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Allegations of Racism at University of Alabama Sororities; Kidman Collides with Pap; Brain-Eating Amoeba Makes Louisiana Water Safe to Drink, But Not Up Nose; Chen Reveals Eye Surgery; Critics Dispute First Lady Water Claims; Crusader Brings Fresh Fruit, Veggies to Low-Income Neighborhoods; Armstrong Returns Bronze Medal; Sheryl Crow Speaks About Armstrong; Trappe Fails

Aired September 13, 2013 - 15:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to those allegations here against a sorority at the University of Alabama. A report by the school's newspaper "The Crimson White" says the sorority blocked two black women from pledging, one with better than a 4.0 grade point average.

Want to read you part of this "Crimson White" article -- quote -- "Fifty years after Vivian Malone and James Hood became the first black students to desegregate the University of Alabama, there remains one last bastion of segregation on campus. The UA Greek system is still almost completely divided along racial -- racial lines."

Joining me now is HLN's Lynn Berry and the culture editor here from the "Crimson White."

So, Abbey, I want to get to you in a second, but Lynn, set this up for me.

LYNN BERRY, HLN ANCHOR: Serious allegations here, this newspaper really blew this story up.

When you read it, Brooke, it honestly seems like you're back 50 years ago, one of the sorority sisters saying people are too scared of what the repercussions are of maybe taking a black girl.

These allegations are serious, and basically, what happened is they had these two African-American sorority pledges.

One girl decided to speak out through this newspaper article and says, "There were members of my sorority who fought for these girls to be pledged, invited to be a pledge, and it was the alumni who cut this off."

And they came out and said, no, we don't want them to be a part of it.

And then a series of other sorority sisters came out of the woodwork. And there are about four sororities named in the article.

Bu these are serious allegations. The university is now looking into it.

BALDWIN: Abby, you talk ability the impenetrable color barrier at some of the sororities.

And I think Lynn brings up an interesting point I wanted to talk to you about. You're talking to these girls in the sorority.

Does it seem to you it's more the young women or is it the alumni making this a big deal?

ABBEY CRAIN, CULTURE EDITOR, "CRIMSON WHITE" (via telephone): I mean, every girl that I have talked to, every girl in the sorority, they were all very supportive of this.

Apparently this girl was very stellar in every way, and every girl I talked to was supportive of it. They said it was the alumni that was the issue.

BALDWIN: So where does this stand right now?

CRAIN (via telephone): I think it's ruffled a few feathers. The administration has kind of forced to speak now, now that it's national news, whereas they haven't in the past.

I think for at least a few sororities the nationals have gotten involved and are investigating the rush process to see if that's what really happened.

BALDWIN: Speaking of the university, you have a statement. What is the university saying?

BERRY: Brooke, first, it's really interesting because of the whole thing was spearheaded, first of all, read the university's statement.

They said, "The university administration, the members of our local chapter and the vast majority of our alumni fully believe that this is the right time to do the right thing and we're committed to insuring all students have access to and can choose from multiple opportunities that match their personality interests and goals."

But what's interesting is that it was spearheaded by this circuit court judge. He's one of three African-American board members at the University of Alabama. It's his step-granddaughter that is the pledge they're referring to in the article.

And he said this is on paper the ideal candidate. She's a 4.3 GPA from high school, a track member. Their family has a long line of public service. She's a lovely girl.

And he looked into this deeper and found there were four to seven African-American women that were denied an invitation to pledge from all 16 sororities there on campus. He said this calls for an investigation.

BALDWIN: Abbey, just -- I'm curious, what is the sense on campus?

Now that this has erupted on the national level, what are students, both in fraternities and sororities and not saying about it? CRAIN (via telephone): You know, we were really surprised. Going into it, we were all really nervous because this is actually the third time, or at least since I have been here, that we have written about this issue, but we've never had actual sorority members speak out.

Every -- we were really nervous. We were really nervous about the backlash over what people would say, but I can honestly say I have not received any negative feedback.

I have received support from sorority members who were in the sororities mentioned. I received support from faculty and other students, Greek and non-Greek.

I think it's been really well accepted and everyone agrees that this is something that we need to address.

BALDWIN: Abbey, keep writing. Keep digging. Abbey Crain with the "Crimson White" and Lynn Berry, thank you very much.

We'll stay on this and see what if anything happens and changes.

Hollywood versus the paparazzi, round two, an overzealous, shall we say, photographer plows into actress Nicole Kidman.

The run-in could spell legal trouble. We're "On the Case."

Plus, the pressure to get ahead, the fallout continues after a popular TV host admits to going under the knife to fix, in her words, her "Asian eyes."


BALDWIN: The latest run-in between a star and the paparazzi is just that, a literal run-in.

You have seen this video, Nicole Kidman heading back to her hotel in New York after attending fashion week shows when a photographer on a bike slammed smack dab into her, right there on the sidewalk.

The photographer ended up in a heap on the ground, walked away with three citations, including one for riding a bike on the sidewalk.

CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin is here. Listen, we don't know what Nicole Kidman could be doing with this, but if she were to press charges, could she?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The bottom line is the decision to prosecute a case lies with the d.a.'s office, with the government. It doesn't necessarily lie with the victim.

But by all indications, if she chooses to cooperate, I certainly think this type of incident is ripe for some sort of legal charge, criminal charge. I mean, this looks like assaultive behavior.

I have seen the entire video. It's just fascinating the way she is almost swarmed by all this paparazzi, two on bikes with cameras, and this person definitely just ran into her.

She, I think, escaped serious injury, but what if she didn't? What if she hadn't? What if she hit her head? What if she broke an arm, broke a leg? This type of behavior must be -- must be -- criminalized.

BALDWIN: When you see the video, it's like they come out of nowhere. I remember seeing, too, broadening out, the issue of stars increasingly going to bat against members of the paparazzi.

You had Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry recently pushing for tougher California legislation to keep the photographers specifically away from their kids. Do you think that might happen?

HOSTIN: I do. I think that we are almost 20 years post- the unfortunate incident involving Princess Diana's death, and I think this behavior continues and continues.

These celebrities almost have a price on their head because these photographers get paid a lot of money for these photos. And I think we have to draw the line when it comes to the children of these celebrities.

I mean, I'm a mother, and no one wants pictures taken of their children, first of all, but certainly not in this aggressive-type, swarming-type manner. How frightening must that be for a child.

I think certainly, that this kind of legislation has been pushed forward, and I do think we're going to see a major crackdown on this type of behavior. It's, in my view, Brooke, criminal.

BALDWIN: Sunny Hostin, thank you.

Coming up next, "The Talk" co-host Julie Chen sparks all kinds of controversy this week after revealing she had eye surgery to, in her words, "look less Asian." We'll talk about that.

Plus, is your water safe? One state is telling folks, it's OK to drink, just don't get it up your nose. Why? Find out, coming up.


BALDWIN: You think that if a germ gets into your system, it makes you sick wherever said germ might enter, in your blood, your mouth, it's in your body, right?

But this brain-eating amoeba is safe in your mouth, but not your nose. This is the latest word we're getting from health officials and Elizabeth Cohen explains all of this.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this little boy was playing on a water slide, and the water for that slide came from St. Bernard Parish, which is where they found the amoeba.

And in this water system, they had low levels of chlorine, which is really awful because the chlorine would have killed the amoeba.

Now if this all sounds familiar, it is. A boy from Texas passed away recently. He was swimming in a body of water that had this amoeba. It went up his nose and got into his brain.

Now I know this sounds strange when you're talking about a deadly amoeba, but actually the water is considered safe to drink. When you drink it, it doesn't go up your nose and into your brain.

But generally, water systems need to make sure that their chlorine levels are safe so that this amoeba will be killed because this is really a very deadly amoeba. Fewer than one percent of people who contract it survive.


BALDWIN: Julie Chen's past career move has become a current cultural controversy. Chen, she's this co-host of "The Talk." She hosts the reality show, "Big Brother." She's a former network news anchor.

Just this week she revealed that early on in her career, many a year ago, she followed the direction of an old agent and a former boss. So they told her she needs to undergo plastic surgery to make her eyes bigger.

Chen showed the before and after pictures this week while revealing that she, in fact, did that. This was her secret.


JULIE CHEN, CO-HOST, "THE TALK": And I want to show you a side-by-side of how dramatic this surgery really was. I mean, if you look at the after, the eyes are bigger. I look more alert.

But I will say when I -- after I had that done, everything kind of -- the ball did roll for me, which, you know, I struggle with, wow.

You know, did I give in to the man and do this?


BALDWIN: I talked about this with former Asian-American broadcaster who doesn't fault Chen's decision many years ago.


WENDY URUSHIMA-CONN, FORMER BROADCAST JOURNALIST: I understand. It's a very visual medium, and I applaud Julie for coming forward and being courageous and sharing her story because it is her story.

But I think at the end of the day, I think it comes back to personal choice and feeling confident and choosing what you decide to do.

Part of me also said, gosh, if someone had asked me, I would feel a little sickened and say, you know, I might not be the right person for the job. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That's one person's opinion. Just going through a bunch of comments on, she has definitely gotten backlash.

Let me read one comment. "Horrible role model, she sold herself out. Very sad."

Another person wrote this, "This is the burden under which all minorities must live. If you don't look European, you're not considering beautiful by the general public."

Coming up, as Lance Armstrong surrenders his medal, his ex-, Sheryl Crow makes a rare comment about their relationship and what she thinks of him now.

Plus, critics taking on the first lady over her comments about water, what has them so upset?

Jake Tapper is going to join me to talk about that, next.


BALDWIN: Ah, Washington, there is always a controversy, always a fight, and this time, it involves of all things, water and the first lady is smack dab at the center of it.

Take a listen.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Drink just one more glass of water a day, and you can make a real difference for your health, for your energy and the way that you feel.


BALDWIN: It seems sounds harmless, right? Well, the critics are out.

Jake tapper, anchor of "THE LEAD," tackling this one on the show.

Politics, my friend, health experts, they are coming out against this, aren't they?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Well, not against it so much as they are saying that the first lady is overstating the benefits of one glass of water a day.

It's funny because obviously first ladies tend to take on non- controversial subjects to push, say no to drugs, read more books, get healthier.

You would think water would be --

BALDWIN: Drink more water. TAPPER: Yes, that seems like it would be benign enough but, no, some health experts are saying one glass of water a day is not necessarily enough to get the health benefits the first lady is talking about, and that there really is very little evidence that it brings you more energy.

That said, of course drinking more water is good for everybody.

Another interesting wrinkle in this is the question of how much the first lady should be talking about drink water instead of drinking soda, which is not something she says in this campaign. She has said it before.

There are questions about the people who are behind this campaign and the exact message, is it about drinking water instead of sugary drinks or just water.

So you know, you really can't do anything in this town without politics emerging. Everyone agrees that drinking water, more water, is a good thing, but, yes, there are some criticisms about this latest campaign.

BALDWIN: I'm drinking my water right now. Do you have yours?

TAPPER: It's in a coffee mug but yes, I have it as well.

BALDWIN: Cheers.

Jake Tapper, my friend, thank you very much. We'll see you at the top of the hour. Watch "THE LEAD."

TAPPER: We'll see you at the top. Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up next, Lance Armstrong's ex-, Sheryl Crow, finally breaks her silence on their relationship, the breakup and his doping scandal.


BALDWIN: For nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population living in low- income areas, access to fresh produce can be pretty limited.

When this week's CNN hero discovered this problem in her North Carolina community, she turned into her backyard, and she turned that into a garden.

Meet Robin Emmons.


ROBIN EMMONS, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: There's a magic in gardening, that you can drop a seed into the earth and from that there's amazing fruit that is delicious and so good for your body. That's a miracle to me.

Here in Charlotte, 73,000 people live in low-income neighborhoods that don't have access to this fresh fruit.

You can call this the "miracle mile," pretty desolate in the way of healthy food options. There are barely any supermarkets. Once they get there by bus or a neighbor's car or on foot, they are paying a very high price for the food.

I'm Robin Emmons, and I believe everyone should have access to fresh fruit, so I grow it and bring it to communities in need.

We want our market to be abundant tomorrow, so let's hit it.

We have about 200 volunteers that come out and help us harvesting the food.

These are heirloom tomatoes over here.

We're bring the food to the community and cut the cost in half compared to what they would pay at a grocery store.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Six months ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes.

Let's see if we can try something a little better.

I'm unemployed right now so sometimes you have to buy the cheaper things.

These are beautiful.

I couldn't believe all the fresh vegetables and the price was phenomenal. It's making me and my family healthier.

EMMONS: I started growing food in my backyard. Today I grow on nine acres of land. Since 2008, we have grown 26,000 pounds of food.


EMMONS: I feel like I'm giving them a gift, a healthier, longer, more delicious life.


BALDWIN: That is awesome.

If you would like to learn more about Robin, you can, and the amazing work she does. Go to

And take a look now at what CNN has to offer tonight on CNN primetime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN tonight, at 8:00 on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," disturbing stories of dogs forced to fight for bets and now how love and care is healing them back into loving pets.

And at 9:00 on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE," he's back. What will Ricky Gervais say to Piers this time? It's all on CNN tonight, starting with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" at 7:00, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 8:00, and "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" at 9:00, tonight on CNN.