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Supreme Court Rules on Hobby Lobby; Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is Back; Russian Fighter Jets Arrive in Iraq; ISIS Changes Name; Facebook Admits Experimenting on Users.

Aired June 30, 2014 - 11:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hopefully they feel all of the energy that's coming from the U.S. Brazil almost missing out yesterday. That game was crazy -- or day before yesterday, I guess, it was Saturday. Brazil, I imagine, the country was on edge after almost being defeated and knocked out of the play.

LARA BALDESSARA, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. No. This was a game that everybody, they were stopped, they were watching this. There were tears flowing after the game with Brazil moving on. Julio Cesar, the keeper for Brazil, he was phenomenal. Actually saving penalty kicks. That very rarely happens. To come down to that, it's quite incredible. And, yes, Brazil is staying alive, guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Barely. They are going to up their game.

Lara Baldessara, for us in Brazil, thank you so much for your reports. Get into that Team USA meeting. Find out how things are going.

PEREIRA: U.S. must be feeling pretty good about that if Brazil is on shaky terms.

BERMAN: A long way to go.


BERMAN: Ahead for us @THISHOUR, Russia stepping in, sending in fighter jets and military experts to Iraq. This, as the Iraqis criticize the U.S. for not pitching in sooner.

PEREIRA: A big win for Hobby Lobby. The Supreme Court siding with the craft retailer against Obamacare. Are the cards stacking up against President Obama? We'll discuss, coming up.


PEREIRA: There is celebration outside the Supreme Court from Christian groups after the court sided with the craft store, Hobby Lobby. The decision means the store does not have to cover certain contraceptives in its health care plan for employees.




BERMAN: You can hear the excitement there. The decision is a blow to Obamacare a little bit, and it's another setback to the administration in what has been a difficult year for this White House.

Joining us to discuss this, political commentators, Sally Kohn and Reihan Salam.

Sally, I want to start with you.

You are a progressive and Democrat. And you walked in here today with your head hanging a little bit lower all of a sudden.

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is a troubling ruling. It's not just troubling for Obamacare. We have to read the dissents very carefully. It expands the power of corporations at a time when corporations are way too powerful in our society. You choose to be a corporation, good on you. That is your choice. That is a legal protection. You get certain special rights and privileges when you incorporate. Now, the Supreme Court also said you get the benefits of being a person. We already said you are a person for political donations and all these other things, corporate personhood. Now you even get to have a religion. You get both sides. Corporate power is too big. The Supreme Court is doing the bidding of big business. This is a disastrous ruling for women and for all Americans.

PEREIRA: Reihan, to that point that this is a disastrous ruling for women, the three female justices dissented. Hearing that from Sally and the fact that three female justices dissented, does that make you feel there's not a portion of America that won't be agreeing with this ruling?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We talk about this as a blow to the Affordable Care Act. The Catholic Church was broadly supportive of the Affordable Care Act. But they also favor creating the space of all kinds of entities, all kinds of communities, all kinds of institutions in order to live their conscience. The Affordable Care Act did not include this mandate. This was a mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services. Several of the pro life Democrats who voted for the Affordable Care Act have said they would not have voted for the law had this mandate been explicitly debated in 2009, 2010. There are a lot of religious liberals who support the idea of universal coverage. But they would not have supported if had they known it would have imposed on the restrictions on the freedoms of employers, of closely held firm, nonprofits, and a variety of other organizations.

Now the Obama administration said, no, this is not going to apply to religious nonprofits. Later, they clarified the ruling. What that demonstrated there was actually a left burden some way of the government helping people meet their goal of meeting peoples' health needs without imposing this restriction. So this was a regulation. This was not debated as part of the Affordable Care Act.

BERMAN: Sally, let's back up from the law for a second. Talk about the bigger picture for this White House right now. They have had a few rulings now for the Supreme Court that have gone against them, including one regarding unions. They have had a tough year in general on many fronts. This must be frustrating for them. They feel blocked politically, legally, foreign policy wise. Everywhere they look, they are being blocked.

KOHN: I think they are right to be frustrated. And when you look at some of the rulings of this court, look again, look at those dissenting opinions, look at the polling of American attitudes about the court. This is frustrating.

But I really need to make two things clear here. Number one, Hobby Lobby provided this coverage before they decided to drop it to file suit, which was politically motivated. Number two, the majority of scientists, there's not even a debate about this. These are not abortion-related contraceptives. And this whole suit is based on a false premise. This is ridiculous. Sad day.

PEREIRA: Sally, Reihan, a pleasure to have you both with us. Thanks for joining us.

And you two are going to stay with us because we have more to talk about.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, he's back after taking a couple of months in rehab. In a letter, he wants to make sure his office is the way he left it. Like the locks worked, et cetera, all those things he might not have thought about worrying about a couple of days ago.

BERMAN: Having a bad day? Blame it on Facebook. The social media website manipulated its content to see if it would change user's moods. But the users didn't know they were being tested. So is that a good -- Hey, that's me. That's my website. They were messing with me?


PEREIRA: Do you feel your mood changing?

BERMAN: Now I care. Now I'm angry. That's ahead @THISHOUR.



BERMAN: Hello, Toronto. The Ford with you again. We just said that. The city's mayor, who you may or may not remember smoked a little bit of crack, is making a return to city hall after a stint in rehab. He's supposedly slimmer, sober, and he is supposedly ready to run for re-election.

PEREIRA: Not quite like the video we saw of some of his antics. Is Toronto ready to forgive him from his past ways, the boozing, the bizarre behavior, the rants?

Joe Warmington, from the "Toronto Sun," is with us. And we have Reihan and Sally here to weigh in as well.

But, Joe, we want with you first because you had an opportunity to talk to the mayor a couple of weeks ago. And we understand you've also had a chance to talk to his trainer. Slimmer, healthier, a new man, is that what you seem to get?

JOE WARMINGTON, COLUMNIST, TORONTO SUN: I guess that's the campaign, along with the election campaign, to sort of convince people that there's a new Rob Ford and we're about to see him. There's a lot of interest to see exactly that. We've seen some of the snap shots via Twitter and the like, and he certainly looks a lot thinner and healthier.

Talking to him on the phone -- I could hear him on the phone yesterday, on his phone, he didn't really want to talk much, because he wanted to do this whole deal today. But he sounds from what -- I can tell, he sounds pretty positive and pumped.

BERMAN: And I think we all need to be careful here because none of us want to make light of someone who clearly has some issues and a problem here.

But, Joe, the other side of this, I think a lot of America is saying this has been going a long time. What have we been doing here for the last year in Toronto? This guy is in rehab, YouTube videos. Now he's coming back. He's still running for re-election. Could he win?

WARMINGTON: You know, he hasn't done nearly anything worth all the attention. I'm glad to be with you on CNN with you, John and Michaela. I was with you before.

It's a loud story and all that stuff, but if you peel back the onion, what is this story really? It's a guy who had some alcohol and some narcotics issues, has never happened before, I know, in America or in Canada.


And he was in the public eye and they were chasing him pretty hard, and he was trying to avoid it and dodge and weave it. It caught up with him. He hasn't been charged with a crime. There's no money missing. He's still number two in the polls. That's the real issue of why he's got the haters coming out for him so strongly. Listen, I could see why people wouldn't vote for him because some of the things he said and the behaviors are reprehensible. But I've seen a lot of other comebacks in politics and also in life, so I'm prepared to give the guy that benefit of the doubt to let him at least try. He did go in and deal with his issues.

To answer your question, I guess it's a big story because people aren't interested in all kinds of other things like child poverty and all kinds of things. They are interested in this one guy. I don't know why.

PEREIRA: Joe is striking a bit of a hopeful tone that maybe the guy has changed his ways. Sally -- Reihan, we'll start with you, because obviously Joe making

light of the fact, we've never heard a story like this before, obviously tongue in cheek. It's not something that we've seen in this way, particularly, and somebody staying in office in the United States. It's surprising to me that more people haven't come out and said this isn't the kind of guy we want in office? What do you make of that?

SALAM: Part of what happened in Toronto is Rob Ford was stripped of his powers as mayor.


SALAM: So that's one thing that happened substantively to kind of change the picture a bit.

But another thing that really bothers me about this story to be honest with you, is that, had Rob Ford used cocaine, would this have been a subject of endless mirth? Would we be talking about it constantly? There is a racial component to this story. And in Toronto, many of his supporters have been people from racial minorities, who feel as though he's been mistreated. He comes from this very wealthy family, but he's a guy who is seen as a populist, seen as very connected to people from these outer suburb communities, people who are working class, lower middle class. And they feel these attacks on him --


PEREIRA: Are almost attacks against him?

SALAM: Exactly. And the idea of the fact that he used crack. That's laughable. If he used some other drug, it wouldn't have been. It's very interesting. This is not to say --


SALAM: -- that I'm a great enthusiast or whatever else. But people are missing that big part of the story. There are people who really feel as though he's one of them.

BERMAN: And Joe brought up a good point, Sally. There have been plenty of politicians in the United States who had transgressions of one kind or another. I do what differentiates a little bit is Rob Ford became very defiant.


BERMAN: And he said a lot of stuff on camera that turned out not to be true and he said stuff that was offensive. Sally, look at us. Have we blown this? Has the media overblown this?

KOHN: Yes, I think we have. Right, this is the media equivalent of click-bait. We're sort of taking, you know, popular reality TV disaster scenarios and trying to sort of turn it into news so we can talk about it again and again. But I'm as much to blame. I see crazy "What did Rob do lately"? I click on those links too, right. There is some instinct we have to follow these stories. Reihan's excellent points aside, this is our worst instincts coming to bear what we choose to cover.

PEREIRA: Sally and Reihan, and also a big thanks to Joe Warmington, who has been following this story with us from Toronto. It will be very interesting to see how this -- this is the big we question -- how Torontonians react to the return of their mayor.

Maybe, Joe, we can talk to you about that as things progress.

Thanks so much to the three of you.

BERMAN: One of my favorite Canadians we've spoken to today.


BERMAN: Joe Warmington. You and Joe, neck and neck. And actually --


PEREIRA: Shouldn't I be the favorite?



Ahead for us, Russian fighter jets have arrived in Iraq. How Iraq is strategizing in its push against the militants there.

PEREIRA: The terror group, pushing its way toward Baghdad, rebranding itself. How its name change could help it attract more allies. We'll discuss ahead.


PEREIRA: Move over, U.S. military. Russian fighter jets have now arrived in Iraq. Its Army desperately wants to launch air strikes on militants that are advancing towards Baghdad.

BERMAN: Those militants have now declared the creation of an Islamic State there, a caliphate.

Let's bring in our military analyst, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Frick Francona, a former liaison officer to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Rick, let's talk about the Russian jets. The Iraqis, especially the Iraqi government, who seemed to want to do anything to curry favor with the United States, now seems to be going out of its way to poke the U.S. and the U.S. military in its eye.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, FORMER LIAISON MILITARY ATTACHE IN SYRIA: Well, let's look at it another way. It gives them a capability they don't have and they desperately need. The U.S. F-16s that they purchased are not scheduled for delivery until September. So they won't see those in operation until the end of the year. They need something right now. The Russians were able to deliver these. And this is impressive. In two days, they're going to be operational. In three to four, they'll be in the air, conducting air strikes. This is a capability the Iraqis need. I take my hat off to the Russians. They did a great job getting them there.

PEREIRA: Do you think this is something that will aid in stemming the tide of ISIS, or however they're now rebranding themselves? Do you think that's enough to sort of get back to them and push them back in their efforts to move forward?

FRANCONA: It certainly will give the Iraqis capability. Right now, they're using a lot of gunships and all that. This is a really good airplane. It's like the U.S. Air Force A-10. It was built for close air support. It can get down there low and slow and put a lot of weaponry on target.

PEREIRA: Let's talk about this new Islamic State. ISIS, as it was called before, the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, is now going by the Islamic State. The leader has declared a caliphate saying he rules really Muslims all over the world, but particularly this area. Some people suggest this group is overreaching. What do you think?

FRANCONA: I think they're overreaching. But on the other hand, we've seen, just in the last two days people -- different groups in different areas in Jordan, in the Gaza Strip, signing up for allegiance to this, saying we want to be part of this. This is something that coalesces with all of these Islamic groups around the world, saying this is what we've tried -- remember, the caliphate was dissolved almost 100 years ago and they've been striving for that again. And now we have somebody who actually stands up and says, we own territory, we're going to declare the Islamic State. It's something these people aspire to and it really resonates among them. I don't think we should play this down.

PEREIRA: We talked about the military advisers being there, getting a sense of what's happening on the ground. We also hear that the Iraqi military is sort of saying they're making some progress against ISIS, or whatever we want to call them. Yet Iraqi people on the ground are telling us they're not seeing signs of presence of troops there. What's the --



PEREIRA: There's a big disconnect there.

FRANCONA: There is a big disconnect. You can't just rely on what the Iraqi government is telling us. Tikrit is the key here. Tikrit itself to me isn't that important but it's what it stands for. And this is the chance for the Iraqi army to get out and throw them out of Tikrit. If they can't do that with all the weaponry they have, and now these new fighters, if the Iraqi army can't dislodge these Islamists from Tikrit, we've got a much bigger problem.

BERMAN: If they can't do it there, they may not be able to do it.

FRANCONA: Exactly, John.

BERMAN: Colonel, great to have you here. Really appreciate it.

PEREIRA: Thank you.

All right, you're going to go on Facebook. You're in a good mood. But after you cruise around your news feed, suddenly, the mood darkens. You could have been one of Facebook's guinea pigs. We're going to take a look at this little social experiment they had maybe at your expense online. We'll take a look.


PEREIRA: You notice any depressed mood after spending time on Facebook lately, John Berman?


I was going to make a joke about you being grumpy, but you're not. You're lovely. Turns out there could be a reason for it.

BERMAN: Yes, Facebook is admitting it sort of tampered with, messed with, adjusted the news feeds of almost 700,000 users. They did it for a week. This was back in 2012. It was part of an experiment on how Facebook users react to positive or negative news in their news feeds. At the time, they never told anyone. So what do you think about this?

Let's bring in our "CNN Money" tech correspondent, Lori Segall.

Lori, what is going on here?

LORI SEGALL, TECH CORRESPONDENT, CNN MONEY: Essentially Facebook -- first of all, the findings were just published this month, although it happened in 2012. But there is this premise, you know when you go to Facebook and everybody seems to be living these amazing lives, and you think, oh, this is depressing.

PEREIRA: Vacations and new boyfriends. And, yes.

SEGALL: Right, exactly. Facebook, they wanted to see, is this a reality, so this did this test. They surfaced negative content in some user's feed, positive in others. Now we all take a step back and say, you did what? They changed the emotional state of users. So there's been this huge backlash. The question, is this even ethical and did we give you permission to toy with our emotions?

PEREIRA: It turns out we do. By signing up and agreeing to their terms of service, we're allowing them to use our data for research, correct?

SEGALL: Absolutely. Every time you press "I agree," you do that. I reached out to Facebook and I want to read to you what they said. They say, "We do research to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible. A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content. We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process."

Now, guys, let me say, the data scientists went on Facebook and said, you know, our review process is better than it was a couple years ago, and I think it's time for Facebook to do a little soul searching as to how they use the data and toy with our emotions. Look at the backlash.

BERMAN: Toy with our emotions. I expect that in my relationships. I don't necessarily expect it from Facebook. But we should, because they mess with our news feeds every day. We're not seeing every post from every one of our friends. They pick and choose with these algorithms, which is a word that means Facebook can do what it wants as far as I know.

SEGALL: There's about 1,500 posts that they say surface here and there. A lot of this is interesting. They see how you react. A lot of tech companies do this. Let's go ahead and say Google, Twitter.


SEGALL: A lot of folks are doing this. Now we're reaching this really interesting time where these questions of ethics and how much is too much, we're beginning to see. I think this survey really -- this research really showed that maybe they overstepped. But we should understand that we agree to a lot. There are 9,000 words in that data policy agreement, and we agree to all of those.

PEREIRA: Yeah, well, look, I'm surprised a little bit by the outrage from people because of the fact we know we're putting our information --


BERMAN: But not a lot, I have to say. I'm not surprised a lot.


Lori Segall, always a pleasure. Thanks for being with us here @THISHOUR.

Let us know what you think.

BERMAN: Yeah, go to our Facebook page. We will never mess with you, as far as you know. Visit us.

PEREIRA: Look at those eyes. Don't you think he's going to mess with you just a little bit?

BERMAN: @THISHOUR, we're completely honest with all your emotion, always.

PEREIRA: That's it for us @THISHOUR. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.