Return to Transcripts main page


NFL Reaches Deal with Refs to End Lockout; Interview with Jane Harman; J.K. Rowling Publishes Book for Adults; NFL Makes A Deal With Refs; U.C. Davis Viral Pepper Spray Incident; Snoring Sign Of Pregnancy Problems?; Peanut Butter Recall Expanded; Terror Hoax: Man "Tests" Police; Scouts Safer From Sex Abuse?; Boy Scouts Battle Sex Scandal; Losing The War On Drugs; Breast Cancer Hoax Sentencing; Putting The Brakes On COPD

Aired September 27, 2012 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. Soledad is off today. Our "Starting Point," the deal is done! Hip hip hooray!


BERMAN: Official experienced refs will be back on the field beginning tonight. It is like Christmas here. Thank you! How they got there and what happens from here? We'll tell you all about it.

ROMANS: Someone's got job security in America.

Candidates coming out swinging. Obama and Romney both in the same state again today, hammering each other on jobs. But why does Newt Gingrich call Romney's campaign a messaging failure?

BERMAN: And it is one of the most famous cold cases in history. Where is Jimmy Hoffa's body? Well, a new break in the case this morning has police ready to start drilling.

ROMANS: It's Thursday, September 27th. "Starting Point" begins right now.

BERMAN: Our starting point this morning, the blown call that outraged millions. It seems to have single-handedly settled a labor dispute. That's right. The official NFL refs are headed back to the field. Beginning tonight, millions of football fans will again be able to sleep and rest easy. They will be able to curse and boo the real refs again, finally, for the Ravens-Browns game tonight. And calmed by the knowledge they won't have to see another replacement official for at least eight years, because that's how long the new labor deal will last. Jason Carroll, I know you're excited. He joins us live to talk about how they reached this deal while we were all sleeping.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You seem more excited. Did you see how excited he was at the top? You seem very excited. And it's not just you, a lot of people excited by this decision. Both sides met for 17 hours on Tuesday, met until midnight last night. The agreement basically means that the NFL referees will not have to give up their pension. That was a big sticking point for them. They will not have to go and take that 401(k). So that's a big deal for them. The deal also means that they're going to get a pay raise spread out over the next few years.

The late-night deal comes after that botched call that you talked about, everyone was talking about it, from Monday's Seattle-Green Bay game. The NFL received some 70,000 calls from upset NFL friends. So much criticism coming in, it forced both sides to reach a deal. The NFL commissioner saying late last night, "the agreement supports long- term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players, and the fans want and deserve both consistent and quality in officiating." The Referee Association president coming forward, saying "We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's game."

So a lot of people excited. The referees are expected to ratify the agreement this Friday, and they will be back on the field for tonight's game, the brown versus the ravens. I know a lot of people other than you, John, are going to be excited to see the refs back on the field. But my question is, how long it is going to take before they start complaining about them again? We'll see.

BERMAN: It will take until tonight, until the second play of the game.

ROMANS: But it's a higher level of complaining. It's a little more nuanced in the complaints.

BERMAN: Jason Carroll, thank you. I credit you for having this deal reached last night. So thanks very much.


BERMAN: We will have much more to talk about this deal coming up. We'll have former New York Giant Tiki Barber. He will join us and give us the player's perspective.

ROMANS: First a look at the rest of your top stories this morning. The Middle East will once again be the focus of U.N. general assembly today. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas expected to seek non- member observer status. Israelis Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak to the assembly.

He was one of the army's top commanders in Afghanistan, now Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair faces multiple sex charges, including wrongful sexual conduct and having inappropriate relationships with several female subordinates. A military hearing will determine whether Sinclair faces a court-martial. He served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and he was deputy commander of the army's 82nd airborne division in Afghanistan before being removed in May.

President Obama's schedule hits an unexpected snag when Air Force One is forced to abort a landing. The plane was flying the president to a campaign event in Ohio, it tried to land, but had to change plans, pull up, circle around, and try again. Reporters on board say the jet hit bad turbulence and weather on approach to Toledo Express Airport. News crews on the ground were initially a bit confused about what was going on. Moments after this fly-over, you could hear someone on the ground say, "That was interesting." Air Force One landed safely on the second try.

BERMAN: President Obama will campaign in the critical battleground state of Virginia today, where the latest polls give him a slight lead over Mitt Romney. The president's team is releasing a new two-minute advertisement this morning, which will be airing in Virginia and five other toss-up states.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I could sit down with you in your living room or around the kitchen table, here's what I'd say. I'd ask the wealthy to pay a little more. As we end the war in Afghanistan, let's apply half the savings to pay down our debt and use the rest for some nation building right here at home. It's time for a new economic patriotism rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class. Read my plan. Compare it to Governor Romney's, and decide for yourself.


BERMAN: Again, this is a two-minute ad, unusually long in politics these days. The president goes on to promise to create more than 1 million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years if he is reelected.

ROMANS: Mitt Romney also stumps today at a campaign event with veterans, as he continues to get questions about his compassion for the middle class and struggling Americans. Romney in an interview with NBC news pointed to his universal health care law, passed when he was Massachusetts governor, saying, quote, "I think throughout this campaign as well, we talked about my record in Massachusetts. Don't forget, I got everybody in my state insured, and 100 percent of the kids in our state have health insurance. I don't think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record." But he also repeated his promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with what he called real health care reform.

BERMAN: It is one of America's most enduring mysteries. What happened to Jimmy Hoffa? This morning, another new break in the case that will soon have police digging. The teamsters leader disappeared off the face of the earth back in 1975. Now acting on a tip, police will take soil samples from a home in Roseville, Michigan, to see if Hoffa may be buried there. Tomorrow they'll drill through a concrete driveway to test for human remains. Tiki Barber is here laughing about this. Authorities say radar detected an anomaly underneath the concrete.

ROMANS: That's why Tiki Barber is here, our top story. A deal made to get the NFL's regular refs back on the field tonight.

BERMAN: Thankfully.

TIKI BARBER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought Hoffa was buried underneath the south end zone of the old Giants stadium.


BERMAN: A deal? You woke up to a deal this morning?

BARBER: It's fantastic. I actually went to bed waiting for it to happen, and about 12:00 last night, my phone started buzzing, so I knew a deal had been reached. And it's fantastic. It's fantastic for everyone involved because now there's trust in the interaction with the officials. There's still going to be arguing with referees and they're still going to make bad calls, but now we're going to know that it's coming from a base of knowledge. These guys know what they're talking about and they're going to have an argument for why they do what they do on the field. These replacement guys simply weren't qualified.

ROMANS: They missed the preseason, though. Have they been kept up to speed?

BARBER: People don't realize officials have to be in pretty good shape. If you get a streaking receiver down the field, you have to be behind him. You have to see all the pass interference and different kind of things that happened down the feel. These guys have got to go pass a physical and figure out their assignments. And for week one, actually, week one for them, which is tonight, they're working without a contract, having to ratify it on Friday. They need 62 of the 121 referees to agree. And I think they readily will.

BERMAN: So one of the things that's been going on, it was something of a legendary rep in the league has allegedly been giving training seminars to the refs while they've been locked out, keeping us up to speed on the rules. Tell us about this guy. Can you get up to speed without reffing games?

BARBER: It's hard, because rule changes come every year and you have to figure out how to execute them in real-time. So Ed Hockey defines himself by his role as one of the head referees in the national football league. So he was doing what he should have been doing, which is preparing. Just like when the players last year were locked out and the CBA was under dispute with the National Football League, guys were doing things on their own. Quarterbacks were grabbing wide receivers and running backs and going through their plays as if they were in training camp. Ed Hockey is doing the exact same thing with his guys, because he knows it's going to be game on tomorrow.

ROMANS: And they know they'll have eight years of some job security and the veterans aren't going to have to worry about -- they didn't like the 401(k). But at some point, they'll have to start taking the dreaded 401(k), which we have the dreaded 401(k). But eight years, that's great job security.

BARBER: It's phenomenal job security. This was a great compromise from the NFL perspective and the NFL referee association perspective, because both got a little bit of what they wanted.

BERMAN: Tiki, I asked Victor Cruz this the other day, I said do you think the referees will have newfound respect in the league? He said absolutely.

BARBER: I absolutely think they will, because when you see the alternative, you see how disruptive it is to the game. You don't trust the decision they're making. You don't trust the replacement refs. You will trust these regular referees, who have been doing this for many, many years.

ROMANS: Tiki Barber, nice to see you, two days in a row.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, the Obama administration now suggesting that Al Qaeda may have been behind the attack on that Libya consulate that killed four Americans. Why has it taken them so long to come forward with this? And do we have the full story, even now?

ROMANS: And take a look at this. A teenager dressed in a sheet with a fake grenade launcher walking the streets of Phoenix. He and his uncle were trying to make a point -- what point, I'm not sure. And did it work? You're watching STARTING POINT.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": America finally learned what it would finally take to quicly settle a labor dispute. A blown interception call that not only cost the Green Bay Packers a victory, but cost one unnamed American who had taken the Packers while giving the points $200 and one week of walking around the office wearing only a Seattle Seahawks jersey and a thong.



ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Minding your business this morning, U.S. stock futures are higher. It's welcome news after the S&P 500 closed down for five straight days in a row, closing down yesterday because of concerns about Europe, particularly Greece and Spain as austerity protesters hit the streets in Athens and Madrid.

The fiscal cliff, it hasn't happened yet, but it's already hurting jobs. CEOs of fortune 500 companies are warning they will hire fewer people and invest less in the next six months because of the uncertainty today surrounding the fiscal cliff. A survey conducted by the business roundtable, a lobbying group of CEOs of top companies found only 29 percent of CEOs said they expect to hire more employees in the next six months. That's down from 36 percent in the last quarter.

Also new this morning, Pew Research Center says a record one in five households owed student debt in 2010. In that year, 19 percent of households surveyed held student loan debt, which is a significant jump from just 15 percent in 2007, before the recession. The average student debt outstanding is now $26,862. That's nearly triple what it was back in 1989, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Christine. We have new details this morning about the attack that claimed four American lives in Libya, including ambassador Chris Stevens. Yesterday Hillary Clinton suggested Al Qaeda was behind the attack, which happened, of course, on September 11th. But a new report that's been corroborated by a CNN contributor says U.S. intelligence knew the group was responsible, even as the administration blamed a spontaneous mob.

Now, we're also finding out that two weeks after the attack, FBI agents still have not reached Benghazi and the consulate still has not been secured. Jane Harman is a former Democratic congresswoman. She was the chairman of the House intelligence committee, and now she heads the Wilson Center. We're so glad to have you here this morning.

So Hillary Clinton yesterday gave something of a new explanation for what happened in Benghazi. The response from the administration, the explanation, has been evolving over the last ten days or so. I want to listen to what she said.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: For some time, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups have launched attack into neighboring Mali and other countries. And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the violent transitions underway in north Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.


BERMAN: Now, she is the highest member of the administration, the highest ranking member to say this On the Record so far. But we have these new reports that say they knew it from day one. What's taken so long?

JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT, AND CEO, THE WILSON CENTER: I doubt they knew it from day one. And I think the situation or the facts are evolving. By law, Hillary Clinton had to appoint an outside committee to evaluate this. She has done that. And she picked an extremely well-regarded ambassador, Tom Pickering, former secretary of state, and ambassador to many Middle Eastern countries to head it. And once he completes his report, we'll know what the facts are.

But first of all, Hillary Clinton is right. I serve on four intelligence-related boards and I know this myself, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb is using Al Qaeda as a base. The U.N. yesterday led by Kofi Annan has led a government-led force. But Mali received a lot of the arms from the catches in Libya that weren't guarded and their in a position to stage attacks into Libya, as she said.

I don't think we should deplore any AQIM here. They probably were involved. They are opportunistic. Unfortunately, this consulate was in a rented facility, and my guess is that we will learn that there should have been more security. But there's no such thing as 100 percent security. And some senior state department aides point out, our soldiers who are very well trained and well-armed, still unfortunately can get killed, so why can't diplomats -- I'm not recommending this and I'm horrified -- be vulnerable too?

BERMAN: You do talk about an asymmetrical attack, you talk about all the signs of terrorism, yet the president himself has been very reluctant to use the word "terrorism." Republicans have been very critical about the fact that he hasn't really seemed to use it at all. He was asked directly about this on "the view." let's listen to what he said there.


OBAMA: There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action.


BERMAN: Why not call it terrorism? Why not use the word?

HARMAN: Well, I'm not sure why he's not using it. And I think it is likely that there was terrorism. But, again, we should know the facts. He's a well-trained lawyer, and so is Hillary Clinton, and she's being cautious as well. But she's up here at the U.N. in an evolving scene, where sadly the dynamics of the presidential race and everything else are interfering. But we will learn, and I bet we will learn, that there should have been more security and that there was some element of Al Qaeda or some terrorist affiliate, some opportunistic terror group involved.

BERMAN: Do you wish he would use the word "terrorism" here?

HARMAN: I think that's his call.

BERMAN: "The Wall Street Journal" obviously, has an opinion on this, probably different from yours. They have been very critical of how the administration has handled this. And they say there's something of a double standard here. On their editorial page, they say, "Imagine the uproar if barely a month before Election Day, the Bush administration had responded to a terrorist strike on September 11th no less in this fashion, obfuscating about what happened, refusing to acknowledge that clear security warnings were apparently ignored, and then trying to shoot the messengers who bring these inconvenient truths to light in order to talk about anything but a stunning and deadly attack on U.S. sovereign territory. Rather than accept responsibility, the administration has tried to stonewall and blame others." Is it fair to suggest that politics is behind this?

HARMAN: No. But we're just 40-plus days from the election. So politics is around this. I haven't heard the administration blaming others and I don't think they should blame others. They have a thorough investigation ongoing. Hillary Clinton just talked about who might have been involved in this attack. And I think if it turns out that the U.S. was at fault in some way, the U.S. should accept the blame.

BERMAN: But at a minimum, you do think politics is surrounding this?

HARMAN: Absolutely. Politics is surrounding everything these days, U.S. politics.

BERMAN: You're in town here for the global women's leadership initiative, which aims to get more women from all parties elected all over the world. Explain to me how this works.

HARMAN: Oh, I'm very proud of that. Here's my little button. This means 50 percent of women in public service jobs worldwide by 2050. The Wilson Center operates two organizations under a heading of the global women's leadership institute. One is the council of world women leaders, which is women who have countries and the other is this training mechanism, started by Hillary Clinton in the State Department, for women in public service jobs. And it's co-sponsored by the seven sister colleges, which I went to one of those.

BERMAN: Just 10 percent of leaders around the world are women at this point?

HARMAN: It depends -- 20 percent of parliamentarians are women, 20 women are heading countries at the moment, and there have been over 50 since 1960 who have been democratically elected to head countries, and there are more and more women in boardrooms and so forth. They're all connected. If you have more women in parliamentary seats -- I served in Congress for nine terms -- you'll have more women in the boardrooms. If you have more women in the boardrooms, you'll have more laws and practices that help women. And women are the change agents in terms of economic development in the Middle East and Africa. And maybe by 2050, we won't have this terror problem because these economies will be thriving and girls will be educated and we will see a very different world.

BERMAN: Jeanne Harman, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, it's already number one on amazon and it didn't even need Harry potter's magic. J.K. Rowling's new book is on sale today, but is it worth all the hype? And where is this rare white whale headed, next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Some top stories to tell you about this morning.

Congressman Todd Akin suggested that women could turn off conception in what he called a case of legitimate rape. But he's picked up more support for his beleaguered Senate campaign. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and Rick Santorum are urging voters to back Akin and help Republicans win the Senate.

BERMAN: A New York gay couple is suing a conservative group in federal court. They claim the group, Public Advocate of the United States, stole a photograph of them kissing from their blog and then used it in a mailer to illustrate what it calls the "evils of same-sex unions."

ROMANS: All right, take a look at this incredible sight, Mother Nature at her most mysterious. An extremely rare albino whale swimming off the coast of Australia. Scientists say it's the only documented albino humpback. They've named him Migaloo. He's spotted about once a year during -- look at that -- during migration system.

BERMAN: Call me Ismael. You'll hear that joke about 10 times today, but you heard it here first on STARTING POINT.

It's a new chapter for J.K. Rowling, her new adult novel "The Casual Vacancy" is already a best seller before even going on sale today. The book is raw, and as she says in an ABC News interview, deeply personal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've gone, it seems to me, from the ultimate fantasy to the ultimate reality.

J.K. ROWLING, AUTHOR: Yes, I think that's fair -- a very fair statement. I have gone from dragons and unicorns and all the fun that's involved in writing that to a book that's intensely personal, that expresses a lot of my reality.


BERMAN: Earlier reviews say the book is definitely not for children since it's filled with violence, sex, drug use, and naughty language.

ROMANS: All right, Ahead on STARTING POINT, imagine walking down the street and seeing someone with a grenade launcher and apparently a toga in your neighborhood. What was this man doing?

BERMAN: That is crazy!

And this, a shocking report claims the boy scouts covered up for child molesters for decades, but the scouts now say kids are safer from sexual abuse with them than at home. But is that really the on the point?


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. It is Thursday, September 27th. Here's a look at our top stories this morning.

Some wonderful news, replacement refs are out and the real officials are back, 48 hours after the blown call that triggered national outrage, the NFL reached an eight-year collective bargaining agreement with the referees.

They sealed the deal last night. That means the regular officials that you love to hate will be back on the field tonight when the Baltimore Ravens post the Cleveland Browns.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The University of California is looking to get past that pepper spray incident at its Davis campus that was caught on camera and went viral. You might remember this video.

Students who took part in an "Occupy Wall Street" protest last November were pepper sprayed at close range by a police officer. Twenty one of the students joined a class action lawsuit against the university. The university is now offering to settle this case and pay each of those students $30,000.

BERMAN: Women's health in today's "House Call." If you're pregnant and you or your significant other noticed you started snoring, call your doctor. It's not just annoying. It could be a risk.

A University of Michigan study found snoring could be a sign of high blood pressure and preeclampsia. Preeclampsia could cause seizures and is the second leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. There's no cure for preeclampsia, short of delivering the baby.

ROMANS: All right, a recall of Trader Joe's Peanut Butter due to salmonella has been expanded. Sunland maker of the tainted Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter is now recalling all products made in peanut butter in that manufacturing plant in New Mexico.

The plant has been shut down now. According to the CDC, at least 30 people have been sickened by a strain of salmonella in 19 states.

BERMAN: You have to take a look at this. This is a stunning picture. A Phoenix man an arrested for dressing his 16-year-old nephew in a sheet and sending him out into a busy street, armed with a fake grenade launcher.

Now, Michael Turley says he did it to find out how long it would take police to respond to a terrorist incident. Cops did come and just took names, but when Turley posted the video on YouTube, he was arrested earlier this week and charged with creating a false impression of a terrorist act. Seems like an awful idea, frankly.

ROMANS: He's likely to get hurt or shot or something, you know?

Anyway, all right, the Boy Scouts of America doing some damage control this morning against a growing sex abuse scandal. It stems from a scathing report in the "L.A. Times" that found the scouts failed to report hundreds of cases of alleged abuse over a 20-year period.

Now, in response, the Boy Scouts will review more than 50 years of so- called perversion files on alleged sexual predators. The scouts also released a study saying kids are safer with them than at home, this despite admitting hundreds of young boys have been abused over the years.

This report, this independent review says in part, these files show that children in scouting were safer and less likely to experience inappropriate sexual behavior in scouting than in their own families, schools, and during other community activities supervised by adults.

Now, this report was compiled by University of Virginia psychiatrist, Dr. Janet Warren, who testified as an expert witness for the scouts in 2010 in a civil lawsuit filed by a victim of abuse.

With me now is Tom Scales, a survivor of sexual abuse while he was in the scouts. He's now the executive director of the abuse advocacy group, "Voice Today."

And Jason Felch is the "L.A. Times" reporter who helped break the story on sex abuse in the scouts. Gentlemen, thank you for joining me.

I want to start on first with you, Tom, you're a survivor of sexual abuse while you were in the scouts, you say. What's your reaction to this study from a psychiatrist who says that young men, boys in the scouts are just as safe as they are in broader society?

TOM SCALES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VOICE TODAY INC.: I think they missed the whole point. The whole point, really is, how do we protect children and what happens to all these children, and recognize that many, many, many young men -- I've never reported mine, and many young men don't report, and the stigma of the abuse, the cultural barriers to a young man speaking out.

So they have no basis in fact. They can talk only about reported numbers. The reported numbers like most of the statistics around child sexual abuse are generally accepted as being very, very small representation of reality.

ROMANS: I think many people this morning are also saying, you know, the point of the Boy Scouts, of values-driven organization that teaches leadership is that parents think their children, if anything, are safer in this kind of environment.

I think a lot of people this morning, Tom, are saying, that's not really an excuse for sexual abuse going on in any kind of organization?

SCALES: Absolutely. I mean, they're teaching our young men to be trustworthy, brave, and loyal. The mentors who are teaching them, and frankly the people who are in charge today, where they have had to literally litigate to get access to the files to understand the extent of the damage to children. Clearly, they've lost their focus as a group and they certainly don't model the behaviors that they represent.

ROMANS: Jason, I want to talk to you about the summary section from this report, this psychiatrist report about all the alleged abuse going on within the scouts.

While it was not perfect and mistakes clearly occurred, BSA's file system has functioned well in keeping many unfit adults out of scouting. These claims of abuse were not swept under the carpet and ignored.

Rather, suspected offenders were pursued and oftentimes banned from scouting over the fervent objection, and at times, even the opinion of the local community. The study makes no mention of reporting abuse to police.

Remind us what your reporting for the "L.A. Times" found about cases that were not reported, and what do you think about the numbers here, that this report from the scouts is coming up with? The rate of abuse is the same as it is in the broader society.

JASON FELCH, REPORTER, "L.A. TIMES": We reviewed 1,600 of these files over the last year. And what we found is that there were hundreds of cases in which the Boy Scouts of America were the first to learn about allegations of sexual abuse and there's no indication that those reports were shared with law enforcement.

In 100 cases, we found overt evidence that the Boy Scouts had tried to cover up abuse, including in some cases, hiding abuse from the parents to have the victims. This report that was released just on Tuesday contains some similar evidence, actually.

It's not highlighted in the summary, but if you look into the details inside the report, you'll see many, many cases reviewed by the Boy Scout's own expert were not ever shared with authorities. There was no involvement of law enforcement in a high percentage of these cases.

And in many cases, parents -- in seven cases, I believe, the Boy Scout's own expert found that parents of victims have not been notified. So clearly there's more to this report than just the summary than what the summary suggests.

ROMANS: Jason, do you think the response from the Boy Scouts, they are investigating now years of these files. Do you think the response has been appropriate?

FELCH: I know a lot of people who have been in touch with us and who we've reached out to feel like this is an important step. The Boy Scouts in its 100-year history has never looked into these files to determine whether anything in these files could help them protect youth better.

So it's overdue, I think. Whether it's enough is yet to be seen. I think what's going to happen in the coming weeks is hundreds of these files are going to become public, and people all across the country are going to be able to see for themselves.

Not what the Boy Scouts says about these files, gnat what we've reported about these files. They're going to be able to look for themselves. I think that's going to create a new wave of interest.

ROMANS: All right, Jason Felch from the "Los Angeles Times," who first brought this story to us, thank you so much. And also Tom Scales, executive director of "Voice Today," thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up on STARTING POINT, she is one of the biggest stars in racing. Danica Patrick, she stops by, coming here, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. Forty days now until the election. And we've made a commitment to go in depth on the issues that matter to most voters. Today, the war on drugs.

ROMANS: This year in America, federal and state governments have already spent a combined $30 billion to combat illegal drugs, $11.1 billion spent by the feds, $19 billion by the states, and 1.2 million Americans have been arrested so far this year for drug-related offenses.

BERMAN: But everyone involved will tell you, the war on drugs is just not working. That begs the question, how would President Obama or Mitt Romney tackle the problem? CNN's John Zarrella takes a look.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A fishing trawler tries outrunning a Coast Guard cutter. The crew of the cutter fires its 50-caliber machine gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got smoke. Got smoke, all right!

ZARRELLA: Disabling the trawler, on board, 20 tons of marijuana. This was the mid-1980s. The drug war was at its height. Then Vice President George Bush headed up a task force to fight the problem.

FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: We have got to do better in interdicting it.

ZARRELLA: In Miami, cocaine is found hidden in commercial jets, flowers, even boxes of yams. The problem is, some aren't yams at all. Rather, plaster casts painted and shaped like yams, inside, pure coke.

Stash houses and drug labs are routinely raided. That was a war on drugs. These days, it's not even a war of words. The White House doesn't even call it a war any longer, focusing more on prevention.

And in this political season, the issue of illicit drugs rarely gets a mention on the campaign trail. When it does come up, President Obama and Mitt Romney appear to be on the same page.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: That the president of the United States must make a priority of helping reduce demand in this country.

OBAMA: The United States can focus on drug treatment and prevention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. I agree with that.

ZARRELLA: If anyone should know, it's Judge Giselle Pollack. She presides over misdemeanor drug court in Broward County, Florida. The idea, get clean, you avoid a criminal record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've done perfect throughout the entire program. There's no violation of probation.

ZARRELLA: Pollack says drug courts ought to be a priority for the candidates because they reduce drug dependency and save taxpayers millions, and she's got the numbers to back it up.

A study showed Pollack's court saved the county as much as $30 million a year over a five-year period basically, the difference in the cost of treatment and counseling versus incarceration. JUDGE GISELE POLLACK, MISDEMEANOR DRUG COURT: If we can keep them out of the critical justice system at this level then we will save billions and billions in prison costs.

ZARRELLA: For the White House, it's a multi-layered approach. Focus on education and prevention, treat drugs and addiction as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice concern. Law enforcement continues choking off the supply.

This year, the federal government is spending just over $10 billion on prevention and treatment, law enforcement and corrections, just under 10. Mitt Romney has not outlined how he would allocate federal dollars.

But both men say they are not in favor of legalizing marijuana, and both are emphatic that working closely with Mexico, which has supplanted Florida as the favorite drug route, is a must.

Pollack says she'd like more political discussion about drugs, in part because substance abuse can be the result of a job loss or tough economic times.

POLLACK: We live in a society of aggravating stress. So it's only natural that people are going to turn to substances, whatever they may be, to numb their pain, their stress.

ZARRELLA: Ironically, the most talked about campaign issues leading to one of the least. John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, she left Indy Car for NASCAR. Does she regret the move? Danica Patrick joins us live next with what that learning curve has been like.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Let's check your top stories.

A woman who fakes breast cancer to raise money for breast implants, well, she's sentenced to a year in jail. Police reports say 27-year- old Jamie Lynn Toller told her former boss and her whole family that she needed a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, but was uninsured. That was, of course, actually for implants not for cancer.

BERMAN: Want to know who's donating the most money to the Romney and Obama campaigns? Well, there's an app for that? "Politicash 2012" comes from the non-partisan research group, "Map Light" and shows exactly how much is donated and who raised the most money.

ROMANS: Guns used by the infamous bandits "Bonnie and Clyde" are being sold to the highest bidder at an auction this weekend. His Colt .45 and her .38 Special are expected to go for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. BERMAN: She is best known as the record-setting female Indy Car racer, but now, of course, she is revving up for NASCAR. Danica Patrick is here this morning. You are just days away from a big race in Dover. So my question is, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be preparing?

DANICA PATRICK, DRIVE4COPD CAMPAIGN AMBASSADOR: I'm on my way. No, we're raising awareness for COPD, and just, you know, doing the right thing. Again, we were just talking about before we went on air. It's not that far away, Dover.

ROMANS: We'll talk about COPD, since you brought it up. This is a disease that took your grandmother when she was just 61. Tell me a little bit about what you're trying to do.

PATRICK: Well, it's -- of the 24 million people that it affects only half know it. So there's just a need of awareness for this disease. It stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Most people know it as chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

My grandma passed away and she was only 61, really young. And it takes most lives before 70. It kills more people than breast cancer and diabetes combined so, you know, just trying to use my platform to raise awareness for something that really means something to me.

BERMAN: What would your grandmother think of the fact that you're a big Indy star and now a NASCAR star?

PATRICK: Well, she watched me, I mean, she watched me in go-car go- carts. I'm sure she'd be proud -- I'm sure she is proud. I'm sure she is proud looking down. And she -- my dad's side is the grandma that she is and my dad races when he was younger. So it's in the blood. I can't help but think some of it came from grandma too.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the learning curve. This has been an amazing year for you. What's the learning curve been like switching or moving over and doing NASCAR?

PATRICK: Steep. It's been a steep learning curve for sure. This is my first year in NASCAR full-time, and I did Indy Car for seven years and a little bit of NASCAR, now I'm doing all NASCAR, nationwide series, with a few sprint cup races.

This is one of those specific weekends I'm doing nationwide and sprint cup. So it's going to be really busy. And those cup weekends are a lot of track activity, but it's good for me. And Tony Stewart, who you might have heard of, he picked the toughest tracks for me to go to in sprint track for the first time and Dover is one of them.

BERMAN: For those of us that never drive above the speed limit, what's the difference? What's the hardest transition from Indy to NASCAR?

PATRICK: You telling me you really don't drive above the speed limit? I feel fortunate that I can tell the truth because of my job. I don't ever follow the speed limit. Barely ever, unless there's traffic, of course, but it's comfortable.

I don't know any difference. It's not like I jumped into a car and the first thing I did was 200 miles an hour. You start in little Briggs and Stratton five horsepower little lawn mower engines that go 40 miles an hour. And then you graduate up from there.

So it's a slow process. This is my 21st year, the end of my 21st season of racing.

ROMANS: I want to talk about from the "Bleacher Report," "being a woman has become almost irrelevant in discussions about performance. Instead of Danica Patrick female, she's become simply known as Danica Patrick, race car driver. She may not be a full-fledged member of NASCAR's good old boys club just yet, but she certainly has passed her initiation, at least."

That's from a columnist in the "Bleacher Report." I mean, how does that make you feel?

PATRICK: Good. People always ask me, what's it like to be a girl out there, but, of course, I don't know the difference between being a girl and being a guy. So I feel fortunate to be in an era where I feel like as a culture, where you embrace something new and different, and I'm definitely that to racing.

I wasn't around when people were booing and discouraging a woman in racing, and I think that's made a big difference. But at the end of the day, you have to go out there and get the results. That's the most important thing and that's what I'm working towards.

BERMAN: You know, you spend every day racing cars and driving fast with guys and sweaty, greasy stuff. I don't want to sell you both out, but you were talking about each other's nails before you came on here?

ROMANS: Yes, we were, actually.

PATRICK: I got this new OPI did like a German collection, and I'm pretty sure I had that done as a pedicure.

ROMANS: It's true. We'll compare and contrast later.

PATRICK: I'm still a girl. My favorite part of the day is getting my hair and makeup done.

ROMANS: I can remember, a long time ago, you know, like my grandfather saying something about, you know, like the journalist Jessica Savich or something. Nobody says that anymore, no one says the female race car driver, Danica Patrick, just the name. Things have changed.

PATRICK: They have, across the board, I feel like more men and women are crossing gender barriers, not just women. I feel like there is a universal acceptance for people doing whatever they are best at.

BERMAN: Danica Patrick, thank you so much for joining us. Get to the training, get ready for Dover. It's a big weekend there.

PATRICK: I will be flying there this afternoon.

ROMANS: It's nice to see you.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, football fans, players, coaches, rejoicing as the lockout ends. John Berman's life can begin again. The real refs prepare to take the field tonight. Will all that time of mean they will be off their game?

BERMAN: Plus, Newt Gingrich, Newt Gingrich says Mitt Romney has a messaging failure as new polls have even more bad news for the Republican candidate. Can the Romney camp turn things around?

ROMANS: And a big break in one of the biggest mysteries of all time. This time, police may actually know where Jimmy Hoffa's body is. You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Soledad is off today.

Our STARTING POINT, the deal is done. Late-night talks meant the experienced NFL refs will be back on the football field tonight, but will they be off their game?

ROMANS: Candidates coming out swinging. President Obama and Mitt Romney both in the same state again today hammering each other on jobs, but --