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Obama Visits Afghanistan; The Dangers Of Prescription Painkillers; Father Of Shooting Victim: "Stop This Madness"

Aired May 26, 2014 - 07:30   ET


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: There's still some giant question marks. Because of the dysfunctional relationship with Hamid Karzai, the administration would like to leave a modest amount of troops in Afghanistan to continue their counterterrorism fight, but that's still up in the air. Now it looks like they may have to negotiate with Karzai's successor?

JUANA SUMMERS, NPR: That worries a lot here in the community in Washington who are saying the Pentagon needs time to plan and put movements in place for what's going to be left behind after most troops are brought out of the country. They haven't been able to do that so there's concern how disconcerted that effort will be if that bilateral security pact then does wait for him the Karzai's successor.

KING: Then this it trip and that focus sets up the president's speech at West Point on Wednesday. His foreign policy has come under a lot of criticism. We assume the economy and health care issues are driving our politics. How important is it for the president at a time people are saying what is your policy in Syria, what happened in Ukraine, just try to get a reset or a refocus.

ALEX SEITZ-WALD, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": This has been his strongest point if you ask people what they think of the president. Foreign policy has been where he's been strongest, killed bin laden, winded down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wants to stop the losses to help his party in the midterms.

KING: Eric Shinseki is the secretary of Veterans Affairs, he is under fire right now because of the scandal at VA hospitals. But our Jake Tapper had a conversation with another man who takes the heat on this one because of his job, the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Listen to this.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD": Are you appalled when you see these stories?

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It makes me sick to my stomach because it is a clear responsibility we have as a country, as a people to take care of these men and women and their families who sacrificed so much. I know systems are improving. I get that. But when you've got what we do know, and we do need to get the fact, let's see what happened, why it happened, how it happened, then we have to fix them. Then we have to fix them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you see sufficient urgency in Washington now? The bureaucracy sometimes numbs people in Washington. Do you go out on issue early on? A couple of years later you haven't made much progress and you just surrender. Do they have the attention now we can deal with the political ramifications later? Is the bureaucracy ready -- the federal leadership ready to take on the bureaucracy until this is fixed?

SUMMERS: There is willingness on this issue in Washington. What's important for people to know is that there have been problems and concerns about mismanagement problems plaguing the VA for years. If you sit on any Veterans Affairs committee hearing on the Hill, you hear about those. This seems to have really reached a fever pitch.

It's something seen as a crisis. We have to do something now for the men and women who serve like Eric Shinseki, like Chuck Hagel and all of their counterparts out there are able to get the attention and the health care they need.

KING: They talked about this in oversight hearings for years. Are they willing to shake the tree until they get the bad apples out?

SEITZ-WALD: This requires some money and Congress isn't interested in appropriating any more money. That will be a big question.

KING: Thank you for coming in on a holiday. As we get back to you, guys, the troops were happy to see the president. I think they were also happy with the special guest he brought along, country star, Brad Paisley, who likes his vehicles. He will be driving that one around. Put that right behind the bus.

JOHH BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's a good-looking vehicle. President Obama joked about Brad Paisley saying I'm here to introduce Brad Paisley. Thank you so much, John.

Next up for us on NEW DAY, in the wake of Santa Barbara's deadly rampage, victims' families struggling this morning to cope. We're speaking with a woman whose daughter survived another massacre at Virginia Tech. What lessons can be learned now in this killing spree?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Also today our nation marks the day that we remember our fallen heroes. We're taking a look live at Arlington National Cemetery. The president will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns later this morning.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A staggering new report on Americans and prescription drug use. According to the Department of Health, the number of emergency room visits involving nonmedical use of Xanax doubled between 2005 and 2011. Check this out, when it comes to painkillers, Americans now use 99 percent of the world's Vicodin.

That tells me the U.S. must have a prescription drug problem. We are going to put it to the good doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That's a startling, 99 percent of the world's Vicodin.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's all that really needs to be said, right? We are 5 percent of the world's population. We consume 99 percent of this particular type of pain pill. It's a pretty remarkable thing.

PEREIRA: So talk to me about this. Is it cultural? Is it an over- prescription issue? What's going on?

GUPTA: I have been fascinated by this. We have done a lot of digging. Some of it there's been a big push to get doctors prescribed. So why would this particular product is it so much more of a concern, one is that about 15, 20 years ago there was this push cult culturally to treat pain as the fifth vital sign. You measure heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, you would also get asked about pain.

PEREIRA: I remember seeing the signs with the happy faces.

GUPTA: So everybody got asked about pain. Even if it wasn't part of the reason they were in the doctor's office and seeing the doctor in the first place. We became adept at prescribing pain pills and no one should have pain if there's any concern at all. Let's give them these powerful pain medications and I think that that is sort of lingered on for some time.

PEREIRA: Sometimes you could be masking the problem. I have had two knee surgeries. Painkillers have a time and a place, but how do you manage that with a patient? How do you deal with that?

GUPTA: First of all, 99 percent of this particular type of pain pill, 80 percent of all of the world's pain pills are consumed in the United States. A lot of other countries don't use the pain pills. They have the same problems we do here in the United States so there's a lot of alternative therapies. There's a message in there to the medical professionals to not so quickly go to the prescription pad. For the consumer, if I tell you in your medicine cabinet is an opiate, you have a derivative similar to heroin, if I put it to you like that --

PEREIRA: I might take it more seriously.

GUPTA: We're so trained to know that heroin is such a problem forgetting that many of the pain pills are the same active ingredients and can do to the same things to your body and if someone dies in this country every 19 minutes of an accidental prescription drug overdose.

PEREIRA: And what's really interesting and we have reported here on numerous cases here that often times it is an injury that somebody has and they are not setting out to have an addictive personality. They don't have addiction problems, but it's one of those slow sliding things that can sneak up on a person.

GUPTA: It's a very classic history. It's usually a male in his 30s that go in for back pain. They get their first prescription for a pain pill they have ever received in their life. Within 36 months if they are going to die, that's how quickly it takes place. One of the problems is they start to do something called stacking. You take the pain pills and over time it loses the effectiveness. You develop a tolerance to it. Six months is a good metric.

You start layering other medications and what happens is these things all stack on top of each other and depresses your respiratory. This is a powerful pain pill. This is no joke. This isn't something that you stick in your medicine cabinet. When you're done with it, toss it. Make sure you're not dipping into it.

PEREIRA: Call it an opiate so people will take caution.

GUPTA: That's heroine and it's the same sort of thing.

PEREIRA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always a pleasure, thanks so much.

GUPTA: You got it, Michaela. Thank you.

PEREIRA: Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, thanks so much, Michaela. Next up on NEW DAY, the families of the California killing spree struggling this morning to cope. We will speak with a woman whose daughter survived the Virginia Tech massacre. What lessons now can be learned from this killing spree.



RICHARD MARTINEZ, SON KILLED IN CALIFORNIA RAMPAGE: Where the hell is the leadership? Where the hell is the people we elect to Congress that we spend so much money on? These people are getting rich in Congress and they don't take care of our kids. My kid died because nobody responded to what occurred at Sandy Hook. Those parents lost little kids. It's bad enough I lost my 20-year-old, but I had 20 years with my son. That's all that I had.


PEREIRA: Almost too much to bare. That was a grief-stricken Richard Martinez talking to our Kyung Lah. His son, Christopher, was among those killed in the rampage in Santa Barbara. Richard Martinez's pain is evident. He pleaded for a change to gun legislation. His anguish is something many can understand. There are few that can relate to it.

One of those who can relate to that kind of pain is Lori Haas, her daughter, Emily, survived after being shot twice during the 2007 Virginia tech massacre. That shooting prompted Lori to become the Virginia State director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Good morning to you. Thank you so much for joining us, Lori. First of all, let me ask, how is Emily doing?

LORI HAAS, VIRGINIA STATE DIRECTOR, COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE: Emily is fine, thank you. She's doing well. She and most all the survivors are doing quite well. Different story for those families whose loved ones were shot and killed with someone who should not have a gun.

PEREIRA: A very different story and that brings us to today and the events over the weekend in that beautiful, wonderful community of Santa Barbara. Tell me what your instinct with was and what you thought when you heard the news?

HAAS: It's just such a terrible tragedy and such a waste of life and a situation that in many instances can be avoided. There are things we can do that keep firearms from dangerous individuals and we're not doing them. We have got to do a better job. There are some policies and some efforts and some procedures we can take that would prevent persons at an elevated risk of gun violence to keep firearms away from them. There's more we should be doing and we can do it.

PEREIRA: You're involved in a lot of the work being done. I want to get to that in a moment. I want to take you back. It's difficult to watch Mr. Martinez. You can see his anger, his pain, and his anguish. You got a phone call some seven years ago. Give us an idea of what that was like to know that your child was in harm's way.

HAAS: Well, you know, it's just indescribable and very difficult for any parent to get any call about their child. I recall the moment that my phone rang and I answered it. Emily said, hi, mommy, I've been shot. It sent my family down a path of recovery that we're still on today. It's thinking about the families whose loved ones were killed is just horrific.

I recall so much pain and devastation witnessing from a front row seat that pain and devastation. I thank God every day that Emily is OK, but it is not the same for many, many families across America every day.

PEREIRA: And a tremendous amount of helplessness I can imagine. That must be so infuriating as a parent.

HAAS: I would imagine Mr. Martinez is in a place none of us can imagine. We cannot -- we can sympathize and lend compassion and prayers and support, but we can't know his pain. No one can know his pain. And it is a sad, sad state of affairs in America when we cannot live free from gun violence. We all deserve to be free from gun violence and there's more we can do and should do.

PEREIRA: Your daughter's survival prompted you to get involved, to take action and you have been doing a tremendous amount of work. You have been involved with the Brady Campaign. You have been involved with the Virginia Center for Public Safety, all sorts of programs. Does it infuriate you, frustrate you, how does it make you feel when you see another event like this happen yet all of this work is being done?

HAAS: It is beyond frustrating. I will admit it's difficult and it's just brings out an emotion of such regret and sorrow for these families that have to go through this over and over and over again when we have some tools that we can give to the treating community who treat persons with mental illness, we can give some tools to our law enforcement and to our families. When families have someone in crisis, there are things that they should be able to do to find solutions and find help.

PEREIRA: We were talking about that earlier with some medical professionals about the need to have legislation in place to help the mentally ill, but also to have the support for parents because we saw how this family, they had concerns, they went to get help, but there was a missing link that could have prevented this from happening. We as a society need to look at this differently, do we not?

HAAS: We do. But we have some solutions on the table right now. The consortium for evidence-based firearms policy released two reports in December, one at the state level and one at the federal level, both of them suggested that the threshold for removing firearms from a person suffering from mental illness currently -- under current law, is commitment. That threshold is probably too high for persons who are suffering and for families in crisis. We know and we suggest that, if you looked at a policy to consider gun violence restraining orders, much like --

PEREIRA: Like a domestic restraining order.

HAAS: Yes, much like protective orders that persons in crisis in a domestic violence situation have available to them, let's give that tool to families in crisis. They could petition the court, have the firearms removed temporarily, mind you, until this person is evaluated and the situation is assessed and a treatment plan is determined. Hindsight is always 20/20.

But let's give persons and families and physicians and mental health treatment providers tools to deal with people in crisis. Let's not wait for the threshold of commitment which is high in this country. Let's give them tools now so we can temporarily prohibit persons suffering from having access or possession of firearms.

We can do that in this country. It is a tool that is on the table right now that we are hoping legislators and families and persons in authority will look at and consider this tool.

PEREIRA: Lori Haas, we want to thank you for speaking with us. We know your heart and our hearts are with the parents of the children who lost children in Santa Barbara. We hope those injured recover well and are strong and happy and thriving as your Emily is now. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Keep doing good work.

HAAS: Thank you for having me.


BERMAN: Thanks, Michaela. Next up on NEW DAY, CNN's own Jake Tapper sits down with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and asks about the VA scandal. The secretary says the controversy makes him, quote, "sick to his stomach," but does he think that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should be shouldering the blame. Jake Tapper joins us here on NEW DAY.

A quick programming note, next Thursday on CNN, we're premiering a new series from Tom Hanks and Gary Getsman "The 60s." It changed the world from the space race to the cold war, free love, civil rights and so much more. Be sure to watch or set your DVR for your premier of "The 60s" next Thursday night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.



MARTINEZ: Why wasn't something done? It's outrageous.


PEREIRA: Breaking overnight, we now know all six victims of the Santa Barbara shooting were college students. One of the fathers is speaking out to CNN. His powerful message to the country.

BERMAN: Warning signs, new details on the killer's troubled past and his parents' desperate attempts to find him before he began his rampage? Should something have been done earlier?

PEREIRA: One on one, our Jake Tapper interviews Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on this Memorial Day. Does he think enough is being done to help veterans? Your NEW DAY starts right now.

Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Monday, the 26th of Monday. It is Memorial Day. It's 8:00 in the east. You can tell Chris and Kate are off today, but my friend, John Berman is here. I'm glad you're here with us today on this Monday.

This morning the Santa Barbara community is at a complete loss to explain another incident of mass violence in the United States. In a 137-page explanation or manifesto, 22-year-old killer, Elliot Rodger said troubles with him is what sent him over the edge. Six college students are dead, 13 others wounded.

We begin our coverage this morning with Sara Sidner. She is in Santa Barbara, California -- Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, look, we also know that the killer basically used whatever he could to try and take revenge on society, stabbing, shooting, running people down with his car. We also know the names now of the six victims. All six of them, we now know all of them were between the ages of 19 and 20 just trying to start their lives.


UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Shots fired, shots fired.

SIDNER (voice-over): All six victims in Elliot Rodger's killing campaign have been identified. Rodger's roommates, 20-year-old Cheng Hong and 19-year-old George Chen found dead with multiple stab wounds inside the gunman's Isla Vista apartment along with 20-year-old Weihan Wang.