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Perfect Storm; Birth Control Warning; "The Romney Family Table"; Interview with Ann Romney; God Has a Sense of Humor

Aired November 18, 2013 - 08:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back to "NEW DAY".

We're joining you this morning from Washington, Illinois, decimated by a series of tornadoes that rolled through Sunday. We're now updating the total of reported tornadoes to 68. Now that number is down. I've been using an 80 number this morning, but that's because some of these were events that were witnessed in multiple places. But it doesn't matter the number, the impact is there. This unique mix of hot air, cold air and wind, by the time it was over, towns and neighborhoods were a shelf their former selves.

Take a look at the aerial images over New Minden, Illinois. As the sun's coming up, we're getting a new look. This is where an EF4 tornado is said to have blown through. What began the weekend as homes and infrastructure, now just litters the area. There's nothing more than debris, as you can see, even from that height.

In all we know that there were dozens injured. Six is the death toll at this point. But just because there's not loss of life doesn't mean there isn't loss. There's incredible loss all through the Midwest.

I want to bring in now Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock. He has been here for this. He's the Republican representative from the state's 18th district, which contains some of the hardest hit areas, including Washington and Peoria. And we are in Washington this morning.

Congressman, thank you for taking the time.

CONGRESSMAN AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: Good morning. Great - good to be with you.

CUOMO: I know it's cold, but I know that this is the least of the exposure that you've had. You've been walking, you've been seeing it, what's out there.

SCHOCK: Yes. Well, it's amazing. I came over yesterday right after it hit and we're standing in neighborhoods that literally the only thing left is the pavement. Not a single structure. Not a single light post. The homes are completely vacuumed up. And standing there talking to people who are just dazed and confused and in shock that, you know, they woke up in the morning and their house is gone now. And to your point, just because there hasn't been loss of life doesn't mean there hasn't been loss. And these people have lost everything.

CUOMO: I mean look -- just look behind us. SCHOCK: Yes.

CUOMO: And as you well know, this isn't the worst, according to the community.

SCHOCK: No, this isn't. I mean, this is actually -there's - I mean this is obviously destroyed, but there's still remnants here. I can take to you parts of town where there's nothing left. There's not even, you know, a tree left. And, you know, people have lost everything. And winter's coming and so, you know, they don't have food, they don't have clothing, they don't have, you know, their vehicles. And --

CUOMO: They have each other.

SCHOCK: They have each other and, you know -

CUOMO: And that's a unique asset in this community.

SCHOCK: This -- this community, Washington, East Peoria, Pekin and Metamora, these towns that have been hit, they're communities of faith, but they're communities of a -- with a great sense of community. And they're pulling together. The first phone call I got yesterday was from Caterpillar saying, hey, where do you want trucks, where do you want bulldozers? We'll help with cleanup. The Red Cross was on the ground yesterday. The church communities are coming out with food and, you know, the basic necessities. But it's going to take some time to put their lives back together.

CUOMO: Early analysis. You OK with the warning system? Was this just about - just a natural surprise? Did people get the warning they were supposed to get?

SCHOCK: I think the reason that there was only one loss of life in a community like this was because of the emergency response or the emergency warning system. I live in Peoria, and my phone was alerting, giving me the flood or the tornado warning system on my phone, which I was surprised I was getting it.

And as I talked to neighbors and I said, you know, how did you know this was coming? The sirens were going, our cell phones were going off, and one neighbor amazingly came outside, saw his neighbor across the street mowing the lawn with his headset on, and went over luckily and said, 'Hey, there's a tornado coming, get in the basement.' So neighbor after neighbor was looking out for each other. The warning systems worked and I think that's why, despite the disaster you see, that there was such minimal loss of life.

CUOMO: What do you -- help me understand perspective that I've been hearing from people this morning. I know it's a prayerful community, I know it's a spiritual place, but to have perspective when something like this happens isn't easy. We tell the stories of it like it's easy.


CUOMO: Well, you've lost everything but you have your life. That's easy to say, tough to live, but I'm hearing it time and time again.

SCHOCK: Yes. Yes. Well, I think these are people who, you know, in many respects keep what's important -- keep in perspective what's important. And, you know, Washington is a blessed community in the sense that, you know, they've got a lot going for them. A lot of these are very nice homes. And yet they don't really care that they've lost that right now because they know they've got their kids, their spouse, their neighbors.

This was a community two days ago I was in, Saturday night they were celebrating -- they played a football game literally a half mile from here and their football team won their state playoffs.

CUOMO: One that -

SCHOCK: And this community has been in, you know, a joyous mood and then the next day, 24 hours later, completely wiped out.

CUOMO: One of the fastest growing communities, you know. And I think that, you know, we're all talking message and metaphor this morning with how they're making it through here. You know, I think there's no small irony, you know, not to talk politics, but Washington, Illinois, is sending a message, you know, that should be heard all over the country, including in Washington, to how these people have had the perspective about what matters.


CUOMO: They want to come out and help each other.


CUOMO: And that they can make it through anything because they believe in something bigger than themselves.

SCHOCK: Yes. Exactly. Amen.


SCHOCK: I'll take that message back to the other Washington.

CUOMO: Right. No, we can just take it right here. I mean that's something that's so good for all of us. And I know you've been walking the community and they're grateful to have you here.

SCHOCK: Thanks. Thanks for being here and helping get the message out.

CUOMO: It's important to have you on "NEW DAY" to get the message of need out. We will keep this community in focus as we go through the holidays.

SCHOCK: Great. Thank you.

CUOMO: This isn't over today just because the media leaves. We understand (ph).

SCHOCK: That's right. Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you, representative, appreciate it.


CUOMO: We're going to take a break now on "NEW DAY". When we come back, we're going to tell you a little bit more about what's going on here. And, Kate, I'll give it to you in New York to say what else is coming on the show.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Chris, thanks so much.

You know, growing up in that - growing up in the Midwest, you were always living with that threat.


BOLDUAN: But when you see the devastation, how quickly it can hit, you never are prepared for that.

PEREIRA: I'm moved by the amount of hope that people of Washington, Illinois, still have.

BOLDUAN: Uh-huh.

PEREIRA: We're going to take a break, as Chris said. Next up on "NEW DAY", taking a birth control pill may hurt your eyes. You wonder what the new - the connection is? We'll tell you about a new study and what you need to know.

BOLDUAN: Also, a year after the 2012 election, Ann Romney is telling it all. She shares her family's stories, recipes and political views. That's coming up, too.


PEREIRA: And welcome back to "NEW DAY".

I want to talk about this new study out today that finds a surprising connection between the birth control pill and glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. It could have big implications for many, many women around the globe. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now to talk about this.

Good morning.


PEREIRA: So let's talk about this and how significant the connection between the pill and glaucoma is and what the explanation behind it all is.

COHEN: Right. The connection was significant. They found that women who were taking the pill for three years or more had --

PEREIRA: Only three years? COHEN: Only three years, were twice as likely to get glaucoma as women who weren't taking the pill. Twice as likely. So that's significant.

Now, to take step a back, big picture, if you're on the pill, you are unlikely to get glaucoma. But what this study says is that you're - that you're twice as likely to get it compared to if you weren't on the pill.

PEREIRA: Interesting.

BOLDUAN: And this matters to so many people because so many women are on the birth control pill, right?

COHEN: Right. Four out of five sexually active women have been on the pill. And you usually don't go on the pill for just a matter of months. You're usually on it for years and years. And so these researchers said, let's study it, because there's a known connection between hormones and glaucoma. They've noticed that women, as estrogen goes down, glaucoma rates go up. And the pill makes your estrogen go down. So it actually makes sense.

BOLDUAN: It actually makes sense.

PEREIRA: So is the suggestion that we suddenly stop taking the pill or what is the advice?

COHEN: Absolutely not. And I know that millions of women who are on the pill are listening to me right now, don't stop taking the pill. You want to think about something that one of the study researchers said. He said, maybe women who are on the pill should be screened really vigilantly for glaucoma. Maybe you should talk to your doctor about that. You know, that's one way to go.

And if hearing this news makes you nervous, then you can think about another method of birth control.


COHEN: I mean a lot of women take the pill, but it's not the only thing. There are other methods that you can use. But again, this is a study and so it's not the last word. But the author who did this study felt strongly enough about it that he suggested screening women or being really vigilant about screening women for glaucoma if they're on the pill.

BOLDUAN: And you make a good point, this is one study, but that is -- this is sure to make waves when people really start looking at it.

COHEN: Absolutely. I think doctors who are prescribing the pill are going to stop and think, gee, do I need to talk to my patient about her glaucoma risk? I think this study will make a difference.

PEREIRA: Talk to your physician is the best advice.

COHEN: Right. Right.

PEREIRA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for alerting us.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: An amazing connection.

All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, our candid chat - my candid chat with Ann Romney and why her new cookbook serves up much more than just recipes.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY".

After the last election cycle she may be one of the most recognizable women in America. Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, of course, is now the author of "The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions".

I got the chance to sit down with Mrs. Romney and talk about the new book, of course, and also get a perspective on what's going on in politics today.


BOLDUAN: Mrs. Romney, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: I'm looking through this cookbook. Do I call it a cookbook or a book?

ROMNEY: It's both. It started out as a cookbook and ended up as a book.

BOLDUAN: How did that evolve?

ROMNEY: You know, I started putting the recipes together and then there were stories with them and then there were stories about the stories. And then it was like how do you raise a family? What are the things that are important in raising children? How do we establish traditions?

And so, there's some great recipes in there but there's also some life lessons in there.

BOLDUAN: I thought a great anecdote in there was when you're talking about making pancakes and you talked about making pancakes the morning after the election loss for the Secret Service that had been with you along the way.

ROMNEY: Right.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me about that. Why did you make those pancakes? ROMNEY: Well, it's a comfort food and we needed comfort. But also it's -- you know, any time I cook I cook as an expression of me, an expression of love, an expression of including in people and our Secret Service team both my husband's detail, my detail had become enormously close friends of ours and we loved them. And it was a sad moment. It was sad.

There was parting and so for me it was just like what do I do? I got to get in the kitchen and cook. And so that's just -- that's how I express that part of my life and how I include people and so for me they're -- those guys and gals are just part of my life forever now.

BOLDUAN: Time often offers some much needed perspective. There has been some time that passed from the election. What perspective have you gained on the race, on the campaign, and all of that?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, it was disappointing. It's now frustrating for me because I know what an extraordinary executive my husband is. He would have been a wonderful president, so it's frustration for me to see all this going on right now, and know what would have been different if he had been there.

But the other thing is, is that people cannot forget, right now we're talking about all these people that are losing their coverage. What I learned by being on the trail was the individual lives. These are real people, real lives. You get that opportunity when you're on the campaign trail of touching people's lives in a way that you can't imagine that comes very personal to you.

So for me, now, I understand and I reach out to those people that are really confused and they're really suffering and they're wondering what's going to happen next. And you know, who's telling the truth? It's like wait a minute, we were told we could keep our coverage and it's like now they've been taken away and they have nothing to replace it with.

BOLDUAN: What do you make when the White House or anyone makes the connection between President Obama's healthcare law and Mitt Romney's health care in Massachusetts?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, it was I think in all things we all try to improve people's lives and that I know when Mitt was working with health care he was very concerned about people that were, didn't have coverage who had preexisting conditions. And so for him it was very important that people would be able to have coverage.

He has also felt all along that a president's approach would not work, that his was very much designed just for the state of Massachusetts. We didn't have that many uninsured that if they tried to implement his program across the country it would not work. And he also -- I'm sure there's implementation problems right now. Maybe they'll get that fixed but he really believes the whole structure is flawed and it will not be effective.

BOLDUAN: When you go to having your life, living your life in the spotlight for so many years, then you get to go back to whatever can feel like normal after it, you see kind of the bitter partisan politics, the state of play in Washington right now. Do you ever have a moment when you think, 'Phew, I'm glad we're not in the White House'?

ROMNEY: No, I would love to be there. I think there are so many moments that are, you know -- but again that's what is, elections have consequences and here we are.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

ROMNEY: But it's -- no, I just, I really would like to be there. I'd like to see Mitt there, and there's so many things I would like to have seen being addressed right now, mostly the economy. And I know that we're talking about health care right now but there's a lot of people that are still out of work and so I really believe Mitt would have been very effective as a president.

BOLDUAN: I still sense your call to service when we're talking right now. Would you ever think of, would you ever, if Governor Romney wanted to run again, would you support him on it or would you advise him, we're OK?

ROMNEY: I feel like we've had our turn. I feel like we did our best. We had our turn. We gave it our all. I believed in it completely. I believed in my husband completely and now I feel like it's time to pass the baton on to someone else.

And so it's -- I'm feeling that way in a lot of things. I'm looking at my children and I'm thinking, you know, they've got to step up. The other generation has to now step up and take over and there's a lot of work -- good things that need to be done so we'll see. I mean I always -- you never rule out everything completely.

BOLDUAN: You never know.

ROMNEY: You never know --


ROMNEY: -- but really I don't believe that we'll have that opportunity again.

BOLDUAN: It's a pleasure to see you and you look well rested which I think is something that you've definitely gained over the past year away.


BOLDUAN: "The Romney Family Table: Sharing Home Cooked Recipes and Favorite Traditions" and important to note that all proceeds from this book go to support neurological research.

ROMNEY: Very important to me.

BOLDUAN: You look well and I hope you're feeling well.

ROMNEY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to see you.

ROMNEY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Very interesting conversation. This is someone who we talked from recipes having to do with fluffernutters to politics of the day. The woman can talk about a lot. She clearly still cares very much about politics and also her family.

PEREIRA: I appreciate that she said it's the next generation's turn.


BOLDUAN: Yes. I asked here who she would like to see run in 2016. The names she mentioned were Paul Ryan -- clearly they're close, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush. So she's plugged in. She knows what she's talking about.

PEREIRA: Yes she does.

BOLDUAN: All right.

PEREIRA: Great conversation.

BOLDUAN: Good conversation.

We're not going to get far though to the big story that we've been talking about all morning. Coming up we're going to look at the resilient spirit of people devastated by the tornadoes. That's part of our good stuff this morning, right after the break.


CUOMO: Today we're bringing you the good stuff from Washington, Illinois because even in all this destruction, the good stuff has emerged.

Take Steve Bucher. He lost everything except his sense of humor. Take a listen.


STEVE BUCHER, WASHINGTON ILLINOIS RESIDENT: I found out God has a sense of humor.

CUOMO: Because of the glasses on the bar?

BUCHER: No, because my wallet was upstairs in the bathroom, and of course everything was gone. A gentleman came by, we're sorting through some stuff and he said well anything in particular? I said if I could find my wallet. That would be great. He flipped some stuff over. He said well here's your wallet. And I had several hundred dollars in my wallet. I opened it up, God left me $1.

CUOMO: There was $1 left in wallet?

BUCHER: $1 left in the wallet.


CUOMO: Now he said he had several hundred dollars in there. To him it was a message that possessions are just temporary. They're only borrowed. What matters really is that he and his wife made it through. So thank you, Steve Bucher, for giving us all a lesson and what the good stuff is really about.

Kate, Michaela -- lessons learned here on the ground tomorrow -- this morning. A lot of need going forward though, so we'll stick with them.

PEREIRA: And a lot of hope, too, which is great. Thanks for sharing that smile with him as well. Thanks so much Chris.

BOLDUAN: An amazing amount of perspective.

That's all for it today. Time for "NEWSROOM" with John Berman and Christine Romans right now.

PEREIRA: Hi guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I have to say the ability to smile through something like this -- that is strength. That is character.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Some amazing interviews with Chris this morning. We're going to have more of those for you in the "NEWSROOM"

Thanks guys.

"NEWSROOM" starts right now.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Carol Costello has the day off today.

Rare, deadly, devastating, that's how many are referring to yesterday's tornadoes. The National Weather Service sending out three teams today to survey the damage from the unusual, unusual late season tornado outbreak the simply slammed the Midwest. This left at least six people dead, entire neighborhoods flattened this morning. Hundreds of thousands are without power and trying to figure out how do they even begin to clean up and --