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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

"One Step At A Time"; Sandy Hook Kids Head Back To School; Suspected U.S. Drones Strike Pakistan; Senator Returns Year After Major Stroke; Relatives Upset Over Theater Reopening; Medical Helicopter Crashes In Oklahoma; Current Event: Al Jazeera Buys U.S. Network; Sugar Bowl Blowout; 3-Year-Old "Madden"; Boehner Promises Sandy Aid Bill; "It Was Disappointing And Disgusting"; Search For Missing Journalist In Syria; Controversial Map: Locations of Gun Owners; Illinois Same Sex Marriage Bill; Dog Rescued From Icy Lake; Back To School For Sandy Hook Kids

Aired January 3, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- fresher recollections of it. Also all these kids, they know exactly where they were hiding, whether they were locked in a closet or whether they were, you know, hiding behind a sink we were told in one case. We spoke to one little boy. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN PALEY, SANDY HOOK 4TH GRADE STUDENT: This has been a huge crushing to us. It makes me really happy to see all those people trying to help and that's a big part that makes me feel better. Watching people and they're all trying to make it better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: That's Ben Paley and his younger brother, Ethan. You know, their parents have been so strong trying to help them get through this, but again, the wave of emotions because there are so many of them. They're afraid. You know, there's anxiety, there's worry.

And it's interesting, the little boy, Ethan, he said to me, he goes, you know, I used to be really afraid of monsters. Now I'm afraid that somebody is going to come who shouldn't be there. So yes, so their reality has definitely shifted.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: From the mouth of a fourth grader. Deb Feyerick, thank you. We're all thinking about those kids today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We'll certainly wishing them the best this morning.

We do have other news to tell you about this morning. Pakistani officials say it appears U.S. drones struck two targets today. One strike in the tribal region of (inaudible) killed at least 11 people.

Among those believed killed was a Taliban Commander (inaudible). He reportedly was at odds with other Taliban leaders about attacking Pakistani government targets, but he was blamed for several attacks against the U.S. military.

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois returns to Washington a year after a major stroke. The 53-year-old Republican has spent the past 12 months learning to walk again. Today, this will be amazing. He plans to climb the steps of the capitol building and get back to work. He says one of his priorities is Medicaid funding for stroke victims who have no income.

BALDWIN: The Colorado movie theater where those 12 people were shot and killed last summer set to reopen in two weeks now from today. But some victims' relatives they actually plan to boycott. They claim the theater company never sent condolences.

They say this invitation to a special memorial is just insulting. The theater has been closed ever since those shootings back July 20th. The preliminary hearing for the suspect starts next week.

BERMAN: A lot of raw emotion there. A medical helicopter crashing late last night near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing at least three people on board. At this point very little is known about what happened. Federal investigators are now headed to the scene.

Meanwhile, another medical helicopter crashed yesterday near Seminole, Oklahoma, injuring four people. One police official said the helicopter may have had engine trouble and the pilot purposely chose the field to make his landing.

BALDWIN: The Arab news network Al Jazeera has now bought Current TV, a cable channel that Al Gore co-founded. So it will close current and launch a new channel in its place with the hope of reaching more American viewers. But that could be tougher now.

Time Warner Cable dropped the channel after the sale was announced. Time Warner owns one of the largest cable operators in the country. Of course, also the parent company of CNN.

BERMAN: You got it.

All right, another BCS Bowl game in the books. What a game it was. The Louisville Cardinals upset third-ranked Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl last night in New Orleans. Louisville won 33-23, but really the game wasn't that close. Of course, this is all leading up to the big game, the BCS title game, Notre Dame versus Alabama. That is Monday night in Miami.

BALDWIN: OK, so here's the video we really wanted to get to. So even a 3-year-old, three can see that's not a first down, ref. Video now absolutely going viral. This pint-size South Carolina Gamecock fan going all John Madden after one of the worst calls ever in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day that gave Michigan a very questionable first down. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: The ball is really not touching that. It's really not because it's closer than that and it's a little bit of spot. The referee said it's touching that pole, but it's really not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I love everything about this. I love her hair. I love that she has a pencil and she is pointing.

BERMAN: She also is right.

BALDWIN: She is totally right. That wasn't a first down. Love it.

BERMAN: She should oversee officials from the NCAA right there. That girl knows what she's talking about. We could also use her in Washington. She could add some sense there.

This morning Republican leaders in the House are promising to make good after a move that left lawmakers on both sides of the aisle really enraged.

BALDWIN: Speaker Boehner has pledged to make Sandy relief a priority in the new Congress after he abruptly pulled a similar bill late Tuesday night. That had politicians here in the northeast fuming, including the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who blasted his own party over this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: National disasters happen in red states and blue states, in states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before our oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Well, Speaker Boehner now says lawmakers will vote tomorrow for a $9 billion measure with more money coming later.

Congressman Michael Grimm is a Republican from New York. Part of his district is in Staten Island that was really hit very hard by Superstorm Sandy. Congressman, good morning.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: Good morning.

BERMAN: So you were really mad. I'm talking really, really mad two nights ago and then yesterday morning. Where do you stand now? Has Speaker Boehner gone far enough for you now that he's scheduling this vote for tomorrow?

GRIMM: The bottom line is we just have to get this done. Listen, I'm a New Yorker, not some of the time but all the time. Yes, I got my New York up. I was furious. I think everyone involved was absolutely beside themselves.

New York has a history just like New Jersey, we put our states first. We don't let politics get in the way. We come together bipartisan, bicameral. We've been doing that so this was an untenable situation and we made it very clear.

It's not -- it's just not acceptable, even remotely, to be playing games with the victims of this horrific Superstorm Sandy. We're there now. We're there. We'll get it done.

BALDWIN: You're there now. You met with the speaker yesterday along with a couple other Republicans. How did that go?

GRIMM: It went very well. But I will tell you this, I did stay behind after the conference in the conference room to speak one on one with the speaker and with the leader and I had to shake his hand and look in his eyes.

I needed the speaker of the House to tell me personally that we were going to come through on this and we were going to have the vote on the full $60 billion. Not part of it, but the full $60 billion.

Yes, it will be broken up into pieces, but I still want to vote on the full $60 billion and I got his commitment and his word as a man and I feel pretty comfortable with that.

BERMAN: One of the things you said before is you may not vote for him to become speaker today. Are you still standing by that?

GRIMM: Again, it was based on the fact that something that, fortunately, that was never the case. It was never the case that Speaker Boehner's heart wasn't with New York or didn't care or didn't want to bring the vote.

If that was the case, no, I'm not going to support anyone who doesn't support my constituents and doesn't support the state of New York. But that isn't the case, thank God, and we're moving forward.

Unfortunately a delay, but sometimes things in this place don't work as great as you want them to. It's not always easy here, but we will get this done. The first legislative day is the 15th and we will be voting on the first legislative day.

BERMAN: You said you got your New York up the other day. Your New York didn't stay up very long on this then?

GRIMM: Well, it stayed up as long as it needed to and let me tell you, it's still there. I will be babysitting this thing until that vote comes. Listen, it's not over yet also. The speaker's job, and I want to be clear about this, is to bring the vote to the floor, it's not to garner the votes.

That's my job. So I still have the job to do with Peter King and to work across the aisle with Greg Meeks and everyone else to make sure we have the votes. We don't just need a vote, we have to pass it. That's uplifting itself on the $33 billion part of this $60 billion package.

BALDWIN: I just want to add another voice here. This is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, none too pleased about what happened there on the Hill. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I was called at 11:20 last night by Leader Cantor and told authority for the vote was pulled by the speaker. And our delegation asked for a meeting with the speaker at that time. They were refused. I called the speaker four times last night after 11:20, and he did not take my calls. So you have to ask the speaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Didn't take his calls. I know, Congressman, you've established you had the manly handshake, you looked both of these guys in the eye, you believe you're getting this aid. But the fact that the bill is broken up, that this first piece is less than 15 percent of what the Senate had passed previously, does that not bother you still just a little bit?

GRIMM: Well, that part of it -- first of all, let me tell you this. I was standing next to Leader Cantor while he was on the phone with Governor Christie. It was not a pleasant scene. It was very difficult especially as Republicans but as Americans coming from New York and New Jersey.

I wasn't expecting it to be coming this early. I was expecting it to come on the 15th so I'm not concerned about that at all. In fact let's get it out of the way, that's fine.

The big lift, let's be very clear, is the amendment coming on the 15th for the $33 billion supplemental. That's where I have to make sure we have the votes, and I will. I'll tell you now. I'm going to do everything it takes. We're going to have those votes.

BERMAN: Congressman, some members of your own party may be that may be too much money you're asking for. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri said sometimes when you ask for too much you get nothing. And Congressman Darrell Issa said he intends to vote against it. What do you make of that? How do you convince people there's not pork in this bill?

GRIMM: Well, first of all, regardless, they can talk about the pork all they want, that's just not accurate. There is not going to be pork in this bill so that's really not the case. They're using that for cover.

The truth is there are members of Congress -- I have to respect their position that they don't believe that the federal government should outlay money for anything without an offset. That's their position and I have to respect that. It's dead wrong.

I completely disagree with them and that's why I'm telling you, it's not a very easy thing to do to make sure we have these votes. They are not in the minority in my conference. There are many Republicans that feel you have to have offsets and will not be voting for the $33 billion. But we will get enough votes to pass it. That's what matters. And, again, that's where Peter King, myself and working across the aisle we have to make sure those votes are there. But there are going to be a lot of Republicans that vote no on the $33 billion. It's my job to make sure we have enough to vote yes.

BALDWIN: All right, confident this is going through. Congressman Michael Grimm, we appreciate it. Congressman Peter King will be on the show a little later as well. He was furious before. Sort of sounds similar to the congressman there that, you know, it's OK. It's OK now.

BERMAN: You know, they're working together now, he and the speaker, they're hand in hand, sort of, almost.

BALDWIN: Sort of, almost, kinda.

BERMAN: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, new fallout for the newspaper that decided to publish the names and addresses of registered gun owners. Why they're now hiring people with guns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. The family of freelance journalist James Foley missing in Syria since Thanksgiving Day now launching a public campaign to find him. "Global Post," the news web site Foley previously reported for, told Reuters that the 39-year-old was driving toward Syria's border with Turkey when he was intercepted by a car. He was reportedly forced out of his vehicle by two armed men and he hasn't been seen or heard from since. No one has claimed responsibility.

BALDWIN: Now I want you to take a look at this. Put down the cereal, take a look at this map. This is an online publication by the "Journal News." This is suburban New York City. It led the paper to, ironically, hire armed guards. Here's why.

After the Connecticut school shooting three weeks ago, the "Journal News" posted the locations of licensed gun owners in two nearby counties, those are all the dots on the map.

One gun-owning blogger felt harassed so he posted the home addresses of newspaper staffers. The newspaper said it then, and I'm quoting, received a large amount of negative correspondence.

The editor at this paper hired a private security company whose employees are armed and will be on site during business hours, armed at the newspaper.

BERMAN: Very controversial. Another nearby county said they would not publish the names of gun owners obviously after this controversy.

Illinois could soon become the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Supporters will try again today to get a bill through the State Senate. They fell two votes short yesterday. Civil unions have been legal in Illinois for the past 18 months. New Year's Day proved to be a lucky day for a dog here in St. Louis. Take a look, swimming along, getting rescued. It seems the dog had fallen into this icy lake. Thankfully this was a city park lake where the water is only about four feet deep.

Dan Hill was the tallest firefighter on duty so that apparently meant he got the call. Look at this guy. He put on his waders and put the shivering shepherd mix into a basket and brought him back. The dog should be OK.

BERMAN: I'm glad he's OK, but I love the idea that the firefighter who got called was the tallest one. You're the tallest, jump into the lake.

BALDWIN: The four-foot part of the lake, I guess.

Still ahead, it's 46 minutes past the hour here. An anxious morning for a lot of children and parents and teachers and just people in the community in Newtown, Connecticut. This is day one back to class since the tragedy there. We're going to talk to someone who knows what that's like, the mother of a student who was almost killed at Virginia Tech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't actually sit down and come up with an idea. Basically I try to free my mind from distractions and then my mind wanders and it wanders naturally on the problems. I'm trying to be creative. I try to relax and I try to do things that make me think differently. So it travels wonderful. Putting myself in a comfortable position is a great way to generate ideas.

It softens about 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. It's very hard to shape glass. It takes years of practice. It's difficult. Every time I come into the studio, I've got some sort of new challenge and something that I like to learn how to do better and the material never disappoints me.

My job is to basically shape it and balance it at the same time. If you can do that, you get these wonderful shapes. Glass really rewards risk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jim is sort of this renaissance guy, whatever he tried to do, he does exceedingly well. He perfects. He also has a gift for music, has a gift for art or more than a gift, a passion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. As kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School head back to class this morning for the first time in three weeks, millions of Americans will be with them in spirit including a dozen teachers from Gulfport, Mississippi, who were so moved by the tragedy, they held a vigil at sunrise yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHYLLIS SKINNER, ORGANIZER: We are thinking of them and we're not going to stop thinking of them and we're not going to stop praying for them because this is a journey for them in the days ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Our next guest can relate to the parents today in Newtown of these children who are going back to school, she also sent her daughter back to school after a mass shooting, her daughter, Emily, was shot twice during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

Thankfully Emily survived. Her mom is now the Virginia organizer for the coalition to stop gun violence. Good morning to you, Lori. Look, no two shootings are the same, but your daughter, Emily, she -- what was that like for her, when she did go back to classes in Blacksburg. Describe if you can what it may be like for these little kids?

LORI HAAS, DAUGHTER SHOT AT 2007 VA TECH SHOOTING: Well, for my daughter, Emily, she was brave and smart and determined to resume her life as a college student. I think for the youngsters in Newtown, it's probably very, very different.

I think for the parents, the concern is the same no matter what the age of your child, you want to protect your children, you want to keep them safe, so those concerns are understandable.

I would expect that some of the younger of the elementary school students maybe don't even have a grasp of the magnitude of what's happened, but for the parents, there is concern. You want to keep your children safe.

BERMAN: So what do you do, Lori? We've been hearing from some of the kids and the kids really do seem awfully resilient, but the parents are nervous, many intending to go to school to follow the bus, if you will, to school. What is your advice to the parents today?

HAAS: I think that the parents while difficult should be modeling confidence, confidence in their children, confidence in their kids' ability to adjust and to be normal. It may be a new normal, but I think that the parents to show their children that they have confidence in their ability to adjust and their ability to be a regular first grader, second grader, fourth grader would do well for those kids and those parents. It's hard. It's difficult, but schools in this country are the safest places for our school-aged children.

BERMAN: What did it feel like for you that first day back?

HAAS: It was very difficult. It was heart-wrenching to see your child walk off headed to class, knowing that in Emily's instance she was headed back to the scene of her attempted murder and that's difficult to relive those things, very difficult.

But she was brave and she was smart and she was determined to get back. There were 17 students injured at Virginia Tech, and they all went back to the school to get their degrees and finish out their college years.

BALDWIN: You know, we were just talking about the resilience of some of the youngsters who are going back to class. Looking at some of these pictures of your beautiful daughter, I'm curious how is she today, how has she moved forward?

HAAS: It's been a journey. There's no denying that. There are ups and downs in the recovery, in the aftermath of a mass shooting. There's times when you have to deal with your post traumatic stress disorder and it may flare up at different times.

It may recede at different times, but the injured students stuck together quite a bit and were helpful to each other, and spent time together and a lot of time together, frankly, at the school, so that was a good for her. She's finished her degree. She's married and teaching school herself.

BALDWIN: How about that.

HAAS: I'm very proud of her. She's very smart, very brave.

BALDWIN: A teacher herself. Lori Haas, you must be proud of your little girl. Thank you so much.

HAAS: Yes, I am, thank you.

BERMAN: That is nice to hear.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, a leading Republican who is not afraid to rip his own party, we'll talk to New York Congressman Peter King about that delay in Hurricane Sandy funding. This has both sides of the aisle enraged.

BALDWIN: Plus the new face of this brand new Congress, the most Latinos ever elected to the Senate and the House begin serving the people today. We're going to talk to one of them, Texas Congressman- Elect Joaquin Castro. You're excited about that.

BERMAN: Says he's the good looking one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Good Thursday morning to you. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Soledad is off this week. Our STARTING POINT the school bell rings again for the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We're going to look at what's change and what's staying the same as they try to move forward.

BALDWIN: And big day in Washington, taking the oath, a brand new Congress convenes just a couple of hours from now, 90 new members joining the House and the Senate, but will anything change, really?

BERMAN: Plus Republicans ripping Republicans with the victims of Hurricane Sandy caught in the middle, how Congress dropped the ball on a multibillion-dollar relief bill as people await help. BALDWIN: Among our guests this hour, New York Congressman Peter King, Texas Representative-Elect Joaquin Castro and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.

BERMAN: It is Thursday, January 3rd and STARTING POINT begins right now.

BALDWIN: Good morning and Happy New Year to our panel, very handsome, Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," welcome. Richard Socarides, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and writer for newyorker.com and New York Congresswoman Nan Hayworth. I saw you shaking your head talking Congress a moment ago.

BERMAN: This is a starting point for you today so welcome. We're so glad you're here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get to keep the pin, which is unlike most breakups I guess.

BERMAN: All right, our STARTING POINT this morning, as we'll talk about that no doubt later on, right now in Newtown, Connecticut, it is a return to school and hopefully a return to some normalcy in Newtown.