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Flu Spreading; School Shooting in California; Interview With Newt Gingrich

Aired January 10, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And there's breaking news tonight. One of the government's leading disease fighters becoming the top health official to say that this year's flu outbreak has now reached epidemic levels. According to CDC, as many as 50,000 people may die from this flu and it's still getting worse. We will talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about how to protect yourself in a moment.

But, first, another shooting at another school, this time in California. It happened on the same day the White House held meetings on ways to curtail gun violence. The NRA left that meeting saying they weren't happy with what they heard. We will have all of the details of that in a moment, but let's get the latest on the shooting.

Authorities say a student showed up late to class with a .12- gauge shotgun, allegedly shooting one classmate, missing a second intended target. The alleged gunman is now in custody.

Kyung Lah joins us now from Taft Union High School. It's about two hours north of Los Angeles.

And someone you spoke with actually saw the gunman heading toward the school.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really important to trace this back, Anderson, because this is a boy who lived in the neighborhood. He lives in walking distance of the high school.

This is a small community. Everybody knows each other. This mother whose student also goes to the high school, she saw this young boy walk right by her. She saw him carrying something, but he was so young, this is such a safe community, she thought it was a toy gun. Listen to what she told us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like a play gun, but when you see the gun, we saw the handle of the gun, but we didn't see the whole gun.

LAH: So it was a long gun?


LAH: Two distinct shotguns she says she heard shortly after she saw the boy walk by her house. We now know they were bullets from a .12-gauge shotgun, Anderson. She went into a panic because her son was inside the school -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is it clear at this point, were there specific targets intended? How old was the alleged shooter?

LAH: The alleged shooter is 16 years olds. He walked into his first period classroom midway through. Police are saying he absolutely targeted the people he was firing at.

The first boy he shot, 16-year-old boy, a classmate, he knew that boy. He had him -- according to numerous parents and friends and students we talked to here, this boy had a hit list of sorts, a hit list that he was caught with last year. A list of people who he wanted to kill, according to friends and many of the parents here. And they were in fact upset when they saw him back here and heard about all of this, Anderson.

One other thing we should point out is that they are going to bring up questions now about why this boy was actually allowed back into school, knowing his history.

COOPER: I also understand that the armed guard who is normally at the school was not there today.

LAH: You're absolutely right about that. Normally, every single day, there's a tasked police officer who is here at the high school, before, during, and after school. That officer couldn't get to school today because he was snowed in. There's been terrible weather in this region.

So that officer wasn't here, but police say it really probably would not have mattered so much. Officers responded within that first 911 call, 60 seconds, but they're really looking at a teacher, a teacher in the classroom and the campus counselor. Here's what officers told us.


DON YOUNGBLOOD, KERN COUNTY SHERIFF: The heroics of these two people, it goes without saying, to stand there and face someone that has a shotgun who has already discharged it and shot a student. That speaks volumes for these two young men and what they may have prevented. They could have just as easily tried to get out of the classroom and left students, and they didn't. And they knew not to let him leave the classroom with that shotgun, and they took that responsibility on very seriously, and we're very proud of the job they did.


LAH: Another thing that they're also crediting are drills. The school, Anderson, just this morning, had a drill as to what to do if a shooter was in the school, a drill that became real life just an hour later.

COOPER: Do we know what the teachers, the administrators said to the student to get him to disarm? And also, do we know what the motive of targeting these -- why there was allegedly this hit list or why he may have targeted these particular students?

LAH: We don't know the exact language.

We did ask the officers what exactly did that teacher say? What they will tell us that he used languages of distraction. He was trying to engage the student, trying to convince him to not hurt anyone else. And the reason that they were distracting the student is so the other 28 students in that classroom could get out alive.

As far as the motivation of this particular student, what we have learned, Anderson, is he's a troubled boy. I mention now, this is a small community, a small school. They all knew each other, a boy who for many years, everyone knew had some trouble. They believe he was bullied because he was so odd.

As far as that list, the hit list, what people are telling me because I spoke to a boy who believes he was actually on that list, he says he was putting the names of popular kids and jocks on that hit list.

COOPER: Disturbing, as always.

Kyung Lah, I appreciate the reporting.

Now the growing urgency in Washington. This is all happening on the same day Vice President Biden promising to put gun proposals in front of President Obama by this coming Tuesday, a little more than a month after the shootings in Newtown.

He and his task force have been hearing from a lot of different sides on the issue, including today a top lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, the NRA, the organization coming away none too pleased though with the organization, as Jim Acosta discovered.

He joins us now from the White House.

The vice president mentioned some specific recommendations emerging from groups meeting so far. What are they?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, number one, Anderson, he mentioned it right there at a news conference of sorts with reporters. The reporters weren't allowed to ask questions, but the vice president did sort of give a briefing as to what was going on today.

He said that they're going to be looking at universal background checks, and that would sort of replace the system that we have now, sort of a hodgepodge system where at gun dealers there are background checks that are conducted, but at gun shows there are not. So he's talking about universal background checks, even private sales. If I were to sell you a gun, there would have to be some kind of background check, according to what the vice president was laying out earlier today. The other thing he talked about was some sort of ban or limitation on those high-capacity magazines, sort of like the magazines that were used by the shooter, Adam Lanza, in Newtown, Connecticut.

A lot of people who were concerned about hand gun violence have pointed to those high-capacity magazines as being a big problem, and the vice president talked about that. He also talked about improving gun safety information and getting more funding for gun violence research.

That kind of money has been stripped from places like the CDC in part because of the efforts of the NRA over the last several years. And the NRA, as you mentioned, Anderson, came out of that meeting none too pleased. Look at this statement that they released earlier this afternoon. It was within minutes of the meeting ending.

It says: "We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment."

And, Anderson, all of this is happening so quickly. You know, in Washington, if you want to sideline an issue, you appoint a commission. But the vice president, as you said, is going to have some recommendations for the president on Tuesday, and here's some of what he had to say.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a surprising -- so far, a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks, not just closed the gun show loophole, but total universal background checks, including private sales.

I have never quite heard as much talk about the need to do something about high-capacity magazines as I have heard spontaneously from every group that we have met with so far.


ACOSTA: And, Anderson, the National Rifle Association is indicating they're getting ready to go and get some work done on Capitol Hill, telling our political unit earlier this afternoon to expect an ad campaign from the NRA in the coming days -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate that update.

When President Obama spoke at memorial services for the Sandy Hook victims, he spoke plainly. Newtown, he said, you're not alone. And people including the family of Noah Pozner took him at his word, but now some of those who love Noah say that President Obama has not been living up to those words, "You are not alone." His mom, Veronique, put out a statement today. It reads: "As the mother of a 6-year-old victim of a cold-blooded massacre of schoolchildren, I'm puzzled and disappointed by the fact that I have had no information or opportunity to be heard regarding the upcoming legislative proposal in Washington."

With us now is Alexis Haller, Noah's uncle.

I understand you had concerns that your voice, your family's voice was not being heard by the White House. But you actually just heard from them moments ago. What did they say?


The White House contacted me on my way while I was on my way to the show. I had sent an e-mail about eight days ago to an aide to President Obama asking questions about whether the families would have an opportunity to speak about the proposal and an opportunity to be heard.

And I never received a response to that e-mail. According to the call I just received, it was a miscommunication at the White House. And that's why there was no response to the e-mail. They apologized for that.

COOPER: Why do you think they reached out to you now? One of our producers called them today in anticipation of this interview to get a comment and I think the Associated Press also ran a story on it too. Do you think that's what did it?

HALLER: I think that at least help them understand the situation better in terms of the family's desire to speak to Vice President Biden.

My understanding based upon my conversation with the vice president's office is that there may be groups out there purporting to represent all of the victims' families, when those groups in fact do not. There is no group that represents my family in this matter. And the White House now understands that based upon our conversation.

COOPER: Do you know what you -- your family want done, hope to have done? Have you decided on kind of a course of action you would like to see officials take regarding gun control or legislation?

HALLER: We do have ideas. They're ideas based upon our direct experience in this event, and we want to share those ideas with the White House and others.

But I think it's also important to note that we have tough questions and we have questions about the proposals that have been circulated already, and we want simply the opportunity to be heard, both to share our ideas, but also to ask questions and to see how we can best avoid this kind of massacre again.

COOPER: What are some of the concerns about some of the proposals you have heard so far? HALLER: Well, to give an example, with regard to armed guards, there was an armed guard in Columbine, so I don't think that that's exactly -- it may be appropriate in certain instances, but I'm not sure that's going to avoid the kind of massacre that happened here.

On the other side of things, with regard to assault weapons, that may be an important part of the proposal as well, but there's the Arizona situation which I understand it was handguns, and I think handguns can be very dangerous in the classroom as well.

We have questions to ask of both sides, and our focus as a family -- at least my sister and I, we're very much focused on school safety and how do we insure that our children are safe.

COOPER: Alexis Haller, I appreciate talking to you. I know we're coming up on the one-month anniversary and my thoughts are with you and your entire family and all of the families who are still dealing with this. I appreciate you talking tonight. Thank you.

HALLER: Thank you, Anderson. I appreciate it.

COOPER: Let us know what you think about some of the proposals you have been hearing. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I'm tweeting about this tonight.

Coming up next, I will ask former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich if he thinks President Obama is overstepping his power on gun control and whether he believes there's any actual common ground to be had on the issue. A lot of Republicans are upset at the idea the president might act out of executive orders on some of the things that he can legally act on. We will speak to former Speaker Gingrich about that.

We will also take you to Chicago, where gun laws are tight, but the number of gun crimes extraordinarily high.


COOPER: When Vice President Biden suggested that said some of his recommendations to President Obama might include the president issuing executive orders to better enforce existing gun laws, a firestorm erupted.

President Obama, critics said, was overstepping his authority. The Drudge Report ran the headline, "White House Threatens Executive Orders on Guns." And look at the pictures there. They show pictures of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham weighed in as well, tweeting today -- quote -- "Gun control by executive order could be a power grab that won't go down well with Congress or the American people."

And just the other day, former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told FOX's Greta Van Susteren that Congress should act to block any presidential power grab on guns. The correct answer by the Congress, he said, is to cut off money and to say no money shall be spent to do this. Since his presidential run, Newt Gingrich has launched a new Web site,

I spoke to him just a few moments ago.


COOPER: Mr. Speaker, as you know, the White House is looking seriously at new gun control measures. And they have talked about using executive orders, not to create new gun control laws -- Congress obviously has to do that -- but to strengthen things like databases the FBI uses for background checks or getting states to share more information from criminal and mental health databases, or even prosecuting felons who try to buy guns illegally or people who lie on background checks.

Would you support any of those moves?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think you have to look at each one, one by one.

There are a number of them. For example, on mental health issues, I strongly favor, looking at those actions. If they're within the law and it's an appropriate executive order, then I think the president has every right to do it. If it's not in current law, then he can't do it by executive order and the Congress would have to, I think, block him if he attempted to do it by executive order.

It depends on exactly what they come up with. But what I really encourage is that the vice president before he rushed around doing new things, go to Chicago. Chicago has very strict gun laws. It is also the deadliest city in America. Over 500 people were killed in Chicago last year. And I think the vice president ought to ask the question himself, why is it that all of these laws have failed so totally in Chicago, the president's hometown?

What should we maybe learn from inadequate policing, inadequate enforcement about a city whose laws on paper are terrific, but whose reality has been really pretty disastrous?

COOPER: We have actually done a number of shows from Chicago on this very issue. A lot of it is kids, young people getting killed on their way to and from school, getting caught in gang crossfire and the like.

You think there's some room for common ground, that maybe perhaps even some new gun control legislation, if it was able to be passed through Congress, that -- should everything be on the table for discussion?

GINGRICH: Look, I think everything for discussion can be on the table, but I would feel a lot better if Vice President Biden had invited some representatives of pro-gun groups into these meetings.

BLITZER: Well, he had the NRA there.


GINGRICH: Today is a good start. I did not know they came in today. And I commend him for that.

COOPER: They said they were very disappointed at how it turned out.

They said that basically he's talking about gun control issues, that they wanted to focus more on school safety issues and the like.

GINGRICH: Well, and I think you're going to have these kind of arguments.

I would just come back to what I said earlier. I would be intrigued to have Vice President Biden follow your leadership, go to Chicago, and before he explains to the rest of us the new rules we need to have, look at the rules that don't work.

Illinois -- Connecticut was the fourth highest ranked gun control state in the United States, according to the Brady Foundation. Yet look at the terrible tragedy in Newtown. Chicago has supposedly got very strict gun laws. You're not even allowed to carry your gun out of your house onto your porch. It's illegal. You can't get a gun unless you go down and pass a test. You have to be fingerprinted. You have to pay $100. The license is only good for three years.

You pay $15 per gun for every gun you have. Chicago has all these rules. How come there are over 500 people killed last year? Maybe we ought to have some common sense. Let's talk about the facts. I would be very willing to be part of a group to talk about the facts and then from the facts try to develop public policy. Sometimes, it will make the NRA uncomfortable. Sometimes, it will make people who are anti-gun uncomfortable, but we would be a healthier country if we could have a fact-based conversation.

COOPER: Does it concern you these high-volume magazine cartridges that are available, some of the military-style weapons that people can have? Do you think that should be part of the discussion? Is that on the table? Do you think there should be some changes there?

GINGRICH: I think we should look at all these things, but, again, I would just suggest to you that in fact almost none of the killings in Chicago, the deadliest place in America, almost none of those killings involved any kind of exotic weapon.

They involved a system which is broken down, where the police have broken down, where the process has broken down. And so I would start and say, you know, the total number of use of those kind of devices you're talking about in the entire country is very, very small. And had there been an armed guard at that school, the odds are that by the second or third shot, the guard would -- in fact, the minute he tried to break through the front door, the guard would in fact have been confronting him.

The principal there was very courageous, and she ran up to try to stop him. I would much rather that she had been armed and that he had been killed instead of her, and that may sound like a harsh judgment, but I do agree that if you're faced with somebody who is homicidal and evil, who is trying to do something terrible, there are times in fact that only counterforce works.

COOPER: But even if a principal has a handgun and somebody arrives with an automatic weapon, you know, with a huge magazine, that's not much of a fair fight right there. And even in schools like Columbine, where there have been security guards, again, shootings take place.

GINGRICH: I think most professional police will tell you that a person who has been trained, who is prepared to in fact defend the children, can be remarkably effective with a handgun.

And if you will notice, very few of our police actually carry automatic or semiautomatic weapons, because in fact virtually all FBI agents, for example, are very comfortable that the right handgun with the right training is a very formidable way to protect people.

COOPER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

COOPER: Some quick perspective on executive orders.

According to the National Archives, which keeps track of these things, President Obama has issued 144 in his first four years in office. That's about average compared with other modern presidents. Republican Dwight Eisenhower issued nearly 275 in his four years alone.

As for the situation in Chicago, as I mentioned, 360 has been following the story for years -- an update tonight right now from Ted Rowlands.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last year, the Chicago Police Department confiscated more than 7,400 guns, more than five times per capita than in New York. Chicago's gun laws are as strict as any in the country. In fact, you can't buy a handgun in the city. So where do they come from?

Many come from places like this, a gun shop in a nearby town. This is Chuck's Gun Shop in neighboring Riverdale, which is frequently the target of protests because of the amount of guns they have sold over the years that have ended up being used in crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Illegal handguns in our community.

ROWLANDS: The owner of Chuck's declined our interview request. Many of the guns from Chuck's and other stores that end up on the streets are so-called straw purchases, bought legally by someone without a criminal record who then turns around and sells them on the street. Don Mastrianni owns Illinois Gun Works. He says a straw purchase can be tough to stop.

DON MASTRIANNI, ILLINOIS GUN WORKS: It's not like they come into the store with a neon sign saying, hey, I'm going to buy it for somebody else. OK You don't know that. I can't read your mind.

SUPT. GARY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE: You can go into a gun shop, you can buy 10 .9 millimeters and walk out the door and there's no trail after that.

ROWLANDS: Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy thinks a proposed law requiring people to report when a gun is lost, stolen, or sold will help stop straw purchases, because, as it stands now, it's easy for people to get away with it.

(on camera): If I were to buy this gun and then go out and sell it to somebody out on the street and that gun was later used in a crime, they would trace that gun back to me, but all I would have to do is lie and say that somebody stole it. And under current Illinois state law, I would likely be off the hook.

(voice-over): Richard Pearson is the executive director of the Illinois Rifle Association. He's against the proposed law and thinks Superintendent McCarthy is trying to erode the rights of gun owners.

RICHARD PEARSON, ILLINOIS RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We feel that the people in the city of Chicago or people like Feinstein are really just trying to get at our rights, trying to chip away at them.

ROWLANDS (on camera): They're not asking a lot from a gun owner to report that his or her gun was stolen.

PEARSON: Yes, but if they don't report it, they're punished. And if they don't know that it was stolen, they have to defend themselves in court.

ROWLANDS: You think that the superintendent of the Chicago police is trying to erode gun owners' rights?

PEARSON: Absolutely. No question.

ROWLANDS: That doesn't make sense, does it?

PEARSON: Well, yes, it does. You have got to remember where he came from. He came from New York.

ROWLANDS: Superintendent McCarthy because he came from New York can't be trusted?



PEARSON: Those people are deeply affected by the Brady Campaign and they -- who are an anti-gun group. ROWLANDS: Who are those people?

PEARSON: The people from particularly New York, the Chicago suburbs, state of Chicago.

ROWLANDS: That sounds a little bit paranoid, that there's a...

PEARSON: I don't think it's paranoid. I think it's fact. We have watched this over the years.

MCCARTHY: That's not gun control. That's not saying you can't buy your gun. All that's saying is you have got to let us know where it is.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Superintendent McCarthy said he's only looking for commonsense solutions for what has become an epidemic in his city. Just over a week into 2013, Chicago has already seen more than 50 shootings, 14 homicides, and 180 guns confiscated off the streets.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Chicago.


COOPER: Well, some breaking news right now to report on our lead story, this morning's shooting at a high school in Kern County, about two hours north of Los Angeles.

Just moments ago, the local sheriff spoke to reporters about what may have motivated the 16-year-old alleged shooter. He said the student felt bullied by his alleged target. He also said the boy planned the shooting the night before and used a gun taken from his home. He said the teen will eventually be charged with attempted murder.

We have got more breaking news, the flu crossing the epidemic threshold, that according to an official with the National Institutes of Health. I will talk with 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta about the high death toll expected.


COOPER: Welcome back.

We have breaking medical news tonight. The flu outbreak that has been spreading so fast now qualifies as an epidemic, according to Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health.

Here's what he just told CNN.


ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: If you look at the charts that the CDC put out on their Web site, it clearly has gone above that threshold, so we are into what would classically be described as a flu epidemic. It's still on the uptick, and usually when you're above that baseline in the flu season, you stay there for about 12 weeks. We're right now at about week five or so. So we still have a way to go.


COOPER: A long way to go. It's expected to be the worst flu season in years. More than half of states already reporting widespread outbreaks, and health officials say the cases they're seeing are more severe than last year.

Emergency rooms across the country are overflowing. Boston has declared a public health emergency.

More than 2,000 people have been hospitalized. At least 18 children have died from the flu. And the Centers for Disease Control is going to release new numbers tomorrow. It is a fast-moving story. They predict as many as 50,000 may die this flu season.

I spoke earlier to chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, starting by asking him about that breaking news that the flu is now at an epidemic level.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That means that we expect a certain amount of flu cases, patients to have the flu in any given year, based on previous trends. And right now we've exceeded that threshold. So this is more cases than we would normally expect of flu at this time of year.

But the big question is, is it going to stay high? Is it going to remain at epidemic proportions? Or is it going to start to trail off?

COOPER: I was just on a flight and people were coughing. I'm convinced I have flu spores in my lungs that I can feel that are about to expand. I got a flu shot, I guess, two days ago, but it won't -- or I guess yesterday. It won't really take effect, though, for another couple weeks, right?

GUPTA: I'm glad you got the flu shot. I'll take some credit for that.

COOPER: Yes. Yes.

GUPTA: But yes, you're right. It takes a couple of weeks for the immunity to build up. And that -- this is an important point, because people may get sick in between. After they get the flu shot, before they are fully protected, and their body, and they think the flu shot gave them the flu. That's not the case.

COOPER: But how long before -- I mean, if you inhale a flu spore, how long before it actually becomes the flu?

GUPTA: Yes. It can also -- that can also take a little bit of time. So it can take up to a couple of weeks for that, as well. COOPER: Oh, really? Wow.

GUPTA: It may be very hard to sort of trace your steps back and try and figure out where exactly you got it. You feel like you may have gotten it over the last couple days, but it's very hard to figure that out. And you just have to assume the flu virus is everywhere. It's in the air. It's on surfaces. You touch your hand -- you know you touch your hand to your face at least a couple of hundred times a day, inadvertently. Everybody does. That's a common route of transmission.

COOPER: That's a route, which is why one of the things, besides getting the flu shot, you say to wash your hands regularly, which I've been doing a lot of.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I almost feel a little silly saying that over and over again with all that we know in medicine and technology, but it remains a very good way to do it. And with soap and water, wash your hands for two happy birthday songs.

COOPER: So if someone is sick right now, what's the best way to treat them? How do you know if you should actually go to a doctor about it? I mean, doesn't the doctor just basically say drink fluids?

GUPTA: Yes. Doctors -- that's right. They're highly priced people who say drink fluids.

They -- that's going to be the message for a lot of people. Stay home, get rest. Allow your immune systems to sort of build up. Make sure you don't get dehydrated. And it's going to be, you know, that simple for the vast majority of people.

By the way, when you and I were in Afghanistan a couple years ago, I think you looked sick enough that you should have gone to see a doctor. It can happen to just about anybody.

COOPER: I don't think you told me that at the time, though. But anyway, that's water under the bridge.

GUPTA: I couldn't tell if you looked pale or not.

COOPER: I always look pale. I always look sickly and pale.

So Sanjay, I've talked to a lot of people who say, look, they don't want to get a flu shot. They don't believe in these kind of shots. They think it gives them a little bit of the flu. To them, you say what?

GUPTA: Well, let me be really clear on the first point here. You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Period, paragraph. And I hate to be so dogmatic about it, but this is one of the most common questions I get as a medical reporter.

It's a dead virus in the flu shot. It can't give you the flu. But there are a couple caveats. First of all, it's about 60 percent effective. So there are going to be people who get the flu, despite having had a shot. They didn't get it from the shot, but they just weren't 100 percent protected.

Also, Anderson, as we were talking about, it takes about two weeks to build up your immunity, so you could potentially get the flu in that period.

Also, when you get the shot, the whole point of the shot is to sort of ramp up your immune system to recognize that virus if it ever comes back again. And while your immune system is ramped up, you might feel a little cruddy for a couple of days.

One more point, and you can tell I'm pretty passionate about this, Anderson, but one more point is that if you get the flu shot and you still get the flu, you may have still gotten some benefits from this. Your symptoms may be milder than they otherwise would have been if you didn't get the flu shot.

So you know, look, I don't recommend a lot of medications, a lot of things that you should put into your body, but this is one of the best ways we know to protect ourselves. And as you point out, you know, tens of thousands of people die from the flu every year.

COOPER: Yes. And it's not too late to get the flu shot.

Sanjay, appreciate it. Thank you.

GUPTA: Any time, Anderson.


COOPER: Scary stuff.

Just ahead, the voice of the Syrian revolution, Zaidoun al- Zawabi, describing his terrifying arrest by Syria's secret police and his weeks in captivity. He's back home tonight, safe for now. Could be arrested at any time, but his brother is still being held. We'll talk to Zaidoun ahead.


COOPER: A man who's risked his life repeatedly to come on 360 to speak the truth is back home tonight, and we're relieved beyond words. You're going to hear from Zaidoun al-Zawabi in a moment.

For more than a year, he's been our voice of the Syrian revolution. He's been on the program more than a dozen times and always insisted that we use his real name. His courage made him an obvious target, and on December 15, Syria's secret police arrested Zaidoun and his brother, Zohai (ph). Their family believed they were taken to a facility in Damascus known for torture and abuse.

For weeks now, we tried to keep the spotlight on Zaidoun's story. We wanted to make sure his voice was still being heard. When we learned that he'd been released yesterday, we of course, were overjoyed. We didn't have any direct hand in his release, of course. We only made sure that his name wasn't forgotten.

His brother, though, is still being held; and so many others are still being held, and we won't forget them either. I spoke with Zaidoun a short time ago.


COOPER: I just want to say on behalf of everyone here at CNN we are so thrilled and relieved you are back home. How are you doing? How are you feeling?

ZAIDOUN AL-ZAWABI, SYRIAN REVOLUTIONARY (via phone): Well, I'm fine. I'm overwhelmed with the support I got from you guys, CNN, great job. Really great effect.

I wasn't tortured. I was dealt with really respectfully because of the campaign you made, guys. But I lost around 35 or 40 pounds. I got sick inside. I was almost dead, because there's no medicine. But there are -- I don't know, 300,000 more or more people inside.

We were 91 persons in a small room, only maybe 15 foot by 20 foot.

COOPER: Ninety-one people in a room that small?

AL-ZAWABI: Yes. There was no oxygen. It was a factory for madness and death.

COOPER: A factory for madness and death?

AL-ZAWABI: And death, yes. I have heard many horror stories. I cannot imagine what happens inside.

It's not the physical torture. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the torture of souls. People are losing their mind inside because of, there's no food, you can't sleep, there's no medicine.

People are there for no reason. My brother is there for only one -- one mistake, that he is my brother.

COOPER: That's why he was arrested and that why he's still being held?

AL-ZAWABI: That's it. He's still inside there just because he's my brother.

COOPER: We've talked often over the last more than a year, and you insisted on using your name. Do -- was there a moment -- did you ever regret that? Do you regret that?

AL-ZAWABI: Never, Anderson. Never, not for a single second. Never. I feel more responsible now. We all talk about the martyrs, about the people who are killed every day, but no one is talking about those people who are inside these detention centers, these horror places.

We should all unite. I think not only for the people in Syria now. Now I understand more. Now I'm more committed to people. And I'm feeling more committed to any kid who is oppressed in the world.

There is the power of life in the face of death. Peace in face of war. We should all come together and fight dictatorship.

COOPER: How were you taken?

AL-ZAWABI: It was just like a draft. I mean, someone called me and said she was a girl, and she was detained by them. And they asked her to call me. And I came to some -- to a cafe, and all of a sudden, I find seven people armed, who took me along with six other guys, who had nothing to do with the revolution. They are still inside.

COOPER: What is it like? I mean, you said you escaped the grave. What is it like to be, you know, to be taken? To be bundled into a car? To -- to hear that door locking behind you?

AL-ZAWABI: I was really afraid when I was taken. I was really looking at my brother. Tears were coming out of my eyes.

COOPER: You know, what I find heroic about you and about others who speak out is not that you do not have fear, but it's that you experience fear just like everybody else, but that doesn't stop you from continuing to speak out. And even now, you are speaking out.

Do you worry you could be arrested again?

AL-ZAWABI: Yes. Of course I am. The story hasn't ended.

COOPER: Zaidoun, we'll continue to -- to focus on your brother and all the others who have been detained, and all of the others who have simply disappeared. And I'm glad you're back with your family. And please stay safe and thank you for talking.

AL-ZAWABI: Thank you very much, Anderson.


COOPER: Remarkable courage.

Up next, how the luckiest day of one man's life turned out to be one of his last. The latest twist in the poisoning death of a lottery winner. Who did it?


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a man who won a million dollars on a scratch-off lottery ticket died before he could ever enjoy his winnings. His death has been ruled a homicide. He was poisoned and now the question is who did it? Martin Savidge investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the story of how a simple scratch may have killed a man.

Urooj Khan moved to Chicago from India in the late 1980s and became an American success, eventually owning a string of dry cleaners and real estate, settling into this house on the city's far north side with his wife and teenage daughter.

JIMMY GOREEL, CONVENIENCE STORE OWNER: By all accounts, he was a hard-working, well-liked man with just one weakness. He loved those scratch-off lottery tickets.

He was heavy on that, you know. There was a time that he would buy a whole box, 30 tickets, That's $600.

SAVIDGE: He would win, sometimes hundreds, even thousands. Then last June, he bought two tickets and scratched off a fortune.

GOREEL: The second one was the lucky one.

SAVIDGE: And what did he win?

GOREEL: A million dollars. A whole million.

SAVIDGE: He was all smiles in this Illinois lottery picture. Friends say he was excited about the good he could do with all that money.

But a month later, instead of living on easy street, Khan was dead in the Rose Hill Cemetery.

(on camera) On the evening on July 20th, Khan's wife said she made dinner here at home and that he went to bed a little less than an hour later. She says she was awakened by his screams of agony.

(voice-over) Khan was rushed to a nearby hospital, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead. Doctors said the 46-year-old died of natural causes. But later that week, an urgent call came into the Cook County medical examiner's office from a concerned relative.

DR. STEPHEN J. CINA, COOK COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: This person must have made a compelling case. We take all information seriously, but this was serious enough to order a full battery of toxicology, including some unusual agents, such as cyanide and strychnine.

SAVIDGE: Both deadly poisons. So acting on the caller's information, lab technicians retested Khan's blood and discovered an old killer.

CINA: When it came back in late November, it was definitely in the lethal range in the public literature for cyanide in the blood.

SAVIDGE: I called up science journalist Debra Blum, author of "The Poisoner's Handbook." Blum says cyanide poisoning is a horrible way to go. And screaming part of it. DEBRA BLUM, AUTHOR, "THE POISONER'S HANDBOOK": And they'll talk about the classic cyanide death scream. Right? It's almost an involuntary contraction of your dying muscles.

SAVIDGE: So it's almost a trademark, then, of cyanide?

BLUM: It absolutely is.

SAVIDGE: But how did the poison get into Khan, and who could have been responsible? The answers may rest in khan's stomach. It's one reason the medical examiner wants his body exhumed.

(on camera) I would think one of the things you would clearly focus on is what was the last meal or the last food consumed. Would that be of interest?

CINA: Part of any autopsy looks at the gastric contents. In some cases we analyze them if it's relevant to the case. So in this case, we certainly would be looking at the gastric contents, but that's part of any forensic autopsy.

SAVIDGE: Khan's widow is 32 years old and she's now inside running the family business. I asked her for an interview, but she said she's simply not ready to talk.

She did tell me, though, that she and her husband were very much in love and that she misses him beyond words and that she supports the exhumation of his body, hoping it will reveal the truth.

(voice-over) But probate court documents suggest all is not so well between Khan's widow and his siblings. They paint a picture of a family deeply divided over control of Khan's estate, especially his lottery winnings, that after taxes came to about $450,000.

Today, no arrests have been made in Khan's murder, but in Khan's neighborhood, rumors spread and fingers point as a deadly duo as old as time may have struck once more on Chicago's North Side. Greed and poison.

GOREEL: If it's truly murder, it's sad that it gets to the point where we -- I believe that, when they say money is the root of all evil, it is true.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN, Chicago.


COOPER: Extraordinary story. And there's a lot more stories we're following right now. Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, a Colorado judge has found sufficient evidence to send James Holmes to trial. Holmes is accused of opening fire in a movie theater in Aurora. The rampage killed 12 people and wounded dozens. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was back in court to hear his lawyers argue a motion for a new trial. His lawyers contend there was insufficient evidence to convict him of multiple counts of child sex abuse. They also say the court didn't allow them enough time to prepare for trial.

Tests show the star NFL linebacker Junior Seau suffered from neurogenerative brain disease that can result from multiple hits to the head. The National Institutes of Health released the results today. Seau's family donated his brain for examination after he fatally shot -- after he fatally shot himself last year, I should say.

And down under, flames and fear.


TIM HOLMES, FLED AUSTRALIAN WILDFIRE: We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across, towards us. And the next thing we knew, everything was on fire everywhere, all around us.


SESAY: So this is what they did to escape the wildfire in Tasmania, Australia. That's a grandmother and five of her grandchildren taking cover in the water under a jetty. These photos were taken by the grandfather, who you just heard from.

The fire raged for three hours. Three of those grandkids didn't know how to swim and had to hold on and hold on tight. They eventually got on a dinghy.

Ninety homes in the area went up in flames, including the grandparents'.

And on the northwest coast of Australia, another incredible image, a red dust storm approaches the city of Onslow, created by a tropical storm out at sea that's approaching land.

And we'll be right back.


COOPER: Unemployment in the Euro zone (ph) hit a record high this week at almost 12 percent. That makes some U.S. firms that trade heavily overseas nervous. Among them, one of the world's most prestigious guitar makers, where Tom Foreman takes us on this week's "American Journey."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paul Reed Smith guitars are prized around the globe, played by professionals like Carlos Santana on his hit "Smooth," and amateurs, too.

PAUL REED SMITH, GUITAR MAKER: About 50 percent of all the guitars made in this building go overseas, so that's about half our business.

FOREMAN: No wonder at the Paul Reed Smith plant in Maryland, where craftsmen turn out 1,000 instruments a month, the founder is watching the European market closely.

SMITH: If the exchange rate goes one way, we sell a lot more stuff. If it goes the other way, we sell less, because it became more expensive in their country or it became less expensive.

FOREMAN (on camera): You've seen that happy?

SMITH: Oh, God, yes, every day.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Specifically, this is how volatility could affect them.

This guitar, for example, which could sell for around $3,000 in the U.S., is being shipped to Europe today. If the euro is strong and the economy's stable when it arrives, all is well.

(on camera) But if the euro gets devalued or the banks or the stocks are in trouble, this American-made product can find itself facing some real hurdles.

The shop that wants to order it may be unable to get a loan for its inventory; therefore, the instrument never gets shipped. Or the customer may find that his money is now worth so little, he can't afford it.

And if this drought in the revenue stream continues, pushing more businesses and more governments toward default on their debt, then there's a risk of the whole market drying up.

(voice-over) So everyone knows each time a shipment arrives in Europe like this one, unpredictable market forces here could undermine the value of those guitars and force layoffs back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last few years, just thinking about the economy in general, it's kind of a generalized fear.

FOREMAN: For now, they control what they can.

SMITH: If we do a better job when somebody's looking to buy a guitar, they'll look more to our stuff than the other stuff, over time.

FOREMAN: And they just hope that economic waves from Europe don't come crashing against American shores.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Stevensville, Maryland.


COOPER: That's it for us, thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now."