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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Rutgers Spycam Trial; Bin Laden's Bickering Wives; Toyota Recalling 680,000 Vehicles; Jeep Liberty Recall; Apple Unveils New iPad; $7 Checking Fee For Wells Fargo Customers; More People Switching To Credit Unions; Barney Frank Speaking Ban; Focus On Foster Care; Interview with Congressman Mike Rogers; NASA Astrophysicist Explains Sunspots; Clothing Company Accused of Sexism; Surgeon General: Tobacco Companies Targeting Kids

Aired March 8, 2012 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. That's from Carlos Diaz's playlist this morning. Ricky Martin, "Living La Vida Loca," which is what are doing. Let me introduce you to our panel, Jay Thomas (ph) joins. He's an actor, of course, and also a Sirius radio talk show host. Nice to have you. Good to see you, we appreciate it.

Amy Holmes. We worked together for years and years and years. She's the anchor of GBTV's "Real News." It's nice to have you, Amy. Great to see you. I like the hoodie and this morning. Eric Lamont (ph) is the host of New York One's "Inside City Hall." It's great to have you all joining me.

Let's get underway with our STARTING POINT this morning with some new satellite images show Iran trying to clean up something at a military base believed to have been a test site for explosives used to detonate a nuclear weapon. It is not exactly sure at this point what they're trying to clear up. This comes on the heels of Iran allowing U.N. inspectors to visit the base after repeatedly denying access to the same inspectors in the past. The director general of the International Atomic Agency tells Matthew Chance that he believes Iran is hiding something.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YUKIYA AMANO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Iran is not telling us everything. That is my impression. So we have to -- we are asking Iran to engage with us proactively, and Iran has a case to answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan is chairman of the House intelligence committee. It's nice to see you, sir, thank you for your time. We appreciate it. We have been talking about these satellite images that we're just getting word of. What can you tell me about these images?

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) MICHIGAN: Well, those are the satellite shots that you see are probably commercial sites, so, we have access to different kinds of materials, as you might imagine and it's clear that they were doing some activity there that they did not want the rest of the world to see, many believe and have a high degree of work that was happening at that facility was enhancing their nuclear weapons program. That is what is so disturbing. So they rejected the observers to give them time to straighten things up so when they invited them back with conditions that they could make sure that people didn't see things that they didn't want them to see.

O'BRIEN: So, do you believe that the location of the suspected nuclear testing site is, in fact, a place where there's evidence, that they're trying to remove evidence of creating a nuclear weapon?

ROGERS: I do believe with a high degree of confidence that there were activities there that were related to their nuclear weapons program. What they were is still up for some debate. But, clearly, that's one site that they were engaged in some activity. And there are several different avenues that they're pursuing all at the same time, enrichment being one, missile testing being another, and then weaponization. So, how do you get the thing to function, the nuclear bomb to function? We think some of those activities at this particular facility, enrichment at another.

O'BRIEN: So, Iran obviously has done this before, a cleanup of a site that could be contaminated with nuclear waste right before inviting inspectors to come back in. In a way, it's like a cat and mouse game. Do you think that this is, basically just another evidence of another game?

ROGERS: I do. The sanctions are starting to bite a little bit. I wish we would draw them a little tighter. There are things that we can do starting in July we can move up on the timetable and continue to put pressure on them. But they are very clever, and they understand if they can delay a little bit, they can continue to work on their program.

They look at it as their nuclear umbrella. If they can get a bomb that is developed and that can explode, they believe that they're under this nuclear umbrella. So, the debate in the intelligence community here is, when did they think that they're going to get to that point where they can actually, functionally detonate a nuclear bomb. Israel says that they think we can't wait much longer to figure that out, and the United States, well, we are having internal debates now on what the next course of action is going to be.

O'BRIEN: What do you think the next course of action can be and do you think the attack by Israel is imminent?

ROGERS: Well, I was just in Israel recently and met with all their folks over there. I came away, Soledad, with the thought that they're looking at the world in a little different way. Egypt is no longer a reliable partner. Hamas has more weapons now than it used to thanks to Iran. Hezbollah on their north is well armed with about 30,000 missiles, thanks to Iran. Iran is going nuclear, and Iran said that they want Israel to be wiped off the map. So their standard and ours are going to be a little different. So their argument is, hey, we can't let them even get into the race of trying to make that bomb explode. We have to do something sooner.

I believe that if this is going to work we have to have a credible military option. Meaning, Iran has to believe that we'll do something if they continue to pursue down this path. So continue sanctions and then show that the United States is serious when we say all options on the table. We can't say all options on the table, oh, by the way, Israel, we don't want you to do anything. That's not very credible. So we need to make our argument credible.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask a few question about Syria, if I can. We're getting word of a major defection if it is the deputy oil minister and the name is -- I'm sorry if I'm mangling that name, but basically he resigned from his position to join the opposition. First of all, can you confirm that that is actually true? And, number two, what will the implications of that be?

ROGERS: I'm not at liberty to discuss the defection just yet. But I will tell you that we had lower level defections are happening. And if this, in fact, were happening, it would be the most senior deflection yet. It just shows that there is some pressure there.

I would caution, however, that we saw lots of defections, even in Libya, even from senior military commanders. They were still able to keep their organization functioning. And Syria is in probably a better position. I think the government forces are probably more holistically loyal, some out of fear and some out of true loyalty to the regime. And they have Iran and other advisors from other countries, unfortunately, trying to keep this thing together for Assad.

So, it's good news if, in fact, that proves to be true. However, I wouldn't get too excited just yet. We've got a lot of folks who are still committed, especially in the military, about conducting acts of violence at the regime's request against its own people.

O'BRIEN: Senator John McCain and Senator Feinstein had very opposing views on what should be done next in Syria. I'll play a chunk of what they both said and I want you to comment on the other side. We'll play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: The United States cannot be the world's policeman. We still have men and women dying in Afghanistan, we're trying to get out of Iraq. We played a role in Libya. We see the Middle East exploding. The key is to get the United Nations, to pass a resolution, which enables the Arab League to go in there.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I understand the strain on the American military. I understand the sacrifices made by American families. But I also understand that the proudest part of American's history is when we have tried to help other people achieve the same goals that we so passionately articulated when we declared our independence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Who do you agree with? Who's right?

ROGERS: Well, maybe a little of both. How about that? There are issues with just going in -- I supported the president on his Libya action. This I'm a little bit concerned with in the sense that we -- they have chemical weapon stockpiles that we know of that they know we know of, the world knows about, that we haven't quite figured out. If you start to meddle in Syria, how do you make sure that doesn't fall into the wrong hands? We don't have a good handle on who the opposition is.

So if we do that, we need to walk through the series of things that we have. I argue, however, that Syria is in our national interest to have a regime change. You know, Iran used Syria through proxies in Iraq to kill as many as 600 U.S. soldiers. They introduced weapon systems and they used it to funnel proxies into Iraq to conduct operations against our U.S. soldiers. It is a proxy and a supporter of terrorism, and it's something that would benefit the world and certainly is in the national security interest of the United States to do something about.

My concern here is we need to walk before we run. There are lots of steps that we need to do and can do and are not doing in Syria that can put it in a better position to tip that regime without direct military action.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House intelligence committee. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for your time this morning.

ROGERS: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Carlos Diaz is joining us here for a couple of days from our sister network, HLN. You have a look at the headlines for us.

CARLOS DIAZ, HLN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, more Rush Limbaugh headlines this morning. We start out with Carl Levin chairman of the armed services committee calling to be taken off the armed services radio network. The network airs Limbaugh's show every day to thousands of service members stationed around the world. Limbaugh is under fire for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a slut and slut and a prostitute for advocating insurance coverage of contraceptives.

Now, Senator Levin is telling CNN he is delighted so many advertisers pulled their commercials from the Limbaugh show and he hopes people running the armed forces network will drop Limbaugh on their own.

One of the deadly tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest last week causing massive destruction was caught on camera, and the twister stayed on the ground for 95 miles as it tore through towns in Kentucky and West Virginia. Now, weather experts say it's rare that these kind of twisters touch the ground for more than a few miles.

Whitney Houston left everything to her 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina. But the singer's will does not mention specific assets. Houston's money will be put into a trust. Bobbi Kristina is 19 years old now. She'll receive part of that money when she turns 21 and more when she turns 25, and then the balance when she turns 30.

And how's this as a gift from your commander in chief? President Obama while greeting a group of wounded warriors at the White House this week signed the prosthetic arm of Marine Sergeant Carlos Evans. That's got to be pretty cool. Sergeant Evans was injured in Afghanistan. He's previously met first lady Michelle Obama at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center back in 2010.

And from moguls to modern day girdles, "Forbes" is out with its annual list of billionaires. The top dog is no surprise, Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. He retained his number one spot, worth an estimated $69 billion. And then you have Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, he came in at $61 billion. Warren Buffett is way behind with just $44 billion. He's number three. Newcomer to the list, though, Sara Blakely, she is the creator of Spanx, those slimming undergarments that women and men --

O'BRIEN: Not nodding.

DIAZ: I'm not saying who is nodding. I'm not confirming the nods, but I also can confirm that men wear these, too. I'm not saying -- but Blakely came in on the list at number 1,053. She has $1 billion.

O'BRIEN: What does that say about our great nation that she's a billionaire, the woman who makes Spanx that just basically sucks it all in.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, the earth right now, don't want to scare you, but the earth right now is being blasted by the largest solar storm in years. If you have to catch a flight or if you're on the phone or even if you just have a fridge, you might feel it today because it affects the power grid. We'll bring in the NASA scientists to talk about the possible fallout.

And our "Get Real," how do you wash these pants? Look at the label. It says "Give it to a woman because it's her job." That's what the actual label says. Happy International Women's Day, everybody.

Now we'll get right to my playlist before we go to commercial. This is Shakira. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right, James Brown starting us off this morning. See the entire playlist every morning on our Web site, CNN.com/startingpoint. You also usually can see my blog. I stayed up last night watching "Revenge." I couldn't get to my blog this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're such an underachiever, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The chaos of my life. Let's talk about solar storms this morning. Massive solar storm is hammering the earth, as we speak. Some pictures from a NASA satellite. Said to be the biggest solar flare in three years. Apparently could cause major destruction. Knocking out power grids and disrupting GPS. This morning we're going to talk to Madhulika Guhathakurta, astrophysicist and scientist at NASA's "Living with the Stars" program. So explain to me what a solar flare is. What is actually happening?

MADHULIKA GUHATHAKURTA, NASA ASTROPHYSICIST: Well, what you're seeing is really, you know, inside the sun it's like convection zone, it's like a part of boiling water. Instead of water, what we have is plasma inside and it's particles that are charged, electrons, protons, et cetera, magnetically twined. And this churning causes severe, you know, magnetic field which then starts bubbling up in the form of dark spots that are sun spots. Very often we see that on the sun.

And when you see a sun spot, you know there is an active region and a strong, magnetic field associated with it. So when the magnetic field gets really twisted and torn, they tend to disrupt, and when they disrupt they can actually produce a huge amount of energy in the form of particles blowing out like cloud of plasma. So you are essentially seeing an expulsion of matter and energy from the sun.

O'BRIEN: It sounds beautiful and complicated and scientific and I really am curious why that means my GPS gets mangled and why they have to move planes around it and why you cannot just knock out an entire power grid. This is one so big that we should expect the same thing happening as in past years where you could knock out an entire power grid?

GUHATHAKURTA: That's not necessarily true. I would say on a scale of one to five this particular storm is three. So it is, you know, moderate to severe. So, we should see some effects, but certainly not the impact but not what one would expect of a five category that we had very long time ago.

So, what does a solar storm do? It can cause three different kinds of effect on our technology. One is through geomagnetic storms, which really disturbs our power grids, et cetera, and that's a big problem. The other is radio blackout, that's the radio storm. And then the third one is radiation storm. And so you do not want to expose your astronauts outside of the protective shield of our Magnus, and if there are people flying in aircraft and high altitude, again, you can expect to see high level of radiation, especially in high latitude, northern and polar regions.

O'BRIEN: It's amazing, as you're speaking, we are showing literally the most beautiful pictures of the sun and the solar flares. It's amazing how gorgeous they are as you describe all the potential destruction down the road coming our way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a question. It sounds like this is not catastrophic, and that's good news. But if there were going to be a catastrophic event and a lot of radiation heading our way and plasma and things that would do damage, how much warning would you have? How much time would we have to prepare for it?

GUHATHAKURTA: So this is a very good question. At least through the science side we have really surrounded the sun. We have solar dynamics very capable and two spacecraft that are away from the sun. We are seeing all 360 degrees of the sun, not just the front side. So if you have it emerging on the far side, we know. So that gives us a long-term ability to forecast. OK, there is an active region, we should be watching that.

And then we have about 1.5 million miles from earth, we have a spacecraft called Explorer. What that does, that actually measures the particles that are put out through these ejections or flares.

O'BRIEN: She's saying it is going to be OK. He just calculated how much warning do I have before I need to leave?

JAY THOMAS, ACTOR: Do we enough time to call Will Smith?

GUHATHAKURTA: It's 30 minutes to an hour once you see it.

O'BRIEN: Plenty of time.

Doctor, thank you for joining us this morning. I appreciate it, thank you. Those pictures were just amazing.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, hitting the mute button on Barney Frank. What did he do to get banned from talking for an entire day?

Also, our get real this morning, cleaning instructions on these pants. It says "Give it to your woman to wash." No joke. We are listening to Amy Holmes playlist, Madonna. Four minutes, that's usually what we get.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: I like this playlist. This is off of Jay's playlist.

THOMAS: I only pick songs that my son wrote. He co-wrote "Smile" and Kenny Chesney's "somewhere with you."

O'BRIEN: Has he bought you a house?

THOMAS: No. But his musical debut is tonight. So, as long as --

O'BRIEN: What is his musical debut?

THOMAS: "Smile."

O'BRIEN: We love having him this morning from a distance. Thank you.

THOMAS: He's out there, somewhere.

O'BRIEN: Watching, I'm sure. Watching the show this morning, I'm sure. Our "Get Real" this morning is a woman's place is in the kitchen or in the laundry room. We left that back in the '50s. Have you seen this? Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You men kill me. You're all alike. You push us around but. All you do is yell and scream and give orders. You men just think that you own this world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but you women get revenge. You marry us.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: "Honeymooners." There is this British clothing company called Madhouse. Emma Barnet, who of "The Daily Telegraph," tweeted about a pair of pants that her boyfriend brought home a couple weeks ago. Right under the label, I guess they were going to throw them in the laundry or something, and it says, machine wash only, and it says, "or give it to your woman, it's her job." Yes, so, yes. So happy International Woman's Day. Did I say that already?

The company didn't quite apologize. What they said is they're not really responsible because they didn't notice the label, but it's really odd and they said it was clearly a joke.

THOMAS: What person would give laundry to a man? Nobody. No one.

O'BRIEN: What person would give laundry to someone who can't do laundry?

THOMAS: I got in trouble the other day for washing I guess towels with napkins or something because the germs from the towels could kill the family if they wipe their -- so, I don't think it's sexist at all.

O'BRIEN: But that's not a gender issue.

THOMAS: It is.

O'BRIEN: You can't do laundry.

THOMAS: Who does the laundry? I don't even know women or men if they're home, I can't guess. If it's two men, the most feminine man does the laundry.

O'BRIEN: It's not a gender issue, I would say.

(CROSSTALK)

DIAZ: Notice the two smart guys not saying a word right now.

O'BRIEN: Actually, my husband would be terrible at laundry. I wouldn't let him do it. As am I. So, I would say a trained laundry professional should handle the laundry. It's not a gender issue. And it is not a more feminine issue.

THOMAS: There's an ability, I think, just an ability for men not to know which germ, men don't know the germ --

O'BRIEN: Some men. Not you, not good at laundry. We get it.

THOMAS: You know what I do, I wash them together when she's not home, you know, just to get back at her, and then watch her wipe her mouth with something I've washed with underwear, actually.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: You're also vindictive.

We're learning so much more about you than your laundry abilities. If you want to keep listening to this conversation during our commercial break, and I'm sad if you do, you can go online to CNN.com/startingpoint and you can see the action on the blog.

THOMAS: Why do we lie to each other? Well, women are better at laundry than men. They don't let us touch the laundry. It's not a bad thing.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It's just not true.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS: Spanx do hold your stomach in, and when you take your clothes off, you look like a sausage.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Thank you, here's the music. Here we go, commercial break. We're going to talk about the surgeon general, kids and smoking after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You guys are talking over Britney Spears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No great loss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, listen. I have a love of Britney Spears.

O'BRIEN: You can check out our entire playlists online at cnn.com/startingpoint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not be told that she's not brilliant. All right, she's brilliant, Britney Spears.

O'BRIEN: She's brilliant.

OK, ahead this morning, I can see how this morning is going, 33 minutes in and we're circling the drain already this morning. OK, bipartisanship in Congress.

We're going to talk about it ahead this morning two congresswomen, opposite sides of the aisles, coming together today to talk about foster children, really serious issue.

We're going to talk to Congresswoman Karen Bass and also Michele Bachmann. They'll join us in just a little bit. First, though, we have to get to headlines. Carlos has those. Good morning again.

CARLOS DIAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'll just stick to the headlines.

O'BRIEN: Please.

DIAZ: Some serious news, former Rutgers University student, Dharun Ravi, apparently tried to make amends with his roommate, Tyler Clementi after he allegedly used a webcam to spy on Clementi's sexual encounter with another man.

Testimony at Ravi's trial revealed text messages that Ravi sent on the night that Clementi committed suicide to Clementi. Now it's not clear whether Clementi actually received them.

It wasn't all domestic bliss for Osama Bin Laden in the days before the raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that ended his life. Report says Bin Laden's final days were marked by the bickering of his three wives. The information is based apparently --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't wash my hat with the underwear. Do not wash the hat with the napkins.

DIAZ: The information is based from Bin Laden family members and the inspection of the now destroyed living quarters in the compound in Pakistan.

A huge recall from Toyota to talk about, 68,000 cars, excuse me, 680,000 cars and trucks, including Tacomas, Camries and Venzas. Toyota says the safety system in those vehicles are losing power because of bad installation and other vehicles are getting stuck while in park.

Now Chrysler is also issuing a recall, the company says salt on roadways could corrode the rear suspension of their jeep Liberty. It's recalling 200,000 models from 2004 to 2005.

The new model of iPad will be available in a week. On March 16th, but, it's getting mixed reviews. Apple unveiled the new iPad yesterday. It does not have a new name, it's just iPad, but it does features much higher resolution screen, a better camera and the ability to shoot HD video.

It also has voice recognition software, but some say the upgrades are not enough. The new models start at $499. Old iPads like iPad 2 will be discounted by $100. Let's go over to Christine now, she has today's business headlines -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carlos. Let's mind your business now. More evidence that free checking is a relic of the past.

Wells Fargo announcing a new $7 a month service fee on checking accounts in six more states. Wells Fargo stopped offering free checking for its new customers back in 2010. And now some existing customers, they've been notified that starting May 4th, they will pay for their checking account.

Banks have been adding fees to new accounts for the past couple years saying that new laws to protect consumers. Those laws make it unprofitable for them to offer free checking.

Outrage consumers are walking, walking to their nearest credit union. A record number of people now bank at credit unions. So many people dumping their bank fees it works out to an average 4,326 new members every single day joining credit unions in the last quarter of last year.

Saying with your bank, you can avoid those fees by maintaining minimum balances, direct deposit your paycheck and opening a credit card with them and banking online. You have to read the fine print.

Let's check in on the markets now. U.S. stock futures suggest stocks will open higher when the bell rings in two hours. A jobless claims report at 8:30 Eastern and the big February jobs report is out tomorrow -- Carlos.

DIAZ: All right, just like Jay, this person is finally, rarely at a loss of words. Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank was banned from speaking on the House floor.

Frank received the day-long ban for violating House rules by launching into a personal attack against a Republican colleague, Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling.

The two had been arguing about similar goals intended to make it easier for shareholders to invest in community banks. So, Barney Frank told he could not speak from the House floor today.

O'BRIEN: Which is funny --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's retiring, I guess.

O'BRIEN: He's a big talker. He is a big talker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just don't wear that jacket and the shirt, again, is all I care about.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the -- don't laugh at his --

DIAZ: I'm not encouraging him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't ironed. He didn't iron that shirt.

O'BRIEN: We have moved off of laundry, truly, definitively at 37 -- after. Moving on to foster care in this country, half a million children in this country are in foster care. The outlook is pretty bleak for these kids. A study that tracks kids in the years after they leave foster care found some really terrible things.

Number one, one in four probably don't have a high school diploma or GED, 60 percent of them if they're young men have been convicted of a crime and only about half of them were employed compared to 72 percent of their peers.

So this morning, there is a bipartisan effort in Congress to try to change some of these statistics and leading that effort is the Democratic representative of California, Karen Bass and Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

They're co-chairs of the Congressional Foster Youth Congress. It's nice to have caucus, excuse me, nice to have you both with me. Congresswoman Bachmann, if you don't mind, I'll ask you to start.

Clearly, you are a foster mother to almost two dozen kids, I believe, this is obviously linked to why you care about this issue, right?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: It is. It's very personal for me. My husband and I actually saw a couple in church that we're doing foster care and we looked at each other and thought, you know, maybe we could do that, as well.

We both had broken hearts for at-risk kids. So we took in our first child. It was a good experience. We got a call from the agency, would we take another? We did. We got a call to take another and we kept taking children.

And over the years we had 23 children and it was as much a blessing for us, if not more, than I think what we could offer to the kids, as well.

So if there are any people out there that are considering foster care, look into it. It's wonderful for everyone involved.

O'BRIEN: Congresswoman Bass, what is your connection to this?

REPRESENTATIVE KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, actually, I've been involved in the issue from a policy perspective since 1990. I formed a community organization called "Community Coalition" that was in response to the way crack cocaine was hitting so many communities.

One of the consequences of that epidemic in the 1980s was a number of children wound up in the foster care system. That's when the number of kids in our nation removed from home really exploded.

And, so, I worked on it from a community basis trying to influence policy on a county level and then when I ran for state office, I was involved and formed a foster care caucus in the state legislature.

So it was one of my big motivations for wanting to run from Congress is to be able to work on this issue in a bipartisan fashion and to have a long-term strategy for improving the foster care system in our country.

O'BRIEN: What do you both hoped to do because clearly, even though the numbers and the statistics that I just gave are really bad and they go on and on.

I've done the stories on this a number of times. Doing anything in a bipartisan fashion right now in Congress I think is very, very hard. So what is your strategy at this point?

BASS: Well, I don't think it's that hard and, you know, Congresswoman and I have talked and there are two other co-chairs. There's Tom Merino, who is a Republican from Pennsylvania and Jim McDermott who is a Democrat from Washington.

The four of us co-chair the caucus and all of us come together because we understand how important this issue is and it's also an issue that has a positive ending. We can improve the quality of life for these children. I know it's something that we can succeed in, in Congress.

BACHMANN: It's a difficult issue, but we are real optimists. Personally, I've seen the positive outcome in children's lives. One thing my husband said is that every child needs to know that at least one person is crazy about them and cares about them.

And if we can have that level of care and the personal touch in a child, it makes a tremendous difference. But one thing that Karen and I have been working on and that we're very concerned about is the over drugging of children with prescription drugs.

Children in foster care, in particular, have an elevated level of having more drugs assigned to them. There are many children in foster care that have four and five psychotropic drugs. This is our first issue that we're working on in foster care, the over drugging of children.

It's very bipartisan. We believe very strongly in this because there is no partisanship when it comes to positive outcomes for kids.

O'BRIEN: That's an issue even outside of foster care, as well. I think you're absolutely right.

BASS: And you know, one of the things that is exciting about Congress is that there are so many people there with so much expertise.

So for example, I mentioned, one of our co-chairs, Congressman Jim McDermott, he is a child psychiatrist. So he has years of experience at that and he was also the author of some very important legislation.

So, us working together with a long-term strategy, I'm convinced that we can make a big difference.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, as female legislatures and there's not a whole bunch of women in Congress, obviously --

BASS: That's for sure. O'BRIEN: -- I don't need to tell the two of you. People have talked about late days, especially around the whole Rush Limbaugh comments that there is like an attack on women. Do you think that's true?

I know, Congresswoman Bachmann, you were talking to Piers Morgan about sort of the sense of outrage that you saw when there was an attack on the left. But when it came to the right you didn't feel like people were outraged as well.

BACHMANN: Well, I will tell you from personal experience. I couldn't repeat on television what has been said about me. A judge recently ordered Twitter to identify a man who called for me to be not only raped and sodomized but also killed.

Now, this is serious and I've had things said about me during the course of running for the presidency. There was zero outrage about the statements on the left, absolutely zero.

This is something that is completely wrong and I think when you see the overkill that's being done against Rush Limbaugh and then you see the comments that were said about me and absolutely no response whatsoever, there's no comparison here.

So, why is it that there is outrage when it is an issue on the left, but there's zero outrage on the right. To me, it doesn't matter whether a woman is a Republican or democrat or whether she's liberal or conservative. This sort of violent talk should not be acceptable for anyone.

BASS: And I think violent talk is absolutely unacceptable. I mean, look at what we all experienced as a nation last year with the wounding of one of our colleagues. So, it should definitely never be tolerated.

But, you know, once again, in terms of the foster care issue, I think it's an opportunity for us to come together, to work together and to develop an agenda for how we help these children.

Because when you remove a child from home, it's really then we become the parents and I think it's our obligation as legislatures to make sure that these children are served well and that we take care of them, just as we would take care of our own.

BACHMANN: The positive thing is, we know we can. We know there are things we can do to improve the quality of a child's life. And that's why we're coming together in this bipartisan way. We want to put aside any difference because we want to have the best interest of the child at stake.

O'BRIEN: All right, well, thank you, ladies. I appreciate your time this morning. Congresswoman Bass and Congresswoman Bachmann joining us this morning. Nice to have you both.

It's interesting. We'll talk a little bit later this morning about the attack on women. You know, it's interesting to see, I would say, outrage on both sides would be nice as opposed to just outrage on one side or lowering on the other side. We'll discuss that a little bit later.

Got to get to a commercial break. Still ahead, we're going to talk about teenage smoking and whether or not big tobacco companies are targeting children.

Plus, this woman, she won a million dollars in the lottery and now she's still on food stamps. She says she needs the money. We'll talk about that straight ahead on STARTING POINT. Stay with us.

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O'BRIEN: I love this. JTX, "Love in America."

We've got a lot to get to this morning. Much more ahead on STARTING POINT. And we'll talk about the tobacco, what some people are calling, epidemic. The surgeon general put out a new report, it's quite a stunner. Are tobacco companies strategically targeting kids so that they smoke? We'll discuss that.

And coming up in our next hour, a blogger who was on the front lines of the Egyptian uprising will join us to talk about a year later. She doesn't think the situation is any better, especially for women.

And Andrew Breitbart's last words, a tape of president Obama during his college years. Is he as radical as the web site is claiming? We'll talk to the editor straight ahead.

STARTING POINT is back right after this break.

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AARON ECKHART, ACTOR: What we need is a smoking role model, a real winner.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Indiana Jones meets Jerry Maguire.

ECKHART: Right, on two packs a day. Only he can't live in contemporary society.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Why not.

ECKHART: The health issue is way too prevalent. People would constantly ask the character why he's smoking. And that should go unsaid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's a clip from the movie, "Thank You for Smoking." Aaron Eckhart played the role of a tobacco lobbyist trying to get cigarettes into a Hollywood movie.

Well, this morning, there was a new report from the surgeon general showing that that clip could be reality. For years, smoking in people under the age of 18 was going down. Now it's either slowed or it's stalling, that decline. Each day in the United States, more than 3800 young people smoked their first cigarette. And two of these new smokers replace one person who dies from tobacco use every day.

Despite an agreement by the industry in 1998 to not target children, the new report suggests that, in fact, that targeting continues to happen.

Matthew Myers is with us this morning. He's the president and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us.

MATTHEW MYERS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the report specifically. It's the second time ever that the surgeon general has issued a report on kids. What did you think was the biggest surprise out of the report?

MYERS: The report has two alarming facts. One ism despite the progress we've made -- and we've made a great deal of progress -- the tobacco industry's marketing continues to effectively addict millions of our children. As you said, every single day, 1200 Americans die from smoking, but more than twice as many kids light up their first cigarette.

It has a second very important message, and that is we know how to reduce tobacco use. The state programs we've seen all around the country have been shown to be effective. And yet, we're not funding them.

O'BRIEN: So what exactly has changed? If there was a decline and there was a solid decline for a long time, and a turning point where that stopped, what happened?

MYERS: We've seen a couple of things happen. First, the tobacco industry's marketing is all over the place. They're spending more than a million an hour, more than $27 million a day to make tobacco products attractive to children. They do it in precisely the places kids see, retail outlets. They've spent more than $100 billion advertising and marketing in retail outlets just over the last decade.

At the same time, states have dramatically cut the funding for tobacco prevention programs and mass media campaigns that have been shown to work. Over the last four years, states have cut funding for these effective programs by 36 percent.

It's no surprise that we're seeing the tobacco industries blanketed marketing overwhelm the cut backs in the state programs. It's actually penny wise and pound foolish. These programs not only save lives and reduce the death and disease from tobacco, they save money for taxpayers.

O'BRIEN: This morning Ken Garcia, who's a spokesperson for Altruia, which is a parent company of Philip Morris, the largest tobacco company in the United States, e-mailed me and he -- he has a statement from the company. It goes like this, "The Food and Drug Administration is in full enforcement and our company is in full compliance with all the regulation around how products are sold and marketed. It's highly restricted, highly regulated. And between us, the industry and the federal government, who regulates us, we're all working for the same cause, which is to make sure that kids can't access tobacco products."

Where do you see specific examples where that is not the case? It sounds like you're saying that's not true.

MYERS: It's absolutely not true. Philip Morris says they've never marketed to kids and, therefore, they have never had to change. And yet, go into a retail outlet. We've seen Marlboros advertised next to Slurpies. We've seen cigarettes advertised on the ice cream counter. We have seen --

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O'BRIEN: Well, you could argue that cigarettes and ice cream -- and grownups eat ice cream, and Slurpies, grownups have Slurpies.

MYERS: You could argue that. But what the data shows is kids are seeing advertising every single day and the more likely today that kids see advertising, the more likely they are to smoke. The tobacco industry knows that. That's why they're spending all of that money. Virtually, every new smoker is a child. 90 percent of all new smokers start as teenagers and over 80 percent of them smoke the three most levelly advertised brand. Philip Morris and the tobacco companies have been doing double speak to the American public for decades. Unfortunately, neither their marketing nor their statements have changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question for you. We have severe restrictions on where people can smoke. They can't smoke in restaurants. And here in New York City, you can't smoke outside on the sidewalk. At what point do we have to let this be sort of in the purview of parents and families to try to convey their values to their children and keep their children from starting smoking?

MYERS: Parents and families have an incredibly important role to play. But today, it's not an even playing field. Today, they're still up against the Marlboro Man. When you have more than a million dollars an hour being spent marketing these products, it's very hard for parents to protect their children. That's one of the critical lessons here. Parents and child -- parents and children can play a very important role. But government needs to do more. And the tobacco industry, for the first time, needs to stop the kind of marketing that they know and that this report shows increases youth tobacco use.

O'BRIEN: Matthew Myers is the president and CEO of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate you joining us. MYERS: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, can you feel it, that massive solar storm that's slamming into earth? We'll tell you how it could affect your flight, how it could effect your GPS, how it could effect the power grid.

Also, Andrew Breitbart's final bombshell, a tape of President Obama, apparently -- there it is, the hug, with a professor that is controversial. But really, is it all that controversial? We'll talk to Breitbart's editor straight ahead.

You're watching STARTING POINT. Short break. We're back in a moment.

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