Return to Transcripts main page


Jerry Sandusky to be Sentenced; Poll Tightening in Presidential Race; Child Bullied on Video; Fungal Meningitis Death Toll At Eight; Sandusky Sentencing Set For 9 A.M. ET; North Korea: Our Missiles Can Reach U.S.; Record Setting Skydive On Hold; Miracle Dog Survives Texas Fire; High Altitude History; Mexican Drug Cartel Leader May Be Dead; Nobel Prize Winners In Physics; Houston Remains Undefeated; ACLU Sues Because Kids Cant Read

Aired October 9, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "starting point" this morning, Jerry Sandusky is speaking out just hours before he learns his fate. He proclaims his innocence. He points fingers at his victims. Listen.


VOICE OF JERRY SANDUSKY, FORMER PENN STATE FOOTBALL COACH: Why and who made it happen? Evaluate the accusers and their families.


O'BRIEN: Developing now, protests and police Greeks on the offense as Germany's Angela Merkel pays a visit.

And a new poll brings some big news for Governor Mitt Romney. He's not only closed the gap, he shot ahead.

A developing story we're watching, a record-setting space jump now on hold. We'll take you live to Roswell, New Mexico.

Packed show for you this morning. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn will join us, former astronaut Mark Kelly, defense attorney Gloria Allred, and daredevil Nik Wallenda.

It's Tuesday, October 9th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "starting point" this morning: Jerry Sandusky, defiantly declaring his innocence from behind bars. Just about two hours, the former Penn State football coach is going to be in court to learn his fate for sexually abusing ten boys over a 15-year span. A three-minute audiotape he has released is giving a pretty good preview of what he is likely to say to the judge this morning.

Susan Candiotti is live for us from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. All right. Susan walk me through what he says in this three-minute chunk that's now been released. SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad. It is really a remarkable statement coming on the eve of the sentencing. He lays the blame at the feet of a lot of people, and he's not one of them. He defiantly lashes out at police, at investigators, at Penn State and, yes, even the victims.


JERRY SANDUSKY: They could take away my life, they could make me out as a monster, they could treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart. In my heart I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner, and that was after marriage.


CANDIOTTI: Now why would he release it at this time? There was a meeting in chambers yesterday and the judge made it clear that Jerry Sandusky was not allowed to criticize the system when he spoke in court at his sentencing. What's the next best thing? Arrangements were made for him to make a statement and release it by a radio station.

Now, Soledad, victims will also get their chance to speak in court after Jerry Sandusky talks for about five to ten minutes. Some of the victims will have statements read for them, by prosecutors. Others will face Jerry Sandusky directly.

And we have obtained and excerpt from one of those statements, victim number five. It reads in part, quote, "I hope and pray when your honor sentences Mr. Sandusky that you consider the real harm he has done to me and others, and take into account the tears, pain, and private anguish I and others have suffered."

We've also learned some of the jurors will be in court this day. This is a closure for them too. They want to hear Jerry Sandusky say he's sorry. It looks like they won't.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like him to say he's sorry, and I would like him to apologize and to recognize that what he did was wrong. But my -- I don't believe that's what I'm going to hear from him.


CANDIOTTI: And, Soledad, at this hour you can probably make out over my shoulder, there's already a line of people waiting to get in. A lot of people want to hear what Jerry Sandusky has to say.

O'BRIEN: I think a lot of people are surprised by what he already said in these releases. Susan Candiotti for us this morning, thanks. Obviously she's covering that for us all morning. In just a few minutes we'll talk with Jeffrey Fritz, an attorney for one of the victims. We'll talk about how his client is doing today.

Other stories making news. John Berman has an update on those for us. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of news. Stunning number in that scary meningitis outbreak. We're learning some 13,000 people may have received contaminated steroid injections. The death toll is now at eight. 105 people in nine states are infected so far. The CDC says 75 medical facilities in 23 states received the bad drug behind the infections. The company that makes the medication has now recalled it.

Turning to politics, two new polls shows how tight the race is, each painting a different picture. A new poll by the pew research center has Governor Romney leading President Obama by four points. That poll conducted after the presidential debate. In this poll more voters identify themselves as Republicans. Last month they said they were Democrats. That's when the president was up by eight points.

Meanwhile, the latest Gallup tracking poll gives the president a five- point lead. This was conducted before and after the debate though his lead did tick up yesterday. President Obama and Mitt Romney will campaign in Ohio today, a key battleground state.

We have some live pictures to show you from Athens, Greece. That's where protests are taking place as German chancellor Angela Merkel visits. She's despised in Greece as most consider her as the architect and enforcer of drastic cuts imposed on Greece by the European Union. Protesters took to the streets early. Hundreds of police are on standby. Greek government officials will attempt to pass another $17 billion in austerity cuts to qualify for more bailout money.

Another big story we're following this morning, a record setting jump on hold for now. Felix Baumgartner was getting ready to scale the heavens in a special balloon and capsule just before a 23 mile free fall, free fall back down to earth. But this record breaking free fall on hold due to weather. For now at least, CNN's Brian Todd is live in Roswell, New Mexico. What's the latest, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, at least a slight hold on the operation due to the weather, as you mentioned. The winds at 700 to 800 feet up are a little higher than they are comfortable with, 17 to 18 miles per hour. They want it to calm down to five miles per hour. So a slight hold on the weather. This still could come off in the window they allotted. That window begins at 8:30 eastern time.

Our photojournalist can zoom into the capsule. You can see it at the end of that yellow crane. The balloon is next to it, although you can't see it to visibly from the naked eye here. But this is the feel where the balloon and capsule will be launched from there. Once it goes up it will take two-and-a-half to three hours to get up to the edge of space. Felix Baumgartner will step off the capsule, that whole dive will take 15 minutes and during that period he'll hopefully break the speed of sound about 690 miles per hour, John. A slight hold on this for now but hopefully this will come off later this morning.

BERMAN: Brian Todd in Roswell, New Mexico. He's jumping from 23 miles high, jumping from 23 miles up.

O'BRIEN: I think Brian's key word is "hopefully" in all that. That's what we're watching.

Back to our STARTING POINT this morning sentencing day for Jerry Sandusky. Jeffrey fritz is the attorney for victim number four, the young man who portrayed Sandusky as a father figure who took him to football games even as he said the football coach abused him in private. That young man is 28 years old and will be speaking in court today. Mr. Fritz, it's nice to see you. What's his reaction to this really snippet of three minutes of Jerry Sandusky on the radio, or recording where he really points fingers at the victims and says I didn't do it.

JEFFREY FRITZ, ATTORNEY FOR SANDUSKY VICTIM NUMBER FOUR: Well, good morning. His reaction is that of anger and he will demonstrate to the court and tell the court and tell Jerry Sandusky what these crimes have done to him, his family, and the lives of all the victims.

O'BRIEN: So, as you know -- I'm sorry were you going to say something? I'll get to my next question. Let me ask another question. So, as you know, in court, I think Jerry Sandusky has set the tone of what you can expect today. Is your client prepared for how this could go? He's going to get up and say something. But after Jerry Sandusky talks that could be very tough. If Jerry Sandusky says listen, you're a liar and, in fact, you're the one who is victimizing me.

FRITZ: Well, it's saddening to hear the comments as they came out on the radio from Mr. Sandusky and as I anticipate we'll hear some of today. But it's not shocking, and our client is prepared to face that, and move from the point of being a victim to being a survivor.

O'BRIEN: Here's a little bit of what Jerry Sandusky said in his tape recording, and I think it gives us a pretty good sense of the direction he might go today in court. Listen.


SANDUSKY: Think about what happened, why and who made it happen. Evaluate the accusers and their families. Realize they didn't come out of isolation. The accusers were products of many more people and experiences than me. Look at their confidants and their honesty. Think about how easy it was for them to turn on me given the information, attention, and potential perks. I never labeled or put down them or their families. I tried and I cared, then asked for the same. Please realize all came to the Second Mile because of issues. Some of those may remain.


O'BRIEN: Basically he's saying Second Mile kids are kids who already had issues and he's the victim here. What do you think the impact of that recording could be, and, as an attorney what's the strategy behind that, do you think? FRITZ: I don't know what the strategy is other than an animal who is about to be placed in a cage and lashing out. And Jerry Sandusky is in denial that he committed any crimes, which is typical for a serial pedophile, especially somebody who is notorious as Jerry Sandusky.

O'BRIEN: Jeffrey Fritz is the attorney for Sandusky victim number four. That victim will be speaking in the courtroom today. Thanks for talking with us Mr. Fritz. We appreciate your time.

I find this recording -- it's just shocking.

BERMAN: It's stunning. You asked what the strategy is behind it. All I can think of is there's none.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: No advantage. It just looks as if he's re-abusing the victims by denying his convictions. And also in terms of they can't take away my heart, that's a really, really interesting -- what's in his heart. Does he have a separate set of rules and standards for himself in a dark heart? I don't know.

O'BRIEN: You can jump into that and say yes and now he's in serious denial.

ROMANS: A jury found that he did.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see how much time the judge -- all this is to present to a judge, and see how much time the judge gives him.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we'll be talking to former astronaut Mark Kelly about this now on hold big space jump daredevil Felix Baumgartner is supposed to be doing that. Also, this former astronaut has written a new book, a children's book inspired by his first visit to space. And they brought mice with them. It's really, really cute.

Plus, dramatic pictures as firefighters refuse to give up efforts to save a dog caught in a fire. Got some pretty incredible rescue tape.

Christine, how is business looking?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The IMF is warning that global growth will slow. Their latest prediction about the recovery and what it means for you and your 401(k) next. You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Minding your Business, California's gas prices rising again over the past 24 hours. The statewide average is now $4.67. This is measured by AAA. It's the highest in the country. Some gas stations have been selling gas more than five bucks a gallon. As you know this price spike largely because of refinery and supply problems in California. We're told by gasoline energy experts that they expect the prices to begin to ease, but for right now it still hurts out there. U.S. stock futures are flat, indicate markets will open unchanged. Stocks closed slightly lower yesterday. There's uncertainty weighing heavily. The international monetary fund lowered its global growth forecast. For the next year expects the U.S. economy to grow at two percent. The Eurozone, look at that, 0.2 percent. That's basically not growing. China is 8.2 percent. That looks pretty good, but these are all weaker forecasts than their last report in July. For 10 years China was growing at 10 percent. Even slowing down a little bit to seven percent or eight percent and causing concerns.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you. As John was talking about a moment ago, the presidential race is a whole new ball game according to at least one new poll. The Pew research next shows Republican Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama 49 percent to 45 percent. They were asking Republicans more questions. Last month when President Obama was ahead the case was Pew talked to more Democrats than Republicans.

Meanwhile, Gallup's daily tracking poll shows President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by five points. Let's go to Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn. She's a Romney campaign surrogate. Thank you for talking with us. The poll numbers the significant rise for Mitt Romney and drop for Barack Obama, is that simply the calculations of the debate, do you think?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TENNESSEE: I think the debate had a lot to do with it because people wanted to concisely and specifically see how Mitt Romney would move forward and function as president, so the debate weighed into that. I think also people are doing a lot of research. I'm talking to a lot of undecided voters in the swing states and what I'm hearing from them is that they are online, they are researching, they are reading, and they are in a very independent and thoughtful way making up their mind who they are going to vote for.

O'BRIEN: When you look at likely female voters I thought this poll was very interesting. Back on September 12th through the 16th which is on the right side of your screen you can see president Obama up 56 to Romney's 38 percent, but now 47-47. I thought it was interesting, Congresswoman Blackburn, because no one talked about any women's issues at all during the debate, nobody talked about birth control or equal pay or abortions which are your classic women's issues. What do you think accounts for that shift?

BLACKBURN: I think there are a couple of specifics there. Number one, the number one issue with women is jobs and the economy. The other issues that they are talking to us about are what are you going do to repeal and replace Obamacare? They are incredibly concerned about out of control federal spending and the debt. And what that does to their children's futures and likewise they are very concerned about foreign policy and national security and were quite upset about the mishandling and the missteps around the actions that occurred on September 11th in Egypt, in Libya, and the attacks against our embassies. So I think those security moms looking at national security, economic security, retirement security, and they are saying I'm not comfortable with track I've been on the last four years, and I like what I'm hearing from Mitt Romney.

O'BRIEN: And I'm sure on the GOP side are hoping that that trend continues. You know, when you often talk to politicians, I'm going to guess you include and you ask them about polls. Polls, polls, if they are losing, I never follow polls. Here's what conservatives have been telling us over the aft little while about how they feel about polls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it's head-to-head in New Hampshire. And I've seen enough other polls to tell you that that is a piece of garbage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People need to understand that the polling this year is the worst it's ever been.


O'BRIEN: So those are the conservatives. On the Democratic side, a pollster for the Obama campaign here's what he had to say. Polls, now that we're done, polls, please. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know this is a story that the media wants to drive but at the same time you have a poll where the president is ahead and the Gallup poll and Reuters with the president ahead. But it's not about the polls. This is a tight race and Democrats understand it's going to be a tight race.


O'BRIEN: It's never about the polls. If you're not doing well in the polls. People have been tweeting "Talk about the polls." Where do you stand on that? You've been in this game a minute as a politician.

BLACKBURN: Yes. I have to tell you the one poll that counts is the poll on Election Day and at the ballot box. And the goal and the objective is to constantly communicate with your voters and your constituents and to make certain that they know where you stand on the issues and to be honest and forthright with them. Identify always told my constituents you may not always agree with me but you are always going to know where I stand. And that one to one relationship and then certainly the communication continuing and watching what happens at the ballot box. That is the poll that counts.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Marsha Blackburn joining us. Nice to see you, thank you for talk with us.

BLACKBURN: So good to see you, Soledad. Have a great day.

O'BRIEN: Vice president Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan will get their turn to tackle the issues facing the country. You can watch the vice presidential debate on Thursday. That's live at 7:00 p.m. eastern on CNN and of course on Still ahead on STARTING POINT, got to see to it believe it. This boy, talks about being bullied and the bullies shows up and literally bully him on camera. We'll tell you what happened next. Our STARTING POINT team is headed in. They will join us in just a moment. And we're following the story, pictures from Roswell, New Mexico, 23 mile skydive. It's now on hold, the weather a bit of a problem. Will it happen? We're watching. STARTING POINT will be back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Our team this morning, Ryan Lizza. You were out late last night. We were out together, concert last night, and about 2,000 other people, together with lots of other people. Roland Martin will join us in just a moment.



O'BRIEN: Not on my show. Will Cain is a columnist for John Berman is here as well. He's so quiet. Our Get Real this morning. This is so sad. A little kid name Preston says he's been a victim of bullying ever since he was in sixth grade. He's a high school sophomore. He decided to fight back last week after he was tackled by another student in school. For that he got a three day suspension, and he was told he couldn't attend the high school's homecoming dance. So that's when he fought back against the bullies. He decided to go public about his experience, was getting ready to do an interview with a local TV station when on camera the bullies come over and chase him. They pushed him, punched him in the back of the head. He ran into the school to report the incident. That incident was caught on tape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to stand up for someone who is getting bullied and it needs to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's very strong. But I think he's a little bit shaken up with what today.


O'BRIEN: Poor kid. His school reversed its decision. They said that the fighting back thing instead of not being allowed to attend the dance he can. He said he went and had a good time. The school is investigating into bullying claims, bullying claims. Preston, get a lawyer, is what I say.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You can't fight back?

O'BRIEN: I heard this before. Because what happens is everybody gets suspended for fighting. If you fight back everybody gets suspended. You know what's terrifying. imagine the gall when somebody is on camera doing an interview. That was a giant bully, a scary bully. Get a lawyer, Preston. Call me. Will Cain will represent you.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Free legal advice.

LIZZA: You're good?

CAIN: I'm really good.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, talking about a new threat from North Korea about their missile capabilities, should the United States be worried about that. We'll take a look at that.

And they are the smallest space travelers, mice. Just ahead we'll talk to former astronaut Mark Kelly. He's got a new children's book based on a true story about a space flight he took with mice. Mice for experiments. Live pictures from Roswell, New Mexico. Skydive attempt from the edge of space, we're going to bring you that. It's unclear when he'll jump. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll be back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. In just a few minutes, former astronaut, Mark Kelly, will be talking about the daredevil Felix Baumgartner's hopefully record breaking jump from space.

Also he's going to join us to talk to us about his new book, which is called "Mousetronaut." It looks so cute. First though, we want to get to John Berman for an update on some of the stories making news. Good morning.

BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad. A lot of news this morning. Updating you on that fungal meningitis outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now saying as many as 13,000 people may have received contaminated steroid injections.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. Elizabeth, please break down these numbers for us.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, John, so 13,000 people may have received this tainted medicine that's involved in the meningitis outbreak. So let's take a look at the most recent CDC numbers.

They are reporting 105 cases of fungal meningitis and eight deaths. We expect those numbers to go up because it can take a long time from the time you get the injection until the time you actually feel sick -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much on top of the story for us.

In the next 30 minutes, convicted sex predator Jerry Sandusky should be arriving in court for his sentencing. The former Penn State football coach finds out his fate at 9:00 a.m.

Last night, he released an audiotape from behind bars, a stunning one, proclaiming his innocence.


SANDUSKY: They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they could treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner and that was after marriage.


BERMAN: Wow, Sandusky went on to blame one of his victims in what he calls a well orchestrated conspiracy for his down fall.

A bold claim this morning by North Korea, it says its missiles can reach the U.S. mainland, but some skeptics say it's all bluster. One analyst saying the capability requires a lot of development and testing.

And based on what North Korea has done so far he's not convinced. North Korea is making that claim just days after South Korea announced a deal with the U.S. extend its missile range.

Now if this is a leap of faith, it is the biggest one ever. You are looking at live pictures from Roswell, New Mexico. Right now, Felix Baumgartner's record setting skydive is on hold because of weather.

The plan is for Baumgartner to jump from a special balloon carried by a capsule at the edge of space, 23 miles high. Right now, that's on hold, but we're staying on that all morning.

This is a story about dedication, a great one. Firefighters responding to a call in Texas, they found a lifeless border collie named Leah. She wasn't moving when they found her or even breathing.

They put an oxygen mask on her face one specifically designed for pets. They worked for over an hour and would not give up until finally she responded. Leah is going to be just fine. Good job.

O'BRIEN: I love stories like that. Can you imagine firefighter, an hour to help a dog, save its life? That's amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is awesome.

O'BRIEN: So as we were just talking about a moment ago an attempt by the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner to free fall 23 miles is now on hold.

It's a little scary, a little risky, somebody who might know something about that is retired NASA astronaut, Mark Kelly. He is also the husband of Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

He joined me earlier this morning to talk a little about this attempt of Baumgartner and also his new book. Its a children's book. Its called "Mousetronaut." Its so cute. Its based on his very first trip to space in the space shuttle. Listen.


O'BRIEN: Lets talk about Felix Baumgartner. He is this Austrian skydiver. He is trying to pull off this world record? What do you think this attempt?

MARK KELLY, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, its certainly a lot of risk. I mean, he's going to jump out of a capsule essentially from the edges of space. But, you know, if he's got a good engineering team and his suit works and, you know, as he hits the atmosphere, if he can with stand those forces and then finally the chute opens he should be OK. I'm optimistic. I think he can do this.

O'BRIEN: That's a lot of ifs, if a good team, if the suit works, if the chute opens. That's a lot of ifs. Is there any kind of a risk that you would ever take?

KELLY: Well, certainly flying in a space shuttle has an enormous amount of risk. You know, I don't know statistically what the risk there is, but the space shuttle a very risky proposition to fly.

We send guys out to do space walks, I mean, routinely and that's a very similar thing to what you're looking at there with the exception of he's his own re-entry vehicle. So that's pretty hazardous.

O'BRIEN: Yes, is there a scientific benefit do you think to doing something like this outside of the big headline, trying to be the first to go, you know, 120,000 feet?

KELLY: Yes, perhaps. You know, maybe he has new technology in that suit to handle those forces of re-entry. You know, I think any time you try to do something really, really hard with people, you sometimes get some pretty interesting unintended consequences and in advances in engineering and science.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see and it will be crazy if he's able to do it. Let's talk about your book "Mousetronaut." Its based on a true story. Tell me about where you got the idea for this book.

KELLY: So the true part of this story is that, on my first space shuttle flight in 2001 aboard space shuttle, Endeavour. I was the pilot. We had 18 mice on board. Of those 18 mice, 17 of them stayed kind of latched on to the inside of their cages.

They were very nervous about being in space. But one little guy seemed to get it, enjoyed weightlessness, would go over and get his water and his food. We enjoyed watching him a little bit and that was impetuous to this story.

O'BRIEN: It took a bunch of years before you turned it into a children's book. Why did you think it should be a children's book? Why did you go into that area?

KELLY: Well, I mean, its -- you know, we have a real crisis in education in this country. And, you know, by most measures and so many different categories. When you look at where the United States is, you know, whether it's early childhood education or math scores for high school students, we're often not even in the top 50 anymore where we used to be at the top.

So I think it's important to have, you know, material for young kids to be interested in, and, you know, my experience has been that kids are interested in astronauts and space and they are also interested in animals. So I put the two there together and hopefully, they will be interested in this book.

O'BRIEN: Hopefully, they will want to be astronauts one day like my son who is in the building today. You know, it was one of the -- I thought the most incredible moments actually at the Democratic National Convention was when your wife, Gabby Giffords was leading the Pledge of Allegiance. It brought some people to tears. Tell me about what that was like for you to watch.

KELLY: Well, I was in back stage trying to watch with a lot of other people in a little monitor. So I didn't get the full experience until the end, I kind of walked out on the side of the stage.

But you know, it was a great moment for the people not only watching on TV, but those in the stadium, but it was, you know, the best moment was or the person I think got the most out of it was Gabby.

She really enjoyed doing that. She liked being there and contributing. And, you know, somebody who has run for office before, you know, those people, they tend to enjoy interacting with folks and she got to interact with millions of people that night.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it was nice to see her looking so well. How is her health? She looked great at that moment. I know it was also exhausting. How is she doing?

KELLY: Well, as you can see she had a difficult time walking on stage and she continues to work on that physical therapy and her right arm doesn't, you know, doesn't work at all, it's paralyzed.

And you know, speaking is still something that she works on every single day with speech -- almost every day with speech therapy. We recently moved back to Tucson and that's great for her to get home. She's continuing to improve.

So, you know, hopefully one day shell -- you know, if she continues to get better, she will have the opportunity to go back to work.

O'BRIEN: We certainly hope so. Astronaut Mark Kelly joining us, author of a new book called "Mousetronaut." Its nice to have you. Great to see you.

KELLY: Thank you for having me on your show, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet. A pleasure.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney got a big bump after the debate, one poll now putting him well in the lead. Did President Obama throw the election? That's what a writer, Andrew Sullivan, is now asking.

Also this morning, we'll talk about the big free fall from the edge of space that's now on hold because of weather. We're going to see if that actually gets off today. We're live for you in Roswell, New Mexico. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. A new poll by the Pew Research Center has Governor Romney leading President Obama now by four points. The poll was conducted after the presidential debate.

In this poll more voters identified themselves as Republicans than Democrats. Last month in a similar poll, more said they were Democrats and that's when the president was up by eight points.

There's a new article, little bit hysterical. Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Beast said it's over. He said Obama threw the entire election away. He called the poll results quite devastating.

Too arrogant to take a core campaign responsibility seriously, too arrogant to give his supporters what they deserve. I've never seen a candidate this late in the game so far ahead just throw in the towel like Obama did last week and throw away almost every single advantage.


O'BRIEN: People actually on Twitter also freaking out a little bit on both sides about the polls.

LIZZA: I've known Andrew for probably 15 years. And he's sometimes, one of my favorite writers, but sometimes is prone to exaggeration and hyper ventilation.

O'BRIEN: A little dramatic today. Daily Beast, by the way --

ROLAND MARTIN, HOST, WASHINGTON WATCH WITH ROLAND MARTIN: Here's the deal. He's freaking out and I'll say it this way. He wasn't freaking out when he was up. I said guys the race will tighten up.

I don't believe any of this stuff at all. If you also go gang busters because he's up you'll frequent out when he's down. This is why it's called an election. It's going to be tight.

O'BRIEN: Explain the difference between the more polling of Republicans.

LIZZA: Two theories. One theory is simply that Republicans were very excited after the debate and more willing to answer the phone and answer questions from a pollster.

So when you put a survey into the field you get more Republicans to answer. That's one theory. The other is, it's random luck. Sometimes you poll more Republicans than Democrats. This is a big, big swing and internals are big swing.

CAIN: Same argument, by the way, conservatives made a week or two ago when they question polls. You are talking about sampling.

LIZZA: But there's a conspiracy that the pollsters are over sampling Democrats to help Obama.

CAIN: Exact same argument.

O'BRIEN: Conspiracy part is what he's saying.

LIZZA: Or the fact that Republicans were more enthusiastic.

CAIN: The polls have shifted dramatically. He finds it discouraging specifically that. The president walked off stage and felt good about his performance.

BERMAN: You agree to Andrew Sullivan 100 percent of the time obviously?

O'BRIEN: Clearly.

O'BRIEN: Got to take a break, got to take a break. Still ahead on STARTING POINT is learning how to read a fundamental right? Students in Detroit are suing saying their schools have failed them. Well take you there for the story.

Also live pictures from Roswell, New Mexico where a 23-mile skydive that we were expecting minutes ago was put on hold at the last minute because of weather. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A few stories to tell you about this morning, Mexican authorities believe they have the head of the murder of the Zeta drug cartel.

They believe he has been killed in a shootout with the Mexican Navy. Forensic test will determine if in fact (inaudible) has been killed.

They are smarter than you. This year's Nobel Prize winners have been announced. The big winner, Frances Serge Haroche and American, David Wineland, for their experimental work on quantum optics, which looks at how light and matter interacts.

The NFL's Houston Texans running their record of 5-0. They beat the New York Jets 23-17 in Monday night football. The Texans and the Atlanta Falcons are the only undefeated teams left in the NFL.

MARTIN: Cowboys fan here. He's struggling. It's all good.

O'BRIEN: That's right. We are fighting in the commercial break. Go can go ahead and pick on him. I'll climb over the table. I have four children. I will take you out if I have to. Come on.

All right, thank you, John. Appreciate the update. Let's talk about Highland Park, Michigan, a really small area near Detroit, just three square miles, once a vibrant community, former home of Chrysler. Now they have 27 percent unemployment, more than 40 percent, 40 percent of the population is living below the poverty line. Highland Park schools are performing even worse than neighboring Detroit public schools.

And it's so bad that they're being sued the ACLU. CNN's Poppy Harlow is covering this story for us. Good morning. Its nice to have you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. When I saw this, we couldn't ignore it. You read the numbers and you hear those staff, but you have to go to see what is actually happening in Highland Park.

They are clearly failing their kids. They've been doing it for decades. The candidates are talking about education reform, not enough. I don't think they're talking about it enough.

But the ACLU is taking matters in their own hands and they are actually suing the school district because of this tiny clause in Michigan's law. We went to find out for ourselves. Take a look.


HARLOW (voice-over): Woodward Avenue, home of the Model T and once the pride of Highland Park, Michigan, now home to one of the worst performing school districts in the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody is pointing their fingers at everybody else and nobody wants to take responsibility.

HARLOW: The ACLU of Michigan is suing. Claiming the district hasn't delivered on what state law require, special assistance for students not reading up to grade level.

KARY MOSS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU MICHIGAN: We felt given the dire conditions that a lawsuit was going to be the only route that would get everybody who needs to be at the table at the table, working together.

HARLOW: So we went to see for ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- starting from the basics. That way nobody will be behind.

HARLOW (on camera): Just 25 percent of seventh graders in this district met state standards for reading last year and only 7percent for math. It gets worse. In 11th grade, only 10 percent scored proficiently in reading and less than 5 percent in math.

What do these kids deserve?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Equality, fairness.

HARLOW: Are they getting that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. HARLOW (voice-over): Theodosia Gulley taught sixth through eighth grade in Highland Park for years. She said last year, 65 percent of her students had fallen behind academically.

THEODOSIA GULLEY, FORMER HIGHLAND PARK TEACHER: Some of their performances were a low grade level and the means were not there to bring them up to grade level, such as counseling, intervention. This didn't just happen yesterday.

HARLOW: The lost opportunities bring her to tears.

GULLEY: Every child can and will learn if they're provided with the right opportunities. I just don't think they get that. I don't think it's fair.

HARLOW: No plaintiffs in the lawsuit were willing to be interviewed. And few families with failing children would talk to us, but then we met a frustrated grandmother.

DOLORES STEPHEN-GRIFFIN, GRANDMOTHER OF HIGHLAND PARK STUDENT: I went to the school. They told us he was reading at a third grade level, but they're steady passing him on, still passing him on.

HARLOW: Her grandson, freshman Garrick Lee Steven loves football and wants to be a Marine.

(on camera): What's your message to the schools?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teach kids more education.

HARLOW (voice-over): Because Garrick has a learning disorder, the ACLU lawsuit would not apply to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From an academic perspective, there have been deficiencies.

HARLOW: Like zero percent college readiness on the ACT, despite funding of more than $13,000 per student, among the highest in the state. Joyce Parker is tasked with improving the district.

(on camera): Where does the money go? I know there aren't enough books for all the kids to take home their books.

JOYCE PARKER: In terms of overall administration, the district was not managed properly.

HARLOW (voice-over): She hired charter school operator, the Leona Group, to try to fix things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they can expect from us is student achievement. They can see, expect to see student growth.

HARLOW: But none of the Michigan schools operated by the Leona Group rank in the top 50 percent state wide. The Leona Group has only just taken over this system, which has been ailing for years.

(on camera): Are kids getting sold short here?


HARLOW (voice-over): The 1997 graduate Keith Hollingshed blames the district for leaving him unprepared for the University of Michigan.

KEITH HOLLINGSHED, HIGHLAND PARK HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE: I didn't have the core concepts in place to achieve in math or to write a great paper. It continuously breeds a population of people that are unprepared for the world.


HARLOW: Now the state of Michigan has moved to be dismissed from a lawsuit. We say we know the district is in terrible shape, but a lawsuit is not a path to literacy. I think the big question here and what we're going to keep an eye on is this charter operator, the Leona Group. They don't have a stellar record. None of the schools are in the top 50 percent.

O'BRIEN: How long have they been in the school system, though?

HARLOW: They've taken over some. We'll keep an eye on them. The question with them is why was it the Leona Group? Some of the people with the knowledge of the state's thinking say that wasn't the right choice, a rushed decision. Their record isn't strong enough.

And whether this is the solution for the kids or not, the ACLU says it's absolutely not. We'll try to go back in a year. They told me in the interview that these kids' test scores are going to go up. So we're going to go back and see are they going to go up, 37percent graduation rate.

O'BRIEN: Either has dropped out or moved on as ninth graders.

MARTIN: I'm glad they're suing.

O'BRIEN: That's not the right answer, a lawsuit.

HARLOW: That was my question. Why sue?

MARTIN: You have no other options.

O'BRIEN: Live pictures from Bellfonte, Pennsylvania that's where Jerry Sandusky is expected to be walking into the courtroom in any moment. We've learned now why he released a three-minute audiotape defending himself last night. Ill explain why that's straight ahead.

And another story were watching for you, a skydive attempt from the edge of space. It's on hold right now. They've got to make some decisions about the weather were watching that, too, in Roswell, New Mexico. We've got that straight ahead as well. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's our starting point. Sentencing day for Jerry Sandusky, any moment, we are expecting that he is going to walk into that courthouse to learn his fate. You're looking at live pictures.

Last night, he proclaimed had his innocence, pointed fingers at the victims in this recording. Listen.


SANDUSKY: Why, and who made it happen? Evaluate the accusers and their families.


O'BRIEN: Yes, evaluate the accusers and their families. Well, now we're getting a little more insight into why he did that tape. We'll share that with you straight ahead.

Plus, a live look, this is Athens, Greece. More and more protesters have been gathering as Germanys Angela Merkel is arriving there.

More pictures as well from Roswell, New Mexico, waiting to see what happens with that 23-mile skydive. Daredevil Felix Baumgartner was hoping to try to enter the record books this morning. You see those pictures are pretty amazing.