting certain taxes on what they call sin taxes. Personally, I don't think that it's something -- I laughed out loud when I heard because can you imagine the insurance possibility you'd have to take on to have somebody smoking pot on a cruise ship? It blows my mind to think the potential could be for disaster, but I guess an argument could be made.

BALDWIN: Dolvett, you get the last word on pot, my friend.

QUINCE: First time I've heard that. It's interesting to me. Like this guy Michael is high when he came up with this concept. I mean, I can picture him on this bus driving around and for getting where to park. I think recreation is one thing, but involving the outside of everyone else's group to go have a pot fest, you know, that's a little too much.

BALDWIN: And we'll end it there. I'd like being first for you saying that. Dolvett Quince, Dean Obeidallah, Vanessa Bush and Rachel Sklar, thank you all.

Coming up next, sex, secrets and espionage, a defense contractor charged with telling top secret information to his mistress, but wait until you hear who she is and how he was caught.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)