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CDC Chief To Answer For Dangerous Mix-Ups; Sugar Daddies, Sugar Babies Connect On Web; Comcast Cancellation Nightmare

Aired July 16, 2014 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Soon your names will be famous, I'm sure and thank you so much for joining me this morning. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

Happening now in the NEWSROOM, boiling point. Immigration lines drawn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not born here. Go back to Mexico.


COSTELLO: Where will buses of immigrant children go?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People want a cease fire. They want calm but at this point, it doesn't look like it's going to happen.


COSTELLO: People in Gaza saying they want to live after a ceasefire collapses. We'll take you to the front lines.

Busting into a car with a hammer to save two children. Why does this keep happening?

And the Google exec, a hooker and a heroin overdose. Alex Tickleman in court today. We'll take you inside the "Sugar Daddy" web site she used to meet the man she is accused of killing.

Let's talk live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me. We start this hour on Capitol Hill and the potential for two bomb shell hearings this hour, has the Department of Veteran Affairs made any progress in reducing its backlog. First up, lost anthrax, deadly germs kept in baggies, mishandled bird flu, the CDC chief appears before a House committee to answer questions about why that's happening.

Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He is live in New York. Sanjay, I know you'll be following this hearing. This isn't the first time we've heard from the CDC director about these egregious lapses. Listen to what he said last week.


DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Our laboratories are core to our ability to protect Americans. Our laboratories are the reason we are the gold standard for not just infectious diseases, but environmental health as well and for this to happen and put our workers potentially at risk is totally unacceptable. So I'm upset, I'm angry, I've lost sleep over it and I'm working around the clock to make sure we do everything possible to resolve it.


COSTELLO: Sanjay, he says he's losing sleep over it, but is that going to be contrite enough for this House panel?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be fiery. No question. A lot of people have pointed to several incidents over the last few weeks that have come to the surface, but there have been concerns for some time. Reports from the inspector general about some lax safety standards at the Centers for Disease Control and it goes without saying this is what they do. They are supposed to be the best in the world at this as the director just said there.

I'll point out that one of lapses regarding the flu virus recently, Carol, where they actually sent out a potentially virulent, very deadly strain of flu thinking that it was garden variety flu. They sent this out and luckily someone detected it. Had that not been detected, that could have caused a serious problem certainly to chickens where it was being tested, but also possibly to humans.

So these are really serious problems and potentially deadly problems and the director is going to have a lot of questions to answer.

COSTELLO: I want to go through some of these lab incidents outlined in this congressional report, missing anthrax, improper storage of anthrax, ziplock bags holding dangerous materials, expired disinfectants. Did the higher ups at the CDC really not know at all what was going on, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, they say with regard to some of these most recent incidents, they didn't know despite the fact that it had been documented within the organization itself. They say, for example, with regard to that flu virus that it didn't reach the executive leadership until just recently. I'll point out some of the reports, Carol, as well.

There's concern with these scientists, they work with these deadly pathogens all the time. This is what they do for a living. Could they have become a little bit careless as a result and that's going to be one of the questions that comes up. Not locking refrigerators, not using proper storage techniques.

Banking on the odds that nothing bad was going to happen. But when these things come to light, you see just how narrow the misses have been with some of these potentially deadly problems.

COSTELLO: Sanjay, I know you'll be monitoring this hearing throughout the morning. I'll talk to you again if there any good developments. Thanks so much.

Also new this morning, Time Warner, the parent company of CNN rebuffing a multi-billion dollar takeover bid from Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch owns media powerhouses like 21st Century Fox as well as networks like Fox News. CNN Money's Cristina Alesci is following the story for us. Good morning, Cristina.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. We do have some new details around the back and forth that happened last month. Look from Time Warner's standpoint, there are three main things that they are questioning right now. The major one is Time Warner's position is it can generate more value for shareholders executing a strategic plan that it will release in the next week or so.

Time Warner's position is also the board is against this deal so if Murdock wants to happen it may have to go hostile which, has its own complications. Hostile deals are not easy to pull off. Murdoch really hasn't had a track record getting hostile deals done. Also if you think about the regulatory risks here.

Yes, of course, there are discussions that potentially Fox proposed divesting CNN to appease regulators, but you do have another regulatory concern on the studio side. And whether or not regulators would sign off on two major studios coming together because both of these companies have major studios.

COSTELLO: All right, Cristina Alesci, I know you are monitoring the situation and we'll check back if you have new stuff to pass along. Thanks so much. NEWSROOM is back in a minute.


COSTELLO: The fight over illegal immigration is quickly turning into a spectacle. You need look no further than Oracle, Arizona. That's what it looked like yesterday. Protesters and counter-protesters all lining the streets to yell at each other while waiting for a bus full of undocumented children to arrive, except that the bus did not show up. Not only that, it turned to a photo-op gone back for a politician running for Congress. Brahm Resnix from affiliate, KPNX, has more.

BRAHM RESNIX, REPORTER, KPNX: Republican Adam Kwasman was in Oracle this morning to protest the bussing of migrants to the shelter. He told me later in the day that he saw the buses and he saw the fear on faces of young migrants. I had to tell them there was no fear on any faces and there were no migrants. Those were YMCA campers he saw.


RESNIX (voice-over): Adam Kwasman was making a speech -- but then the Republican congressional candidate suddenly stopped, he got word a bus was heading down the road and took off for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything else. Thank you.

RESNIX: It's what Kwasman and the Oracle protesters were waiting for, a confrontation with a bus full of migrant children. Kwasman tweeted from the scene. Bus coming in. He included the photo of a yellow school bus.

ADAM KWASMAN (R), ARIZONA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I was actually able to see the children on the buses and the fear on their faces, this is not compassion.

RESNIX: That fear on the faces of migrant children, Kwasman told me he saw on Oracle. Those were not migrant children on the yellow school bus. They were YMCA campers from the Marana School District.

KWASMAN: They were sad too.

RESNIX: Reporters at the scene saw the children laughing and taking pictures on their iPhones.

KWASMAN: I apologize. I was leaving when I saw them.

RESNIX: Kwasman later deleted his original tweet, but we found it on poll-it whoops, a site that captures politicians' deleted tweets. He did back flips, trying to take back the story.

KWASMAN: I said I saw children. I saw children.

RESNIX: Those weren't migrant children.

KWASMAN: Those were not migrant children. That's fine.


COSTELLO: Brahm Resnix, many thanks for that report. Joining me now, CNN correspondent, Ana Cabrera. Ana, good morning. The protests in Oracle is not the only protests across the country, right.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. We are seeing this is not just a border crisis anymore, Carol. It really is affecting people all over the country as these undocumented immigrants are now being dispersed to temporary housing facilities in several different states. So Arizona, California, we saw the protest in Murrieta.

We know they have gone to New Mexico, Nebraska, possibly Michigan, Washington State, Virginia, so that list continues to grow, what we're seeing many different communities in many states are expressing anger and frustration.

There is concern. Hearing from governors, local residents, security over health issues, over the financial burden that these undocumented immigrants could pose to these different communities, both local and state-wide governments.

Now secretary of Homeland Security, Jay Johnson, he lifted New Mexico last week and he said one of the reason they were helping temporary facilities is to help with processing the cases of illegal immigrants. They are able to keep them detained in a humane and dignified way as they go through the court system. It keeps them accountable for being there when that time does come up -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Ana Cabrera, reporting live for us this morning. Thank you.

The prostitute charged in connection with the death of a Google executive on his yacht goes back to court today. CNN's Kyung Lah is covering the case. She joins us now from Santa Cruz, California. What do we expect from today's hearing?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're expecting her to be officially arraigned. So far, Carol, she's not been officially charged and she's not entered a plea. Her name is Alex Tichelman. She's 26 years old. She is the so-called prostitute in this case. Her client, 51-year-old Forrest Hayes. Police say that she, last November, board his yacht, administered a fatal overdose of heroin and then instead of calling 911. She allowed him to die in front of her, so cold, say police, that she stepped over his body as he was dying.

So she is set this morning, Carol, to get those charges officially -- she's going to be officially arraigned on those charges, that being felony, manslaughter, prostitution and drug possession -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Kyung, this case is also exposing some, I don't know, rather creepy web sites where women are paid big dollars by older men for their company. What did you find out about those web sites?

LAH: These are web sites that are certainly growing in popularity. They claimed to have millions of users and they say that they are dating web sites. But if you look closer at them, there is certainly more than it appears.


LAH (voice-over): She's 28. Loves cooking. Sunsets, a typical online dating profile until this section.

BELLA "SUGAR BABY": Basically the allowance you are seeking. I have moderate, which is $3,000 to $5,000.

LAH: Dollars a month. You heard right, an allowance to date her. Bella, that's not her real name is paid by suitors, who list their sizable income and net worth so-called "Sugar Daddies" meaning sugar babies on the web site,

BELLA "SUGAR BABY": I'm able to live the lifestyle I want without slaving for it. I'm being taken care of by someone I truly care for and they are caring for me.

LAH: This is the same web site that police say Alex Tichelman used to meet the Google executive, Forrest Hayes. Tichelman is accused in his murder and dubbed a high end Silicon Valley call girl. Police say she was used the web site to meet her clients. The company says Tichelman was one of its users, but her profile raised no red flags.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seeking arrangement is in no way or form a prostitution or escorting service. We are a dating web site.

LAH: That's the intent of the web site insists the company. It was started in 2006 by a self-described never been kissed, MIT nerd, Brandon Wade, a former software engineer explained the concept to OUTFRONT three years ago.

BRANDON WADE, CEO, SEEKINGARRANGEMENT.COM: A sugar baby is defined as a young woman who wants to find a wealthy man to take care of them. In this case, they are sugar daddies.

LAH: Since then Wade has built a million dollar pay-for-play empire with more than 3 million members. Nearly half the women says, the company, are college students paying for the cost of their education. Critics believe the web site operates in a gray zone. The exchange of money between visitors is not clearly visible and the profiles don't necessarily solicit for sex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it makes it legal in California or any other state where prostitution is illegal. I think it makes it sticky to prosecute.

BELLA: I'm not in it for the allowance. After all we are all on this site for a reason.

LAH: In just two years, Bella has put $30,000 towards her college debt. She says she is only been intimate with two men probably fewer partners than other women her age.

(on camera): What is the difference between you and someone who is a paid escort?

BELLA: An escort gets paid to leave. I get a part of their wealth to see them again.


LAH: Bella says that the other difference is that she thinks that the web site simply is trying to match people who have similar financial outlooks and goals and needs, just like another dating web site, Carol, might attract people who have similar religious outlooks.

COSTELLO: I get part of their wealth to stay, to see them again. I get -- what? I knew you wouldn't answer me.

LAH: That's her outlook.

COSTELLO: That's really sad, actually. I feel sad for her. Thank you so much, Kyung Lah.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a customer tries to disconnect his service, but the Comcast rep has his own disconnect. You won't believe this.


COSTELLO: You know what a hassle it can be to cancel your cable or internet service, if you can actually stay on hold long enough to actually talk to a real human being. One Comcast customer seemed to be held against his will. This customer was trying to cut the cord. CNN's Nischelle Turner has this -- this is crazy.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMANT CORRESPONDENT: Carol, if I didn't know any better, I would think it was like a jerky boys phone call. No, this is real and I hate for people to be irritated in the middle of the day. But I'm sorry, you just got to hear it. Take a listen.


BLOCK: We'd like to disconnect please.

COMCAST: Why do you think you don't want faster speed? Help me understand why you don't want faster internet?

BLOCK: Help me understand why you can't just disconnect us?

TURNER (voice-over): It's the customer service nightmare everyone is talking about. Tech journalist, Ryan Block, calls Comcast to cancel his service, but instead of politely obliging him the customer service rep incessantly hounds him in a circular argument.

BLOCK: The way you can help me is by disconnecting our service. That's how you can help me.

COMCAST: How is that helping you though?

BLOCK: Because that's what I want.

COMCAST: OK, why is that what you want?

BLOCK: Because that's what I want.

TURNER: Block said he and his wife had already been on the phone for 10 minutes before this 8-minute recording even begins. The rep aggressively ignores Block's request, repeating questions, refusing to accept his answers.

COMCAST: I'm here. You've been a Comcast customer. Clearly the service is working great for you. You weren't having any problems. What is it that's making you want to change that?

BLOCK: Because that's what we want to do.

COMCAST: Why is that what you want to do?

BLOCK: That's none of your business. Your business is to disconnect up please.

TURNER: More than 2 minutes later, the rep still insisting on wanting to know why he was leaving the number one provider and berating him for wanting to switch.

COMCAST: So why not keep what you know works? What you know was a good service? BLOCK: Because we are not doing that so please proceed in disconnecting our service.

COMCAST: You don't want something that works.

BLOCK: No. I guess, I don't want something that works.

TURNER: Nearly 16 minutes into the call explaining that he's not trying to argue just trying to help. The rep finally concedes.

COMCAST: I'll disconnect your service. OK.

BLOCK: Fantastic.

TURNER: Edging up to the 17 minute mark and the sales pitch doesn't end there.

COMCAST: What about those services. Are you not wanting?

BLOCK: Are you done? You literally just a moment ago said that you would disconnect our service.

TURNER: Finally, 18 minutes in.

BLOCK: I'm just going to wait until you confirm that we've cancelled services. I'll hang up here.

COMCAST: You're disconnected. Thank you very much for being a great part of Comcast. Have a wonderful day.


TURNER: Have a wonderful day. Now Comcast issued a statement, Carol, and they said they are embraced. They say that they've reached out to Block and his wife to personally apologize and here's what they added, they said the way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives.

We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. I'm nervous after that. Doesn't it make you nervous? Like he's a good guy too because I don't know if I would have been that calm and patient.

COSTELLO: I was just thinking that myself. I would have gotten really angry and I would have demanded to talk to his supervisor.

TURNER: You know, my favorite part of that whole call though is at one point Ryan Block says are you kidding, is this a joke, am I being punked? Because he can't believe this guy. I listened to the whole 8 minutes yesterday and I had to have a moment after it. I can't even believe this.

COSTELLO: I can't either, but thanks for sharing. I enjoyed it. Although, I'm embarrassed to say, I'm wondering why he wanted to cancel his Comcast service. TURNER: That's a very good question.

COSTELLO: Thanks. I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. As Hamas rain down on Israel, the Israeli Air Force continues to hammer Hamas targets in Gaza. The military telling residents in three areas to evacuate ahead of targeted air strikes.