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NYC Fast-Food Workers On Strike; Cancer Clinics Getting Hit Hard; Obama Cuts His Own Pay; North Korea Talk Gets Tougher; Reagan And Same-Sex Marriage; New Reward In Texas Killings; Muslim Bikini Model Speaks on Religion; Interview with Brian Banks;

Aired April 4, 2013 - 13:00   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Cancer clinics are turning away some patients saying that forced spending cuts are now to blame.

Plus, he spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. How this man is now playing in the NFL.

And her fate says that she can only show her face, hands and feet, but her job needs her to show off a lot more skin. This Muslim bikini model pushing the rules of modesty.

This is CNN NEWSROOM, and I'm Suzanne Malveaux. It is lunchtime so if fast food is on your mind, think twice if you're in New York because hundreds of workers, we're talking about McDonald's, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, KFC, they're on strike. It is a one-day strike. They're staging a similar protest that happened back in November. Bottom line, they want more pay.

Zain Asher's in New York. And, all right, Zain, I guess if you want a Big Mack or something, you've got to hold off and wait for a day. Folks say they are not being paid enough. How much are they getting?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're getting $7.25 an hour. They pretty much want to double their pay. And if they can't do that, then they simply want more. The $7.25 is the New York state minimum wage. These workers want $15 an hour. They're saying the present wage is not enough to live on. One woman who spoke to CNN said she had a three-year-old son, she just wants health insurance, medical benefits, that kind of thing. Another young gentleman says that he can't afford to move out of his parent's house. So, a lot of people saying $7.25 is simply too low to be paid -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: You can't blame them. I mean, I don't know how you live on $18,000 in New York City, clearly.

ASHER: Exactly.

MALVEAUX: How are the big food chains responding here? Does it look like they are willing to give up a little more?

ASHER: Well, I mean, right now it's too early to tell but they are arguing back. They're saying that wages are fair and consistent with the industry. A lot of them also saying that many of their restaurants are actually owned and operated by franchisees. So, that means that they don't necessarily have direct control over wages. McDonald's told us, quote, "Employees are paid competitive wages and have access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs. Employees who want to go from crew to management can take care of -- can take advantage of a variety of training opportunities as well." Similar sentiment from yum brands who owns KFC as well -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. So, what happens to these guys? I mean, they're protesting today. Do they go back to work tomorrow and they're still paid, like, you know, this minimum wage, $18,000 a year, if that?

ASHER: I mean, they -- obviously, they hope they're not going to get fired. But, you know, here is the thing, according to the National Labor Relations Act, workers are obviously allowed to organize, their collective bargaining rights are protected. But, you know, if they are protesting purely for economic reasons, they can actually be let go. In this case, obviously, they want double pay. So, we'll have to watch closely to see what happens. But in this case, you know, the media spotlight could obviously protect them. Also, I want to mention that hiring and firing decisions are up to each individual franchise owner. So, we will have to see because there could be a variety of reactions. One protester told CNN that he doesn't expect to get fired, but that if he does, it will be worth it. That's what he said to us -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, you know, it's nothing for somebody not to get a Big Mac or something or, you know, some fried chicken for a day, but clearly -- do you have any sense of how much these companies are losing? Is it in the billions of dollars over one day?

ASHER: Well, I have to look into that and get back to you. But, you know, in Manhattan alone today, the restaurant we went to had hundreds of people protesting outside it. In November, there was probably half of that, so these collective bargaining movements are getting stronger. So, definitely they are losing money. I will have to get back to you about how much exactly -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Zain Asher. Thank you very much, Zain. I appreciate it.

Cancer clinics now across the country, they are being hit hard and this is by the forced spending cuts. Well, they are now having to turn away Medicare patients. And Lisa Sylvester, she is joining us from D.C. to explain why it's happening and how it's affecting some treatments, specifically when you talk about cancer and the kind of chemotherapy that people need.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, this is really affecting those cancer clinics. You know, the sequester cuts, they took effect for Medicare on April 1st and it was a 2 percent reduction in payments to Medicare providers. But this is hitting those clinics particularly hard and the reason is that cancer drugs have to be administered by a doctor. So that 2 percent cut, well, it has to come from somewhere. And if you think about it this way, the price of the drug is fixed so then it has to come directly from the clinic's overhead. And what many cancer clinics are saying is, look, we just can't continue to afford to treat patients and stay in business.

So, what is this going to mean? Well, patients are already being turned away. And some of them will then have to seek treatment at hospitals, and, as we know, that is much more expensive. One study, Suzanne, shows that it would cost about $6,500 more a year for a patient to be treated at a hospital instead of a clinic -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, what should these patients do? I mean, it really sounds like this is a very difficult situation they're in.

SYLVESTER: Well, I should mention this also that there is another issue which is, will these hospitals even be able to handle the increased patient load? Right now, the community oncology alliance, that's the group that represents these clinics, they're asking lawmakers, hey, please give us a break. Please exempt these cancer drugs from the sequester. But for the patients, this is a huge problem. And think about it this way, you're dealing with cancer and then on top of this, the place you've been going for your treatment, you're being told you can't go there anymore. You have to find a hospital. Hospital, new doctor, everything else. So, it's a real mess -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Lisa, thank you. Appreciate it.

President Obama, he is actually giving up a chunk of his own paycheck to support and show support for workers who have been hit with the federal furlough. The White House now confirms that the president, he is going to return 5 percent of his salary to the U.S. treasury every month. He's got to write a personal check since his salary is set in law, can't be changed. So, the president's whole contribution will amount to about $20,000. That's because he gets paid $400,000 a year. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel also said he's going to take a pay cut to show solidarity with the workers in the Defense Department.

North Korea now cranking up the tough talk another notch today. This is directly accusing the United States of actively pursuing a nuclear war. U.S. officials say they have reason to believe that the North Koreans will soon launch a missile off their east coast, possibly as a test, possibly as a show of force. But the Pentagon says U.S. Military defense missile systems and people, they are on their way now to Guam right now. This is an island that North Korea calls a possible target.

Tonight, at 6:00 Eastern, Wolf Blitzer will host a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" focusing entirely on this crisis in North Korea. You're not going to want to miss that.

Here's what we're also working on for this hour. Ronald Reagan's daughter says he would have supported same sex marriage and she tells us why.

And in Texas, everyone pretty much still on edge after a district attorney and his wife shot down, killed in their own home. Now, there's a new reward. Plus, living out his dream after spending years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Brian Banks gets a second chance at playing in the NFL.


MALVEAUX: A Republican senator says there's eventually going to be a GOP presidential candidate who supports same-sex marriage. Well, Senator Jeff Lake calls it inevitable. And there's been a dramatic shift in public opinion, but many Republicans still oppose same-sex marriage.

So, what would Ronald Reagan do? His daughter, Patty Davis, says she thinks he would support allowing gays and lesbians to marry and he would wonder what all the fuss is about.

I want to bring in our Candy Crowley. What do you think matters now if, in fact, people are weighing in saying, the former president, I think he would also support this as well?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: If there are conservatives who think that this is an issue whose time has come, Ronald Reagan, you know, is still the icon, the go-to guy for politicians who are running for president or most anything else on the Republican side. He's kind of seen as, you know, the guy who had it all right. So, you know, perhaps it gives them some cover. But it's probably more of just, you know, an argument that supports those who kind of are already feeling that same-sex marriage is an issue whose time has come.

MALVEAUX: Candy, I want to read, actually, some examples we have from his daughter Patty Davis, why she thinks her father would have supported same sex marriage. This is from a "New York Times" article. She points to, first of all, his distaste for government intrusion into people's private lives, his Hollywood acting career and also a close relationship, friendship he had with a lesbian couple who cared for her and her younger brother when they were kids back in the day. Do you think that it adds any credence here to the potential that he would have pushed for it on this -- on this social issue?

CROWLEY: I think I would probably quibble with push forward. Look, I'm mad at (ph) Patty Davis for knowing her father better than I knew him. So, she's obviously telling you a lot of things. He came from a Hollywood background that tends to be more liberal background, particularly on social issues. There certainly were gays in Hollywood that he would have known of during his acting days. But let me point out that Ronald Reagan was also a strong component of prayer in schools, a strong opponent of abortion. He wanted a -- as I recall, a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions with some exceptions, I think.

But when he got into office, I will say, abortion was not an issue that he chose to push. And generally, he wanted to be seen as the guy who came in and changed the shape of government. He was not all that keen on pushing social issues, but he understood very well the political value of those social issues in a party where conservatives still have social issues that are foremost on their minds. So politically, he understood that balance.

And so, you know, regardless of how he might have felt, I think he would have balanced the politics of this as well. And I think you can make a case in this day and age, not Ronald Reagan's day and age, but in this day and age, the balance of the politics is turning.

MALVEAUX: Yes. And certainly in his day and age, too, he got a lot of criticism for being slow to react to HIV --


MALVEAUX: -- and aids crisis in the gay community as well. So, a lot of people wondering really just how that falls into how his thinking was, his personal thinking, on gay matters and gay rights. Thank you very much, Candy. I really appreciate it.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Covering up in prayer from head to toe, but on the job she's showing off a little skin. Let's just say this Muslim bikini model's father, not so happy.


MALVEAUX: All right. So usually don't think of Muslim and bikini in the same sentence, but this story is about whether or not your job is at odds with your religion. Our Alina Cho, she's introducing us to a woman who explores faith as well as fashion.


ALINE CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Being photographed on the beach in a swim suit may be just another day at the office for most fashion models, not for Maryam Basir.

MARYAM BASIR, MUSILIM MODEL: I grew up in a Muslim family with a very strict Muslim household.

CHO: What does that mean?

BASIR: I was raised to believe that you can only show your face, your hands and your feet. Everything else should be covered.

CHO: Which is why her evolution to bikini model is so shocking to some and seemingly a contradiction.

BASIR: I never had aspirations to be a bikini model. What happened is there was a security guard actually at a bank who was just like, you know, are you a model? I'm like, no, and then he's like, well, you should try it. The work started rushing in.

CHO: Both as a model and actress. Here she is on "30 Rock."

BASIR: Hey Trey, you and your friend want to party later?

TRACY MORGAN, ACTOR: What do you think, baby? (INAUDIBLE) ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: This is decadent.

CHO: Decadent is putting it lightly.

BASIR: You don't necessarily know what you're wearing is not like, oh, bikini models needed. I never went after that stuff.

CHO: Did you ever have an internal struggle about that?

BASIR: Of course. I have internal struggles every day about different things. You know, about just life, about making decisions. The thing that I didn't want to do is say, okay, I'm not Muslim anymore.

CHO: : What's more, Maryam is not only a practicing Muslim who prays five times a day, while also doing this, her father is an Imam, a religious leader. And he, no surprise, does not approve of his daughter's job telling the "New York Observer" you can't just make up your own rules. It's un-Islamic for a woman to display her body. That's not debatable.

MUCAHIT BILICI, AUTHOR, "FINDING MECCA IN AMERICA": Faith and practice are related, but they are not the same thing. If you say you are Muslim and you believe in everything Muslim says and you practice nothing, you are still Muslim. But if you practice everything and yet you reject one principle of Islam, you can't be Muslim.

CHO: Does it make you any less faithful?

BASIE: No, it doesn't make me any less faithful. It makes me who I am. I think that Allah God is the only one who walks through every moment of your life with you and sees the decisions that you make. And no one person can judge me. I just don't accept it.

CHO: For now that means covering up in prayer and showing off her body on the job. Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: And this next one, people pretty curious, right, how stars look without makeup. We've seen them from time and time again. This is actually Barbie, as in the Barbie doll, au natural, bags under her eyes, acne scars on her face and braces. The picture went viral after being posted on an image sharing website. The reaction surprisingly overwhelmingly negative. Poor Barbie, can't get a break. Normally criticized for being too perfect.

And imagine spending more than five years in prison for a crime you did not commit. Well, Brian Banks, he lived through that nightmare. And things are now starting to turn around for him. He just learned that he's going to be playing for the NFL. We're going to talk to him up next.


MALVEAUX: The U.S. is not the only country where the debate over same sex marriage is now playing out. There has been a dramatic shift in public opinion here and other countries also grappling with the issue. The question of course, whether or not the rest of the world is following or leading? In France today the Senate takes up a bill that would give same sex couples the right to marry and adopt children. The lower house has already approved it. But the Catholic church, other religious groups and social conservatives, they oppose the measure.

The last thing Carnival cruise company needs is bad news, but there is bad news. Rough weather ripping the cruise ship Triumph from a repair dock in Mobile, Alabama. So what happened? The ship floated down river, crunched into a pier and wound up with a 20 foot gash down its side. So, you might recall, that Triumph was the cruise liner that broke down in the Gulf of Mexico back in February leaving 3,000 passengers in miserable conditions for several days. Well, high winds yesterday knocked a security guard into the water as well. And he has not yet been found.

Lance Armstrong trying to return to sports, but he is encountering lots of resistance now. Armstrong, he now wants to compete in a masters swim meet this weekend in Austin. But the sports international governing body is asking organizers to reject Armstrong's entry. Armstrong has been stripped of seven Tour de France titles and banned from competitive cycling because of doping.

You might remember Brian Banks, he is the star high school football linebacker who spent five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. A classmate claimed he kidnapped and raped her. Well, she later admitted that she lied. With the help from the California innocence project, Banks won a new trial and was cleared. After Banks was released from prison, the Seattle Seahawks offered him a tryout and allowed him to workout at their practice facility. Well now, the Atlanta Falcons, they have signed the 27-year-old Banks. He's joining us live from Seattle.

Congratulations to you, Brian. This is a new chance, a new lease on life. How are you feeling? How are you doing?

BRIAN BANKS, ATLANTA FALCONS LINEBACKER: I'm good. Thank you for the congrats. I'm really just still taking it all in. But I'm feeling really good today.

MALVEAUX: Now, you are 27. There are some younger guys of course you're going to be competing with. Do you feel like you've got the training? You've got enough to be competitive?

BANKS: Most definitely. I mean, I know I've been out of the game for ten years, but at the same time I have no injuries, no setbacks. I've been just working out really hard twice a day with Jay Glazer, athletic gains, we put in a lot of work day in and day out to get me caught up and actually further myself and make this dream come true.

MALVEAUX: We see the video there of a lot of the training you've been doing, the preparations here. You spent five years in prison and five years on probation, clearly ten years out of the mix. And what you did best, what you really did well here, do you ever have a sense of bitterness, of anger, when you move forward and think about the last ten years of your life?

BANKS: Yes. You know, today, no. I sit here a free man, healthy. You know, my family and friends are in full support. I have my life back. There was a point in my life where I was very angry and I had a lot of negative emotions that, you know, filled me. But it was just really holding me back as a person and wanting to better myself I had to let a lot of that stuff go. I understand how people feel when they initially hear what has happened. And I don't fault people for the way they feel. But I will allow my supporters to have those feelings while I just continue to focus on my future.

MALVEAUX: And how do you deal with that? Do you ever want to look back and give a message to the person who accused you? Who wrongly put you in jail for that period of your life?

BANKS: No. I don't have a message. I thank God that, you know, she came forward. I thank God that I was able to serve five years in prison and exit still mentally sane and physically and emotionally still attached. So I just look forward to what's to come. I'm thankful for where I am today. And I'm also thankful for every experience that I've experienced in life because it's made me who I am today.

MALVEAUX: Talk about the California innocence project because I know that was really key in changing your life and that you were able to work with that group and they were able to identify you as someone who was innocent.

BANKS: Right. Well, I wouldn't be here today as an innocent and free man if it wasn't for the California innocence project and Justin Brooks and all the great work that they do. It's important that projects such as the California innocence project and other innocence projects around the nation in other places around the world that we bring light to these organizations. There are people behind bars for crimes that they didn't commit. We have to help these people. Their lives have been taken away. And I know all too well what it feels like to see your life pass before you, to see life continuing without you having any part of it for a crime that you didn't commit. I really want people to get involved with the innocence project.

MALVEAUX: All right. Brian, we wish you the very best. Congratulations. We want you to, you know, kick some butt there.

BANKS: Thank you very much.

MALVEAUX: Living in Atlanta, we want you to represent, all right?

BANKS: Will do. Thank you so much.

MALVEAUX: Thank you again. Appreciate having you.

BANKS: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: $200,000 reward, not many clues now. People are high alert, this is in Texas. They are searching still for killers of two prosecutors. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)