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January 31st, 2013
08:29 AM ET

Sen. Blumenthal: The case for background checks is 'irrefutable'

Democrats face a tough road ahead if they are going to convince Republicans to support new gun control laws, a reality that President Obama acknowledged in an interview with Univision yesterday.

"My suspicion is we're seeing more bipartisan discussion on the immigration issue, than on the gun issue," Obama said.

These remarks came after a tense hearing on gun violence in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords urged legislators to act. "Americans are counting on you,” Giffords said.

Senator Richard Blumenthal joins Starting Point this morning to discuss the hearing, noting that Giffords' statement was "one of the shortest but most powerful public statements before any congressional hearing I've ever heard."

Calling the case for background checks "irrefutable" and noting that that the country "needs more rigorous and vigorous enforcement of existing gun laws," Blumenthal expresses confidence that gun control legislation will pass because the "American people are on the side of the sensible."




January 31st, 2013
08:11 AM ET

What is 'deer antler spray' and how does it help athletes? Elizabeth Cohen explains

Pro golfer Vijay Singh has admitted to using "deer antler spray," a substance meant to enhance athletic performance that is advertised as containing a hormone called "IGF one."

The performing enhancing substance, which is banned by both the PGA tour and the World Anti-Doping Agency, has been linked to the Ravens player Ray Lewis and the Alex Rodriguez scandal in reports this week.

In a statement, Singh admits to using the spray, but says that "at no time was [he] aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA tour anti-doping policy."

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains what the substance is and how it's used by athletes on Starting Point this morning.


January 31st, 2013
07:58 AM ET

Family of boy being held hostage in Alabama 'holding on by a thread'

A hostage situation in Alabama stretching into a third day this morning, with the life of a five year old boy hanging in the balance.

The child is being held in an underground bunker by a man who shot and killed a school bus driver Tuesday before dragging the boy off of the bus.

Alabama state Representative Steve Clouse has been in touch with the boy's family, who he describes as "holding on by a thread" and "hoping for a peaceful resolution to get their little boy back" on Starting Point this morning.

Referring to the situation as related to a "mental health issue," Clouse says that he thinks the man holding the boy hostage, identified as Jimmy Lee Dykes, is "relatively new to this particular neighborhood."

Clouse says that the community is in shock by the incident and that the family of the slain bus driver is devastated.

"He started the day off as a school bus driver and he ended as a hero," Clouse says.

January 30th, 2013
09:20 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Mercedes Benz debuts Super Bowl ad

If you're looking forward to to checking out the commercials during this year's Super Bowl, you don't have to wait until game day.

This morning, Starting Point gets an exclusive look at the ad by Mercedes Benz, filmed in New Orleans and starring Kate Upton and Usher.

In the ad, Mercedes unveils its new Mercedes CLA, a "highly stylized coupe" at a lower price that is aimed at younger car buyers.

"We felt like this was an opportunity to introduce Mercedes Benz to a much broader audience, to folks who probably wouldn't have ever considered a Mercedes Benz," company president and CEO Steve Cannon says on Starting Point this morning.

When asked about the cost of the Super Bowl spot, Cannon acknowledges that it was an "eight figure commitment," but insists that "when you play in the Super Bowl, you have to step up your game."

January 30th, 2013
08:54 AM ET

Sen. Bill Nelson: Obama's immigration plan 'right on track'

President Obama laid out his plan to fix immigration at a stop in a majority Hispanic high school in Las Vegas yesterday, offering his support for many of the ideas laid out by the Senate's "Gang of Eight" in a bipartisan reform proposal.

On Starting Point this morning, Senator Bill Nelson calls the president's plan "right on track" and says that there's "very little difference" between the two proposals.

However, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who has been instrumental in crafting the Senate's plan, issued a warning to Obama yesterday, insisting that he's "not going to be part of a bidding war to see who can come up with the most lenient path forward."

When asked about this statement, Nelson, a Florida Democrat, urges Soledad to "give [Rubio] a break."

"I think he’s going to give a lot of cover to the Republicans who otherwise would choke on this," Nelson says.

January 30th, 2013
08:46 AM ET

Reports of significant and widespread damage in Tennessee due to storm

People are being warned to take cover this morning as a line of violent thunderstorms moves quickly through the south and a series of tornado warnings go into effect.

New pictures into CNN show widespread damage in Tennessee, where there are reports of a trapped family and one fatality in the state.

Mt. Juliet Tennessee police spokesperson sergeant Tyler Chandler joins Starting Point this morning to discuss the "significant damage" in the town.

"Fortunately there are no injuries to report," Chandler says. "It looks like we may have missed a major bullet."


January 30th, 2013
08:13 AM ET

New doping allegations raise questions about A-Rod's future

Alex Rodriguez is the highest paid player in Major League Baseball, but a scathing new report by The Miami New Times on performance enhancing drugs says the Yankees' third baseman is also a cheater and a liar.

The paper claims that Rodriguez got human growth hormone, testosterone, and other banned substances from an "anti-aging" clinic run by Anthony Bosch in Miami called "Biogenesis," which is now closed.

The Miami New Times claims it found evidence incriminating Rodriguez in files leaked by a former Biogenesis employee. Also reportedly mentioned in those records are three players who were suspended last year for using banned substances, Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal and Bartolo Colon, as well as two players never before linked to substance abuse, Nelson Cruz and Gio Gonzalez.

Major League Baseball is investigating the report, and so far, Rodriguez and Gonzalez have denied the accusations.

On Starting Point this morning, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy says that athletes always deny doping allegations and "unfortunately for Alex, in the Lance Armstrong fallout, people aren't really believing it," especially considering A-Rod's history with steroid abuse.

Referencing Rodriguez's recent hip surgery and "declining skill set," Shaughnessy notes that this report could "lead to a battle from the Yankees to get out from under their contract [with A-Rod], which they would love to do anyway."

"This is a guy with 647 home runs in the big leagues," Shaunessy says. "There was a time where he was predicted to be the guy to hit 800 and do it cleanly, and that’s all behind him now."

January 28th, 2013
09:05 AM ET

Bill Clinton's fmr. chief of staff weighs in on Hillary's potential 2016 run

(CNN) – President Barack Obama said Hillary Clinton will go down "as one of the finest secretaries of state" as he sat next to her in their first joint interview Sunday night on CBS's "60 Minutes."

"The main thing is I just wanted to have a chance to publicly say 'thank you,'" he said when asked why he wanted to do the interview with his former political foe.

Bill Clinton's former White House Chief of Staff Thomas "Mack" McLarty, who has known the former president since kindergarten, weighs in on the rare interview on Starting Point this morning, saying that the "genuineness of their relationship came through."

"They work together. I think they've had an extraordinary run at it in terms of foreign policy," McLarty says. "I think Secretary Clinton has supported the president and reestablished our standing around the world. I think they've managed some exceedingly complex, fast moving and difficult situations in a very skilled manner.”

Regarding Clinton's potential 2016 presidential run, McLarty notes that four years is a long time.

“Right now she needs to take some time for rest, reflection and renewal. I think she’ll make decisions as they become timely before her," McLarty says.

January 28th, 2013
08:05 AM ET

Rep. Israel: 'Paul Ryan gave [Obama] the shortest honeymoon in history'

By the end of the week, Hillary Clinton will no longer be Secretary of State. Before saying goodbye, she sat down for a rare joint interview the President Obama on "60 Minutes," in which the pair exchanged compliments and discussed the past four years.

Calling the relationship between Obama and Clinton "extraordinary" and "unique" on Starting Point this morning, Rep. Steve Israel says that the CBS interview shows "two former competitors who figured out how to put their differences aside, learn how to govern, move on and take this country forward."

Rep. Israel also responds to Rep. Paul Ryan's remark that if the country had a Clinton presidency, the country's "fiscal cliff mess" would be fixed, saying that Ryan has given Obama "the shortest honeymoon in history."

"It's exactly what's wrong with Washington. President Obama was inaugurated one week ago," Israel says. "Name calling and vilifying and attaching blame, can we just talk about solutions rather than engaging in the name calling? The country would be much better off if we could do that."

January 25th, 2013
09:04 AM ET

Former RNC Chairman: GOP has 'lost it's ability to communicate well'

The Republican National Committee is currently holding it's winter meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina and Chairman Reince Priebus is set to lay out his vision for the direction of the party today.

Former RNC Chairman Mel Martinez joins Starting Point this morning to discuss the GOP's re-branding efforts, noting that "there's a great reassessment taking place in the party."

"We’ve lost the ability to communicate well," Martinez says. "I think there’s a communication gap and I think that our party has done a poor job reaching out to particular groups."

Martinez also weighs in on the party's concern with preventing tax increases, saying, "we shouldn't be talking about protecting the wealthy from raising taxes."

"We should be talking about a tax code that promotes economic growth," Martinez argues. "A tax code that is fair for everyone and that promotes economic growth is going to create more jobs, is going to create better jobs, and is going to allow people to move into the middle class."

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