Return to Transcripts main page


Pope Speaks Against Catholic Traditions; Hurricane Hammers Mexico; Bernanke Will Not Taper Fed's Cash Pumping; Navy Yard Shooting

Aired September 19, 2013 - 12:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Church should not interfere spiritually in their lives. The interview coming up.

Also this.


ANA BENAVIDES, STRANDED MEDICAL STUDENT : And we tried to leave on Monday. An so we all got together in the car and -- to go and the road was blocked. We didn't get further than a mile.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: This is certainly not the vacation they had planned. Thousands of tourists trapped in Acapulco after massive flooding in Mexico.

HOLMES: Also, the battle of the op-eds. First Russia's president prints an article criticizing the U.S., and now Senator John McCain has some words in the Russian media for Mr. Putin.

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

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

The pope speaking out about some of the oldest, staunchest traditions in the Roman Catholic Church. We're talking about the acceptance of gays and lesbians, embracing prominent roles for women in the church, and how about contraception and abortion.

MALVEAUX: He is not even holding back. This is a wide-ranging interview that is just coming out now. Now, Pope Francis spoke with the Jesuit magazine called "America" and here's one excerpt. Here's what he says. Francis said that someone once asked him if he approved of homosexuality. The quote here, "I replied with another question." He said, "tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person."

HOLMES: Reverend James Martin is editor at large at "America" magazine, joins us now from New York.

And thanks for doing so. You know, the pope says the church does not have the right to interfere spiritually in the lives of gays and lesbians. How do you interpret that and your thoughts?

REV. JAMES MARTIN, EDITOR AT LARGE, "AMERICA" MAGAZINE: Well, he also says that the church must consider these gays and lesbians as people and accompany them with mercy. It is an expansion of some of the things he said on the flight back from Rio where he said, who am I to judge? And interestingly people said, well, he's only talking about gay priests on the plane. But in the "America" magazine interview, he's obviously talking about gay persons. So it's a very wide-ranging, merciful, broad, very heartfelt interview.

MALVEAUX: I mean this is something kind of extraordinary in the development of the Catholic Church, being a Roman Catholic myself. We've never heard these kinds of things coming from the leadership of the church. And there's something else that he says here, this quote. He says, "we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods. I've not spoken much about these things and I was reprimanded for that. It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time." I mean that seems like an extraordinary message to those who use religion in a political way because that has been the political platform of the church for some time now.

MARTIN: Well, it's the theological platform of the church. But I agree, when we first read those comments in "America" magazine, you know, in the English translation of the original Italian, we were stunned. It's a very blunt pope that you hear. It's a pope who's speaking from his heart. And it's a pope that is not afraid to sort of answer these difficult questions. And he is very blunt in this interview. By the way, it's published simultaneously in 16 Jesuit magazines across the world at the same time today an hour ago.

HOLMES: Yes, he - it's an - he's an extraordinary pontiff already, and he's only a few months into the job. But another quote, I'll just run by you, just a brief one. He said, "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition, it is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner." That from a man who leads more than, you know, all these millions of Catholics around the world. Give me a sense of how you think he has shaken up the church. And, I mean, he's not touching really on doctrine, but he's shaking up how people think about these issues.

MARTIN: That's a very good point. He's not changing doctrine, but he's bringing people into a more open, merciful, broad-minded church that is not afraid to sort of go into the margins, he's not afraid to push the boundaries a little bit. And, you know, even us at "America" magazine, where we've, you know, read many documents from popes, we were stunned when we read some of these things. It's very blunt. And as you say, he said, "I am a sinner." We're all sinners but, you know, rarely do you hear it said that directly and that candidly, you know, with no sugarcoating.

HOLMES: Certainly an extraordinary pontiff so far, really is shaking things up. Reverend James Martin, editor at large, "America" magazine. Appreciate you being with us.

MARTIN: My pleasure.

MALVEAUX: And I'll be in church this Sunday to see if there are any rippling effects here to all of this going on.

And Mexico, the last thing they need, of course, is more destructive weather, but they are getting just that. We're talking about this tropical storm that is pounding the Pacific Coast. Stronger now. It is now considered a hurricane.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. After everything else, there are two other, separate, major storms flooding people out of their homes, causing massive mudslides and stranding tens of thousands of tourists. In some resort areas on the Pacific Coast, nobody's going anywhere.

MALVEAUX: Not until the water goes down, at least, and the hurricane winds stop blowing. Our Shasta Darlington, she is on the road right now. She's actually trying to get to one of the very hard-hit areas to talk about that. But it was just a little while ago that she was actually in Acapulco. Let's watch.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chaos in the beach resort of Acapulco. Three days after Manuel made landfall, the city's international airport submerged in waist-deep floodwaters. Some 40,000 tourists struggling to get out after the worst storm damage to hit Mexico in years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We ran out of money, so we spent the night here. We don't have food or water.

DARLINGTON: And she's not alone.

DARLINGTON (on camera): Here outside the Air Force base, there are hundreds and hundreds of people in line, really as far as you can see, many of them have been waiting all day and some even spent the night here.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Most of the tourists are Mexican, but we also find a medical student from Los Angeles.

ANA BENAVIDES, STRANDED MEDICAL STUDENT : And we tried to leave on Monday. An so we all got together in the car and -- to go and the road was blocked. We didn't get further than a mile.

DARLINGTON: She spent 12 hours in this line today but seems to accept she may not get on a flight.

BENAVIDES: You know, we're a lot better off than a lot of people.

DARLINGTON: More than 10,000 tourists have been airlifted out, many of them abandoning cars and belongings in their desperation to get home. The Air Force is also carrying supplies to towns and neighborhoods that have been completely cut-off by washed out bridges and roads. Electricity and phone lines were down for two days and running water won't be restored to many homes for another 20 days. At least 80 people have been killed and a million people affected across the country by the onslaught of three different tropical storms.

Here in Acapulco, rescue workers are still just reaching the hardest- hit areas. And while some weary tourists are finally headed home, many more are bracing for another night.


MALVEAUX: Want to bring in Shasta, who's on the phone, she is on the road here. This is in southwest Mexico.

And, Shasta, tell us what the conditions are that you're seeing where you are for now.

DARLINGTON (via telephone): Well, it's really still very difficult, Suzanne. We tried to take one road out of Acapulco and it was blocked by tourists who were protesting because they can't get on airplanes. We took another road. We've driven - we're driving through some of the very poor suburbs and some of the roads are still flooded. It's just coated in mud. We're passing by people as they shovel mud out of their homes.

We passed by a huge line of residents who are trying to buy canned cooking gas so that they can keep on cooking, even though they don't have running water. Many of them still don't have electricity. So even though this is five days after Manuel made landfall here, it wasn't yet a hurricane, people are still struggling to just get on with their life, to bring their homes back to normalcy. And other people lost their homes altogether, Suzanne.

HOLMES: Yes, and, Shasta, it's still not over, of course, as we say, weather wise. You know you've got - you have dozens dead. You've got dozens missing after the mudslides from earlier. How is the infrastructure holding up in terms of relief work and rescue?

DARLINGTON: You know, Michael, I think it's actually hard to even talk about there being infrastructure. All of the main highways and roads in and out of Acapulco are still blocked. They were blocked by mudslides and rock slides. They're still trying to get through those.

We're passing through a suburb right now where the river flooded, washed out the bridge. So it's a little island. It's completely surrounded by water. People can't get in and out. They have to helicopter in supplies. And this is still on the outskirts of Acapulco. So where these hard-hit towns maybe 70 kilometers or about 60 miles west of here, they're trying to get in with helicopters but the rain didn't even stop until yesterday. And they're still, themselves, discovering the extent of the damage. They don't know how many people are missing and how many people died, Michael.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. Shasta, thanks so much. Shasta Darlington there on the road getting to some of those hard-hit areas. As I say, 60 people dead and there's a lot of missing people, too. Almost an entire town was hit by a mudslide. MALVEAUX: Those numbers - yes, the news is not going to be good.

HOLMES: No. More to come.

MALVEAUX: And on to the crisis in Syria. The president of Syria says that he has agreed to give up his chemical weapons but not because he was afraid of a U.S. attack. Straight from Bashar al Assad himself when he talked to an American interviewer. This was in English. Just take a listen.


PRESIDENT BASHAR AL ASSAD, SYRIA: Misunderstanding that we agreed in these agreement because of the American threat. Actually, if you go back, before the G-20, before the proposal of these initiative, the Russian initiative, the American threat wasn't about giving -- handing over the chemical arson. It was about attacking Syria in order not to use the arsenal again. So it's not about the threat. Syria never obeys (ph) any threat. Actually responded to the American - to the Russian initiative.


HOLMES: Well, the Syrian president there. And he does, of course, enjoy the support that he gets from Russia. And that came up in an opinion piece that appeared on a Russian website today. It was an article written by the Republican senator, John McCain, takes issue with an essay that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wrote to the American people last week in "The New York Times."

MALVEAUX: So here's a couple lines from McCain's piece. He addresses the Russian people with, and he says this, "they don't respect your dignity or accept your authority over them. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media."

I want to bring in Phil Black, in from Moscow, to talk a little bit about this op-ed from Senator John McCain.

And the question that I have, really, is, you know, this seems like it's for domestic consumption, for an American audience, not for the Russians, because do they care, do they really care what John McCain thinks?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that what you'll find here, and what John McCain has in common with Vladimir Putin in this instance, apart from the fact that they disagree on almost everything, is that they both feel misunderstood in the countries that they are trying to engage in. So what both leaders have tried to do in this case is communicate directly with the people, bypassing the local filters of politicians and journalists and so forth who they believe distort the message they're trying to put out.

And you can see that very carefully in the way that Vladimir Putin expressed the Russian position on Syria and the way here that John McCain really is trying to stress the fact that he's not anti-Russian. Because that's often what he's referred to in the country as. Whether or not this is successful, I guess we might have to just wait a little bit longer to find out. But certainly we know that Vladimir Putin was criticized still quite heavily for some of his comments and certainly not everyone's going to agree with John McCain. Generally, most Russians don't like being told what to do by non-Russians.


HOLMES: Yes. And, Phil, "Pravda," of course, has been around forever as a Russian news publication. But this was (ph). How widely read is it? Let's be realistic.

BLACK: Yes, not very much, really, Michael. The brand "Pravda" is internationally famous because it was the newspaper, the mouthpiece of the communist party during the Soviet Union. The "Pravda" of today is a little bit different. It is just a news website, and it is really quite tabloid in its approach and it is not widely read and it doesn't really play into the political discourse of this country very much. So it is, by no means, "The New York Times" of Russia, but it does have that symbolic name and that is perhaps what John McCain was going for here.

MALVEAUX: And, Phil, finally, in the op-ed here, he also says, quote, "President Putin doesn't believe in you. He doesn't believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just peaceful, prosperous societies. Or at least he doesn't believe Russians can." Is there any response from Putin?

BLACK: Putin was quite restrained in his response today, I would say. He said that he hadn't read the piece, but his general view of John McCain is that he doesn't know enough about Russia. McCain is a frequent critic of Putin, his leadership, Putin's Russia generally. But in the past, Vladimir Putin has used much more colorful language. I can recall a time live on television about 18 months ago when Putin was asked about some criticism from McCain. Putin responded basically that he thought McCain was crazy because of his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. So these two men have history, and not the positive kind. And there's no reason to believe that's going to change any time soon.


MALVEAUX: OK, the war of the op-eds, the war of words.


MALVEAUX: Thank you, Phil. Appreciate it, as always.

HOLMES: Yes, and also, by the way, later today, John McCain is going to be live on "The Lead with Jake Tapper," 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Tune in for that and we'll get his response.

MALVEAUX: That will be an interesting interview.

Here's more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD. Record highs in the stock market surges. Your 401(k), mortgage rates looking pretty good. But how long is all of this going to last and what does it really say about the state of the economy if the Federal Reserve isn't ready to pull back on bond purchases.

HOLMES: A lot to talk about.

Also this, an amazing survival story. A woman in China trapped for 15 days in an abandoned well. How she survived. That's also coming up.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back.

The Federal Reserve chairman did something actually rather stunning. Financial markets surged, the S&P reaching a record high.

HOLMES: Yeah, and overseas markets going through the roof as well.

Ben Bernanke was, as we said here, widely expected to announce a pullback, tapering of the cash it pumps into the U.S. economy, but he didn't.

Even Richard Quest, that venerable oracle of the financial world, was convinced that decision would be made.

He wasn't the only one. Have a listen from yesterday's program.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": People may be wondering what's going to happen today, but I tell you, when the announcement comes out, a dollar to a pound, it's going to happen today.

If it does not happen, I'll buy you the drinks.

HOLMES: That'd be a first.

QUEST: That's the deal.


HOLMES: Yes, that would be a first.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Richard.

HOLMES: Cheers, Questy. Thanks for that.

MALVEAUX: To you. To you.

QUEST: There's the dollar. There's the dollar. All right.

HOLMES: Delicious, thank you.

MALVEAUX: We love the drink. QUEST: Mea culpa.

Let me read you --

HOLMES: I love to tease you, Questy, but I've got to say, you weren't the only one. There were people saying it would be a shock if he didn't do it.

QUEST: Paul Donovan of UBS, the Fed has erred, possibly seriously. Any mistake -- basically he says, any impression we have given that the Fed is credible, enlightened, we would like to apologize for having give than impression.

This, from Michael Gapen at Barclays, an economic -- one of the economic research team, "Although the decision not to initiate tapering went solidly against our expectations."

HOLMES: Excuses, excuses.

QUEST: More and more and more and more.

MALVEAUX: But what does this mean? What does this mean for us?

HOLMES: Excuses, excuses. And I told you Alison Kosik to hunt you down and get a drink off you, as well.

But, yes, Suzanne's right. This is serious stuff.

MALVEAUX: What does it mean?

HOLMES: He's basically saying the economy's not that great.

QUEST: Basically, he's taking out insurance to make sure that growth gets going and it stays going.

He calls it a prudential move, he says he wants to make sure that the economy is picking up steam and he wants to ensure that things don't go in the opposite direction.

Now, the -- that's, if you like, from our point of view. And from homeowners' point of view, mortgage rates will come back down slightly.

Long-term interest rates will come off the boil. They'll simmer nicely on the back burner, but they won't be heated up again.

Markets will rally. This is just a little bit of a hiccup after yesterday's strong rally. Take no notice.

Look at Europe. Europe was up very strongly over the course of the session, reflecting -- because they were closed when Bernanke spoke, so now Europe is really bubbling up.

But -- but, there's no question the Fed has done damage within the industry, if you like, to its credibility on transparency. You cannot lead people up the garden path and then slam the door in the face when they get to the front door, and that's what they did yesterday.

Now that might not mean anything today, but I promise you, when they do start to tighten, the markets will turn around and say, why should we believe you?

HOLMES: Yes. All right, Richard, maybe next month. We'll catch up with you.

QUEST: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. This isn't going to happen. Here's another dollar. Here's another dollar for a bet. Another dollar, I'm doubling down.

HOLMES: He's a wealthy man, but we could send him broke if he keeps this up.

QUEST: This is not going to happen. December at least.

HOLMES: December?

QUEST: December at least.

HOLMES: Oh, all right.

MALVEAUX: We'll be watching our 401(k)s closely.

HOLMES: Yeah, but he still owes us. We'll catch up.

You'll come to New York and pick that bet up.

We'll be right back. Questy, have a good one.

MALVEAUX: See you, Richard.


MALVEAUX: To Washington now, Navy Yard employees, they are now returning to work today. This is for the first time since that massacre on Monday.

HOLMES: Building 197, that's where a dozen people were killed, though that is still off limits. Obviously it's a crime scene.

We're told, actually, there is blood all over the place, extensive damage also done to the building.

Joe Johns joins us from Washington. Three days now, Joe, since Aaron Alexis went on that rampage.

And we're hearing about strange etchings on his gun. What do you know about that and the investigation into a motive?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Michael, a lot of bits and pieces today, the more that's uncovered about the Navy Yard shooting suspect Aaron Alexis' life, the more difficult it becomes for investigators to uncover a motive for the deadly massacre.

This morning, a law enforcement official said that among the many puzzling things investigators have turned up on the 34-year-old Navy contractor is an online alias he created in the name of "Mohammed Salem."

Investigators have found no indication he was interested in jihad or any religious interest other than dabbling in Buddhism.

And law enforcement officials have told CNN that Alexis etched phrases into the shotgun he used, but investigators don't know what to make of it. The etchings read, "better off this way," and, "ELF my weapon."

Investigators talked to his friends, family, pored through his computer, his other possessions, but law enforcement sources say nothing points to a specific motive.

Suzanne, Michael?

MALVEAUX: And, Joe, we were speaking with an official of the Navy Yard just yesterday. I know that police are being criticized somewhat for the response to the shooting.

Are they explaining why it was that he was on this campus and inside that building for so long before this was all resolved?

JOHNS: Well, it's pretty clear that there were a number of active shooter teams on the scene, and there are some questions about whether the United States Capitol police's emergency response team should have been allowed inside the complex.

They were apparently turned away. There's an investigation into that. But there were a lot of different units inside.

Navy officials say the damage inside the building is so extensive, it may take weeks to repair completely. They say there's blood everywhere. The facility where the shooting occurred buys, maintains, engineers the Navy's ships and submarines and their combat systems, according to the Navy.

A lot of those employees, as you say, returned to work this morning, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Joe. Thanks.

Still a lot of unanswered questions, but as Joe mentioned, there were a ton of different law enforcement officials on the scene from different divisions.

That is typical in Washington when something big happens.

HOLMES: Right, right.

MALVEAUX: It gets confusing. Yeah.

HOLMES: A lot of different departments, right. All right, when we come back, dressed from head to toe in protective gear, Japan's prime minister visits the crippled nuclear plant.

Up next, the latest in the efforts to clean up the contaminated water.