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IRS Targeting Wider than Claimed; Supreme Court Limits Voting Rights Act; Controversy in Johnny Depp's Latest Role; U.S. CEO Says He's Being Held Hostage

Aired June 25, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is 31 minutes past the hour. I'm Carol Costello, thank you so much for joining me. Checking our "Top Stories" now, sources of Nelson Mandela's family there are no plans for the ailing former South African President to meet with President Obama.

As you know, the President -- our President leaves for the African continent tomorrow. The White House has not officially said one way or the other if a visit with Mandela was planned. But as you know, Mandela's health took a turn for the worse over the weekend. And this morning, well wishers released doves outside the Pretoria Hospital where Mandela remains in critical condition. They say the doves represent the freedom Mandela brought to their country.

George Zimmerman back in court for a second day as a judge's ruling -- as a judge's ruling previous 911 calls and more witness testimony expected today. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Edward Snowden, the man who leaked details about U.S. surveillance programs, is still nowhere to be found two days after he left Hong Kong. The United States believes he may be in hiding somewhere in the Moscow airport. On Monday, journalists spent most of the day trying to figure out if Snowden boarded a plane from Moscow to Cuba. Russia denies playing any role in Snowden's movements.

Also this morning there's a new ripple in the controversy over the IRS targeting Tea Party groups and other conservatives. That revelation has turned protests like this one just last week. Well now we learned that other political interests were also flagged for special scrutiny by the IRS. And those groups include liberal groups who helped elect the President to a second term.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill to tell us more. Good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. There are a lot of Democrats saying I told you so here on Capitol Hill and probably over at the White House, as well. And the "I told you so" is them saying that these groups -- no groups were targeted for any political reason. There was no political motivation here. And the reason that they say that they have that evidence now is because of documents delivered to Capitol Hill yesterday, that showed that there were what's called be on the lookout memos, memos within the IRS to screeners looking at applications for tax exempt status that had terms to sift through and screen specifically liberal groups.

Let me show you some of the terms that we saw in this bolo. "Progressive, medical marijuana, occupied territory advocacy." Now, Democratic Congressman Sander Levin, who is the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee that is one of the investigative committees is really, really upset. He send out a blistering statement about the Inspector General of the IRS saying that he simply didn't do a good enough job when he issued his report about these group and about IRS targeting because he did mention conservative groups, Tea Party and other like-minded groups, but didn't talk about progressives and the defense over at the IRS IG's office is that their mission was to look at conservative groups, but Democrats are saying, come on, that's following the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law effectively.

COSTELLO: Although no liberal groups have actually come forward and like loudly complained. I haven't heard any --

BASH: Yes.

COSTELLO: -- progressive group coming forward and saying they were targeted by the IRS. What are Republicans saying about this?

BASH: That's an excellent point, Carol. So Republicans are saying that this is not case closed by any means because they argue if you look at these documents and you look at these -- or effectively memos that went out internally mostly back in 2010 at the IRS, the way that it went after our screened out tea party groups, those groups were -- were found and then they were separated out, they say, and put in a separate pile and actually maybe in some cases sent to Washington for -- for real scrutiny and in some cases tea party groups say they felt harassed.

With regard to this new information we have based on these memos, the progressive groups, the liberal groups were simply screened and they were told to give it an extra once over. It was a different kind of treatment.

And I have to tell you I talked to a Democratic source familiar with the -- with this investigation who actually agreed that there is a difference. Although progressive groups clearly were screened that there does seem to be a difference at least in what they found so far about the treatment of these different groups.

But believe it or not even though we've been talking about it for a while Congress and both sides of the Capitol they say that they still have a while to go before they can really make a conclusion in these investigations.

COSTELLO: All right Dana Bash reporting live from Capitol Hill this morning. "The Lone Ranger" will hit theaters next week. You know the movie, "The Lone Ranger" it's a classic story. It's also bringing along some big controversy. Why people are angry about Johnny Depp's portrayal of Tonto.


COSTELLO: If you've already made your morning run to Starbucks, you probably noticed something a little different besides a price hike that took effect today that is. The coffee chain just started posting how many calories are in your favorite drinks on its menu board. It's something all large restaurant chains will soon be required to do by the federal government.

I'm joined now by Margo Wootan, she's the Director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for the Science in the Public Interest. Welcome.


COSTELLO: So what's the point of posting these calorie counts?

WOOTAN: You know eating out isn't the big splurge it once was. People are now eating out on a regular basis; they get about a third of their calories. So it's important to just know what your options are so you can make your own decisions about how many calories you really want to eat.

COSTELLO: So do you think people will really look at the calorie count? Really, seriously?

WOOTAN: Not everybody is going to look at it, but a lot of people are interested in knowing and a lot of times the results will surprise you that things that you really like don't have as many calories as you think and things that are a splurge are a much bigger splurges that you think.

So you know there's both good news and bad news out there. At Starbucks, the Frappuccino is a lot more like a milkshake but cappuccino latte are good choices.

COSTELLO: Well you know New York has been doing this for quite some time. So the New York City health officials they did this study. They say only one in six people change their orders based on the number of calories in food items.

Only one in six and mostly they're women, men just don't care.

WOOTAN: So you say one in six like it's not that many but from a public health standpoint one in six is really a good result. Some people already know and are making good choices. Some people are pretty helpless they're never going to change. So to get that many people to change is a really good start.

And what they found in both New York City and in Seattle is that over time more people get used to having the calories, they see them, they use them and that the results get stronger overtime and more people use the information.

COSTELLO: They say it takes us on 18 months, though, it takes a long time to sink in.

WOOTAN: It does. But you know for decades, we've been eating out without any calorie information. And so we're not even used to seeing it. I know myself, I've worked on many labelling laws and then I didn't even see them when I first went into the restaurant it took a couple of times you know because you just go in and order what you always ordered.

So over time, not only do people change, but also the restaurants change, that they start to reformulate their items and bring down the calories they didn't even know how many calories were in there. So they start cutting back on the cheese or use lighter dressing or make the bread a little bit thinner. And the actual amount of calories in restaurant foods in places like Seattle and New York City is going down because of menu labeling.

COSTELLO: Well, we'll see. But if I'm going in for a big, juicy burger at Wendy's and I see the calorie count, I'm probably still going to order that big juicy burger at Wendy's because that's what I want to eat.

WOOTAN: Maybe go for the double instead of the triple and you could save a lot of calories.

COSTELLO: True. Thank you so much for joining us, Margo. Thanks.

WOOTAN: Nice to be here.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

As you know, the U.S. Supreme Court has now issued a ruling in a key voting rights case regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Supreme Court ruled that federal oversight of elections will continue in states with a past history of discrimination. But there are caveats to that.

So let's get to Joe Johns. He's at the U.S. Supreme Court. What does this ruling say Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Carol, I was inside for this decision and essentially what it says is there are two provisions of the Voting Rights Act which were in question -- section four, section five. Which is the section four is a coverage provision which states around the country are covered.

Essentially what happened was the court said we're throwing out section four. And this effectively for many guts the entire Voting Rights Act. So watching the justices, which is what I did, I just got a real sense of struggle on this court. The five justices who were in the majority, the conservatives all reading the opinion along with Chief Justice Roberts as he read it, the four justices in the minority, that would be the liberals, staring stone faced out into the audience in the Supreme Court. So just a sense I think of sadness there, of struggle on this very hard fought case. And it was interesting, also, watching the Chief Justice as he sort of tipped his hand saying, the Voting Rights Act has done so much good to elimination discrimination in this country, but its time has come. He also really issued a huge rebuke to the United States Congress for not changing this bill four years ago when they had the opportunity the last time the Supreme Court took a long look at it.

So in sum a real struggle here on the Supreme Court today as this closely fought 5-4 decision is now released to the public. The next step, of course, is for Congress to attempt to change the Voting Rights Act.

But Carol, I can tell you, given the configuration of the United States Congress with Republicans controlling the House, Democrats controlling the Senate, it doesn't look very likely that this part of the Voting Rights Act will be restored anytime soon. So a lot of people who work on voting rights issues are going to have to resort to other means -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And just to make it clear for our viewers, some of the states affected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, southern, mostly southern states right.

JOHNS: Right.

COSTELLO: Including Alabama, Georgia.

JOHNS: Right.

COSTELLO: South Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi. And what this ruling says is these states can no longer be singled out.

JOHNS: That's right.

COSTELLO: They no longer have to have the federal government's approval to change their voting laws.

JOHNS: Right. Yes. That's the effective result of this decision that this Voting Rights Act, which was targeted since 1965 towards certain states, many of them in the south, but some counties in a handful of other states are also covered. No longer can this coverage formula work. And if Congress wants to do this, they have to go back to the drawing board, start all over again.

I think you can say this is a home run for conservatives who said this law shouldn't be in place and this is a big loss for those civil rights advocates who have been fighting to sustain this law year after year for decades -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Joe Johns reporting live from the U.S. Supreme Court. Thank you.

NEWSROOM is back in a moment.


COSTELLO: 48 minutes past the hour.

Time to check our top stories this morning: Edward Snowden remains very much invisible. The man who exposed a secret U.S. surveillance program is still in hiding a full two days after leaving Hong Kong. The U.S. believes he's hunkered down, possibly in a transit area of the Moscow airport.

Arizona Senator John McCain is calling out the Russian president, Vladimir Putin for taking advantage of the situation.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I've known about Vladimir Putin for a long, long time. He is -- as I said, he's an old KGB colonel apparatchik that has disdain for democracy and the things we stand for and believe in. And if he sees a situation, he'll take advantage of it.

I mean, anybody that takes somebody's Super Bowl ring has got to be not exactly like us.


COSTELLO: Of course, McCain is referring to the allegation made by the New England Patriot's owner Robert Kraft who joked Vladimir Putin stole his 2005 championship ring.

A house washed away in the flood waters in Canada. CNN iReport, Barry Lodberg (ph) captured this unbelievable video of his neighbor's house falling into the water. Wow. Believe it or not, everyone is safe. More than 100,000 people though near Calgary has been affected by these floods that began last week.

The town of West, Texas suing a fertilizer supplier over this April explosion at a plant. The suit claims the company blindly sold ammonium nitrate to a firm that didn't handle it appropriately. The explosion killed 15 people, leveled homes, damaged two schools, and a nursing home.

Cleanup now under way across Chicago following a powerful line of storms, trees and power lines came down. More than 200,000 lost power. About a fourth of them are still waiting for the electricity to come back on. Firefighters also had to rescue a woman who had gotten trapped in her garage after a tree fell on top of it.

Johnny Depp, the actor famous for roles ranging from Edward Scissorhands to Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean. Well, it's his latest role that has Depp in a bit of controversy. Depp is playing Tonto to Armie Hammer's "Lone Ranger". And now some are asking why a white guy is portraying an American Indian.

CNN entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner joins us along with professor Hanat Geiogamah. She's the director of the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. Hi, Nischelle. NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. How are you?

COSTELLO: Do we see Hanat? Oh, she's on the phone. Hanat's on the phone. Hi, Hanat. And you're a guy.

HANAT GEIOGAMAH, AMERICAN INDIAN STUDIES, UCLA (via telephone): Good morning. Hello, hello.

COSTELLO: Thank you.

TURNER: Hi, Hanat.

COSTELLO: Welcome. I want to start with you, Nischelle. So Johnny Depp claims he's part Cherokee Indian, or maybe Creek -- but he's not sure which. Tell us what he said about this role of Tonto.

TURNER: Yes, well it's interesting, Carol because you know, one of the things you said was people are asking the question why a white guy would be playing Tonto. I think Johnny Depp might take a little umbrage with that.

You know, for him to play this character wasn't a choice by a casting director. This was a movie that he pushed for. He wanted to give himself the opportunity to play Tonto. He told CNN that he wanted to make sure this film treated Native Americans with respect and dignity and that focus was one of the things that they talked about from the very beginning of the film process.

In that vein, when they decided this, the filmmakers reached out to the Navajo Indians to get permission to film on their territory. They also worked closely enough with the Comanche tribe that Depp was actually adopted into a Comanche family.

Now, yes, he has said that his great grandmother was a Native American. He wasn't 100 percent clear if she was actually of Cherokee descent. That is true. But this isn't his first time he's actually even played a Native American on screen, Carol. He directed and starred in a movie called "The Brave" back in 1997. He says in that film, what he was trying to do was make a point about how most of society viewed Native Americans as disposable.

Now he's been very outspoken about how he sees "The Lone Ranger" as a chance to change that view. And also to re-invent Tonto; he has actually said that he used to watch "Lone Ranger" when he was a kid and used got mad because Tonto was always being told what to do. So this film will actually tell the story from Tonto's point of view.

COSTELLO: Hanat, how do you look upon this? I mean is it OK that Johnny Depp is playing this role? Is the controversy overblown in your mind?

GEIOGAMAH: I think that Johnny Depp would have been really, really better advised to do since he was in control of this film a lot from the beginning was to play the "Lone Ranger" himself and to see that a capable, experienced, good Native American actor would have played Tonto alongside him. That would have been the best thing to have done from the beginning. But that didn't happen.

So what I think everything that your other guest just said, what I see is wrong here is that Johnny Depp is portraying a very exotic, reimagining of the Tonto character. This -- Tonto was always controversial because he was so subservient to the Lone Ranger. He did everything for the Lone Ranger. He was his side kick. He did the thinking for him. He did so many things and this was criticized by a lot of people because it put him in a subservient position and a side kick, second banana kind of person.

But now with Tonto being, quote, in charge, he's in charge, but he's in charge in a very exotic image. And the image here is also as important as him being in charge. The image is gothic, it's not realistic, it's way over the top. It doesn't represent anything in Indian culture, in Indian spirituality regardless of what the advisers to the film have said.

It's just a brazen reimagining of Tonto bringing him into the 21st century in a highly, highly exotified image that I think will do more damage to the Native American imagery than Tonto being in charge with the situation in the film. It's not a good situation. And there's no way that anyone can explain it that might say that he's Native American. A real Native American would not have done what's happening in this film.

COSTELLO: OK. We have to end it there. Thank you both for being with us. Entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner and Professor Hanat Geiogamah, director of the American Indian studies center at UCLA.

We're back in a minute.


COSTELLO: After a long day, any of us can feel like we're trapped at the office. But imagine being held hostage at work. A U.S. businessman says he's been held at his Chinese factory for five days now. Over what else? A pay dispute with his employees. The employees claim he's free to leave. He says no.

CNN's David McKenzie has more for you.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: American executive Chip Starnes puts on a brave face but he's being held captive in his own medical supply factory in China. So are you being held hostage now?

CHIP STARNES, HELD HOSTAGE IN LABOR DISPUTE: The answer is yes; 30 or 40 of them ransacked my office, came in there for three hours, standing there on my desk staring at me. 1:00 in the morning, my GM and I finally got them out, laid down for the next two hours it was banging on the doors, windows and lights and stuff. So a lot of sleep deprivation the first 48 hours.

MCKENZIE: His family back home in Florida say they're in constant contact, worried sick saying Starnes has a medical condition. He says he just wants to leave. They won't let him.

And so if you were to try and leave now, you couldn't leave?

STARNES: I -- it would be interesting to try. That's definitely crossed my mind.

MCKENZIE: In a bizarre twist, we're let in to view the factory. Starnes says he's been investing in China for more than a decade. He wants to move some manufacturing to Mumbai, India.

You and I are talking here and you're still being held hostage, it's kind of surreal.

STARNES: It is surreal. I don't think I've been back here in three days or so. So, yes, it actually is. The whole thing saddens me greatly.

MCKENZIE: Now he's meeting with workers, trying to negotiate his way out of the factory.

STARNES: This is not how to accomplish something. I'm at the point now -- you know, we're at a stand still. I deserve the right to go back to my hotel room and I deserve to come back and we can address things professionally.

MCKENZIE: The workers say they're owed two months back pay and told us Starnes isn't a hostage, but he can't leave.

David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.


COSTELLO: Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now.