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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Death of Trayvon Martin Continues to Garner National Attention; Mega Millions Lottery Jackpot Grows to Historic Levels; Company Makes Bacon Themed Coffin; French Raids Nab 20 Suspected Militants; Wildfire Scorches Foothills Of Denver; Firefighters Escape Roof Collapse; Tornado Terror; Final Four Weekend!; Fuel Furor Heats Up; "Big Oil" Tax Bill Fails; Democrat Bill Dies In Senate; Kids Force Emergency Landing; Autism Rates On The Rise

Aired March 30, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Happy Friday, ladies. Good morning. Our STARTING POINT, witness to the shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then, I heard the gunshot, which to me were more like pops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: This person heard an altercation, heard someone yell for help, heard a pained scream. A detailed account of the night Trayvon Martin was killed.

And an autism epidemic. New numbers show a staggering increase in the number of children with autism.

Plus, awkward. Former President George H.W. Bush endorses Mitt Romney, then whispers to his wife about giving W a nudge.

And, are you feeling lucky? Millions, millions salivating at the thought of winning, I can't believe I'm saying this, $540 million in the biggest lotto jackpot in history.

It's Friday, March 30th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

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ROMANS: I love this song "You Get What You Give" from New Radicals.

JOHN FUGELSANG, RADIO PERSONALITY: When they break up.

ROMANS: They broke up after this hit?

FUGELSANG: After this hit.

ROMANS: Oh, I just play this song over and over.

FUGELSANG: It's like 14 years old, though. Yes. They never released another record.

ROMANS: Don't tell me that. All right. I'm Christine Romans. Soledad O'Brien is off this morning. We got John Fugelsang, political comedian and music historian, Will Cain, columnist from TheBlaze.com, and also, Lou Palumbo joins our panel. He's an investigator, former investigator with the Nassau County Police Department, yes? Is that right?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER INVESTIGATOR: We've got offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles.

ROMANS: You've got the area covered.

What we're talking about this morning is what happened the night Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. We've got accounts about are slowly trickling out. We heard from George Zimmerman's father and just last night Zimmerman's brother. He spoke to Piers Morgan exclusively and an actual witness spoke to Anderson Cooper. We put together a play-by-play of their accounts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George was trying to get his head off the concrete, trying to move with Trayvon on him, into the grass. In doing so, his firearm was shown. Trayvon Martin said something to the effect of "You're going to die now o now" or "you're going to die tonight," something to that effect. He continued to beat George and at some point George pulled his pistol.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Where was the gun?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, JR., BROTHER OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: The gun I believe was in his inside tucked inside his pant waist.

MORGAN: Right.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN: In a waist holster.

MORGAN: He has pulled it out and he has fired it.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN: Well he has taken control of his firearm. He prevented his firearm from being taken from him, and used against him, and that's called saving your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kind of felt like that -- I couldn't see a lot of movement. It was very dark but I felt like they were scuffling. And then I heard a gunshot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Lou Palumbo, you hear the more detail we get, it still is a very murky night. The details layer on new questions. I don't know how much they answer. As an investigator, what are you hearing when you hear all this?

PALUMBO: I heard the audio, the interview with Anderson and it's not as murky for me as it is perhaps for others because it's becoming more and more evident what took place this evening. I listened to as I said that interview, and if you listen to that gentleman, he indicates the fact that the person who was on top --

ROMANS: You're talking about the eyewitness. We don't know if it's a man or a woman. We've obscured their identity.

PALUMBO: Absolutely, the individual who witnessed this altercation, on a lawn, I might say, not concrete, and that being further substantiated by the fact the police indicated he had moisture and grass on his back, kind of contradicts the story.

He indicates that he observes the bigger person as he referred to him after the gunshot get of the smaller person and at that point had to be obvious Trayvon was on the bottom. So the whole explanation of having the head banged on the concrete is starting to dilute.

But there are just some very serious questions about the extent of the injuries that Zimmerman sustained that he felt justified the use of deadly physical force. There's nothing that supports that. And if those injuries existed, a law enforcement agency would have taken photographs of them. They weren't even concerned about touching his clothing because of the possibility of blood as a contaminant. They didn't even put rubber gloves on.

ROMANS: A lot of people made that comment. I want to listen to what George Zimmerman's brother said about the extent of the injuries. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN: We're confident the medical records are going to explain all of George's medical history, both how he was treated at the scene and how he was not. To me his nose looks swollen in that video. I'm his brother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The fact I've heard all of these people in a variety of different places talk about when your nose is broken how long does it take to swell. This is a conversation people are having around the water cooler. They were parsing video and statements and in the dark of night eyewitness accounts.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We are privileged to have an investigator sitting next to us but somebody saying more facts, please, until we arrive at conclusions. To me there's two areas I focus on that I would like to know what happened. I would like the facts to contribute to, what happened in the pursuit. Is it possible that George Zimmerman broke off the pursuit and the pursuer became the pursuee. I'm not suggesting it did happen. It's his story.

And second, in the scuffle, Lou, I didn't gather what you gathered. There is a big question who was on top. I think that would suggest who the aggressor is when the gun went off. And by reading the witness account, we don't know the answer to that right now. I would like to know the answer to that.

PALUMBO: The issue of who was on top and that constituting who might be the aggressor there's no correlation there. The reason I pointed that out is because it identifies an inconsistency in his story, and his account of having his head busted on concrete.

ROMANS: Let's listen to what the witness said about that in particular so everyone can hear it.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was dark, but after the shots, obviously someone, a man, got up and it was kind of like that period of him, I can't say I actually watch him get up, but maybe only within like a couple seconds or so, then he was walking towards where I was watching, and I could see him a little bit clear. I could see that it was a Hispanic man and that he was, you know, he didn't appear hurt or anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: So he said "after the shots," Lou. Is it not key? I keep wondering when the shots went off, what were the positions of the two individuals and I know we're getting deep into the facts but I think this is important.

PALUMBO: I don't think there's that much relevance.

CAIN: Really?

PALUMBO: I really don't. The fact of the matter is that for whatever reason we went through a rationalization process, probably driven by fear, driven by the fact that you bit off more than you could chew and hung his hat on that and shot this young man. They also referred to the body of Trayvon being face down with his hands underneath him.

CAIN: I read that.

PALUMBO: That's problematic also. How did this kid who was six foot, 160 pounds get flipped around like this? I think this is far more skewed than everybody realizes. I think Mr. Zimmerman got into a situation he should have never been involved in and he precipitated and ended up using excessive force to mitigate it.

(CROSSTALK)

FUGELSANG: The family is of course going to rush to their defense, they love their brother but a defense where the guy is saying he followed me while I was following him and attacked me and it's the much larger guy with the gun crying help. My question is, ironically, is it possible that Mr. Zimmerman would be in a better position for trial if the police had arrested him right away rather than this period where he's sending friends and family out to possibly poison any jury pool and to contradict stories?

PALUMBO: You could tell he's not seeking counsel because the attorneys would not have his father and his brother become his spokesperson because the only thing they're going to do is continue to hurt him. They continue to allude to these real extensive injuries, none of which were supported by any type of medical examination post confrontation. In other words if you sustained these injuries and so extreme and severe and in fear for your life, why didn't you go I got to get to the hospital, I think I broke a rib.

There's another explanation also. I looked at the photographs and as they continue to come through the tape there's not a drop of blood on the front of this man's clothing, and I say this to you again, standard operating procedure, when we handle you and there's a contaminant involved we put rubber gloves on. The police brought him into their "environment," started to further examine him, never thought it necessary to put gloves on and I think what he touched on his back was the by-product of moisture from the grass and casually wiped it off on his hands. That's not how you would discard that.

ROMANS: Let's bring in Dave Kopel. I want to talk about the Florida Stand Your Ground law and sort of the center of this whole debate. He's the author of "Firearms, Law, and the Second Amendment." He is a member of the NRA -- good morning -- but he's not speaking on behalf of the NRA, and he's the research director of the conservative Independent Institute in Denver.

Nice to see you this morning. So you've heard our discussion so far as really a lot of folks are parsing every new development that comes out. And at the center of this issue is also this Florida stand-your-ground law. Does that Florida law and others like it, do they go too far? Do they allow for this sort of no duty to retreat idea?

DAVE KOPEL, AUTHOR AND NRA MEMBER: No. I think the things that have been said including by some people on CNN and on other stations saying the Florida's self-defense laws had something relevant to this case are just either don't know what they're talking about or have been trying to mislead, as the gun prohibition lobbyists have been doing on this.

Florida law is very clear. On self-defense the Florida law, the basic standard is the same as it is in all 50 states, that you can only use when you're in a public place deadly force and self-defense if you are the victim of an eminent attack that could kill you or cause brave bodily injury or if violent forcible felony. Those are the only circumstances in which a person in a public place in Florida can use deadly force in self-defense.

Now I know we're conducting a trial by television here, but the good thing about the American system is the actual evidence gathered will be done by a grand jury. And they'll come up, they'll listen to all the witnesses, look at all the facts, talk to the investigators, and they will make a determination if there's a case that's worth prosecuting here. But if, as your Nassau County friend is hypothesizing, that Mr. Zimmerman was a -- criminally killed this young man, then the Florida law provides Zimmerman with no protection.

ROMANS: I want to talk about something Florida representative Richard Glorioso (ph) who voted to amend this law, he said "As far as I'm concerned, that neighborhood watch guy was breaking that law as soon as he started following that kid. He was stalking him. That's not standing your ground. If the law is applied right, it's a fine law but we worried about how people would interpret it, and how it would be applied, when we were discussing it." Do you share that worry?

KOPEL: I think if you actually read what the law says, it doesn't apply in this situation. The stand-your-ground law is about when a person who is a victim of a violent attack, under what circumstances do they have a duty to retreat rather than take action to defend themselves? If Zimmerman is the aggressor in this case then he wasn't the victim. And since he wasn't the victim, he had no right to self-defense at all, and the issue of whether he should retreat or not wouldn't -- has nothing to do with it.

CAIN: Dave, I have a quick question, this is Will Cain. I hear you saying that the Florida stand your ground law has nothing to do with this case but that's honestly your estimation right now. It seems that the investigators on the scene did think it had something to do with this case and isn't that kind of a problem with the law, if there is a problem that it can be applied subjectively or it's vague and that the investigators and prosecutors across the state apply it differently. Isn't that a potential problem?

KOPEL: No, because I've read the law, you've got it in front of me on the table. It's straightforward one.

CAIN: You know what it says, that's my point, but does everyone across the state of Florida know the tenets of the law and apply it uniformly?

KOPEL: Well, if they're properly trained. I represent among other of my clients in the United States Supreme Court have been the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, the leading organization that trains police trainers. And when rank and file officers on the street are properly trained, they know and understand the laws that they have to apply.

PALUMBO: Interesting enough I made a comment on an 8:00 show with Soledad that this law did not apply based on my understanding of the law and that's a lot of what my statement about the criminality is attached to.

ROMANS: Dave Kopel, thank you so much this morning. Author of "Firearms, Law, and the Second Amendment" joining us from Colorado this morning. Soledad O'Brien is going to host a special town hall meeting tonight at CNN, "Beyond Trayvon -- Race and Justice in America." It airs on CNN tonight at 8:00 and 10:00 eastern. Don't miss it.

Let's check in with Alina Cho now for other headlines this morning. Good morning. ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Christine, good morning to you. Spike Lee apologizing and now paying for a mistake that forced a Sanford, Florida, couple from their home. The film director thought he was re-tweeting the home address of Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman. It turns out to be the address of a home owned by Elaine and David McClain. They said the media and hate mail forced them to check into a hotel. The McClain's attorney says his clients have been compensated and the matter is closed.

Apple has agreed to work with its manufacturing partner FoxCon to substantially improve wages and conditions for its factory workers in China. It comes in response to an investigation by the Fair Labor Association that found dozens of labor violations at Chinese plants that make Apple's products. The report said FoxCon defied industry codes of conduct having employees work more than 60 hours a week and 11 days straight without a break.

And speaking of Apple, it may soon have a new competitor in the tablet market. "The Wall Street Journal" Google will begin selling android tablets by summer, Google trying to slow Apple's massive market share with the iPad. Sources say Asus and Samsung are potential partners for tablets to be co-branded with the Google mark and sold in an online store.

No one is saying whether they cut any kind of deal, but it's been confirmed that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich had a private meeting last weekend in Louisiana. It happened in Romney's hotel in New Orleans, right before that state's primary. Sources tell CNN's John King the meeting was productive and pleasant but no further details. Romney and Gingrich's camps say the candidates keep in regular touch just to talk.

An awkward moment on the campaign trail for Mitt Romney. The GOP frontrunner was in Houston picking up endorsement from former president George H.W. Bush, Bush 41. Reporters wanted to know if Romney heard from George W. Bush while he was in town and here is Romney's response. Then listen carefully as Bush sr. Leans in and asks Romney a question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I haven't met with president George W. Bush. We speak from time to time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has he endorsed you yet?

ROMNEY: Uh, no.

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Did you hear what that means? It means good boys all listen to their mommies. CHO: W. May get a scolding.

ROMANS: Thanks, Alina.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, a disturbing rise in autism, up 20 percent in just two years, a serious look at what could be behind the staggering increase.

Plus people spending it in their minds already. I certainly have and yes I would come back to work --

CAIN: But what would you buy?

Rich people grow their money. They don't spend their money. I'd start thinking like a rich person. We're in the middle of the ticket buying action for the mega millions.

And get real, rest in grease, spend eternity wrapped in bacon, I'm not kidding. Check out the blog on our Web site CNN.com/startingpoint. You're watching STARTING POINT this morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Someone's going to win, that's Alison Kosik's playlist, Santana's "Winning." And it's the perfect song for the day because Alison is live in Times Square where people are pulling out their dollars and buying mega millions tickets, the largest jackpot ever. And I'm reading this number, $540 million. You could buy companies. You could retire country debt, so many things.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Endless possibilities. And it's that number that amazing when you think about how it's grown. The last time a person won the mega millions was January 24th, so no one's won it, after 18 drawings, and this is why you're seeing the jackpot go up and up and up and continues to rise as you see people line up here at convenience stores and buy these tickets. The jackpot is only estimated at $540 million, so expect it to go up higher. That's despite the fact that the odds, ugh, are one in, what is it?

ROMANS: It's 176 million.

KOSIK: You just said it. It's flabbergasting, blows my mind.

ROMANS: The $549 million jackpot is the only number people care about. They don't care about the odds that your odds almost as high of picking up the winning ticket at a subway grate in New York than picking the number.

KOSIK: You know why, because we are dreamers and going to dream of going to Tahiti as one guy said I've got it. I've got the winning ticket!

ROMANS: It's so cool too, the camaraderie at the office. I always tell people that if you have high interest credit card debt you have no business going out and spending money every week on lottery tickets. CAIN: It's being responsible.

ROMANS: The camaraderie at the office is a good investment.

CAIN: You would fail at Washington politics.

ROMANS: Seriously a lot of people waste their money on lottery tickets.

CAIN: It helps education. You're assuming their purpose is to win $540 million.

PALUMBO: I'd be happy with half that.

FUGELSANG: I got bills to pay, I need the whole $540 million.

ROMANS: Once you get to $500 million it's silly not to be part of the whole movement. Marc Morial is back, joining the panel, the president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Ahead next on STARTING POINT, President Obama telling Congress choose -- pick big oil or the American people. But he's still losing the fight to cut big breaks or oil companies. We're talking to the author of the bill that aims to do that.

And "Get Real,: the latest in the line of bacon-themed goodies, this one literally to die for.

And from John's playlist, John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things."

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bacon, bacon, got to be bacon, only one thing smells like bacon, and that's bacon! Bacon, bacon, bacon --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: In our "Get Realm," I get this press release, and I thought come on, really? Really? Everyone was talking about it. You can love bacon to death, literally spending the hereafter laying like a sizzling strip of pork fat. J&D Foods, a Seattle based company that specialize in bacon themed products, that's their job, bacon themed products, claims it's selling a bacon coffin painted with what the company calls bacon and pork shading, accented with gold handles.

The official press release "You ate bacon, decorated your body with bacon, your car with bacon and your home with bacon, and now you can peacefully rest wrapped in bacon." It's the latest in a long line of bacon products, baconaisse, lip balm, soda, bacon gravy. The bacon coffin is available for $2,999.95 plus shipping. And the free publicity they got for the press release is priceless.

FUGELSANG: It's inspiring to finally find something that can unite all of the Jews and Muslims together in complete disgust. They're marketing this just to Lady Gaga.

CAIN: You think bacon is at its zenith, height of popularity. Bacon sales have got to be at their highest point in years.

ROMANS: The prices are, prices are up. Here we'll talk about commodities.

FUGELSANG: I think it's great because the only demographic that can't be hurt by bacon is corpses so it works out perfectly with the coffin.

PALUMBO: How about a chicken coffin, or broccoli?

ROMANS: I was going to go with chocolate.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, an incredible video of a tornado picking up a school bus and tearing it to shreds. Kids were inside that bus just minutes before, and they have the bus driver to thank for saving their lives.

Plus a serious look at an alarming rise of autism in our children. New numbers revealing an epidemic and a staggering rise in just a couple of years.

And with President Obama feeling the gas price pressure he turns the heat on Congress to end the big oil tax breaks, but it's blocked. We'll talk to the author of the repeal big oil tax subsidies act. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: This is the song several generations of people Bruce Springsteen "Born to Run." It's from Senator Robert Menendez's play list. Senator Menendez joins us in just a few minutes.

But first, we chose it to Alina Cho for some breaking news headlines. Good morning.

CHO: Hi there, Christine. Good morning to you.

French police have arrested about 20 suspected Islamic militants during early morning raids today. Most of the arrests taking place in Toulouse, that's where gunman Mohammed Merah killed seven people in three separate attacks earlier this month. Not clear if there's any connection between those killings and this morning's arrests.

Colorado firefighters are counting on another day of light winds and cooler temperatures as they try to contain a deadly wildfire. Two people already died in the western foothills of Denver.

A rescue team of 32 people and six dogs is searching this morning for a woman who is still missing. About 200 acres have been covered, but they still haven't found her. More than 41 acres burned and more than two dozen homes have been destroyed. Take a look at this heart-stopping video of three firefighters in Dearborn, Michigan, just look at that, battling a fire at a dry cleaning business, barely escaping with their lives.

Here's what happened. The men were trying to poke a hole in the roof to ventilate the building when it caved in. Two of the firefighters barely pulling their partner to safety, thankfully everyone is all right.

Chilling new video of one of the deadly tornados that tore through the Midwest earlier this month. The storms killed 14 people in the state of Indiana. That number could have been a lot higher if not for a fast thinking school bus driver in the city of Henryville.

Massive F4 tornado flattened Henryville on March 2nd, you remember that. It struck just after 3:00 p.m. school bus driver Angel Perry was taking 11 of her students home from school when the skies began to darken. So she radioed dispatch, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGEL PERRY, SCHOOL BUS DRIVER (via telephone): This is 211, I'm about a minute and a half from the school.

RADIO: This is 210, I'm seeing a tornado touched down about one mile from me.

PERRY: My gosh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: My gosh is right. She had to make a quick decision, keep driving or turn around and head back to the school? Well, she decided to turn around and that was smart. When she got back to the school she had to get the kids off the bus fast and listen to how she did it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Everybody stay together, our group together right now, go, go, go, go, go, go! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine -- come on! 10, 11, go, go, go!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: She did it just in time. Look at this video from the school bus security camera, 3 minutes after the kids got off the bus, hail, 175-mile-per-hour winds, ripping through the bus.

And have a look at where it ended up, the 18-ton vehicle wound up launched across the street, flew right through the window of a local diner. Luckily that diner had been evacuated just moments earlier.

And it's the battle in the big east. The final four in men's college basketball square off tomorrow night in New Orleans, Louisville versus top seat Kentucky and Ohio State versus Kansas. The winners will play on Monday night for the national championship. You've been following this one, Christine?

ROMANS: No, I'm going to be honest, I can't say I have. My husband is rolling his eyes. Have you been following it?

CHO: What do you think?

ROMANS: But all of the people on this panel are reacting, you know --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kentucky is a favorite.

ROMANS: You think so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But go with Kansas.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. Always with the big 12.

ROMANS: You guys are speaking another language.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: I avoid it because women like that.

CAIN: Do they or they just tell you that.

ROMANS: Let's talk about gas prices that will make you laugh. You're looking at another increase in gas price. The national average for a gallon of regular now $3.93 and in the thick of the national debate over the increases at the pump, President Obama losing a fight to repeal tax breaks for big oil companies.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was the author of repeal big oil tax subsidies act. He joins us this morning. Thank you for coming on this morning.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Great to be with you.

ROMANS: So Senate Republicans blocked the move on the procedural vote and it was, I think 51 to 47 and one of the things here that really was resonating with Democrats was that total profits for the big oil last year, $132 billion, with a "B."

And people at home are paying record prices at the pump. This is a political moment for Democrats and the president, to be able say that's just not fair.

MENENDEZ: Well, it's that and also an opportunity to change our energy paradigm. We would have taken the $24 billion in tax breaks that we give the big five oil companies who don't need it, when they made $137 billion in profits just last year.

And taken half of that and put it into renewable energy sources, biofuels, biodiesel, plug in electric cars and the other half into deficit reduction. I don't think that as people go to the pump and pay at the pump they also have to pay another $24 billion of their money. ROMANS: I want to say with the energy industry. I mean, the energy industry is pretty clear about this. They say, look, there are other industries in this country that get bigger breaks that we do. They say we have national security interest and they say these are legitimate manufacturing deductions in many case. He's smiling wryly. You heard this before too.

MENENDEZ: I've heard the crocodile tears before.

ROMANS: But someone explained it to me like this. It's like saying that the America to call big oil profits or big oil subsidies corporate welfare is like saying that the average homeowner is taking welfare for getting the mortgage income deductions.

These are deductions that I know it's a stretch, but these are deductions that the Congress has given them to incentivize different industries over another and national importance of having energy security in this country is one of the reasons.

MENENDEZ: Well, Christine, first of all last year they made a $137 billion. The reality is they produce 4 percent less oil, the big five and that's a 75 percent increase in profits.

So the marketplace has determined they're going to make huge profits without the American taxpayer giving them $24 billion of their money.

We're better off using that money to create a new generation of renewable energy sources including for transportation, reducing the deficit than giving to them and to suggest that the extraction of oil is manufacturing or to suggest that you go abroad --

ROMANS: If they can't get tax breaks for digging holes in the middle of the ocean that cost tens of millions of dollars a year --

MENENDEZ: They will forego making the $137 billion. Please, $2 billion a year over the next 10 years, they'll make a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

ROMANS: Let's listen to what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Senate Democrats asked us all to come out here not so we can make an actual difference in the lives of working Americans and families struggling to fill the gas tank, but so we can watch them stage votes for show.

For some reason they thought they'd put some political points on the board this week if the American people saw them voting for a tax hike that we all knew ahead of time didn't have the votes to pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So they're saying it's political. You guys are sensing a political --

MENENDEZ: Well, I understand Senator McConnell saying that, he is the largest recipient of oil contributions in the United States Senate, over 85 percent of all oil contributions go to Republican members of the Congress. So look, this is about whose side are you on?

Do you want to say that big oil that will make $1 trillion over the next 10 years in profits should get an additional $24 billion from us or do you really think that's better used to create renewable energy sources and pay down the debt? I think most Americans feel it's the latter.

CAIN: Senator, isn't this though in direct contradiction to the president's message, the Democratic Party's message that your energy policy is an all the above policy.

In the past week alone, you suggested you're going to put caps on coal plants, essentially ending coal, which is 40 percent of our electricity generation as an energy source in the future.

And now doing this, it seems that you're all of the above strategies, all of the above except for carbon emitting dead dinosaurs that we burn for the majority of our energy.

MENENDEZ: The reality is the president's opened more federal land and water to oil drilling. The reality is we have more oil production domestically than the last eight years.

The reality is that there's a huge part of federal land and water that the oil companies have and don't produce on, and the reality is that for the first time ever.

We are actually exporting, when I tell New Jersey residents that 78 million gallons of oil -- I mean gasoline are being exported daily to other countries in the world they say what? That's ridiculous.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: So this bill got 51 votes.

MENENDEZ: Yes.

MORIAL: But didn't pass. So this is another example of the filibuster in the Senate being used ad infinitum to prevent an up and down vote on the merits of a piece of legislation.

So when you look at it from the perspective of just the people of the nation, they say why can't you just have an up or down vote on the merits of any piece of legislation that might introduced in the United States Senate?

MENENDEZ: As you know, Marc, the filibuster are a procedure in which Republicans have used it excessively to insist instead of what we learn growing up that a majority is half plus one that no in the Senate it has to be 60. And so the reality is, even though a majority yesterday of the United States Senate supported repealing these subsidies, the Republicans insisted on the 60-vote threshold, therefore it didn't pass.

ROMANS: Certainly, the whole conversation resonates because people, you just saw from that screen, people are paying, you know, a couple grand more a year to, for their gasoline when they were when the president took office.

So it becomes not because of him or in spite of him, just the way it is. That makes it a real story of the political moment. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, thanks for joining us this morning. Sir, have a nice weekend.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, don't blame the kids, blame the parents. Kids misbehaving so badly that a plane makes a detour. A story that is going to steam you or frighten you depending on how bad your kids are coming up.

And running for a viral video of the year, you're a guy in the back of a police cruiser pulls a Wayne's world.

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ROMANS: A little more conversation for right now.

FUGELSANG: The original version of Elvis.

ROMANS: You know, I like the oceans 11 version, but I do like this one. This one is very good, but a little Elvis every morning will get you going.

Another midair meltdown, this time it's kids forcing an emergency landing. An Alaska airlines crew asked police to meet their plane in Portland, Oregon, after two young children ages 3 and 8 refused to stay in their seats and buckle their seat belts and the parents were right there with them.

Apparently, they were met at the gate by police and official from the airport who said it is federal aviation law that you must have your seatbelt on and these children would not remain in their seats and would not have their seat belt fastened.

One thing, I want to know is couldn't the parents, why weren't the parents holding them down. You can hold a 3-year-old, screaming or not and keep them buckled in. I don't know what the parents were doing.

CAIN: We have an epidemic in this country of a lack of --

ROMANS: Here we go.

CAIN: I have young children, you have young children, John just entered the parenting market.

MORIAL: I have young children.

CAIN: We have an epidemic of a lack of discipline. Parents unwilling to discipline their children. I know that's conservative of me, but that's true.

ROMANS: When you go on an airplane, it's like putting a tornado in a jar, and it's very difficult.

CAIN: It's a 20, 30-pound tornado and you're 130-pound something tornado.

MORIAL: You have to think whether or not your children can travel. Think about every child, they're not a traveling.

FUGELSANG: But it's true. I agree with Will about it and I don't want to have a knee-jerk blame the parents response, but give me a break when the entire plane is diverted that's the time to assert your authority.

MORIAL: It is the responsibility of the parents and that's the principle we ought to affirm.

ROMANS: This is the second case we've seen recently. There was another case where the parents were kicked off the flight because they couldn't keep a 2-year-old under control.

MORIAL: Sometimes a 2-year-old, some 2-year-olds may not be suitable for air travel. You're in a contained space and I think parents have to exercise good judgment. It's tough to say.

CAIN: That's what's missing there.

FUGELSANG: Someday these kids will be in Congress explaining why we have to defund Medicare.

ROMANS: I will say that I drive to Chicago now, after the last flight with three kids under the age of 5. We now drive because if they freak out in the van, if a tree falls in the forest and the parents aren't listening, so now it's for us.

CAIN: Driving power, I don't know how you do that.

MORIAL: Driving with kids is great with the DVD player.

CAIN: Remember the old days when the worst thing about a plane flight was a movie.

ROMANS: All right, if you're about to head to work, folks, you don't need to miss the rest of the show. You can check out our live blog on our web site cnn.com/startingpoint.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, former Senator Arlen Spector dishing dirt about his decades in Washington in a new book. Can you guess which vice presidential candidate he thought radiated sensuality?

Senator Arlen Spector joins us now and the numbers are shocking, 1 in 88 American children diagnosed now with autism. This is according to a new study and the statistics are even worse for little boys. We're looking into these numbers next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMANS: A new debate about the cause of autism is building this morning. It's being fuelled by new numbers from the CDC that show a significant increase in how many kids are now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder up 80 percent in the last decade.

In 2000 and 2003 about 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with in autism. Two years later, that number was 1 in 125. In 2006, that number was 1 in 110. The latest data from 2008 suggest that 1 in every 88 children has autism.

Joining me now is the chief scientific officer for Autism Speaks, Dr. Geraldine Dawson and along with her is Glen Finland, the author of "Next Stop," which chronicles her experience of raising her son, David who has autism.

Welcome to both of you. It's real to talk about this today because this is something that every family is really talking about. I want to talk first about the number -- increase in numbers.

Is it because of awareness? Is it because it's happening more? Is it because the spectrum is better defined so people understand where they fit in the autism spectrum? Is it all of these things?

GERALDINE DAWSON, PH.D, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, AUTISM SPEAKS: Well, autism prevalence has increased tenfold over the last four decades. It's a public health crisis. We're seeing an epidemic of autism at this point. Why is this happening?

It's true that better diagnosis and broadening of the criteria explain part of the increase, but only part. There's a large portion of the increase that's unexplained. That's why we think it's so important to investigate environmental risk factors.

ROMANS: And you mention environmental because other mothers and fathers I know who have kids who are on the spectrum or in a school district where they have a lot of integration of kids so we're very aware of all of this in the community.

And there's massive discussion about environmental causes, but also how to mitigate the symptoms of autism or the characteristics of autism through environmental diet for example and keeping kids away from certain chemicals. That's a big part of the research right now too.

DAWSON: That's right. So we know that genes play a large role in terms of the cause of autism. But we also know that environment plays a role. We're beginning to identify some of those environmental risk factors. ROMANS: Like what?

DAWSON: Well, some of them are older parents are at higher risk for having a child with autism. But also other things that would affect the early brain development of a baby during the prenatal period, the mother's nutrition.

Whether the baby was born prematurely, certain birth difficulties and even exposure to toxins such as pesticides and air pollution during pregnancy can increase the risk.

ROMANS: I want to bring in Glen Finland who wrote this book. Her son, David, is 24 now. I bet, Glen, I'm guessing that today the awareness among pediatricians and parents especially of boys is much different today than it was when your son was just a toddler.

GLEN FINLAND, SON HAS AUTISM: Yes. The numbers have changed, but this diagnosis makes sense to me just because of the greater public awareness about autism and early screening and intervention. But you know, the real question is what is our government going to do to confront this public health crisis?

ROMANS: And for you also, a son who is now 24, I mean, tell me how he's doing. You say he's a long-distance runner. He's now using the subway and even now is making great strides.

FINLAND: Yes, he is. One of the themes in my book has been moving forward because David is a young adult now and he's entitled to a private life of his own. So how do we make that happen?

How do we as parents help launch these young adults into independent adulthood? David was able to learn to ride the metro and that just became a terrific metaphor in my book for moving forward and finding a life that he could call his own.

ROMANS: The challenge here really is you talk about how you call him a neuro typical child. When a neuro typical child steps out into the world they are surrounded by co-workers and friends and girlfriends and boyfriends and their circle gets bigger and bigger.

When David steps out into the world, his circle is quite small. That's something as a parent with a child with autism it's something that whether the child is an infant or a toddler or a teenager or an adult, you never really can let go.

FINLAND: Yes. The growing isolation I would say is one of the top concerns for parents of young autistic adults because when David steps out of the nest, then his circle of support will shrink.

And when his brothers, his older brothers stepped out of the nest, theirs broadened because they took on new friends and lovers and social network and business associates all things that are natural and normal.

But what parent doesn't want to see their child step out into the world, it's the natural order of things. And it's private life that they are entitled to. So everything that we can do to make this happen including government intervention is very necessary so that's what I'm working for.

ROMANS: The different states actually, a lot of states have early intervention programs and pediatricians now are watching. Is your child pointing? Is your child running on tiptoes? Is your child not meeting your eye contact?

These are all really important things for parents to be aware. You have a 16-day old baby boy. You're going to be hearing about all this as he grows up.

FUGELSANG: I do indeed. As someone whose family has been touched by this, I have a question for Dr. Dawson. Is one of the reasons for these increased numbers, the inclusion of high functioning autism such as Asperguer's, which is being diagnosed also in adults now in much greater numbers?

DAWSON: Well, there's actually been some good research on this that is looking at how these factors have affected the increase in prevalence. And we do find that the broadening of the autism diagnosis to include these higher functioning individuals counts for some of the increase, but it does not account for all of the increase. There's a portion that's unexplained.

FUGELSANG: Do you have an opinion on vaccination controversy?

DAWSON: Well, the vaccines do not explain this increase in prevalence that we're seeing.

FUGELSANG: I had a comedian on TV in a game show tell me that it did.

ROMANS: There you go.

DAWSON: There's varying opinions, but the evidence thus far does not suggest that it is explaining this increase.

ROMANS: Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, it's so nice to meet you this morning and also Glen Finland, thank you for telling us your story. A story who wrote a book about called "Next Stop: A Memoir of Family." Thank you both.

Ahead next hour, a witness to the Trayvon Martin shooting speaks out. What he heard and how it matches up with what we've heard so far.

Plus Osama Bin Laden getting busy during his time in hiding in Pakistan. One of his wives now saying a Pakistani hospital delivered his children.

And a drunk karaoke in the back of a cop car. A viral video you'll watch a hundred times this weekend while waiting to win the Mega Millions. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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