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Relations Rocky Between U.S. and Russia; Oprah Racism Victim; Egyptian Situaion Continues to be Precarious; Sanjay Gupta Discusses His Turnaround on Medical Marijuana

Aired August 9, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: A new terror threat and a chilly relationship with Russia. They are tough topics the president will discuss today at his news conference.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, about three hours from now.

Also, two Turkish airline pilots kidnapped in Lebanon and it's about Syria. We'll explain what is happening (ph).

MALVEAUX: Plus, Oprah Winfrey says she is a target of racism. She wanted to look at a $38,000 bag in Switzerland, but the clerk would not let her. Hear what the store is now saying.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company today.

A new terror threat causing the U.S. to call most of its diplomats out of the consulate in Lahore in Pakistan.

MALVEAUX: It's not even clear if this is connected to the broader threat that prompted closing 19 embassies and consulates. Well, the State Department ordered all diplomats, expect for a handful of emergency personnel, to leave. Officials say the decision was in response to specific threats against the consulate in Lahore.

HOLMES: The State Department also warning U.S. citizens not to travel to Pakistan. Pakistan's interior ministry, meanwhile, said it wasn't aware of any threat against the consulate. Pakistan, of course, remains a hot bed of violence both internal and external. The city of Lahore is home to extremists who have sympathies with al Qaeda.

MALVEAUX: The U.S. has been battling the threat using drones and working with the Pakistani military.

"From Russia with Love" might have been a great movie, but there is little love between the U.S. and Russia now.

HOLMES: Oh, boy. And President Obama likely to face a few questions about the strained relations when he gives that news conference we just mentioned this afternoon. Just this week, the president cancelled a one-on-one meeting with President Putin ahead of the G-8 Summit, which takes place next month. MALVEAUX: Russia's decision to grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden was a major factor. Washington and Moscow are now at odds as well over Syria's civil war and Iran's nuclear program. A lot of things they're dealing with.

I want to bring in our national security analyst, Fran Townsend, into the mix here via Skype from New York.

Fran, one of the things I remember is covering President Obama and Putin's first meeting at Putin's ranch. It was the Russian equivalent of Camp David, really. And Putin would not look at him. He would not face him eye to eye. An Obama advisor said that Obama just sat there for more than an hour just listening to Putin vent. It seems as if now we've come a long way, that the two of them are not even going to get together and he is not going to listen to him.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Well, look, Suzanne, as your lead in suggested, there's been, for over a year and a half, two years, sort of a series of really difficult issues. So Syria and - because, of course, the Russians really care about the Port of Tartus far more than they care about the Assad regime. There's the Iranian nuclear program. There's the Tsarnaev brothers information. Those are the Boston bombings duo. Well, remember, the Russians had passed information to the FBI and were criticized, frankly, after the Boston bombing for not having followed up and answered additional questions from the FBI before the bombing that might have allowed the FBI to do disrupt it. There was always the alleged American spy recently that the Russians expelled. And then - and then you have, on top of all of that, of course, the Snowden asylum being granted in Russia.

We really are at an all-time low, back to the battle days, I suppose, of the Cold War. But this is an important relationship. And both heads of state, President Obama and President Putin, are going to have to find some common ground because, of course, they're going to have to talk about really important political and geo political issues like Syria. They have - you know, they're facing the G-20 coming up. There are issues relayed to China and to the broader Middle East. And so they've got a lot they're going to have to find a way, some common ground, to be able to talk about.

HOLMES: Yes, I suppose, Fran, despite the fact that the one-on-one talks were cancelled, they will see each other at the G-8, of course. And there are talks going on today. You've got the U.S. secretary of state, the defense secretary as well, meeting with their Russian counterparts. What, if anything, do we expect from that? Perhaps a little behind the scenes thawing?

TOWNSEND: Oh, I think that's exactly right. You can expect that Secretary Kerry is looking to identify some common ground for the two leaders when they do come together at the G-20. I thought Secretary Kerry had a great - a great line at the end of that meeting where he said, you know, like old hockey players, sometimes in hockey, big players collide. And that's sort of what's happened. And they both need to pick themselves up and find some common ground that they can begin to try and rebuild a relationship on. And I think that's exactly what Secretary Kerry's trying to do today.

MALVEAUX: And, Fran, specifically, what do you expect the president, the kinds of questions, tough questions, the president is going to get at his press conference in light of the terrorist threat and this tense relationship with Russia now?

TOWNSEND: Oh, I think - I think the president will be prepared to face the question, did Secretary Kerry, in his meetings today, raise the issue of Snowden? Was there a discussion about that? Are the Russians cooperating on the terror threat and in what ways? I mean they'll be - they'll ask the -- I think the president will be expected to answer sort of, where do we go from here and what are the things that are being done in terms of the bilateral relationship now to try and reopen it.

HOLMES: And, Fran, just before I let you go, going back to Russia, I'm curious your take on this. Mr. Putin is likely to feel a little bit snubbed, but in many ways, when you look at that breadth of issues that you touched on there, Russia feels, I think, in some ways, they have the upper hand. They're awash with oil. Oil prices are high. Do they even need the U.S. as a good mate?

TOWNSEND: Well, I think you're exactly right, Michael. I suspect that President Putin does feel like he sort of has the upper hand. Remember, you know, when the White House announced that morning that they were canceling the bilateral between Putin and Obama, there had been word leaking out that the kremlin had planned to cancel the meeting. So I agree with you and I expect that this will be a long, cold thaw. I mean I don't think that this is going to rebuild itself quickly or easily.

HOLMES: Good to see you, Fran. Thanks for that.

TOWNSEND: Thanks, Michael.

MALVEAUX: Interesting. I mean this is - it's a very chilly relationship.


MALVEAUX: But from the very beginning, if you looked at the body language of those two leaders, there was not a lot to work with in the beginning.

HOLMES: And even recently, too.


HOLMES: And it's interesting, the point with Russia, Russia has a lot of oil. People forget that. And while oil prices are high, they have an economic incentive to just go, yes, well, we don't care. You know, you come to us.

MALVEAUX: Yes. We'll see how the meeting goes.

Now to a troubling revelation by one of the world's biggest celebrities. We're talking about Oprah Winfrey. Well, Winfrey, she told "Entertainment Tonight" that she was recently the victim of racism during a visit - this is a high-end store out of Switzerland.

HOLMES: Yes, what she says is that a sales woman didn't recognize her, refused to show her an expensive handbag. Have a listen.


OPRAH WINFREY: I go into a store, which shall remain unnamed, and I say to the woman, excuse me, may I - may I see that - that bag right above your head. And she says to me, no. It's too expensive. And I said, no, no, no. No, see, you see the black one. The one that's folded over the - and she said, no, no, no, you don't want to see that one. You want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You will not be able to afford that. And I said, well, no, I really did want to see that one. And she -- she refused to get it. She refused to get it.


HOLMES: Nischelle Turner joining us now from New York.

You know, we got to mention that Oprah says she was dressed nicely when she went into the store. She felt it was obvious the sales woman couldn't - couldn't not think that she wasn't somebody who could afford the bag. But she thinks it's about race. What did Oprah do after she was refused to see the bag?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, first of all, she was in town for Tina Turner's wedding and Oprah said that she went into the store alone. And she said, when she kept pressing to see the expensive bag, like you heard her say, the salesperson wouldn't show it to her. So she said she just walked out of store quietly. She did say she thought about making a scene and calling the woman out on it, but she thought, and I'm quoting her, "why do that," you know?

MALVEAUX: Well, she's calling attention to it now. So is the store responding in any way? Are they explaining what actually happened here? Do they believe that this was a racist incident from one of their staff?

TURNER: Yes, you know, Suzanne, they are explaining their side of it. You know, Oprah did not name the store. You heard her say, "shall remain nameless." But our colleagues at CNN in Europe contacted the manager of the shop that we know to be Twa Palm (ph). The manager told us that this was a 200 percent misunderstanding. They went on to explain in part, and this is from their statement to us. "Mrs. Oprah then asked her how much it was," meaning the sales assistant, "and the sales assistant said 35,000 Swiss francs," which in U.S. dollars is $38,000. "Because Mrs. Oprah said she just wanted to look at the bag, she didn't want it taken down and because my sales assistant felt a little embarrassed about the price, she quickly said that she also had the model in other materials such as ostrich and suede, which weren't so expensive." So the store says it's all a big misunderstanding. I'm not sure if maybe there was a language barrier or something there. Not really sure. But Oprah is, you know, pretty strident in the fact that she believes that the lady did not want to show her the bag because she thought she could not afford it.


MALVEAUX: And, Nischelle, did they have any idea that it was Oprah Winfrey that they were talking to? I'm just curious if they realized who this -

TURNER: That's a good point.

MALVEAUX: Actually who this was and that, you know, I mean aside from --

HOLMES: Not that it would matter. But, yes. Yes.

MALVEAUX: Exactly.

TURNER: Exactly.

MALVEAUX: But that she certainly could afford this.

TURNER: Yes, Michael, you're right, even if they didn't know it was Oprah, it shouldn't matter. But in -- because in the response from the store, they did say Mrs. Oprah went in and Oprah went in. I do believe somebody knew it was Oprah. So, you know, at the - at the time.

HOLMES: And the manager did say - I saw his statement too and he said that the sales woman spoke a little English but her main - despite Oprah doing what seemed to be a French accent, she - the sales woman spoke mainly Italian. So maybe language did play into it a little bit. Yes, so, it could have been a misunderstanding or that's not the sense Oprah's got though.

TURNER: No. And, you know, Oprah, you know, she told me - I spoke with her earlier this week as well, guys, and she has said that she doesn't believe she faces overt racism on a regular basis, especially in the United States. And she even said that she thinks the racism she experiences is more subtle. And I want to just give you an idea of what she said to me, if we can take a look real quick.


OPRAH WINFREY: Nobody's going to call up -- come up to me and call me the "n" word unless they're on Twitter and I can't find them.

TURNER: Twitter thugs are something else, aren't they?

WINFREY: Twitter thugs. Oh, the Twitter thugs. The Twitter thugs. So I've learned to leave the Twitter thugs alone. So I guess -- unless it's something ridiculous, nobody's going to do it. But I experience racism in ways that you experience when you have reached a level where people can't call you to your face by - you know, out of your name. I experience it through people's expectations and lack thereof. And I use it to my advantage. It's a wonderful thing when people count you out because they think you can't do something.


TURNER: Now, while she didn't allude to the specific incident of the handbag store, she did say, and it kind of falls in line with that, that a lot of times she experiences people not having expectations that she can do something or afford something or do something. And that's exactly what she says happened here.

HOLMES: All right, Nischelle, thanks so much. Nischelle turner there.

MALVEAUX: You know former President Bush called it the soft bigotry of low expectations.

HOLMES: Oh, there you go.

MALVEAUX: That's exactly right. Yes. I mean, that that happens anywhere, in education. That that's what African-Americans are facing. Oprah Winfrey, in an amazing movie that I had a chance to see in a premier, touching on key chapters in American history. This is "The Butler."

HOLMES: You saw this?

MALVEAUX: I saw this.

HOLMES: Oh, wow.

MALVEAUX: It was, you know, a sneak preview there of the movie. But it is based on a true story of a man who grew up, he was poor in the south, served for eight presidents as a butler in the White House. And we actually get a chance to see history play out through his eyes. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no tolerance for politics at the White House.

FOREST WHITAKER, ACTOR, "THE BUTLER": I'm Cecil Gaines. I'm the new butler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve.

OPRAH WINFREY, ACTRESS, "THE BUTLER": You know he got that job hiself. The White House call him. He didn't call the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to hear all the stories.

WINFREY: I don't know how many stories you're going to hear because they done swore him to some kind of secret code.

I'm so proud of you.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR, "THE BUTLER": Did you go to an all colored school, Cecil?

WHITAKER: I didn't go to school, Mr. President. I grew up on a cotton farm.


MALVEAUX: Well, next hour, we're going to talk to the film's director, Lee Daniels. Also the actor in that, of course, who played, Forest Whitaker. Unbelievable performance by both of them.

HOLMES: He's fantastic.

HOLMES: And just a-list actors in this film. Takes you all the way through to when the president is elected, President Obama.

HOLMES: Looking forward to seeing it. Take me to the premier next time, will you?


HOLMES: All right, here's more of what we're working on this hour for AROUND THE WORLD.

They say they were captured, beaten, even tortured. The dark side of the protest going on in Egypt.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "They took me to the stage and tied me down and beat me," he says. "Then they gave me this and this."



And this, plus, could there be a helpful high? Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains why he is now in favor of the medical use of marijuana.

HOLMES: And don't we all hate those pesky fees and high interest rates on our credit cards. Well, one man in Russia, this is very clever, you don't want to miss this, he took matters into his own hands. He changed the fine print. The credit card company didn't read the fine print. We'll explain when we come back.

MALVEAUX: Got to like that.


MALVEAUX: Now to the horn of Africa where a large cargo plane crashed, burned, today. This is in Somalia. This happened at the international airport in the capital of Mogadishu.

The plane belonged to the Ethiopian air force and was carrying weapons and supplies for African Union peacekeepers deployed to Somalia.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CO-ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Yeah, four crew members were killed in the crash. No word yet on what caused it.

In Egypt today, crowds of people who want their elected president back in power, not going quietly despite the urging of the government.

MALVEAUX: Since Mohamed Morsy was forced from office by the Egyptian military, the streets and the squares of Cairo are filled almost every day with people demanding that he be brought back.

Now sometimes those protests have also turned violent.

HOLMES: About 250 people so far have died in street fighting in Cairo over this.

Our Arwa Damon is there. So, as she says, some people say it's the Morsy supporters who are responsible for a lot of violence and death.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over water pipes and coffee shops, under a banner of some of those killed, the main topic of intense and often angry conversation is the ongoing pro-Morsy sit-in right next door at Cairo University.

Ahmed Yaya (ph) took a bullet to the leg. Fired by whom, he doesn't know, during clashes early last month.

His friend (inaudible) in a different incident says he was dragged out of the building where he works by Morsy supporters.

"They took me to the stage and tied me down and beat me," he says. "And then they gave me this and this."

He still doesn't know how he survived. He says there were half a dozen others with him who didn't.

(Inaudible) face is still bruise, his toes swollen from the beating he received more than a week ago.

"It was the dawn call to prayer, so I prayed with them," he recalls. Sure, he'd heard the stories about torture inside, but he didn't believe it.

"They tied my hands and feet and blindfolded me," he tells us. "Then they started beating. I can't describe the beating to you."

He was accused of being an anti-Morsy infiltrator.

"Then someone put a gun to my head and cocked it," he continues. "He pulled the trigger but no bullet came out."

He says it happened on the roof top of one of the buildings at this park right next to the sit-in area.

There have been numerous reports of corpses found in the streets nearby. Amnesty International has documented five such cases.

This is the park that everyone from that neighborhood is terrified of, warning us not to come here, saying that we would be slaughtered.

We have been speaking to people here, and they all say that those allegations of torture are, quite simply, false.

The Muslim Brotherhood denies involvement in acts of killing and torture, but says it cannot control all its supporters, especially given the level of animosity between the two sides.

Of the approximately 250 people killed since Morsy was ousted from power, the majority have been his supporters.

And human rights watchdogs documenting violations on both sides are voicing growing concerns.

MOHAMED LOFTY, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL RESEARCHER: It's an obstacle to finding a political solution when you have this hatred, demonization of the other. That makes it more difficult to bridge the gaps.

DAMON: With the threat of more bloodshed looming, the divide is only going to get worse.


HOLMES: And Arwa is live in Cairo. It's just after 7:00 p.m. there. The crowds were out again today.

The question has got to be, the interim government saying we're going to move on you if you don't go away. They're saying we're going to be here till next Ramadan if we have to. What's going to happen?

DAMON: That's the big question. That's why there's so many fears about this increase in bloodshed that could take place.

This here is one of the squares that the government says it wants to clear out. You can see it's women, it's children, it's families.

We're now on day two of the three day holiday that comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. People have been flocking here, choosing not to celebrate with their families at home, but rather, come here.

They feel like they need to continue to make this political statement. For many of them, it's gone beyond whether he should be returned to power. It's based on the principle he was part of a democratically elected government. They feel as if their power was taken from them.

Even though it's meant to be a time of celebration, there's rides for kids and face painting, this whole crisis is really overshadowing everything.

HOLMES: All right. Arwa, we'll leave it there.

And just going to explain it for people, it's a long way from Atlanta to Cairo and bouncing around on those satellites, but that was a world record breaking delay.

MALVEAUX: Delay. You call that a delay, yes. HOLMES: That rivaled Cuba and more.

MALVEAUX: Eight seconds, I think it was.


MALVEAUX: Well, he's one of America's best known doctors, and he now supports medical marijuana. It's our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who traveled around the world, found that some patients even use marijuana in hospitals.

We're going to tell you where, up next.


MALVEAUX: So have we been misled for decades about medical marijuana? Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta says, yes, after almost a year of reporting on this.

HOLMES: Yeah, his new documentary, you're going to want to want to watch this. It's going to make you rethink perhaps what you thought about weed.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: People are lighting up all over the country. They call it the "Green Rush." Marijuana has moved out of the back alleys and into the open.

In some states, it's legal to grow, to sell, to smoke and marijuana could be legalized in a city near you.

So easy to get and many think so harmless, but when the smoke clears, is marijuana bad for you, or could pot actually be good for you?


MALVEAUX: So Sanjay joins us. And you have traveled around the world for the last year exploring this, and it has gotten tremendous response.

Everybody is very curious about how you came to this new conclusion that you have about specifically medical marijuana. So tell us a little bit about it.

GUPTA: I think part of this, when you look at the medical journals in the United States, there's some 20,000 papers will pop up when you look for medical marijuana.

Most of them actually designed to look at the harm, the problems, the perils of marijuana, a very small percentage to look at the benefit. And I think, right away, that sort of paints a distorted image.

So for me, it took getting outside of the country, quite literally, and seeing the research going on in other places, seeing the patients and also recognizing that in a place like Jerusalem, they have some of the most progressive attitudes toward medicinal marijuana, even allowing patients to sort of use marijuana in the hospital. I saw patients vaporizing marijuana inside the hospital.

So they have done the science, they have concluded there's some benefit, and actually let the patients use it in hospitals and nursing homes, as you're seeing there, for very, very specific problems.

HOLMES: And you changed your own mind about this. And I urge people to look at your article on because it's a great explainer of how you got there. You changed your mind. You even apologized for your previous views.

But, you know, what is it about marijuana that does work for some people?

GUPTA: When you think about marijuana, it's lots of different chemicals. And the one that everyone pays attention to is something known as THC. That's the psychoactive part that gets people high.

But there's another predominant chemical as well known as CBD, which is people have been experimenting and researching its medicinal properties for quite some time.

It's probably that CBD that has a significant impact on epilepsy, on pain, even emaciation. There's now research into PTSD, as a neural protectant after a brain, a stroke or head injury.

So I think it was that area that really is the most promising. And you see some real progress in those particular disorders.

MALVEAUX: And, Sanjay, address the difference here between medicinal use and recreational use because, still, a lot of people think -- you know, they look at alcohol and how alcohol's abused.

They look at marijuana and they're still trying to sort their head around this, that this is something that's not necessarily illegal.

GUPTA: Right, and look, I understand that. And let me just say, I thought a lot about this because I have kids and my kids are going to be able to Google this conversation 20 years from now and say, so what did you mean by that?

I think there's a light line, a distinction between the two. I think that -- look, I don't want my kids, I don't want anyone who still has a developing brain up to age 25 to even think about using this. It has a particularly detrimental effect.

And, you know, this isn't about recreational use. But everyone brings up this moral equivalence argument, Suzanne, that alcohol is legal. This is worse, you know. And I think you can look at the facts.

Dependence is about nine percent in marijuana and 15 percent in alcohol. Withdrawal with marijuana is insomnia, anxiety and nausea. With alcohol, withdrawal can be life-threatening. People die of alcohol overdoses. I've never seen that with marijuana. That's all probably true, but medical marijuana should stand on its own. This is a legitimate medication, and people shouldn't be denied it because we're concerned about the recreational use.

HOLMES: And it was interesting in the article, too, that you say that it's been demonized not because of sound science, but because of a lack of science.


HOLMES: Which is a great line.

GUPTA: Yeah. It was the absence of science.

HOLMES: Good. Great.

MALVEAUX: Good reporting.

GUPTA: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: As always.

HOLMES: A very mellow Sanjay Gupta here.

The special, everyone's got to tune in and watch this. This is called "Weed." It's on Sunday night, 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

And, again, check out the op-ed on because it really outlines how Sanjay came to this conclusion.

MALVEAUX: Excellent research that he, AROUND THE WORLD, too.

Two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Lebanon, gunmen stop. They take them.

We're going to go live to Beirut with the very latest.