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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

New Report Indicates Widespread Corruption at Kabul Bank in Afghanistan; Powerball Jackpot Second Highest Ever; Who is Black in America?; Dionne Warwick's Legendary Career

Aired November 28, 2012 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Morning. Welcome back, everybody. Widespread corruption at the Kabul Bank in Afghanistan. An audit obtained by "The New York Times" calls it a well-conceived Ponzi scheme. Hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned from regular folks' savings accounts is what I'm trying to say. Political interference, though, is making it harder to get to the bottom of this colossal scam.

Why is it important to the U.S.? Kabul bank of course is where a lot of the U.S. reconstruction money has been deposited. Nick Paton Walsh is following several reports about this about this corruption. He's live for us in Beirut. Good morning, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Morning. What we heard today from this investigation, the years taken to unravel this complicated paper trail that led to $900 million disappearing is staggering level of detail about how this fraud carried out. About 19 companies or people benefiting from this amount of money, one individual claiming almost to have nearly $300 million siphoned off to him. We're talking about false paper trails, lavish expenses claimed, a salary for the brother of a senior manager of $96,000 a year for a man who never did a day's work for the bank, even money being taken out of the country in an airliner, in the airplanes, on food trays in that commercial airliner simply because there was so much of it. Remarkable details here.

But the key thing, as you mentioned, the suggestion of political interference, trying to hamper this investigation, requested as it was by the afghan ministry of finance. Key to that are implications of the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai's inner circle being implicated in this. One of the people mentioned in this report is his brother. He denies involvement in this, saying it's a politically motivated, the system.

Nick Paton Walsh for us this morning with an update, thank you, appreciate it.

Christine Romans has a look at some of the stories making news today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, again, everyone. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice reaching out again to Republicans on Capitol Hill a day after a failed meeting with three of her harshest GOP critics. Senators McCain, Graham, and Ayotte say they're still troubled by Rice's comments following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which she said sprang from a spontaneous protest. The White House accuses Republicans of a politically fueled obsession with Rice and Benghazi.

Officials in southern Louisiana say a giant sink hole is burping. You heard that right. We've been following this story since it developed over the summer, swallowing up trees, threatening homes. Officials in Assumption Parish say the sinkhole is now pushing debris and vegetation and debris back up to the surface. They say that process is called "burping."

Four American service women are suing the Pentagon, hoping to force the military to drop its policy that excludes women from thousands of ground combat positions. All four are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two have been awarded the Purple Heart. They maintain that the combat exclusion rule is discriminatory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. ZOE BEDELL, MARINE RESERVES: The policy limits my future in the Marine Corps. I would be assigned positions based on my gender rather than on my qualifications or my accomplishments. It didn't make sense for me personally or professionally and it, frankly, doesn't make sense for the military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: She also said the exclusion policy creates a dangerous set of rule that is prevents commanders from deciding the best way to fight.

Marissa Mayer giving her first public interview since giving birth in September. Yahoo!'s new CEO is headed to the White House to discuss the fiscal cliff with the President. She tells "Fortune" magazine her new gig and her new son have been full of surprises.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARISSA MAYER, CEO, YAHOO!: The baby has been easy. The baby has been way easier than everyone made it out to be. I think I've been really lucky that way. I had a very easy, healthy pregnancy. He has been easy. So those have been two really terrific surprises. The kids have been easier and the job has been fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Mayer says her secret to getting everything done is ruthless prioritizing. She made a lot of headlines, came from Google. Young CEO of Yahoo! And she said I'm pregnant. I only need a couple of weeks off and women within Yahoo! said --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Agreed. I took four weeks of with my first kid. That was appropriate for me at that time with the job I had. I don't know why everybody would care. Plus they had -- she's got more money than god. She can hire a babysitter.

ROMANS: You've got four kids. The baby is always easy in the beginning.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wait until she's two.

O'BRIEN: Wait till he's 13.

MARTIN: I will take that overseas trip.

O'BRIEN: Put me on a plane in first class. I want to go.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She is one person who is not buying a lottery ticket.

ROMANS: She doesn't need a lottery ticket. She does not need a lottery ticket.

MARTIN: No way.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. You know, you cannot whip it unless you're in it. That's how it goes. The nation's largest Powerball jackpot is tonight, half a billion dollars -- half a billion dollars. No surprise people are lining up to buy tickets, 10,000 tickets every minute. Revenue from sales are expected to top $1 billion. It has rolled over 16 consecutive times without a winner. Will tonight be the night? I'm confident I'm going to win. If I'm not here tomorrow, that's what's happened.

Here to tell us exactly what the tips are to win is the Florida lottery secretary, Cynthia O'Connell. Thank you for being with us. I want to ask you a question. The odds are really, really bad, like 175 million to one. That doesn't stop people at all. It never does. Why do you think that is?

CYNTHIA O'CONNELL, FLORIDA LOTTERY SECRETARY: Well, I think it's just the excitement for the game. Americans love a jackpot. And this particular jackpot brings in core players, new players. It's exciting, a whole lot of fun. In Florida, this is Powerball country but I think this is Powerball country nationwide.

O'BRIEN: It definitely is. People all over the place are trying to figure out how to win this thing, $500 million now. It's expected to go to $1 billion because so many people are thinking they can jump in and win at this point. Do you think it's going to go to $1 billion?

O'CONNELL: We'll look at the sales this morning and perhaps make an adjustment. That's a big number. I think $500 million is a big number all in itself.

O'BRIEN: A billion is a big number. That's why I'm playing, obviously. Go ahead.

MARTIN: You talked about billion dollars. Some folks out there are wondering, in Florida, does the money go to education? Where does the money go to for these states? O'CONNELL: It absolutely does go to education. What's so great about this amazing jackpot is not only the excitement it generates but for all 44 member lotteries that are part of Powerball, the beneficiaries, the good causes, the charitable causes for each state will gain additional revenue. That's the good news about the jackpot.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Odds, 1 in 175 million. We always analogize this to weather, being struck by lightning. Take a random woman in this country and say Ron, guess her name. Your odds of getting her name correctly are the same as winning this lotto.

O'BRIEN: So then, is it better to pick a number yourself or better to let the machine pick your number for you? What do you think?

O'CONNELL: I think it's better to choose the numbers that are your favorite numbers.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but do you win --

O'CONNELL: A lot of individuals choose quick picks. A lot of individuals play their lucky numbers. It's the luck of the draw. Most important thing is to play, which I hope each of you will.

CAIN: How many numbers does it go up to? What's your range of numbers?

O'CONNELL: Excuse me?

CAIN: One to 60 or something like that, can you pick?

O'CONNELL: One to 59, match five of five, and one to 35 for Powerball.

BROWNSTEIN: In your state and most states, is there a requirement that lottery revenue produce a net increase in education spending, or can it simply substitute for and allow you to remove education funding that the state would have provided otherwise?

O'CONNELL: That's a legislative issue. The state of Florida just last year alone, fiscal 2010, 2011-2012, we transferred $1.31 billion to the state of Florida. We're on track this year to -- we're on track this year to transfer $1.37.

BROWNSTEIN: Does that allow the state to redeploy funds elsewhere?

O'BRIEN: That's an interesting question. Does that allow them to take it out of the budget and put it elsewhere?

BROWNSTEIN: Is it a requirement that the net increase from the revenue of the lottery in Florida?

O'CONNELL: We're about six percent of the total funding for the Florida education budget. So we give as much as we can but we're only six percent. We try to grow that every year.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. CAIN: Vast majority of lotteries are split. There's like four winners. The reason I asked about the range of numbers, most people pick range of one to 30. Very few people pick that 30 to 59 range.

O'BRIEN: What do I do with that information?

ROMANS: You're paying two bucks or five bucks. You're not paying because you think you're really going to win the lottery. You're paying for the experience, right?

MARTIN: No, you're paying to try to win, Christine.

ROMANS: You're not going to win, Roland.

MARTIN: Somebody is going to win, Christine.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be me. When I'm not here tomorrow morning, I just want to say I love you all.

MARTIN: Send in an autographed copy of --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: There's got to be a better way to get ahead in America than the office pool.

O'BRIEN: But that's a fast way.

MARTIN: That's true.

O'BRIEN: I'm just saying. We appreciate your time, Cynthia. Hopefully, you and I can chat later when I'm signing my check or whatever it is I have to do when I win.

We've got more ahead this morning. Bad news if you're going to travel during the holidays this year. Travel during the holidays is always awful.

MARTIN: Every year.

O'BRIEN: That's true.

And music legend 50 years in the business upped her belt. Dionne Warwick will join us. She has a new CD out and she has a preview. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are down with Greece bailout concerns behind us for now. The focus is back on fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington and health of the U.S. economy, and the health of your housing investment is recovering in much of the country.

New home sales numbers come out today. We learned yesterday that home prices posted their biggest gains in more than two years in the third quarter according to S&P/Case-Schiller. Top five cities showing the strongest gains, in Phoenix, up more than 20 percent, in Minneapolis, about nine percent. In a couple of big cities, though, home prices not gaining ground, in fact losing some traction, New York and Chicago.

Starting next year Chevy Spark and Sonic RS models will come complete about Apple Siri assistant built into the cars. General Motors announced that this week at the auto show. a voice-activated system called Eyes Free, make calls, texting, listen to your calendar appointments and iTunes library, all while you're driving.

And bad news -- right -- and bad news if you're traveling this holiday season; holiday air fare expected to go up eight percent compared to last year. This is according to the travel Web site Orbitz. Experts say the best advice is the same, no matter what time of the year is the earlier you book, the better.

BROWNSTEIN: Just to put all of these together, does that mean you can now ask your car, do you know the way to San Jose?

MARTIN: Way to go. Way to go.

BROWNSTEIN: Is that right? To pull all the different threads together.

MARTIN: Oh Ron you go to the time-out corner.

BROWNSTEIN: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

MARTIN: Time-out corner.

O'BRIEN: Yes I support that.

BROWNSTEIN: OK, OK, yes all right.

O'BRIEN: So this morning we're talking about trans-racial adoptions, families of one race adopting a child of another race. And they've gone up steadily over the years. Questions often come up though, whether it's in the best interest of the child. For example, can families protect their adopted children from racist attitudes?

Jason Carroll explores that very question in today's "Black in America".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK SOMERVILLE, ADOPTED BLACK CHILD: Some protesters went home --

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frank Somerville is a news anchor in Oakland, California. He is used to hearing from the public. But when he posted a picture doing his daughter's hair on Facebook he and his wife, Donna, were overwhelmed.

SOMERVILLE: The Facebook page just lit up and it kept going and going and going. DONNA WRIGHT SOMERVILLE, ADOPTED BLACK CHILD: I think it hit a racial cord. I think it also hit a father/daughter cord.

CARROLL: Eight years ago, the Somervilles adopted Cali, a decision that raised tough questions about themselves.

F. SOMERVILLE: We also thought you know there's a baby out there that needs a mommy and a daddy. If we all of a sudden back out because we are scared that this happens to be a black baby, what does that say about us?

CARROLL: They cherish watching Cali's play time with older sister, Sydney. But know as Cali gets older there will likely be unique challenges. Studies show trans-racial adoptees can experience a lack of cultural identity.

MARCUS SAMUELSSON, AUTHOR, "YES CHEF": We dealt with it. My mom always turned everything that was an obstacle into confidence.

CARROLL: Facing identity issues head on helped world renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson, he's Ethiopian, adopted by Swedish parents.

SAMUELSSON: Don't be naive about the questions that's going to come like race, definitely has a place.

CARROLL: Brought up with a strong sense of self, Samuelsson now feels at home in Harlem where he lives and has a restaurant.

The Somervilles say being open about race and having black role models in Cali's life will help when the challenges do come.

D. SOMERVILLE: There are differences and celebrate the differences.

CARROLL: For now, for this family, that is enough.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Oakland, California.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The documentary, which is called "WHO IS BLACK IN AMERICA?" is going to air Sunday December 9th at 8:00 p.m., re-air at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN. It's our fifth installation.

MARTIN: Hair, hair no joke that's real.

O'BRIEN: It is hair is a very big deal. But you know honestly if it's going to be hair that stands in the way of adopting a child?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, probably figure out a way over it.

O'BRIEN: I think we can.

MARTIN: Yes that's right.

O'BRIEN: I think we can.

MARTIN: I comb.

O'BRIEN: So here are some -- oh yes, get a good comb. Get a black friend you'll be fine.

MARTIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: "Walk on By". "Say a Little Prayer". "That's What Friends are for". She has been a hit maker for decades. Dionne Warwick is going to join us to talk about her new album. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIONNE WARWICK, SINGER: In good times, in bad times I'll be on your side forever more. That's what friends are for --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Dionne Warwick sold 100 million records in her five-decade long career featuring literally hit after hit after hit. Now this five-time Grammy winner is celebrating her 50th anniversary in the business with a newly released CD which is titled "Now". She joins us this morning.

MARTIN: Look at that. Black don't crack. Look at that.

O'BRIEN: Wow you look amazing. You sound amazing.

WARWICK: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: So what is the secret to -- to longevity in a business that is very fickle? And people just fail constantly. I mean five decades.

WARWICK: Yes you know I -- I really attribute to the -- to songs that I've been able to sing, the messages that are within those particular lyrics that have been given to people. That still want to hear. And now we need to start practicing it, you know the things that I have been very, very fortunate. That I've had two of the most prolific songwriters of our time really at the beginning of my career and then fortunately have met some other incredible writers and composers and producers. And so --

O'BRIEN: Why record songs? I mean because often people put out -- you've already done what how many -- you've done 22 greatest hits albums. And -- and so if you're were to do -- 22, that's just greatest hits albums. That's not even all the albums. It's like 37 albums overall.

So why record new songs? Is it -- is it an ownership issue? Like Christy -- Cindy Lauper was telling me the way to own her masters --

MARTIN: That's right.

O'BRIEN: -- was to rerecord them. WARWICK: Yes that's the only way to own them. It is -- so it's -- they're mine now. You know I've always said they were mine, but they are really mine now. You know people want to hear them, they just want to hear them, over and over and over.

CAIN: Which one is your favorite? All of them.

WARWICK: All of them.

CAIN: One song if you had to pick one song, which one?

WARWICK: I can't.

CAIN: Oh, come on.

WARWICK: I really can't.

MARTIN: Every artist says the same thing.

WARWICK: You know, it's very difficult when you look at every single record that's successful, how are you going to choose one over the other? And then too, they're like my children.

MARTIN: Right.

WARWICK: These are my babies.

(CROSSTALK)

WARWICK: Yes. These are my babies.

BROWNSTEIN: You worked with great songwriters and for decades in many cases. What is that process like? Are you just kind of like, you get there at the end of the process, they give it to you or are you part of shaping and kind of understanding what works for you and what they write?

WARWICK: Well, they send me whatever it is that they have to send for me to record and if I feel it's something I want to say or I think I could give justice to. Then, of course, it's accepted. If I don't, they get it back.

MARTIN: When you think about classic music, I always use this test, what will we play at family reunions in 20 or 30 years? And do you talk to artists today and say you might want to think about that? Because they want to play your music.

WARWICK: Honey bun, let me tell you something, these babies -- that's exactly what they are, have been given so much leverage, I can't tell them anything. They feel they can tell me now, you know. And I keep saying -- oh, you're old school. I have to remind them that if it wasn't for old school there wouldn't be a new school.

O'BRIEN: Who do you listen to?

WARWICK: I listen to my peers. I listen to Mathis. I listen to Gladys, Jeffrey Osbourne --

O'BRIEN: Oh, I love them.

Warwick: The OJs. And I listen to a lot of Brazilian music.

O'BRIEN: You said that this recording was a blessing after the death of Whitney Houston.

WARWICK: Yes, it was. You know, it was something that, first of all, it took my mind off of the tragedy itself. And in so doing, people who have been supportive of this career for as long as they have just did this. The biggest embrace I could ever get. People caring enough to say I'm praying for you and the family, of course. We, of course, will miss her. We want you to be strong and that you're healthy and that we can still see you and hear you. So it makes a lot of difference when people do that.

O'BRIEN: We actually feel the same thing because you're amazing. It's such great to have you. My father has a giant crush on you. I would be totally remiss if I didn't out him on TV now and tell you. He's --

WARWICK: I hope mommy doesn't mind.

O'BRIEN: My mother has lived with it for many years. I think she's cool with it now.

Dionne Warwick, it's so great to have you with us this morning.

WARWICK: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations on your new album, "Now".

WARWICK: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Amazing.

MARTIN: And say that own your masters.

WARWICK: I say that's the deal; it really is.

O'BRIEN: "End Point" is up in a moment. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: I'm going to give "End Point" to Will Cain today. You have a lot of Will Cain.

CAIN: I said to Dionne Warwick at the end of our interview. I once saw Waylon Jennings at the House of Blues in L.A. and everybody was chanting sing "Luckenbach Texas" and he said I'm going to tell you all a secret, I hate that damn song. I asked Dionne Warwick, what song does she hate and she said "San Jose".

BROWNSTEIN: So don't ask Siri about that. We'll take the attack.

O'BRIEN: Oh, breaking my heart. Thank you for your "End Point".

MARTIN: Plus you want to (inaudible).

O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

Hey Carol.