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OTC Birth Control Pill Opill Goes On Sale Online Today; Today: Ceasefire Talks To Resume In Doha, Qatar; Hollywood's New Effort To Curb Gun Death. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A major volcanic eruption in Iceland forced everybody to evacuate the famous Blue Lagoon. This was the most powerful of the recent eruptions that have happened there. You can see the lava flowing out of the fissure and large clouds of smoke covering the sky.

This morning, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will make his first international trip since having surgery back in December. The complications, you'll remember, left him hospitalized. He heads to Germany to meet with defense officials from other countries to discuss the war in Ukraine.

Get your brackets ready. It is March Madness. On the men's side, the number-one seeds are UConn, Houston, Purdue, and North Carolina. On the women's side, it is Iowa with Kaitlan Clark, along with Texas, USC, and South Carolina.

No doctor's visit needed and no prescription. Starting today, the first over-the-counter birth control pill approved in the United States is available online. Sara, why don't you take this from here?


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: I shall. You know who is going to take this? CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard is joining us now. Jacqueline, tell us more about this. Obviously, if it's online, people in rural areas are going to have a much easier time getting ahold of it, as I understand.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's exactly right, Sara. You know, starting this morning, Opill -- that's the nation's first over-the-counter birth control pill -- will be available for online sales. It's in stock at Amazon. Executives are Perrigo -- that's the company behind Opill -- said it will be available at starting around 9:00 a.m. this morning.

And this is a huge milestone in the rollout of this product. Like you said, Sara, with online sales, this will make it accessible to -- especially women in rural areas. We know that Opill itself -- it's a progesterone-only birth control

pill. If it's taken at the same time every day as instructed it can be up to 98 percent effective.

As for how much it costs, it has the manufacturer's suggested price of $19.99 for a one-month supply, $49.99 for a three-month supply, and $89.99 for a six-month supply.

Now, these online sales -- they are a major step in the rollout of this product. Next, we can expect to see it hit store shelves. We know that later this month and in early April some major retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens will plan to carry this product.

So earlier this month, shipments went out to distribution sites. Starting today, it's available online. Next, Sara, we can expect the in-store sales coming up later in the month.

SIDNER: And just quickly, are there any age restrictions to getting the Opill?

HOWARD: This product was approved by the FDA with no age restrictions, so that's another major aspect of this. Now, as the rollout continues and as time continues we might see maybe at the state level or local level some restrictions or discussions. But right now, it's available for all ages.

SIDNER: Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much for bringing us that story. Appreciate it -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sara, thank you so much.

A pretty clear message from House Speaker Mike Johnson to fellow Republicans right now -- knock it off. Clearly, sick and tired of the seemingly endless internal party fights and feuds that he's been dealing with since day one on the job, Johnson is trying to get his conference to at least not campaign against each other. House Republicans are actively trying to eat their own in at least four primaries right now.

Are House Republicans getting the message from their speaker? Matt Gaetz seems to be saying no.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I would love nothing more than to just go after Democrats. But if Republicans are going to dress up like Democrats in drag, I'm going to go after them, too. Because at the end of the day, we're not judged by how many Republicans we have in Congress. We're judged from whether or not we save the country.


BOLDUAN: And joining me right now here in the studio is Pete Seat, former White House spokesman for President George W. Bush. And Maura Gillespie, former press adviser to then-Speaker of the House, John Boehner and more recently, Adam Kinzinger. It's great to see you guys. How -- OK, first and foremost, what do you think is really going on

here not just with Matt Gaetz but with their -- the internal fights are now -- I mean, they're trying to eat their own in a primary.

MAURA GILLESPIE, FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL, BLUESTACK STRATEGIES, FORMER PRESS ADVISER TO THEN-HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR THEN-REP. ADAM KINZINGER: Right. And, I mean, when I worked for John Boehner, he was known for having a policy against even getting involved in these kind of --


GILLESPIE: -- incumbent versus incumbent match-ups.

And so, it's interesting that Speaker Johnson is speaking out on this. I'm glad that he is kind of trying to get a handle on his razor-thin majority that he currently has and encouraging members to knock it off. I mean, they need to, right? This is not helpful to him or to the Republican conference at all.

BOLDUAN: Does knock it off seem to -- is it going to work? I mean, is the -- just saying and even -- saying it publicly and saying don't -- you know, don't primary -- don't campaign against each other is one thing. Is it going to work from what you have seen with how this party is operating in the House?

PETE SEAT, VICE PRESIDENT, BOSE PUBLIC AFFAIRS GROUP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, INDIANA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, not with Matt Gaetz. There's nothing that Matt Gaetz loves more than a television camera. And this gets him the attention that he craves and the attention that he seeks. He and his little merry band of troublemakers want to put us -- Republicans on the fast track to the minority, and I really do believe that. I don't think they --

BOLDUAN: Why do you believe that?

SEAT: I don't think they want to win because winning means you have to have ideas. And they would rather just complain about Democrats, complain about the way things are going.

BOLDUAN: They're in the majority now.

SEAT: And I don't think they like it. I mean, look at what they did with --

GILLESPIE: And how's that going?

SEAT: -- Kevin McCarthy. Yeah. I really think they prefer -- he does -- not every Republican in the caucus -- prefers to be in the minority. It's easier that way.

GILLESPIE: It's easier to complain --

SEAT: Right.

GILLESPIE: -- right? It's easier to complain than it is to lead, and we've seen that.

BOLDUAN: What's a bigger challenge for Republicans this cycle then? Donald Trump at the top of the ticket since we have seen that hasn't proven helpful in any cycle since he was -- since he got -- since he got himself elected down-ballot, or what we're seeing here with Republicans in the House? What do you think is the bigger challenge for the Republicans in Congress?


GILLESPIE: I do think it's Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. His stances he's taken on things like abortion and other things that Republicans -- and Republicans in Congress have taken aren't going to win them a general election. Comments like he's made over the weekend are not going to help him in a general election.

You know, stoking fear and baiting to the far-right flank of the party -- sure, that gets you applause at a crowd that is MAGA to the extreme, but you're not going to get the people who are maybe not as outspoken but sure do care about a lot of these issues. You're not going to get them to your side of the ballot box.

BOLDUAN: This kind of leads right into Donald Trump and his rhetoric. The same in -- the same continues. We know Donald Trump talking about a bloodbath over the weekend if he's not elected. A bloodbath for the auto industry and more, you can assume. Trump calling migrants animals and saying some aren't even people.

This shows that Donald Trump is leaning into his instincts and shows that he's not leaning into the middle as one would generally assume in bygone days one does for a general -- when it -- when you turn to a general election.

And this tells you what, Pete, about the next 30-plus weeks?

SEAT: It's going to be what it has been from day one. It's deja vu all over again. We went through this exact same routine with this exact same language about MS-13 gangs not being people -- being animals. We did this in 2017. We did it again in 2018.

Words matter and Donald Trump knows that, but he is very skilled at conflating issues and not being precise in his language.

And you can hear what you want to hear. Nancy Pelosi, the Biden campaign -- they're hearing one thing today. Republicans are hearing a completely different thing. And it's putting Republicans in that hotseat and they're going to be there between now and November if he keeps this up, and I have no reason to believe he won't.

BOLDUAN: Let me play something not of the comments that he made over the weekend but in an interview with Howard Kurtz. He was asked his rhetoric -- Trump was asked about this. Let me play what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It also gets people thinking about very important issues that if you don't use certain rhetoric, if you don't use certain words that maybe are not very nice words, nothing will happen. That did stir debate.


BOLDUAN: No one pays attention unless you use the words that he's using is what he's saying.

I mean, do you think words matter? Should words matter, yes, but do you think words matter in this moment in this election cycle? And what do you think of how he kind of was characterizing it?

GILLESPIE: I do think it matters. And we've seen it again. You pointed it out earlier. We, as Republicans, have not won with Donald Trump at the top of our ticket. We have not won with him at the helm of the Republican Party. So his words and how he behaves does matter.

And again, like I said, the people who are on the far right, they may be jazzed up over it but it certainly isn't helping us get any wins. It's certainly not helping us get legislative wins.

But I also want to point out that for people who are in favor of Donald Trump -- roles reversed, how would you feel if Joe Biden was out here saying those things? Would you be up in arms and would you be all upset about what he was saying? Yes, you would be. So people are just really struggling to not see the hypocrisy and not -- you know, the most frustrating part about all of this.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you guys, and thank you. I hope you're not frustrated here. It's great to see you guys. Thank you so much -- John.

BERMAN: So, this morning, Mother Nature seems confused. More than half of the U.S. population will get hit with temperatures at or below freezing. That, after this week of incredible spring-like warmth.

CNN's Derek Van Dam is with us. So why not more warmth, Derek? What happened? What have you done?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: What? You want the spring to hold on? OK, like the rest of the country, right? Well, unfortunately, I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but it is going to get very cold and we have freeze alerts stretching from Texas all the way to North Carolina.

But this warm winter that we've had in the nation's capital -- the sixth-warmest on record -- has forced the second-earliest bloom of the beautiful cherry blossoms along the Potomac and into the Tidal Basin. Get out there and enjoy it. This is incredible, second to only 1990 when they had their earliest bloom in history.

And by the way, this is the last time that you'll get to see the Japanese cherry blossoms in this particular manner because there's a large rehabilitation project along the seawall near the Tidal Basin in the West Potomac Park that is going to alter things. They have to take down a few of these trees, unfortunately. This is all part of the rising sea levels that have occurred over the

past 100 years. We've seen rising sea levels by 1.15 feet with a projected six-feet increase by the end of the century. So they're rehabilitating the tidal wall there to just reinforce that and be prepared for that.

So we have got shorter winters, less cold snaps. In fact, we saw 80- degree temperatures in the nation's capital. We go to these natural cycles, like blooming cherry blossoms, to get an idea of what type of winter we had, and it certainly was a warm one. But it won't feel like that this week because 185 million people are at threat of below- freezing temperatures.


So, John, if you planted your vegetable garden this weekend cover them up or they could die. That's the reality. I listened to my own advice. I hope you did, too. I talked about it last week with you guys.

BERMAN: What I'm hoping is that the weeds that started to come up in my lawn way earlier than usual -- that they get killed --

VAN DAM: And the mosquitos.

BERMAN: -- by the cold snap -- yeah.


BERMAN: Fingers crossed for that.

VAN DAM: I'm right there with you.

BERMAN: Derek Van Dam, thank you very much -- Sara.

SIDNER: All right. It's now time for some good stuff for you this morning.

A dog in Texas has had it rough waiting years to be adopted. His wish finally came true. Velcro, a 10-year-old Carolina dog mix, is partially blind and dead, and has mobility issues. But check him out now.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Velcro? Velcro? Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.


SIDNER: Go, Velcro, go!

Velcro spent over 700 days at the Austin Pets Alive! shelter. But last month, 74-year-old Jeannette felt a really special connection with him and decided to take him to foster care with plans to adopt him. Since then, Velcro has thrived. She says he is maintaining his gentlemanly behavior. Jeannette advocates for the adoption of special needs and senior dogs and says they, too deserve love.

Kate, Velcro sticking with this family forever.

BOLDUAN: Well played.

SIDNER: I know that was light.

BOLDUAN: I was just going to say Velcro is a fantastic name.

SIDNER: It is perfect.

BOLDUAN: In my house, we're always toying with what animal -- what animal names would be. We've got a lot of chocolate chip that comes through or sherbet, but I think Velcro is a fantastic one.

SIDNER: Velcro wins.

BOLDUAN: I like it.

All right. Coming up for us, you may notice fewer guns in prime time and at theaters. The new partnership that Hollywood is making -- that has Hollywood making changes onscreen and off.



BERMAN: All right. Happening this morning, ceasefire talks are expected to resume in Qatar. This is to try to pause the fighting in Gaza.

The talks come as Israeli forces have surrounded the largest hospital in Gaza and ordered people living nearby to evacuate. The Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says about 30,000 people are sheltering inside the Al-Shifa medical complex. Israel Defense Forces say they are carrying out an operation there based on intelligence, they say, that senior Hamas terrorists are using the hospital.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Doha where these talks will happen. What are the expectations at this point, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, when it comes to the talks themselves, we understand from a source familiar with them that there will be the Mossad director here, of Israel, who will be talking to the Qatari prime minister and also Egyptian officials trying to hammer out some kind of a ceasefire. Basically, following the Hamas counterproposal that we saw last week, saying that they want some 700 to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for potentially all the female hostages, including IDF soldiers, the elderly, the sick, and the wounded.

So the hope is that there could be some kind of breakthrough, although we have already heard from Israel's prime minister saying that he believed that Hamas' counterproposal was outlandish and unrealistic. But he has still sent a delegation here. And there were meetings -- key meetings set by the war cabinet and

security cabinet in Israel yesterday, on Sunday, where they drew out the red lines -- how far their Mossad director could go in agreeing what Hamas was looking for. So we'll monitor that throughout the day.

And also, we know there is that significant operation ongoing in Gaza at this point. We've spoken to one of the doctors within the Al-Shifa medical complex and he says that one of the surgical buildings is on fire. This is where all the operations for all departments were taking place. He said there were many patients who had just undergone medical procedures and were unable to move.

The Ministry of Health saying that there have been casualties and there are many wounded as well.

The Israeli military saying the reason they are there is because they have intelligence that Hamas terrorists are operating out of the hospital. And they have now just said everyone in the neighborhood of this hospital surrounding the medical complex has to evacuate. They have to head west towards the sea, and then they have to head south several kilometers to an area that the IDF has described as a humanitarian zone.

Now, we've heard from eyewitnesses within the hospital, as well, saying that they have been fired upon as they try to move from different buildings, and as they moved inside the hospital. The IDF saying everybody has to stay where they are at this point inside the hospital as they conduct this operation.

But we are hearing from eyewitnesses and the Ministry of Health that there have been casualties and with this surgical building on fire that they were unable to get to some of those patients because of the intensity of the fire -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Paula Hancocks in Doha where these talks resume today. Paula, keep us up to date. Thank you -- Sara.

SIDNER: All right. Back here in the U.S., in Hollywood shows, where guns often take center stage, a change is underway as certain productions adapt to address America's gun violence issue. It's part of a new campaign called Show Gun Safety, an initiative to help curb gun deaths.


CNN's Josh Campbell takes us behind the scenes.


SHEMAR MOORE, ACTOR, "S.W.A.T.": Drop the weapon!

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunfire, danger, high energy. It's another episode of the hit CBS show "S.W.A.T."

MOORE: Hey, baby.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): But something in this scene is different. Can you tell?

ROCHELLE AYTES, ACTRESS, "S.W.A.T.": Your day get any better after I saw you?

MOORE: No -- actually, it got worse if you can believe it. But we did save a mother and her child so it made it all worth it.

How'd the rest of your day go?

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Did you spot it? Look again.

MOORE: -- a mother and her child so it made it all worth it.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Safe gun storage.

On that same Sony Pictures set, "S.W.A.T.'s" show writer, Andrew Dettmann says in the past, the officer may have just set his gun on the counter. But now --

ANDREW DETTMANN, SHOWRUNNER, "S.W.A.T.": The gun safe opens. He puts the gun away. It's nice and safe before he heads back to talk to his wife. You know, it's a very routine part of his life. Come home at the end of the day and store your weapon so that it's safe now that he's got a toddler in the house.


CAMPBELL (voice-over): The new approach is one of the successes of the Show Gun Safety campaign launched by advocacy group Brady United, which is now partnering with studios across the country. After first meeting at a White House roundtable with actors and writers last year. Their initiative calls for no guns on kids' shows, rethinking whether guns are needed in adult shows, and if they are, showing proper storage and handling.

BROWN: We lose eight kids a day -- uniquely, an American epidemic -- to family fire. That's to -- that's because of firearms in the home that are not safely stored.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): While guns can be politically polarizing, this show believes encouraging the safe storage of firearms shouldn't be controversial at all.

DETTMANN: This is not part of that larger gun debate. You know, we have -- our audience is very much on both sides of that issue. This, to me -- I hoped, anyway -- seemed like this is just a common-sense issue, right? Stow it safely. Don't leave it out in the house. And if we can -- if they see their favorite characters doing it on a regular basis, maybe that influences them in some way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, settle, settle. Here we go. Quiet, please.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Inside another sound stage we watch as the "S.W.A.T." crew filmed scenes with star Shemar Moore.

CAMPBELL: We've heard statistics that more people look up to their favorite actor than a lot of politicians. What's that like?

MOORE: Well, wait, wait -- I'm not Taylor Swift, but she doesn't carry a gun as far as I know.


CAMPBELL (voice-over): Moore told us he's a gun owner, too, and with a young daughter both on and off screen, modeling safety is a badge he's willing to wear.

MOORE: I'm a big badass Hondo and I get out there and I take down bad guys. But when I come home, I own a firearm but it's safe -- it's protected. If I can use my platform to affect change or affect optimism, or to get people to listen, that's an honor. I'm humbled by it.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Along with safe storage, "S.W.A.T." is also curbing the amount of gunfire on its show.

DETTMANN: The director had an automatic weapon in mind but maybe we can pull that back and just have it be a few shots so that we don't have all this gratuitous gunfire with no consequence.

CHRISTIAN HEYNE, CHIEF POLICY OFFICER, BRADY UNITED: We've got to start normalizing this across the board.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Gun violence victims like Christian Heyne, who lost his mother in a 2005 shooting in California, praised the efforts of shows like "S.W.A.T." Now a chief policy officer for Brady United, he hopes this new campaign succeeds like past partnerships with Hollywood to deglamorize smoking and promote safe driving.

HEYNE: You never will see somebody get into a car on a film or on television and not put a seatbelt on. We have to be thinking the same way about gun violence to really create a movement in Hollywood where this becomes second nature.

MOORE: People are going to watch me and listen to me. And I know that my behavior and by how I present myself, somebody could follow suit, and that's a huge responsibility. And so, hopefully, this is a reminder to the adults, to the parents to be extra cautious.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Josh Campbell, CNN, Hollywood.


BOLDUAN: Donald Trump warns of a bloodbath. His campaign tries to define what that bloodbath actually means, and people debate what kind of bloodbath he's actually talking about. So, what does his rhetoric mean to this election this time? Is it different?

BERMAN: Breaking this morning, a major announcement from United on airline safety.

SIDNER: And it is time to fill out your brackets. The fields are officially set for March Madness. Will it be a Cinderella story or will the number-one seed just keep on trucking? We'll check it all out.

I'm Sara Sidner with John Berman and Kate Bolduan. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

BOLDUAN: If there was any question left Donald Trump settled it. General election candidate Trump is exactly the same as primary candidate Donald Trump, saying this weekend it's going to be a bloodbath if he is not reelected. Trump was talking about the future of the auto industry in America but many heard warnings far beyond that.