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U.S. Investigates Syrian Chemical Weapons Use; Arias Psychologist Grilled; Study Links Soda, Obesity Deaths

Aired March 20, 2013 - 13:30   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. is investigating allegations of chemical weapons used in the civil war in Syria.

The Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is following developments for us.

Chris, do U.S. officials believe the Syrian government or even rebels have actually used chemical weapons?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, if you listen to the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, he says that he doesn't see any evidence that either the Syrian government or the rebels have used chemical weapons. But the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says, on the other hand, that he has -- that he feels very confident and thinks with a high probability that they have been used. So it depends who you're getting your information from.

Ultimately, they're going to have to look at satellite images, although they're not going to present an extremely detailed view. They can talk to some of the rebels on the ground to see what they've seen, although how much you can trust their word is debatable.

Ultimately, it may come down to the doctors, having them examine people who claim that they have been victims of chemical agents and seeing what their symptoms really are. That's what they did back in December when there were rumors of chemical agents being used. And doctors found out, no, it was actually just riot-control gas.

WHITFIELD: Is part of the feeling because of the number, the quantity of people that are being killed that raises suspicion for those who believe that chemical weapons may be used here?

LAWRENCE: Yes. And of course, Fred, you've got the rebels who have been really pushing the U.S. to get more directly involved. You know, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said just this week that his understanding of the opposition, the rebels, is less clear today than it was even six months ago. And he says he doesn't see any military option that gives some sort of understandable outcome. So he's urging caution.

The U.S. military does have options. They've got air assets, jets, bombers in the area. Although, one of the dangers is if you try to bomb a chemical weapon supply, you run the risk of disbursing that agent out into a civilian area. And so some of the other options would be trying to maybe bomb a runway to stop Syrian jets from taking off or trying to disrupt communication between the regime and the actual commanders. But of course, all of that is contingent on having really good intelligence so that you know what's about to happen before the attack actually takes place.

WHITFIELD: Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon. Thanks so much.

An intense manhunt is underway in Colorado for the person who gunned down the state's prison chief. Authorities say Tom Clements was shot at his home last night after he opened his door. Police are exploring the possibility that the shooting could be related to his high-profile job. Colorado's governor was emotional as he spoke about his friend.


JOHN HICKENLOOPER, GOVERNOR OF COLORADO: Whether it's an act of retaliation for something that is yet we don't know about. It is also an act of intimidation. And my gut feeling I think the -- is just insist we go forward with our work. That's the kind of thing Tom would have understood, I think, and would have supported.


WHITFIELD: Police say a boxy shaped black car, possibly a 1990s model Lincoln, had been seen on the street where Clements lived. They're talking to neighbors and searching the area near his property.

Now to a huge political comeback in South Carolina. Just four years after former Governor Mark Sanford derailed his career by telling voters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was, in fact, having an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina, well, he's back in the good graces of some Republican voters in his state. Sanford finished first in a special election primary for his old House seat, but he did not get enough votes to avoid a runoff.

Our Jim Acosta is in Charleston, South Carolina.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, after he was left for dead in the political wilderness here in South Carolina, former governor, Mark Sanford, may be the state's comeback kid. In the race for an open seat in South Carolina's first congressional district, Sanford finished way out in front of 15 other Republican opponents in what was sometimes a nasty and heated GOP primary. But because he failed to capture more than 50 percent of the vote, he'll have to compete in a runoff against one of his challengers named Curtis Bostik. Still, nearly after being forced out of his governor's office four years ago after misleading voters about an extramarital affair, it's a remarkable turnaround for the former governor, one he talked about us last night here in South Carolina. Here's what he had to say.


MARK SANFORD, (R), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR; You guys will come up with your own definitions on these things and we'll not interrupt -- what I learned a long time ago is the media's going to do what the media's going to do.

ACOSTA: Sure. But this must feel like redemption.

SANFORD: It's incredibly humbling, as I just said, at many different levels, what you suggest, and a lot of other issues. So it's been a remarkable journey and I feel blessed to be back.


ACOSTA: But Sanford's comeback is not a sure thing just yet. He'll have to compete in the runoff in a couple weeks. And then the general election in May when he goes up against the Democratic contender, Elizabeth Colbert Bush. She is, of course, the sister of comedian, Stephen Colbert, and Colbert has said he's willing to pull out all the stops to help his sister win in this very conservative district -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Jim Acosta, thanks so much, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Coming up --


JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: Do you have a problem with remembering what I said?

DR. RICHARD SAMUELS, PSYCHOLOGIST: No, I don't have anymore problem than you do, sir.


WHITFIELD: -- fireworks at the Jodi Arias trial as prosecutors question the psychologist who claims Arias suffers from PTSD. Today, jurors will have a chance to ask some questions of their own.


WHITFIELD: Later today, a psychologist returns to the hot seat at the Jodi Arias trial. He's been grilled by prosecutors who are trying to discredit his claims that Arias couldn't remember slashing her boyfriend's throat because of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ted Rowlands is following the trial in Phoenix.


MARTINEZ: Do you have a problem with remembering what I said?

SAMUELS: No, I don't have anymore problem than you do, sir.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The courtroom battle between a defense witness, psychologist, Richard Samuels, and prosecutor, Juan Martinez, escalated during Samuels' third day on the witness stand.

SAMUELS: I do not assume it was a lie. MARTINEZ: Generally speaking, if an individual lied to you about something that you consider irrelevant, then it's no harm, no foul, right?

SAMUELS: It depends upon what the issue was related to. She had to attribute it to this made-up story.

MARTINEZ: You don't know that, do you?

SAMUELS: No, I don't. I'm speculating.

MARTINEZ: Right. Made it up right now. Speculating.

SAMUELS: No, clinical judgment, sir.


MARTINEZ: Oh, really?

ROWLANDS: Samuels was hired to explain how Jodi Arias, who is facing a possible death sentence, could have forgotten stabbing her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, almost 30 times, leaving behind this incredibly bloody crime scene. Samuels testified that he thinks Arias suffered from PTSD.

SAMUELS: That's correct. She remembers the beginning of the attack and then the end of the attack.

ROWLANDS: But the rest of it Arias claims she can't remember.

MARTINEZ: Do you have any memories of slashing Mr. Alexander's throat?


ROWLANDS: Prosecutor Martinez went to great lengths trying to discredit Samuels, peppering him about inconsistencies in his report on Arias and openly questioning the quality of his work.

MARTINEZ: How much are you getting paid per hour?

SAMUELS: I get paid per hour $250.

MARTINEZ: And for $250 an hour you're saying that this is -- you weren't paying enough attention to put whatever else was needed --

SAMUELS: I reviewed the report numerous times. And I must admit I missed it.


WHITFIELD: Ted Rowlands joining us live now from outside the courthouse.

So, Ted, can we expect the same kind of fireworks today and more questioning? ROWLANDS: Absolutely, Fredricka. He'll be back in the witness chair. This time he'll be taking questions from the jury. And then prosecutor, Juan Martinez, gets to follow-up on those questions. So I would assume it's going to be another long day for Dr. Samuels.

WHITFIELD: Ted Rowlands, thanks so much. Keep us posted.

All right. If you drink a whole lot of soda every day, stick around for this next story. A Harvard study found tens of thousands die every year in part because of sugary drinks.


WHITFIELD: All right. Do you drink a couple of sodas each day every day? A Harvard study says you may want to rethink that. It found that sugar-sweetened drinks are linked to more than 180,000 obesity- related deaths worldwide each year, and that's controlling other risk factors.

Joining me right now, Kat Kinsman.

So, Kat, how much soda are we talking about those people drinking?

KAT KINSMAN, EATOCRACY EDITOR: Well, the portion creep over the years is absolutely extraordinary. Those adorable little glass bottles we look at as being cute and retro, before 1950 that was the standard portion size which was 6.5 ounces. Around about the 1950s, it jumped to a standard 12-ounce can and later grew to the 20-ounce curve bottle, and all the way up now to the two-liter bottle. That's 42 ounces. And while that might seem like a whole lot, as I'm a reformed soda junkie, and I used to down one of those a day.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that's extraordinary. That's a lot of drinking of sweet soda drinks.


WHITFIELD: How were scientists able to kind of single out the soda or the sweet drinks are part of the reason why people were dying?

KINSMAN: Well, they put -- there are a whole lot of links to this. They looked at the increased amount of calories people were drinking, how much sugar they were in-taking every day, and then linking that to obesity-related illnesses, to diabetes, cancer, heart disease. Once they factored out other factors in that, including lack of exercise and sort of other behaviors, they were able to, they say, specifically link this increased amount of calories and sugar to these deaths every year.

WHITFIELD: Wow. OK. So the report also shows that Mexico had the highest death rate from sugary drinks and the U.S. actually ranks third. Bangladesh, of all places, has the least of the problems with sodas. But the soda industry, what are they saying to all this?

KINSMAN: Shockingly enough, they are not on board with this study. And they released a statement saying it is more sensationalism than science and they said. "The researchers make a huge leap when they take beverage in-take calculations from around the world and allege that those beverages are the cause of the deaths, which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease."

So there's a certain amount of discrepancy, but it can't be conditioned denied that more people are getting in more calories from sugar and soda on a regular basis now.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kat Kinsman, thanks so much.

Still to come, Silicon Valley's tech nerds, they are millionaires, and some of the smartest people in the country, but when it comes to love, they are clueless. You won't believe what they are doing to get a date.


WHITFIELD: An Iraqi immigrant became a big winner on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war. Hakmat Yalda picked up his check for his $1 million win in the Illinois Powerball lottery.


HAKMAT YALDA, POWERBALL LOTTERY WINNER: She told me, you win. I tell him, how much. She tells me $1 million. I said, no, you joking. She told me, I swear to God, $1 million, you won.



WHITFIELD: Yalda came to the U.S. just five years ago to escape the war and he took a job as a janitor and he says he'll keep that job despite his lottery win.

If you're looking for love in California's Silicon Valley, one dating service might be able to help you. That is if you have $20,000. Matchmaker Amy Anderson guarantees eight quality matches.

Lori Segal has details.


LORI SEGAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Computer nerds cracked the code, but when it comes to the language of love, they're enlisting a little help.

Meet Amy Anderson.


SEGAL (on camera): You're a matchmaker. That's an old job, right?

ANDERSON: It is an old-world business.

SEGAL (voice-over): An old-world business with tech IPO pricing, access to link-and-drink events, like this one, plus a guarantee of eight quality matches. It costs members 20 grand. Members who go to the parties, but aren't promised dates, pay up to $2500.

(on camera): How much is the most a client is putting out there to find the right match?

ANDERSON: A lot. People will put so much into the process, anywhere from 50 to -- in some cases if we're doing a nationwide search -- $100,000.

SEGAL (voice-over): Many of her clients work in tech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most valuable resource you have in the world, whether you're an entrepreneur or not, is time. If you have a professional that can help you find the right person, I think it will save a lot of time.

SEGAL: Like many businesses in the valley, Amy gets a boost when tech companies are doing well.


SEGAL: Facebook site, Yo, brought in customers.

ANDERSON: Facebook has been really important for us for a multitude of reasons. We have got and lot of clients from their pre-IPO and post-IPO like Google in 2004.

SEGAL: But what people are paying for is the one thing for which they don't want to rely on an algorithm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You come to her office and she goes over several other questions which is about an hour long, and within a few days, she'll match you with a couple of people.

ANDERSON: There is often a lot of metrics, by Silicon Valley standards, that people look for, ranging from ethnicity, religion, personality type.

SEGAL: Before you end up here, you go through boot camp.

ANDERSON: OK, remove the hoodie. Take it off right now.

SEGAL: Did she outlaw you from anything?


Any habits that die hard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be on time. Geeks are notorious for being late.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has been great. I met two people. One of them, I was in a relationship with for a while.

SEGAL: And Amy boasts results. 45 couples in exclusive relationships and nearly 20 marriages. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Wow. Nuptials too.

Lori, seems very pricey along the way. Are singles, you know, really willing to pay that much for a date? Clearly, you have some that walked down the aisle, but in great volume, really?

SEGAL: Yes, look, $20,000 for eight matches. It seems insane, but the idea is people are willing to pay this. I got on the phone with Amy today, she said, I'm seeing a boost because it is warming up and these geeks want to come out of their caves, stop coding and meet people. The idea is time is money. They're building these companies. They have everything. They have a lot of money, but the one thing they don't have is love, so they go to Amy for that.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my. What a business.

SEGAL: Seriously.

WHITFIELD: Now, does she feel like there are others in that business, too, or is this a very unique idea, enterprise that she had?

SEGAL: She's an entrepreneur herself. You look at Silicon Valley, you take a problem, you think of a solution, and that's what she did. She went on a date a long, long time ago and said, this needs to be fixed. Now she's helping people. She's putting geeks through, you know, through the boot camp, take off the hoodie, stop texting during the date, and she's seeing a lot of success.

WHITFIELD: Go, girl. Go, Amy.


Lori, thanks so much.

SEGAL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Members of a Kansas hate group are seeing red -- and orange, yellow, green, blue and violet? We'll explain.


WHITFIELD: Alternative folk singer, Michelle Shocked, is speaking out about her anti-gay rant in San Francisco. It got her booted off the stage and, ever since, venues around the country have been canceling her upcoming shows. According to published reports, the born-again Christian had an uneventful show until she said that gay marriage would be the downfall of civilization. That prompted the audience to walk out. Shocked now says she was misunderstood. Here's part of the statement she gave to CNN, saying, quote, "I do not, nor have I ever said or believe that God hates homosexuals or anyone else. I said that some of his followers believe that. I believe in tolerance comes from fear and these people are genuinely scared," end quote.

The Westboro Baptist Church says it approves of its new neighbor across the street, a modest house now painted the colors of the gay pride flag. Westboro is infamous for strident anti-gay message. It says the brightly colored home helped shine a spotlight on what it calls the very sin the Bible condemns and therefore is welcome.

The House was bought by a gay rights activist, Aaron Jackson, and he spoke a short time ago with CNN.


AARON JACKSON, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It wasn't done necessarily on purpose. I was checking out the church through Google Earth and walking down the street, and I saw that there was a for sale sign in front of the home of the Westboro Baptist Church and it hit me, I'm going to buy that house and I'm going to paint it the pride flag.


WHITFIELD: Jackson says the House will serve as a temporary residence for volunteers who work on equality initiatives.

That's it for me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you tomorrow.

Don Lemon takes it from here.