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Obama Pushes Immigration Reform; Toronto Mayor Admits Smoking Crack; Foreign Fighters Cross Turkey's Syrian Border to Join Al Qaida- linked Fighters; More Earth-Like Planets; Gunman Dead in Mall Shooting

Aired November 5, 2013 - 12:30   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama and Vice President Biden are meeting with business leaders at the White House to talk about immigration reform. The president has been pushing to put immigration back on the agenda.

A Senate bill passed earlier this year that had little hope of passing the Republican-controlled House, it creates a path to citizenship for nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., something most Republicans oppose. It allows more high-skilled workers to get visas in America, and it boosts security along the U.S./Mexican border.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are serious about border security.

If we do a better job of streamlining the legal immigration system, if we are holding employers who aren't doing the right thing accountable, and we provide a pathway to citizenship for those who have paid a fine, learned English, or getting in the back of the line, taking their responsibilities, that altogether, these businesses are going to have more customers, we're going to see people who are currently working here, out of the shadows, paying taxes.


GORANI: President Obama.

Joining me now is CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, and Adolfo Franco from the Republican National Committee's Hispanic Advisory Council. Thanks for being with us, both.

Adolfo, let me start with you.


GORANI: There are now three Republicans in the House who have joined Democrats in backing a comprehensive, sweeping immigration bill which would essentially give a pathway to citizenship for nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

All right, so the question is why do so many Republicans oppose the concept itself? What is so wrong with it? GORANI: I don't think we oppose the concept. We oppose the procedure that was used in the Senate. In fact, Senator Rubio himself, one of the architects, has said that the House approach is the right approach.

And let me explain what the House simply approach is. It's simply breaking up the different issues. The president just articulated them in the clip you just ran into segments that can be debated and approved in smaller bills everyone could read and understand.

What the speaker of the House has said is, number one, he is committed to comprehensive reform. He's the leader of the Republican Party of the House.

But, secondly and most importantly on this is, we're not going to repeat the colossal mistakes we're just seeing with Obamacare, and have a 1,500-page bill, which what the Senate bill is, by the way, with immigration, that nobody has read and nobody has understood approved.

GORANI: You're not opposed to the items individually in the comprehensive bill. It's just that you think it should be done piecemeal. Is that the only difference here?

FRANCO: Piecemeal for this reason, even Senator Rubio and others and Senator McCain have said that the Senate bill needs to be and can be improved. The only way to improve it is to do it piecemeal and study it in a way and have real hearings and have real discussion and then have smaller bills that everyone can understand.

I think we want, from the Republican Party, buy-in from the entire population, not used as a wedge issue to try to appeal to Latino voters. And that, therein, is the big difference. And I think everyone can live with that if you give us the necessary time to get done the right way.

GORANI: And, Maria, what's wrong with that, doing it step by step? Isn't it more digestible in the end than a thousand- or twelve- hundred-page legislation, as Adolfo said?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. Here's what's wrong with it. Everything he said sounds great if it wasn't just a lame excuse to do absolutely nothing. This is not an issue that has just come up. This is an issue that has been discussed at length for the last 15 years and, by the way, majorities of Republican, Republican voters, agree with this. Majorities of the American people agree we need to do something on comprehensive immigration reform.

Even the tea party who see themselves as supposed deficit hawks focused on the economy, this immigration reform will actually boost the economy by almost a trillion dollars in the next 20 years and raise GDP by 5.4 points.

And so, this is just a big excuse. Boehner talks about, Republicans talked about wanting to do it piecemeal. Where are the bills? They haven't even presented one piece. It's just an excuse to do nothing. FRANCO: Maria, we have -- already with Republican support and tea party support because Senator Rubio identified with the tea party movement. It needs to be improved.

CARDONA: Where are the --

FRANCO: It will. If we weren't really -- if we want to talk seriously here, if we weren't bogged down with the Obamacare disaster, if we weren't bogged down with that right now, we'd be dealing with immigration.

CARDONA: It's a lame excuse.

FRANCO: You know we have a commitment to comprehensive immigration reform --

CARDONA: Well then you need to put your money where your mouth is. Democrats have said they could deal with the approach, but again, Speaker Boehner has not called one single vote on immigration reform.

GORANI: We're going to have to leave it there, guys. Adolfo Franco, on the right, Maria Cardona, on the left, we'll have many opportunities, I'm sure, in the future to discuss this. Thanks to you both.

Now back to our breaking news.

After repeatedly denying it, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admits to smoking crack cocaine.

Paula Newton is live in Canada with the very latest. Hi, Paula. Tell us more.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hello, Hala, yes, quite a bombshell (inaudible) today, and it came quite expectedly, and I quote from the mayor, "Yes, I did smoke crack cocaine. I am not an addict," he said. "I made a mistake. I have to move on." He admits he doesn't know exactly when he smoked it, when he tried it, but he says that he was in some kind of a drunken stupor.

You know, Hala, after all these months and all of this kind of scandal, it is astounding that he would choose this moment and this time to actually admit what some people say is evidence of him smoking crack cocaine on a video that becomes the subject of a widespread police investigation in Toronto, and as some people here say quite a side show that takes away from some very serious work going on at city hall.

Hala, when the news came out, I was on the phone with John Kilian (ph). He's a Toronto councilor. He had just moved a motion to try and strip the mayor of his powers. He says -- of many of his powers. The Toronto councilor John Kilian tells me this motion will continue, and in terms of hearing he actually admitted to smoking crack-cocaine, he was just astounded.

He said, wow. He's trying to absorb it, and he's now saying and calling again for the mayor to resign, to step aside, to take care of his life, to take care of himself, because he says this has been a side show that has been just absolutely absurd.

And what more can we say other than that, Hala?

GORANI: So, Rob Ford, just to recap for our viewers, after having repeatedly denied that there was a video showing him smoking crack cocaine, repeatedly denied that he ever did smoke crack cocaine, he's coming out today and admitting it, but saying he tried it, that it was a mistake and that he is not an addict.

Any word on whether or not he will step down, Paula?

NEWTON (via telephone): No. He wouldn't answer that question, and he moved away from reporters, and that, of course, people are waiting for the other shoe to drop here. There is apparently supposed to be some type of statement from Toronto police, apparently about this, shortly. Don't know what that involves.

There are now, though, a chorus of people, and, Hala, that includes the mayor's supporters, saying it is time for you to step aside. Even if you don't do it permanently, at least for a few months, you need to step aside and take care of your personal matters before returning to city hall.

GORANI: Wow, quite a day there.

Breaking news out of Canada, Rob Ford, the Toronto mayor, admitting to having smoked crack cocaine.

Thanks very much, Paula Newton, live in Canada.

Quick break. When we come back, in the dark night, they sneak into Syria. In an exclusive report, we'll show you how jihadists are jumping the Syrian border to help fight the Syrian regime.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.



The latest on Syria now, a mortar shell slammed into the Vatican embassy in Syria today. Fortunately, no one was injured.

It's not clear if the diplomatic mission was specifically targeted. Rebels fighting to overthrow President Assad regularly launch attacks on government-held areas of Damascus. And a mortar, while it's not precise, it can fall here, it can fall there.

Meanwhile, we're getting reports of yet another delay on the start of Syria peace talks. Representatives from the U.N., Russia and the U.S. are in Geneva trying to iron out the peace talk game plan. It's not looking good, though. I'll be honest.

Russia's state news agency says the negotiations will not happen before December, and that's at the earliest. And several Syrian opposition leaders have already said they will not attend. Representatives of the rebels won't be there.

So there you have it, the latest on peace talks that won't materialize anytime soon. While the possible path to peace hits another obstacle, the road to war, well, that one appears wide open.

Our Nick Paton Walsh has a CNN exclusive look at would-be jihadis crossing into Syria from Turkey.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just miles from Syria's savage war is Turkey's Hatay Airport, international in all the wrong ways.

Every flight we secretly film land carried men from countries Al Qaida calls home. Why are they here? Two from Mauritania, these four from Libya with large backpacks. Hello. How are you doing? Where are you from? From Benghazi, OK. OK.

Another from Egypt, then Saudi Arabia, even Leicester in the U.K. Most must be innocently traveling, but many say little and rush into waiting cars. It's astonishing to see such a global crowd so open and close to Syria where Al Qaida is blooming, right under the noses of Turkish border control.

Many arrivals are bound for this, the border into Syria. This smuggler drives us along his route from the airport through safe houses around Hatay towards the fence where he delivers foreign jihadis straight to the Al Qaida-linked militants sweeping to power in Syria's anarchic north.

When they get to the fence, he says, they kneel and cry. They weep like they've just met something more precious to them than their own family. They believe this land, Syria, is where god's judgment will come to pass.

What's extraordinary is the sheer pace. What started as a trickle of foreign recruits going to fight the Syrian regime has turned into a flood, we're told, trebling in pace since the chemical attacks around Damascus in August, this smuggler, in the last few months, shipping across 400 people.

This Iraqi jihadi was shaking with excitement about his one-way trip the next morning. "I'm so happy to be going to Syria," he says. "Hopefully, I will die fighting. There are as many Europeans coming as Arabs now. We want an Islamic caliphate from Syrian to Anbar in Iraq without borders, but with Islamic law. Our fight is with the West now, too, as their silence means they're complicit."

This is so serious for Turkey, that you can now see Al Qaida from the Turkish border. The black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria showing they run the Syrian town of Jerablus (ph). Turkey insists it is fighting extremism, but this frantic traffic of jihadis risks making Al Qaida the new rulers of Syria's north and putting their latest and boldest sanctuary right on NATO's most volatile border.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Hati (ph).


GORANI: Coming up, earth may not be the only planet with life. Scientists believe there are billions of other earth-like planets out there. So does this mean we're not alone? We'll be right back.


GORANI: Hundreds of works of art stolen by the Nazis 70 years ago have been found in Germany. And, get this, they are worth an estimated more than $1 billion. They include works from Picasso, Matisse, Chagall. German authorities are just now confirming they were found in a Munich apartment last year.

Now an article confirming the find came out, it took a while to confirm it officially. Experts have questioned why it's taken so long for German authorities to reveal all of this. The Nazis confiscated thousands of pieces of art from private collections and Jewish families in the '30s and '40s and it thought some of these works came to be in that apartment that way.

Indian scientists are riding high on the success of an ambitious rocket launch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero, plus one, two, three.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off normal.


GORANI: The launch went off without a hitch. The rocket is carrying an unmanned probe on a 300-day journey to Mars. It is India's first ever attempt at reaching the red planet. Now only the United States, the former Soviet Union and the European Union have been successful in reaching earth's nearest neighbor.

This might rock your world. We are not alone, apparently. The earth may not be a lonely planet. There may be millions of planets just like us. Chad Myers is here to explain.

Hi, Chad. What does "just like us" mean?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, do you remember the story about Goldilocks?


MYERS: OK. The porridge was not too warm and not too cold. That's what we look for in other worldly planets. Not too warm, not too cold. They're called Goldilocks planets. A Goldilocks planet will have liquid water. We think that for real intelligent life like us, relative intelligence, we need liquid water. It can't be frozen. It can't be steamed.

So where are the Goldilocks planets? Well, if we have billions of stars and we have billions of planets rotating around those stars, there are few that are going to be just right. Probably one in every five stars that you see up there would have a planet that could be a rocky planet, that could be a liquid water planet that's just right. So if we multiply all the stars that we know by all of these potential earth sized planets -- we've already found quite a few, almost 1,000 or so, even from Kepler itself, we think 40 billion, 40 with a "b," billion planets out there that could have some form of life.

If you take a pound of salt, a box of salt, you empty out all the salt, there's 10 million grains of salt in that box. You would need 4,000 pounds of salt to get all the grains necessary to get to be 40 billion grains of salt. Therefore 40 billion planets. That's a lot of salt.

GORANI: That is a lot of salt.

MYERS: That's some high blood pressure there.

GORANI: Intelligent life or some form of life and water and perhaps not too cold, not too hot. Now interesting to know that there may be some life out there. Chad Myers, thanks very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

GORANI: That's going to do it for AROUND THE WORLD. Stay with CNN. Wolf Blitzer takes it from here after a quick break. Don't go anywhere.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

A shooting at a crowded mall in New Jersey, an explosion of gunfire last night as the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall was closing. It was a rampage that came to a grim end hours later when the gunman's body was found. Alexandra Field joins us right now from Paramus, New Jersey.

Alexandra, the gunman apparently ended up taking his own life, but didn't actually shoot anyone else, did he?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and police say that his intention - Richard Shoop's intention was suicide or suicide by cop. Officers found him dead in a bathroom of this Paramus mall. They say that he had shot himself in the head.

And today we are learning more about that 20-year-old gunman. He worked in a pizza shop in Teaneck, New Jersey. His bosses say he was a nice kid and a trusted employee. But on Friday, he sent a text message saying he'd be late for work and he never showed up after that. Robert Gega, his friend and his manager at the pizza shop, says over the last two week he had noticed some changes in Shoop's personality, but Gega and others who knew Shoop say they didn't realize he had any plans to hurt himself. Here's what they said.


FIELD: Your brother said that in the last two week something seemed to change. What was the difference?

ROBERT GEGA, PIZZA SHOP OWNER: I was on vacation for a month. I came back. I saw him a little bit changed. I guess what hit home, he was feeling a little bit lonely. That's about it. I was talking to him. You know, we talked together and we, you know, we say we were going to find a way. I told him to take it off, you know, if he wants, if he needs a couple of weeks or whatever. He didn't want it. He said, no, I feel fine here at work. And then the Halloween came. It was a Thursday. And after that, he just disappeared. Never show up.

PATRICIA KING: No, I'm totally -- I'm in disbelief. No. This is not your trench coat, you know, sort of isolating or a kid that's clearly has social issues or misfit or - no, none of that.


FIELD: Police do say that Shoop was a known drug user and abuser. Investigators suggest that that may have led to some sense of despair that led to the outburst at this mall overnight. Robert Gega, the pizza shop manager, who you heard from there, says he believed that Shoop had been clean of all drugs for the last year.


BLITZER: Alexandra Field with the latest from Paramus, New Jersey. Thank you.

A scare at a Colorado middle school last night. Two teens are under arrest for breaking into the Denver school. Police say they were carrying backpacks and what appeared to be rifles. They now think those were BB guns. Investigators think it was simply a burglary. Classes are going on as scheduled today.

Right now we're waiting for the White House press briefing to start momentarily. The press secretary, Jay Carney, likely to get lots of questions on Obamacare and the president's message change. We'll go there live as soon as it begins.

Also right now, millions of voters across the country are going to the polls. We have some big city mayoral races, a couple of high profile gubernatorial races, specifically in New Jersey and Virginia. Some interesting initiatives on the ballots as well.

And right now, a stunning admission from the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. After a vague public apology over the weekend, he admitted to reporters today he has smoked crack cocaine.

President Obama modifies a key promise he made about health care reform again. The president insisted people who liked their health care plan could keep it. As we now know, that turned out not to be the case. And in remarks last night, the president tweaked the message. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law, and you really liked that plan, what we said was, you could keep it if it hasn't changed since the law was passed. So we wrote into the Affordable Care Act, your grandfathered in on that plan. But if the insurance company changes it, then what we're saying is they've got to change it to a higher standard. They've got to make it better. They've got to improve the quality of the plan that they're selling.


BLITZER: All right, that's somewhat different from what the president said last week.