CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Excerpts Released of Preident Obama's UN Speech; President to Speak at U.N. General Assembly; President's Foreign Policy Assessed; NFL Replacement Refs Come under Heavy Criticism; Urinating On Dead Taliban Fighters; Drug Lab Scandal In Massachusetts; One Dead In Social Wildfire, Homes Destroyed; Medical Mystery: New Virus Discovered; Survey: Prescription Drug Abuse Drops; Female Student Spanked By Male Teacher; "My Mother Was Nuts"; Nepal Avalanche; Fort Hood Suspect Hospitalized; Falcons Defensive End Arrested; Paying For College

Aired September 25, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, taking the world stage. President Obama speaks before world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly today. He won't be meeting with foreign dignitaries one-on-one. Instead, he's going to be sitting on the couch of "The View." Is he setting the wrong tone before the election? We'll take a look.

Hazing accusations of high school soccer teens shaking the community to its core. Boys, some as young as 14, say their teammates sexually abused them, and it might have been going on for years.

And the NFL replacement refs do it again, but their fumble was more than just a nuisance this time. A very confusing end to the Packers/Seahawks game. The refs, in my humble opinion, botching a call that changed the entire outcome of the game.

It's Tuesday, September 25th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, President Obama's high stakes speech on the world stage. In just a few hours, he's going to be addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

In a just-released excerpt shows the president touching on the familiar theme, which is preventing a nuclear Iran, saying this, "We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained."

Richard Roth is at the U.N. this morning for us. Richard, good morning. Much anticipation about the president's speech today.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Yes, President Obama, as you mentioned, is going to be speaking about Iran and other hot spots in the Middle East. Certainly we've seen huge stories developing in the last two weeks, especially after the killing of ambassador Stevens in Libya. For the United States president, once again, there will be those tough remarks about Iran, saying time is not limited. The U.S. president is going to be saying that there is just a time limit to diplomacy. The U.S. and many other nations extremely worried about Iran's nuclear capability.

Iran's leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, yesterday told the United Nations in a speech about the rule of law, that the Security Council members should be changed. They are allowing, in effect, Israel to possess a nuclear weapon, while all the attention is focused on Tehran. Earlier in a meeting with reporters, he, in effect, again, questioned Israel's legitimacy.

This issue, of course, has been seen on the U.N. stage here for years. Sometimes it's a sideshow. There are many other points President Obama is going to mention, including saying how these attacks based on a video were totally uncalled for in the Middle East region and that free speech must be a cornerstone of American democracy. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, lots to look forward to today. Thanks for the update, Richard Roth at the U.N. We're going to be talking with Mitt Romney supporter Senator John Barrasso about what he says are the three specific things President Obama needs to do in his speech today.

First I want to get to John Berman. He has got a look at some of the other stories making news this morning. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Iran's president is trying to clarify what he meant when he said Israel should be wiped off the map. An exclusive interview with CNN's Piers Morgan Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists the literal interpretation of his comment is not what he meant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: When we say to be wiped, we say for occupation to be wiped off from this world, for war-seeking to be wiped off and eradicated, the killing of women and children to be eradicated. And we propose the way, we propose the path. The path is to recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-governance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak before the U.N. general assembly tomorrow on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur. This has many New Yorkers outraged. There's even a house resolution circulating in Congress condemning the timing of the address.

After President Obama's U.N. speech you'll also see him and the first lady stopping by "The View." They taped the appearance yesterday, and here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Would it be disastrous for the country if Mitt Romney were elected?

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I think America is so strong, and we've got so much going for us, that we can survive a lot. But the American people don't want to just survive. We want everybody to thrive. We want folks to have a shot.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And so, the question just becomes whose policies are more likely to lead us to where we want to go?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, when the first lady was asked whether she'd ever consider running for president, she said she didn't have the patience for the job. The president agreed, which could get dicey at home.

Mitt Romney will have another chance to hammer the president on foreign policy matters this morning. The GOP challenger will speak at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in two hours. Here's a sample of what we can expect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He says the developments in the Middle East are bumps in the road. These are not bumps in the road. These are human lives. These are developments we do not want to see. This is time for the president who will shape events in the Middle East, not just be merciful -- or be at mercy of the events in the Middle East.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: White House spokesman Jay Carney calls Romney's comment "desperate and offensive." President Obama will speak at the Clinton Global Initiative himself a few hours after Mitt Romney, the president speaking at noon eastern.

An arrest in a mysterious missing person case in Florida. Christian Aguilar, a freshman at the University of Florida, disappeared Thursday after what police said was a fight over a woman. Pedro Bravo is called a person of interest, but he's already been arrested and charged with depriving a victim of medical care. He told police he left Aguilar beaten and unconscious along a roadside in a fight over this woman. Gainesville police say Aguilar may be dead.

And this was bound to happen. The replacement refs sure looks like they cost the Green Bay Packers a victory last night against the Seattle Seahawks. Here's the blown call everyone's talking about. Final seconds, Packers up by five, quarterback throws a Hail Mary to the end zone. It looks like it's intercepted by the Packers. Right? Right?

O'BRIEN: Yes. BERMAN: No! The replacement officials rule that the one Seahawks player there somehow caught the ball. They actually reviewed this, took like 10 minutes, and they said they were right.

O'BRIEN: And they got it wrong.

BERMAN: And they got it wrong again.

So the Seahawks won 14-12. You have to check out some of the angry tweets from Packers players after the game. Guard T.J. Lang said "Fine me and use the money to pay regular refs." An end guard said it more bluntly. "That was BS. This is getting ridiculous. The NFL needs to get the refs back before we strike and they make no money." It was awful weekend for the referees. The last play of the Monday night football game puts a cap on it.

O'BRIEN: One has to imagine, though, this is exactly what you want in some kind of a debate over, you know, when you're trying to figure out if you can bring people to the table, right? You need to have somebody mess up so they can see it's very urgent and hopefully they'll be able to resolve their dispute.

BERMAN: The referees are being locked out right now by the NFL ownership, Roger Goodell.

O'BRIEN: If you're NFL ownership you're going to be like, you know what? Maybe we all you need to come back to the table.

BERMAN: It's a good time to talk.

O'BRIEN: Before our fans revolt, because I don't even follow that game and I can tell.

All right, moving on to our top story this morning, just a few hours until President Obama is going to address the U.N. general assembly. It's the fourth time doing so. But this time he does it in the midst of a presidential campaign, in the wake of anti-American demonstrations around the world. Yesterday, the White House gave a preview of what to expect from the president. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He will also send a clear message that the United States will never retreat from the world. The United States will bring justice to those who harm Americans, and the United States will stand strongly for our democratic values abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Senator John Barrasso is a Republican from Wyoming. He supports Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He's also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also joining us this morning, Elise Labott, CNN's former affairs reporter. Nice to have you both with us.

We'll start with you, senator. You wrote an op-ed in politico and you listed what you thought were three critical things that the president had to hit on when he gives his speech before the general assembly today. Can you lay out for me what you think he needs to say?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, (R) WYOMING: The first thing he is needs to acknowledge that the war on terror continues. Look at what you discovered from CNN, the private journals of Chris Stevens, who said, a number of things. This was not about a video. He was being targeted by Al Qaeda. He said Al Qaeda was growing in Libya. He said there was a rise in Islamic extremism in that area. There truly is terrorism that continues. This is not because of a video.

Number two, the president, when he says for the people of Israel he has their back. He needs to outline exactly what that means. At the time Iran gets closer and closer to having a nuclear weapon.

And third is the American people need to know what the president's foreign policy actually is. Four years ago he said I can negotiate with Iran. That has failed. He said he would push the reset button with Russia. That has failed. And he said that the entire Middle East would look at him and the United States differently with respect us more as a result of him in the White House, and that's failed.

O'BRIEN: So, in that list of three things, the White House has now released some of the excerpts from what we know the president will say today. I'll start with the last thing that you say about foreign policy. In fact, this may be better for what he said on "60 Minutes" where he laid out, when you said he hasn't said what his foreign policy is. I think the White House would say actually he has. Here's a little clip of what he told Scott Pelley. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, let's see what I've done since I came into office. I said I'd end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we'd go after Al Qaeda. They've been decimated in the Fatah. That we'd go after bin Laden. He's gone. So I've executed on my foreign policy, and it's one that the American people largely agree with. So, up know if Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So that's obviously Steve Croft and not Scott Pelley. You hear a lot on the Democratic side, they tick off those exact same things and say, foreign policy-wise, and the polls support him, the American people think we're doing OK.

BARRASSO: He said Osama bin Laden is dead. And Al Qaeda is on the run. Al Qaeda is not on the run. What we've seen is Al Qaeda targeted and assassinated our ambassador in Libya. That's the case. And then he called that a bump in the road. These are four dead American bodies who are in the road. So I think he's absolutely wrong there.

When he talks about pulling out of Iraq, what we now know is that his military advisers said leave people in Iraq, 15,000. He wasn't able to accomplish that so right now, Iran is flying supplies to Syria over Iraqi air space, which shouldn't be happening. But it's being done to supply the Syrians, who are massacring their people. This president has failed on foreign policy.

O'BRIEN: So, Elise, maybe we can throw up some of these poll numbers. We know on foreign policy, actually, when compared to the job that the American people think the president is doing versus what Mitt Romney would do, he significantly beats Mitt Romney, even though some of those numbers have fallen over the last, you know, couple weeks or so, but not significantly, and not very far outside the standard deviation. So, what do you think that -- do you agree with the senator that the president hasn't spelled out well enough and must do in these remarks today, foreign policy?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there are certain questions about what the president needs to do in terms of how is he going to address these rising anti-American protests. I mean, he did come to office in 2009, made that famous Cairo speech promising to engage the Arab and Muslim worlds, and you see three years later, U.S. not much more popular in the Arab world than we were after 9/11.

So in that sense, I think Americans, after this shocking attack on the consulate, and these process, one is seeing how President Obama is going to engage in this region going forward. I think there are also questions about Iran's nuclear program and how the president is going to address it.

I think on the point of Al Qaeda, and whether Al Qaeda son the run, it's a little bit more complex than that. Because you have Al Qaeda, the large organization, and then you have some of these splinter groups that are kind of sympathetic with Al Qaeda, affiliated with Al Qaeda. These are the ones that are believed to be responsible for the attack.

But the issue of Islamic extremism certainly very important, and that's why the president argues, secretary of state Hillary Clinton argues, the U.S. has to keep getting engaged in this region, because if you look at what happened in the Arab spring, and these revolutions that kind of swept the Middle East, there was all this euphoria and they were looking for the United States to support these demonstrators.

Now we see extremists are trying to hijack, and this is what you call the second phase. So is it really a time for the U.S. to kind of retreat but to continue to be engaged? And I think that's what you're going to hear President Obama talking about.

And you are going to hear him talk about how to contain the crisis in Syria. But to some extent the U.S. is held hostage to Russia and China on the U.N. Security Council and the lack of general international will. I mean the United States, yes, is the sole superpower. But I think when President Obama came into office he said, you know, other countries have to share the load. And I don't -- in some cases you don't see that.

O'BRIEN: So you have said that you don't think that the president has done enough to spell out his support for Israel.

BARRASSO: Well, he's not -- a couple things. One is the reset button in Russia has failed. We are still being held hostage by that. We need to know that China is funneling money to Iran in spite of all of the sanctions that we have. So I think the president additionally with regard to Israel needs to say exactly where the redline is, where the deadline is, and what it really means so people in Israel and the United States and Iran know when the president says we have your back, what specifically does that mean?

LABOTT: I think on the issue of Iran, I think what U.S. officials tell me is why should we spell out exactly what Iran needs to do. We want to keep Iran kind of guessing a little bit. Certainly, you know, it's coming to crunch time and you know, I think it's --

BARRASSO: They're not slowing down.

LABOTT: I think it's not so important, necessarily, that the president spells out to the general public and to the Iranians what he needs to do. He needs to spell out privately, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, this is where I'm prepared. And this is --

BARRASSO: It would help if he actually met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The president last year had 13 meetings with former leaders. He's meeting with no one this year.

O'BRIEN: And the White House has said that we have a phone, you know, we can call foreign leaders if we need to. We certainly know that he's going to be on "The Vview" this morning which has already been taped. Both sides of the aisle have been doing Letterman, Leno, "View," "Kelly."

BARRASSO: And 13 meetings with foreign leaders last year, none this year, but time for "The View." I think this misses the mark in terms of where the United States ought to be in foreign policy.

O'BRIEN: We'll see how the voters feel about that. Senator, thanks for being with us.

BARRASSO: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break. Still ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT, high school hazing to the extreme -- three soccer players say their teammates sexually abused them in the form of initiation. Parents want to know was there any kind of supervision? A live report straight ahead.

And do you love bacon? Do you love bacon?

BERMAN: I love bacon.

O'BRIEN: You might want to stock up. There could be a bacon shortage, believe it or not. Terrifying news on that front we're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans minding your business. U.S. stock futures are flat ahead of the opening bell. Stocks really stuck here near five-year highs as we assess how well world economies are growing.

Listen up bacon lovers -- do not panic about reports this morning from the U.K. of a bacon shortage. A U.K. trade association pork trade association says a bacon shortage is unavoidable. But the U.S. is not running out of bacon. I am pleased to report. In fact, USDA data show record amounts of pork in the U.S. but because of the drought this summer retail prices, of course, could go higher next year.

O'BRIEN: There is no bacon shortage?

ROMANS: There is no bacon crisis I'm happy to report.

Now, Toys R Us is hiring 45,000 seasonal workers for the upcoming holiday shopping season, 5,000 more than last year. Toys R Us and other discounters are also loosening up their layaway plans. Why? They're bracing for another holiday shopping season amidst high unemployment. I'm not a fan of layaway. I think it's really a sign of financial distress. You have to put money down --

O'BRIEN: Clear it's a sign of financial distress. Lots of people do layaway.

ROMANS: They do. But if you're doing layaway it's really important to take a look at why you're buying something that you can't pay for in the first place. Mostly because you don't have a job. But that's another problem. Make sure you really need it. Really need it, not want it.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.

Disturbing case of alleged sexual hazing on a high school soccer team, three players in La Puente High School making accusations. Two of them say they were beaten with a stick or a javelin. In one case the stick was used. They're saying to sexually abuse one of the students claiming. Four of the alleged attackers are all fellow students have been cited and the coach is also under investigation. All this brings us to Casey Wian who's been following this case. He's in La Puente for us. Casey, what's the latest on this case?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, the latest is the Los Angeles county sheriff's department says it has interviewed 70 students at La Puente high school, and as you mentioned, four of them were taken into custody and when the sheriff's department says is they were cited and released pending a further investigation. Also, one member of the school's faculty has been put on administrative leave while this investigation is ongoing.

Now, the sheriff's department says that there is evidence that hazing in the soccer program at La Puente high school has been going on for years, and they say it may have risen to the level of criminal conduct. An attorney representing three of the boys who were allegedly victimized by this hazing says it was sort of a rite of passage for boys who made the varsity soccer team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

"BILLY," ACCUSER: They told me if I wanted to do it the easy way or the hard way, and at that moment my heart was like pounding, and like I just like kind of like blacked out, and I said -- I told them, I just remember telling them I want it the easy way. But they got me back.

BARBARA NAKAOKA, SUPERINTENDENT, HACIENDA-LA PUENTE SCHOOL DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA: We do not and will not turn a blind eye to reports of harassment or hazing. Therefore, we took immediate action to contact law enforcement to initiate an investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Now the attorney for the victims says that there are also allegations that a coach either witnessed or perhaps even somehow indirectly participated in this hazing. We tried to contact the man who was listed as a coach of the La Puente boys' soccer team. Our calls were not returned. I should point out that the Los Angeles County sheriff's department says at this point there is no evidence that any member of the faculty or the coaching staff here was directly involved in this hazing. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Horrific story. Casey Wian for us this morning, thank you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we showed you the blown call in last night's Seahawks-Packers game. How is that allowed to happen? Why is the lingerie football league saying those refs aren't even good enough to be reffing their games? Our "Get Real" coming up next. Our STARTING POINT team is coming in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. Here's a look at your top stories this morning.

We could find out today if the Supreme Court will take up the controversial issue of same-sex marriage. There are two pending appeals cases in which the court may or may not decide to hear arguments.

The death of a newborn giant panda cub remains a mystery. Vets at Washington's national zoo ruled out the possibility that the panda cub was crushed by its mother. The baby panda died over the weekend six days after it was born.

A judge has ordered a probation hearing for Chris Brown after the singer tested positive for marijuana. Now Brown is currently serving five years' probation for his infamous 2009 assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna. Get this, though, Rihanna tweeted Brown right before court on Monday saying, "I'm praying for you and wishing you the best today."

O'BRIEN: Well, there's been lots of people watching that kind of, they're back together.

BERMAN: All right.

O'BRIEN: Making some people a little unhappy.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Do you follow?

O'BRIEN: No, I don't. Do you?

HOOVER: No.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: It's terrifying that they're back together. It's just so sad for Rihanna.

O'BRIEN: I'm not going to judge. I'm going to let everybody live. How's that for my new philosophy about life? Chrystia Freeland is with us. Don Baer is the former communications director in the Clinton White House. Margaret Hoover is a former White House appointee in the Bush administration. Nice to have you all with us. You're all very judgmental.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: No. It's my new affirmation. Nonjudgmental.

HOOVER: New affirmation?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm trying.

Our "Get Real" this morning. Remember we were talking about that blown packers call, Seahawks-Packers game. Walk us through exactly what happened. Because I don't follow football but it looked to me very clear.

BERMAN: You're watching it right now. It's the last play of the game. The Seahawks are down by five. The quarterback with a Hail Mary pass into the end zone here. Now, it looks like the Packers, in yellow, intercepted the ball. However, the refs say that Golden Tate, who was the one Seahawks player in that group right there, there you see him right there. They say that Golden Tate, 81, is the one who actually had his hand on the ball. They made the call on the field at the time saying the Seahawks caught it, it was a touchdown. Then they went and reviewed it. They look at the same video we're looking at for about another 10 minutes and still ruled it was a touchdown. Meanwhile everyone else on planet earth is going no, no it's not.

HOOVER: It's clearly an interception.

BERMAN: The lingerie football league is even having some fun with this. This morning they put out a press release saying quote, "Due to several on-field incompetent officiating, we chose to part ways with a couple crews which apparently are now officiating in the NFL. In light of tonight's events we felt it was only fair that NFL fans knew the truth who was officiating these games." Lingerie league commissioner did not say whether one of those crews or anyone from those crews is actually officiating last night's game.

O'BRIEN: I'm not going to judge the lingerie league.

BERMAN: You can judge the call. It was a terrible call.

O'BRIEN: It was a terrible call. If the lingerie league is putting out statements, saying that they even thought that that was terrible --

DOB BAER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CLINTON WHITE HOUSE: It's also not the first bad call of the season, right? So this is now getting to be a pretty persistent problem.

BERMAN: It was a terrible weekend. Game after game after game they made calls that were blatantly wrong. Not just judgment calls but the wrong calls.

O'BRIEN: But does this all push them to resolve the stalemate?

BERMAN: Yes.

HOOVER: By Sunday, by Saturday? It has to be -- what are they going to have to do?

BERMAN: Pay them more. NFL refs is fascinating.

HOOVER: They're important. They made their point.

O'BRIEN: They're part-time. NFL refs only work part-time. Some of these guys are lawyers, they have other jobs. But they're asking for money, they want better retirement plans, and the league is saying no.

BAER: You would say that if pushes for a settlement only if you think it's hurting the owners. The owners, what they care about is people watching. So this is a car crash.

O'BRIEN: I disagree. I think they also care about whether or not the game is played credibly and judged credibly, if people are kept safe, and if people, you know, some of these people are tweeting the tweets were hilarious.

BAER: Certainly from the fans' standpoint just the overall credibility of the season this is going to really --

HOOVER: Fans like I mean you might watch for a couple of days, because it sort of is interesting episode or cultural event. But isn't it important for fans, if you are a fan --

BERMAN: It is changing the game. I was skeptical. I thought it wouldn't make much of a difference, but it's making a difference every Sunday now, and Monday. O'BRIEN: Every fan is always bad.

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the fate of nearly 1200 prisoners who are serving time behind bars is now in question. Could a botched drug cases set them free?

Teenage girl is paddled by her male vice principal. The school's response and who should be able to do that. You have to hear this. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Let's start with John Berman for a look at some of the stories making news this morning. Good morning.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. Two staff sergeants will be court-martialed over a video U.S. officials described as deplorable and disgusting. U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters last year and posing for pictures with the corpses. Three other Marines have already been punished in this case.

A review finds more than 1,100 people in Massachusetts are in state prison or county jails because of potentially tainted drug evidence. A former state chemist allegedly told law enforcement officials she mixed drug samples to create positive results. She has not been charged, but a criminal investigation is under way.

Fast-moving wildfires are posing dangers in the west this morning. The body of an 82-year-old disabled man was discovered in a home in San Diego County. The shocky fire in Southern California has scorched about 2,000 acres so far and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people.

Another fire in Oklahoma has been contained. About 100 firefighters battled the grass fire that threatened about a dozen homes and closed a state highway for much of the afternoon.

In your "A.M. House Call," the discovery of a new virus, but exactly what is it? Two men from the Middle East became infected with a strain linked to both the common cold and the SARS virus.

Like SARS, it causes severe respiratory distress, but it also causes kidney failure, which is not a symptom of SARS. Even more mysterious, scientists have not found a connection between the two men. So there you go. That's frightening this morning.

Some encouraging news and some alarming news on prescription drug abuse. A new government survey shows a 14 percent drop in prescription drug abuse among 18 to 25-year-olds since 2010. The not so good news, about 2.3 million children and adults abuse prescription drugs for the first time last year.

And officials at a Texas high school are considering an expansion of their corporal punishment rules in order to permit male teachers to spank female students. The talks -- O'BRIEN: What?

BERMAN: The talks are taking place after -- it already happened to a 15-year-old girl, Taylor Santos. The Springtown High School sophomore opted for paddling to reduce a suspension she received for allegedly copying class work.

Her mom OK'ed the spanking, but tells affiliate WFAA that was before she realized that a male vice principal would be dishing out the punishment, which apparently is in violation of school policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNA JORGENSEN, TAYLOR'S MOTHER: It looked almost as if it had been burned and blistered. It was so bad. And it was bright red, like bad.

TAYLOR SANTOS, SPANKED BY MALE TEACHER: I still have welts on me today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So again that school is now having discussions that would allow the male teachers to spank female students. Soledad, 19 states in the U.S., including Texas, do allow corporal punishment in schools.

O'BRIEN: I am not judgmental. However, there is so much wrong with that story. First of all why would you choose between getting smacked and being suspended when really she should stay in school and learn something, right?

That would be a much better punishment to have to say in than do something after school. It's crazy to not have a student not in school anyway and to have anybody hitting anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And having a male teacher smacking a female student --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nineteen states allow corporal punishment. You would think that there were all the parenting rules and the revisions in parenting that there are better ways in teaching children rather than hitting them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of harmful. This girl had to choose between being suspended and being hit, right? Like imagine if we had choices like that in our adult lives.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, she became a household name on the sitcom "Laverne and Shirley." Penny Marshall takes us behind the camera with her new memoir. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll talk with her coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A generation of TV fans remember her as Laverne Defazio from the classic sitcom "Laverne & Shirley." Penny Marshall writes candidly about her hit show and her life both in front of and behind the camera in her new memoir, which is called "My Mother Was Nuts."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

The title of your book is "My Mother Was Nuts, A Memoir." Was your mother nuts?

PENNY MARSHALL, AUTHOR, "MY MOTHER WAS NUTS": Yes, she was. Was yours?

O'BRIEN: Well, she's still alive and yes, very much so.

MARSHALL: I think everyone's mother is slightly nuts.

O'BRIEN: Her nuttiness and you have a lot of things she said, which sometimes seem really mean and not just nutty, how did that shape you into what you ended up becoming?

MARSHALL: Well, you had to form a sense of humor or you'd kill yourself. But, she was saying about somebody else, you could laugh. You had to know what sarcasm was.

O'BRIEN: What would you like people to take away from this book?

MARSHALL: Well, I came from the Bronx. You know, I'm not a articulate person. But, I have a strange combination of insecurity and fearlessness.

O'BRIEN: That sounds contradictory actually.

MARSHALL: Well, I'm insecure. I don't know. OK, did you try this all right? You know, if I'm asked, I did not knock on doors to do anything, they asked me to direct. They asked me to do this, you know.

O'BRIEN: Many people remember the role in "Laverne & Shirley" obviously the show was a huge breakthrough. The thing I thought was interesting the dynamic with Cindy Williams.

I remember when it ended and there was a lot written about what happened, there was infighting, et cetera, et cetera. You describe it as she was really insecure, in some ways, reasonably, because your brother was directing it.

MARSHALL: No, she was -- we all had New York accents, we all were from New York so we all talk like this. So for the first six episodes she talked Laverne and no one -- a New York accent. So then she talked and she is a much better actress than me. She has a range and she had done movies.

O'BRIEN: But you do a thing that would get attention, kind of the slapstick, and then she would go I want more time.

MARSHALL: She wanted all the dialogue. I don't do dialogue. I'll do something. I'll make my milk and Pepsi, which I drank as a child. I'll do things.

O'BRIEN: She'd be like she wasn't getting laughs?

MARSHALL: Well, she could have all the dialogue, but she couldn't, you know, she could color things. She could, you know, speech, a monologue. I didn't like words so much.

O'BRIEN: So that what made the whole thing end eventually?

MARSHALL: No. What made the thing end was she got married, very happy. She was pregnant. She was going to have a baby. Bless her.

O'BRIEN: You guys still friends?

MARSHALL: Yes. I saw her the other night. She's rehearsing for a play.

O'BRIEN: Do you like directing more than you like acting?

MARSHALL: I like that you don't have to get in hair and makeup.

O'BRIEN: I hear you on that. The list of movies that you directed is long and you know, "Big," "League of Her Own," Preacher's Wife." "Awakening ", "Renaissance Man," I'm missing some others. Talk to me about "Big."

MARSHALL: I read it. It read like an afternoon special. Everyone said that's a universal thought. And I asked Tom and Tom said no. Everyone said no.

O'BRIEN: Was Robert De Niro supposed to be in "Big."

MARSHALL: I said read it, tell me what you think. He said I like it. He was very smart about a lot of things, but once Bob wanted to do it, now everyone wanted to do it. He gave me a validity that I didn't have.

O'BRIEN: People have read a lot about that. That it was the first movie that a woman director made $100 million.

MARSHALL: I didn't make it personally.

O'BRIEN: No, no.

MARSHALL: Trust me on that one.

O'BRIEN: I'm sure that's how it works. Was Whitney Houston nice to work with?

MARSHALL: She was great. She's funny as hell. She was. She was great. Always knew her lines. You know, and I said, one day I said I'm going to stage this just for you. Thank you.

You know, she didn't have that kind of ego. Whatever was going on in her personal life, you know, whatever she did, she did it at home. She didn't do it on the set.

O'BRIEN: How is your health now? Because I know you had a bout with cancer.

MARSHALL: Well, in 2009, I did have a bout. I dodged a major bullet. Is wood around?

O'BRIEN: Right there.

MARSHALL: That's water. I asked for wood.

O'BRIEN: Wood?

MARSHALL: See no one understands what I'm talking about. I'm trying to knock on wood. I'm knocking on water.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Penny Marshall. Her book is really good. She just did it into a tape recorder and turned it into a book. She's really, you know, she's really blunt. I love when people write their memoirs and they don't hide anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was she fun?

O'BRIEN: Really fun, really fun, yes. She's a lot of fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they should market that tape, right? Just the audio tape of her talking --

O'BRIEN: Yes, that would be worth it. She'd be great. Amazing.

All right, ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, college graduates are leaving schools, school with thousands of dollars in debt. What's happened to student loans after the November election? Christine Romans will join us to talk about the candidates various plans that's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. A look at your top stories. Rescuers in Nepal say there is no hope of finding any more survivors after a mountaintop avalanche. At least eight people are dead. Mountain guides called of the search. Three climbers, two Frenchmen and a Canadian are still missing.

The army psychiatrist arrested in the 2009 shooting massacre at Fort Hood in Texas is in an army hospital this morning. Major Nadal Hasan was admitted Saturday for an undisclosed condition. The military says he is in good condition now and expected to be released within 48 hours. Thirteen people died in that shooting, 32 others were wounded.

A player for the Atlanta Falcons was arrested last night charged with obstruction. Atlanta police say defensive John Abraham crossed into a restricted area where they were trying calm a woman attempting to jump from a hotel.

Now, it is not known if he knew the woman who ultimately did not jump, but Abraham is the second Falcons player arrested in the last week. O'BRIEN: Wow. I would like more details on that. It sounds like he was trying to help her.

BERMAN: We don't know.

O'BRIEN: OK, all this week we have been going in depth on issues that matter to you. This morning, the high cost of college and how to pay for it. Christine Romans has that for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Here we live in a country where you can't afford to go to college for a lot of middle- class families and you certainly can't afford not to.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): When Jackie Giovanniello graduated from Brown University this year, she put off going straight to medical school. Instead she took a research job at Sloan Kettering Hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was nice to have a paying job where I can pay back part of my student loans before going to med school and possibly adding on a lot more.

ROMANS: She had plenty of them, $100,000 worth. Why? Her family is middle class. Her mother works in a school. Her dad owns a bar. She says they are considered too wealthy to qualify for many grants, but she says not wealthy enough to have saved the money for more than $50,000 a year to attend Brown.

JACKIE GIOVANNIELLO, GRADUATE IN DEBT: You are in the middle class. You are a normal suburban family. You just don't make an outrageous amount of money so you can't pay for these outrageous prices for tuition, you know.

ROMANS: She is not alone. Student loan debt hit a trillion dollar last year. Even tuition for public four-year colleges rose 68 percent over the last decade. Enter the presidential campaign with college affordability a key issue for younger voters.

OBAMA: I want to make college more affordable important for every young person who has the initiative and drive to go and make sure they are not burdened by thousands of dollars worth of debt.

ROMANS: President Obama has expanded Pell grants and cut out the banks as middlemen for loans allowing students to borrow directly from the government. Now Obama proposes to slow tuition growth by increasing state grants. Yet, he would need Congress to help fund that.

ROMNEY: I'm not going to go out and promise all sorts of free stuff that I know you are going to end up paying for. What I want to end up doing is give you a great job so you can pay it back yourself.

ROMANS: Mitt Romney's plan to help students, remove burdensome regulations and get the government out of the student loan business. Romney says the flood of federal dollars just drives up tuition. Molly Corbett Broad of the American Council on Education says that the recession's heavy toll on state budgets is also a factor.

MOLLY CORBETT BROAD, AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EDUCATION: When the state reduces its support, the only other place to turn for most colleges in the public sector is to increase tuition.

ROMANS: Either way students like Jackie feel left out in the cold.

GIOVANNIELLO: A lot of people that don't have students in college or don't have kids my age think like, you are wealthy enough to go to college or you get financial aid from the government. It is that simple, but it is not that simple.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: No, it is not that simple and the recent study by Fidelity Investments shows that families are way, way behind their college savings. Fewer than a third of parents with college bounds children are considering the total cost of college. Only 30 percent of all families are on track to cover it.

O'BRIEN: Not surprised, down economy the first thing that goes. Savings, you need some money, you can break into your 401(k).

ROMANS: You have to pay yourself first. You have to fund your own retirement first and if something has to go you can't borrow for your retirement, you can borrow for your kids' college. That's the conundrum so many families are in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's my question for Christine Romans, housing crisis, you know, all this about the economy. If more debt at cheaper rates was the precondition for the mortgage crisis, how is the student debt going to be solved by the same theory?

ROMANS: Bill Bennett theory, Bill Bennett, former secretary of education. He says -- many conservatives believe him, if you just keep plowing federally subsidized student loans after students to use in any kind of industry, any kind of degree that they want, you are just adding to a bubble of student tuition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The federal government knows that money going to come into loans. So universities then raise their tuition and in anticipation --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem is the alternative. What do you do -- I thought that young woman Christine was very, very sympathetic. What do you say to a kid like that? It is not your fault when you are 18, whether your parents saved or not, whether your parents are poor enough to qualify for loans.

And if you are smart enough to get into Brown University, shouldn't you be able to responsibly take on the debt to get that education? It will totally alter -- should her education be free? Is that the alternative?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should we stop the housing -- bubble --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your alternative for that young woman?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Real policy examination of what is going on. It seems to me you are right, this woman -- SOL. When she gets out of college, she has to work and has a huge amount of debt.

DON BAER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CLINTON WHITE HOUSE: She is not exactly SOL, right? Everything we know is the best investment we can make as a country is in the human capital and people just like this young woman, she will work her way through this.

And she is -- I bet you will go to medical school and be a hugely productive part of this society and you can multiply her by millions of people and that's the future of our country.

ROMANS: She becomes a doctor because -- the new student loan reforms in the health care law, becomes a doctor, down the road. Works in a place where we need doctors and government decides we need doctors in a low-income neighborhood or someplace that needs service for doctors.

Taxpayer will write off some of her student loans down the road. It's called income-base repayment and we will pay some of that. There is kind of a payback for all of the investment that the taxpayers have.

O'BRIEN: Certainly, the options not going. There's no choice where she doesn't go at all. That puts her in a worse position.

BAER: We have the unemployment rate among those that don't go to college, finish two years of college, is dramatically worse.

ROMANS: It is a squeeze.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, President Obama addressing world leaders today. Not planning to sit down with any of them.

He's making an appearance on "The View." Could this hurt his campaign? We are going to talk about that straight ahead.

He is the breakout star of the New York Giants. Victor Cruz dances his way into our studio this morning. We'll ask him what he thinks about that controversial Seahawks-Packers game last night. STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)