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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Grand Jury Will Not be Convened for Trayvon Martin Case; Newt Gingrich to Remain in GOP Presidential Race; Luxury Post-Apocalyptic Bunker Built in Kansas; North Korea Prepares Rocket Launch; New Look at Bin Laden's Widows And Kids; Security Alert On Campus; Dental X- Rays Linked To Brain Tumors; Record Low For Teen Birth Rates; Seventh Grader Steers School Bus; New Video: Lavish Vegas Conference; GSA Official Placed On Leave; Guillen In Trouble Over Castro Comments; Building A "Mindful Nation"
Aired April 10, 2012 - 06:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Thank you, ladies. Welcome, everybody.
Our STARTING POINT this morning, George Zimmerman speaking out from his hiding spot. He is, of course, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He's now launching a Web site to ask for financial support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I walk around and see, make sure everybody else is working, so I don't have to do anything.
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O'BRIEN: All right. That's the angry clown. Yes. No joke. Bragging about drinking and also bragging about wasting your money, maybe in retrospect, it wasn't so smart. It is, of course, another embarrassment for the agency was a goal of efficiency and to save taxpayer dollars. Now, there's another official at the GSA who's paying the price for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it that office space? Office space.
O'BRIEN: I know. I know. We'll talk about that straight ahead.
Plus, a savage St. Patrick's Day beating and robbery has been caught on tape. A man stripped of his clothes and his belongings. People stood by and recorded it and laughed at him. Terrible pictures. We'll talk about that as well.
It is Tuesday, April 10th and STARTING POINT begins right now.
O'BRIEN: Good morning, you're listening to John Fugelsang's playlist, "Cheer Down." John, of course, part of our panel this morning. He's a political comedian. Nice to have you.
JOHN FUGELSANG, COMEDIAN: Good morning.
O'BRIEN: Roland Martin is with us, the host of "Washington Watch."
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: On TV-One.
O'BRIEN: And a host of several thousand other things.
MARTIN: Black men have got to have multiple jobs in this economy.
O'BRIEN: And Will Cain, columnist at theblaze.com.
No surprise to me George Zimmerman has launched his own Web site to try to raise money for his defense, I guess.
FUGELSANG: And living expenses.
O'BRIEN: Clearly. He can't work, not going to school anymore, in hiding. I'm not surprised by that at all. Are you?
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I guess not. George Zimmerman's life totally changed over the last two weeks. Regardless of his guilt or innocence I would imagine he's looking for some aid as well.
MARTIN: Trayvon Martin's family have been raising funds for a legal defense because they have lawyers as well in this case, so this is not shocking. It happens in many other cases. We see it all the time.
O'BRIEN: So on his web site he has written this, "On Sunday, February 26th, I was involved in a life-altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I've been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family, and ultimately my entire life." He goes on to say the Web site's sole purpose is to solicit donations to help fund his defense, if in fact that is need. It comes out the same day special prosecutor Angela Corey said she'll not convene a grand jury in the case.
Let get right to Mark Nejame, a CNN contributor. He's also a criminal defense attorney. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us.
MARK NEJAME, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.
O'BRIEN: It doesn't strike any one of us around this table that this is an unusual or surprising thing to do. Is this unusual for someone not charged with a crime to start think being raising funds for a potential defense?
NEJAME: No. He needs an attorney now and he's doing the right thing. These types of cases are national cases and are all-consuming. His lawyers will be working morning, noon and night and they need to make a living. The reality of it is for those who suggest let him get a job, he can't get a job. His life is in true danger. There's been a rush to judgment by many and suggestions that he has done it without really all the facts coming in. So I think there's really very few alternatives right now other than to raise money. Having lawyers is an expensive proposition and he needs them as early as possible.
O'BRIEN: There's no debate over whether or not he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. That's a fact of the case. Interestingly on his Web site he wrote as I was just reading a moment ago "I was involved in a life altering event" and calls it an "incident" as well. Does that surprise you?
NEJAME: No, sounds like his lawyers helped word it. He can't make any admissions or confessions and there's no reason to expand beyond that. We all know in fact he was the shooter. The issue is legally whether it was justified or not under Florida's law. So, no, I think they guarded their words appropriately and I'm impressed with the fact that he was honest about it. He said he was using it for living expenses and just not legal expenses. He is simply saying he can't work. So I think that it was a full disclosure of what the funds were intended for, which is appropriate.
O'BRIEN: As a defense attorney would you ever, ever advise a client, say it does move forward and he starts using the Web site as more than just a place to get funds but also to have a conversation, which people often do on their own Web sites -- here is my position, here is what I'm doing, where I can talk to my people. I imagine you would think that would be a disaster.
NEJAME: Of course, any time you talk those comments are going to be used against you. There are cases when you're going to want a client to talk, this is not one of them. This is a case where question need to wait for all the evidence to come out so we can better and fully assess what in fact happened and whether the acts fit into Florida's law or not.
And then I think there will be a substantial debate about is Florida's law proper and the whole issue about people's rights to arm themselves and where they should arm themselves and when they can use those weapons. So this is going to not only deal with this specific issue but I think the debate will be far, far greater.
O'BRIEN: Clearly, I would agree you that stand your ground will be closely examined. Angela Corey decided, as you well know, not to take the case to the grand jury and many people, regardless of how their perspective on the case have called her courageous for not doing that. Explain that to me. Why is that courageous?
NEJAME: Well, typically when you have a controversial case, a high publicity case, it's very easy for the prosecutor to hide behind the grand jury and simply take political shelter from the decision of the grand jury, which she has done and always done. Apparently, she goes, I don't go to the grand jury. I fully investigate my case and then I make a decision about which charges, if any, to bring against the accused. And apparently she's staying consistent with this as she has in previous cases. She announced early on she never goes to the grand jury, and I think this is consistent. It would be easy in a case like this to say the people have spoken with the grand jury. She's choosing not to do that.
The fact of the matter, though, is that she has got some very serious decisions to make. And I think she's going to go ahead and do an exhaustive examination, far more than an investigation than a grand jury would be able to do sitting and then listening to the evidence come in.
CAIN: Mark, Will Cain. Does the fact that Angela Corey decided not to go to a grand jury indicate to you one way or another whether or not she intends to bring charges at all?
NEJAME: I don't think it indicates anything. I think that it's getting her the requisite time she thinks she needs to conduct a full and complete investigation. There needs to be tape enhancements, there's questions about when the "please help me" is on the tape, there's debate as to who was saying that. There's witnesses apparently in some form or another who are out there. There is some enhancement that need to be done and has been done on the videotape when he was being processed or walked through the port of the jail. So there's a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration.
And then those facts need to be plugged into Florida's law. And so there's a lot here. Then she has to determine do the actions, can they prove a case in good faith, and have ethical obligations, can they move forward in good faith? So there's a lot going on here.
MARTIN: Mark, the grand jury date was set by the previous D.A. She didn't actually set this. So she really wasn't obligated to take it to the grand jury.
NEJAME: Exactly. I mean, it could have been canceled anyway, but that's exactly right. Norm Wolfinger, the state attorney for that circuit initially had it set through his assistant state attorneys when she assumed the case it was her case. This is her ballgame. She'll make the decisions she deems appropriate. And I think we have to take her at her word. She's a tough prosecutor, without question but this is consistent with what she's always done. She is going to go ahead and take the hits and take the responsibility for whatever the decision is and moving forward appropriately.
O'BRIEN: With no grand jury that means no first-degree murder, that's of the table. Does that surprise you?
NEJAME: No, there's no first-degree murder here. That would require premeditation. If we see charges come down they'll be man slaughter in one form another and whether there be an aggravator because of the age of Trayvon. If we see a charge come down it will be in the manslaughter category, which is still serious in Florida because you have a firearm used in the commission of a death. So we have very serious gun laws especially if a death ensues.
O'BRIEN: Mark Najame, CNN contributor and defense attorney, nice to see you. Appreciate your time.
NEJAME: My pleasure, good morning.
O'BRIEN: Thank you.
Coming up in our next hour, we'll talk to Darrell Parks, an attorney for Trayvon Martin's family, that's up later this morning.
First, though, a look at the headlines, other stories making news. Hi, Christine, good morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Five terrorist suspects with alleged ties to Osama bin Laden soon could be brought to the U.S. to face charges. The suspects have been fighting extradition from Britain for several years. They claimed they'd be treated poorly in an American prison, but the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against them.
For the first time we're hearing the 911 calls from that U.S. Navy jet crash. An F/A-18 Hornet slammed into an apartment complex in Virginia last week about two from the naval station where the jet took off. Several people, including two pilots were hurt. When we look at the pictures, amazingly no one died. One witness describes a pilot landing on her patio.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pilot is on your patio?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and nobody's here. And I've been calling and calling and there's no ambulance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the pilot conscious?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he is. The last I saw him, he was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so he's no longer on your patio right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's still on my patio, but they told me to evacuate and there's other guys there helping him. My neighbors are there helping him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: The U.S. Navy is compensating people affected by the crash, paying for housing, meals, clothing, and counseling.
"Minding your Business" this morning, stock futures are pointing higher today as Wall Street tries to erase a four-day losing streak, the worst patch of the year. Aluminum maker Alcoa the first to report for the January to March quarter.
Facebook has a new friend. It has purchased photo-sharing app Instagram for $1 billion -- $1 billion, not bad for a company that's been around less than two years. Instagram has only 13 employees, still hasn't turned a profit, but it does have something Facebook wants. It has more than 30 million users, and it has a technology that a lot of folks like.
Another mega millions lottery winner claimed their share of the $656 million jackpot. Maryland lottery official also hold a press conference to announce the winning ticket holder in that state has come forward. The winner plans to stay anonymous. This is the second out of three mega millions winners. The final one in Illinois has not come forward yet. But the first two I'm pretty sure, anonymity is a good thing when you landed a couple hundred million dollars, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yep, yep, yep. Christine, thank you.
Here is a story that is completely outrageous, a videotape of a guy who is basically mugged. It's very disturbing to watch. In Baltimore, Maryland, St. Patrick's Day, a guy visiting from out of town being robbed and clocked in the face, then he's stripped naked and all of these people are just standing by and laughing and watching even though they eventually called police, they were filming the scene.
What's interesting is this video went viral and there have been certain bloggers outraged seeing the guy attacked and the nerve to shoot the whole thing and post it so it goes viral. They're using freeze frames to help identify the individuals especially the guy who punched him in the face there, trying to see if they can do that. Some of that they said was outrage, the bloggers, because they felt like here you have a white tourist and young black people around him, and they feel like it's not getting the same sense of outrage that the Trayvon Martin case had got even though, you know, obviously he did not die.
FUGELSANG: Who posted it? Put down the camera and help the guy. Who posted it?
CAIN: One of its most offensive things about the story actually as much as it is they're beating the hell out of him, how many stood there watched and laughed and did nothing?
O'BRIEN: To me they were active participants in trying to humiliate this man. It wasn't like a bystander who didn't jump to n to help.
CAIN: Apparently he woke up the next morning, was drunk, didn't know what happened to him, couldn't tell the police how it happened until this showed up online.
MARTIN: Of course with the various bloggers, the police arrived on the scene looking after him. Second thing is, he wasn't killed.
O'BRIEN: Of course.
MARTIN: So when people are sitting here looking at cases and what happens, it's a difference between somebody is sitting here gunned down who is dead and someone who has an opportunity to actually go after those individuals. And they should be using facial recognition to determine who actually was in the video. Same thing happened -- O'BRIEN: I think people should be outraged.
MARTIN: And the flash mob things that took place as well in Montgomery County.
FUGELSANG: There's a time and place for that behavior, and it's called fraternity hazing.
O'BRIEN: And you're joking.
MARTIN: I'm a grown man. If somebody hit me for some lettuce, we have a problem.
O'BRIEN: How did we get on to fraternity hazing?
MARTIN: Trust me, we have a problem.
O'BRIEN: Moving on, still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, a boy with a teddy bear, women with their faces covered, the first look at Osama bin Laden's widows and children under house arrest.
Also, Newt Gingrich basically concedes the race to Mitt Romney, doesn't drop out, though. Why not? We'll talk to his campaign straight ahead.
And a real estate kaboom, making luxury condos out of nuclear sigh lows. There's a hefty price tag when you hear details. It sounds kind of nice to live there. We'll leave you with Christine's playlist. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: That's David Bowie "Modern Love" off of Newt Gingrich campaign spokesman Joe Desantis' playlist. He'll join us in just a moment to talk about his candidate admitting for the very first time he will most likely not be the Republican nominee for president.
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NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to be realistic, given the size of his organization and the number of primaries he's won he is far and away the most likely Republican nominee and if he does get to 1,144 delegates I'll support him and do everything I can this fall to help him beat Obama, because the primary goal of the entire Republican Party has to be to defeat Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So far Newt Gingrich hasn't actually dropped out of the race, despite having been in a distant third with 140 delegates so far. Let's get to Joe Desantis who joins us from Washington, D.C.
JOE DESANTIS, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, GINGRICH 2012: Good morning, thanks for having me.
O'BRIEN: It's my pleasure. Thanks for being with us. He can't win, in debt roughly about $4.5 million in debt. And when you hear him talk, he sort of sounds he's capitulating in one way but not capitulating, not getting out of the race. Why not?
DESANTIS: Well, in that interview he was acknowledging governor Romney's delegate lead but he went on to point out that just because the odds are against you, doesn't mean that you stop fighting for what you believe in, and Newt is determined to keep fighting until one candidate has 1,144 or if nobody gets to 1,144 to go on to the convention and make the case individually to the delegates on the floor.
Newt has a particular brand of 21st century conservatism, an innovation-oriented conservatism, what over 1 million American people voted for. And he wouldn't have gotten in the race if he didn't believe that was a unique perspective and a unique vision for the country, and he's determined to keep making that vision, and one of the ways that he is going to keep making that case is by talking about the Republican party platform. It allows Newt to both influence the future of the party and the future of the country, but also keep the focus on ideas, where he.
And if there's been one consistent pattern is that when Newt is talking about gold ideas and big solutions he's doing well, and then some of the more typical back and forth of the campaign, sort of pettiness of it doesn't, it hasn't served us very well. So this is both a tool to affect the future of the party and affect the future of the country but also get us back on the ground where we've had more of an advantage.
CAIN: So there's the change, right, in what the message of the last couple weeks. I think when we talk to you and the rest of the people in the Gingrich campaign a couple weeks ago it was what you started your message, taking this to a floor fight, fighting Mitt Romney from getting 1,144. But this is a shift in message. With Newt saying "I think platforms matter and the party is about more than just a presidential campaign" it's about ideas you've shifted. You've become sort of like a Ron Paul campaign. Am I wrong? You're an advocacy campaign about issues important to you and I have to think for guys like you personally, Joe, that changes your job.
DESANTIS: No. We've always viewed our mission, and -- it's never been a job for anyone on the Gingrich campaign. It's always been a mission, is to advocate for a particular vision for the country.
And it is -- I'll give you an example. We're not normal I guess political consultants on our campaign. Lot of us are policy people, and Newt is one of the only people -- is the only person in the race that identified that amidst all the talk about controlling health care costs with bureaucracies or with 15-member panels on Obamacare, the greatest driver downward pressure driver of costs in medicine is medical breakthroughs. So Newt is the only one who talked about we need to fundamentally overhaul the food and drug administration because it acts as a bottleneck.
O'BRIEN: In your mind it's all about the ideas and every time you've had big ideas that's helped new the polls.
DESANTIS: That's been --
O'BRIEN: What about his tone is much more conciliatory when we heard him over the weekend, and yet as you well know, Senator John McCain, who is a Mitt Romney supporter, has said this has been terrible, is not hurting Republicans' chances, this does not help them down the road as it heads into November. How is it possible to undo the damage that Newt Gingrich has wrought upon Mitt Romney, assuming that Mitt Romney will in fact be the nominee?
DESANTIS: It's funny to hear that from Senator McCain seeing as how he had the nomination wrapped up in a couple of weeks in 2008 and senator Obama and Clinton kept going for months and he ended up getting beaten pretty decisively. I don't think there's any evidence that an extended primary hurts the general, eventual nominee.
O'BRIEN: I don't think there was any point at which Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were calling each other liar or some of the things Newt Gingrich has called Mitt Romney.
DESANTIS: Do you remember the red phone ad?
O'BRIEN: I do, very effective ad. That was as bad as it got, a very effective ad but I would argue and I think others would join me in this and jump me in and tell me if I'm wrong this has been nastier. Is there a way to undo calling someone a liar? I got to imagine that's going to appear in on ad.
FUGELSANG: Or loser or the pious baloney comment. I mean, can this be undone, and will this affect Speaker Gingrich's future as a public speaker to conservative audiences.
DESANTIS: Newt's focus has always been on the future of the country, where it needs to go. That's what Newt is going to keep talking about, whether it's throughout the rest of this primary, as he fights for every vote because every vote means a vote for more conservative platform and more conservative GOP, and in the general election as well.
CAIN: I don't begrudge Joe this. It's not our job to push Newt out of this race.
FUGELSANG: Let him stay in forever.
CAIN: If he wants to advocate for issues, I think it changes the job for Joe and some of the guys working for us.
O'BRIEN: Thanks, Joe, we appreciate it. Nice to talk to you.
DESANTIS: Sure, thank you.
FUGELSANG: I'm still rooting for him.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we've got this incredible videotape to show you from a school bus after the driver nearly dies behind the wheel and then a seventh grader takes over and rescues the other riders on the bus.
And our "Get Real" this morning, it sounds like something I'd like to buy. It comes with pool, movie theater, library and indoor farm, and no lay daylight because it's for after the apocalypse hit in a silo. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll give you an inside tour in just a minute. You're listening to Will Cain's playlist, John Mellencamp, "Pink Houses." And you can see our playlist at CNN.com/startingpoint and follow us on Twitter.
O'BRIEN: Our "Get Real" this morning, when the first signs of the end of the world hit you might want to high tail it to Kansas because a developer there has renovated a cold war era bunker into 14 floors, this is the mockup, 14 floors of luxury condos. It includes an aboveground security system, has cameras, places to get fingerprints and barbed wire, concrete walls. There's a pool, a movie theater, a library. It will be self-powered, plenty of food as soon as you get the indoor farm up and running, big screen TV. Let's not even mention that. Recessed lighting of course.
FUGELSANG: Track lighting is tacky after an apocalypse.
O'BRIEN: Home automation system, simulated outdoor view. What will it cost you? Take a guess, people. Yes $2 million, $2 million. I think it's under 2,000 square feet, like 1,800 square feet or only $1 million if you want half of the floor.
FUGELSANG: God help you if you hate your neighbor and want to move.
MARTIN: God help if you're in another part of the country and cannot get to your silo.
FUGELSANG: Did you see "The Road?" Do you really want to miss that when it happens, the roving bands of cannibal mutants roaming around the country? It looks like a great place if you don't value sunlight.
O'BRIEN: Laugh if you want. I will be the first person visiting my friends in Kansas.
MARTIN: Hello, can I get in?
O'BRIEN: This is Soledad O'Brien from CNN.
FUGELSANG: If you always wanted Dick Cheney to be your neighbor, now's your chance.
O'BRIEN: Coming up, this is a big story today, you go to Miami, and as Ozzie Guillen realized, the new manager of the Miami Marlins, got off on the wrong foot with fans because he said he loved Fidel Castro. Hello, in Miami? Have you lost your mind? He's paying for it today. He's going to do the apology tour.
Also, clowning around with your cash, we'll talk about this GSA official forced to pay by losing his job for a conference, nearly cost $1 million of taxpayer money, lawmakers demanding an investigation. You're watching STARTING POINT. We've got to take a short break. We've back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: That's Chris Young, "You."
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My playlist. I was leaving a Houston Texas football game and some brothers were jamming and I said you know that's a good song if the brothers are doing a line dance.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I played "Billie Jean" the other day. I'm a very diverse individual.
MARTIN: We're in 2012, Will.
O'BRIEN: Let's get right to headlines. Christine has a look at those. Hi, Christine. Good morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. North Korea says its new rocket should be finished today and it's planning to launch it by next Monday.
They say the operation is for peaceful purposes. U.S. officials though believe the launch is a cover for a long range ballistic missile test.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke with South Korean officials, both countries calling the launch, a quote, "grave provocation." South Korea says it will respond with counter measures.
We're getting a first look at Osama Bin Laden's widows and their children. CNN obtained this new video showing his wives praying and the kids playing with toys while under house arrest in Islamabad, Pakistan. Next week, the Bin Laden women and children will be deported to their home countries of Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Heightened security this morning on the University of Pittsburgh campus following a series of bomb threats there. Federal officials have joined school police to investigate the threats, which began back in February. The university is now limiting access to campus buildings, despite the threats, so far no evidence of explosives has been found.
In our "A.M. House Call" this morning, a disturbing study says getting frequent dental x-rays may increase a patient's risk for a commonly diagnosed non-malignant brain tumor called meningioma.
That study found young people are particularly at risk. It's the largest ever study to examine the link. Researchers say patients who have annual bite wing x-rays had a 40 percent to 90 percent greater risk of these tumors.
Also a record low for teen birth rates in the U.S. A new government report says nearly every state saw a decline in teen births between 2007 and 2010. The national rate fell 9 percent for girls aged 15 to 19.
The decline attributed to greater pregnancy prevention efforts. On a state level Mississippi had the highest rate of teen births. New Hampshire had the lowest.
Dramatic video from inside a school bus in Washington State, a student taking the wheel after the driver passes out. Footage from the bus surveillance camera shows the driver started shaking, gasping for air, throwing his hands up in the air.
The bus was swerving out of control, apparently heading for a church. That's when 13-year-old Jeremy Wuitschick ran down the aisle, grabbed the wheel as another child who was trained by the Red Cross performed CPR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY WUITSCHICK, STEERED BUS TO SAFETY: I'm just thinking I just want to stop the truck, because I don't want too crash and I don't want to know what it feels like so yes. I just don't want to die.
JOHNNY WOOD, PERFORMED CPR ON DRIVER: It was scary and exhilarating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because?
WOOD: Because I mean, you want to know if he's okay but then again it's just happening so fast, your heart's pumping. It's breath- taking and breath-giving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: So Jeremy steered the bus to the side of the road, took the keys out of the ignition and the school's former principal, drove by, saw this happening. The former principal jumped on the bus, took over CPR from the other child.
The bus driver who suffered an apparent heart attack was hospitalized. He was not identified although we're told his condition is still pretty grave, Soledad, but boy, those kids really thinking fast.
O'BRIEN: My God, I think I love those kids. That little kid, he's so serene. I didn't want to die so I was going to take over, steer the bus. JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: It was breath-giving, that kid will have his own show on own.
MARTIN: Hook me up.
O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you.
Here's a different video, video of a different sort, shall we say, comes from the U.S. General Services Administration's 2010 conference in Vegas, or the GSA, that we've been talking about. That conference, by the way, cost taxpayers more than $800,000.
This new video shows GSA workers promoting the go green campaign singing along to a gospel style tune and then they hold up a picture of the president, President Obama, while making fun of him and mocking him, listen.
The guy on the right is the eighth employee who's been placed on administrative leave. David Foley was presenting an award in this video to an employee who performed a rap song bragging about the lavish spending.
This morning, we're going to talk to a member of two congressional committees who are investigating excess spending from the GSA. Republican congressman from Texas, Blake Farenthold, it's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us. Certainly appreciate it.
So the GSA for people who do not know even though they've been in the news in a really bad way for the last week or so now, oversees procurement for the government, acquisitions and real estate as well and I guess, ironically are supposed to make the government more efficient.
In this latest videotape and boy, do these people seem to have a lot of time to shoot videos, it's going to be part of this investigation into sort of mismanagement of the GSA. How many more videos do you think we're going to see in this investigation, sir?
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: I don't know. I think there was some sort of video contest going on. So we could see a wide variety of videos in the two hearings that are coming up, one from Government Oversight and Reform and one from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
O'BRIEN: So the chitchat at an event with the organizer Jeff Neely is talking to an employee and I want to play a little chunk of that so people can hear and we'll talk on the other side of that. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was amazing. Was there anybody in Region Seven that wasn't in that thing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they worked, if they didn't work on Friday, chances are they weren't in the video.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: What I find stunning, most stunning is that clearly it's not a secret. Clearly, this wasn't done sort of behind closed doors. It was not hush-hush. There was this obvious convention. Is that what you find most appalling about all this?
FARENTHOLD: I find most appalling that the organization whose job it is to save the government money, is going out of control on their team building and conference.
Listen, I'm a big supporter of training and team building, but in tight budgetary times you got to use a little bit of common sense. This was in Vegas.
If you went to Vegas on government business under GSA rates, you get a $99 hotel room and $71 a day for food and incidentals. I guarantee you they went way over what they let the rest of the government spend.
O'BRIEN: But they are also literally, openly mocking the very policies they're supposed to be upholding and they're supposed to be promoting, right?
I mean, part of that is just overspending, I guess, is one category, but then the other part is undermining the actual thing they're supposed to be doing.
FARENTHOLD: You've got to have the right attitude in any job and their job is to be saving the government money and if they're laughing about spending, there's something amiss there.
Rudy Giuliani, let's fix the broken windows and things take care of themselves. If you've got an attitude of let's spend it and have fun, there's a problem.
MARTIN: Congressman, is the issue here really not these videos? It boils down to how much money was spent on a conference, and you just talked about the issue of going to Vegas.
I remember Republicans highly critical of President Obama when he was saying that companies shouldn't be taking their employees to Vegas as well. You might be ticking off the folks in Vegas who say that's not fair to malign them that way.
FARENTHOLD: Regardless of where it is, these are the people who are in charge of buying stuff from the government. Their attitude should be how can we save the taxpayers' money?
It's not how much money can we spend, how good of a time can we have? It's needs to be the attitude of look, every dime that we save in procurement for the government is a dime we don't have to tax people.
MARTIN: But did you laugh at any of the videos? Did you laugh at any of them? You got to admit, Congressman, some of the videos were pretty funny.
FARENTHOLD: No, they weren't.
MARTIN: Sounds like you want to laugh.
FUGELSANG: It's tax dollars.
CAIN: Laughing at or laughing with?
O'BRIEN: I wonder if this investigation committee is also going to focus on spending that didn't happen just under the Obama administration, but the Bush administration.
As you know, people are -- some people are pushing for it. In 2004, this very same conference spent $93,000. By 2006, the conference was spending $323,000. In 2008, they're spending $655,000.
In 2010, now, the videos that we're seeing now are from 2010, $840,000. So is the goal in the investigation sort of really just take a look from that 2004 date forward?
FARENTHOLD: I think it's to take a look at the culture overall and I think this should be a wake-up call to all the government agencies out there that, look, your job is to be stewards of the taxpayers' money.
Sure, it's OK to have fun at work, but you've got to be careful what you spend, and you've got to have the right attitudes going into things.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Farenthold --
FARENTHOLD: There's a difference between having fun and mocking.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Farenthold joining us this morning. I agree with him on that. I actually didn't find that funny. Honestly, for that price tag that was not funny.
CAIN: It was laughing at them, not necessarily with them.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, sir. Thanks for being with us. Got to take a short break.
MARTIN: Homer the clown was funny.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, the Ozzie Guillen apology tour today. The manager of the Miami Marlins leaving the team in Philly going home to Miami to explain his comments about loving Fidel Castro.
And they rarely stop to take a deep breath in Washington, D.C. unless Congressman Ryan will tell you why he thinks mindful meditation is the cure to this frantic American life. He's written a new book about it. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: So there are some calls this morning for the new Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen to be fired after some controversial comments.
He told "Time" magazine this, "I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still there." Guillen has since apologized saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OZZIE GUILLEN, MIAMI MARLINS MANAGER: I feel sad and then in a couple of days, (inaudible) my stomach not because of what I did, it's because I hurt a lot of people. And I'll make it clear especially for me. I want to get it over it and told the Marlins I want to fly as soon as I can and tomorrow is a day off. I'll be to Miami and clear everything up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: He's got work to do because, of course, Miami is pretty much the crowd where you don't want to say anything about loving Fidel Castro.
MARTIN: But he's also what you have, an individual from Venezuela, OK and whether we want to own up to it or not in this country, there are people in other parts of the world who have a different view of Fidel Castro based upon his fight with the United States.
O'BRIEN: He supported Chavez and then he's also taken it back.
FUGELSANG: A lot of people did that. Again, you're saying he admires Fidel Castro's tenacity more than his policies or oppression of his people.
O'BRIEN: Come on!
FUGELSANG: I'm trying to be fair, if I went to Texas and talked about how great Santa Ana was in Houston, am I right? It wouldn't be popular, but it was a long time ago.
MARTIN: And let me also say, as a nation, we play Footsie with a whole bunch of dictators. If we really want to be honest, maybe we don't like having the conversation, we played Footsie with Mubarak.
O'BRIEN: He said I love Castro and admire Castro. Then he realized our stadium is in Miami and there are a lot of people whose lives were destroyed by Castro.
CAIN: What is the best way to bring communist nations into the first world? That being said, going into Cuba and praising the man who has had prison camps and firing lines just south of the border isn't -- FUGELSANG: If the Marlins have a winning season, he keeps his job. If they have a losing season, he's in trouble and I'm not saying Ozzie --
O'BRIEN: The question is, will his apology work or will his apology not work?
FUGELSANG: The mitigating circumstance here is I'm not saying Ozzie drinks a lot, but Billy Joel won't get in the car with him.
MARTIN: There are people in that city as well who are saying look, don't fire the guy, so you have both sides of it. Bottom line though this country is a policy, we welcome Gadhafi back into the fold even with what he did. America want to check the foreign policy.
MARTIN: Tell me I'm wrong.
O'BRIEN: He better win some games and have a heartfelt apology for folks in Miami. He better keep it up.
All right, still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, mind over matters, the congressman who says meditation could help cure America's ills even help the economy. He's going to share his technique. He's going to sit on the table and show us how to meditate -- I'm kidding.
CAIN: Sitting Indian style on the table.
O'BRIEN: Imagine if all the politicians in Washington, D.C. turned down the lights, took a deep breath and just shut up. That's what my next guest, Congressman Tim Ryan, advocates and practices every day.
He calls it mindfulness meditation and it's based on Buddhist principles. He explains how to use it in his new book, which is called "Mindful Nation."
It's nice to have you joining us this morning. Usually we have a politician on, we talk to a lot of politicians, both sides of the aisle.
We're for the Jobs Act, against the Jobs Act, whatever. Very rarely do they come in and talk about something that's their passion that has nothing to do with politics.
But you actually say that two things do have a lot to do with each other. First of all, when did you start meditating?
REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: On and off. Throughout my life, really, my grandmother, grandfather, my mother prayed the rosary growing up. I had a Catholic priest teach me centering prayer when I was a little younger. And then on and off just kind of flirted with it until 2008 and I was getting burned out. I was about 35 years old, a lot of big elections in Ohio in '06. I was in House leadership trying to help the Democrats win the House back and I was 35 years old.
In the '08 election, I thought I'm going to be burned out by the time I'm 40. So I just said I'm going to jump start my practice. Two days after the '08 election, I checked my two Blackberries at the door not one but two.
We're all in the same boat and had a great experience of just quieting my mind down. And slowing down, feeling my body relax and it really reminded me of playing athletics in high school where you're in the zone. You're just present.
O'BRIEN: So you didn't take -- there was no studying that people have to do if they want to do a similar thing. Could they read your book and learn how to meditate, be mindful?
RYAN: We have a huge resource section in the back of the book if you want to get tapes, if you want, you know, do guided meditations and what's going on.
But what's really to have a book transfers into my day job is that the science behind it now is growing by the day. We're realizing that you can actually change your brain. You can actually teach kids how to pay attention instead of just yelling at them to pay attention. You can teach them how to pay attention.
You can realize that if you reduce your stress level that's really prevention, even in the Affordable Care Act, if you're get urge blood pressure checked and getting screenings that's sometimes too late. What's causing your high blood pressure?
O'BRIEN: Has it made you a better legislator?
RYAN: You have to ask my colleagues.
O'BRIEN: That's very humble.
RYAN: Better listener, pay attention a little more.
RYAN: Yes, a lot calmer. You know, just don't get stressed out. That's what you see in a retreat when you spend an extended period of time in silence. You have the same thought loop about a conversation you had. You called somebody by the wrong name.
O'BRIEN: I make lists.
RYAN: Then run it. Run the loop. A lot of times that just continues to cause anxiety.
O'BRIEN: How long could you meditate? How many minutes? RYAN: I try to do it every morning, usually 40, 45 minutes.
O'BRIEN: How do you find the time?
RYAN: Make the time.
RYAN: You got to work out. You got to work out. You got to run. You got to lift weights. But now with all the information, the average teenager sending between 3,000 and 4,000 text messages a month.
We have technology doubling every month, constant barrage of information. So where we had to lift weights 20 years ago, we now have to do mental discipline and mental changes today.
MARTIN: And it goes beyond the Buddhist teaching. A person thinking, my God I can't do that. Jesus got away from the disciples to meditate. So meditation is a part of many different religious and cultures.
Oprah Winfrey, when she had in her show, she had a room set up at Harpo for employees in the middle of the day not in the morning could simply go there to get away from everything to sort of calm themselves and doing what you're doing here.
O'BRIEN: I'm setting that up here at CNN.
FUGELSANG: Just call a time-out.
O'BRIEN: I love that.
FUGELSANG: I really admire how you're trying to bring meditation to young people. Not long ago, David Lynch had a concert and he got McCartney and Ringo to play together to raise money to teach kids in the third world how to meditate.
When you think about it in America how we tend to treat symptoms rather than prevent disease, do you see, and this I sound very new age here, as bringing meditation to young people as a public health issue?
RYAN: Absolutely. It's the number one issue, I think, for education. Because where it's not new agy any more is because we have a whole body of science. We have the best neuroscientists on the planet studying this thing.
Stamford, Emery, Michigan, UMass, all studying this stuff and what it says is these kids, your old brain, when that really gets activated all your information is dealt with in there.
When you can calm down, information will pass through, get to your pre-frontal cortex. It calms the kids' brains down. You're calming the brain down. You're calming the nervous system down and it unleashed the potential -- O'BRIEN: We could all use this. "Mindful Nation" is the name of the book. It's nice to have you, Congressman. We appreciate your time this morning.
Still ahead on STARTING POINT, exclusive with a Marine sergeant who's facing a discharge for slamming President Obama on Facebook calling the enemy. He said, well, that's actually free speech.
Plus, one on one with Magic Johnson, the new Broadway play about the drama between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and his thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case.
You're watching STARTING POINT. We got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment.