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New Talks with Iran; Human Factor; Virginia State Senator Stabbed; Attempted Murder and Suicide?; CNN Hero of the Year

Aired November 20, 2013 - 08:30   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". Talks resume today over Iran's nuclear program. The United States and five other world powers will continue to work on a preliminary deal to limit the country's nuclear ambitions. This after President Obama asked senators to delay toughening sanctions on Iran while the diplomatic efforts continue. Let's talk more about this. Joining us now from the White House is deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.

Ben, thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: So the question on everyone's mind, as the talks resume today, how close are you to a deal?

RHODES: Well, in the last round in Geneva, we narrowed the differences significantly. And going into this round of talks, we have the unified position with our partners. So basically there's a deal that the Iranians should take. And it would be a good deal for us because it would stop the progress of the Iranian nuclear program for the first time in a decade and roll back elements of that program as we try to negotiate a comprehensive resolution.

BOLDUAN: This still makes you wonder how close you really are, because I think there's a big gap between unified and we're there. The last round of talks broke up with no deal. What's changed since then? Has anything?

RHODES: Well, there were basically three days of exhaustive talks last time and there were many different issues where we had some gaps. The P5 plus one, our partners who we're negotiating with, we came together with them and we're unified now behind an agreement, it's before the Iranians.

I think it's always tough, however, to get these deals to closure, but what we believe is heading into this round of talks the onus is really on Iran because people know what the text is now, they know what we're negotiating, and ultimately it's up to the Iranians as to whether or not they can get to yes in this round of talks.

BOLDUAN: How confident are you that Iran will come to the table and be able to get to yes, honestly?

RHODES: Well, I have to say, in the five years we've been in office, this is the most serious we've seen the Iranians about these negotiations. And we think the reason why is, the sanctions we've put in place have had a crippling effect on their economy. So the reason we believe that they may change their calculus and reach this agreement is because they need to do something to get some limited relief because of the enormous pressure they're under from sanctions.

BOLDUAN: So you have the Israeli prime minister now calling it a bad deal, an exceedingly bad deal. Then you have the Iranian foreign minister, just yesterday, accusing Israel of trying to torpedo an agreement. It does make you wonder how that is close to a deal.

RHODES: Well, we always anticipate heading into these negotiations that it's completely understandable that the prime minister of Israel wants to make sure that we get the absolute best terms possible. We do have a tactical difference in terms of negotiating this first step agreement as we then negotiate a comprehensive resolution.

We said to the Israelis, it's better to negotiate a first step agreement that stops their program in place and rolls it back as we then negotiate the final deal, than to let the Iranians make progress with their program through the course of the negotiations.

As for Israel and Iran, it's no surprise that they have a whole host of differences.


RHODES: And I have to say, the United States is going to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Israeli ally when it comes to standing up to threats and rhetoric out of Tehran.

BOLDUAN: Right. I mean the U.S. and Israel share the same end goal when it comes to a nuclear Iran. But between then there seems to be quite a bit of a gap. Will you move forward without the support of Israel in these preliminary -- if there's a preliminary deal?

RHODES: Well, you put it exactly right, Kate. The end goal to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapon, we share that goal about Israel. And we've been in lock step on that.

We do have a difference here, though. And again, the Israelis, in the past, I think have made a good point, which is that we don't want to allow talks to be a cover for Iran to make progress with its nuclear program. That's what we're trying to address here, Kate, so that we have a first step, an interim deal that says we're going to halt their program in place, roll it back and then we're going to try to get to that comprehensive resolution. We just think we're not going to get there from a standing start.

It's going to take up to six months to negotiate that type of comprehensive deal with the Iranians. So what we've said to the Israelis is, we have this tactical difference with you on pursuing this first step, but we share the end goal, and that's the point of these whole negotiations, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

BOLDUAN: You don't only have problems abroad, but you have problems here at home. I mean you had lawmakers at the White House yesterday talking to the president. They left the White House. And one Bob Corker, he seemed very unconvinced the path forward was the right path. They think that these crippling sanctions, you can't roll them back. If you roll them back, that's just going to be the new norm and Iran is not going to do anything in exchange. How do you convince a very understandably skeptical American public?

RHODES: Well, I just say three things, Kate. First of all, we're not contemplating rolling back the sanctions. This is a very limited amount of relief and the sanctions would stay in place. So Iran would lose more money over the course of the six months than they would get in relief.

Second, we are asking a lot from the Iranians. We're asking them to address all aspects of their program in this first step, their stockpiles of enriched uranium, the level to which they enrich their centrifuges, and also their plutonium reactor and more intrusive inspections. We believe that if the Iranians agree to halt progress in all those elements and roll it back in some, that's a good deal for the United States.

And the third thing I'd say, Kate, is, you're either going to solve this problem through diplomacy, which is what we're trying to do. Sanctions are supposed to support that diplomacy, they're not an end in themselves. And, ultimately, the other alternatives are far worse than a peaceful resolution to this issue. I think we have a responsibility to try to resolve this peacefully with sanctions backing up a diplomatic track.

BOLDUAN: I've got to ask you about this secure -- talks of a security agreement in Afghanistan. There's really a discrepancy, I think, we're looking at in the past 24 hours over whether the U.S. had offered a letter of apology for past mistakes to Afghan leaders. Susan Rice told Wolf Blitzer yesterday that that is not the case. Other officials saying that this is a letter of assurances. This is a big deal if the U.S. is apologizing to Afghanistan. Can you clear this up?

RHODES: Well, you're exactly right, Kate. What's being discussed has not been an apology. Not from the Afghans or from us. What's happening is the Afghans are moving into a Loya Jirga, which is their process of reviewing this PSA text. And around that Loya Jirga, we're considering whether there are additional reassurances we can provide them as it relates to the bilateral security agreement that's on the table that we think could be a good deal for both the United States and Afghanistan because it allows us to provide them support in areas like counterterrorism and training their security forces.

With respect to an apology, again, that's not what's in the offing. It's not what's been suggested. We have, of course, throughout the war, always indicated regret when there are instances of civilian casualties, but I think the Afghan people understand the great sacrifices that Americans have made on behalf of their security.

BOLDUAN: Are you conveying that to the Afghan government because that first report came from the spokesman of Afghanistan? RHODES: Well, we are. And I think, again, that first report had to do with what types of assurances can come from the United States as they head into this Loya Jirga and are there statements that we could make that could help move this process along because they're trying to bring together their public behind a strong agreement that we believe is in the interests of both countries.

So when you get towards the end game of these negotiations, there are discussions back and forth about what type of statements can be made that are helpful to get this done. That's the type of process that we're talking about with the Afghans. It wouldn't involve an apology. I think it would involve assurances around the agreement that's on the table.

BOLDUAN: You and many folks at the White House have a very busy day ahead. Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security advisor. Great to see you. Thanks you so much for coming in.

RHODES: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Chris, over to you.


Before Gail Devers became a world class speedster and U.S. Olympic gold medalist, she faced a life-threatening hurdle. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has her story in today's "Human Factor."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gail Devers got away quickly.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 15 years, Gail Devers was one of the fastest women in the world, known almost as well for her long fingernails as her Olympic and world championships. Devers qualified for her first Olympics in 1988. But when it came time to compete, her body failed her.

GAIL DEVERS, THREE-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: I ran slower than the first time I ever ran when I ever stepped on the track.

GUPTA: Her hair started falling out. Her once long nails broke. And she started losing a lot of weight.

DEVERS: At my worst I was under like 85 pounds.

GUPTA: Her symptoms conditioned for nearly three years without a diagnosis. Her specialist confirmed Graves' Disease, an auto immune disease of the thyroid gland. Devers got radiation treatment, but as a side effect, she developed painful blood blisters on her feet. It was so bad doctors nearly amputated her feet.

DEVERS: And I just remember sitting there saying, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh."

GUPTA: Eventually doctors found a way to treat them, and a year and a half later Devers was back in her running shoes competing in the 1992 Olympics. Today she's married with two children and helping other kids achieve their goals.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


CUOMO: Wow. Amazing how close her career just came, her life came to being so much different. Great story. Thanks to Sanjay Gupta for that.

We'll take a break here on "NEW DAY". When we come back, a prominent Virginia lawmaker was stabbed nearly to death by his son. There are new questions this morning about his son's battle with mental illness. Why wasn't more done to get him help? We'll tell you why when we come back.


CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY".

We have a shocking story out of Virginia to tell you about this morning. A well-known state senator was stabbed in the head and chest. Authorities this morning say Creigh Deeds' son is the one who attacked him in their home. His son Gus was later found fatally shot. CNN's Chris Lawrence is following developments out of Charlottesville for us this morning.

Good morning, Chris. What do we know?


Basically this morning, right now, hospital officials are saying that Creigh Deeds is out of surgery and in fair condition after being repeatedly stabbed in the face and chest. We're also learning from family friends that Creigh Deeds brought his adult son back into his home to live there, specifically to try to help his son get his life back together.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Police found a chilling scene inside the home of a prominent Virginia state senator early Tuesday morning. An attempted murder/suicide involving father and son.

CORINNE GELLER, VA STATE POLICE SPOKESPERSON: Deeds was stabbed multiple times about the head and upper torso.

CREIGH DEEDS, VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: We still have fight. We still have spirit.

LAWRENCE: Police say popular Democratic Senator Creigh Deeds was stabbed by his 24-year-old son, Gus. Deeds managed to travel 75 yards down his driveway on foot to the highway, where he ran into his cousin, who lives nearby. The senator was later air lifted to a Charlottesville hospital, where police say he was able to speak with them.

By the time police arrived in the senator's home his son, Gus, was still alive but suffering from what police described was a self- inflicted gunshot wound. He died at the scene. This nightmare -- a jarring tragedy especially in the wake of the senator's recent campaigns, where his son was often seen by his side.

Virginia Senator Chap Peterson, a long time friend, remembers campaigning alongside the father/son duo.

SEN. CHAP PETERSON (D) VIRGINIA: Gus was his driver. They traveled together; Creigh tried to make time for them to travel together. And I know that as a father he had a lot of concerns about his son, just issues involving dropping out of school and things of that nature.

LAWRENCE: Gus was a music major at the College of William and Mary. But officials say that in the last month he left the school. The "Richmond Times Dispatch" is reporting that Gus Deeds was sent to Beth County Hospital for a mental health evaluation under an emergency custody order. But the paper cites a source saying he was released the day before the altercation because a bed was not available.

Creigh Deeds is well-known in Virginia politics. In his unsuccessful bid to be governor in 2009 he garnered a presidential endorsement.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know he is the right person for Virginia, and you know it, too.


LAWRENCE: And if someone like Gus Deeds is brought in for an emergency mental health evaluation, he could only be held for up to six hours. A judge can issue a longer stay of up to three days, but there has to be an available bed. And here we are, six years after the massacre at Virginia Tech, and the supply of those available psychiatric beds here in Virginia is incredibly tight -- Chris, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right Chris, thank you so much for that update, from the truly tragic to what we all need more of, something very uplifting.

Next up on "NEW DAY", everyday people doing extraordinary things. We'll meet CNN's 2013 hero of the year.

CUOMO: There he is.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year -- is Chad Pregracke.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Our next guest being named CNN's Hero of the Year last night, Chad Pregracke has dedicated his life to literally, literally pulling trash out of the U.S. waterways a piece at a time. Since 1998 70,000 volunteers have joined him in his effort collecting more than seven million pounds of garbage.

Chad is here this morning. I don't think he got a lick of sleep. First of all, my man, congratulations.


PEREIRA: Well deserved -- how are you feeling?

PREGRACKE: Great. I mean, yes.

PEREIRA: That's a nice piece of hardware you have there.

PREGRACKE: Huge honor.

BOLDUAN: He had just whispered it, you guys. He said that he hadn't obviously seen the replay of him being announced.

PREGRACKE: No, I haven't seen it but I kind of felt like a deer in the headlights. You know, just, whoa. I didn't expect to win and certainly everybody has such great causes that was there and just a fantastic event.

PEREIRA: I know that you would be the first one to say look, I'm just a guy that got some people together but the effort, it grew and grew and grew.


PEREIRA: Look at the numbers -- 70,000 volunteers have joined you to clear these waterways.

PREGRACKE: Yes. No, it has been -- I'm just part of a Clean Water Movement, you know, and like 70,000 volunteers have come out and I've been able to work side by side with them. We've made a really big difference and I just love what I do and we have a lot of fun at it. Just getting large groups together is the best and going out there and seeing the difference and it's really, I just love what I do.

BOLDUAN: This award comes with cool cash.

PREGRACKE: Yes. Ice cold cash. It's way cool. It's super cool.

BOLDUAN: What does that mean for you and your organization?

PREGRACKE: It's huge.

BOLDUAN: And it's what -- $250,000?

PREGRACKE: Yes, but I'm giving $10,000 to the other nine heroes, because, I mean, after meeting them and hearing the stories and seeing them. PEREIRA: I just got goose bumps from that.

PREGRACKE: Yes. I mean what we're going to do with it right off the bat is we also plant a lot of trees, part of our million trees program. We've given away our plan of 625,000 trees in five years, so we're moving the nursery to a better nursery and creating a new one so that's going to help us do that.

CUOMO: Just to make it clear. A lot of people do good things in the world.


CUOMO: -- and no one knows that better than you because you all seem to get to know each other over --

PEREIRA: You're all in that room.

CUOMO: But you live it in a way that is unusual. Tell people, just how much of the year you spend on a barge. Tell people just how much of your life is doing this work?

PREGRACKE: Yes, so there's eight of us to nine of us that live on a barge and we travel, like last year I think we did over 160 events in nine states. So we travel like all the time. It's kind of like being in a band, but the tour bus, a tour bus goes 70 miles an hour and a barge goes like three.


CUOMO: This is your life.

PREGRACKE: Yes. It has been for 16 years and you know, it's really good, like I feel like we're doing something good for the country, doing something good for the environment, the river, and all the communities work in, it's a positive thing. It's cool.

PEREIRA: Chad Pregracke, you are our hero for 2013. Folks at home he saw a need and he filled it, slowly, with a small group of people. And that's why he's here. We can all do it in our own lives in our small way.

PREGRACKE: Yes. You know, that's the thing, if you see a problem, you can do something about it.

PEREIRA: You really can.

PREGRACKE: You don't have to need anything just do it. So take action.

BOLDUAN: Yes. A little muscle.

You take (inaudible) and unexpected. That's how --

(CROSSTALK) PEREIRA: You can catch "CNN HEROES". You're going to see all of the tremendous people that happen in the room last night. It airs Sunday December 1, 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. Don't miss it. It's the inspiration you need.

CUOMO: It doesn't even matter that you know how it turns out. The stories are going to blow you away.

BOLDUAN: You've got to hear it.

PEREIRA: Spoiler.

CUOMO: I'm telling you. It did it for us.

PEREIRA: Thanks Chad.

CUOMO: All right. When we come back, some more inspiration trying to get some more Pregrackes out there -- the good stuff. What would you think about if you were facing dangerous surgery -- yourself, right? Not the extraordinary 14-year-old girl you're about to meet. Her story next.


CUOMO: All right. Time for the good stuff, everybody. Fourteen- year-old cheerleader Savannah Day, she needs to have brain surgery. She has a condition causing her brain to grow into her spinal column. She's going to be OK, but it's a significant situation. What's worse, she has to have the surgery over Christmas.

So did Savannah get depressed, feel sorry for herself? It would be normal, but no. She used her surgery as an excuse to start a Christmas toy drive for the other kids in the hospital, many of whom are worse off than she. The effort went viral. So far they've collected -- wait for it -- 1,500 toys. Take a listen.

PEREIRA: My goodness.


SAVANNAH DAY, ORGANIZED TOY DRIVE AT HOSPITAL: Crazy. It's like a toy factory. I just think about the toy drive and all that helps me get through it.

MICHELLE DAY, MOTHER OF SAVANNAH: I think it's going to be very rewarding. I think Savannah is going into surgery on such a high note. She smiles every day. There's been very few tears shed at our house.


BOLDUAN: What a rock star.

CUOMO: Boy, oh, boy. And that is the good stuff, because it is a perfect example of what doing for others does for you.

PEREIRA: That is such good.

BOLDUAN: We see that with Savannah, we see that with CNN Heroes. It's all good.

CUOMO: Good luck with the surgery, we hope everything turns out well.

PEREIRA: We're thinking of you, Love.

CUOMO: We look forward to hearing that news.

All right. There's a lot more news this morning as well. Thanks for joining us. Let's get you over to John and Christine for the "NEWSROOM".

BOLDUAN: Good morning guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, guys.


And good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Carol Costello is off today.

ROMANS: Authorities this morning desperately searching for two people missing after their medical plane crashed off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

BERMAN: The bodies of two other people on board have already been recovered and now the Coast Guard is frantically searching 20 square miles of ocean in hopes of finding the two other people alive.


LT. CMDR. GABE SOMMA, U.S. COAST GUARD: At this time the debris field is four by five approximately 20 square miles and drifting to the north.