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Defending Obamacare; No Meeting for Obama & Iran's President; Boys Suspended for Toy Guns at Bus Stop; One-on-One with Amazon CEO; New York Unveils Texting Zones; Tough Break for the Detroit Lions

Aired September 25, 2013 - 10:30   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But Cruz and some other Republicans will say they will only vote for a measure that averts a government shutdown if it also defunds Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Defund Obamacare.

ACOSTA: The problem for the Tea Party Texan: Senate Republican leaders have all but abandoned Cruz's failing quest.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I just don't happen to think filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare. All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded and none of us want that.


ACOSTA: And over the next several days, this White House will be ramping up its efforts to make its sales pitch on health care reform. Later today the President will be on a conference call with mayors and other local officials around the country to talk about the implementation of Obamacare. And then the President has a campaign- style event that will be taking place in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., over in Maryland to talk about Obamacare all in an effort Carol to get the word out about these online market places that are opening up on October 1st. It's that other deadline here in Washington that everybody is talking about -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Got that right Jim Acosta reporting live from the White House this morning, thank you.

It's a sign that icy relations between the United States and Iran may be thawing Iran's new President says he is open to negotiating his nation's nuclear program with the United States. President Hassan Rouhani did not meet with President Obama at the U.N. General Assembly. U.S. officials say Obama was willing to meet but the meeting was quote, "Too complicated for Iran." President Rouhani is considered to be more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust. He gave a rare interview to CNN's Christiane Amanpour and addressed the holocaust.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the things your predecessor used to do from this very platform was deny the Holocaust and pretend that it is a myth. I want to know you your position on the Holocaust. Do you accept what it was? And what was it?

HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): I've said before that I am not a historian and then when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust, it is the historians that should reflected on it. But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created towards the Jews is reprehensible and condemnable.

Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn. The taking of human life is contemptible. It makes no difference whether that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim. For us it is the same.

The taking of human life is something our religion rejects but this does not mean that on the other hand, you can say Nazis committed crimes against a group now therefore they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This, too, is an act that should be condemned. There should be an even-handed discussion.


COSTELLO: Tomorrow Secretary of State John Kerry is set to meet with Iranian officials to start pursuing a possible nuclear deal. We'll keep you posted.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, suspended at school over a toy gun? That's the punishment for two seventh graders in Virginia Beach. What their parents are saying -- next.


COSTELLO: Parents of two Virginia Beach seventh graders are outraged their boys have been suspended from school for shooting toy guns at one another. The parents say the boys were on private property and the school's zero tolerance policy should not apply. CNN's Zoraida Sambolin has more for you.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least two Virginia Beach seventh graders won't be attending class this morning after being suspended for shooting toy pellet guns. Not at school but near their school's bus stop. Their parents outraged at the punishment argued the boys were on private property. Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark speaking exclusively to Piers Morgan last night saying, it's just a toy.

KHALID CARRABALLO: It's an air soft gun, it's meant for shooting at a target and that's what we were doing.

SAMBOLIN: On Tuesday, the school district disciplinary committee unanimously voted to suspend the boys for the remainder of the school year for possession, handling and use of a firearm. Listen closely to the 911 call that prompted the school's investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Virginia Beach 911. Where is the emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were two children, I thought they were playing. There was a white child and a black child. The white child appeared to have a gun that he was chasing this child with.


SAMBOLIN: At first she's unsure if it's a dangerous situation or just kids at play.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't know if it was a toy, I don't know if they were playing, I don't know anything but as it turns out, it did not look like they were playing.


SAMBOLIN: The school's principal launched the investigation finding the children were firing pellet guns at each other and at people near the bus stop. It also says that a child was 10 feet from the bus stop running away and was still hit. That finding led to Khalid's suspension and recommended expulsion.

CARRABALLO: We were in our yard and this had nothing to do with school.

SAMBOLIN: In a statement to CNN, Virginia Beach School Board says "The students in question were witnessed taking aim at other students, not just in private property but in the streets of their neighborhood as well, all while awaiting the arrival of their school bus."

According to Khalid all shots fired took place with other children who were playing with him.


COSTELLO: That was Zoraida Sambolin reporting. The school board says the children have been placed in an alternative school setting and if they were on their best behavior, the board will consider letting them return to school in the second semester.

Checking our top stories at 39 minutes past the hour, a Montana Judge at the center of a controversial rape sentence is a step closer to possibly losing his job. Activists have filed a formal complaint against Judge G. Todd Baugh. He sentenced a former teacher to only 30 days in prison for raping a 14-year-old student who later committed suicide. The Judge also said the victim was older than her chronological age.

The U.S. Army about to change its policy on tattoos. According to "Stars and Stripes" magazine the Secretary of the Army has approved new regulations that will ban tattoos below the elbow and knees along with those above the neckline. New soldiers would have to pay to get those tattoos removed. Current soldiers are allowed to keep theirs.

U2 front man Bono has finally unveiled his hidden talent impersonating President Bill Clinton. Bono put on a show at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Listen.


BONO: He walked into the Oval Office and actually, I thought it was a member of his own road crew. He wasn't really dressed right. Actually, I felt like the rock star on that occasion.


COSTELLO: Bono was actually filling time while the former President was off stage during the annual gathering. Clinton later jokingly said, quote, "I must be really easy to make fun of."'s founder Jeff Bezos has not talked publicly about his recent purchase of "The Washington Post" until now. CNN's Dan Simon spoke one on one with him about the "Post" and much more.



(voice-over): When you meet Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos, you're immediately struck by two things -- that legendary laugh and his nearly unmatched focus on customer service.

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER AND CEO, AMAZON.COM: We know customers like low prices. We know customer like big selection. And we know that customers like fast delivery. And those things are going to be true ten years from now. They are going to be true 20 years from now so you can count on those things and we can put energy into them.

SIMON (voice-over): He met with us at Amazon Seattle headquarters to personally show off the company's new line of souped up lightweight Kindle Fire tablets. One of them is priced at only $139. Apple's cheapest iPad is nearly $200 more.

(on camera): one of the things you've done so well at Amazon is you've undercut all of your rivals by keeping the prices low. Does that same strategy apply to tablets?

BEZOS: Yes our approach is premium products at non-premium prices. So we sell the hardware at break even so we don't try to make any money when we sell this hardware and we hope to make money when people use the devices, not when they buy the devices.

And so that's a very different approach from most companies. Most companies are building quite a bit of profit into the sale of these devices.

SIMON (voice-over): The approach this time also includes a feature never seen before on any kind of device. It's called Mayday, 24/7 tech support. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for using Amazon assist. You hit the Mayday button. I'm your tech adviser James. How can I help you today?

BEZOS: And you can tap the Mayday button. It's just in your -- right at the top of the menu system and a tech support adviser will appear on your screen and can draw your screen and guide you through things and teach you how to do things.

SIMON: Bezos, of course, has been in the headlines for something else. His $250 million purchase of "The Washington Post." These are among his first public comments on the acquisition.

(on camera): Why did you get into the newspaper business?

BEZOS: For me, I'm thought "The Washington Post" is an important institution and I am optimistic about its future. It's a personal investment. I'm -- I'm hopeful that I can help from a distance in part by providing runway for them to do a series of experiments and in part through bringing some of the philosophy that we have used at Amazon to the "Post".

SIMON: That philosophy, he says, comes down to this.

BEZOS: What has worked at Amazon is focusing on the customer, being very -- putting the customer first, which is easy to say but difficult to do. And if you really are customer centric, it's like being the host of the party. You're holding the party for your guest. Sometimes the host of party is holding the party for the host of the party. And that's -- that leads to a different kind of party.

SIMON: Dan Simon, CNN, Seattle.


COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, New York has a new plan that stops texting and driving. They're going to set up special texting zones along the highway. But will anyone actually use them?


COSTELLO: New York's governor has unveiled plans for new texting zones along the highway. The state has some of the strictest no texting and driving laws in the entire nation but now it's putting up nearly 300 signs to designate place to pull over so you can text.

The new texting zones are at existing rest stops and carpool lots. Some people think it's a pretty silly idea and won't work at all. Others say it sends the right message.

Joining me to talk about all of this Robert Sinclair from AAA in New York -- good morning, Robert.


COSTELLO: Really? Do people need to text that badly that they need places to pull over to text while they are driving somewhere?

SINCLAIR: Well, apparently people are doing a lot of texting while driving. They are using the cell phone while driving and it's an addiction for a lot of people, particularly young people as the governor indicated. And it certainly makes sense to provide these areas we think where people can pull over and do this safely. When you consider that a quarter to a third of all crashes and all fatalities are the result of distracted driving of some sort.

COSTELLO: But aren't you just encouraging? I mean why not just discourage people from texting at all when they are behind the wheel of a car?

SINCLAIR: Well, you know, this is part of a multi-pronged effort. When you run into these kind of problems -- it's education, it's enforcement, and it's engineering. And we think that this is part of the engineering effort in probably providing these areas where you can pull over and text but there's also stronger legislation that is in place where you get five points on your license and a $230 fine for a first offense for distracted driving, particularly texting while driving. There are penalties for new and probationary drivers with license suspension. So that component is in place and this we think is another extra component that helps to hopefully dissuade this activity.

COSTELLO: But going back to these text free zones where you can pull over. They are at existing rest stops, right, and other places along the highway that already exist when you can pull off. So can't people just do that anyway?

SINCLAIR: Well, yes, there are park and ride facilities. There are parking facilities, rest stops -- true. But probably the biggest component of it is the signs -- nearly 300 signs -- that let people know that these places exist and how many miles it is to the next area we can do it. So if a person did have that in mind, here's a strong reminder that there's a place where they can do it safely and not jeopardize their safety and others as well.

COSTELLO: Others as well. You know, there have been -- it's so confusing because there have been studies that hands-free devices in cars are actually more distracting than actual physical texting.

SINCLAIR: Yes. And the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety this past June released one of the major ones. We think the most comprehensive study where we're actually able to quantify and qualify the distractions that exist when you're behind the wheel. And the most dangerous one that we found was the speech to text technology up there with texting.

Probably what's more dangerous about speech to text is that you're maintaining your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel but the cognitive distraction -- that mental distraction is very great indeed. And it was so bad to a point where people did not see things that were right in front of their vehicle -- pedestrians, stop signs, traffic lights, that sort of thing; inattention blindness and tunnel vision, as we called it. So the idea that hands-free is risk-free is an erroneous one. We hope people get that message. Particularly vehicle manufacturers that are putting more of these technologies in their vehicles that allow you to control basic vehicle functions and advanced functions like telephone and navigation and speech to text via voice commands in the car. That is not a safe way of doing it.

COSTELLO: A problem to tackle another day. Robert Sinclair from the AAA -- thank you so much for joining me this morning.

SINCLAIR: Thank you very much for having me.

Still to come in the "NEWSROOM", speaking of distracted driving, distracted driving robbed the Detroit Lions of a key receiver and starts new talk of a Lions' curse.


COSTELLO: It is really painful to be a Detroit Lions' fan. Just when it seems like things are going really well, bam, like the Lions beating Washington on Sunday -- the first time they have ever won on the Redskins' field. Then it's followed by Lions receiver Nate Burleson breaking his arm in a car accident because he was trying to catch a box of pizza.

That's enough to make "Detroit Free Press" columnist Drew Sharp make this connection, quote, "Curses don't exist but Nate Burleson breaking his arm in two places in an early-morning wreck because he tried to save some falling pizza in his front seat becomes yet another, "Are you freaking kidding me" a confirmation of the existence of Lions' luck." What Lions' luck?

Jamie Samuelsen also follows the Detroit sports scene as co-host of the Jamie and Wojo Show on 97.1 The Ticket. Thank you for joining me.

JAMIE SAMUELSEN, RADIO SHOW HOST: My pleasure, Carol. Good morning.

COSTELLO: So first of all, tell us what you know of what went down when Nate Burleson ran into something in his SUV while he was trying to catch a pizza book that was falling off the passenger seat?

SAMUELSEN: Yes, it's like you said, exactly. When you hear about a football player in a car accident at 2:30 in the morning, you automatically fear the worst but this sounds like a very innocent accident.

He was coming home from a team activity at a pizza parlor and I guess Nate had to bring the leftovers home so he had two pizza boxes stacked on his front seat. As the story goes he reached down as one started to fall off and he turned his car into the median on a free way here in Detroit, broke his arm in two places. And now he's out for -- we don't really know how long. They're saying at least six to eight weeks. He might be back this season. The Lions have not put him on the Injured Reserve yet so se might still be back this year.

COSTELLO: I'm still trying to -- he had his seat belt on, right? And there was no sign that he had been drinking at all. I just wonder how that happened.

SAMUELSEN: Trust me, we've wondered the same thing. I was thinking about this yesterday. Usually when things slide off your seat, you are coming to a stop, you're putting on the brakes, you're not accelerating, you're not on a freeway. That doesn't happen, particularly in bucket seats like in an SUV.

It does seem very odd. But police were on the scene. It was a one- car accident. Nobody else was involved. Nobody else was in the car. The police do say that no alcohol was involved so we take them at their word on the police report.

But you're right, it's a very odd story, particularly when you see the damage and the police video you just saw and the car up against the median on the freeway. It's a lot of damage for seemingly distracted driving like you were talking about before.

COSTELLO: Yes. But I guess it's better that Jacoby Jones getting whacked on the head with a champagne bottle by a stripper named Sweet Pea.

SAMUELSEN: Yes, it could be a lot worst.

COSTELLO: Maybe that will make us feel a little bit better.


SAMUELSEN: Yes, definitely. He could be back.

COSTELLO: I hope he's back.

But let's talk about this curse because immediately when this happened to Nate Burleson, everybody started talking about this Lions curse and then video of the Burleson accident went viral. So what does all of this mean, if anything at all? Are the Lions cursed?

SAMUELSEN: Well, I don't believe in curses, Carol. I don't know about you. The curse of the Lions is called the curse of Bobby Lane and it goes back to the year 1958. Bobby Lane is one of the great quarterbacks in Lions' history. He helped them win a championship in 1952 and 1953 and then he was traded in 1958 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now, when he was traded, he's alleged to have said the Lions won't win for 50 years. It's never been attributed completely to Bobby Lane. I'm not sure he said it or not but the legend grew from there. And from that point on, the Lions have had the worst winning percentage of the entire NFL. They've won one playoff game during that stretch.

Now, of course 50 years has ran out since 1958 -- it ran out in 2008 when the Lions are the only team in NFL history to go 0-16. As a result of that, they had the number one pick in the 2009 draft and they drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford from the University of Georgia. Guess where Matthew Stafford went to high school -- the same high school where Bobby Lane went to high school down in Texas. So there is a lot of symmetry here and it makes it very easy to believe in the curse.

COSTELLO: I'm trying hard not to believe in it.

Jamie Samuelsen, thanks. It's been a lot of fun.

SAMUELSEN: All right. Thanks a lot, Carol.

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

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield after a break.



SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Twenty hours and counting. But something's got to give in the next hour in Senator Ted Cruz's fight against the President's controversial health care law. And some Republicans are just as angry at him as the Democrats are over the confrontation that may well lead to a government shutdown mere days from now.