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Presidential Candidates Debate Immigration Reform; Supreme Court Set to Rule on Health Care Law; New Women's Tennis Rule against Grunted to Take Effect; Debby Still Flooding Florida; Clinton Seeks Support For Syria Transition; Crisis In Syria; 30 Days Until Summer Games; Fireworks In Flames; No Bathing Suits On The Boardwalk; New Hope For Aimee Copeland; Fight Over Missing Millionaire's Fortune; Traveler: "TSA Spilled My Grandfather's Ashes"; Robbery Suspect Gets Stuck In Store; "Final 4" For Football; A Letter From Pat Tillman

Aired June 27, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, mountain inferno, the spot that inspired America. The beautiful is up in flames. More homes are burning to the ground overnight in Colorado.

Also, we'll tell you about the storm that won't go away. Debby still pouring it on in Florida, leaving homes under water in two feet of rain.

Tied up, a new poll shows President Obama and Mitt Romney in a dead heat as they both hit the road. Plus, (INAUDIBLE) what she's having.




O'BRIEN: Tributes today to Nora Ephron who lost the battle with cancer. The brilliant writer who gave us "When Harry Met Sally" and redefine women. We'll talk about her life.

All that, and an amazing line up ahead this morning. Pat Tillman's widow, Marie Tillman, will join us. Amy Winehouse's father, Mitch Winehouse will be our guest. Earvin Magic Johnson and Drew Brees this morning.

It's Wednesday, June 27th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.

Good morning, everybody. Let's get right to the top stories, Christine Romans has that for us. Hey, Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. New video into CNN, homes entirely up in flames overnight in Colorado, Colorado Springs -- 32,000 people are on the run. The fire now roaring and unchecked and spread to 6,200 acres and only five percent contained. The largest of the fires in that state is the Hyde Park fire, burning since June 9th. That fire has destroyed 257 homes, just epic fires in Colorado.

The only way back home by boat, Debby now downgraded to a tropical depression but still dumping a dangerous amount of rain over Florida. More than 25 inches has come down in some areas around the coast. And the deluge is not over. People are starting to come back to homes that are a total loss.


JO GRADY, MADEIRA BEACH RESIDENT: The water was up this high on the doors, everything inside the garage was floating. Everything -- there was a walkway in the center and everything was stacked on the side. The water came up to crash down in on itself.


ROMANS: The storm is expected to bring more dangerous flooding rains to Florida for another day as it heads to the Atlantic. Meteorologist Rob Marciano has the latest on the storm.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Christine, tropical depression so it weakened a little bit but the strength has never been an issue. The heaviest flooded areas across northern tier, most of the streamers left over from Debby will be across central and southern Florida. The damage is done, 10 plus, and in some cases 20 inches of rain across the northern part of the peninsula. The expected track is it will move out to sea and maybe become a tropical storm once again but we'll be done with it soon.

And the heat the other big story, temperatures up over 100 degrees again and today that heat will be making its way off to the east a little bit, highs well over 100 creeping eastward towards the east coast. This is not good news for firefighters who will be struggling with heat again in Colorado.

ROMANS: Thanks, Rob. Two of Washington's veteran lions each turning back primary challenges as 78-year-old Orrin Hatch won the Republican Senate primary and defeated Dan Lodgenquist. Hatch is trying for a seventh term in the Senate. In New York Charlie Rangel also celebrating a primary victory this morning. He held off opponents to keep the dream of a 22nd term of Congress in alive. It was thought the 82-year-old's career might be over because of a censure by House colleagues, but Charlie Rangel made it.

New this morning, Queen Elizabeth has shaken the hand of former IRA commander Mark McGuiness. This gesture is symbolic and deeply personal. The queen's cousin was killed in an Irish Republican Army attack. The IRA finally ended its war with Great Britain in 1998. That handshake is the latest step in the road to peace, and it is history right there.

Hollywood's finest paying tribute to the great Nora Ephron. The writer and filmmaker died after a battle of leukemia. She was nominated three times for an Oscar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILLY CRYSTAL, ACTOR: I love you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love you get a crinkle above your nose when you're look at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes, and I love you're the last person I want to talk to --


ROMANS: Billy Crystal released a statement saying "I've very sad to learn of Nora's passing. She was a brilliant writer and humorist. Being her Harry to Meg's sally will always have a special place in my heart. I was very lucky to get to say her words." Nora Ephron was 71, a brilliant writer.

O'BRIEN: Yes, she was. Christine, thank you.

Supreme Court is set to rule on the president's health care law tomorrow and the House is holding a contempt of Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder. As these issues reach a boiling point, President Obama and Mitt Romney are statistically in a dead heat, the president leading Mitt Romney by three points, 47 to 44 percent, the lead within the margin of error. It's essentially unchanged from a poll back in May. Maryland's Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen is a surrogate for the Obama campaign joins us this morning. Thanks for talking with us.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D) MARYLAND: Great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. A lot of conversation this week has been on what the Supreme Court ruled on, which was immigration. When I was talking to Carlos Gutierrez, his consistent message was forget about mitt Romney, let's talk about what Obama has done or hasn't done maybe is a better way of doing it. Doesn't he have a point, immigration reform, there was an opportunity, was not done. When you look at the record number of people being deported, that's something the president has done. Isn't this on immigration kind of a mixed bag for the president?

VAN HOLLEN: I don't think so, Soledad. The president did say he was going to make sure he enforced the law with respect to people here illegally. He did that. But he also said he was going to push very hard to make sure that the dreamers, young people who were brought here of no fault of their own, have an opportunity of a good life here in the United States and can contribute to our country as they want to do.

The president tried to do that. As you know we were able to pass a DREAM Act out of the House of Representatives when the Democrats were the majority. It was blocked by Republicans in the United States Senate. So the president made an effort on the DREAM Act and as you know, if we can't get the DREAM Act through congress, it's going to be very difficult to get something more comprehensive through the Congress.

So to hear our Republican colleagues complain that the president hasn't put forward a total comprehensive plan when Republicans wouldn't even support the DREAM Act I think raises real questions of credibility on the Republican side.

O'BRIEN: I'm not sure it's exactly a complaint as much as it is it could have been done and wasn't done. Here's what Carlos Gutierrez told me yesterday.


CARLOS GUTIERREZ, ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: I see this as one big mess throughout the country and the reason that we're in this mess is because the president has failed to provide leadership. What's going to happen now, Soledad, it's going to get worse because we don't have that leadership. All states are going to start splintering and keep on splintering the country into different immigration laws when what we should have is leadership to have one national immigration policy which is exactly what Governor Romney wants to do.


O'BRIEN: You're specifically talking about the DREAM Act but what he's talking about, there was an opportunity early on and it was not done. Could have been done and wasn't done.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Soledad, it could not have been done. And the point is, if you couldn't get the DREAM Act passed, if you couldn't even pass a bill that said for those students who were graduating from our high schools or for those individuals who have served in our military, for them we're going to make sure that they are not deported. They were brought here through no fault of their own. If you can't get that passed, Republicans in the Senate, how can you talk about doing comprehensive immigration reform?

It's interesting to hear Mitt Romney on the campaign trail. We all know what his policy was, clearly stated in the primary -- self- deportation, make life absolutely miserable for everybody here, including the dreamers, including these kids, so they'll self-deport. So that has been the Republican solution.

Again, if you can't get Republicans to agree on the DREAM Act, it is just nonsense to talk about Republicans agreeing to comprehensive immigration reform --

O'BRIEN: But there was a point when the Democrats controlled both Houses, right? I think there was a missed opportunity. I get you're talking about the DREAM Act and you're absolutely right about that. If you go back the first year and the window in which there was an opportunity and the president decided instead to focus on something else.

VAN HOLLEN: Soledad, he did focus on the economy, there's no doubt about that. And when the president was sworn in, the economy was falling through the floor, as you know. We were losing over 800,000 jobs every month. So the first order of business was to pass the recovery bill, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said saved up to three million jobs in 2010 and has helped bolster a very fragile economy. We need to keep working. So I don't think there's any surprise that the president was focused on jobs and the economy as he should be.

What I'm saying with respect to the DREAM Act was the last time the Democrats were in control of the House and the Senate, we did pass the DREAM Act out of the house and a Republican filibuster in the Senate blocked it. We had a majority of votes in the United States Senate, but Republicans used the obstructionist tactics, as they've done with issue on jobs, with the issues on a whole range of other important matters to the American people, they use their ability to block and obstruct things in the Senate to block the DREAM Act.

So yes, when the Democrats were in the majority, we did pass the DREAM Act out of the House. It was blocked in the Senate, just like Mitch McConnell, the current Republican Senate leader, helped block the McCain/Kennedy bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill back during the Bush administration. Back then the parties were able to get together and President Bush was supportive of that effort. That Bill too was ultimately blocked by Republicans in the Senate. So they talk a great game, Soledad but the reality is when it comes to doing the work of putting something together, all you have is poisonous rhetoric on immigration from Republicans.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about health care, going to be ruled on by the Supreme Court most likely tomorrow. What if the law is struck down as unconstitutional? What happens? What's plan b?

VAN HOLLEN: First of all, we'll now know within 24 hours what the Supreme Court will rule, and everybody is obviously anxiously anticipating that. I'm quite confident that the court will not strike down the whole bill. And --

O'BRIEN: What if they do?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I don't think they will. I think we can wait and see. The big issue will be if they were to somehow strike down a portion of it -- and, again, I think there's a better than 50 percent chance they will not strike down a portion that they will uphold it all -- the issue then will be the fact that our Republican colleagues have said their first order of business will be to try to repeal legislatively the remainder, things that are left, things that would probably be legal, like the provisions that allow kids to remain on their parents insurance policies until they are 26, make sure that we close the prescription drug doughnut hole seniors don't have to pay exorbitant amounts.

Our Republicans colleagues have said that if the court does not strike those provisions down, that they will move very rapidly to knock them all out. In that scenario, we would be working hard to protect the elements that remain.

But again, I want to stress the fact that like the top lawyer during the Reagan administration, the solicitor general of the Reagan administration has said in his view that the entire law is constitutional under the Congressional powers of the commerce clause and I agree. O'BRIEN: I guess we will know tomorrow, won't we?

VAN HOLLEN: We will know.

O'BRIEN: Chris Van Hollen, nice to see you sir. Appreciate it. Coming up we'll talk to Republican Senator Ron Johnson. He'll join us live.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, from the boom of the housing bubble to a complete bust, the biggest city yet on the verge of bankruptcy and fear it could invite chaos on the street.

And our "Get Real," quiet please -- a plan to silence the grunting women on the tennis court.

All, none, or some, we're going to continue to talk about the questions about the high court dropping or chopping up President Obama's health care law when it has its ruling tomorrow. What will it specifically mean for your family? We'll talk to Sanjay Gupta. We're back in a moment.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Minding your business this morning, House GOP leaders will discuss today whether to let student loan interest rates double or to extend the current rate cut. The Senate says it already has an agreement. Congress has until Sunday to act.

Stockton, California, expected to file bankruptcy at any moment, becoming the largest city in U.S. history to file chapter 9. The city is $700 million in debt. Mediation with its creditors failed late last night.

U.S. stock futures are flat right now. We're watching for news from the European summit meeting in Brussels. Also, durable goods orders will give us a fresh look at the health of the American economy. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you very much. Tomorrow the Supreme Court will rule on president Obama's health care law. The court could uphold or strike down the entire law or only rule or certain provisions. The most contentious part of the whole measure is the individual mandate which would require all Americans to have insurance or face a penalty.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is CNN's chief medical correspondent. He's also a practicing neurosurgeon at a public hospital in Atlanta, worked in the White House during the Clinton administration. Thanks for being here in person. Can a law survive if they strike down the individual mandate, which is the section everybody is looking at and most focused on?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Both Republicans and Democrats say it can survive. There's some 450 other provisions. We're obviously paying attention to this one. But from a pragmatic sense, it's a little bit hard to see how that works. Part of it is the pragmatics, you bring more money in with the mandate because more people are forced to buy health care insurance, and that money was supposed to offset the cost for people who were chronically ill or going to the hospital for some sort of illness. So I don't know how it works for the hospitals, the states that have to do it. I think it's going to be hard.

O'BRIEN: So if in fact they strike down the individual mandate, they might also have to strike down the provision about preexisting conditions. That's very expensive and also the provision that looks at funding for elderly people, also very expensive, right? They are connected?

GUPTA: They are connected because it's really chasing the money. But I've asked a lot of people about that very thing, can you have the preexisting nondiscriminatory clause without the mandate? Both people say, yes, we would like to keep that. That's something that popular. We don't want to get rid of that regardless of the mandate.

And the issue is, there's also precedent for this, which a lot of people don't realize, not at the federal level but state level. Since the 1990s we have a map to show how many states have tried some sort of health care reform. Let me zero in on Kentucky and tell you in 1994, exactly what you just described happened in Kentucky. They said you cannot discriminate on people based on preexisting conditions and there was no mandate. What they found happened as you might expect was that everybody's premiums went up. People in Kentucky who said I have nothing to do with this, I'm insured and not paying attention to the whole law, they saw the premiums go up by 40 percent, again, to help pay for people who are getting their insurance without discrimination.

O'BRIEN: That's kind of metaphor for health care, isn't it? If you have a bunch of people, what's the number of people who are without insurance?

GUPTA: It varies but, anywhere up to 50 million.

O'BRIEN: So 50 million people without insurance, those who have health insurance, we are underwriting them because at some point they show up in the system, usually in an emergency room.

GUPTA: And you can put a price tag on that, $56 billion they say in u uncompensated care, outrageous hospital costs and higher premiums, all of that.

O'BRIEN: And this is a big hypothetical, the individual mandate is thrown out.

GUPTA: I sit around in the locker room at the hospital and this is what we talk about. And it is kind of crazy. The reality in the immediate impact there won't be much, because a lot of the health care law has not been implemented. I don't think we'll see a lot of change. There will be an election between now and when most of this health care law was supposed to be implemented. I talked to folks doing health care for Governor Romney, they say, we want to keep that nondiscriminatory clause in. We would increase competition for insurance purchase across state lines. But I think in the immediate, the next year or two, I don't think we would notice much of a change.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we'll now soon.

GUPTA: Tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: Always great to see you, appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, loud mouthed tennis players be warned, women's tennis, and women's tennis only, was, has a new plan to silence those who grunt on the court. Don't miss our "Get Real" up next. Here's our starting point team walking in, Margaret Hoover, Will Cain. Here's will's playlist.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Brand-new details in the Trayvon Martin case this morning. A new police report reveals George Zimmerman passed a lie detector test the day after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. It also reveals Zimmerman had at least two opportunities to defuse the situation but he never identified himself as a neighborhood watch leader.

An image of Jerry Sandusky has been removed from a well-known mural on a book store. It was replaced by that of a Penn State graduate. Sandusky's image was replaced by that of a Penn State graduate and poet who is also an advocate for sexual abuse victims.

Knicks star Amare Stoudemire slapped with a $50,000 fine by the NBA because he said an anti-gay slur to a fan. Fans scolded him to "make up for last season" and Stoudemire sent him a direct tweet that included a slur and foul language. Stoudemire has since apologized, not good to go after somebody.

O'BRIEN: There are so many lessons there. Don't answer back tweets from fans unless they are friendly and positive. Come on. Don't curse in your tweets.


O'BRIEN: If you do answer them, don't use expletives, you know, don't use slurs, you don't think that fan isn't going to post it.


O'BRIEN: "Thank you for your tweet."

CAIN: I'm kidding. I know other words besides curse words.

O'BRIEN: Our team this morning, John Fugelsand is back, nice to see you, Margaret Hoover is with us as well, author of "American Individualism," and Will Cain, a columnist for

Our "Get Real" this morning, normal game of tennis typically has a noise level of 60 to 70 decibels, but top ranked Maria Sharapova has a recorded high of 101 decibels. Why is this a problem?

CAIN: Just for context, a lion roars at 110 decibels.

O'BRIEN: Some players and officials think the grunting is cheating because they are trying to distract their opponent. Now there's a new plan to crack down on grunters. Umpires will have hand held devices to measure decibel levels.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But not make the people already grunting change the mode of play.

CAIN: You'll be grandfathered in on grunting.

O'BRIEN: Crazy.

JOHN FUGELSANG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In other words you're saying it's only going to apply to women, women of the future. You cannot be serious as another tennis player who never got fined might say.

O'BRIEN: I went into the story thinking this is insane, but when Martina Navratilova said she thinks it's cheating, a way -- a loud noise to distract your opponent, and supports the measure, said today's women are louder and more abrasive.

FUGELSANG: In that case, everything Venus has ever worn is cheating.


O'BRIEN: You're not playing against her.

CAIN: That loud noise is designed to mask the sound of hit the ball to you can't hear if there's spin on it. It makes sense.

O'BRIEN: Martina would know.

HOOVER: It's not applied to women and men?

O'BRIEN: Maybe we'll see what happens with the men.

FUGELSANG: Grunting in women's tennis is going to be banned but hockey fighting is still strongly encouraged.

O'BRIEN: Of course. That's the entire game, come on.

Still ahead this morning, miracle recovery for a woman fighting a rare bacteria that was literally eating her alive. Her name is Amy Copeland and now she's ready to go home. Her father will join us to talk about how she's doing this morning.

Plus, the fireworks show, awesome. Oops, wasn't planned. We'll explain. Here's Margaret's playlist, Regina Specter.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: That's "Call Me Maybe." That's off of Will Cain's playlist.

CAIN: That certainly is not.

FUGELSANG: You can be denied military service if that's on your play list.

O'BRIEN: His face, that was so worth it. His face, he was so mad. I love it.

HOOVER: That was fun.

O'BRIEN: That was very good thinking of Will Cain.

CAIN: They like that, didn't they?

O'BRIEN: We did. No, that's not Will Cain's playlist, but we gave it to him this morning to mess him up. You can go to our website if you want a request for "All Request Friday," go to our blog, point and tweet us, go to Facebook -- there's too much to read there.

All right, we're going to start with our top stories. Let's get Christine to update us. Hi, Christine.

ROMANS: Hello, the storm that will not go away, Soledad. Debby now downgraded to a tropical depression, but still dumping a dangerous amount of rain over Florida.

More than 25 inches has come down in some areas along the coast and it isn't over. Forecasters predict another 4 to 8 inches could hit Northern Florida as Debby heads slowly, slowly towards the Atlantic.

The crisis in Syria is likely to be a prime topic on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's three-nation tour of Finland, Latvia and Russia. Clinton wants support for a political transition in Syria, something Russia has opposed.

Meantime, Syrian President Assad says the country is in a state of war and his regime claims opposition fighters planted explosive devices at a pro-government TV network killing three people.

The summer Olympics now only a month away, a couple of hours ago, the Olympic rings were lowered from the Tower Bridge in London to commemorate the 30-day countdown until the games begin. The huge rings are 82 feet wide. They are 36 foot tall, each ring the size of a double-decker bus.

Talk about blowing up your spot, an unexpected fireworks show stopping traffic in Chester, West Virginia. Police say an illegal fireworks stand caught fire in a bar parking lot.

Police say an extension cord running lights to the stand may have been the spark. Fireworks shot through the window of the bar, but no one was hurt. The owner is expected to be charged.

She's making headlines on the "Jersey Shore," that's not Snookie. It's 74-year-old Louise Murray. The former city councilwoman wants Asbury Park to enforce a 40-year-old law that would ban Speedos and string bikinis on the boardwalk.

Now the county ordinance says no person clad in bathing attire shall be on the boardwalk or public sidewalks. If it is enforced, violators could face a $2,000 fine, 90 days in jail and community service.


O'BRIEN: There are some people really who should not be wearing revealing clothing on the boardwalk.

FUGELSANG: That's true, aesthetic felony for that. Jamie Dimon walks but string bikini on the boardwalk gets you 90 days in the clink.

O'BRIEN: Well, I don't think it's that severe, but maybe. Depends on how bad the string bikini is probably. All right, thanks, Christine. Appreciate it.

Aimee Copeland who is a 24-year-old woman who is battling a flesh eating disease may be able to go home next week. Doctors have upgraded her condition from serious to good.

Her family has released this photo showing a smiling Aimee with her parents outside of her hospital in Augusta, Georgia. It was on Sunday. It was her first time outside in 49 days.

Copeland has been fighting for her life after a zip lining accident back in May left her with a rare bacterial infection. Doctors were forced to amputate both of her hands, her left leg, her right foot and have to do multiple skin grafts.

But her condition is improving and her father says she might be able to leave the hospital as early as next week. Andy Copeland is Aimee's dad and he joins us this morning.

It's nice to see you. The photo was really amazing. So great to see her, first time she's left the hospital in 49 days. What was that like to be able to take her outside finally?

ANDY COPELAND, FATHER OF AIMEE COPELAND: Well, it was really a great event. Actually, we didn't know that until that morning when the doctor came and said, you know, Aimee, how do you feel about getting in a wheelchair this morning and getting out?

She said that would be great. Aimee says, could I go outside? He said, I don't see why not. So when we actually wheeled her down the hallway and out the door, I mean, she was just so excited.

If you could imagine 49 days being cooped up in side of a small room, the walls seem to close in after a while. But the whole world opened up for Aimee when she rolled out that door.

O'BRIEN: Her injuries are so, so severe and yet you see her smiling partly, of course, because she gets to finally be out. How is she doing emotionally? How is she holding up?

COPELAND: You know, emotionally she just continues to amaze me. She has had moments when she's had a difficult time early on, I think and she -- I think she's been through a mourning process of losing her limbs.

But you know, it's amazing on Sunday I asked her, I said, Aimee, now that we're outside and we were sitting outside under the shade of a pine tree and there was a nice breeze blowing and warmth of the sun and she was really taking it in.

I asked her, I said, now that you've come this far through this event, what are your thoughts? And her response to me just blew me away, she said, I feel blessed.

And I asked her to elaborate and she said, you know, I feel unique. She said that I have a unique opportunity that God has basically given me a challenge.

She said she's always one to love a challenge and she's really looking forward to being able to make the most of this disability and to use as a platform I think to inspire others, that blew me away.

O'BRIEN: I know there are a lot of people who have been following how she's doing, certainly on Facebook as well. Has that helped her, interacting with people, complete strangers really who are just, you know, checking on her progress?

COPELAND: Well, she hasn't actually done any active interaction with anyone, but I have been reading cards to her. I'm been reading well wishes that have been sent by a lot of people in response to the blog.

In fact, I was looking at the blog this morning as I waiting to come on air. There are just some amazing responses, people sharing their own testimonies of amazing things that have happened in their life.

So what I think Aimee -- the one thing she understands through all of this, it seems to me that a whole nation, a whole world in fact has been pulled together through faith, through her testimony and I think people now realize that the power of prayer is real and it really does work.

O'BRIEN: Her doctors have upgraded her condition. It went from serious to good now, which is great news. And your doctors are talking about maybe being able to take her out of the hospital. When do they think that could happen? What are they saying about that?

COPELAND: Well, right now, she will leave the hospital next week. We're actually looking at rehab facilities right now. There are several really good rehab facilities across the United States. So we haven't really zeroed in on one. I was hearing on the radio this morning that she's coming to Atlanta. We don't know that for sure right now.

We know that she won't be coming home. In fact, we've got to get our home prepared for her. We have a lot of things to do to get ready for her. Right now, our home is absolutely inaccessible for somebody in Aimee's condition.

O'BRIEN: Well, she looks so great. To see her smile in that photo is really a wonderful thing. Andy Copeland who's Aimee's father, thank you for talking with us this morning. Good luck to you. We appreciate your time.

COPELAND: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Pat Tillman gave up a pro football career to fight for his country in Afghanistan. He was killed by friendly fire.

This morning, we talk to his widow, Marie, about something special that her late husband left behind. It led to her new book. It's called "The Letter."

Plus, a new playoff system approved for college football, but not silencing the critics exactly. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll talk about that straight ahead.


ROMANS: And welcome back to STARTING POINT. A couple of quick headlines.

The wife and the mother of missing Florida millionaire, Guma Aguiar, are fighting over his fortune. Both have filed court petitions to take control of his $100 million in assets. Aguiar was last seen on his yacht last Tuesday.

A man claims that TSA agents spilled his grandfather's ashes. John Gross says the agent opened the jar at Orlando Airport after the x-ray inspection then spilled some of his grandfather's remains on the floor then started laughing about it.

The TSA says its initial review conflicts with these reported stories and policy, by the way, forbids agents from opening remains.

Safe to say this is not how the would-be burglar planned this heist. Police in Brockton, Massachusetts say when the suspect tried to break into a rent-a-center store.

His head got wedged under the metal doors. The man was stuck there for nine hours. He's charged of breaking and entering and destroying property -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I feel like his punishment has been set already, getting wedged under the door for nine hours. Like you'll never do that again, will you? Thanks, Christine. Appreciate it.

Bye-bye BCS, fans have been pleading for years and now college football finally has a playoff system. A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff.

All of the major traditional bowls are still going to be played with a rotating national championship game at some neutral sites. Critics though say it solves nothing. Why does it solve nothing, Will Cain?

CAIN: I don't think it does solve nothing. I think this is a good start. The complaint in college football has always been some complaint over the BCS system, is it really picking the right two teams the right two teams to play in the national championship?

Is it the best two teams? Here we have at least expanding the field, right, at least expanding to four. We don't know exactly how this is going to be four.

HOOVER: The formula you were talking earlier?

CAIN: That's the BCS, but how will these four teams be selected? That's going to be the source of some controversy. Who's left out, the 5, 6, 7? But look, the college presidents have resisted the concept of a playoff for so long. It is at least a start. Not perfect, not where we want it to go, but it's a start.

O'BRIEN: Set up to still have the great Cinderella stories that you have. You know, like that's what I find the narrative of a team that no one thought was going to win, somehow makes it and makes it and people who are never interested suddenly become interested in the story.

CAIN: Doesn't open it up like the NCAA basketball tournament, which everyone loves the NCAA basketball.

O'BRIEN: For that reason alone.

CAIN: But there are times that TCU or Utah or somebody like that, Boise state gets in the top four. Now they have a chance to play in the national championship game should they win.

FUGELSANG: I would like to thank college football for keeping colleges alive in America.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's exactly what they've done. So I think that's fair to say.

HOOVER: That and student loan program, which we'll talk about later.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, when Pat Tillman went to war, he left a letter for his wife just in case something happened. In it, he asked of her a very important favor.

His widow, Marie Tillman is going to join us this morning to tell us about that favor, that request and also about her new book. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: On April 22nd, 2004, former Arizona Cardinals Safety Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire. In a new book called "The Letter", his wife, Marie Tillman, chronicles her life with Pat from high school sweetheart to Army widow and her journey through grief after his death.

The book title refers to a letter that Tillman left for her just in case he was killed. A letter that she opened the night she learned in fact that he was dead.

In it, Pat writes this, "Through the years I've asked a great deal of you, therefore it should surprise you little that I have another favor to ask. I ask that you live."

Joining us this morning is Marie Tillman. It's nice to see you.


O'BRIEN: So what did you think when you got that letter and you opened it up and he said I ask for you to live. What was your first thought?

TILLMAN: You know, that night when I read the letter, it was one of the most difficult things to read and really something that I didn't think I would be able to do, to move forward and to live my life. But now I realize what a gift that was that he left for me.

O'BRIEN: Why did you want to write book now? It's been eight years.

TILLMAN: You know, I think time has gone by and I really felt like as I've been out there doing the work that I do at the foundation and meeting people and hearing other stories of loss.

And seeing that people were able to relate to my story and my experience, I felt like it might be something that could help other people going through a difficult time.

CAIN: Marie, that letter that Pat left for you, did you know that he had left a letter for you just in case or is that something that you had to find by accident almost?

TILLMAN: No. I did know that it was there. He actually wrote it when he was first deployed in Iraq and had left it when he returned safely. So I did know it was there.

O'BRIEN: You say it was a gift. It must at the time, though, have felt like a burden almost, giving you a command that you think like I cannot even imagine being able to do this one day. How did it turn out to be a gift?

TILLMAN: You know, to see what he had left for me and to know that really his wish that I move forward and that I try to live my life. As I did feel like I could take those steps, it was something that I would go back to and know that that was what he wanted.

Because certainly there is a certain amount of guilt that comes as do you move forward and try to live your life. And you feel like, you know, you should be grieving forever.

HOOVER: You said something in the book that I've heard from other military families, gold star families. That you discovered in yourself there is part of you that you didn't even know existed. You never imagined you'd be somebody that would write a book.

And you see this with many gold star families. Can you explain sort of how going through the grieving process has helped you grow as a person?

TILLMAN: Yes. I mean, I think that when you're going through something like that, you are at your lowest in a lot of ways, and you just really find the strength that's inside of you that gets you up every day and pulls you through. And it's amazing. Things I never thought were there.

FUGELSANG: One of the things I really admire about the tone you've taken is that this book is a testament to how even though we have lost someone we must continue to love them in the present tense. Did you feel in a way that writing this book and publishing it was your gift back to Pat?

TILLMAN: I think that's a nice way to put it. And I do feel that by sharing his words and our life together that it is a way to sort of celebrate him and honor him.

O'BRIEN: How much harder was it when you learned the real circumstances of his death? And there were all the testifying because, of course, you were told originally one thing, that he was killed by the Taliban.

And then it turned out in fact that it was friendly fire and there were congressional investigations and hearings. And at one point, Donald Rumsfeld testified. I want to play a little chunk of what he said in his testimony. Let's play that.


DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I know that I would not engage in a cover-up. I know that no one in the White House suggested such a thing to me. I know that the gentlemen sitting next to me are men of enormous integrity and would not participate in something like that.


O'BRIEN: Here's what you write about that hearing. You say, every fiber of my being was crying, bull blank, but I kept a stone face while remaining rigid and unmoving in my seat.

You say a lot of people would have loved the hero story. They would have embraced the hero story, but Pat was not that guy.

TILLMAN: You know, I mean, he was a hero in many ways. He was a hero to me.

O'BRIEN: But to hear the story spun that way.

TILLMAN: But the story was something different. And I felt like it actually took away from who he was, really who he was.

O'BRIEN: What do you mean?

TILLMAN: By trying to fabricate a story. It somehow was implying that who he was and the actions that he took were not heroic and I believe that they were.

So, you know, the congressional hearings were certainly difficult to sit through. It was something that prolonged the process and made it harder to move forward.

FUGELSAND: But to me, that was really where a different level of heroism came out in this whole sad saga. The resolve that you and Mr. Tillman's parents displayed in the face of this cover-up, in the face of the lies about how he died.

Really was a new story of heroism that inspired me every bit as much as what your husband did. Have you had a lot of people come up to you and give you and his parents' credit for standing up in the face of that cover-up?

TILLMAN: Certainly. I think a lot of people responded to that. And, you know, I definitely have to give most of the credit to his mom. I mean, she really was the driving force behind all of that.

O'BRIEN: You write a lot about privacy. Privacy, privacy, privacy is a really big theme in this book and of course, now the opposite of privacy.

How did moving away from privacy, really opening up your life story, how was that more helpful and more valuable to you ultimately than what you were originally seeking?

TILLMAN: You know, I think that by writing the book in some ways I was able to take control of that, to put things out there that I felt comfortable with and was able to share my story in a way to be helpful to others, but also maintain a sense of privacy.

HOOVER: Can you tell us about the foundation? What does the foundation do?

TILLMAN: The Pat Tillman Foundation works with veterans and their spouses and provides college education for them.

HOOVER: And how many applicants do you have or how many people have you put?

TILLMAN: We have several thousand applicants a year. Currently, we have 230 scholars that we support. So it's been a really exciting journey.

CAIN: One last question. Your book is called "the letter." We've talked about this letter that Pat left for you asking you to live. You told us that you knew the letter was there.

I'm curious that day when you find out Pat had died, and you knew you had that letter waiting for you, was that something that you looked forward to that you're going to have some last words for Pat or is that something you almost feared?

TILLMAN: It was kind of a mixed emotion. I mean, certainly, I knew that opening that letter would make it seem that much more real. But yet I really was thankful to have those last words.

O'BRIEN: He said I want you to live. So how have you done that? You have a baby.


O'BRIEN: You are remarried. You have now four kids. Tell me about your life.

TILLMAN: You know, I do feel like I am living the way that he would have wanted for me. I do. I have a new husband and four beautiful children, and the work that I do at the foundation. And I feel really like I'm in a good place and at peace with everything.

O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you talk to us about the book, which is called "The Letter." Marie Tillman, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

TILLMAN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Coming up in our 8:00 hour right here on STARTING POINT, nearly a year since Amy Winehouse's tragic death. And her father, Mitch Winehouse, has also written a book about his daughter's troubled life. We're going to talk to him about that and who he's blaming for Amy's death.

And he's a living legend in Los Angeles, Irving "Magic" Johnson owns a piece of the Dodgers. Today, he's going to launch a new TV network to try to highlight the positive achievements of African-Americans. Magic is going to join us live on STARTING POINT right after this.


O'BRIEN: Welcome to STARTING POINT. It's a dead heat. A new poll shows President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a virtual tie, but it's another story if you look at the crucial swing states.

Drugs, alcohol, the downward spiral of Amy Winehouse. Her father will join us this morning to tell us who he blames for her early and tragic death.

And Magic's kingdom. The Laker legend, Irving "Magic" Johnson will join us to talk about his latest business venture and another addition to his empire.

And New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will be with us. His team has gotten a bad rap for delivering big hits in the bounty scandal. Now he is trying to educate people about concussions.