Return to Transcripts main page
STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
New Document Regarding bin Laden to be Released; Chinese Dissident Indicates He Wishes to Leave China; Junior Seau Found Dead; Diplomatic Showdown Over Chinese Activist; Edwards Trial Takes Dramatic Turn; Tanning Mom Pleads Not Guilty; Bounty Player Suspensions; Two California Dairy Farms Quarantined; Beating Memory Loss; President's Sister Writes Book; Gingrich's Odd Exit
Aired May 3, 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 ANCHOR: And good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "STARTING POINT" this morning, a look inside the mind of Osama Bin Laden. We're just two hours away from his personal documents, including handwritten notes being released to the public.
We're going to talk to one of the very few people who's had a chance already to see them and look at some of the hidden inside that can tell us what Bin Laden was thinking about, including big terror attacks.
A sudden turn of event, the Chinese activist is now pleading with President Obama, get my family out of China. We'll bring you the very latest from Beijing this morning.
And also, NFL great, Junior Seau, gone too soon, apparently, a suicide. His mother, overcome with grief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUISA MAUGA SEAU, MOTHER: He never say nothing to me. Junior!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: The question today is, did the game contribute to his death? We're going to speak to his friend and former NFL player, Jamal Anderson.
Also, my conversation with President Obama's half sister, what he told her the first time they met when they were in their 20s and what she said to him when he won the White House.
It's Thursday, May 3, and STARTING POINT begins right now.
O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. In two hours, we'll get an inside look into the mind of Osama bin Laden and some of the big terror attacks that he was planning. That's when some of those 6,000 pages of documents that were seized during the raid on his hideout in Pakistan a year ago will be released to the public online. We're told it includes digital, audio, video files, printed materials, handwritten documents and recording devices. Peter Bergen is the author of a new book out called "Manhunt" and he is one of the few people outside of the government that's had a chance to see some of these documents. Of these 6,000 pages of documents, what sticks out to you?
PETER BERGEN, AUTHOR, "MANHUNT": U.S. Navy Seals recovered a great deal of material. Not all of it will be published today. In fact, a fraction of it. Some of it is household stuff. But the things that leaked out of the documents that I was able to review.
First of all, bin Laden was quite conscious of Al Qaeda as a brand had suffered rather badly. He told advising his affiliate in Somalia not to use "Al Qaeda" for fundraising. "You're going to draw too much negative attention." He was advising one of his sons to leave the Afghanistan tribal regions where the drones were focused to move to Qatar, which is one of the safest places in the Middle East. So at the same time he's calling for young men to do a holy war, he was basically telling his own son to get out of dodge. It's bin Laden unplugged. He had no idea these memos would end up in the hands of the CIA.
O'BRIEN: Was he still managing things --
BERGEN: He was still trying to. It's not like you can get on the Internet and send a memo or call people up. There was no electronic, you know, communications. He was very conscious of the fact those could be detected. He was communicating through a courier, thumb drives, handwritten documents. Sometimes it would take two, three months for him to get a response. It's not a very efficient way to run an organization.
O'BRIEN: You mentioned things about the drones, but also I guess all that adding up to the degree that the United States and its allies had been very successful at chipping away at Al Qaeda's ability to even connect with some of its affiliates, which was a source of its power.
BERGEN: Yes. I think the overall -- obviously, the White House and the national security council are releasing documents that don't put Al Qaeda in a very good light. Are they representative of everything that's in there? Probably. It's interesting. We knew Al Qaeda was under a lot of pressure, but it's interesting to know that they, themselves, realized they were under a lot of pressure. Very remote, heavily forested and he imagines would be a good place to hide from American drones and American satellites.
These documents are mostly from 2010 just before he died. So, you know, it's not only a picture of an organization under stress, it's also bin Laden as a micromanager. He was advising -- sending notes to his team saying when you go on the road, gas up and have a meal so you don't have to stop at a gas station. Maybe they'll be government spies at the gas station. He was trying to patrol this organization.
O'BRIEN: He told them in addition to that, cut down on your stops when traveling for the North Africa members. Plant tree so that eventually they'll be cover for operations because of those satellites, they were actually very successful in being able to examine who was going in and out of buildings.
BERGEN: Advising your group to plant trees that is a kind of a long-term strategy. The groups have more pressing concerns.
O'BRIEN: They were pushing back to some degree, weren't they?
BERGEN: Yes. He was saying let's kill president Obama. Easy to say it, but quite hard to deal. Let's kill General David Petraeus. He said don't bother with Vice President Biden. But his team was saying to him, get real. We're under a huge amount of pressure. It's easier to attack in Afghanistan than it is to attack American civilians in the United States.
O'BRIEN: Was he paranoid? Some of the communications, as you've written about them, seem to have paranoid tone. Communicate by letters, not e-mail. Throw out bags that the ransom money would come in because there could be tracking devices embedded in those bags. Was that just smart or was he treading into paranoia.
BERGEN: Maybe both. This was a very disciplined and secretive group. He was advising his son, you know, basically be very careful about tracking devices that somebody might plant on you.
O'BRIEN: Did he talk about a big attack? Future attack?
BERGEN: He wanted to -- in his own mind he was like, we could still change the world if we get one big attack on America. At the end of the day, you're spending six months in a suburban compound in Pakistan. Had a lot of time on his hands. He wasn't really on the front lines. He didn't understand how difficult it was to do that.
O'BRIEN: That's amazing. They'll be releasing those in about an hour and 55 minutes. That will be the first time the general public gets a chance to look at those documents. Peter Bergen, thanks. The book is called "Manhunt."
Also I want to mention, this Saturday at 8:00 pm eastern, CNN presents "In the Footsteps of bin Laden." Christiane Amanpour is the reporter on that story.
I want to get to Christine Romans, who has more headlines this morning. Good morning, Christine.
ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. A stunning turn of events in Beijing, the blind Chinese dissident now calling on President Obama to help him get out of China. Cehn says the U.S. has abandoned him. Chen Guancheng says he's not safe. Chen says his wife is being threatened by Chinese authorities. He spoke to Stan Grant from his hospital room yesterday.
CHAN GUANCHENG, CHINESE DISSIDENT (via translator): I would like to say to them, please do everything you can to get our whole family out. I'm very disappointed with the U.S. government. The embassy kept lobbying me to leave, he says, and promised to be with me at the hospital. But this afternoon, soon after he got here, they were all gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: The U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke says "At all points we were intent on carrying out his wishing and insuring we could put together something that met his needs. He made it clear from the beginning he wanted to stay in China. We asked him if he wanted to go to the United States. He said no."
The mother of alleged hazing victim Robert Champion says she disappointed with the criminal charges filed in his case. And 13 suspects are charged with the hazing death of the Florida A&M drum major. Champion was beaten to death last November in a band hazing ritual. Champion's mom told CNN's Anderson Cooper she expected more severe charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very, very disappointed. But my husband and I both -- we had anticipated something that was a little more harsh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Prosecutors say the case does not support murder charges.
More than 100 health care professionals, including doctors and nurses arrested and charged with bilking Medicare out of $452 million. This is the biggest Medicare fraud bust in history. And there have been some big fraud busts in Medicare. Arrests were made in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Tampa, Baton Rouge. Doctors and nurses involved.
And $119.9 million, that's how much an anonymous bidder shelled out $119 million for Edvard Munch's famous work "The Scream," the highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art.
Minding your Business now, futures slightly higher, DOW futures up about 20 points. Markets have been given a boost. The quarterly earning season is almost over. Jobs report coming out tomorrow and weekly jobs report next hour.
Mortgage rates near record lows again. Average rate for a 30- year fixed mortgage 3.88 percent, for a 15-year, 3.12 percent. That's a popular refinancing tool. Later today we'll get an update with what this week's rates are. It's time to refinance at those rates.
Three words you don't want to hear, more baggage fees. Right now low-cost carrier is now charging $45 for a carry-on bag, but on November 6 the fee goes up to 100 dollars to carry a bag on the plane and go in the overhead. Any bag that needs to go in the overhead is considered a carry-on. If it fits under your seat, it's free. Of course, Soledad, some of their fares are only $9 each way.
O'BRIEN: No, that's $109, if you want to bring any stuff.
O'BRIEN: We're not fooled by that. Christine, thank you.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, 19-year NFL veteran Junior Seau found dead of an apparent suicide. Question this morning, was his death linked to head injuries in the NFL? We'll speak to former NFL player Jamal Anderson coming up next.
Our "Get Real" this morning, in the category of no good deed goes unpunished, a teenager is helped but the good Samaritan is fired. We'll tell you why.
Our panel is heading in to talk about that and much more. Abby Huntsman, Will Cain, and Marc Lamont Hill this morning. We're back in a few minutes.
O'BRIEN: The death of 19-year NFL veteran Junior Seau is raising new questions about long-term brain injury to players. The 43-year- old was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest. Investigators are looking at this as a suicide. Seau's ex-wife said Tuesday he texted her and each of their three children separate text messages "I love you."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Junior, why did you never tell me? I pray to god, take me. Take me. Leave my son alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Jamal Anderson joins us this morning, he is a former NFL player and a friend of Seau's. I appreciate your time. This must be so completely devastating and shocking for you.
JAMAL ANDERSON: It really was, Soledad. Yesterday, we were greeted with bright news with Eric Le Grande and the Saints' suspension and then with Junior. I think anybody who played against Junior Seau or participated in any charity event with his Junior Seau or met him more than once or twice, he would consider a friend. He was a warm and welcoming guy. I've done charity events with Junior, done events at his restaurant, hosted him here.
It's very shocking for a guy who was such a fantastic football player. And, really, a fantastic person. And his intent to give back -- his intent to give back to not only his community in oceanside but to give back to people. And it touched lives of people he met all over. It just -- you know, when I was getting calls yesterday, I'm like, not Junior Seau. Not Junior Seau. This is the first guy to smile. He keeps everybody's energy up high. This is the one that gets everybody excited. O'BRIEN: When I first heard it and then I heard it was a gunshot to the chest, and I think I was not alone. A lot of people started thinking, is this -- does this have something to do with the concussions and, as you know, another former NFL player shot himself in the chest so they could see what was going on in his brain.
ANDERSON: The similarities are quite eerie, especially with what's going on with a ton of players filing suit against NFL. I'm personally considering it myself, talking to different people about it, some of the things that transpire playing.
Junior Seau played football up until a couple of years ago. I personally, having seen him in the past year, you know, there weren't any indicators. The proud football players, proud men, the strongest men, the team captains, the leaders, you know -- I know the difficulty these guys face leaving the game like I lot of people, and then having the personal connection and Junior, I'm trying to figure it out. Here is a guy that was not just a great player, he was well spoken. He's got a certain look about him. He's always dressed a certain way. He just carries himself a certain way.
O'BRIEN: He didn't seem depressed to you?
ANDERSON: No. But I can't speak to Junior's personal mental condition in the past couple of months. I do understand and know the exceedingly difficult time that players have when they leave the game. And there have been some things that transpired in Junior's personal life that were quite difficult for a guy of his stature, a guy who has given -- Junior Seau foundation has given $4 million back to the community in Oceanside. He lived where he grew up. This was that guy, a very tight, very close-knit community. You saw the pain in his mom's voice yesterday.
O'BRIEN: That was just brutal. It was brutal.
O'BRIEN: And yet at the same time, Jamal -- and I'll ask will to jump in after this. In 2010, as you know, he was arrested on suspicion for domestic violence.
O'BRIEN: Then he drove his car off a cliff. He said he had fallen asleep but other people started thinking maybe something else is going on there.
ANDERSON: And I just -- again, all I can speak to is the guy that I know and say, you know, when that happened, as terrible as the story was, you make phone calls. Hey, you OK? What's going on? And you try to reach out to make sure on the fringe is everything everything?
And it was a very difficult time, I'm sure, for Junior, considering the type of person he is again, with his name and reputation being what it is, in the city he grew up in. This is a guy from San Diego, went to USC, was a superstar. He went back down to the chargers for 13 years, went to 12 Pro Bowls, took them to the lone super bowl. That community and his impact on that community was of critical importance to him and who he is and how he was perceived. So I know that was tough.
But, Soledad, this -- this just isn't the guy that I would think would be in this situation. I'll wait for the police report. I know they're investigating it as a suicide. It's very tough. And again, I can't speak to Junior's mental state in the past couple of months. But it's very tough for football fans and friends and people who were around Junior. Again, if you met him twice, he might call you and check on your family, your kids. This is that guy. I was on your show two times. He would say how is the kid? What? He remembers the kid, you know.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Many people have trouble transitioning or leaving the game. We talked to Cal Ripken about that the other day. It's not just what you do on a daily basis but how you identify yourselves. Was Junior, in your experience, your relationship with him, having trouble with that transition out of football, who he is, going forward?
ANDERSON: I didn't -- I didn't see that. I know that immediately retiring from football, having those difficulties that you guys mentioned in 2010, those certainly don't help. Moving forward in trying to get things going or whatever, but so many people who thought so fondly and favorably of Junior Seau, it was, OK, he's fine. Something must be going on in this particular situation with this person, something, some friction there that caused this type of event to happen.
But then you come back and, OK, it's Junior. He's good. He's at a golf event. He's at usc's spring game. He's planning his -- doing his Junior Seau golf charity event. So, I don't -- you know, it's very tough for a lot of people. And there is no shock more clear than the shock on his mother's face.
O'BRIEN: That was so terrible.
ANDERSON: Yes. And that's where it's tough. It's hard. And we'll wait to see what happens with the investigation. But, I mean, my first reaction was, what? Suicide? You know, OK. And his family and his friends, his three children, his ex-wife, his brothers and sisters, this is a close, tight family.
O'BRIEN: It's an absolute tragedy.
ANDERSON: It is.
O'BRIEN: Jamal Anderson, thanks for talking with us. We appreciate it.
ANDERSON: Thanks, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: We know he was a close friend of yours. O'BRIEN: We have to take a short break. In our "Get Real" this morning, this is what you get for a good deed. We'll tell you why a good Samaritan was fired for helping out.
If you're headed to work you can check out the rest of our show on CNN.com/starting point or chat with us on twitter @StartingptCNN. Will Cain's play list, the Marshall Tucker Band.
O'BRIEN: A little beat, little faster. I like that. That's Abby's playlist, Maroon 5. Everything has a harmonica and a banjo for Will.
CAIN: Something's missing in that music.
O'BRIEN: Where's the banjo?
O'BRIEN: Our "Get Real" this morning. This goes under the category of no good deed goes unpunished. A transit worker in San Francisco, his name is Jim Stanic. He is 66 years old, was apparently attempting to do a favor for the friend's grandson. The 16-year-old boy could not afford the $11 ride to and from school. Stanic gave him roughly $30 worth of paid but unused tickets for the bus and subway, tickets left behind by commuters who have to buy them on their way out and then kind of ditch them so there's still money left on the ticket. Apparently that violated a policy, because those unused tickets actually go back into a general fund for the transit authority. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tickets that still have value on them can't be just given away because it's like cash for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Are you confused?
CAIN: A little.
O'BRIEN: OK. Let's break it down for will.
CAIN: I didn't think you were going to show my confusion on camera.
O'BRIEN: Said with love, but you looked perplexed.
O'BRIEN: Sometimes you buy a $5 ticket. You use $4.30 of it. You have 70 cents left over.
ABBY HUNTSMAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the transit worker was confused as well. He thought they were going to be thrown out.
O'BRIEN: He thought they might be thrown out but there was a value of some odd amount of money on those tickets. He collected those tickets, gave them to a young man who needed $11 to get to and from school every day, which is roughly like $200 or so.
CAIN: Got it.
O'BRIEN: In doing so, he violated a policy that apparently he kind of knew about the policy and he has been fired. He is a 66-year- old transit worker.
MARC LAMONT HILL, COLUMBIA PROFESSOR: That's awful. They have the chance to do the right thing here and rehire this guy.
O'BRIEN: It's all being appealed by the union. That could happen. Apparently if there's a silver lining there's a woman who heard about the story. It was in the local news there. She said this is crazy and she offer e offered to pay for the teenager's fare back and forth to school, the $200 a month, until he graduates.
LAMONT: At least we know it's getting paid for at this point.
O'BRIEN: Did I slow it down enough?
CAIN: It is clear.
O'BRIEN: There's a kid --
CAIN: Oh, I got it.
CAIN: It's clear it's a nonsense policy.
O'BRIEN: Well, it just seems to be there should be a little wiggle room for people trying to do good things to help people who definitely need the help. Kid is trying to get to school.
CAIN: Looking at revenue twice is what it sounds like to me.
LAMONT: People are leaving their money on the train and collecting people's money and using people's money and saying you can't take people's money.
O'BRIEN: The moral is don't be a good Samaritan because that will get you fired.
All right, still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, a dramatic turn in the story of the Chinese activist who is now saying the U.S. abandoned him. We'll tell you why.
And that mom -- we showed you pictures of her yesterday. Oh, lord, these pictures are so uncomfortable -- under fire for allegedly taking her five-year-old daughter right there to the tanning salon with her. She's defending herself in court. We'll tell you what she had to say to a judge.
CAIN: I didn't understand that.
O'BRIEN: That was a very, very, very tan woman.
These are football players. Punishments handed down to NFL players for taking part in that bounty program. We'll explain who is getting what. You're watching STARTING POINT. We've back in a moment.
O' BRIEN: A tense and sensitive diplomatic drama is unfolding in China as we speak. Just a few hours ago, Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to China denied that the Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was ever pressured to leave the protection of the U.S. embassy.
The drama surrounding Mr. Chen started back on April 22nd when he made a dramatic escape from house arrest. He was brought to the U.S. embassy on April 26th. Yesterday, the State Department reported that Mr. Chen had agreed to stay in China and move to a new city and study law.
Shortly afterward, he was taken to a Beijing hospital where he was reunited with his family, including a son he hadn't seen in two years. And that's when things took a turn, after the U.S. officials left the hospital at the end of visiting hours. Mr. Chen's wife spoke to CNN.
She said they made many promises, but they've broken those promises. That friends can't even come to visit us. It just proves that our human rights are not being protected in that conversation.
Two hours later, American diplomats spoke to Mr. Chen himself and they say that he told them that he's fine. This morning, Ambassador Locke says Chen never asked for asylum and he was never pressured to leave.
That brings us all to Stan Grant, who's live for us in Beijing. Stan, Ambassador Locke also says they've spoken to Chen's wife two times. What's she saying now?
STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This story continues to have twists and turns, Soledad. They've spoken to her and she actually agrees that the U.S. embassy treated her husband well.
I think where they all fall apart here, though, is the sequence of events. Chen Guangcheng was holed up in that embassy for six days. He told us during that time he could not make telephone calls.
He didn't really know what was going on in the outside world and the threats that were being made. He says by Chinese officials toward his family. He then agreed to leave as part of a deal struck between the United States and China, to leave, go to the hospital and actually leave the diplomatic compound.
He now regrets doing that and he says that the embassy staff let him down. They urged him to leave and they didn't give him all the information he needed, particularly about the threats. I put that question directly to Ambassador Gary Locke this is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY LOCKE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Let me just say that when he first came in, we took extraordinary steps to retrieve him. We found out that he had escaped, was in Beijing, wanted to talk to us.
We undertook it almost like a mission impossible retrieval to bring him into the embassy. It was very, very clear all along. He wanted to be reunified with his family, wanted to stay in China to be a freedom fighter and did not want to go to the United States.
GRANT: He had been put under house arrest, been brutalized and terrorized for years. Was he in any fit state of mind to make a decision like that, that he wanted to stay, wanted to leave?
LOCKE: Well, he certainly had those options. We have to respect his desires, his wishes and his free will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRANT: Ambassador Gary Locke is saying they have to respect Chen's wishes. Of course, he has now changed his mind. He feels his life is under threat and he is appealing in an interview with us directly to President Barack Obama.
He says, President Obama, do everything you can to get my family out of here. Right now, though, that is very difficult from his hospital bed here in Beijing -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Stan Grant for us this morning. Stan, thank you. We want to bring in Reggie Littlejohn. She's the president for Women's Right Without Frontiers. She has been spearheading the international effort to free Mr. Chen for roughly two years. She will be testifying in front of Congress in just a few hours.
Her friend was also the person who helped free Mr. Chen, literally driving the vehicle that he was in. Thank you for joining us. Appreciate your time this morning.
So you've heard this back and forth that is clearly, at times, contradictory between what Mr. Chen is saying and what we're hearing from the diplomats, the American diplomats in this case. What do you know about this case? What exactly is happening?
REGGIE LITTLEJOHN, PRESIDENT, WOMEN'S RIGHTS WITHOUT FRONTIERS: I actually think that there isn't that much of a contradiction. I believe that Chen did want to stay in China when he thought that the United States and the Chinese Communist Party would respect whatever negotiated agreement and protections that he had. But now he's out of the protection of the United States in the embassy and now that he is in the hospital he has seen that both the United States and the Chinese Communist Party are falling through on their promises of protection. And under these circumstances, he and his family feel that they're in extreme danger.
In the hospital, when he was reunited with his wife, he found out that in their home that Cadray's came and strapped her to a chair for two days, beat her, threatened to beat her to death. They moved into her home.
They were eating at their table. They were using their stuff. And so she felt very much so that her entire family was in danger. So, that's why they want to leave now.
O'BRIEN: Abby, I want to bring you in because, of course, China, a country you're very familiar with. You've actually lived inside that embassy and I assume inside that very area where Mr. Chen would have been put up the past several days. What did you want to ask Miss Littlejohn?
ABBY HUNTSMAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Reggie, I want to ask you. It's hard for a lot of people to comprehend what's really going on, especially on the ground in China.
Can you tell me what you think the support is for Mr. Chen among the Chinese? Do they sympathize with him? Are they buying the Chinese propaganda? How are they feeling, the majority of the Chinese?
LITTLEJOHN: Chen Guangcheng is hugely symbolic in China. He is greatly loved and greatly admired. The fact that he came through a mission impossible escape from his home and made it into the U.S. embassy, gave the United States the golden opportunity to be a knight in shining armor, to protect him and his family, to bring them to safety and that would have wiped out a generation of anti-American propaganda.
But now that the United States has really let Chen down, they've also let down the entire nation of China and particularly the people who share our values. So this is a huge opportunity lost. And it has done really significant damage to our relationship with the Chinese people.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I want to be clear. I think this is a question for both Reggie and Abby, whose dad was not only the former presidential candidate but former ambassador to China.
Are you guys both saying here, the United States essentially hung Chen Guangcheng out to dry?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I would say that something doesn't add up here. We were talking about this earlier, Soledad. It has a very rushed feel to it. No, I don't think they should have let Chen go. I think they should have taken a little more time to feel out the situation. And find a way to get him back to the U.S. because he's not going to change, being an activist. China's not going to change. That being said, his life is definitely at risk. He is never going to live a normal life, staying in China. Neither will his family.
O'BRIEN: Let's bring Miss Littlejohn back in to answer that question. Do you think that, in fact, he has been hung out to dry? What are the options right now for the United States?
Mr. Chen is pleading to the president to get him and his family out of China. But he is not in U.S. custody. He's outside the embassy. It makes it much more complicated obviously.
LITTLEJOHN: I believe that Chen has been hung out to dry. I believe that the U.S. government almost wanted to get rid of the issue so they could concentrate on the trade talks between themselves and the Chinese Communist Party.
Yes, things are more complicated, but they're not -- they're not impossible. I think what the United States needs to do is give Chen Guangcheng and his family political asylum along with the woman who drove that car that saved him.
Even though it's a lot more complicated now, it's going to be less complicated than dealing with the aftermath of having left him out to dry.
O'BRIEN: And I know her particular case, the woman who's driving the vehicle, the last time anyone had a chance to talk to her, she had to get off the phone because security forces were at her door and no one has had the opportunity I believe to hear from her since. We're following that as well. Reggie Littlejohn, thank you, Reggie. Appreciate your time this morning.
LITTLEJOHN: Thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: Got a lot of stories to get to. Christine Romans has those. Hi, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. An emotional day in court for the daughter of John Edwards. Kate Edwards left the courtroom in tears yesterday. She became upset when a former research director for Edwards' campaign testified about a fight the candidate had with his wife, Elizabeth.
That fight took place in 2007 at the Raleigh Airport. Elizabeth Edwards was battling breast cancer at the time and a tabloid had just reported that Edwards was still having an extra marital affair with Rielle Hunter.
The mother accused of taking her daughter into a tanning booth pleaded not guilty to a child endangerment charge. Patricia Krencil says the whole story is a lie. She admits she took her 5- year-old to the tanning salon, but she wasn't tanning and she just got sunburned outside, she says. Krencil faces 10 years in prison. The NFL has suspended four players for their part in a bounty system that paid cash for devastating hits. The harshest penalty goes to New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma who will miss all of next season, pending an appeal.
An NFL investigation found that Vilma put a $10,000 bounty on two aging quarterbacks, Curt Warner and Brett Favre, in the 2009 playoffs.
You're "A.M. House Call" this morning. Two California dairy farms are under quarantine right now. A calf ranch is being investigated following the discovery of mad cow disease last week 175 miles north of Los Angeles. The government calls the quarantine standard procedure, says there's no threat to the food supply this morning.
Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts and salmon appear to ward off memory loss and Alzheimer's. In a new study, researchers tracked more than 1,200 people over the age of 65 for more than a year, focusing on diet and levels of protein, responsible for memory loss.
The suspects have those protein levels dropped as much as 30 percent for each gram of Omega-3s added to their diet. Walnuts and salmon, I'll have it together for lunch in a salad.
O'BRIEN: There you go. All right, Christine, thanks.
Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, Newt Gingrich makes headlines for his interesting press conference. Did you get to see that?
Dropping out of the race. Don't miss the highlights. We'll share them with you, went on and on and on and on and on.
Also, President Obama's half sister has a new book out, talks about meeting her brother for the first time and the instant connection they had. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Throughout her childhood in Kenya, Auma Obama heard stories about her half brother in America. His name was Barack. It wasn't until they were both adults that they met. It was in Chicago in the 1980s.
She says there was an instant connection between Auma and the man who would become the 44th president of the United States. It's a connection that Auma writes about in her new book, which is called "And Then Life Happens."
She joins us this morning. It's nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. Why did you write the book?
AUMA OBAMA, AUTHOR, "AND THEN LIFE HAPPENS": I wrote the book, first and foremost because I love the opportunity to write. If you don't have a publisher, it's very hard to get the book out.
O'BRIEN: But there's a story that you wanted to tell.
OBAMA: That I've always wanted to tell for a very long time. The story was really about my family, but really about the fact that my family had experienced so many different cultures and lived in so many different cultures.
And navigated to those cultures really in a very intimate way because I had brothers who were -- from a different culture, different continent, you know, different color of skin, as in different race.
All of that, the complexities of that fascinated me, myself, as a person and I wanted to put it down because I wanted to share that with friends and also just with the public.
O'BRIEN: How did you first get in contact with Barack Obama? He wrote a letter?
OBAMA: He wrote me a letter.
O'BRIEN: What did it say?
OBAMA: The exact words, I can't remember. It was to the fact that he was introducing himself, wanting to know who I was. He wanted the contact, making contacts so that we could be in touch.
That's exactly what we did. We corresponded for a while until we then finally met in Chicago and I came to the U.S. to see him.
O'BRIEN: What was that like, to go to Chicago and meet your brother for the first time?
OBAMA: It was basically a first for -- to come to the United States as well, which in itself was quite amazing. But meeting my brother was really -- I often describe it as like having Christmas that doesn't finish. It's a wonderful present that you know you have and every day you can take delight in having that present because we just connected immediately.
O'BRIEN: What did you want to know about your father because his father had gone from Kenya to America and then back to Kenya eventually where he met the woman who would become your mother. What did he want to know about his father?
OBAMA: Everything. We talked and talked and every time I was very conscious of trying to give him a full picture of who his father was, who his family was. I carried photographs of me and photographs of him when he was little.
We always had the contact with his mother. We always knew who he was. My father knew his grades all along when he was in school and it was kind of like fascinating to see photos of himself as a baby and say, look, you were always with us. I think that was a great experience for me.
O'BRIEN: Eventually, he would go to Kenya to see your side of the family there.
O'BRIEN: And how was that trip?
OBAMA: It was a whirl wind trip. There was so much happening. All the family wanted to meet him. They all knew him as Barry, you know. They all knew him and they all wanted to see him and in particular, my grandmother. She was so delighted.
She was like, in my lifetime, you've come back. You've come to see us. You are here. You've taken the trouble. And that's something that the family appreciated a lot because he didn't have to.
O'BRIEN: You write a lot about how your father and his father was a very complicated man, to have a wife in America and leave and leave a family behind and go to Africa and keep in contact with his son, but not contact necessarily the whole entire time.
OBAMA: Yes, yes. But isn't that so western? Isn't that so normal? That's what happens. People get divorced and marry again and you stay in touch with your children. I'm so grateful for him staying in touch with Barack because that was the only way I had access to him later.
As in any relationship, when the relationship ends, you don't want to lose your children. He was very, very proud of us. For all of what else happened in our lives around my father -- and I write quite a lot about that, and the complexities of all that, and the difficulties and challenges around that.
He really loved us. He may not have known how to be a father but he really did. That was something that was very important to me to portray to Barack when he came.
My book is now resonating to people who say to me I have difficult relationships with my parents and my family, but you made me think maybe -- I only appreciated my father really after he died. It's really -- I don't know. I think it's a people's story.
O'BRIEN: We're all complex is what you're saying?
OBAMA: Everybody is very complex.
O'BRIEN: Did you have an inkling that Barack Obama would one day become the president of the United States?
O'BRIEN: A leader in any way, shape or form?
OBAMA: Not at all. I thought he was extraordinary already then, not just the fact that he was my brother. But he had really a lot to offer. Gave me a glimpse of his life in Chicago and the work he was doing.
And also even then the impact he was having and the way he interacted with people. It was just so special. I felt his energy then. To me, it was like, this is my brother. It's what he does and he does it well. I didn't think beyond that.
O'BRIEN: Yes. The book is called "And Then Life Happens." It's nice to have you. Thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, Newt Gingrich has kind of an odd exit from the GOP race. He talks about everything from radicals Islamist to Todd Palin to the civil war to everything and talks about everything.
HUNTSMAN: Surprised he didn't leave on a space ship.
O'BRIEN: Talks about that, Abby. We're going to share some of that with you straight ahead. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Newt Gingrich is out. He's suspending his campaign and when you suspend your campaign, you're supposed to drop out of your campaign. You are still able to raise money and Mr. Gingrich is roughly $4 million in debt. There was a bow-out press conference. Mr. Gingrich spoke for roughly 23 really long minutes.
As noted in "The Washington Post," Mr. Gingrich spoke about in no particular order these things. Captain John Smith in 1607, mining asteroids, novels about George Washington, Ellis the tell vanity, Alzheimer's disease, Todd Palin, electromagnetic pulses, radical Islamist, his high school years, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, both Ronald and Michael, civil service, civil war and more. If you don't believe that, here's Newt Gingrich himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll spend a great deal of time on religious liberty. I'll work on American energy independence, balancing the budget, radical Islam, brain research, the national security, cyber warfare, on that topic new technology. I'm cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: I told you. You were absolutely right. He added the issue of mining asteroids as well. That was a really odd press conference.
CAIN: Not for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good point.
CAIN: Par for the course.
HUNTSMAN: Especially the part comparing Mitt Romney to Ronald Reagan I found the most bizarre because Romney is wanting so much to be the Romney character today for the Republican Party and comparing the two saying he's not Ronald Reagan. But that's not what we're comparing him to. I know, Will, you have a comment.
CAIN: I always have a comment.
MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I think it was the most honest and principled endorsement so far because he didn't do what everyone else did and pretend he liked Romney. He said he's not a socialist, if you're a Republican, you should vote for him.
O'BRIEN: He's not Barack Obama. That's good enough for me.
CAIN: It's easy to mock Newt Gingrich, but buried in that word soup of ideas, there's good stuff. You know, there are --
HILL: The moon part?
CAIN: By sheer quantity he'll hit on a few good things. Mining asteroids, that's a serious thing. We've done a story on this and one we should hope for a brighter future and Newt Gingrich to his credit sometimes is dreaming.
HILL: Did you say Newt Gingrich is dreaming? Thank you for that.
O'BRIEN: I think the word he used that was most accurate was word soup. You're right. If you say 20 million things, 10 of them are going to --
CAIN: You'll hit a few.
O'BRIEN: Even a blind squirrel gets a nut everyone once in a while as they say.
HUNTSMAN: At least I was providing material for "Saturday Night Live." Running for president, "SNL" OK.
HILL: He's the smartest guy in the field. He does have great ideas. He does have great ideas. I just wish that he -- I hope rather he keeps this going throughout the entire election cycle. Keep pounding on Mitt Romney the whole way.
O'BRIEN: There's $4 million to make up so I have a feeling that's not the last we're hearing of Newt Gingrich. We got to take a short break.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jinda is going to join us. He was once talked about as presidential material. So how would he feel about vice presidential material? We're going to chat with him about that.
And then super model and "Celebrity Apprentice" cast off Diana Mendoza joins us talking about the racial slur a fellow contestant used. We'll ask her how she's feeling about it now that she's off "Celebrity Apprentice."
That's straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.