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300 U.S. Troops to Iraq; Obama Goes It Alone on Immigration; What Happened to McStay Family; Vaccines Deemed Safe; "Man Versus Food" Star Loses New Show.

Aired July 1, 2014 - 11:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: They are waiting, they say, for some kind of political solution there. That's what the U.S. really wants to see. They are waiting for that, but the Iraqi parliament today, the newly elected parliament, they were meeting, they need to form a new government. They met. They took a break and then the Sunnis and Kurds wouldn't come back.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't know if this is a political ploy to delay that, but the Kurds and the Sunnis feel like they are not going to be represented, so why take part in this, what they believe to be a farce? I was going to say sham but that's a difference --


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: You've been watching Tikrit. You've picked it up for us and we've put it on our radar. You are indicative of what could happen to the rest of Iraq.

FRANCONA: Yeah. Tikrit, the city isn't the key, the key is the performance of the Iraqi army. I hope we're watching what they are doing. They have got all the tools they need. They got the helicopter, gunships, and artillery. If they cannot dislodge militants from it, no matter what the tools they have, it's not going to be enough.

BERMAN: If we can't confirm with American eyes that they have, because frankly, at this point, it's difficult to tell, that the Iraqis claim they have dislodged the militants, it turns out not to be true.

FRANCONA: Right, all the stories coming out of there, we can't tell what the truth is until we get some Americans there to eyeball it.

PEREIRA: One concern is the death toll is rising, 1,500 civilians. But it's hard to tell what's coming out of there.

Rick Francona, Colonel, thanks for being with us.


BERMAN: Ahead for us @THISHOUR, President Obama says he's willing to go it alone on immigration and saying Congress forced his hand. We'll talk about the politics of all this coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it's bad for our economy, and it's bad for our future.


BERMAN: He used the word "darn." You can tell he's frustrated. President Obama says he's ready to go it alone on the growing immigration crisis. He's shifting resources to the border and he's trying to find steps he can take without congressional approval.

PEREIRA: All of this is happening while thousands of Central American children are heading to the crisis at the border. More than 100 detainees being transferred from Texas to California to relieve the overcrowding.

Our political analyst, Jon Avlon, joins us. He's also editor-in-chief at "The Daily Beast." And our political commentator, Margaret Hoover, is here as well. She's a Republican consultant.

Margaret, have we reached the breaking point at this point? It seems to me that we're at such an impasse, something has got to give.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Unfortunately, in terms of a political solution, a legislative solution passed by the Congress and signed by the president seems to be a hope too far. There was a legitimate group of house members who really wanted to get this done and they were working on it behind the scenes. Their plan was to bring it to fruition for a vote in July or august, but right before the August recess. That was the hope, the plan and you notice the president in his communications as we -- he went around the country to spoke, never called upon the House to pass immigration reform. He knew they were working on and they needed their space. With Cantor's loss, it seems this is out of reach. The president says he's going to go it alone. The problem there's not enough he can do alone. The problem is, there's not a lot he can do alone.

BERMAN: No. The executive powers are limited to be sure.

John, I had spoken to a senior administration official as recently as three weeks ago they were still optimistic they were going to get something with Congress. I was shocked frankly. They have waited a year to let these negotiations play out. Is this wasted time? Do you think they regret these efforts now?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST & EDITOR-IN-CHARGE, THE DAILY BEAST: No. I think as Margaret pointed out, the loss of Eric Cantor was a shock to everybody and he had been one of those folks in Republican leadership who had been quietly behind the scenes trying to say that leadership would support some kind of immigration bill to match the Senate's effort, which Lindsey Graham had helped champion. That loss so blindsided the Republicans, the lesson they took immigration reform made Eric Cantor vulnerable to the Tea Party. They are willing to blame the president for lack of leadership on the issue, which, of course, just an absurd --


HOOVER: He's blaming them, too. Let's be fair.

PEREIRA: John, I want to ask you --


AVLON: I actually think in this case --


PEREIRA: Go ahead.

Come on, push back.

AVLON: President Bush tried to pass this. He got attacked by the talk radio crowd. President Obama has backed it. We've reform Republicans have tried to do this because it's the right thing to do. They are terrified of the far, far right on this issue. You've got a minority-minority controlling American policy.

PEREIRA: Margaret, looking ahead to mid terms elections, how did that play out there? Or how does it impact immigration reform? Is it dead in the water?

HOOVER: I think it is dead in the water right now. I don't think it's not going to happen. What it's going to do, Democrats will point to a do nothing Congress as will the president. There's a lot of point to there in terms of that having some credence. The House has been a bit obstructionist with some of these policies. This influx of thousands of children on the border there is a bill that would help both sides. The way the law works now, if you come from a contiguous country to the border, Mexico or Canada, if you are a child, you can be sent home in 48 hours, but you are not from Guatemala, El Salvador, where most of these kids are from, these are -- there are different protocols. If they passed a law that said apply the same laws as contiguous countries. This process is so politicized between the Congress and the president, nothing can get done.

BERMAN: John, look in your crystal ball and tell me when the president's advisers come back at the end of summer and give him some ideas for executive actions, when he take these executive actions, tell me what the Republicans are going to say.

AVLON: Well, they will probably add it to their list of offenses that they are going to try to bring to court against the president. This is sort of a dare in some effect. It does play into the Democrats hands. Where does the country go? Boehner says this isn't going to get done until we have a new president of the United States. This is an urgent crisis that politics and polarization is blocking any progress on.

PEREIRA: Somebody said right here on our program, when you have children at stake, it seems very un-American to leave these kids sort of wasting away in the situation they are currently in. Got to fix it. Hopefully, we'll get to a solution fast.

John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, thanks so much.

Ahead @THISHOUR, for years, anti vaccine groups have voiced concerns about vaccines for kids but a huge report, a new one, says vaccines are extremely safe for children and side effects rare. We'll look at it.

BERMAN: Plus, they went missing and turned up dead four years later. What happened to the McStay family? Remarkable CNN investigation next.


BERMAN: A family of four vanishes, and four years later, the bones of the family are found in a shallow grave. The father, the mother, two small children murdered.

PEREIRA: Family and friends are devastated. They want answers. Few are available.

CNN launched an extensive investigation. Randy Kaye looks into the mysterious disappearance of this family of four.



UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: This is the house.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): November, 2009, just months before they vanished, the McStays moved into a new house. It was a new beginning.


KAYE: It was a new beginning.

JOSEPH MCSTAY: Light colors. Hi, you like all this big room here.

SUMMER MCSTAY: For them to be able to run and play outside, it was perfect.

KAYE: But by February 15th, 2010, that once perfect house, was now shrouded in mystery. The McStay family was still missing and so was their truck.

(on camera): Detectives send out a "be on the look out," BOLO. What did they discover?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They get a hit on the truck. It's been impounded from a shopping mall near the Mexican border.

KAYE (voice-over): Detectives say that four days after the McStays disappeared, their white trooper was park and subsequently towed from a parking lot steps away from the Mexican border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was nothing in that car to indicate that anything that bad had happened.

KAYE: No apparent foul play. Investigators and loved ones had to consider the possibility, did the McStays park their car at the border and then vanish into Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my mind, we started shifting gears. OK, they are in Cabo or in Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought well maybe they took off.

KAYE: It still wasn't adding up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Summer was afraid of Mexico. Would summer take her two children in there? Heck no.

KAYE: But the truck wasn't the only evidence leading investigators south of the border. Soon after they found the Isuzu, detectives found another clue, a search on the McStays home computer from a week before they disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody at the McStay home had searched for getting passports to Mexico.


PEREIRA: Randi Kaye joins us live now.

It is such a disturbing story.

KAYE: It is.

PEREIRA: It frightens so many people in southern California. They were worried about them for some time and the devastating news they didn't make it. Why are they so convinced that they left the house in a hurry?

KAYE: Well, there's evidence of it. There were eggs as if they were in the middle of making dinner. They left at 7:45 p.m. on that night, February 4th, four year ago, and there were eggs on the counter. There was popcorn in bowls sitting in front of the television on the futon. Their dogs were still tied up outback, who would do that unless they got out of there in a hurry and the problem is the San Diego sheriffs department which handled this initially didn't go into the home with a search warrant until 15 days after they disappeared because they were treating as maybe they left voluntarily.

They thought maybe they went to Mexico given all that evidence. They didn't they needed to go to the home. They didn't consider that a crime scene. And in all that time, Joseph McStay, the husband in this case, his mom went in there, with his brother Michael, and they cleaned up the counters, threw out the dirty diapers and who know what type of evidence might have been lost to see if someone else may have been in the home and taken them out in the trooper that night.

BERMAN: This is an incredible report you have. Compelling, tragic.

You need to go set your DVRs for this right now, because this will shock you and there are amazing new details in this.

And you've really done incredible in-depth reporting there. What's the status of the investigation? Are there any suspects at this point?

KAYE: Nobody. That's the incredible story about. The San Bernardino County is now investigating. They have a new detective poring over thousands of documents, there's so many holes in that case, so many missed opportunities, one hour after they disappeared, the phone of Chase Merritt rang, the friend and business partner of Joseph McStay. They had lunch that day. It rang and it showed up on the caller I.D. as Joseph McStay. So we don't know if it was Joseph calling, if he was really calling for help, if he was trying to give him an indicator and maybe find out it was, maybe it was the people who took them dialing the number on the phone to see what was going on.


KAYE: Now he's living with that regret now all these years later.

PEREIRA: Randi, this is a compelling and upsetting case.

Thanks so much for the investigation.

KAYE: Thank you.

PEREIRA: And you have to check this out tonight at 9:00 eastern and pacific, "Buried Secrets: Who Murdered the McStay Family? " on CNN.

BERMAN: Set your DVR or you'll regret it forever.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of discussion whether vaccines are safe for children, especially among a vocal minority of parents.

PEREIRA: But a huge scientific review says childhood vaccines are indeed safe and not vaccinating children can be deadly.

Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

Good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

Tell us about what this review said and what their conclusions are.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, this was an exhaustive review. They look at 67 studies done over the past few years over the safety of vaccines and the conclusions shouldn't surprise anyone. Vaccines are safe. Now are they without side effects? Absolutely not. They can have side effects. They can in extremely rare circumstances have very bad side effects like seizures or pneumonia or allergic reactions. What is missing is autism. Autism is not a side effect of vaccine or, to say this another way, vaccines do not cause autism. And vaccines do a huge amount of good. Take a look at this number. I think it is really stunning. Let's look at infant mortality in the United States. In 1900, it was 17b 00 deaths for every 1,000 babies born. In 2000, it was seven deaths for every 1,000 babies born. And vaccines are a huge reason for this because the world is safer are a huge reason for this. Because the world is safer for babies and for infants and for children because of vaccines. Again, the study is very clear, vaccines are safe and they do a world of good.

BERMAN: You know, Elizabeth, there's so much passion on this subject. Frankly, so much politics involved too. We need to focus on the science here and what we're seeing is whooping cough outbreaks in California, we're seeing measles we haven't seen in a long, long time. Is the lack of vaccination, is that leading to some these outbreaks?

COHEN: The lack of vaccination is the reason for some of these outbreaks. Measles outbreaks. Huge numbers. Haven't seen numbers like this for years. It started because a group of folks from the Amish community, who don't believe in vaccinations, went to the Philippines to do relief work. What's rampant in the Philippines? Missiles. You have unvaccinated people going to an area where there's a ton of measles. Some of these folks came back with measles and spread it to people in the community and even beyond their community. Not getting vaccinated doesn't just hurt yourself, it also hurts other people.

PEREIRA: Here's the question, you talked about how politicized this has been. How much controversy? You even intimated there's a certain group of people who won't listen to this. Is this enough to silence critics of vaccines?

COHEN: No, I don't think it is. Because I think people believe so passionately against vaccines that I don't think this is really going to stop. I think they'll feel the wait they feel.

BERMAN: Elizabeth Cohen, this is an important subject. The science matters a lot.

Thank you so much for your report.

COHEN: thanks.

PEREIRA: Ahead @THISHOUR, do you watch "Man Versus Food?" You know the host of that show, he was supposed to launch a new show on the Travel Channel, things got a little nasty. He got in a fight on Instagram. The question is, did the TV network overreact or do TV personalities need to do better, be better about censoring themselves on social media?


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROB FORD, MAYOR OF TORONTO: I underwent hundreds of hours of intensive therapy. I know now, I now know the staff at Green Stone saved my life.


PEREIRA: Ashamed, embarrassed, humiliate and sorry, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford offering a public apology. The question is, will voters forgive him? He did not answer any questions about his past behavior. Nor did he offer his resignation. In fact, Ford is running for re- election in the fall.

BERMAN: From controversy to controversy. Now, the star of the Travel Channel's "Man Versus Food" is in the middle of a new brouhaha over smack downs in social media.

PEREIRA: That's Adam Rickman (sic). He --

BERMAN: Richman.

PEREIRA: Richman, pardon me. He recently ranted on Instagram and all of that ranting cost him a new show. All started when he used the word #thinspiration when writing about his recent weight loss transformation. Turns out, this an extremely sensitive word or term for people with eating disorders.

BERMAN: When a woman tagged Richman on social media complaining about his choice of words, he responded. I'm going to remove the expletives. Saying, I legitimately don't give a blank about haters and closed minded internet loud mouths like you. He goes on to say, "Seriously, grab a raiser blade and draw a bath, I doubt anyone will miss you."

You know we got to bring in our entertainment correspondent, Nischelle Turner.

His show was supposed to premiere tomorrow. How about that for bad timing?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Very bad timing. Travel Channel did some swift action. They immediately, you know, took the show off and said they were postponing it. Now, they didn't actually say, we're postponing it because of this kind of internet twitter rant and skirmish they had. But you can surmise that is the case. Especially, you know, we've seen this time and time again. I know you're a Patriots fan, John, but former Jets Coach Herm Edwards says over and over again, "Don't press send."


TURNER: And we see it so much. Even if you're heated -- people come at us every day on social media.

PEREIRA: Count to 10. Count to 10.

TURNER: Count to 10 and don't do it. Sometimes people overreact. He went overboard. Grab a razor blade, draw a bath? Come on, dude.

BERMAN: It's awful stuff he said.

TURNER: Awful.

BERMAN: We've seen racist stuff coming up in the past, homophobic. This is just cruel and nasty. I have to tell you, I know him a little bit. I profiled him a few years ago when I was at ABC. I actually know he worked really hard --


BERMAN: -- to lose weight. He had a trainer -- there's me and Adam right there, back from ABC days. He struggled with weight, very insensitive. Does not excuse the insane word choice. He has apologized.

TURNER: He called his remarks inexcusable in his apology. I do want to read that. Because he did issue a lengthy apology after this fact. He said, "I want to apologize for my inexcusable remarks. I've long since struggled with my body image and have worked very hard to achieve a healthy weight. I stead of responding to hurtful comments with compassion, I lashed out in anger. I'm not asking for sympathy, but, rather, understanding and forgiveness. I can say with certainty that I am taking a deep look at myself and I'm incredibly sorry to everyone I've hurt."

You know, you mentioned something, he has worked really hard, he has faced a lot of -- kind of teasing beforehand when he was overweight. And now kind of some backlash when he's lost the weight. Maybe that's something inside of him. We see that a lot with people struggling with their weight, something inside that brings that up.

PEREIRA: Maybe social media is not the place -- or you have to decide just to ignore. I was going to say, maybe social media's not the place for him while he's going through this transformation and dealing with some of these issues coming up.

TURNER: It's interesting on the Travel Channel's part as well. Because, you know, his shows are some of the most profitable --


TURNER: "Man Versus Food," best thing I ever ate. Really popular shows. Whether the show will come back, we're not sure.

PEREIRA: What do you think? It's hard to say.

TURNER: It's hard to say. It was such tough language that he used. It's hard to say. Let's just hope he's learned a really valuable lesson.

PEREIRA: Maybe other people will too, don't press send.

TURNER: Don't press send.

PEREIRA: Good advice.

Hey, can I share a happy little thing with you?

BERMAN: Let's do it.

TURNER: Always love that.

PEREIRA: Does flying make you stressed out? British Airways is testing out a quick fix that can perhaps make your flight more pleasant. It's called a Happiness Blanket, woven with sensors and fiber-optics. Unlike the Facebook experiment we told you about yesterday, these subjects were actually volunteers. If you feel stress, the blanket turns red. If you are relaxed, it turns blue. The color sensitive blankets will help them understand how passengers react to flights. I'm not sure why. It's called a Happiness Blanket.

BERMAN: When I'm stressed out, you know what I don't want, everyone else on the plane to know I'm going through something right there.

PEREIRA: I think that's what it's for, to alert the flight attendants --


BERMAN: Like the "Scarlet Letter." He's the problem, right there.

PEREIRA: Thanks so much for joining us @THISHOUR. I'm Michaela.

Nischelle, thanks for being here.

BERMAN: Happy Canada day to you and all our friends.


PEREIRA: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.