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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

California School Shooting; Biden's Task Force Sneak Peak; Uncle of Newtown Victim Speaks Out; Newt Gingrich on Gun Control

Aired January 10, 2013 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Good evening, everyone.

There is breaking news tonight. One of the government's leading disease fighters becoming the first 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 is still getting worse. We'll talk with 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 out that meeting saying they weren't happy with what they heard. We'll have all the details on the meetings in a moment, but first let's get the latest on the shooting.

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

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

So, Kyung, exactly what happened? I know you spoke with someone who actually saw the gunman heading toward the school.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And 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 that 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, 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? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, short.


LAH: Two distinct shotguns she says she heard shortly after she saw that boy walk by her house. We now know that 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, I mean, were there specific targets intended? How old was the alleged shooter?

LAH: The alleged shooter is 16 years old. He walked into his first period classroom midway through. But police are saying he absolutely targeted the people he was firing at. The first boy he shot, a 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 Taft Police officer who is here at this high school, before, during, and after school. Well, that officer couldn't get to school today because he was snowed in. There's been terrible weather in this region. And 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 goes without saying, to stand there and face someone that has a shotgun, who's already discharged it and shot a student, that says -- 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 that 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 -- like why there was, you know, allegedly this hit list or why he might 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 is that he used language 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 the classroom could get out alive.

As far as the motivation of this particular student, what we have learned, Anderson, is that he's a troubled boy. He's -- 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 of course is all happening on the same day that 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 in the issue, including top a lobbyists for the National Rifle Association, the NRA, the organization coming away none too pleased, though, with the administration, 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 NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, number one, Anderson, he mentioned it right there at a -- at a news conference of sorts with reporters. The reporters weren't asked -- allowed to ask questions, but the vice president did sort of give a briefing as to what was going on today. And 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, and 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 handgun 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 is -- 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. 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.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: There is a surprising -- so far, a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks. Not just close 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 up 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 are 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 school children, I'm puzzled and disappointed by the fact that I had no information or opportunity to be heard regarding the upcoming legislative proposal in Washington." With us now is Alexis Haller, Noah's uncle.

Alexis, 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?

ALEXIS HALLER, UNCLE OF NEWTOWN SHOOTING VICTIM NOAH POZNER: That's correct. 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.

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. And they apologized for that.

COOPER: Why do you think they reached out to you now? One of our producers had 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 at least to 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? I mean, 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 know 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've 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 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 there was handguns, and I think handguns can be very dangerous in the classroom as well. So 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 ensure 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 those families who are still dealing with this. I appreciate you talking tonight. Thank you.

HALLER: Thank you, Anderson. I appreciate it.

COOPER: Well, 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'll 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 of the idea that president might act out of executive orders on some of the things that he can legally act on.

We'll talk to the former speaker Gingrich about that.

We'll 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 some of his recommendations to President Obama might include the president issuing executive orders to better enforce exiting 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 showed pictures of Josef 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 the money and to say no money shall be spent to do this.

Since his presidential run, Speaker Gingrich has launched a new Web site, I spoke to him just a few minutes ago.


COOPER: Mr. Speaker, as you know, the White House is looking seriously at new gun control measures. And they've 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 HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, I think you have to look at each one one by one. A number of them, for example the 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.

So it depends on exactly what they come up with. What -- you know, 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've done actually a number of shows from Chicago on this very issue. And -- I mean, 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.

So you think there is some room for common ground, that maybe perhaps even some new gun control legislation if it was able to be passed through Congress, that -- I mean that --


COOPER: Should everything be on the table for discussion?

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

COOPER: Well, he had the NRA there.

GINGRICH: I'd feel a lot better if he talked -- but today is a good start. I did not know they came in today and I commend --

COOPER: They said they were very disappointed of how it turned out. They said basically he's talking about gun control issues. They wanted to focus more on narrow school safety issues and all that.

GINGRICH: Well, 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. In 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 at 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.

And Chicago has all these rules. How come there are over 500 people killed last year? I mean, maybe we ought to have some commonsense, let's talk about the facts. I'd 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'd be a healthier country if we could have a fact-based conversation.

COOPER: Does it concern you these -- you know, these the high- volume magazine cartridges that are available, some of these military- style weapons that people can have? I mean, do you think that should be part of the discussion? Is that on the table? And 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 is 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 the only counter force works.

COOPER: But even if the 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 -- I think most professional police will tell you that a -- 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'll 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 first 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 7400 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've 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 somebody 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. You can't -- I can't read your mind.

SUPT. GARY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE: You can go into a gun shop, you can buy 10 nine 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'd likely be off the hook.

(Voice-over): Richard Pearson is the executive director of the Illinois Rifle Association. He is 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 are punished. And that 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: Yes, it does. You've got to remember where he came from. You know, he came from New York.

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



PEARSON: Those people are deeply effected by the Brady Campaign and the -- who are anti-gun group. You know.

ROWLANDS: Who are those people?

PEARSON: People from the -- particularly in New York, the Chicago suburbs. Save Chicago.

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


PEARSON: Well, I don't -- I don't think it's paranoid. I think it's fact. We've watched this over the years.

ROWLANDS: That's not gun control. That's not saying you can't buy your gun. All that's saying is you've got to let us know where it is. (Voice-over): Superintendent McCarthy says he's only looking for common sense solutions for what's 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: 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, local sheriff spoke to reporters about what may have motivated the 16-year-old alleged shooter. He says the student felt bullied by his alleged target. He also said the boy planned the shooting the night before and used a gun taken his home. He said the teen will eventually be charged with attempted murder.

We've got more breaking news. The flu crossing the epidemic threshold. That according to tan official with the National Institutes of Health. We'll talk with 360 MD 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 of the National Institutes of Health. Here's what he just told CNN.


ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES 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're 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 the 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 Center for Disease Control is going to release new numbers tomorrow.

It is a fast moving story. They predicted as many as 50,000 may die from the flu this season. I spoke earlier to chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and started by asking him about that breaking news that the flu is now at an epidemic level.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That means that we expect a certain amount of flu cases, patients to have the flu in any given year, and based on previous trends. And right now, we have exceeding that threshold. So this is more cases than we would normally expect of flu at this time of year. The big question is it going to stay high? Is it going to remain at epidemic proportions or is it going 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, yesterday, but it won't take effect though for another couple weeks, right?

GUPTA: Yes, I'm glad you got the flu shot. I'll take some credit for that, I think, but yes, you're right. It takes a couple weeks for the immunity to build up. And 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 -- if you inhale a flu spore, how long before it actually becomes the flu?

GUPTA: That can also take a little bit of time. It can take up to a couple weeks for that as well.

COOPER: Really, wow?

GUPTA: So it may be hard to trace your steps back 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. You have to assume the flu virus is everywhere, in the air, on surfaces. You know you touch your hand to your face at least a couple hundred times a day, inadvertently, everybody does.

COOPER: That's incredible. That's why besides getting the flu shot, you say to wash your hands regularly, which I have been doing a lot of.

GUPTA: I almost feel 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 is the best way to treat them? How do you know if you should go to the doctor about it? Doesn't the doctor just basically say drink fluids?

GUPTA: That's right. They're highly priced people who say drink fluids. That's going to be the message for a lot of people. Stay home, get rest. Allow your immune system to sort of build up. Make sure you don't get dehydrated. It's going to be that simple for the vast majority of people. By the way, when you and I were in Afghanistan a couple years ago, you looked sick enough that you should have gone to a doctor. It can happen to just about anybody.

COOPER: I don't think you told me that at the time, 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. Sanjay, I have talked to a lot of people who say, look, they don't want to get a flu shot. They don't believe in these kinds of shots. They think it gives them a little bit of the flu. To them, you say what?

GUPTA: 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 those 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, 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 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 days.

One more point, and you can tell I'm pretty passionate about it, one more point is if you get the flu shot and still get the flu, you may still have 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 look, I don't recommend a lot of medications, a lot of things you should put into your body, but this is one of the best ways we know to protect ourselves. As you point out, tens of thousands of people die from the flu every year.

COOPER: And it's not too late to get the flu shot. Sanjay, appreciate it. Thank you.

GUPTA: Anytime, Anderson.


COOPER: Scary stuff, just ahead, the voice of the Syrian revolution, Zaidoun, 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A man who has risked his life repeatedly to come on 360 to speak it truth is back home tonight and we're relieved beyond words. You're going to hear from Zaidoun 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 we use his real name.

On December 15th, Syria's secret police arrested Zaidoun and his brother. Their family believed they were taken to a facility in Damascus used for torture and abuse. For weeks, we tried to keep the spotlight on Zaidoun's story. We wanted to make sure his voice was still heard.

When we learned that he was released yesterday, we of course were overjoyed. We didn't have a direct hand in his release, of course. We only made sure that his name wasn't forgotten. His brother 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 at CNN we're so thrilled and relieved you're back home. How are you feeling? How are you doing?

ZAIDOUN AL ZOABI, SYRIAN ACTIVIST (via telephone): 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. 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 ZOABI: Yes. It was no oxygen. It was a factory for madness and death.

COOPER: A factory for madness and death?

AL ZOABI: 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 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 mistake that he is my brother.

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

AL ZOABI: He's still inside there just because he's my brother. COOPER: We have talked often over the last more than a year and you insisted on using your name. Was there a moment -- did you ever regret that? Do you regret?

AL ZOABI: Never, not for a single second. Never, I feel more responsible now. We all talk 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. 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 ZOABI: It was just like a draft. Someone called me and said she was a girl, and she was detained by them. They asked her to call me, I came 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? You said you escaped the grave. What is it like to be, you know, to be taken, to be bundled into a car, to hear that door locking behind you?

AL ZOABI: 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 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 ZOABI: Yes. Of course, I am. The story hasn't ended.

COOPER: Zaidoun, we'll continue to focus on your brother and all the others who have been detained, and all 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 ZOABI: Thank you very much, Anderson.


COOPER: Remarkable courage. Up next, 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 and Punishment" tonight, a case out of Chicago, the man who won a million dollars on a scratch-off lottery ticket, but died before he could enjoy his winnings. His death has been ruled a homicide. He was poisoned and the question is who did it? Martin Savidge investigates.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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.

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

JIMMY GOREEL, CONVENIENCE STORE OWNER: He was heavy on that, you know. There was a time that he would buy a whole book, 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 (on camera): And what did he win?

GOREEL: A million dollars, a whole million.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): 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 of July 20th, Khan's wife said that she made dinner here at home, and then he went to bed a little less than an hour later. She said 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 say the 46-year-old died of natural causes. 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. This was serious enough to order a full battery of toxicology, including 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 for cyanide in the blood.

SAVIDGE: I called up science journalist, Deborah Blum, author of the "Poisoner's Handbook." Blum said cyanide poisoning is a horrible way to go and screaming part of it. DEBORAH BLUM, POISON EXPERT (via telephone): They'll talk about the classic cyanide death scream. It's almost an involuntary contraction of your dying muscles.

SAVIDGE (on camera): So it's almost a trademark then of cyanide?

BLUM: It absolutely is.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): 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: Well, as part of any autopsy, we look at the gastric contents. In some cases, we analyze them if it 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 (inaudible) and she's now inside running the family business. I asked her for an interview, but she said she's simply not read ready to talk. She did tell me 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 court documents suggest all is not so well between Khan's widow and his siblings. They paint a picture deeply divided over the control of Khan's estate, especially his lottery winnings, which 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 one once more on Chicago's north side, greed and poison.

GOREEL: That if it's truly murder, it gets to the point where I believe when they say money is the root of all evil. It is true.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN, Chicago.


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

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, breaking news. Late word that a Colorado judge has found sufficient evidence to send James Holmes to trial. Holmes is accused of opening fire in a movie theatre 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 charges of sex abuse and also say the court didn't allow them enough time to prepare for the trial.

Research shows that star NFL linebacker Junior Seau suffered degenerative brain disease that can result from multiple hits to the head. The National Institutes of Health released the result today. Seau's family donated his brain for examination after he fatally shot himself last year.

And down under, flames and fear.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw tornadoes of fire 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. Now that's a grandmother and five of her grandchildren taking cover in the water. This photo was 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 they had to hold on tight. They eventually got on a dinghy. Ninety homes in the area went up in flames, Anderson, including the grandparent's home.

COOPER: Incredibly terrifying. Isha, thanks. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight on the "Ridiculist," we honor a small group of women fighting for their right to rip hair out of their young daughters' faces by any means necessary. The latest to join the battle is none other than Farrah Abraham of the MTV reality series, "Teen Mom."

That's her 3-year-old daughter who according to Farrah had an unsightly unibrow. She called it a standout historical moment in motherhood. She writes about the Unibrow or Uni because the kids today abbreviate everything, quote, "So I tried to wax her. The second a dab hit the uni, she touched it with a towel she had in her hand.

So no wax was in the towel and I yanked it back ASAP, but fuzz was not stuck to the wax, stuck to her uni, OMG moment. So now she's freaking out and I had to ask like it was a cool science project to get the wax off?

I'm not sure what is happening now, but all I can sort of gather is the waxing didn't seem to go well. Fear not, mom persevered. Quote, "Sophia feel a sleep. I got my tweezers and pluck, pluck, pluck. Soap was now saying ouch or anything and still was asleep. I got most of it off and then finally she woke up. I feel like a good mom. Smiley. Yes. What a good mom. Those are exactly the words I was going to use to describe her. Farrah went on "Good Morning America" to defend her decision, not that she need to, to pluck her 3-year-old's eyebrows.


FARRAH ABRAHAM, "TEEN MOM" STAR: What I said was, mommy is going to, you know, try to pluck your eyebrows because there's a little too much hair there. If I can help my daughter in a little way by plucking a few hairs, I think I did something right.


COOPER: She is helping her daughter feel good about herself by telling her 3-year-old unibrow is ugly. So Farrah is just the latest, but there are of course other women who blazed the trail for her to speak out on this issue. Most of the women, the foremothers of the eyebrow movement are on "Toddlers and Tiaras."


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Getting my eyebrows waxed kind of hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, baby. OK, you ready?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wax was way too hot and it ripped off her skin, so she's been terrified since then.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Don't tear it. Don't tear it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all done. It's all done. It's all done. It's all done. See, look how pretty it looks.


COOPER: It does look pretty. That girl is at least 4 or 5 years old. So, you know, 3, unlike the other kid. Being a crusader for hair removal is not for the faint of heart. For the latest activist, Farrah Abraham, she tweets, quote, "Unibrows are not sacred, exclamation mark. Do the right thing, tweeze no matter what age. Now, that is what I call a taking a stand, not to mention waxing poetic on the "Ridiculist."

That does it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now, all the latest news at 10 p.m. Eastern, join us for that. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.