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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Violent Weather Threat; Brazil Nightclub Inferno; Egypt Could "Collapse"; Exit Interview; President Reveals Immigration Plan; Malala To Get More Treatment; Building A New Skull For Malala; Kick Off Of Super Bowl Ad

Aired January 30, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you feel like everybody is accounted for this hour? There are reports in parts, I believe, of Tennessee of people who they cannot find or can't get access to.

TYLER CHANDLER, TENNESSEE POLICE SPOKESPERSON (via telephone): Sure, of course, I can't speak for other parts of Tennessee, but I can speak for our city. In our city, everyone has been accounted for and everyone is safe, and we're just lucky that it is that way and no injuries are reported at this time.

O'BRIEN: Sergeant Tyler Chandler joining us. Thank you for your time, sir. Good luck as you try to clean up after this mess.

Let's get right to meteorologist, Indra Peterson. She is following the path of these storms. So you heard a little bit of what the sergeant had to say there. It sounds to me like they were really very, very lucky.

INDRA PETERSON, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They were. In fact, early this morning, a lot of the instability and severe weather threats were right around Nashville. But as you can tell, now we don't currently have tornado warnings in that area. In fact, they've downgraded to severe thunderstorm warnings. Now that doesn't mean you don't want to be staying aware of your surroundings.

In fact, that could turn in such a quick second. You really want to continue to be aware of everything that's going on, but we have so much instability. We've seen warning and thunderstorm warning, one after the next. Take you out east of Lexington, where once again, we continue to see all these severe thunderstorm warnings, currently not seeing rotation in this line.

But a lot of straight line winds and a lot of strong gusts out there farther down to the south. We also had a warning, just heading off toward the northeast, right around Huntsville, but again, that just expired a minute ago. But again, notice the line, very strong.

I'm going to take you out wide and you'll see, this is a good 1,600 miles of severe weather, it will continue as we through the afternoon today.

O'BRIEN: It's 1,600 miles. All right, Indra, thank you for that update. Let's get right to John Berman for a look at some of the other stories that are making news today. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Good morning, Soledad. The death toll from that tragic nightclub fire in Brazil now stands at 235 after a 21-year-old man passed away late last night. The 74 people remain in critical condition this morning. Investigators believed the band's use of pyrotechniques is to blame. They say the fire was caused by a cheap flare that is not supposed to be used indoors.

A violent protest raging through the night in Egypt. Protesters ignoring President Mohamed Morsy's curfew orders and the political turmoil now threatening the nation's very future. The Egypt army chief is warning that clashes could lead to the total collapse of that very young government. Dozens have now died in six days of protests, marking two years since the fall of the last government.

So it is her last week as secretary of state, but before leaving her post, Hillary Clinton sat down with CNN to talk about her tenure at the State Department. Jill Dougherty got the interview along with Elise Labott.

Jill joins us now from Washington this morning. Jill, this was a pretty interesting interview.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It was -- I think it was interesting on a number of levels. Obviously, you know, some policy, but also just her personal life, you know, this last week, three days to go.

Friday, she says farewell to the State Department employees and then Monday, she wakes up and she's no longer a secretary of state. That's what I wanted to get to. So I asked her, you know, can you stop? This is what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't know. It's been my whole life. I've had a job ever since I was 13 years old. When I wasn't in school, I was working.

DOUGHERTY: Is it going to be traumatic? I mean, you know, your Blackberry?

CLINTON: I don't know. I think it's going to take some adjustment. I've been talking to colleagues who left the government earlier, and the most common thing they say to me is, don't make any decisions, you have no idea how tired you are. And I think there is truth to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: She might want to work with her family. You know, Bill Clinton has a Clinton Global Initiative on AIDS. Chelsea has studied international health so maybe they can all work together.

BERMAN: Yes, on the subject of big decisions, Jill, what did she say about 2016? DOUGHERTY: Well, basically, no plans to run. But she's a lawyer, so look at that word plan. You know, she didn't come out and say I am not going to run. But you can imagine, she wants to leave the door open. But at this point, she says she truly has not made a decision. So I think we'll continue to, you know, look at this for months or years to go, but that's what she said yesterday.

BERMAN: We absolutely will continue to look at it as the language keeps evolving. Jill Dougherty in Washington, thanks so much. Good to see you -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: This morning, we're taking a look at the president's plan to fix immigration in this country. The president laid out principles at a stop at a high school in Las Vegas, a majority of Hispanic students at that high school.

He supported many of the ideas that have already been laid out by the Senate's "Gang of Eight" in their bipartisan reform proposal. Listen to a little bit of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That's what comprehensive immigration reform looks like, smarter enforcement, a pathway to earned citizenship, improvements in the legal immigration system so that we continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest all around the world pretty straight forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: But is it really straight forward? Let's get right to Senator Bill Nelson. He is a Democrat from the state of Florida. It's nice to have you with us, sir. We appreciate your time.

SENATOR BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Good morning to you. What do you make of the president's plan? Where do you see some of the big sticking points between what we know about what the president is proposing and what this "Gang of Eight" in the Senate are proposing?

NELSON: Well, I think he's right on track. This is obviously the answer. You can't deport 11 million people. Our economy would collapse, and those who took the position block the border and deport them, they suffered at the polls in the last election because it's -- it's nonsensical kind of approach.

You have to use common sense. And so what this is this is a common sense, moderate position that will solve the problem. I think there is very little difference between what the president has proposed and what the "Gang of Eight" in the Senate have proposed.

O'BRIEN: There is some difference. So let's walk through those a little bit. He did not -- the president this is, did not endorse a guest worker program. Border security as trigger to the path to citizenship, that's a difference there. No expedited citizenship process for agricultural workers.

We saw that in the "Gang of Eight" proposal. We do not see it here. Are those big enough to be sticking points and be real problems down the road, as they try to pull these two plans together?

NELSON: No. Guest workers, agricultural workers, have to be included. Border security in order to get the votes in the Congress, it's going to have to be included, and the question is, what is the trigger? That is to be worked out. It's got to be reasonable, got to be common sense.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but history tells us, and, you know, Congressman Connie Mack is sitting next to me. So he knows your state very well and I know the two of you know each other very well, having run against each other.

CONNIE MACK, FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Nice to see you, Senator.

NELSON: Good morning.

MACK: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: History tells us this is not going to be an easy process, right. We just have to look back to 2007, I guess, and look forward from there and you realize that there -- even with George Bush, a Republican trying to push the proposal, it didn't happen so.

MACK: I think you will see -- I think both sides recognize that this is a very important issue. It deals with people's lives and it's also about our security of our country. And so I think the senator was correct when he said the Congress is, you know, mandate we have border security.

The real sticking issue will be as it always is, is what to do with the people who are already here and what that path to citizenship is. Is it an amnesty approach or how is it going to be put together? If it's something that conservatives feel like strong enough that, you know, kind of upholds our laws then I think you will see the bill move pretty easily.

O'BRIEN: Well, the difference, of course, Cameron, right, is that there was an election and it went very badly and 71 percent of Latinos voted, in fact, for President Obama. Do you think, I mean, obviously that's correlated.

CAMERON RUSSELL, MODEL: I mean, I think the real issue that no one is talking about is the fact that we probably will extend an H2A Agricultural visa as part of the guest worker program. And what that means is we could have a second class of workers who don't have any power to leave their employer without being deported. That's a really dangerous precedent to set in the agricultural business and especially as --

O'BRIEN: It's fraught with abuse we certainly know. It's not like they had a great history with workers so I think that's a good point too. ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Senator, can we cut to the chase here. In 2007, totally different political landscape and the bottom line this year, we had many conservatives absolutely were using immigration reform as a way to, frankly, penalize other Republicans.

Now 2013, the politics have changed. That's why you have more Republicans who are a part of this whole deal. Isn't that really the driving force here? Why it will be a lot easier than it was six years ago?

NELSON: Yes. That's what I said at the outset. The election changed that, and a good example is my colleague, Marco Rubio, who I think has taken a very courageous stand. He is now one of the leaders that is going to give cover to a lot of the Republicans who have taken the opposite position.

O'BRIEN: But here is what he said yesterday that's very Marco Rubio. I am concerned by the president's unwillingness to accept significant enforcement triggers before current undocumented immigrants can apply for a green card. So that to me sounds like he has some problems already.

NELSON: No. Give him a break.

O'BRIEN: OK.

NELSON: He's got to cover. Just wait until you get to the details. They'll hammer it out. Remember, he had to go on Rush Limbaugh and start convincing Rush Limbaugh who as recent as last Monday said no way, Jose.

And as a result Marco was successful, and by the way, I complimented him as the two of us stood on the floor of the Senate yesterday. I think he is going to give a lot of cover to the Republicans who otherwise would choke on this.

O'BRIEN: And he complimented you back talking about your excellent ability in the python hunt, sir, if I remember correctly.

NELSON: They are taking over the everglades.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we know. We've done that story. It's nice to have you with us, Senator. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

NELSON: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

NELSON: Bye, Connie.

MACK: Bye, Senator.

O'BRIEN: Got some new details to tell you about ahead this morning about a girl, remember, she was gunned down for fighting for the right for girls to go to school. We're going to hear a little bit more about how Malala Yousefzai's recovery is going. That's coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. New information to share with you on the condition of Malala Yousefzai this morning. She is the 15-year-old Pakistani activist. She was shot in the head by the Taliban, you might remember, for advocating for education and girl's rights.

Well, Malala has been at a hospital in Britain receiving a treatment since the shooting, which happened back in October. Doctors this morning say they are planning to rebuild her skull.

Dan Rivers is live in London with more on that. That sounds very, very difficult and like a very long process. What do you know about it?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does sound quite alarming and difficult, but actually here in the hospital in Birmingham, they're saying this is a pretty routine procedure, believe it or not. She has a hole in her skull. They mapped her head with this 3-D scanner.

I think we have some pictures of the image that they have produced. What they have done is they have manufactured a titanium plate that they are going to put over the hole in the skull and they say that she will be able to lead a pretty normal life after that.

They will be a surgical procedure to do an implant to correct the loss of hearing in her left ear as well. But after that, they think she could make a complete recovery pretty much. The medical doctor here is Dr. David Rosser, he explains what's involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID ROSSER, QUEEN ELIZABETH HOSPITAL, BIRMINGHAM: Very simply speaking this is putting a titanium plate, a specially made, custom made titanium plate over the deficit in her skull, this sort of size in the left-hand side of her skull. Clearly this is primarily to offer physical protection to her brain, in the same way as a normal skull would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: One of the other specialists involved, nine altogether in these two different procedures, is Stefan Edmondson. He has been involved in actually making the titanium plate from the model, 3-D scan that they built up of her head. He explained how that was done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEFAN EDMONDSON, PRINCIPAL MAXILLOFACIAL PROSTHETIST: As you can see here, we have actually got the 3D model after it was printed. We divested it, taken the support material off and it gives us a very, very accurate bony defect of the skull. Our next step would be to take this into the laboratory and start to emulate the piece of bone that has been taken away. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: So it sounds alarming, but actually they are saying it's quite routine. They do 50 or 60 of these sorts of cranial operations in this hospital each year just in this hospital. In fact, they make about 120 of these titanium plates that go off all around the world because this is a worldwide center of excellence for this kind of brain trauma.

O'BRIEN: Wow, if she could have a full recovery after that kind of damage. That would be incredible. Dan Rivers for us this morning. Thank you, Dan.

Ahead this morning, an early exclusive new look at the ad that Mercedes will run during the Super Bowl featuring model Kate Upton. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: So you don't need to wait for the Super Bowl to check out some of the highly anticipated ads. We've been giving you sneak peeks this week. And this morning, we have an exclusive look at an ad from Mercedes-Benz. They are introducing the Mercedes CLA class. Here is the ad in its entirety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make a deal with me, kid, you can have the car and everything that goes along with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what do you say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, but I think I got this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This September, set your soul free, the seductive CLA starting under $30,000, from Mercedes-Benz.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That is an exclusive look at the ad. It's only the second time the car company has done one of these ads for the Super Bowl. Steve Cannon is the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. He is with us this morning. It's nice to have you.

STEVE CANNON, PRESIDENT/CEO, MERCEDES BENZ USA: Good morning.

MARTIN: The dude has no shot without the car, no shot.

MACK: Does he have a shot with the car?

O'BRIEN: Why do a Super Bowl ad when Mercedes-Benz is not known for doing Super Bowl ads consistently. CANNON: This is only our second one. It's such a huge platform, 115 million viewers, but for us we had a unique opportunity. We're introducing a brand new car. It's going to really open up the brand.

O'BRIEN: It's 29-9 I believe.

CANNON: It's 29-9 so we felt like this was an opportunity to introduce Mercedes-Benz to a much broader audience to customers who wouldn't have experienced it.

MARTIN: Does it help it's being played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?

BERMAN: I smiled but the one question the Rolling Stones music can't come cheap.

CANNON: When you play in the Super Bowl you have to step up your game so nothing comes cheap between music and between William Dafoe and Kate Upton and Usher, but it adds up but you want to bring your "A" game.

BERMAN: How much?

CANNON: It's an eight-figure commitment, but nowadays with teasers and internet.

O'BRIEN: You did teasers earlier in the week. The PR company, is it too sexy, the Kate Upton, which was not sexy at all.

RUSSELL: My professional opinion she looks hot but classy.

O'BRIEN: This is her area, she knows that.

CANNON: This is Mercedes-Benz, you can't do a Carl's Jr. kind of an ad when you're Mercedes-Benz. So we said let's have fun, it wasn't her washing the car, it was the guys doing it for her.

O'BRIEN: So the Parents Television Council, not a fan, I'm sure you've read this, the ad they say reinforces for millions of wives, daughters and sisters across the country that you use your sex appeal to get what you want, if anything the ad proves we've regressed rather than progressed over the last several years.

MARTIN: OK, next question. I mean, come on! What? So Kate Upton is in a dress, not like she's sitting here in a bikini?

O'BRIEN: Cameron, do you feel the same way the Parents Television Council does in any way?

RUSSELL: I guess I'm worried about cars we have climate issues and can barely pay for Sandy so I'm not so much concerned --

O'BRIEN: With the bikini.

MARTIN: That's my opinion, whatever.

MACK: You're making commercials, you want to get people's attention and want people to remember the commercial and the brand.

CANNON: This is rated "G" look at the prime time televisions and the references you have there. We wanted to have a little bit of fun, had to ad edge because we are going younger, bringing our price point down. This is an opportunity for us to add a little bit of edge and we have six million YouTube views.

O'BRIEN: So it's working. Steve Cannon, nice to have with you us, president and CEO --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you this morning, thanks.

We have other news to cover, we're following the severe weather we've been telling but all morning, destruction in Tennessee, those pictures we're looking at right now. Tornado warnings are in effect for that area right now as well. We'll update you on the latest from there.

Also he says he did it in the past, but now some new doping allegations against Yankee Alex Rodriguez and some other baseball stars. The man who wrote "The Mitchell Report" about doping in major league baseball former Maine Senator George Mitchell is going to join us right at the top the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT, some developing stories that are happening right now. First breaking news, severe weather in the south leaving a path of destruction, tornado warnings still in effect there, we're live on the ground tracking that storm for you straight ahead.

Also a bizarre story of a 6-year-old being held hostage right now in Alabama, the crisis is in its 15th hour. The child was taken after a gunman stormed a school bus, killed the bus driver, grabbed the kid and brought him to his underground bunker. We'll update you on what's happening there.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Countdown to the opening bell, markets reaching near record highs yesterday. The Dow just 200 points away. How are investors feeling today?

BERMAN: Doping in baseball, new allegation this is morning against a number of players including Alex Rodriguez, what will Major League Baseball do about it?

And a soldier's second chance, a successful transplant of two new arms on a soldier who was wounded on the battlefield. Two of the doctors behind this --