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The New Pope; Sanford on the Comeback Trail; Bloomberg Wants Stores To Hide Cigarettes

Aired March 19, 2013 - 08:00   ET




O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Father Edward Beck is back. He's a CNN contributor.

Christopher John Farley is a senior editor director of digital features of "The Wall Street Journal."

Nice to have you, gentlemen, with this us this morning. We appreciate it.



O'BRIEN: Our STARTING POINT this morning is a new world pope is inaugurated. A new era for the Catholic Church is now under way with quite a scene this in Vatican City, as tens of thousands of worshippers in St. Peter's Square and millions more around the world are praying for and praying with Pope Francis during his historic inaugural mass as he delivered the homily.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): We are all protectors of creation, of the plan of God written in nature -- protectors of one another, of the environment. Let us not allow that signs of destruction and death accompany our journey of this world.


O'BRIEN: The crowds for inauguration were smaller than expected and the celebration included some touching moments, like that one right where the pope kissed the crying baby who for a second stopped crying, from surprised I guess, and then went back to crying.

And then he went into the crowd and had an opportunity to bless a sick man. You see him there as he kissed him on the forehead.

Our senior European correspondent Jim Bittermann is in Rome. He's following today's papal event. Jim, good morning.


The fact is those were kind of visual representations of what the pope's homily would be later on. He talked very much on St. Joseph's saint day today. We talked very much about St. Joseph's need to protect and the example of protecting and he said to serve is to protect.

And it's a message meant not only for his fellow churchmen, for the faithful, but also for the assembled dignitaries that were huge crowd of dignitaries, 130 odd delegations, as well as 30 heads of state. There were heads of government. There were crown heads of Europe, and it was a huge moment for the church, the kind of thing that we see very seldom and I think a lot of people wanted to be here for the moment, as well as those heads of states and heads of government, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Jim Bittermann for us this morning -- thank you, Jim. We appreciate it.

Let's get right to John Berman who's got a look at some of the top stories making news today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Soledad.

We're following a developing story in Nevada right now: an explosion late last night at the Hawthorne Army depot in the western part of the state. A spokesman says this explosion occurred during a Marine Corps training exercise. We have no word yet on the cause, but a base official says the traffic accident was somehow involved.

There are injuries, four medical helicopters were sent to the scene. The spokesman says the explosion did not happen near ammunition storage units.

Police at the University of Central Florida now believe a massacre may have been avoided when a former students apparently took his own life. Officers were called to a dorm early Monday morning after a student reported his roommate pulled a gun on him. When a police arrived, they found the body of 30-year-old James Oliver Seevakumaran. They also found detailed plans for an attack. Four homemade bombs, a handgun, an assault weapon, hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

A former army office is arrested and facing 20 years in prison. The Justice Department says Benjamin Bishop shared classified nuclear defense information for the young Chinese women. She's living in Hawaii on a visa. Prosecutors say she does not have a security clearance and is not allowed to see these classified nuclear documents. Bishop had been working for a defense contractor as a civilian employee.

President Obama travels to the Middle East tonight, the first overseas trip of his second term. He'll meet with leaders in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. Israel is the first stop on the trip and this is the first time the president is visiting Israel since he took office. One of the key topics of discussion with Israel leaders, how to contain Iran's growing nuclear program.

The trial is over. Two teenage boys were found guilty, but police say the victim in the Steubenville rape case, the victim is still receiving threats. Her mother is also speaking out.

The sheriff in Jefferson County, Ohio, says two teenage girls are now in custody for threatening the rape victim with tweets that allegedly threaten to beat or kill her. In an audio statement, her mother called on people to help those in need and stand up for what's right -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. That's such a terrible story and the idea that even after the trial, it continues on.

BERMAN: The ordeal is not over.

O'BRIEN: Oh, not at all.

So, on this day as a new pope being inaugurated, the former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford seeking redemption himself. Sanford is one of 16 Republicans who are competing in today's special GOP primary in South Carolina's first congressional district. It's first campaign since, you might remember, back in 2009, he kind of vanished from the state, ultimately admitted that he was lying about his whereabouts, because he was covering up an affair.

CNN's national political correspondent is Jim Acosta. He's in Charleston, South Carolina, for us this morning.

Hey, Jim. Good morning.


That's right. Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is trying to make the transition from the Appalachian Trail to the political comeback trail. But to get his shot at redemption, he has to pass a field of nearly 20 different candidates and he's hardly the biggest name in the race.



ACOSTA (voice-over): In South Carolina, Mark Sanford needs no introduction, but after the former governor of this state famously tried to cover up an affair by falsely telling the public he was hiking the Appalachian trail --

SANFORD: I've been unfaithful to my wife.

ACOSTA: -- a reintroduction wouldn't hurt. SANFORD: We can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances.

ACOSTA: Now, Sanford is asking for voters for a second chance to win his old congressional seat.

(on camera): After what you put the voters of this state through, why should they give you a second chance?

SANFORD: I think that that's one an individually determined thing, that's what a vote is about. So what I would say on the larger notion of forgiveness, is that some people forgave me the next day, some will never forgive me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I'm in this race because I'm worried.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Sanford still has to win his primary against a field of 15, yes, 15 GOP rivals. Some are fixtures in state politics, another, Teddy Turner, is the son of CNN founder Ted Turner. He's been hit with negative attacks.

TEDDY TURNER (R), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You know, it's absolutely amazing about how dirty the game is, how expensive the game is. It just doesn't make sense.

ACOSTA: And if that's not enough to grab the voters' attention --

ELIZABETH COLBERT BUSCH (D), SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I thank you for your vote and thank you for the support.

ACOSTA: The winner on the Republican side will likely face Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, the Democratic favorite and yes, the sister of late- night funny man Stephen Colbert.

(on camera): And it's Colbert.

BUSCH: Colbert. Right.

ACOSTA: Not Colbert.

BUSCH: That's right.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Although she pronounces the name differently.

(on camera): This is not a joke?

BUSCH: This is not a joke. I don't think anybody would think that this was a joke. This is all too important, all too important with the condition our country is in.


ACOSTA: And because Mark Sanford is not expected to pick up 50 percent of the vote, he'll have to compete in a runoff against one of those GOP rivals in a couple of weeks, and then comes the general election in May. So, the former governor of South Carolina is not out of the woods yet -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: Jim Acosta for us -- thanks, Jim.

Interesting to see the huge field and hear the pause we saw from Mark Sanford. That surprised me a bit when he was asked, why should a voter invest in you again?

FARLEY: It's the most obvious question. You would think he would be completely prepared from it. But when Jim Acosta asked him the question, it was such a long pause, you wonder -- well, what else is he not prepared for? You would think that's the question everybody would be waiting to ask --

O'BRIEN: That's kind of a biggie right there.

FARLEY: Very odd.

BECK: But, you know, we teach with God, there's always a comeback, no one is beyond God's mercy and forgiveness. So, I don't know what he's changed in his life, and what he has. You know, the motto from the Coat of Arms that Pope Francis said, having had mercy, he called him -- which referred to the calling of Matthew, the tax collector, the sinner.

So, this is going to be an extension if I can relate it to the papacy of bringing in anybody. So, I mean, he made mistakes, Sanford, definitely. But nobody is beyond God's mercy and forgiveness. So, we'll have to see.

O'BRIEN: But God isn't the only one with a vote on this.


O'BRIEN: The voters in South Carolina, and that's the dilemma, they can forgive him, and they feel charity in their hearts, but not want to install him in his own job.

BECK: But don't we all say, but for the grace of God go I? I mean, if we really --

O'BRIEN: Every day.

BECK: -- look in all of our lives, we all have something, it just doesn't get revealed to the public the same way it did for him. So, I don't know. I like to give him a benefit of the doubt.

O'BRIEN: I think that that's actually going to be the $64,000 question, right? Are you posing, do voters feel that way? Do they feel like, listen, every person needs another opportunity and here is a guy who they liked before, his drama happened, and they feel the charity of their hearts to give him another shake at it. Or do people feel resentful for what he put the community through? I mean, that's going to be the big question.

BECK: But let's (INAUDIBLE), he did come off as kind of an odd guy. Walking the trail, nobody knew where he was, and all of that in there too. It wasn't just the mistake. So, I have to see if I could give that part, too.

BERMAN: When you say there, but for the grace of God go I, I don't think you are not talking about the Appalachian Trail.

BECK: Maybe.

O'BRIEN: You could be. Might be.

FARLEY: I think that Stephen Colbert is somehow involved in the mixture I think is going to make it much more entertaining if he's going to comment in what's going on.

O'BRIEN: Another great question to see the degree to which his star power will affect her race. Interesting.

All right. I want to take a look at extreme weather now. Believe it or not, spring officially starts tomorrow. You wouldn't know it, hanging out outside. Here in New York, persistent wild winter storms causing headaches from the Upper Midwest, to the South.

Here's a scene in Tennessee, a tornado touched down about 40 miles west of Nashville today, Monday rather, afternoon. Damaged some homes and blocked some roads too. It was blowing snow that forced the closure of many roads and highways in the Upper Midwest. Snow, ice, and rain turned roads in the New York City into a slippery mess overnight. More snow, and lots of it, expected in New England today.

I want to get right to Alison Kosik. She's live in Concord, New Hampshire. They could get a foot and a half.

But, of course, Alison, if you pick a place that knows how to deal with snow, you're kind of standing in it.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, if it had to snow, at least it has had to be this kind of snow, because this kind of snow is not the headache kind of snow. This stuff, you can build sand castles, you can go skiing -- the ski resorts love this kind of snow.

And it's beautiful. Look at this. Picture perfect. I want to put that on the postcard.

Yes, accumulations, though, are expected about to a foot by the time the snow stops falling around midnight. So, that's about -- they are predicting about an inch of snowfall per hour. The plows -- they have been going is back and forth all morning, as you can see, downtown area here being plowed vigorously, getting ready for everybody to go to work.

I've talked to one shop owner who says, you know what? This is really nothing. The only annoyance is that tomorrow is spring. Though Mother Nature, he doesn't follow the calendar, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Alison Kosik for us this morning -- thank you, Alison. Appreciate the update.

Ahead this morning, first, he tried to ban supersized sugary drinks and how that turned out. There's an appeal. And now, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking on cigarettes. Another controversial plan to get those cigarettes out of sight and out of mind.

Then, is there a penalty for women who are likeable? Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg thinks so and has a plan to try to even the playing field. The second part of my interview with Sheryl Sandberg is straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Just a week after a judge put a stop to his campaign to limit large servings of sugary drinks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is back with another controversial proposal. How often do we see that about him? Controversial proposal from the mayor.

This time, the mayor wants a first of its kind law that would require stores to essentially hide cigarettes. Bloomberg was first guest on the new CNN show "THE LEAD," which is hosted by Jake Tapper, and here's what he said.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: What we are trying to continue the record reduction in smoking. In New York City, we brought smoking among teenagers down from 18 percent to 8 percent.

But the bad news is, for the last three years, it sort of stagnated at that level and smoking is going to kill these kids. It's going to leave them with not the great career prospects that you'd like, not the education that you like. As adults, they're very likely to smoke if they smoke as kids and that's going to shorten their lives and reduce the quality of their life.

So, smoking is a very big deal.


O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin is a CNN senior legal analyst and he's with us this morning. So, let's talk legally first. Is he on shaky ground legally? Like what is giving him the legal authority to tell a store owner to hide their cigarettes?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he doesn't have it yet. And one difference between this and the soda ban is that he tried to do unilaterally. This, he's simply proposing to the city council. So, I don't think there's a legal problem with it if it passes. But it hasn't passed yet.

O'BRIEN: -- what have to decide if they support it, and then --

TOOBIN: Correct.

O'BRIEN: -- then it would become law that way.

TOOBIN: Then, it will become a law. O'BRIEN: So, the New York Association of Convenience Stores, you all could guess exactly what they're going to say in response. They've said this. "The notion of forcing licensed tax collecting law abiding retailers to hide their tobacco inventory is patently absurd. This, by the name, Jim Calvin (ph). He's the president.

You know, I'm not a smoker and I actually would be absolutely fine if every single person in the world would just quit smoking tomorrow, but there's something to me that seemed a little unfair about what he's doing to store owners. I mean, I think that the New York Association of Convenience Stores, is it going to impact a small store owner he's selling something or she's selling something that's legal?

TOOBIN: I mean, it's really kind of a profound question about what you think government should do. As the mayor said, 7,000, New Yorkers a year die from smoking. Is the simply job to recognize that reality, treat them in hospitals, and you know, pat them on the head as they die coughing? Or, can the government take steps to nudge people? Just nudge them.

Not tell people that they can't smoke, but say, we're going to make it slightly more inconvenient for you to smoke and hope that that reduces smoking.

O'BRIEN: What the mayor said, though, was that there has been this record reduction, right?

TOOBIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: Eighteen percent down to eight percent. And that was not done by hiding cigarettes. So, something was effective. What was that thing? Why not, say, whatever that was, let's do that ten times -- ten folds and reduce the numbers more?

TOOBIN: They have increased taxes on cigarettes a lot. And there -- you know, that's a legal product that the taxes on cigarettes are different from the taxes on any other product. There are bans, you know -- first thing he did when he came into office was he banned smoking in bars and restaurants. Something that was extremely unpopular at the time. Today, I would say, is very popular.

O'BRIEN: Here's what Mayor Bloomberg said about that.


O'BRIEN: He did, last night, talk about -- yesterday afternoon talk about that comparison of what he's doing now.


BLOOMBERG: After New York City banned smoking, which we got a lot of grief about, I will say, I got a lot of one-fingered waves as I would describe them when I march by bars on St. Patrick's Day, for example. Today, march by a bar on St. Patrick's Day, and everybody seems to love you. And because of what New York did, I think it's fair to say, most cities in America, all of Western Europe, virtually all of Latin- America, have now gone smoke free.


O'BRIEN: He does have a point there.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I'm probably the wrong person to talk to this about. My mother died of lung cancer after 50 years of smoking. So, I'm probably not objective with regard to this. You're making money on something that kills people and you're putting it out for young teenagers, whether they get falls idea or not (INAUDIBLE) and it could possibly kill them, as it did my mother.

I'm for what he's doing with it. I have no problem with hiding -- he's not saying you can't sell it. Every adult going in there knows cigarettes are for sale here, but you don't have to put it out for everybody.

TOOBIN: Well, I think he also said something very important there. Teenagers could act on the impulse to buy. A lot of what we do in stores is a reaction to an impulse that we get. That was the idea behind the 20-ounce soda. If we make it slightly more inconvenient to buy a big soda, people will buy a small soda.

If we make it harder to buy a cigarette, maybe they won't buy a cigarette. Again, you're not banning it, you're just making it slightly more difficult.

CHRIS JOHN FARLEY, SR. ED. DIR., DIGITAL FEATURES, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: And it changes after a while it becomes part of the norm. I still remember back when I was a music critic, going into clubs and coming out stinking of cigarette smoke.


FARLEY: Remember those days? Who would ever want to go back to those days when cigarettes were allowed in nightclubs? So, maybe this will be -- feel the same way --

O'BRIEN: I'm not sure that's a perfect analogy, right, because there is an element of people who were smoking were disturbing the air, the space, the rights of other people, and I think that this is a little bit different, and I can't really articulate why. I'm a big supporter of the soda ban. I'm like, yes. That also, you know, is not good for you. But, I think --

TOOBIN: I think we need to explore your psyche about this.


TOOBIN: I don't know.



O'BRIEN: I told you, I don't understand it. But I don't know. This one is -- you know, I'm not a huge libertarian.

TOOBIN: We'll see what happens, because I mean, there is a lot of opposition, and it does have to get through the city council. So, this is not a done deal.


TOOBIN: -- which is not the world's greatest deliberative body.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, thanks as always.

So, after years of silence on the issue, Hillary Clinton speaks out about gay marriage and fuels more speculation about a 2016 presidential run. That's what's trending and that is up next.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Here's a look at what's trending online this morning. Lil Wayne is out of the hospital. He's back home. The rapper had a seizure last week. He's been recovering at Cedar-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. There were reports that Lil Wayne was on his death bed and that lit up social media, but eventually, he tweeted on Friday that he was OK.

Former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has publicly endorsed same-sex marriage. Here's what she said.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the right of citizenship. That includes marriage.


O'BRIEN: Former presidential candidate and maybe too be presidential candidate spoke directly to the camera. A six-minute long videotape for the human rights campaign. She says she supports it both personally and as a matter of policy and of law. I don't think that's a big surprise there but just another sort of sense that she's definitely going to be running for office in 2016.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Not a surprise at all, but a change from when we last heard her speak publicly about it which was when she was running for president in 2007-2008, when she had a virtually identical position as President Obama which is that marriage should be between a man and woman, but she favored civil unions. Now, she has the same position as the president, the current president and the former president, of course, her husband, Bill Clinton.

O'BRIEN: Lil Wayne.

FARLEY: Good to see he's doing better. You know? I guess --

O'BRIEN: There was a lot of, I don't know, misinformation, lies, fake tweets going on about what was happening with him.

FARLEY: Well, that was interesting about these kinds of things where on social media, stories that are made up about people and this go crazy. I mean, every other month that some story that Lil Wayne or somebody else is on the death bed or dying. The real information has come out. He apparently is now out of the hospital. And, we'll have to wait and see exactly what's going on there.

O'BRIEN: Yes. That'll be interesting to see what's going on there.

Ahead this morning, we'll have part two of my conversation with Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. We'll tell you why she admits to crying at work and what she says women need to do when they're going to negotiate to get paid more. That's ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Just a few moments, we're going to have the second part of my interview with Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg.

Also, today marks 10 years since the invasion of Iraq. Coming up, we'll talk to actor and motivational speaker, JR Martinez who served in the U.S. army in Iraq was severely injured when he was hit by a roadside bomb.

First so, John Berman's got a look at today's top stories. Hey, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. We have some breaking news out of Syria this morning.


BERMAN (voice-over): The government and rebels accusing each other of firing a rocket loaded with chemical agents outside the city of Aleppo today. This is according to SANA, which is the state news agency. The government's cabinet minister said the attack killed 16 and wounded 86 people, but there is a denial on the other side that they have access to chemical weapons. President Bashar al-Assad is widely believed to have a chemical arsenal.

A former University of Oklahoma quarterback is among the two people killed when a corporate jet crash to a row of homes in South Bend, Indiana on Sunday. Sixty-year-old Steven Davis (ph) died in the crush. He led the Oklahoma Sooners to two national championships in the 1970s.

Also killed in the crash, 58-year-old Wesley Caves (ph) of Tulsa. Investigators still do not know what caused that jet to go down.

Huge wildfire in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is mostly out this morning. Thanks to heavy rains, which helped firefighters doused those flames. Unfortunately, the destruction was already done and it is fairly extensive. More than 60 buildings damaged or destroyed. Many are just now charred shells. And 260,000 acres of that mountain resort community were burned.

They will be a public memorial service tonight near Tampa for Jeffrey Bush. He is the man who vanished into a giant sinkhole that opened up under his bedroom. The home has been torn down, the whole filled, Bush's body was never recovered.