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Al-Shabaab Recruits in the U.S.; Understanding Obamacare; Who Really Understands Obamacare?

Aired September 23, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me.

Thick smoke still pouring from the mall in Kenya. The horrible drama there continues to unfold. Minutes ago, heavy gunfire started at the mall. We believe there are still terrorists inside. We don't know whether they're holding hostages. Our Zain Verjee was caught in the middle of it, her camera rolling.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can we have the helmet? Where's the helmet? Come here. This is the gunmen. These are the gunmen on the loose (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're all right?

VERJEE: Is everyone OK? Helmets. Helmets. They're saying come inside. What do we do?


COSTELLO: Zain is safe. She did go inside. Over the weekend, 62 people were killed in this mall, more than 100 others wounded, including Americans. Bendita Malakia from North Carolina was inside that mall in Kenya when terrorists attacked. She managed to escape. She and her family spoke to our affiliate WAVY.


LUE MALAKIA, BENDITA'S MOTHER: I was scared to death that I was going to get a call saying that she was dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Her daughter, 30-year-old Bendita Malakia says the gunmen barged in the terrace where she was eating and started shooting.

BENDITA MALAKIA, WITNESS (ph): We stood up and we starred to turn and then there was a second. Then we heard machine guns. And then we started to run. And there was a second explosion which knocked us on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Malakia and her friend made it inside a store where dozens of people were hiding, hoping the gunshots wouldn't come their way. B. MALAKIA: You could hear, while we were back there, them methodically kind of going from store to store, talking to people, asking questions, shooting, screams and then it would stop for a while and then it would go to another store.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the meantime, Malakia's mother was glued to the news, feeling helpless.

L. MALAKIA: And I couldn't get to her. I couldn't make the wrongs right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After more than four hours, Malakia and the others were rescued by American security forces in the Kenyan army. Her mother was horrified to hear what her daughter lived through.

L. MALAKIA: And she says, in between times you could hear people that had been shot that had -- that was in pain. You could you hear that, she said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Malakia won't let herself feel the hurt, the pain or the terror she felt inside this mall, only gratitude that these words weren't the last ones she shared with her mother.

B. MALAKIA: It was completely luck, because we were on the ground floor and easily accessible. So I think part of it was luck. We did a lot of praying in there.


COSTELLO: Our thanks to our affiliate WAVY.

We want to talk more about that terrorist group responsible for this, al-Shabaab. What's really disturbing is that al-Shabaab is actively recruiting in the United States. In fact, the group claims three Americans are among the attackers in Kenya. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins me now with more on that.

Good morning, Nic. Can you -- what do you know about this group? Tell us.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, al- Shabaab really are a group that came out of the Somali conflict. They did control Mogadishu (ph), the capital. They've been beaten back from there by a coalition of African - international African forces, 4,000 of which a Kenyan force is. And it's when the Kenyans went into Somalia that al-Shabaab began to attack inside Kenya.

In the early days -- this has been going on over the past few years. In the early days, it would be small grenade attacks. This is a major escalation that al-Shabaab has mounted here. They're using it as an absolute propaganda opportunity by tweeting out names of people they say are involved in the attack. They say -- or have said that at least three Americans were involved, a British, a Finnish, a Canadian, a couple of Somalis, a Kenyan as well. So they're trying to get as much propaganda out about themselves, about their international reach, as well as sort of mounting this attack, that they have never mounted before outside of Somalia, Carol.

COSTELLO: So why has this group been so successful at recruiting within the United States? What's their sales pitch, for lack of a better term?

ROBERTSON: Their sales pitch for lack of a better term is that they have got something better to offer in Somalia. That they're talking to the Somali community in the United States, in Great Britain, about 100 people living in Britain I believe have gotten more than 40 from the United States believed to have gone. But al-Shabaab is offering them a better future. A future to fight for their homeland. They're attracting others from east Africa as well. This message has resonated a lot in Kenya. They've got a lot of recruits from Kenya.

Why do these young men give up good, happy, relatively happy and secure and safe lives in the United States and go there? Apparently because they're not happy with their lives in the United States and al-Shabaab is promising them something better. When they get there, they find something different. There have been cases recently of British and American recruits to al-Shabaab of being killed cold by a much more hard line Islamist al Qaeda leaning leadership in al Shabaab. These days we're hearing from intelligence officials that not so many foreign recruits are going because they see what's happening to them. Some of them are being killed by al-Shabaab itself.


COSTELLO: What's also unusual about this group is - it's - I know we hear conflicting reports about this too, that there are women involved and maybe a woman led this attack at the Kenya mall. What are you hearing from your sources?

ROBERTSON: We're getting really conflicting information and I don't think we're going to be certain on any of this until this operation by the Kenyan forces is done and dusted, until they have all of the al- Shabaab members in custody or killed and they can identify them. But there were reports from people who saw the attackers going in saying that at least three were women and several intelligence sources in Kenya have said that one of the women going in as part of this attack was a white woman and that they believe, from CCTV footage, they believe that she was a British woman.

It's not clear who they - who it is, but the implication it is it could be the woman known as the white widow who was married to one of the 7/7 bombers in London. If you remember 2005, July the 7th that year, four bombers detonated explosives on the subway network killing more than 50 people. She was married to one of those bombers. She's been on the run in Kenya for a long time. Is this really the woman that's involved in this attack? It would be very high profile if she was. She's wanted by Interpol, wanted by Kenyan authorities.

But, in the last couple of hours, we've heard from Kenyan officials say they don't want to talk about the gender issue. In fact, going beyond that, saying that all the attackers were men. So they seem to be knocking down this idea even that a woman went in, although they do say that some of the attackers were dressed as women, Carol. COSTELLO: Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, despite calls for a repeal, Obamacare is set to take effect in just seven days. We'll walk through what it means for you with a former health care executive. That's next in the NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: We are in the middle of a political war over a law no one really understands, Obamacare, or as Democrats call it the Affordable Care Act. We're seven days away from open enrollment into Obamacare and on the verge of a possible government shutdown over that same law. Yet an NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows nearly 70 percent of Americans don't get it. And it's easy to see why. Democrats tout it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Republicans call it apocalyptic or worse. Check out this ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, let's have a look.


COSTELLO: Yep, that particular ad went viral. It's creepy, right? But is it accurate? Wendell Potter is the senior analyst for the Center of Public Integrity and a former health insurance executive.



COSTELLO: Thanks for being back with us. I appreciate it.

You realize that many of our viewers will think you're partisan as you answer these questions about Obamacare, so tell our viewers why you're not.

POTTER: Well I'm not because I spent almost 20 years in the health insurance industry and I frankly am a journalist these days. What I try to do is provide a perspective of what actually is in the Affordable Care Act. I'm not someone who is just another partisan who is throwing barbs one way or another. I think one of the things that is so apparent is that Americans area really quite tired of hearing politicians who are just yelling at each other about this law. They really want to know what's in it for them.

COSTELLO: OK. So can you explain Obamacare to us in a nutshell? Is that possible?

POTTER: Well, I think it actually is. It's a complicated law, but when you get right down to it, the benefits are very important and they're very real and already many Americans are benefiting from them.

I usually start with myself. I'm a baby boomer. I -- and there are about 77 million of us. My wife and I are both baby boomers and a lot of us are uninsured because we've not been able to get coverage at any price because insurance companies have black blackballed us because of preexisting conditions. That is going to be ending on January the 1st. We'll be able - actually starting on October the 1st, to start buying policies for the first time for many of us that are affordable. They will no longer - they being insurance companies, to charge us any - outrageous prices for policies even if they are willing to sell it to us.

And also young people. Millennials are a big component of the uninsured. My daughter among them. And she works for a small retail firm that doesn't offer coverage. She'll be able to get coverage for the first time and will qualify, I'm sure, for some subsidies to help her pay the premiums. People will not be --

COSTELLO: Yet, yet, yet hear - yet, Wendell, we hear all the time that some companies are telling their part-time employees like we're not going to insure you anymore. We're going to send you to these insurance exchanges so you can get your insurance through Obamacare. Is that good? Is it bad?

POTTER: You know we're hearing those.

COSTELLO: That's scary to a lot of Americans.

POTTER: We'll it's -- we'll find out. Well, yes but one of the things the media hasn't been doing over the past several years is paying attention when employers have done that pre-Obamacare. This is a trend that's been going on for many, many years and we haven't had the exchanges there to help us out. So at least people will have now the assurance of knowing that they can get affordable care when they need it by buying coverage on the exchanges, if they don't have it through their employer. We haven't had that before. That is a huge, huge benefit to Americans.

COSTELLO: Ok so let's talk about getting your insurance through those health care exchanges. And I want to go back to that creepy ad that we showed because it implies the government will now play doctor because you're getting your insurance through the government. What's true?

POTTER: Well that's not true at all. You are getting your insurance through private insurance companies. This is one of the things that I quite frankly wasn't all that fond of, but this actually makes sure that you have access to private insurance policies when you haven't had that in the past so the government is not involved, the government is just playing a role of organizing the marketplace in a way that makes it more sense and makes it possible for many Americans to get affordable coverage.

COSTELLO: Ok so you're making it sound pretty rosy, but there's got to be some bad stuff in Obamacare, right, because everybody who is talking against it, I mean they can't all be wrong?

POTTER: Well, maybe they are because this has become so political. Over the past three years we've had nothing but really name calling and a lot of misinformation about a law that really will do a lot of good for people.

A lot of people already are benefiting from it. Insurance companies can no longer refuse to sell coverage to families with children with preexisting conditions. That is really important, saving lives. I've talked to people who tell me they're alive today because they've been able to get coverage and they weren't able to in the past.

So yes, there will be some unintended consequences. I think there's no doubt about that. There will be some people who will be having to pay more for their policies because they have been in plans that don't offer very good benefits. They don't know that in many cases until it's too late.

Junk policies will be banned. That's a good thing but a lot of people will be concerned because they may see some premium increases because the junk coverage just will not be available anymore.

COSTELLO: Wendell Potter, senior analyst for the Center for Public Integrity. Thank you so much. We appreciate it. We'll be talking a lot more about Obamacare throughout this week.

POTTER: Thank you Carol.

COSTELLO: So stay with us in the NEWSROOM, we're back in a minute.


COSTELLO: Checking our "Top Stories" at 51 past the hour, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife will travel to Colorado today to survey damage from the recent flooding there. Floodwaters damaged nearly 18,000 homes, several communities and hundreds of miles of bridges. Tap water has also been turned off in at least one town after E. coli bacteria was found in the water supply.

Seven days to go until a possible government shutdown. A House passed bill that funds the government but defunds Obamacare now lands in the Senate. Senate Democrats are likely to strip out the Obamacare defunding and then approve the government funding and send the bill back to the House before the October 1st deadline.

President Obama plays the role of Counselor-in-Chief again, eulogizing the 12 people killed at Washington's Navy Yard, speaking about his grieving with families after other mass shootings the President said, "We can't accept such tragedies as the new normal." And he pushed again for changes in our gun laws.

Here's what's all new in the next hour of NEWSROOM, the Illinois governor ponders calling in the National Guard to combat gun violence in Chicago while the mayor offers this.


RAHM EMANUEL, MAYOR OF CHICAGO: We will not allow children in the city of Chicago to have their youthfulness, their optimism, their hope taken from them.


COSTELLO: After a horrific attack at a public park, maybe it's time to call in the troops.

Plus, if you have an iPhone, New York police have a message for you. Download Apple's new operating system. It could protect you from Apple-picking thieves.

That's all in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: After 19 dominant years, Mariano Rivera is calling it a career at the end of the season, what better way to go out other than with a little Metallica. Andy Scholes is here to tell us more.

ANDY SCHOLES, "BLEACHER REPORT": Hey Carol. You know, whenever Yankee fans heard "Enter Sandman" go over the speaker of the Yankee Stadium they knew Rivera was going to come in from the bullpen and knew the game was pretty much over at that point, right?

So it was pretty cool. For the first time in his Hall of Fame career, Rivera got to hear his song played live in the center field. Check it out.

After rocking out to "Enter Sandman", Metallica and Yankees showered Rivera with farewell gifts as a part of the 50-minute long ceremony, Rivera's number 42 was retired and he's the last player ever to wear this number. That's because Major League Baseball retired it league- wide back in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson.

Rivera came in and pitched a scoreless ninth inning yesterday but unfortunately the Giants spoiled the day beating the Yankees 2-1.

To the NFL we go, Colts quarter Andrew Luck who played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford before both men made the leap to the NFL and it was the student schooling the teacher in this one. Luck did it in the air and on the ground to leave the Colts a shocking 27-7 win over the 49ers. Colts are now 2-1 on the season.

Well, New York football fans are either happy or sad this morning depending whether they are Jets or Giants' fans. The giants were absolutely manhandled by the Panthers. They lost 38-0. They are now 0-3 on the season. Their worst start since Bill Clinton was president.

The Jets, on the other hand, once again found a way to get a W. They had a team record of 20 penalties but a win is a win. They are now 2- 1 in the season.

And Carol, as you were just talking about, this is a really weird NFL season three weeks in. You have teams like the Chiefs, the Dolphins -- both 3-0; then you have teams like the Giants and Redskins 0-3. Giants and Redskins have never been 0-3 at the same time to start a season ever.

COSTELLO: That's just crazy. And Pittsburgh, right, 0-3.

SCHOLES: Steelers are 0-3. It's just like, "What's going on?"

COSTELLO: Andy Scholes. Thanks so much.

The next hour of NEWSROOM after a quick break.