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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
U.N. General Assembly Meets; Iranian President Ahmadinejad Speaks Out; Mountain Climbers Still Missing in Nepal after Avalanche; Billie Joe In Rehab After Rant; Students Given "Morning After" Pill; School Sex Debate; Smokey Robinson's "Smoke Alarm"; Wild Brush Fire In Southern California
Aired September 24, 2012 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEADAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "starting point" this morning, the gathering of world leaders as tensions between Iran and Israel near a breaking point. The United Nations General Assembly with a full plate this week and for the presidential election at home.
Free morning-after pills, a plan in some New York City schools.
And who could mistake his voice? Yes, that's Smokey Robinson. He's going to join us this morning. He's teaming up with President Bill Clinton using social media to help solve some of the world's toughest problems. Its' Monday, September 24, and STARTING POINT begins right now.
Morning, welcome, everyone. Our starting point, presidents, prime ministers, other heads of state, nearly 120 of them are gathering in New York City today under heavy security. It's the annual meeting of United Nations General Assembly. The session kicks off tomorrow with President Obama delivering his address. Then on Wednesday the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will take his turn in the spotlight.
Ahead of that, though, he sat down with Piers Morgan, spoke about a potential military confrontation with Israel.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Do you fear that war is imminent? Do you fear that there will be military conflict, perhaps even before the end of this year between your country and Israel?
PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN: Of course, the Zionists are very much ad -- very adventuresome, very much seeking to fabricate things. And I think they see themselves at the end of the line. And I do firmly believe that they seek to create opportunities for themselves and their adventurous behaviors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: CNN's Senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth joins us this morning with a preview of the UNGA meeting. Lots at stake. Let's start with Ahmadinejad. RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Okay, there are 193 countries speaking. Let's start with Iran. This is a sad rerun we're going to probably have. There's been no major pros progress on the nuclear program deal. He's going to give a speech on Wednesday, maybe talk today on the rule of law, different subject. But the countries who are focused on Iran are meeting privately this week. We don't see any progress that's going to happen here. Undoubtedly, when he speaks on Wednesday, there will probably be some 9/11 inflammatory conspiracy language and we're going to have countries walk out of the hall.
O'BRIEN: Which is very consistent to what we've seen in the past. Talk to me about the rest of the Middle East.
ROTH: That is overhanging this general assembly. Last year, there was a lot of moment, more hope, some change. I think the bell elephant in the room is Syria and many countries want to see more progress on that front. The Security Council is divided, and once again Syria is raising that word irrelevancy when it comes to the United Nations. The Security Council is so divided with no progress. People are being killed by the thousands in that country after the Arab spring and people are saying, what is the purpose of this organization?
I have asked various ambassadors, various ministers that question. They feel it's still important to talk every year and hope for some type of movement. The U.N. envoy for Syria is going to meet with the Security Council today. He has as he has often said another mission impossible job.
O'BRIEN: It seems like no on feels that there's going to be tremendous progress on that front, as well. Where do we see progress happening on this UNGA?
ROTH: Well, the progress will probably be as usual on other issues and one western diplomat said are there issues that other U.N. powers don't have to worry about. If there's a disagreement on, they deal with the Ivory Coast. They want progress at Mali. There's the Sahel, a region now racked by famine. The Palestinian issue is going to come up want you remember last year we had the big declaration of statehood by a Palestinian leader. This time, without getting too jargony for the morning --
O'BRIEN: Which we appreciate.
ROTH: They want non-observer state status, which is still movement ahead, but it doesn't give them what they fully want, which is the word "state." That will be announced by the Palestinian leader on Thursday.
O'BRIEN: Richard Roth, thank you.
Other news making headlines today, John Berman has that for us. Good morning.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad, thanks very much. Libya's president ordering up the break-up of all militias that don't fall under the government authority. The order comes in response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Yesterday Libyan security forces say they raided several militia sites in Tripoli.
Mitt Romney sounds like he's ready for a reboot and a fight. The GOP nominee says he'll get more aggressive in the first six weeks of the race. He says President Obama has been putting words in his mouth and he plans to put a stop to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the President's campaign has focused its advertising in many cases on very inaccurate portrayals of my position. They've been very aggressive in their attacks both on a personal basis and a policy basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The President says one of the biggest disappointments of his fist four years in office is his failure to change the political climate in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree. And one of the things I've realized over the last two years is that that only has happened happens if I'm enlisting the American people much more aggressively than I did the first two years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The first presidential debate comes up next Wednesday, October 3rd. It is close. Get ready.
A very emotional victory for the Baltimore Ravens over the New England Patriots in Sunday night football, especially for Ravens receiver Torrey Smith. He caught two touchdown passes one night after his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. The Ravens went on to win, 31-30. It happened on a disputed last second 27-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. Was it good or not? The ref said yes.
It was a brutal week three for the replacement referees. They admit to making mistakes over San Francisco. They incorrectly granted 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh two challenges in the fourth quarter. And in the Detroit, Tennessee, Washington, Cincinnati game, the refs stepped off too much yardage in critical penalty calls. Not a good day.
Meanwhile, it was a good day for some TV shows. "Mad Men" was dethroned. Showtime's freshman series "Homeland" took home the award for Best Drama at the Emmys last night. "Modern Family" is still the king of comedy. It won Best Comedy Series for the third year in a row.
And speaking of streaks, there is nothing like this one. Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" was named the Best Variety Program for a 10th straight year. Stewart barely made it to the stage after being tackled by losers Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert, who were funny in defeat, let's say.
O'BRIEN: Thanks, appreciate it, John.
Let's get right back to our top story this morning. Nearly 120 world leaders are here in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly. Let's get right to ambassador Nicholas Burns, the former ambassador to NATO now professor of diplomacy and international politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for your time.
A moment ago, I'm sure you heard Richard Roth setting up the various issues before the U.N. General Assembly, focusing specifically on what's happening in the Middle East and growing unrest there and violence and obviously talking about Ahmadinejad and his expected comment coming on Wednesday.
Let's talk specifically about some of the things that Ahmadinejad had said that seem to be contradictory in just the last 24, 48 hours or so. Here is first what he told Piers Morgan, which we just played a moment ago where he said they see themselves, meaning Israel, at the end of the line. They want to create opportunities for themselves, which I think people are interpreted as Israel will be encouraged to do something. At the same time, if you look at David Ignatius's reporting, he says actually they tell him it's bluster in his interview with Ahmadinejad.
What do you see as Iran's position?
NICOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, I think right now Ahmadinejad is not the figure he once was. You remember he came to the United Nations four or five years ago and was celebrated by journalists who wanted to hear what he said. But I just don't think he's got the political power right now in Iran. He's made absolutely outrageous statements about Israel. He's not the most powerful person in his own society. That's the Supreme Leader Khamenei. So I think he's really a defeated figure in his own country. He'll be out of office next year. And he says things to get attention, but they rarely make sense.
O'BRIEN: Ban Ki-moon, we know, is going to pressure him to tone down the fiery rhetoric. Given what you've just said, do you think that's more likely he will do that or is he more desperate and less likely he will do that?
BURNS: Well, Soledad, you used the right word. He's a desperate politician. He says outrageous things about Israel that almost all the world condemn, certainly we in the United States condemn. And the Iranians are in a tough spot, because they're very much isolated. The sanctions that President Obama and the European have put on them are unprecedented. They're really making an impact in Iran. Iran has very few friends around the world, very few countries that will stand up for it.
And, of course, they're proceeding on their nuclear program which has been condemned by the United Nations Security Council. So I think it's going to be a tough week for Ahmadinejad. I don't think he's going to find much support at all in New York.
O'BRIEN: We know Israel has been putting pressure on President Obama to have this line where he clearly states what cannot be crossed without sort of triggering a severe and quick consequence. He said this, Benjamin Netanyahu: "After the speech I'm going to meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, who have recently made a moral and brave decision against Iran and with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I'll reiterate the most dangerous country in the world must not be allowed to arm itself with the most dangerous weapon in the world."
What do you make of that?
BURNS: Well, I think that the Prime Minister is right, that Iran is the most dangerous country in the world. And the number one threat to the United States is Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. The suggestion by Prime Minister Netanyahu that the United States should set a red line and say in advance that we would use force if Iran achieved a certain level of progress in its nuclear effort doesn't make a lot of sense to me. This is a question of war and peace. And both President Obama and President Bush have tried to say we need to negotiate with Iran and have the ability to sanction it and use force if necessary. But you don't want to put yourself into a corner and use force based on action and a predetermined level as what the Iranians do.
So I think President Obama is right here to resist that. And Israel should know that the United States has its back as the President has said, and the United States will do what it must do to stop Iran. But let the United States make that decision, not some pre-imposed red line. I think that makes sense for America.
O'BRIEN: President Obama on "60 Minutes" on Sunday said this. Let's play a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that is out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Some have interpreted that he is calling calls by Benjamin Netanyahu noise. Do you think that that's true? Do you think that's fair?
BURNS: I don't know if he was referring to the United States and Israel. We're in there together. We have an identical interest in stopping Iranians. I just think it was a mistake for Prime Minister Netanyahu during an election season to try to force the United States to make a statement about when we would go to war. That's the most serious decision an American president could make and we surely want any American president, whether it's President Obama or Governor Romney if he wins, to have the freedom of latitude to decide when we sent American forces into battle against any country.
So, frankly, I think, Soledad, there's a lot of agreement in Washington these days about Iran. President Obama's policy is very consistent with what President George W. Bush did. I think most people think we ought to try to avoid a war, see if negotiations can succeed, and really a year or two from now decide if force is going to be necessary should diplomacy fail.
O'BRIEN: Nicholas Burns is the former ambassador to NATO. He is also now a professor of diplomacy and international politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. Thank you, sir.
BURNS: Thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: You can see Piers Morgan's full interview with President Ahmadinejad tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
The clock is ticking in the search for survivors this morning after that avalanche buried some of the world's most elite climbers. We'll have the latest on the rescue effort. That's up next. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning. U.S. stock futures point to a lower open after disappointing economic reports out of Germany and China overnight. Stocks likely to struggle near five-year highs. The S&P 500 is up 14 percent so far this year.
In central China, a FOX-Conn plant is closed today after 2,000 factory workers were involved in a riot overnight that led to the smashing of workstations there. And 40 were injured and a factory working tells CNN police in groups of 10 are now patrolling the sprawling plant. Fox-Conn is a big supplier of apple. A spate of suicides in 2010 prompted a review of working conditions at the FOX-Conn's plant.
Ten straight days of falling gas prices, the current average price, $3.81 a gallon. If oil prices stay about where they are, prices at the gas pump may fall another five to 10 cents.
O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.
The search just ended for the day for some mountain climbers who are missing in Nepal. At least eight of them were killed yesterday when an avalanche hit the world's eight highest peak. Most of the dead are from Europe. An American climber who were injured but alive told the filmmaker that two of his colleagues are missing, including the man with which he shared a tent. Sumnima Udas is following the developments for us from Delhi this morning. What is the latest on this search and, I guess still it's a rescue?
SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, search and rescue operations have ended for the day, actually. But three climbers are still missing, and helicopter officials tell us right now they have not been instructed to go out and to find these three climbers right now. But they suspect there is very little chance of survival at this point. Remember, this avalanche happened more than 24 hours ago. We're talking about extreme temperatures at 6,000 meters. They say that it is very unlikely they will be able to find any more survivors at this point.
But there were 21 survivors that they were able to rescue during the past few days. He was planning on skiing down Mt. Monaslu. He was in his tent when the avalanche hit around 4:00 in the morning. And we spoke to the documentary filmmaker earlier and had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 4:45, he was reading his Bible, reading his daily devotional. And they heard a sound. And Greg turned to him and said, did you hear that wind? A second later he said, no, that's an avalanche. Immediately the avalanche hit them. There were about 25 tents at camp three. It took them all out. He said it swept him about 300 meters down the mountain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UDAS: So we've been hearing very difficult and harrowing stories from a lot of these survivors who are now up in Kathmandu undergoing various kinds of treatment.
O'BRIEN: And we're told the avenue launch's trigger was a piece of ice who had been about six or seven times a football field. Talk to me about that.
UDAS: That's right. I spoke to two climbers earlier who go out regularly to these Nepali peaks. They were saying that the topography of this region has certainly changed. They were saying there's a lot more cases of flash flooding, the avalanches are more frequent. They're not necessarily -- I mean, this one happened after a long time, but they're saying avalanches have become more frequent and are also a lot larger. And they're saying it's become very difficult to climb in these kinds of altitudes right thou. There's a lot less ice. They can't grip on to the ice as well as they used to be able to before.
O'BRIEN: Sumnima Udas following developments for us this morning. She's in Delhi. Thank you for that update on these climbers. We're certainly hopeful they'll be able to find those remaining three that they're looking for.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, what was one flight attendant thinking when she tried to bring her loaded gun on a plane? Seriously? We'll talk about that and much more. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. Checking the headlines, and we have a sad one to start out with. A newborn giant panda cub has died at the National Zoo in Washington. But the zoo is not sure exactly why. The cub was born only last week. The panda exhibit will now be closed temporarily.
Other pet news, or animal news, New York police say a 25-year-old man who jumped from a monorail car into a tiger exhibit at the Bronx Zoo wasn't drunk or insane, they says. He told police he wanted to be one with the tiger. He suffered various broken bones, a collapsed lung and puncture wounds. He's in stable conditions and facing trespassing charges, all for want to go be one with a dangerous tiger. Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes. They said they don't think he had severe mental problems, which is what I first thought, and that he wasn't trying to break in, which was sort of my second thought, that he just wanted to be one.
BERMAN: He just really likes tigers, which apparently is not some kind of condition.
O'BRIEN: Our team this morning, Ron Brownstein talking about unrequited love between tigers. He's editorial director of "National Journal". Bridget Siegel is with us, former presidential campaign finance director for John Kerry. Will Cain is a columnist for TheBlaze.com.
Let's talk about our "Get Real" this morning. Everybody goes through a scanner, endures those pat-downs, some people call them groping at the TSA. How did a Republic Airlines flight attendant forget that she had a loaded handgun in her purse when she showed up to work? Her name is Jaclyn Luby. She has a permit to carry the weapon in Pennsylvania but obviously not to carry it on to the airport and onto the plane. The weapon went off apparently when a police officer was trying to remove the bullet after TSA officers were trying to remove the bullet. She has a permit to carry the gun.
WILL CAIN, COLUMNIST, THEBLAZE.COM: That show how mundane going through security becomes for someone who must do it on a daily basis, because when I go through security, I'm double-checking my pockets, I'm so nervous about where every piece of metal is.
O'BRIEN: I forgot my handgun.
RON BROWNSTEIN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": I was thinking about the push for more conceal carry on campuses. This is a broader issue. There is definitely an effort to expand the zone in which -- obviously not to planes, but more people carrying weapons and whether that is really a good thing or not is something that I think is an intense debate. But think about college campuses.
BRIDGET SIEGEL, FMR. CAMPAIGN FINANCE DIRECTOR, KERRY 2004: And now it's possible to bring on concealed weapons on trains.
O'BRIEN: And the fact that the gun accidentally went offer, a police officer, there was some word about whether this thing had a safety or not. Well, there was a report that it had a safety.
CAIN: Well, it was a revolver. I don't think it happened. And they were trying to remove the bullet when it went off.
O'BRIEN: She's lucky. I guess it shot right into the break room.
CAIN: And somebody was in the break room!
O'BRIEN: Dodging bullets, apparently. How is that?
O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, schools handing out birth control and the morning-after pill to students as young as 14, and in some cases parents have no idea it's happening. We're going to talk about why this is a bad idea and why the other side says, no, this is a good idea. That's coming up next.
And then meltdown on stage -- did you watch this? He completely freaked out.
CAIN: Really? Green Day?
O'BRIEN: Yes, in the middle of a concert towards the end. We'll show you what happened.
You'll want to follow Smokey Robinson's tweet. He'll talk about his smoke alarm, his new tweet to raise awareness. That's still ahead on STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Morning. Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Let's start with John Berman. He's got a look at the day's top stories. Hi, John.
BERMAN: Hi, thanks, Soledad. The United Nations is expected to -- civil war with Syria and a potentially nuclear Iran when the general assembly meets starting tomorrow.
Nearly 120 world leaders will be in attendance. Many of them are already here in New York. You can tell by the traffic. President Obama addresses the gathering tomorrow. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks on Wednesday.
Police in Houston say an officer shot and killed a wheelchair bound double amputee after the man advanced on his partner. Officers were responding to a call that Brian Clanche who is suffering from Schizophrenia was threatening people with a pen in a group home for the mentally ill.
Clanche who lost an arm and a leg in a train accident allegedly trapped an officer with his wheelchair in the corner of a room and started stabbing at the officer with a pen.
Police in Pittsburgh say a suspect was busy checking his Facebook messages while holding a pension fund manager hostage inside a high rise building. The 22-year-old, Kline Michael Faxton had been answering messages on Facebook for hours during the standoff.
Police say it actually slowed down the hostage negotiations. A SWAT team and the D.A. asked Facebook to shut down Faxton's page. Faxton now faces charges including aggravated assault, kidnapping and making terrorist threats. In the end, he did surrender peacefully.
Well, will she run? If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to be a candidate for president in 2016, she's not spilling the beans. And if you think her husband might drop a clue, don't bet on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: She's tired. She's really worked hard. I think she's done a fabulous job. I'm very proud of her. But she wants to take some time off, kind of regroup, and write a book. I have no earthly idea what she'll decide to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: No earthly idea. There you heard it. Hillary Clinton will speak this morning in New York at her husband's eighth Annual Clinton Global Initiative.
We want to get a quick check on the weather and your national travel forecast. Meteorologist Rob Marciano joins us now. Hi, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning again, John. The east coast looking for the most part clear again today as a gorgeous weekend with fall arriving on Saturday. Cool air though coming across warm lakes, not lake-effect snow, but lake-effect rain from buffalo to upstate New York maybe at times some heavy showers.
Other than that, we're looking pretty good. A fire threat across Northern Texas and Oklahoma, by the way, 20 large fires burning across the northwest almost a million acres burned from those fires alone.
We had a thick brush fire in San Diego yesterday, in part because of this heat, near record setting stuff, 100 degrees plus in some spots in so cal will be a little bit cooler today with 84 degree high in L.A., 70 in Chicago, 77 gorgeous in Atlanta and 67 degrees in New York City after a chilly start. John, back up to you.
BERMAN: All right, thanks, Rob.
You'll want to see this. Green Day announcing that front man Billie Joe Armstrong is in rehab after a cursing, guitar-smashing, middle- finger waving, Justin Bieber hating meltdown in Las Vegas.
This clip from the "I Heart Radio" music festival on Friday, lots of beeps, that's why it went viral. It all started when Billy Joe saw that the band had just a minute left. He stopped mid tune and he just went off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG, GREEN DAY: Look at that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sign right there. One minute. I'm not some Justin Bieber, you mother (EXPLETITVE DELETED). Let me show you what one (EXPLETIVE DELETED) means to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: It's not good to cut off Billy Joe apparently. It's not clear how this will affect Green Day's upcoming tour, which is set to start in November -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: At 9-0-0 or 9-0-- 8:59, that's what I'm going to do. I've got one minute, Carol. Get me a guitar. Rehab is always a good little break before you start your tour. Thank you, John. Appreciate it.
All right, let's talk about this controversial new program in some New York City public schools. It's kicking off a heated debate among parents this morning. It's called CATCH. It allows school nurses to disperse the morning-after pill and birth control pills as well to students without parental consent.
Right now, it's a pilot program at 13 high schools. Parents can opt out if they want to. Mona Davids is the president of New York City Parents' Union, an advocacy group for parents.
Deborah Kaplan is the assistant commissioner for New York City's Bureau of Maternal Infant and Reproductive Health. They are both with us this morning. It's nice to have you both.
I'm going to start with you, if I can, Deborah. I think when you look -- I feel like I can understand why a parent would be outraged about this. That's a lot of the conversation.
You know, how could getting the morning-after pill happen for their child as young as 14 without the parents' consent? It seems to boggle to mind as a parent.
DEBORAH KAPLAN, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, NYC HEALTH DEPARTMENT: So first of all, this program has been around now for about a year or more and we make every effort to reach parents.
We mail letters out to every parent and also young people are given letters to bring home. They're also available at the school, at parent meetings, and we wait for weeks after the letters go out to wait to see if parents decide they want to have their child in the program.
O'BRIEN: So they can opt out, but anybody would tell you that opting out -- difference between opting out and opting in is that often people -- you'll have the low numbers on both sides. People have to opt in and also those numbers tend to be very low. So how many people have opted out of having their --
KAPLAN: So 1 percent to 2 percent of parents over the past year have opted out of the program. And we know that in New York City public schools, about 40 percent of young people are sexually active. And while we totally encourage them and believe it's so critical that they talk with their parents, not all young people can or feel they can and yet they're sexually active.
We're looking at how can we protect these young people from unintended pregnancy and make sure that they get the services they need to through a trusted nurse in the school if there's no other ways to get this.
O'BRIEN: So Mona, you have a daughter who is in this overall demographic, meaning she's 14 years old, which is sort of when kids in general start becoming sexually actually, some younger, some older. I know you're really unhappy about this. Your daughter is not in this pilot program.
MONA DAVIDS, NYC PARENTS UNION: No, she's not. Not her school. My daughter attends a specialized high school, Laguardia High School. So most of the schools targeted in this program are what we would call title one schools, high poverty schools, low income parents, and that is my concern when it comes to this opt out process.
I actually have three big concerns about this. One is as recently as last week, Thursday, "The Wall Street Journal" had an article about low parental involvement in New York City schools. We've hit a historic low.
So if parents already are not involved according to the mayor's own management report and you're telling us that you sent out these letters to parents and we know from experience with the Department of Education that they do not send notices out to parents when they tell us to.
Because in our experience, last year when we sued the Department of Education over community education council elections, we were able to successfully get an injunction because you know what, the Department of Education didn't notify the parents.
O'BRIEN: So you're saying they may not be getting the forms.
DAVIDS: That's right.
O'BRIEN: The reverse argument of that is parents who are not involved may not be there for your kids unlike your daughter who could go home and you're obviously on top of her education. You're making sure she's applying to a specialized school.
Lots of kids in poverty, there's a high correlation, so their parents actually not being super involved not only in their education, but with the kids themselves, right?
DAVIDS: Well, that's the problem with the opt out. You have to opt in to donate your organs. OK, you have to opt in. Parents need to opt in with informed consent. This is not just giving a condom to a young person.
This is talking about a chemical hormonal drug cocktail. The parents have a right to know. You don't know if there are pre-existing conditions. You don't know if there are medical allergies or drug allergies --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But this is an over-the-counter drug, first of all --
CAIN: Not for children under 18.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But if you're not -- if the parents aren't looking at a letter, how are they going to be involved in these kinds of decisions?
DAVIDS: But the point is, no one has the right to decide what is in the best interest of our children, especially when it comes to the safety and their health.
We are talking about a young child ages between 14 and 17 ingesting a chemical without the knowledge of, without the permission of --
O'BRIEN: You were going to say, Deborah?
KAPLAN: Emergency contraception is a one-time pill and it is very, very, very safe. The other thing is that we agree with you and I'm a parent of two kids that have gone through adolescence. We want parents involved.
We want parents to talk with their children. In fact, young people say that if their parents will talk to them from an early age about sexual activity and let them know what they think, that protects them and it's less likely that they will be sexually active. However --
CAIN: I think it's being debated now. Your opt out process, are you really doing everything to put parents as a part of this process? You know, you're putting yourself in the position of the parents of last resort, but it seems to be a very proactive position you're seeking.
KAPLAN: We believe we are doing everything. We have mailing letters home, giving letters to children, including them in the freshman packet. However, the bottom line is, there are young people who are having sex, 40 percent of young people in high schools are sexually active.
Ninety percent, that's 7,000 pregnancies a year to teens age 15 to 17. They are in harm's way and we want to make sure if they don't talk to their parents or feel they can't that there's a trusted adult where they can get the services they need to prevent unintended pregnancy.
BROWNSTEIN: Can you claim what process you went through to decide on the opt out rather than the opt in and whether there are any other cities that do it either way at this point and what their experience has been?
KAPLAN: We have a similar experience with opt out with the condom availability program, which is mandated in New York state at all the high schools and we also have that in our school based health clinics for reproductive health services. That is because we know that these are such sensitive services that many young people are engaging in these risky behaviors and don't know where to turn.
O'BRIEN: Let me ask, Mona, a question before we wrap up. Those numbers are dire, right? We're not talking about your daughter who has a parent who is obviously very involved. You have 7,000 kids mostly in poverty, 7,000 pregnancies.
Ninety percent of those 7,000 pregnancies are unwanted pregnancies among teenagers, which we know having seen that story play out often that derails their lives, their high school career, etcetera, et cetera. We know how all that finishes. What is the right thing to do, then?
DAVIDS: Well, first of all, Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education or just the city or government need to put more funding back into our schools. They cut extracurricular activities. They've cut after school programs.
O'BRIEN: A reasonable person would say that's not going to happen in this environment.
DAVIDS: No. But there's no place for these children to go. But more importantly government, the city, the Department of Education has no right, no right whatsoever to give any child a chemical, hormonal cocktail a drug when they cannot even give the child an aspirin in the school without the parents' permission, without knowing the medical history of the child, without knowing more of that information.
Moreover, when we look at something like this drug, there is an increase in cases of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea with that birth control, as well. So what we're saying is that parents need to be informed. Do not make decisions about what is in the best interest of my child medically, especially when it comes to them ingesting any kind of drug without knowing --
O'BRIEN: I would think you want opt out.
DAVIDS: I would absolutely opt out.
O'BRIEN: Mona and Deborah, I thank you guys for coming in to talk about this debate this morning. It's really interesting. When you look at the statistics, it's a very tough call. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
DAVIDS: Thank you for having me.
O'BRIEN: We got to take a short break. Still ahead this morning, he's lending his voice to a cause to help change the world. We'll tell you how Smokey Robinson is joining up with President Clinton harnessing the power of social media to do it. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Does it take you back? That's one of the many, many, many hits from singer/song writer Smokey Robinson, a legend for more than 50 years in the music business. Now he's lending his voice to a different and very important cause.
He's sending out "Smoke Alarms" to help raise awareness for worthy causes. Yesterday, he announced a partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and the cause that he's going to focus on. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMOKEY ROBINSON, SINGER: I believe one of the most basic needs in life is clean water. Yet millions of people around the world drink water every day that is dirty, contaminated and I want to change that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And so "Smoke Alarms." And so one of the first smoke alarms, although I have to imagine there will be lots of different ones will be focusing on clean water. It's nice to have Smokey Robinson with us. Talk to me about how this came about.
ROBINSON: Well, a bunch of friends and I got together and we formed smoke alarm to address the problems that people have on the planet, really, that they're in positions to do nothing about. And whatever we could do to help them.
And one of my partners is David Kalarkie. He has done many things like this for Nelson Mandela and people like that. And so we hooked up and we formed "Smoke Alarm" to tackle some of these problems.
And then President Clinton, who has been a friend of mine for a long time, we contacted them and we're like in cahoots with them, really, to take care of some of these. He's been doing this for several years.
O'BRIEN: It's really about leveraging social media, right?
ROBINSON: Absolutely. It is a social media thing and rather than me calling on some of my friends in the entertainment business and come, let's do a benefit concert, which is going to take their time and their efforts to get to where it's going to be and that, it's very simple . All they have to do is tweet.
And tweet to their partners, the people who they tweet with and it snowballs and their partners who tweet with them tweet with their tweeters and it's all in Facebook and down the line and it's a very simple process.
O'BRIEN: Some of your friends, I should mention, boy, do you have great friends. You notice he just threw out President Clinton. That's a good one to start with. Elton John, you know, he only has 100,000 Twitter followers.
CAIN: Start throwing out the big league in Elton John. O'BRIEN: Brandy at 1,722,000. She's agreed to help out as well. Eva Longoria at 4,200,000. Hillary Duff at 1.6 million followers. You'll send out a smoke alarm. Folks will get that smoke alarm and re-tweet it to all their followers.
ROBINSON: That's how the donations come in. It's very quick and very simple. It allows us to tackle the problems immediately.
O'BRIEN: Why clean water? That's your first one I know you're raising awareness and support.
ROBINSON: Water is really the source of life for everything. There's nothing alive on earth that does not need water. So there are many places in the world where people don't have clean water. They drink contaminated water just so they can have water.
And so we thought that that would be a good starting point to try and get -- these packets, teamed up with Procter & Gamble. It's amazing. We teamed up with Procter & Gamble.
This packet right here, you can put this in a jar of dirty, contaminated water, and stir it for about 5 minutes. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Filter it through a cloth. It's perfectly pure drinking water. How many people could use this? And water, like I said, is the source of life. We figured we'd tackle the biggest problems first.
CAIN: It's a Procter & Gamble product, what does that cost?
ROBINSON: It actually costs about 2.5 cents. A lot of them were just going to give them to the people who need this.
BROWNSTEIN: One thing the Clinton Global Initiative prides itself on is specific and tangible goals for the people who participate. Do you have specific goals and guidelines you're trying to reach on this effort?
ROBINSON: Well, yes. We want to save people's lives.
O'BRIEN: That's a big one.
BROWNSTEIN: But do you have like -- do you have an effort you're trying to reach in terms of contributions or for this specific project.
ROBINSON: I don't understand the question.
BROWNSTEIN: Is there, like, a goal of how much you're trying to raise for this specific project?
ROBINSON: No, no, no, no, no. Unlimited, whatever we can raise. The more the merrier. The more we can raise. The more people we can help. We're just putting it out there.
And like I said, it's a social media thing, which is very simple for people to contribute to and to participate in. And we're putting it out there, and the more money we receive, the more people we can help. And we hope that we get a lot of help.
O'BRIEN: You know when you get a smoke alarm, get out your checkbook. Send us some money so people can have pure water. Nice to have you with us this morning. We appreciate it.
We've got to take a short break. STARTING POINT is back in just a moment.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. A couple quick headlines for you this morning.
A wild brush fire destroys four homes, threatening dozens of others and just 10 percent contained right now. The fire is burning in campo in Southern California near the Mexican border. It burned through 1,700 acres so far. Mandatory evacuations are in place.
Allegations of sexual hazing at a Southern California high school. The L.A. County sheriff's office is investigating after L.A. Puente High School soccer player complained to authorities. Sources tell the "L.A. Times," the hazing may have gone on for years and allegedly involved 14 and 15-year-old boys. Again, that's in La Puente High School in Los Angeles.
O'BRIEN: Terrible. All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, world leaders are gathering in New York City for the U.N.'s general assembly. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad already giving a warning even before he's taken to the podium. We'll tell you why the stakes are so high for these conversations this week.
And you might want to pay attention to what's happening to your checking account. Overdraft fees and ATM surcharges are going up.>
Plus, the big winners and losers at the Emmy Awards including one big upset. We're back right after this. Stay with us.