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Bloomberg Signs One Final Act Of Controversy Into Law For New Yorkers; America's Longest War Becoming Increasingly Unpopular; Are Drugs Alone Enough?; Robin Roberts Reveals She's Gay; Rich, Famous And Generous

Aired December 30, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone. Now, it's time for the politics lead.

He's been called everything from big brother and nanny in chief to health crusader and pioneer. And that doesn't include some of the more colorful descriptions scrawled on the walls of New York City subways.

But no matter how you feel about Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there's no denying his impact on the day-to-day life of New Yorkers over the past 12 years, taking on everything from birth control to Big Gulps.

So it seems almost fitting that in his final act as mayor, Bloomberg signed into law a controversial initiative that extends the city's smoking ban to include e-cigarettes. The law would make it illegal to use the battery-operated cigs in offices, restaurants, bars and parks, but some critics, including anti-smoking advocates, say the ban may end up doing more harm than good. CNN's Poppy Harlow has more.


STEPHEN DORFF, ACTOR IN COMMERCIAL: You know what the most amazing thing about this cigarette is? It isn't one.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're electronic cigarettes and they've become nearly as controversial as the real thing.

AARON DAVID ROSS, E-CIGARETTE USER: This is how I ended up quitting smoking.

HARLOW: Aaron David Ross smoked for ten years. We met him at Henley, a New York City vapor lounge.

ROSS: I haven't had a drag on a cigarette since then and it was about two and a half years ago.

HARLOW: Here's how they work. Liquid nicotine is heated up by a battery-charged coil. There's no tobacco burned. Users inhale, and instead of smoke, there's a steam-like vapor. They've been in the U.S. less than a decade, and increasingly big tobacco companies are manufacturing them. But limited research has been done on their health impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like the science to catch up with what we're doing here.

HARLOW: But you're still willing to do it.

INDRANI NICODEMUS, E-CIGARETTE USER: I am willing to do it because I think the alternative to just smoking all day - I think this is a better alternative.

HARLOW: Amy Fairchild of Columbia University School of Public Health co-authored this op-ed in "The New York Times," making the case for e- cigarettes. A lot of folks say there's just not enough science.

AMY FAIRCHILD, PROFESSOR AT COLUMBUS UNIVERSITY, MAILMAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, you could also make the case that there's never going to be enough science - that there's always going to be room for another study. It's the dire, urgent public health needs. This is one of the most important public health problems we face.

HARLOW: But she argues they must be federally-regulated and not marketed to kids. I wish you could smell it in here because of course it doesn't smell like smoke - it actually smells a lot like candy. No surprise, given all the flavors that they sell. But critics argue when you sell flavors like cotton candy or like gummy bear, that can attract children. Some states have age requirements on sales but not all. CDC data show nearly two million middle and high school students tried these cigarettes last year - more than double the number in 2011.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: These cigarettes can potentially help some people, but they've got serious potential harms that we know about. If they get kids to start smoking, that's really bad. If they get smokers who would have quit, to keep smoking, that's really bad, if they get former smokers to go back to smoking, that's really bad and if they re-glamourize the act of smoking, that's bad as well.

HARLOW: But e-cigarettes are not regulated by any federal body and they're not an FDA-approved method to quit smoking. Critics point out they can keep users hooked on nicotine. So what does the American Cancer Society think?

THOMAS GLYNN, DIRECTOR, SCIENCE & TRENDS, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: Cautious optimism with a number of caveats. What we don't want to do is to take something out of the hands of people who - which could in fact help people stop using the traditional burn cigarette which is the enemy.

HARLOW: You get angry when people try to fight this.

TALIA EISENBERG, CO-OWNER, THE HENLEY VAPORIUM: Because it worked for us. We saved our lives with this product.

PETER DENHOLTZ, CO-OWNER, THE HENLEY VAPORIUM: I wouldn't be so angry if people took the time - our elected officials took the time -- to get educated. They're not.

HARLOW: But as cities and states decide how to handle e-cigarettes, the industry continues to boom. DORFF: It's time we take our freedom back. Come on, guys


TAPPER: (LAUGHTER). Poppy, I'm sorry, Poppy - I 'm laughing at Stephen Dorff there in that ad.


TAPPER: And Poppy joins us now. Poppy, how big of an industry is this right now?

HARLOW: It is massive. A Wells Fargo tobacco industry analyst just came out and said that they're estimating that the market this year alone in the United States e-cigarettes - $1.8 billion. And even more surprising is their expectations that this market for electronic cigarettes, Jake, is going to surpass the market for traditional smoke cigarettes in the next decade.

If that happens, I think that will be astounding. What we don't know yet is what the FDA is going to do. They have said that they could come out as early as this month, so that would mean in the next two days, with a proposed rule to regulate e-cigarettes. That could change the entire game, and on top of that, there's still this big, hanging question - is nicotine alone really safe to inhale? Some studies say yes, but more recent studies like one out of Brown last week says not so fast. So there are a lot of questions here, and Mayor Bloomberg of New York City getting out in front of this one, not a big surprise as he leaves office.

TAPPER: All right, Poppy Harlow. Thanks so much.

In other political news, it is America's longest war and it may also now be its most unpopular. According to a new CNN ORC poll, support of the war in Afghanistan has plummeted. Just 17 percent currently support the effort and 82 percent oppose it. That's more than ever opposed the war in Vietnam. That's also down from 50 percent approval for the war effort back in December of 2008, a month before the president first took office.

So, what happened over those five years to change America's mind and what does it mean for the future of the Conflict? Let's bring in our political panel to talk about it. CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine, Ryan Lizza, Senior Vice President for American Values and New Communities at the Center for American Progress, Daniella Gibbs Leger and former spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner, Terry Holt.

Daniella, let's start with you. Bin Laden's dead, and yet 60 percent of Americans think we're losing this war, and you saw this unbelievable lack of support for it. What happened? Why?

DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I'm not really surprised. We've been at war now for basically 12 years, and I think the American people are just tired of being in armed conflict. So, despite the fact that you know the President said we are going to get out at the end of next year, despite the fact that Bin Laden is dead, I think the American people are just ready to end. So I'm really not surprised by these numbers.

TAPPER: Now, Ryan, when I tweeted this information earlier, a lot of people on Twitter were surprised by it because of the intensity of the opposition to the war --


TAPPER: -- in Vietnam. But the truth of the matter is opposition to the Iraq war never got higher than 69 percent, and while the Vietnam war was in progress, no more than six in ten ever told Gallup's interviewers that that war was a mistake. So, this war is - it might not be as - people might not be as intensely against it -


TAPPER: -- but it is the least popular according to these polls. Why do you think it's so different - just because it's so long?

LIZZA: I think it's - one, it's the length and I think at this point, part of it is victory over Al Qaeda within Afghanistan. I think people don't understand why we're there anymore, right. So if you think of this war as - the core of Al Qaeda has been driven from Afghanistan, the Taliban is still there, we still have unstable government. We did not succeed in creating a liberal democracy out of Afghanistan the way that I think the Bush Administration first championed it. But I think it's partly - the numbers are just a war- weary public, and people not understanding the rational for having - rationale -- for having a lot of troops there right now.

TAPPER: Speaking of troops, Terry, 2,300 troops have died since the war began by CNN's count, and a majority of those deaths - about 1,164 - have taken place under the current administration. Obviously a lot of that is because the President sent so many more tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan --


TAPPER: -- you send more troops to a place, more troops are going to get killed. Do you blame President Obama for any of the war we're in?

HOLT: Well, the mini-surge, yes, happened right at the beginning of his presidency, but we've been shot by people that we've armed. And that's one of the less well-told stories of Afghanistan that as we've tried to leave, the people that we're arming - that we're giving the guns to - have started killing American soldiers. And so, as we retreat, the Taliban knows we're leaving. They're biding their time and the American people are tired of it because they're weary but also because they've seen defeat, they've seen people dying by the hand of - that gave them the arms to supposedly defend themselves.

TAPPER: Let's turn to a more enjoyable political fight and away from Afghanistan which is this pending fight we're going to see over the minimum wage, both here in Washington, D.C. and in states. An ABC News "Washington Post" poll shows widespread support for an increase in the $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage among both Republicans and Democratic voters including 50 percent of Republicans. Danielle, is this going to be the wedge issue if the Democrats have their say for this year?

LEGER: Yes, I think it definitely will be. I mean, you've seen the President has already started talking about inequality and how that's the greatest challenge of our generation, and I think that the minimum wage - it's not just popular politically, but lots of studies have shown that when you raise the minimum wage, you put more money back into the economy. And I think there's a sense among Americans that while the recovery is happening, it's happening for a very small group of people. So, I think it wouldn't be great for Republicans to get in the way of raising the minimum wage that will help so many people.

TAPPER: Terry, your former boss has said 'no way, this is going to be a job killer.'

HOLT: I think if most people said that, hey, great, you're going to get $7.25 a hour, your new minimum wage. They'd say I still can't live on that. I think most people would rather have strong, grower and vibrant economy where they had an opportunity to not just make $7.25, but $15 or $20 an hour. I think it's great that states when they've been able to have made this change, but a federal - a federally-mandated minimum wage on business, some people say it's a job killer, some people say it's not. But either way, it doesn't solve the big problem. It's a political Band-Aid on an oozing political problem the President has which is his low popularity, and the Democrats are looking for something to campaign on in 2014.

TAPPER: How do you see this playing out?

LIZZA: Yes, just forget about the - putting the merits aside - politically, the Obama years have been a tale of two electorates, right. The mid-term electorate and the presidential electorate. And in '08 and 2012, in the presidential year, he had a huge surge of young voters, non-white voters, that helped him win reelection and win his initial election. He needs some issues to sort of make the 2014 electorate a little more like the 2012 electorate, and this is a good issue to do that.

TAPPER: Although there is some concern among Democrats that Republicans might just let it happen and just stand back as they - I think they did in '96 - was, right? I mean (inaudible) -


HOLT: There was a late 80s minimum wage raise.

TAPPER: And Republicans did not stand up - stand against it - they kind of just let it happen.

HOLT: I think it was a bigger deal - President Clinton was trying to move to the middle and they balanced the budget, they lowered taxes, there was a lot of other -

LIZZA: And there was a negotiation - the business community got something -


LIZZA: -- and labor got -


LEGER: You won't see that with this Republican Party - I don't think so.

TAPPER: Daniella Gibb Leger, Ryan Lizza, Terry Holt, thanks so much every one of you for coming up on "The Lead." If your kid has ADHD, you've probably been told about the benefits of medication, but now some doctors are questioning their own advice and we'll tell you why. And we've all seen the pictures of Angelina Jolie working with kids in Africa, but which celebrity was the most charitable in 2013? The answer might surprise you.


TAPPER: Welcome back to "The Lead." I'm Jake Tapper - now let's turn to some national news. They can be miracle drugs for kids dealing with ADHD. They're also part of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry. More than 3.5 million children are using medications such as Ritalin and Adderall to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD - according to the CDC - the Centers for Disease Control, but now the authors of one of the most influential studies at first trumpeted the effectiveness of these pharmaceuticals back in the 1990s.

One of those authors are now saying they're worried that the results oversold the benefits of using the drugs alone without other forms of therapy. So what does this all mean for your child? Professor Stephen Hinshaw of the University of California Berkeley joins me now. Professor, thanks for being with us. You were a researcher in this influential 90s study, and the principle investigator for the Berkeley study - do you think the pharmaceutical companies misused the research to downplay the effectiveness of non-drug therapy - presumably for their own gain?

STEPHEN HINSHAW, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, U.C. BERKELEY: I can't speak for exactly what the pharmaceutical companies did or did not do. They're in the business of creating medications and promoting them. We do know that the initial publication from our study that emphasized the outcome of reducing symptoms showed often dramatic benefits of the medication. But subsequent publications where we looked more broadly at academics and social skills and family discipline styles showed the clear and superior benefits of combining the medications with active family and school behavior therapy.

TAPPER: This is what one of the study's co-authors just told "The New York Times," quote, "I hope it didn't do irreparable damage. The people who pay the price in the end are the kids. That's the biggest tragedy in all of this." What needs to happen now? HINSHAW: Well, I think several things need to happen. Number one, we have to recognize that ADHD is a real condition, but it takes a careful, thorough work up. A ten-minute visit with a doctor is not adequate to the task. We'll both over diagnose and under diagnose. Second, if medication is prescribed, we've got to evaluate very carefully whether it works or not. Third, for most kids, most of the time, adding intensive therapy with the family, with the teachers, teaching kids better social skills, makes the medication which gets the brain in better shape, now there's a skill boost so that there's a far better chance of getting that child back in the normal range.

TAPPER: Professor, why is this coming out now so many years later? Is this just the natural evolution of a new drug?

HINSHAW: I think we go in swings and cycles in social and medical history. The initial publication from the MTA study - the study I was associated with - in 1999 showed the benefits of medication for symptom reduction.

We published another paper much less publicized a couple of years later showing the superiority of this combined, multi-modal approach and then newer medications, longer-acting formulations have been out for over a decade now, we're seeing a dramatic increase in diagnoses of ADHD, and I think serious scholars, consumers are reading the literature to find - to find out that it really takes skill-building, not just symptom reduction to get the best outcomes for kids and adolescents and adults who really need it.

TAPPER: When I hear the number more than one in seven children in the U.S. receiving a diagnosis of ADHD by the time they turn 18 - it feels like there might be an over-diagnosing. Is that possible?

HINSHAW: I think it is possible. We know how to diagnose ADHD. It takes a lot of time and many hours of parent ratings, teacher ratings and a thorough history of the child's development. But there's also pressure academically on kids these days. There's also pressure for too-often a quick and dirty diagnosis without the thorough history and testing that's needed. That's a recipe for in too many cases over- diagnosis, yet at the same time, too many kids with mental health problems in the United States are getting no treatment oat all. So, we're both over- and under-diagnosing. I think we really have to empower doctors and reimburse the kinds of assessments needed to make sure that we're accurate with all this.

TAPPER: Professor Stephen Hinshaw. Thank you so much.

HINSHAW: Thanks for having me on, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up in our "Pop Culture Lead" - "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts is the latest celebrity to publically announce that she's gay. What's been the reaction? That's coming up.


TAPPER: Now time for the Pop Culture Lead. It's a decision that is as personal as it can be powerful. "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts, who is both my friend and a former colleague, revealed in a Facebook post what many in her life knew all along, she's gay. It's not as if Roberts had been keeping her decade-long relationship a secret, but it is the first time she's publicly acknowledged that she's gay.

Roberts has received a largely positive response including this tweet from the first lady, Michele Obama, "I am so happy for you and Amber. You continue to make us all proud." But it's not just the supportive reaction, but the lack of reaction saying a lot about how far this country has come in its acceptance of homosexuality.


TAPPER (voice-over): "Good Morning America" anchor, Robin Roberts inspired millions of viewers as she publicly fought a blood disorder diagnosis last year.

ROBIN ROBERTS, ANCHOR, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Later today, I begin what's known as pre-treatment.

TAPPER: Thankfully, she won.

ROBERTS: I am so full of gratitude.

TAPPER: Now as Roberts celebrates more than a year of recovery, she is making news again. Last night she took to Facebook to acknowledge her health, her happiness, and long-time companion writing, quote, "I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends." Yes, Robin Roberts is gay. The reaction has been as subtle as the announcement itself.

AARON HICKLIN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "OUT" MAGAZINE: It seems increasingly odd, especially to a younger generation, for famous people to have difficulty in being honest about something as fundamental as their sexuality.

TAPPER: Roberts' former co-host Sam Champion may have helped pave the way when he celebrated his engagement to his partner live on "Good Morning America" last year.

SAM CHAMPION, TV PERSONALITY: I'm so, so lucky to have someone like this in my life.

TAPPER: But in a way, Roberts seemed to be following the template of CNN's own Anderson Cooper. He came out in July 2012 in an e-mail to blogger, Andrew Sullivan, and like Roberts, he was on a vacation when he did so. Cooper discussed it in September when his talk show launched.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC360": I think it's important to just send a message to especially young people that there's nothing to be ashamed of and that you know, you can be successful and you can have a life and you can have many interests and this is one part of your life.

TAPPER: Somewhat casual scenes like this, it might be easy to forget that in the recent past and even today, coming out as gay could mean being pushed out of your profession. Ellen Degeneres faced risks head on when she came out to Oprah Winfrey in 1997.

OPRAH WINFREY: You nervous or what?

ELLEN DEGENERES: Yes, a little bit.

TAPPER: She caused an uproar when her popular TV sitcom character followed suit. Back then 16 or so years ago, according to Gallup polls, less than 35 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage and in the years that followed celebrity sexuality remains the stuff of magazine covers.

HICKLIN: We tend to think of celebrities as we think of friends. The fact is, if you know someone who is gay, you tend to be less prejudiced, more open-minded, more supportive yourself.

TAPPER: This year, the Supreme Court bolstered same sex marriage in two different rulings, with 53 percent of the public supporting gay marriage. But according to "Out" magazine's editor in chief, Aaron Hicklin, the fact that it took Roberts until this week shows society still has a long way to go.

HICKLIN: The fact that Robin was not able to come out earlier, as someone who has been in a committed relationship for ten years, I think should make a lot of people feel ashamed, actually.

TAPPER: But that delay may just be an acknowledgment of the tens of millions of conservative religious Americans who like "Duck Dynasty's" Phil Robertson, consider homosexuality to be a sin. This may simply be a business decision more than anything else, not to alienate those viewers. But as more stars come out, that strategy may fade.

HICKLIN: It is a cumulative process, continues to gather steam. I do think we are going to be looking very soon at a time when the very idea of coming out seems routine.


TAPPER: Of course, as a way of protesting Russia's anti-homosexuality laws, President Obama is not just staying away from the Sochi games, he also appointed a delegation of openly gay athletes to attend the games such as Billie Jean King and others such as Brian Boitano who came out after being named to the group.

Bad Behavior is a sure-fire way for a celebrity to make news, but a social change non-profit called is giving shout-outs to celebrities guilty of generous behavior. Taylor Swift tops the list for 2013, the young philanthropist gave $100,000 to the Nashville Symphony and headlined a gig in London for homeless kids.

The British boy band One Direction came in second. Beyonce and the late Paul Walker also made the top five. Walker died after his benefit for typhoon victims. You may or may not hope Justin Bieber makes good on this threat to retire. He's the first singer to make more than 200 kids' wishes come true for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The 2013 is about to go down as the best year ever at the Box Office in the U.S. The 2012 holds the record at $10.8 billion, but it's looking as though this year will beat that figure by about 1 percent. No surprise, there were some hugely popular flicks this year. Many of them, of course, sequels such as "Iron Man 3" and the "Hunger Games, Catching Fire, "The Hobbit," "Frozen," "Anchorman 2" still going strong.

Worldwide movie receipts are believed to be about 5 percent higher than last year thanks to a booming Box Office in China. You will notice we did not mention the "Wolf of Wall Street" there. Martin Scorse's latest finished fifth place this weekend, but the story has been a huge hit with a reality TV executive who wants to take the real wolf, a convicted scammer who Leo plays, and build a reality show around him.

The Hollywood reporter says the idea is to have him help out people who have hit rock bottom. He is now a motivational speaker, of course, he is. The executive says this is TV gold. No word when or where the show might air.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also check out our show page at for videos, blogs, extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'll be back in an hour anchoring "THE SITUATION ROOM." But first I turn you over to Jim Acosta filling in for Mr. Wolf Blitzer -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Happening now, terror in Russia. Two deadly blasts in two days. Could the Winter Olympics be next? I'll talk to a Republican congressman who is afraid that security threats are being swept under the rug.

Plus, NSA hackers revealed. New revelations about an elite spy team that even plants bugs in computers before they are shipped to your door.

And the NFL's Black Monday. We will take you inside the mass firing of pro football coaches and why they were sacked. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Jim Acosta. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A long-running battle between Republicans and the White House is reigniting over the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Some top GOP lawmakers are challenging a new report that undercuts their claims about the attack and allegations of a cover-up by the administration.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is here. We are hearing angry push-back against this "New York Times" report that really started as soon as that report came out.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It did. You know, it's the same repeat of the same debate that's been going on for more than a year over al Qaeda and that anti-Muslim video.