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John Kerry Gets President's Nod; Understanding Asperger's Syndrome; Dog Comforts People of Newtown; Russia Nears Banning Adoptions to U.S.; Remembering Senator Inouye

Aired December 21, 2012 - 14:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Central question in the Newtown investigation now is what was going through the mind of Adam Lanza. The family and friends, they say he had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. And CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains to us what it is.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Asperger's is a type of autism. Doctors call autism a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a mental illness. That's important. It is something you're born with, and it does tend to run in families.

A little history, the condition was first described by a doctor named Dr. Hans Asperger in 1944. He made this key observation. Listen closely. People with Asperger's and he was focused primarily on children, are socially isolated.

They have problems with communication. There is something off in their interactions with other people. They can miss social cues. Take this example, if someone walks over and says hello, most of us naturally say hello right back.

A child with Asperger's, that doesn't come as instinctively, they lack what you might call social intuition. Another symptom, people with Asperger's tend to become extremely focused. They're obsessed with details.

One example, Temple Grandin, she has Asperger's and she's written six books. She is a top expert in designing facilities for livestock. There are some crucial distinctions.

One, children with Asperger's do not have language problems. Their speech often develops normally. Also by definition, people with Asperger's have average to high intelligence and it seems to be common in the tech world, more common.

Not to mention actress Daryl Hannah, author Tim Page, he won a Pulitzer Prize. There is a common misconception that people with Asperger's lack empathy. Now if you look closer, you'll see that this isn't necessarily true.

In fact people with Asperger's tend to be bad at recognizing emotions in other people. But research and experience show this, they do relate to those emotions. In fact, it can be extremely intense, almost like they feel too much for other people even animals.

Temple Grandin, she became famous for developing humane livestock pens. She could put herself in the animal's place. She says she could feel their pain.


BALDWIN: And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now. So I read something interesting this past week that apparently the calls or questions into this "Autism Speaks," this hotline, is up like 130 percent. So obviously people are talking about that, people have questions. Is the fact that this shooter reportedly had Asperger's, is that relevant?

GUPTA: I think it is not relevant.

BALDWIN: You don't?

GUPTA: You know, I think probably just need to come out and say it the way you asked it and I answered it because it is not relevant to the discussion.


GUPTA: Because it is not associated with any of these types of behaviors. When I think -- to the extent it is raised in the context of this, people are saying could autism somehow have caused this sort of behavior and it just doesn't. This has been studied.

There is a study that is one of the most quoted studies with regard to some of the behaviors of people with autism. Asperger's is on the autism spectrum. Out of 132 people in that study, three people had episodes of some sort of violence, but they were always reactive violence or outbursts.

What was seen here was a very premeditated, planned sort of violence and it is just not something that is associated with Asperger's. I think that's just a myth.

BALDWIN: So then help us understand, because this word Asperger's is on everyone's tongue, it seems this past week. How does someone with Asperger's function?

GUPTA: Well, you know, they're socially awkward I think would be the best way to say. They miss social cues. Somebody may -- as I was saying in the piece, say hello, Brooke, and you have the natural sort of social instinct to say hello back. And some people just miss those things.

They have a hard time making eye contact, but they often don't have difficulty with language. They don't have difficulty with intelligence. Many of them are average to high intelligence. And they -- some of them are people in this country who run large companies, you know.

So it just -- it is a -- it is variable like most things are, but not a mental illness. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, something you're born with, something that can be inherited. There is not an anti-autism medication like antidepressants.

It is just -- it was unfortunate, I think, that it came up in the context of all of this that more as an adjective I think rather than an explanation.

BALDWIN: It has come up. It's no easy to just slap a label on someone. Thanks for the context.

GUPTA: Yes, I'm glad we did it.

BALDWIN: Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. By the way, make sure you watch this guy on the weekends, 4:30 p.m. --

GUPTA: Seven days a week, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Seven days a week, this guy never stops working, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 a.m. Sunday, am I right? Eastern Time, there you go. Sanjay Gupta, don't miss him. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Coming up here, Russia's government is trying to put the brakes on American parents adopting Russian children. Coming up next, the impact families here in the U.S. and really what is being done to stop this proposed ban.


BALDWIN: Helping Newtown heal. One week after the tragic school shooting at that elementary school, some people coping with unimaginable sorrow are turning to dogs. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a comfort dog. You can pet him. It says right here, please pet me. A comfort dog is whatever brings comfort to other people, when they're suffering or hurting or brings happiness to people, helps people process their grief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK, Abbie. It's good girl. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dogs a month ago when Sandy hit. Children will walk up sad and walk away happy. Petting a dog helps them to process whatever it is they're going through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does help. It does help. I love dogs. There is nothing like that connection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dogs are big lovers and they show unconditional love. And they're counselors because they're confidential and they don't keep notes.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Russia's equivalent of the House of Representatives, they passed a ban on Americans adopting Russian children. Now, this isn't law yet, but President Vladimir Putin would have to sign it and it is not quite clear if he will or not.

Here's what is clear to so many people is that this ban has much more to do with the Russia treats its people than the way American parents treat Russian children. Russian protesters, a sign here says it all, are orphans guilty of Magnitzke's death.

This ban is seen as a retaliation of what's called "The Magnitzke Act," the president has made it official a week ago. What is it? It puts U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.

And this law is named for Sergi Magnitzke, a whistle-blower who exposed corporate corruption. And instead of praising him, Russia put him in prison, denying him basic nutrition and medical care.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: He was placed in worst conditions until on November 16th, 2009, having served 358 days in prison, Sergi died.


BALDWIN: Want to bring in Adam Pertman. He is the executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Welcome to you, Adam. Just let me begin with, how does this impact so many families here wanting these children, wanting these Russian children in the U.S.?

ADAM PERTMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EVAN B. DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE: Well, of course, the ones who are already sort of in line, who have either gone through the process or about to, I mean, they're feeling crushed and wondering whether they're going to become families at all. The kids -- the people who really are suffering, of course, are the kids who are staying institutionalized while all the adults argue.

BALDWIN: It is no secret, though, that there have been problems, Russian adoptive children have had in the U.S., a highly publicized case not too along go in 2010, that Tennessee woman put the 7-year-old boy she adopted on a flight, back to Russia, alone. Has there been an improvement since then?

PERTMAN: Well, that case was an aberration and, by the way, there have been other kids hurt and even some who died in their adoptive homes. And Russia was justifiably upset about all that. But, you know, you solve the problem that you have, divorce dads snatch their kids and we can't say we can't have divorce because look what happens.

You fix the problem that you have. You don't literally throw away the baby with the bath water. That's what is happening with this legislation. Whatever problems there might have been and they're minimal, we need to fix them, but to make all the kids suffer simply isn't right.

BALDWIN: So if these sounds like this is really about politics here, in terms of a fix, 30 seconds here, Mr. Pertman, what is the adoption community in the U.S. doing to fix this?

PERTMAN: Well, the adoption community really can't do anything right now. This is a problem in the hands of the DUMA and in the hands of President Putin and we can only hope that he does the right things for these -- the right thing for these kids and doesn't hold them hostage.

BALDWIN: Adam Pertman, thank you so much for joining me. We appreciate it.

Want you to look at this image. This is a pretty fascinating image here. You have the president, along with the former president there, right in between the two of them, the Vice President, all there to remember senator who served half a century, Daniel Inouye. You will hear President Obama's words and memories next.


BALDWIN: The most powerful figures in Washington filled the cavernous national cathedral today in Washington to bid farewell to the late United States Senator Daniel Inouye who served Hawaii since statehood, 50 years in the U.S. Senate.

Inouye died on Monday. He was eulogized today by a fellow Hawaiian himself once a senator, who spoke of first beginning to understand politics while watching Senator Inouye serve on a Watergate Committee.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: To see this man, this senator, this powerful, accomplished person who was not a central cast when it came to what you would think a senator might look like at the time, and the way he commanded the respect of an entire nation, I think it hinted to me what might be possible in my own life.

This was a man who as a teenager stepped up to serve his country, even after his fellow Japanese-Americans were declared enemy aliens, a man who believed in America, even when its government didn't necessarily believe in him. That meant something to me. It gave me a powerful sense, one that I couldn't put into words, a powerful sense of hope.


BALDWIN: President Barack Obama earlier today eulogizing Daniel Inouye, the long-serving U.S. senator died Monday. He was 88 years old.

Coming up next, I will speak with a woman who saw her parents killed by a gunman inside a restaurant. She says we need more guns. Don't miss the interview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, everyone. Today on the "Help Desk," we're talking about filing taxes as an independent contractor. How do you do that? With me this hour, Lynette Khalfani- Cox and David Novick. David, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As an independent contractor and sole proprietor of my own business in the wellness field, how should I file my taxes at the end of the year?


HARLOW: So I think it depends, right if she's paid the estimated quarterly taxes or not and --

DAVID NOVICK, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, PROMETHEUS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: She's still going to have to file regardless whether she paid her estimated taxes or not. That will help in what she owes. It is similar to working people where they would have taxes withheld out of their paycheck.

Most likely as an independent contractor she'll file a Schedule C. It is a supplement to the 1040. That's basically going to list her business income and her business expenses. That would then flow through to her 1040 return and file it as a normal personal tax return.

HARLOW: Any way, Lynnette, she can maximize her benefit, her deductions as an independent contractor?

LYNNETTE KHALFANI-COX, FOUNDER, ASKTHEMONEYCOACH.COM: Certainly, she should take advantage of all of the exemptions, deductions and credits to which she's entitled. Make sure you amass the 1099s that you're likely to have gotten from clients and vendors and whoever paid you during the year.

And then see whether or not, you know, whether it is business expenses, your health insurance you might be paying for yourself, travel, any kind of supplies, materials you bought for your business, et cetera, write those off.

Keep records of it, of course, so that if the IRS ever audits you, you have the proof you did incur those expenses.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys, very much. If you have a question you want our experts to tackle, you can upload a 30-second video with your "Help Desk" question to