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Documentary Relates Albanian Acceptance of Jewish Refugees During Nazi Rise in Germany; Dodgers Pitcher Don Newcombe Honored with Major League Baseball's Beacon of Hope Award. Critic Grae Drake Previews New Movies; Diana Nyad to Attempt Swim from Cuba to Florida; Louisiana Shooters Linked to Sovereign Citizens; Assange Appearance; Syrian VP Absent in Services
Aired August 19, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome to the "Newsroom."
New details are surfacing today concerning a shooting out in Louisiana that left two deputies dead. At least some of the seven people arrested last week may be linked to a violent group that is on the FBI's domestic terrorism list. Susan Candiotti is following this new development, joining us right now from New York. Susan, what more can you tell us?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. Well, I talked with two law enforcement sources who tell me some of the suspects in the case may have ties to an anti-government group called sovereign citizens. Now this is a group that is on the FBI's domestic terror list. They generally don't recognize the authority of police officers and have been known to use violence. Now seven people are charged in last Thursday's shooting of four deputies outside of New Orleans. Two deputies were killed and two were wounded.
A sheriff in another part of Louisiana tells me they had a file on all but one of these suspects that was later arrested. About two months ago they set up a surveillance on the group for about a week. They had information that the men had AK-47s and a lot of ammunition in their trailer. Now authorities say that they saw only women, none of the men and that the group had moved out of state so they weren't able to move in on them. Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And what more are we learning about the suspects?
CANDIOTTI: Well, one of the suspects, Terry Lin Smith (ph) has a Facebook page. It includes a photo of Smith holding a gun. Now under the photo, he appears to comment "Don't move hater, my finger is on the trigger." It is unclear what hater is referring to.
Under political views it is listed independent citizens whose mission is to give government back to the people. Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle (ph) tells me that he believes that the group is linked to Sovereign Citizens. Our law enforcement sources all agree it is too early to fully link the deputies shootings to the Sovereign Citizens extremist group. Now Smithson also charged in the case has a Facebook page as well. In it he has pictures where he is also posing with weapons including what appears to be an assault weapon. He is alleged to be the shooter in the first incident where a deputy was wounded. And when police tracked the group to a mobile home park three more deputies were shot and two of them died. Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Susan Candiotti, thanks so much for bringing us those details.
All right. And now to the standoff between British police and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange made a dramatic move today stepping out on to a balcony of Ecuador's embassy in London. His first public appearance in months. British authorities and a crowd of supporters watched as Assange delivered a blunt message to the U.S..
CNN's Atika Shubert was there.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it has been two months since Julian Assange sought refuge in the embassy of Ecuador and almost two years since two women in Sweden brought allegations of sex crimes against him. That's why Sweden wants him extradited and what Julian Assange is fighting against. But today Assange addressed his supporters from that balcony still a protected part of the embassy of Ecuador where he now has been granted asylum. Scores of his supporters came out to hear him while British police stood guard. He told supporters his fight was purely political.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER WIKILEAKS: There is unity in oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response. I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its wish against WikiLeaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: That's not how Britain and Sweden see it. They say this is purely a criminal investigation and that he is running from the law. And that if he steps outside that door British authorities will arrest him and have him extradited for questioning to Sweden. That's why his supporters are outside here keeping vigil. But no matter how many colorful protests, how many rallies and speeches Julian Assange so far is going nowhere. He is still stuck inside the embassy of Ecuador. Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Atika Shubert there in London.
In eastern Afghanistan NATO says three international service members were killed in improvised explosive device attacks. NATO isn't giving out any other details right now. The attack comes during a major Muslim holiday and at a critical time for the United States as it prepares to withdraw troops by the end of 2014.
In Syria President Bashar al Assad attended Eid prayers marking the end of Ramadan. But the vice president was noticeably absent. Rebels say he has defected. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has details.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): So what we can learn from this, the fact the vice president wasn't there at this important prayer service is that the government has been lying. They've been saying that he has his job. He has no intentions to defect, yet now we see if the situation was normal he would have been there with the president, with the other government officials and he wasn't.
It doesn't mean we know where he is however. What rebels are telling us is that the commanders have been trying to get him out of the country lost communications with him and they don't know exactly where the vice president is. He is trying to get out of the country to Jordan. They say he's been trying to get out for the past week. They are concerned, they say, that if his family is captured then he may be forced into surrendering. But no indication of that so far. But these pictures, these images of President Bashar al Assad appearing at this tiny mosque close to his presidential palace tell us quite a lot. I mean this is a rare appearance by him in the first place. We haven't seen him for a month. Normally he would attend these important Eid Al Fitr prayers at the Omayad (ph) mosque in the center of Damascus. He has chosen to go to a tiny mosque close to the presidential palace. It clearly gives the impression that he doesn't want to drive into the center of the capital, somewhere where he would normally feel safe to do so. He doesn't appear to feel that safe now. His political world is shrinking. Not just this physical world.
The vice president is not there. The prime minister sitting there with him was the only appointed a couple of weeks ago. Just Saturday he changed his health minister, the minister for industry and the Justice minister and the governor of Aleppo, all important positions right now. So it does appear that his support for him is crumbling.
Elsewhere in Syria across the day, the death count seemed lower than normal. There were plenty of anti-Assad protests. Some protests in the city of Hama, for example. People chanting against Bashar al Assad as they would normally do, it becomes typical on Fridays. Also waving their shoes in the air to insult the president. The death toll on this day that is normally a day of celebration generally lower than it has been over the previous days.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
WHITFIELD: And now to the extreme fire danger across several western states today. This map showing red flag warnings and in fact right now there in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Washington. These are the latest pictures out of Utah where a new wildfire ignited just as fire crews contained two other fires that were started by lightning. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect today in several western communities threatened by wildfire. It is a dilemma some on Medicaid face either having less access to a doctor or being turned away all together. But will this change under the Affordable Care Act?
WHITFIELD: A new study shows nearly 1/3 of doctors would not accept new Medicaid patients last year. So as Medicaid coverage expands under the Affordable Care Act might that change? Athena Jones reports.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. Dr. Bone's office.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The work day begins early at the Maryland office of Dr. George Bone.
DR. GEORGE BONE, INTERNIST: That tingling in the hands and the buzzing in your ear. How long have you had that?
JONES: Dr. Bone is the only physician in an office serving about 6,000 patients. But only about 60 of them are covered by Medicaid. The government health insurance program for low income families. The reason is economics.
BONE: Primary care is a mix of compassion and economics. You have to pay a rent. We have to pay electricity. We have to pay the staff. And I have to take something home to my family. It is basically trying to run a business. If the economics are not right the economics are not right.
JONES: While the amount Medicaid pays doctors varies by state it is often much lower than what doctors get from Medicare or private insurers. Those lower payments can translate into less access. According to a new study 96 percent of doctors accepted new patients last year but nearly a third were unwilling to accept new Medicaid patients while less than 20 percent turned away patients with Medicare or private insurance.
Acceptance rates for new Medicaid patients were higher in states where payments were higher. The new health care law will raise Medicaid payments to primary care doctors making it an equal to Medicare payments in 2013 and 2014.
JACK HOADLEY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HEALTH POLICY INSTITUTE: What we're going to see we hope with this higher payment rate is that doctors will be more willing to take these people with new Medicaid coverage and see them in their offices and provide them primary care services, rather than expect those people to end up in an emergency room to get care.
JONES: But what happens after 2014?
HOADLEY: We will see whether states are willing to (INAUDIBLE) whether the federal government can step in and say if it was a good idea. We're going to put more federal money up to insure that it continues to have more years.
JONES: As for Dr. Bone, he plans to take new Medicaid patients next year. But just how many is impossible to say.
WHITFIELD: All right. Athena Jones joining us live now from Washington. So Athena, you know, why did the CDC and Medicaid officials say the study's results may be of limited value? What does that mean?
JONES: Well, Fredricka, they say this study just looked at this one year, 2011. They say it is helpful but it is not necessarily going to be predictive because that one year 2011 they say is a year that many states face some difficult budgetary issues, budgetary shortfalls and may have led them to cut the rate of payment to these doctors accepting Medicaid coverage. And so they say another study, deeper study looking at a full range of factors and policies is going to be necessary to really get a sense of what access to doctors for Medicaid patients will look like in 2014 and beyond that. Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Athena Jones in Washington. Thanks so much.
WHITFIELD: All right. You still have time for a summer get away whether you want to hang out where the stars do in Hollywood or check out some great music in Memphis. We got tips for you for labor day vacation.
And if you have to go out today just a reminder you can continue watching CNN from your mobile phone. You can also watch CNN live from your laptop. Just go to CNN.com/tv.
WHITFIELD: All right. For just the second time in 131 years, the U.S. Constitution sailed under its own power. It commemorated the battle that won it the famous nickname, old Iron Side and it sailed around the Boston harbor for about just 10 minutes. The last time the Constitution went to sea was on its 200th birthday in 1997.
All right. Summer is just about over. Can you believe it? Still a little bit of time to plan a labor day get away. Boston is among the places being recommended of experts at jetsetter.com to help us.
All right. JD Rinne of jetsetter.com is here to help us plan the rest of our summer, the beginning of fall perhaps. Let's begin with Boston. It is a fantastic destination any time of the year. You always learn a lot about history.
JD RINNE, JETSETTER.COM: You do and you know, labor day is a great time to get a little patriotic and head on to Boston to learn that history especially on the Freedom Trail, which is 2.5 mile trail throughout the city. You can see 16 historical sites while you're on that trail. The Paul Revere house is one. It is the oldest building in Boston. You can see the USS Constitution which saw action in the war of 1812 and then the Ben Franklin statue. Now if you are more of a tour person they have a new tour called Patriots and Pirates. You can see the harbor where the tea went right into the water.
WHITFIELD: Fun. And then you can't be in Boston and not enjoy incredible food.
RINNE: Absolutely. So you can't leave without trying the clam chowder. A favorite is Ned Divine's. And it's actually just won the best clam chowder in the city from "Boston Magazine" so don't leave without trying that.
WHITFIELD: And then a little bit of music too?
RINNE: Oh, absolutely. So if you head to the Beehive, they have jazz and blues all labor day weekend. So you can get some of that great local flavor.
WHITFIELD: And your favorite place to stay while in Boston?
RINNE: It's the Fairmont Battery Wharf. It's a beautiful hotel right on the wharf there. You can have water view. You are within walking distance of all the best stuff and it starts at just $269 for labor day.
WHITFIELD: OK. Let's head up to the west coast, Los Angeles. We always like to travel by way of our stomachs. So why not go to a big food and wine event happening labor day weekend. Tell me about it.
RINNE: Yes, this labor day in L.A. is the taste, and this is an amazing event with tons of celebrity chefs including Thomas Keller from the French Laundry. Now while you are here it is a three-day event and you can try food from 40 area restaurants. You can really taste all the best of California has to offer. And while you're here, you should stay in West Hollywood where you're centrally located. We've got a greet hotel on deck that are called The Sunset Marquee. This is a beautiful property with actually kind of musical pedigree. Mary J. Blige and her daughter both recorded in the basement studio and the Who and Jimmy Hendricks have both been guests there. So it starts at $285 a night.
WHITFIELD: Oh that sounds like a divine place to be. All right. Now let's go to Memphis. I think of Memphis and I think immediately of barbecue and of course music. At least tell us about music taking place there that's free, right?
RINNE: Absolutely. So this free festival over labor day is the Music and Heritage Festival. This is actually the 25th anniversary of this festival. You know they got it right. You can see tons of music on five stages including rock, gospel and of course the blues. You can't visit Memphis without hearing the blues. Again, this is a free festival and it's a family friendly environment. So great one for the kids.
WHITFIELD: And a favorite place to stay is actually one of my favorite places to stay there too, the Madison. RINNE: Yes, the Madison, a lovely hotel, right on Beal Street which is of course, Memphis's most famous street and it's right on the river. So you can have great river views, starts at a very affordable $182 a night.
WHITFIELD: Fantastic. JD Rinne, all right. We are capping off our summer perhaps even beginning our fall the right way.
RINNE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Good to see you.
Remember you can get all kinds of travel tips and ideas from the folks at Jet setter. Just head to jetsetter.com/cnn.
All right. On the campaign trail, a war of words over Medicare.
WHITFIELD: All right. In the battle for the White House Medicare is taking center stage. Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan took his message on Medicare straight to senior voters in Florida.
He attended a rally in the Villages community with his mother, retiree, who lives part-time in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We think the best way to save Medicare is to empower 50 million seniors, not 15 unelected bureaucrats to make their decisions on how they get their health care.
Mitt Romney and I will protect and strengthen Medicare so that the promises that were made that people organized their retirements around like my mom will be promises that are kept.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: President Obama's campaign is firing back this weekend at a rally in New Hampshire. The president described his changes to Medicare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since I have been in office I have strengthened Medicare. I have made reforms that have extended the life of the program that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs. The only changes to your benefits that I have made on Medicare is that Medicare now covers new preventive services like cancer screenings and wellness visits for free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN senior political analyst David Gergen joining me now from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Good to see you, David.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: I wonder is Medicare going to be the Republicans kind of Achilles heel or are Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan making their case to kind of better clarify their plan or approach?
GERGEN: Too early to tell. Both sides are stirring up a lot of dust and we are not going to know for sure who has won the argument until the dust settles. There's no question, Fredricka that in the past the Democrats have held the upper hand on Medicare and any time the Republicans start talking about messing around with it, changing the formula and now partially privatizing. That would work very much in the Democrats favor. That's why it's such a risk.
But k, times have changed. Americans know that these entitlement programs, social security, Medicare, you can't keep them the way they are, that they've got to be changed. They are more open to arguments. Whether the Republicans can win the argument or not I don't know we know. But I do think there is an interesting poll out of Florida which suggests how much times have changes.. It is a poll that asked Floridians are you more scared of Obamacare or of the Ryan plan on Medicare?
And you know what? People said they are more scared of Obamacare. And that was especially true by 20 points among seniors. Now, again, I think it is just one poll. It is one straw in the wind. But this makes it a very, very interesting race and one of the most important elections we have had in a long time.
WHITFIELD: Well, then given that kind of information you have to wonder to whose benefit it will be that there is a prolonged debate about Medicare. Will that be the Obama camp or will that be the Romney camp?
GERGEN: Well, its - let's put it this way. If the Obama camp wins this argument and really moves seniors in their direction ball game over. They'll win the election. So the Romney camp has a lot riding on it. Both sides have a lot riding on it.
But there is one other element about this that I do think may help President Obama and that is this conversation about Medicare is squeezing out the jobs conversation. And it's making it more about a choice about the future of health care. The Republicans originally wanted to run this as a referendum on Obama and jobs in the first four years. And they thought they had the upper hand on this. On Medicare they are going to have to fight and that is what they are doing. They are putting one heck of a fight and they may win it. But it is a risk here.
WHITFIELD: Meantime, let's talk about the - you know, the climate. One week after Mitt Romney announces his running mate, the reception of, you know, Ryan apparently according to the "USA Today" reporting this has been the worst reception since Dan Quail's announcement of being a running mate. And you know, it's really interesting because a week after words like bold and energized were used to describe Ryan as Romney's pick now suddenly that momentum has dropped?
GERGEN: I don't see that. I'm sorry to disagree with "USA Today." But I think both sides, there were very few undecided voters. No matter who you chose, you're not going to get much of a bounce. Ordinarily you get about a four or five point bounce out of your vice presidential pick in the year going. The Ryan bounce has been smaller. It has been a couple of percent or so, maybe even less in national polls.
But here is - Fred, if I may call you that as your friends do - (INAUDIBLE) so the point is this. There are some intangibles that the polls are not picking up on. One is this has energized the Republican base. The winner of the elections is going to be the one who can turn out the voters on their side. People come out to vote. And this has energized the republican base. People who get convinced by the arguments and then come out to vote. And this has energized the Republican base. It has put a new spring in Mitt Romney's step. He after all was not running, he was drifting in his campaign before this.
I do think it introduces an electricity before the Republican convention that is good for Republicans. There will be a lot of people tuning in to watch Chris Christie, for example, on opening night. I hope they'll come to CNN to watch it. But we're going to - you know, it's going to be a slam bang convention.
And the Democrats are likely to try to follow suit with that. This is I think going to bring this election has suddenly got a lot more energized and a lot more interesting and I think in the long run having them election about big ideas, is healthy because it does send a message to Washington, we want to go for smaller government or we want to go for government that is the kind that Barack Obama envisions which is more compassionate and that sort of thing. That is an important choice; we don't get these kind of clear choices very often.
WHITFIELD: All right. Just over a week away from the first convention. We will be all be watching and watching you and listening to you. David Gergen thanks so much.
GERGEN: Fred thanks.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.
GERGEN: All right. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: All right. It is a little known story in World War II. Thousands of Jews were given safe passage into mostly Muslim Albania. Well we will meet a woman who reflects on being saved.
WHITFIELD: During the rise of the Nazi's many countries across Europe close their borders to Jews trying to escape persecution. Not Albania, that country which is predominantly Muslim actually opened its borders to any Jews who arrived. A new documentary called "Besa: The Promise" profiles this part of history. Earlier I spoke to Johanna Neumann who escaped to Albania with her family and producer Christine Romero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE ROMERO, PRODUCER, "BESA: THE PROMISE:" We chose to follow the story of a man whose father rescued a Jewish family. And they left behind a set of Hebrew prayer books. It was the father's promise to return the Hebrew prayer books. Then nearly 50 years of communism cut off Albania from the outside world. So the father passed away before he could return the books, the family never came back for the books so it became his son's promise, his Besa to the Albania word and that is the Besa that Albania's gave to Jews during the Holocaust, the promise to protect them, this promise that he must fulfill.
WHITFIELD: Johanna, was this difficult for you to do? I mean you were very young when your family along with another family fled Germany. What was your understanding at the time about what was happening? And perhaps how did that evolve or change over the years as you grew older, got a more clear understanding of all that took place?
JOHANNA NEUMANN, HOLOCHUST SURVIVOR: Well, this actually quite simple even though I was only eight years old at the time when we left Germany, it was all around you. You knew that you were being persecuted. You couldn't go to a playground anymore. You could not sit on a bench in the park. Every place you went was written Jews are not allowed. I do remember my parents despite it all taking me for my seventh birthday which was in December of 1937, already then taking me to the theater which even then was a dangerous task to do. So it was all around you. You knew that this is what was going on.
WHITFIELD: Johanna you mentioned that the fear never leaves your life. So when you are recalling your memories for this film, did you have those feelings of fear that would return?
NEUMANN: I do want to emphasize the fact that any Albanian or anybody for that matter who was caught by the Germans hiding a Jew, his life and the life of his family and possibly the whole village was at stake. That they did that was incredible. It cannot be emphasized enough what these Albanian people did. Besa is certainly part of their culture and it comes from the moral dictate. That is how they live.
And as I have mentioned when I spoke to a high school group in Germany, here was a rather illiterate country, high percentage of illiteracy who were able to rise to a very high moral standard and compare that to a supposedly very intellectual and progressive Germany who was able to stoop to the lowest level of humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And you can find screenings for "Besa" at Besathepromise.com and check out our "Belief Blog" at CNN.com/belief for more stories about faith.
All right. He is a legend, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe honored with major league baseball's Beacon of Hope Award. He joins me to talk about playing with Jackie Robinson and advice for today's players. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Major league baseball hosted its sixth annual Civil Rights game in Atlanta this weekend. The Los Angles Dodgers beat the Braves 6-2. Among those honored a Brooklyn Dodgers legend Don Newcombe given the Beacon of Hope Award. I talked to him about his career and hopes for today's baseball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Good to see you.
DON NEWCOMBE, DODGERS PITCHING LEGEND: Thank you Fredrikca. It's nice to see you.
WHITFIELD: What a great honor. So you, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella all playing together, you know back in the day. If you were to impart some of the lessons learned to some of today's players what would they be?
NEWCOMBE: One that change could take place if somebody had the back bone to get it started. We had a man by the name Rich Hall (ph) who owned the Dodgers at that time. He said it is time and I got to meet my god one day. He made it happen. And he signed Jackie, he signed Roy and he signed me and he said you men will do it. I get no help from the other major league owners; we will do it by ourselves.
WHITFIELD: This was the love of the game. Is that what fuelled you to be the great player that you have been? The great pitcher.
NEWCOMBE: It was a great job to have. We thought it could turn out to be. We didn't make a lot of money. I think the minimum salary at that time for a rookie getting in the one of the big league was $5,000. Now it is $500,000 so big changes has been made.
WHITFIELD: What is that like to you? I mean the incentive I guess for a lot of young players today, money, and great. Hopefully the love of the game is there. But it was the flip side for you as you just explained.
NEWCOMBE: Well we had somebody in mind we had to do, Jackie, Roy and I, it was to change baseball. And we were veterans in getting all of this to happen Civil Rights Movement was moving along. It was too slow for a lot of people. We did hurry it up a lot. We did our job a whole lot and we did our job and we made it happen.
WHITFIELD: And you have worked hard over the years to really inspire, get young people involved in the game. Are you happy with those efforts? You know, do you see that there are a lot of kids who are interested in baseball or does it disappoint you that so many schools have eliminated baseball programs because they don't have the funding for it and maybe there isn't the interest that there once was.
NEWCOMBE: Well back then all we had was Negro leagues and if you were lucky to get a chance to play in the Negro leagues you went from there and you were lucky if you got the chance. Jackie, Kansas City and Roy in Baltimore. We became the veterans and we became the wherewithal to make it happen. We were very happy that we were selected.
WHITFIELD: You are going to be given this Beacon of Hope Award during the Civil Rights Game. What does this mean to you?
NEWCOMBE: Well it is a great thrill and a great honor. And I just bless god and god blessed me. We got together and said let's do it together, me and god. And we accepted the award. My wife got in touch with some people and they put it together. There were people I think Frank Robinson with the Commission Office has something to do with it. We got it together and here I am. I am going to be fortunate enough to accept it.
WHITFIELD: But you are no stranger to awards, Cy Young Award, MVP. I mean the list goes on. Where does this stack up when you look at the legacy of your career and being recognized as a real trailblazer?
NEWCOMBE: Well it is always great to be the first. I was the first to win the Cy Young Award. I was the only one in 55 years Fredricka, to win the rookie of the year and the Cy Young Award. Nobody did that until Justin Verlander with the Tigers, he won it in his career last year and he won the Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award and the Rookie of the Year Award in 2006. So now he is a member of my team. So there is two of us now, I have over 55 years and I am proud of it.
WHITFIELD: Wow. Congratulations. And you know, I just want to ask you before you leave too, what are your thoughts on Magic Johnson you know being a part owner of the Dodgers and seeing that there are a lot of celebrities whether they be in the music industry or sports that are getting a piece of ownership in sports teams?
NEWCOMBE: I am proud of him. I just get a big thrill when I heard he was going to be on the team that was going to buy the Dodgers. I was sitting there waiting for him to make it happen and he made it happen. Now he is there. I see him all the time. A wonderful person and we are looking for big wonderful things for the Dodgers and Magic Johnson. He will be a great part of it happening.
WHITFIELD: Fantastic. Don Newcombe thanks so much. An honor to meet you.
NEWCOMBE: Fredricka thanks so much.
WHITFIELD: Appreciate it. Congratulations on the award well deserved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. This is a big weekend at the box office. Which movies are worth your time and money? Critic Grae Drake is here previewing "The Expendables 2" and "Sparkle."
WHITFIELD: This weekend two highly anticipated flicks are in the theaters. Our favorite movie critic Grae Drake paid us a visit here in Atlanta and Gray is the senior editor at the Rotten Tomatoes Review website. Here are her takes on the "Expendables 2" and "Sparkle."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Let's begin first with should we talk about "Expendables 2", what's this all about?
GRAE DRAKE, SENIOR EDITOR, ROTTEN TOMATOES: Sylvester Stallone and the guys are back. This is every action star you have ever wanted to see in a film together. So this is the second one in the series.
WHITFIELD: I thought it was going to be an animated film special. I got it all wrong.
DRAKE: It is so far from animated your head is going to blow up with the magnificence of this movie.
DRAKE: Sylvester Stallone, Jean Van Damme, all of these guys are in one film. And the simple, simple plot of the film is that Bruce Willis offers them a job. It turns out to be harder than they imagined. Boom Sylvester Stallone ends up punching Jean Van Damme in the face.
WHITFIELD: Great names. Jean Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, wow.
DRAKE: And on the tomato meter over at Rotten Tomatoes we -- you learn more about this later but we get all the reviews together that all the critics have put together and we give them a score. "Expendables" is fresh at 65 percent. Now that means 65 percent of the critics liked it.
WHITFIELD: Oh wow.
DRAKE: I am with them. I think the movie--it sort of feels a little bit like it was written by a dude who has gotten hit in the head too much.
WHITFIELD: Well you look at all this action here; this is a dude's movie all the way.
DRAKE: Sylvester Stallone is partially responsible.
WHITFIELD: Bruce Willis you know.
DRAKE: Who cares about the script it is full of explosions and that is all anybody wants to see. I with the critics.
WHITFIELD: That is great. All right. Now, let's talk about the Whitney Houston's last film before her parting. Does it sparkle?
DRAKE: It absolutely does. I had so much fun watching this movie. It is for anybody who watched "Dream Girls" and thought that it had a little too much integrity. It's like "Sparkle" is soap opera dream girls. It has the rise and fall of an incredibly talented girl, her sisters, sort of like the Supremes. WHITFIELD: Jordan Sparks.
DRAKE: Exactly. And Carmine Yogo (ph) I hope I am saying her last name right, she plays the oldest sister and every single one of these girls in the film are just amazing. The music can't be beat. I loved it.
WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness.
DRAKE: I just thought this movie was fantastic. On Rotten Tomatoes 56 percent on the tomato meter. So basically what the critics are saying is that it is full of every single movie cliche that you can think of. And it is but it doesn't matter because the music is great, Jordan Sparks is great and Whitney Houston her performance --
WHITFIELD: Should we be looking at a clip?
WHITFIELD: Let's watch.
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UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: I know lord loves me and he wouldn't torture me with something I want to do.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: You figured I was wrong?
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: I thought I had a gift.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Sparkle, you can have a gift. It's how you use it.
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WHITFIELD: Interesting. I like what Jordan Sparks had said about this movie and Whitney Houston in a previous interview saying each character actually extrapolated something from different phases of Whitney Houston's life whether it was by design or by chance but effectively that happened.
DRAKE: That is probably why the movie was so interesting. Because even though it is full of cliches but still not a dull moment in it. This movie had me hook, line and sinker.
DRAKE: I loved it to pieces. I was the one in the theater that was screaming at the screen like oh no, girl, don't.
WHITFIELD: That would be me too. My husband is like we are not going to the movie together. Why are you talking to the screen? I can't help myself.
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WHITFIELD: Grae Drake, the movie reviews are at Rottentomatoes.com. Check it out.
All right. The "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" is making some changes. Even the star is taking a pay cut.
WHITFIELD: Diana Nyad is back in the water trying to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her crew says she is making good progress so far. The 62- year-old Nyad began her swim out of Savannah yesterday a day earlier than planned. She had a rough first night when she was stung by jellyfish. Nyad has made several attempts to swim across the Straits of Florida but had to abandon the trip each time.
All right. Lights out for about two dozen staffers at the "Tonight Show." Airing company NBC Universal is laying off the workers to cut costs and host Jay Leno has agreed to a pay cut to spare more people from losing their jobs. The company is hoping to improve its financial performance with the layoffs.
"The Tonight Show" may have its challenges right now but late night comedians didn't miss a beat this week when they took on the presidential campaign. Jim Acosta looked at the best of the week on "State of the Union."
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney is hoping to energize Republicans by announcing Paul Ryan as his running mate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bold, and it is so daring, I mean white, Christian and male? That is a triple not threatening to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? That guy next to Romney is not already a Romney? Are you sure that is not like Brick Romney or Chad or Fudge Romney?
NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I don't really know him well because I have never been to the Tim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is right jokes from house minority leader Nancy Pelosi. One late night comic though was not laughing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Ryan like Mitt Romney and like President Obama and Joe Biden is a good family man. We have four good family men in this presidential race. So what about me I don't need a family man I have a monologue. I need more Herman Cain's. I don't need family men. Let's get Herman Cain and let's get John Edwards back in this race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or maybe Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump says he has a big surprise in store for everyone at the Republican National Convention this year. A surprise he says people will love. Well apparently he is not going.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator John McCain said it would be wise for President Obama to drop Joe Biden from the ticket. Wait John McCain is giving advice by choosing a running mate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like Donald Trump giving advice by choosing a barber. That is like -- Speaking of the vice president, President Obama said that he is sticking with Joe Biden as his right wing even though Biden made a series of major gaps this week. Joe Biden was like this is [bleep] great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was so hot that it killed Biden by putting his foot in his mouth just to cool it off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama called Mitt Romney and asked Mitt if he would fire Biden. True story. Makes you wonder why anyone would ever run for president. It's the worst job in the world and you have to run. You have to beat yourself up before you get in to take over the worst job in the world. Would you be surprised if nobody ran for president? No I wouldn't be surprised. Sorry I got a gig at Dairy Queen. That's where I will be.
I'm not running for nothing.
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WHITFIELD: The late night comics will have a whole new week of material straight ahead. President Obama heading to Iowa while Mitt Romney swings through the southeast.