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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno; "Stress Is Going To Be a Factor"; Tornadoes Hit Midwest; Whitney Houston's Wardrobe to be Auctioned; Former NBA Star Helps Hometown

Aired March 16, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Good morning, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is the first hint of a possible motive for the murder of 16 Afghan civilians. U.S. officials say the accused Army soldier just snapped and now he's hired a high-powered criminal defense attorney.

Also, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum targeting voters in Puerto Rico with Santorum defending his stance that English should be a requirement before statehood. The governor of Puerto Rico will respond.

And you'll only see it there, an exclusive look at the Whitney Houston items that are up for auction.

It's Friday, March 16th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: You've got to love this song. Come on. Gold digger. Kanye -- all Kanye morning for my suggestions.

Let me introduce you to our panel. We've got Marc Lamont Hill, professor at Columbia University, joining us one again.

Abby Livingston is a conservative commentator, and also the daughter of Governor Jon Huntsman, former presidential candidate.

Nice to have you.

And Will Cain is with us as well. He's a contributor for TheBlaze.com.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, learning much more about that soldier who's accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians and also what might have triggered that murder spree. The massacre happened one day after the Army staff sergeant watched a friend become gravely injured. Apparently, he was standing right next to that friend. U.S. officials say that may be when he snapped, citing a combination of stress, alcohol, and marital troubles.

No formal charges have yet been filed, but the soldier's family has hired a renowned criminal defense attorney, John Henry Browne. There he is in those pictures there. The suspect was severely injured twice over three tours of duly duty in Iraq, apparently, didn't want to be deployed for a fourth term in Afghanistan.

His attorney, Browne, was on the "Today Show" just a few minutes ago and shot down some of the reports of what set the suspect up. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Can you confirm that he was, in fact, drinking?

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED AFGHAN SHOOTER. No. That whole report makes me suspicious because it also talks about the marital discord, which I know is absolutely not true. Now maybe there was alcohol and, I mean, you know, it's absurd to suggest that somebody's under stress in Afghanistan. I mean, who wouldn't be?

So, you know, I just -- there's some information coming out that I'm not exactly trusting at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: In Afghanistan, fallout from the massacre is threatening to further unravel U.S./Afghan relations. President Karzai wants American troops out of the Afghan villages and back on their bases. He's set to meet with families of the 16 massacre victims today.

We got Sara Sidner joining us by phone. She is in Kabul this morning.

Sara, update me on this meeting that's expected between the Afghan president and some of the victims' families.

OK. Obviously we are having technical difficulties as that is not Sara Sidner.

Let's tell you what's coming up, would we're going to talk to a JAG officer, Thomas Kenneth (ph), straight ahead this morning., who's going to update us on how this trial could eventually lay out over the next months and maybe even more than months.

Got other headlines making news, though. Christine got those.

Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

Let's go to Michigan, where homes were torn apart. More than 200 people were forced to give out, as a rare March tornado, Soledad, touched down there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Amateur video of the funnel cloud just outside Ann Arbor -- a tornado ripping through that community. There were reports of three funnel clouds in the area. The storm damaging or demolishing many homes. Also downing trees and power lines and sparking some fires.

The North Koreans announcing plans to blast a satellite into space on a back of a long range rocket. They're claiming it's part of a peaceful space program initiative and not a nuclear test. But it's a move that could jeopardize an agreement with the United States that calls for a moratorium on all nuclear activities in exchange for food.

George Clooney joining up with a group of high profile activists to protest in front of the Sudanese embassy this morning. The planned administration aimed to bringing awareness to alleged war crimes in South Sudan.

Clooney spoke to President Obama and Congress earlier this week about the ongoing concerns about the humanitarian crisis there.

All right. Got an iPad 2. That's so yesterday. The brand new iPad went on sale just minutes ago. Doors at the Apple store opened at 8:00 a.m. this morning. Here in New York City people camped out, outside the flagship store.

Maggie Lake joins us live from that store.

Hi, Maggie.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Christine.

And as you can see, it is a rainy, miserable day here in New York, but that's not dampening the spirits of the crowd behind us. A big cheer is going out. Apple just opened the doors. And people -- the hundreds of people who snake around this city block who have been waiting, some of them overnight, some of them since the wee hours this morning are finally getting a chance to get inside to get the Apple 3.

You know, the size of the line surprising many tech watchers. The reviews like the new iPad, better screen, better camera, faster processor. But most tech people say no major innovations here. And that hasn't stopped or dissuaded these people from coming inside.

The pricing on the new iPad, $499, for the lowest Wi-Fi model. The old iPad 2, if you don't have one of those, is cut by about 100 bucks. So, you'll be able to get that a little cheaper.

In addition to the sort of die hard Apple fans today who are lining up here and the media circus that follows them, there are some protesters concerned about working conditions at Apple suppliers overseas. But they are far outnumbered by the Apple enthusiasts who can't wait to get their hands on the latest iPad -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Maggie.

And yesterday, Soledad, Apple shares touched $600 a share. A month ago, Soledad, they were $500 a share. We keep talking about it. Would of, could of, should of -- 100 bucks in a month.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. Are you going to get one of those?

ROMANS: You know, I still have the 1, sadly.

O'BRIEN: Oh.

ROMANS: And it's fine for me. I'm not a heavy user.

O'BRIEN: Are you going to go wait in line for somebody?

ROMANS: No, I don't wait in line for anything.

O'BRIEN: And make $2,500 for swapping out your space in line? That sounds awesome.

All right. Christine, thank you.

There is a controversy brewing in Puerto Rico ahead of the territory's GOP presidential primary. On Sunday, Rick Santorum campaigning there this week, asked whether he would support statehood for the island. And he was quoted in the local paper, which is "El Vocero," as saying this, "Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law, and that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language, such as Hawaii. But to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

Well, Senator Santorum said that was a misquote. He said he didn't say that and he's sort of right. He didn't say exactly that. What he said to the newspaper was also caught on camera. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You'd have to speak English. That would be a requirement. That's a requirement we put on other states. It's a condition for entering the union.

We are not doing anybody on this island a favor by not following the law, which is that this is a society that will speak English in addition to speaking Spanish.

O'BRIEN: OK. So he did say, they'd have to speak English. That would be a requirement. That's a requirement we put on other states for condition of joining the union.

Then Santorum softened his stance a little bit. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: What I said was English has to be learned as a language and this has to be a country where English is widely spoken and used. Yes.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: should it be a requirement for this territory to become a state?

SANTORUM: I think English -- English and Spanish -- obviously Spanish is going to be spoken here on the island. But this needs to be a bilingual country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK. So by Thursday then, it kind of had moved to it's got to be a bilingual country. That was in the same though press conference Santorum kind of went back to what he had said originally. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: What if there's an overwhelming movement by Puerto Rican people to their statehood except they don't want English?

SANTORUM: I think that -- I think that would be a condition, but I -- I think it's important --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK. So if they don't want the English language, he's saying English will be a condition.

Mitt Romney's campaign smelling blood in the water, sent out their own response with this quote. "Puerto Rico currently recognizes both English and Spanish as the official languages of the commonwealth. Governor Romney believes that English is the language of opportunity and supports efforts to expand English proficiency in Puerto Rico and across America. However, he would not as a prerequisite for statehood require that the people of Puerto Rico cease using Spanish." Which, come on, Senator Santorum never said that at all.

It brings us to Puerto Rico's Republican governor. His name is Luis Fortuno. He joins us this morning.

It's nice to see you, sir. What do you make of this whole debate back and forth where candidates are kind of saying things and backing off and doubling down on the original statements?

GOV. LUIS FORTUNO (R), PUERTO RICO: Well, Soledad, there's a lot of excitement down here about the primary that will be occurring on Sunday, and I believe this will bring out even more voters. Having said that, however, I'd like to clarify the whole thing -- we are proud to be Americans. We actually speak both languages. Actually, both English and Spanish have been our official languages for over 100 years.

Having said that, however, as a father of triplets, I can tell you one thing -- English is the language of opportunity. Spanish is the language of our heritage and we want to preserve both.

O'BRIEN: OK. So, Rick Santorum also said this when he was talking to Jim Acosta who's a CNN correspondent. He said, obviously Spanish needs to be spoken on the island but it needs to be a bilingual country, not just a Spanish speaking country. He said this, "Right now, it's overwhelmingly a Spanish speaking country, but it needs to have, in order to integrate into American society, English has to be a language that is spoken here and spoken universally."

When I heard, I thought Puerto Ricans were integrated into American society. Am I wrong about that?

FORTUNO: Of course. We're not a separate country. Well, you're right and actually we're not a separate country. And actually, Governor Romney has shown respect for exactly our heritage and our history, understands it better. That's why I'm supporting Governor Romney, because he has shown respect towards our community.

O'BRIEN: So, ultimately do you think all of this is about a lack of understanding of the role of Puerto Rico?

FORTUNO: Well, and perhaps that may be it. We have, actually, contributed men and women to every single war that our nation has fought since 1917, in greater numbers than most states. Actually, in the recent war on terror, Puerto Rico has contributed more men and women in uniform than every state but one, and we're proud of that.

And I can tell you that we're proud to be part of this mosaic that actually composes the greatest nation in the world.

And, again, there's a lot of excitement about Sunday's primaries and I believe turnout will be perhaps greater than people thought at the beginning.

O'BRIEN: Maybe it will be now because of all of this conversation. I'm curious to know, Mitt Romney, he supports English only, correct? So some people have said, listen, there's not a tremendous difference at the end of the day between what these two candidates believe.

FORTUNO: Well, let me tell you. Mitt Romney has been clear down here about his commitment, number one, to protect our border. And most people across the country believe that protecting our border is just talking about the southwestern border. That's wrong. That's like locking your front door and leaving open the back door.

Our Caribbean border, the nation's Caribbean border is Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And actually, the drug smugglers are coming through here to actually distribute drugs in the eastern seaboard, all the way from Miami to Boston. That has to be stopped and Mitt Romney has committed to provide the necessary assets to stop that. He has also committed to create jobs and to include Puerto Rico as a territory, but include us as a nation in any pro-growth initiative to create jobs across America, because jobs in Puerto Rico are American jobs as well. Certainly he has committed to respect --

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, sir.

FORTUNO: You were saying?

O'BRIEN: Forgive me for interrupting.

FORTUNO: And, thirdly, he has committed actually to respect the will of the people and the voters on November 6th on our political status. So, again, if we want to win the hearts and minds of Hispanic voters across America, you have to understand what Hispanic voters care about. We care about public safety, we care about location, we care about lowering taxes, on creating the proper conditions to create jobs.

Mitt Romney has done that down here in Puerto Rico.

O'BRIEN: Well, we'll see how this goes when the primary happens. Governor Luis Fortuno, nice to see you. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate your time.

FORTUNO: My pleasure, good day.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Likewise.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, talking about Meghan McCain striking a pose in the pages of "Playboy" magazine. The senator's daughter talking about sex and politics, keeping her clothes on though.

Also, if you have one of Whitney's fabulous dresses, Whitney Houston's dresses, if the price is right. We've got a sneak peak at some of her exclusive items that are going on the auction block.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We've got a short break and we're back on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We've been talking this morning about some of the new details of this case of the U.S. soldier who's now accused of going on a shooting spree in Afghanistan and killing 16 civilians. He now has a high powered lawyer, a Seattle attorney, John Henry Browne, who once represented the serial killer, Ted Bundy, and the barefoot bandit as well is now his lawyer.

Some reports say the soldier just snapped. Some say it was stress, and alcohol, or personal issues at home, but his lawyer, just moments ago, shot down some of those reports. This is from the "Today Show." Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you confirm that he was, in fact, drinking?

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED AFGHAN SHOOTER: No, and that whole report makes me suspicious, because it also talks about the marital discord, which I know is absolutely not true. Now, maybe there was alcohol. And I mean, you know, it's absurd to suggest that somebody's under stress in Afghanistan. I mean, who wouldn't be? So, you know, I just -- there's some information coming out that I'm not exactly trusting at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Thomas Kenniff joins us. He's a former judge advocate general officer, meaning he was dealing with the military courts. It's nice to see you.

THOMAS KENNIFF, FORMER JAG OFFICER: Nice to be here.

O'BRIEN: I'm interested in what you thought of what we heard from the new attorney, Mr. Browne, on the "Today Show" this morning where he started trying to clearly undermine some of the early reports that have been coming out about his client?

KENNIFF: I think it's a risky strategy in a couple of ways. First of all, if I'm the accused in this case, I don't know if I'm running out hiring the attorney that's represented an infamous serial killer. Secondly, you know, going on television this early in the case where he may not have even met with his client face-to-face yet, I would be surprised if he has given the logistics involvement --

O'BRIEN: He has said he has not. They actually haven't even had very many phone calls, because clearly, there's an issue with the --

KENNIFF: I think with all due respect to defense counsel, I think that's an ill-advised decision, because you don't want to say anything at this point where you're going to over commit to one particular defense or not. Maybe alcohol is going to play a big part in this case as part of establishing a defense, as part of establishing a contributing factor to PTSD or just the command environment in theater that condoned these sort of excesses that may have contributed to this tragic offense.

But I think coming out this early and revealing or, you know, giving ideas as to what the defense strategy would be is not a very good idea.

O'BRIEN: So, I was surprised in the hiring of this attorney not because his connection to past clients, but he's not a military attorney. He's only represented three or four military cases. Does that surprise you?

KENNIFF: It does to a certain extent. You know, everyone in the military, you'll be in a service member, if you're charged with a criminal offense, you're entitled to as known as a trial defense council or TDS. They are part of the JAG Corps, but they're sort of kept separate, because the conflict of interest issues and so forth. They only answer to their own command structure. It doesn't matter how much money you make. It doesn't matter how much assets you have in the bank. You're entitled to that sort of defense. Now, a lot of accused in the military will go out and hire civilian counsel. Typically, they're former Judge Advocate Generals who've left the military and went into private practice and have more of a nexus (ph) to military law.

In this individual case, I mean, I don't know this particular attorney. I don't know what his background is as far as military law, but it also seems very quick. You know, these events just happening a few days ago for him already to have hired civilian counsel.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the venue. It looks like they're going to try to move him to -- the suspect to Leavenworth, and then, get him out of Kuwait, apparently. It seems that some of Kuwaiti officials were a little bit surprised that they had this suspect in their country. So, what happens after he comes into the United States? What happens next? Walk us to the process.

KENNIFF: Sure. Not surprised that they're bringing it back here to the United States, because the reality is if this is going to be a premeditated murder trial where the accuse would be facing the death penalty, it's not going to be wrapped up, certainly not within in a year.

O'BRIEN: Do you think he'll face the death penalty?

KENNIFF: I do. I do think he will face the death penalty. Most death penalty trials, even in the civil side, military side, they take years. And the reality is that it's a revolving door in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops are usually there for about 12 month deployments. That includes the prosecutors and the JAG Corps that would prosecute the case.

That includes the military defense attorneys, the judges, the command, and so forth. So, in order to avoid that revolving door prosecution and defense, a big case like this, they'll bring it back state side, here in the United States.

O'BRIEN: Did they fly the victim's family -- I mean, there must be eye witnesses in Afghanistan who were villagers who would need -- you'd expect to testify. They fly them in or they just take depositions or how --

KENNIFF: That's going to be a huge issue in this case. There are provisions where you can take trial testimony or depositions and so forth via video conference and so forth. But if I'm the accused attorney, I'm saying, hey, I don't want that. I want to be live in person. I want to have the opportunity to cross examine this person live in the courtroom.

So, it's going to be a major issue, getting those witnesses here. Does the United States have subpoena power to get them from Afghanistan to the United States? I mean, presumably, they'd want to cooperate in the prosecution, but you never know. WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The point you made, you said the military you suspect will be pursuing the death penalty. Am I wrong in this that in order to pursue the death penalty there has to be one aggravating factor such as a risk in national security? Is that going to be easy to prove that this caused a risk to national security?

KENNIFF: There has -- what is is it's a bifurcated trial, like on the civil side, OK. So, before you can get the death penalty, first, you have to get a unanimous verdict. One of the big distinctions between the military criminal justice system and the civilian criminal justice system is you don't need the unanimous verdict for the military side.

You know, we see these high profile civil cases and you say, oh, you know, it was one holdout juror. While in the military, you can have three or four holdout jurors and still get a conviction. However, in order for there to be the death penalty, there needs to be a unanimous verdict. You can get a partial verdict on premeditated murder.

He could serve life in prison, but if you want to pursue the death penalty, the jury has to unanimously agree on his guilt, and then, there's a penalty phase, a separate trial, where they consider both factors, mitigation and aggrevating factors. I think that's when you'll get into alcohol, PTSD, possibly whether there's a threat to national security, but the aggravating factor doesn't have to be per se threat to national security. It can be (INAUDIBLE) about the things.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be fascinating, I think, as we get more information both about the suspect and about exactly what happened that night to learn all of that.

KENNIFF: Yes. Very, very sad case.

O'BRIEN: Oh, it really. Thomas Kenniff, nice to have you. Thank you very much.

KENNIFF: Nice to be here.

O'BRIEN: I feel like I just graduated from law school.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, revealing look at Meghan McCain in "Playboy," but not that revealing. She's fully clothed, but she says a lot. We'll talk about that.

And then, when coyotes (ph) attack, it happened a few ties in one Arizona community. I'll tell you what's happened there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: He does. Real old.

(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: No, I'm kidding. That's a (INAUDIBLE), Apple Plumb. You can check out our entire playlist on our Web site, which is CNN.com/STARTINGPOINT.

So, Meghan McCain is in "Playboy "magazine, and of course, it makes us all think the girl is naked, but no, she's not. She's keeping her clothes on, dishing, though, a lot about politics as she calls the 2012 campaign lame, says, "Where's the electricity? You think someone would rise up and tap the frustration and energy of the Occupy movement or the Tea Party, but it just hasn't happened yet."

On the ideal Republican candidates in 2012, she says, "The Republicans need someone to excite younger people, independents, Hispanic voters, and the disfranchised. I think if Chris Christie is the vice presidential nominee, we can change the weather and have a very good chance of beating Obama. I love that he's no B.S."

And on how America would be different if her father had won the election, she says, and I believe this one, "You would have the craziest first daughter ever who'd be making ridiculous headlines and hurting the administration every step of the way." One could imagine.

ABBY LIVINGSTON, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Certainly not for loss of words.

O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly. She would be very, very quotable. Do you get offers like that? I mean, do people say, oh, here's what we want from you? "Playboy" magazine.

LIVINGSTON: Well, actually, my sisters and I are on the cover of "Meg (ph)." I just want to throw it out there, but no.

(LAUGHTER)

LIVINGSTON: We won't be doing "Playboy." But, she looks beautiful in that photo. And you know, I like how she -- you can show you're still beautiful by being clothed. But, you have to make a decision as a child of a candidate of how you want to portray yourself and how you want to portray your dad, or your mom, or whoever is running for office.

And I think, you know, Meghan is a very independent woman, and I admire her for that. But my sisters and I decided to be, you know, stick to the issues mainly. You can spend all day talking about, you know, emotional things, ups and downs of the relationships within the campaign or whatnot, but we've decided to rise above all of that and not get too involved with that.

MARC LAMONT HILL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIV.: I appreciate Meghan. I agree with you. I appreciate Meghan, because she has the courage to push back against the party. She's not a mainstream conservative. Neither is her father, but he placed (ph) one on TV. She's actually really good about speaking up, pushing back against the party, representing the new wing of the GOP. I like her courage. I like her attitude. LIVINGSTON: She represents our generation. I think she's right. There is no excitement. There's not even excitement within the base, how can there be excitement for our generation. So, I think she makes a lot of good points about that.

HILL: Why didn't she say that her father didn't bring any excitement? I mean, Sarah Palin brought the fire, not John McCain. It was a snooze fest. Wasn't there a snooze fest on your side of the aisle?

CAIN: My side of the aisle?

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: Not to make this a partisan thing, but then you people -- weren't you people unexcited?

CAIN: You people?

HILL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: There has been a lack of excitement for several years, at least, at the top of the presidential ticket. I think there are several exciting, exciting, Republican figures a little lower down the rungs who we might see rise the next three, four years. I'm excited to see what happens to these guys. I got to ask you, Abby, as a forum to get out your message, do you think "Playboy" is wise for Meghan McCain to do that? In other words, would you do that?

LIVINGSTON: You're going to get me in trouble, aren't you? No, I wouldn't do it. But like I said, every child, you know, has the ability to make their own decisions and represent their family and their dad or their mom the way that they want to. And I respect Meghan for doing this. She looked beautiful. But me, personally, I wouldn't do it.

O'BRIEN: Everybody reads the articles anyway. What are you talking about?

(LAUGHTER)

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: In fact, I think he was the best conservative option.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, from the fab five, Jalen Rose is going to join us. He went from NBA star to creating a school. We'll talk to him about creating a school straight ahead.

And what part of Whitney Houston's wardrobe is about to go on the auction block? Get a look at some of the dresses and jewelry that she wore. You're watching STARTING POINT. We have a short break. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome backs, everybody. You're listening to abbey's play list. You are looking at some of the most amazing wardrobe from Whitney Houston. It goes on the auction block. We'll talk about that as soon as Christine gives us our headlines. Good morning, Christine.

ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. A controversial immigration bill to tell you about. It's on the verge of passing in Mississippi. This would require police to check the immigration status of people arrested. It would ban illegal immigrants from obtaining driver licenses. The bill was approved by the statehouse and it's headed to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

A rare March tornado caught on video forcing 200 people from their homes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god, oh, my god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Amateur video of the funnel cloud just outside of Ann Arbor, a tornado ripping through that community. There were reports of three funnel clouds in the area, the storm damaging or demolishing many homes, also downing trees and power lines, sparking some fires.

Twisters were part of a nasty storm system that stretched down through the south. Heavy rains caved in the roof of a commercial building in Kentucky. Seven people were hurt in that. Reports say that the drainage system was clogged. Torrential rains pooled up on the roof causing that partial collapse. Let's check in with Rob Marciano.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. That rainstorm one of several that rolled through the area. Ohio at this point south and east of Columbus seeing seven inches of rain. They had flash flooding. Reports for tornadoes. There were three across Michigan, all part of a weak cool front that pushed across the east but moving into very, very hot and humid air.

We've seen a slew of records since 2012 began, January 1. Over 6,000 record high temperatures have been set. A couple of hundred in yesterday alone. Here's a handful of them, 85 in Huntsville, 82 in Atlanta, 81 in Chicago, 88 degrees in Columbia, North Carolina, as far north as Norfolk seeing 87, D.C. 84. Cherry blossoms are way ahead of schedule. They probably won't last through the festival. St. Patrick's day tomorrow in Chicago will likely be the warmest one they've had on record, temperatures 30 degrees above average in some cases. The climate prediction center is saying get used to it at least in the eastern two-thirds parts of the country. Go to the Pacific Northwest if you want to stay cool. Christine, back up to you.

ROMANS: Bring it on, Rob. Bring it on.

"Minding your Business," U.S. stock futures trading just slightly upwards today ahead of today's market open. That after a week of solid gains and positive economic news. The S&P 500 index, which is by far the broadest measure of major U.S. companies, and the best reflection of your retirement investments, it closed Thursday above 1,400 for the first time in four years.

Snow birds and locals in Arizona are a little frequented out this morning over some pretty brazen coyotes. Three people have been a being attacked by coyotes in the last few days, including Leslie Hawkins who was sitting in a chair sunning hill self when he felt something on his leg. He says at first he thought it was his wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The likelihood is one person a year might get bitten. I'm one out of 300 million. I'm going to have my wife out here with a gun.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: More than 200 residents of the community turned out last night for a meeting with police and wildlife officials. They were told to remain alert and refrain from activities like reading, sleeping, or sunbathing on their patios. Soledad, that is --

O'BRIEN: Pretty much everything.

ROMANS: That's a really rude awakening if you're trying to have a little nap outside.

O'BRIEN: Don't do anything on your patio ever again.

Whitney Houston obviously not known just for her voice but also she was a glamorous diva. Now fans and collectors can bid on some of her most iconic fashion items. She's been added to the list of celebrities whose memorabilia will appear in this month's Hollywood Legends auction in Beverly Hills. Darren Julien is a founder and CEO of Julien's auction which is hosting the auction. Nice to have you. Thanks for being with us.

DARREN JULIEN, FOUNDER AND CEO, JULIEN'S AUCTIONS: Thanks for having me on, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: How many items do you have overall of Whitney Houston's and where did they come from?

JULIEN: We have approximately 12 items and they come from in some cases friends, family, people that worked with her like on the film of "Body Guard."

O'BRIEN: You brought mannequins in. Let's talk about this gray dress which is sort of to my right.

JULIEN: This is a gray dress she wore at the pre-Grammy party of Clive Davis in 1996. We have great photographs of her wearing it with Bobby Brown. Whitney was known for her fashion so these are items that are one of a kind items made for Whitney Houston. We estimate because Whitney's collectability has not really been determined yet, not a lot of her items have come up for auction, so we conservatively estimate these items $1,000 to $2,000 each on the dresses.

O'BRIEN: A dress might sell regularly for 1 to $2,000 without having been worn by Whitney Houston to a world famous glamorous Hollywood party. What are your genuine expectations for how much that dress could fetch.

JULIEN: I anticipate it could sell for $10,000 to $20,000. This is the first time her items have ever come up for auction. On March 31st we'll know what her collectability is.

O'BRIEN: To the right of that dress is this beautiful velvet purple dress, very, very low cut with a broach on the waistband.

JULIEN: Yes. Another one of a kind dress made for Whitney Houston. She wore it in the 1990s. And it was -- we have photographs and video of her wearing it on stage during a performance.

O'BRIEN: So how critical is that? I mean, obviously part of your job is authenticating that in fact something that someone is saying is Whitney Houston's actually she wore at one point?

JULIEN: That's right. That's a very important part of it. Provenance means something, where something came from. For example, the earrings that we have in the auction and the vest from the "Body Guard" those are items that come from her costume designer that worked on the film. Then we match them up with video so the patterns on the vest, we match them up to the film to make sure that it's exactly the items that she wore.

O'BRIEN: If you look at the black velvet dress which is the third one which is absolutely stunning. I wish I fit into anything, what are you expecting that you could get for a dress like that?

JULIEN: Again, you know, we estimate at $1,000 to $2,000. I think it will be surprising to see what her collectability is. An example of Michael Jackson before his passing, we sold his gloves for $30,000. After his passing his gloves we sell for $300,000 to $400,000.

O'BRIEN: Tell me about that dress. Where did you get it from and where was it seen and worn?

JULIEN: That particular dress comes to us from somebody who bought it out of an auction where Whitney was forced to sell some items in 1997. So it was a storage locker here where the bill hadn't been paid. It comes from that auction which was her storage unit. So the proceeds go to the person that bought it in that auction. O'BRIEN: We'll end on the vest which is a vest, I have a he seen pictures of the vest in the "Body Guard." Will something from a movie be more valuable than something worn to a Hollywood party versus something even worn to a concert?

JULIEN: It really depends on how iconic a piece is. So the vest, because it was in the "Body Guard" because it was her best film, an amazing film, we anticipate that that could sell for more than the dresses.

O'BRIEN: What are you expecting to get with that?

JULIEN: We estimate that $400 to $600 because it's not as big as a dress and not something somebody can wear to a party, but because of its historical significance we anticipate it could sell for thousands.

O'BRIEN: One has to imagine if you're going to buy that, you're not going to wear it, you're going to put it somewhere.

JULIEN: Or it will go to a museum.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking with us this morning. We want to remind everybody that they can check out all the items that are going to be up for auction on our Web site which is CNN.com/startingpoint.

Coming up next, after 20 years of basketball of fame and fortune, Jalen Rose is taking his leadership back to Detroit and helping build schools and a community as well.

I'll leave you with my play list, which is Kanye "Amazing." You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: It's an all Kanye day for me. That's Kanye West, "Stronger." Welcome back everybody.

Former NBA veteran, Jalen Rose played in the NBA for 13 years. In college he is a member of the famed University of Michigan fab five; five players on the team considered to be the greatest class ever recruited. But he's not just an athlete. He's also an honor roll with his high school in Detroit and he's decided he's going to give back to the city in which he grew up.

He opened the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, an open enrollment charter school. Its inaugural freshman class will finish their first year this spring. And he joins us now for this week's "Cause Celebre." It's nice to have you.

JALEN ROSE, FOUNDER, JALEN ROSE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Why would you start a school? You're not a principal? You're not a guy who spent 30 years studying education. You're a guy who was educated and was a ballplayer. Why? ROSE: I understand the importance of education, especially giving back to the youth of Detroit to provide the leadership, focus, opportunity for those in my home town.

O'BRIEN: Many people would say -- and they say they still haven't started a school. Why take that step of creating a school?

ROSE: It's very much so needed in the city of Detroit. I'm pretty sure you guys have heard a lot of the horror stories of schools closing, the plant bailouts. And now the plants are now being in a position to be back thriving. And I want to put the young men and young women in my hometown in a position for success and through education.

O'BRIEN: When did you get the idea to do this?

ROSE: Really through my foundation we've helped influenced over 40 kids to be a scholarship already. I have an endowment at the University of Michigan. So this is just taking that grind to the next level.

O'BRIEN: There's a lot of debate, as you well know, about charter schools and sometimes even especially in the city of Detroit. Because there is an argument that goes by investing in charter schools, you are often, and we see this here sometimes in New York City, removing from the public schools.

I'm sure people have said to you why not use your leverage and your power to invest in public schools?

ROSE: That's so far from the truth. And plus, a lot of those people that are making those arguments never attended public school or don't have kids at public school. It's a money argument really. Those that live in districts that are low performing, they are forced to go to schools that aren't doing well.

So now if you have money, what do you do? You move to the suburbs, you move to a better school district. If you have more money, you put your young student in private school. Well, if you don't have the money, you don't have that choice.

So basically I see it as a hybrid. And plus, by the way, I don't care if it's public, charter, magnet, home schooling, I just want young men and young women to have the opportunity to go to great schools.

O'BRIEN: And tell me about your freshman class.

ROSE: My freshmen class is terrific, 120 9th grade it's just great to see --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Boys and girls.

ROSE: Boys and girls. It's just great to see young men and young women that come in and starting out freshmen and really don't know if they want to be leaders or followers, if they want to be successful, if they want to succumb to a lot of things they are exposed to that are negative in their communities. They are doing very well.

ABBY LIVINGSTON, DAUGHTER OF GOVERNOR JON HUNTSMAN: What are the sports, I mean, obviously sports is a huge part of your life. In a charter school, what is the sport atmosphere like there?

ROSE: Well, I always tell the students, I'm more concerned about their GPA than their PPGs, but obviously the students want to play basketball so we have the young men, young women's basketball team.

O'BRIEN: Do you play with them?

ROSE: No, I have not played this year. No way. I like to be seen as the old man of the school, the founder of the school.

O'BRIEN: Oh come on.

MARC LAMONT HILL, HOST, "OUR WORLD WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE: You guys are talking, you're trash talking. You're probably even backing them down, throwing elbows and stuff.

ROSE: I will be this summer. I have not just yet.

O'BRIEN: Yes so what has been the biggest surprise for you as you take on the challenge of education? Education is a massively huge -- I can't even find the words to describe how challenging that is as an issue to try to tackle. And then add to that -- in the city of Detroit which has many issues even outside of education. What's been the biggest surprise for you in tackling this?

ROSE: Shattering all of the myths that come with educating young men and young women.

O'BRIEN: Which are like what?

ROSE: Especially that they're -- that they're lazy and they just want to be barefoot and pregnant. And they just want to be gang bangers. No our students, longer school day; 4:30 p.m. is the end of our school day.

HILL: Wow.

ROSE: 211 days. Six super Saturdays. I know you would have loved going to school on Saturday. And really showing that they're willing to put in the effort, the time and the energy their families have made to sacrifice, tuition free, public charter, students are chosen via lottery.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Jalen when I hear you advocating here today kind of liberate these students from schools they might be trapped in, poor schools.

ROSE: Yes. CAIN: Giving them choices. What's the biggest hurdle for allowing students to do that?

ROSE: Well, really it's just options and opportunity. If you're a taxpayer citizen and you live in a poor -- if you live in a district where the school is poorly performing, to me you should be able to get a voucher and put your student where you choose.

But obviously because of money that really isn't on the table and hasn't become an issue. And a lot of times people think also just because you open a charter school, they give you this big blank check.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROSE: And you have all of the money that you want. No, that's why we fundraise. It's very important for me to fundraise so I can have a quality facility for our young men and young women.

O'BRIEN: That's Jalen Rose. You are our "Cause Celebre" today it's nice to have you.

ROSE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: What a pleasure to have you come in.

ROSE: JRLADetroit.com, we need your support.

O'BRIEN: All right, say it again.

ROSE: JRLADetroit.com.

O'BRIEN: All right, I love that.

ROSE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Our "End Point" is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Doing something a little different with "End Point." I'm going to divide it up a little bit. All right, why don't you start for me?

HILL: This Trayvon Martin case is tragic to me. It's a reminder that the legal system just isn't even along racial and ethnic lines or -- or class lines. And finally it reminds us that black youth in this country remains sadly disposable to many people.

O'BRIEN: I can't wait for these 911 tapes to come out that will be really revealing, I think. Abby?

LIVINGSTON: I'm going to give it to Jalen Rose. I mean, I'm so inspired by people like him that -- especially in a terrible economy that -- gives back and create schools for kids that need to learn. So I'm going to -- I'm going to give it to him today.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to support you on that. I love him. He's so much fun to have in the studio with us.

We've got to take a short break. We come back on the other side. Will Cain, we're going to give you the "End Point." Not exactly, but kind of.

That's in a moment. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PUSHPA BASNET, CNN HERO OF THE WEEK: In Nepal when parent are being arrested by the police and if you don't have a local guardian. Some children will go to prison with the parents.

And the first time when I visited the jail, I was studying my bachelors in social law I saw a small girl who just grabbed shawl and she just gave me a smile. But it was really hard for me to forget that.

My name is Pushpa Basnet and my mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls.

In 2005 I started a day care with the (inaudible). I come up from the jail in morning and we can go back to the jail in the afternoon. We have children work from 2:00 to 4:00. They have coloring, reading, studying five days a week.

We started the residential home in 2007. Currently we have 40 children living out here mostly above six years old. I don't get a day off but I never get tired.

The children all call me "Mamu," like a big family with lots and lots of love.

When I started this organization, I was 21 years old. People thought that I was crazy. But this is what I wanted in my life.

I'm giving them what a normal child should have. I want to fulfill all their dreams.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right. We're back with our final "End Point." We give it to Will Cain for the last words of the morning. I can't believe I'm saying that, we give it to Will for the last words of the morning -- Will -- of the week.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Of the week. Return to something we talked about in our first hour. While I am no Rick Santorum fan, I think he's been treated unfairly in this English language Puerto Rico issue. I think that societies need cohesion, common thread and language can serve that purpose. And I think he's being portrayed as culturally insensitive and possibly racist and that is not the argument he's making. His opinion is shared by 80 percent of Americans.

O'BRIEN: I think it's a little unfair with six seconds left to raise the word "racist" and not allow us to be able to talk about it.

CAIN: "End Point."

O'BRIEN: We'll bring it back on Monday.

CAIN: "End Point."

O'BRIEN: OK. First of all, have a nice weekend, everybody. We'll see you back here Monday morning. Have a great St. Patrick's Day as well from one Irish gal to another.

We get you right to CNN NEWSROOM with Carol Costello.