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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Violent Weather Threat; Alabama Child Hostage Drama; Buzz Builds on Wall Street; Report: Records Show A-Rod Doping; Iraq War Vet Gets Rare Transplant

Aired January 30, 2013 - 08:00   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: 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?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": 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 wounded on the battlefield. Two of the doctors behind this miraculous surgery join us live.

O'BRIEN: It is Wednesday, January 30th and STARTING POINT begins right now.

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

O'BRIEN: All right. Everybody, welcome back.

We start with breaking news -- line of violent thunderstorms tearing through the South. People are being warned literally to take cover. New pictures of the widespread damage. This is Tennessee that you're looking at -- Nashville, Tennessee, a tractor trailer on the side. Roofs have been ripped off of homes.

We want to get right to the phone with Chief Charles Shannon. He's director of Nashville Emergency Management.

Thanks for talking with us, Chief. I'm sure you're very, very busy. Tell me what the damage is like where you are.

It looks like we're having some audio problems with the chief.

Chief, are you there? Can you hear me?

All right. We're updating the story. We're going to go to Indra first. Indra is with us, updating on what's happening following these storms as well.

Indra, give us a sense of where the chief is, which is in Nashville. They've had some of the worst damage, and we've got some pictures from there. Can you tell me about what they're experiencing?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Right around early this morning, right around 3:00 or 4:00 this morning, we did have bulk of the severe weather right around Memphis. Most of that has quieted down but in the last few minutes the activity really has started to pick up. We're talking about the damage out towards Memphis.

Also in Indiana. Right around Greene County, Indiana, this morning, we now have reports of 15 homes damaged in that area. You can tell, this is a 1,600-mile stretch of severe weather. We're gradually starting to see things pick up once again.

I want to take you a little bit closer and show you some of the areas that are now continuing to see some tornado warnings. You can start to see now a tornado warning developing heading northeast towards Rockwood.

Also, I want to take you up towards Kentucky now, just east of Lexington here. We do not currently have tornado warnings but we still have the severe thunderstorm warnings. I can tell you, just going to be a few minutes before one of these quickly start to see some rotation and we have another tornado warning issued. And these are moving fast, we're talking 45, even 70 miles per hour. So, you're not going to have much time once you get the report there.

Also wanted to look out, towards Birmingham, you can see severe thunderstorm warnings there. But now, take a look at what's happening. We're seeing this line of storms moving to the east. So, now, first thunderstorm or severe thunderstorm warning headed towards Atlanta.

So we really are seeing things here develop quite quickly and this is going to be the story as we go throughout the day today. We're going to warm up as we go throughout the afternoon. We're going to see a lot more instability out there, and we're going to see this line of storms just stay ahead of that cold front pushing off to the east.

Now, as far as where we'll be looking at through the evening hours, what we're talking about this line of storms still affecting us all the way from the mid-Atlantic, down to the Southeast areas overnight tonight.

O'BRIEN: All right. Indra, thanks for that. Let's get right back to Chief Charles Shannon. I think we fixed our audio problems. He's with Nashville Emergency Management as we mentioned.

Chief, give me a sense -- we just heard -- looked at sort of where these storms are going and how fast they're moving. What does it look like where you are?

CHIEF CHARLES SHANNON, NASHVILLE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (via telephone): Well, actually, what we have now is rain left over from the storms that we had last night, actually this morning between 2:00 and 4:00. There were some gusts of winds that actually didn't reach the 120 mark measurement.

We had one fatality here in Nashville where a tree actually did fall into a house, a makeshift house, with the person that was killed. What we're seeing now -- we're just now getting into daybreak. We have people out looking to see how much damage actually occurred in Nashville. We do know we've had a lot of trees down, electric lines down and some roofs have been blown off.

O'BRIEN: All right. We'll keep checking with you throughout the morning. As daybreak comes, we'll get a better sense of the damage there in Nashville. Chief Charles Shannon with the Nashville Emergency Management -- thank you, sir. Appreciate your time.

Other big story we're following this morning is -- 15 hours and counting, a hostage standoff in Alabama involving a suspected gunman and a 6-year-old boy. So, it started yesterday afternoon. The man boarded a school bus, shot the driver, killed the driver, grabbed a 6- year-old boy, took him hostage.

Police say the suspect took that boy to an underground bunker that the man had been building for years.

I want to get right to reporter Josh Rultenberg. He's with our affiliate WDHN. He's live on the phone from Midland City.

So, Josh, what's the latest? We spoke to you about an hour ago. Have there been any developments on this hostage standoff?

JOSH RULTENBERG, WDHN REPORTER (via telephone): Yes, actually, as we speak right now, SWAT has been walking up the hill from the highway, going towards the bunker. They're speaking with other police officials right next to the bunker.

I don't know if they're trying to plan an attack to try and get the boy out, or what. But I do know right now as we reported last hour that Jimmy Lee Dykes still has the little 6-year-old boy inside the bunker on his property. And right now, it all stems from the alleged bus attack that happened 4:00 Central Time yesterday afternoon.

O'BRIEN: All right. Obviously, as we talked about earlier, it is unclear if there's any connection between the alleged shooter and the 6-year-old boy, if they're related in any way, and there are reports that that little boy is doing fine. That he's been fed and I guess gotten some medicine as well. But beyond that it's unclear.

What a bizarre story. We'll keep watching that one as well.

All right. We're watching Wall Street, too, where we could hit an all-time high today. Stocks closed high higher, where the Dow settling 50 points away from the 14,000 mark, 200 points shy of an all-time high. S&P 500 closed at 1,508 yesterday, 60 points from a record high.

Christine has got a look at that for us. Good morning, Christine.

ROMANS: Good morning. Well, you know, stocks have been rising for five years. It's been a five-year bull market and just now, people are starting to get convinced, I guess, because you see lots and lots of money coming into the market, very, very close to all-time highs. The Dow is within 210 points of all-time highs.

Why? What is happening here? A couple of things here, the Fed has been stimulating the economy for many, many months. We're going to get the results of a Fed meeting today. We'll likely hear again that the Fed will continue to do so.

Corporate profits -- it's the earning season, Soledad, and companies are reporting they're still making money. They might not be hiring but they're making money. And don't forget, that's what the Dow, the S&P and the NASDAQ measure. They measure how well companies are doing and how investors and shareholders are being rewarded.

The economy is healing -- slowly healing. At the same time, investors are starting to come back. And one of the reasons they're coming back is because, something, a tangible thing they can feel, not the jobs market, their house is starting to improve.

I want to show you home sales and home prices. Yesterday, we saw that home prices in November rose 5.5 percent compared with a year ago.

Look at that chart -- Soledad, I have not been able to show a chart like that for years. That's six months in a row of rising home prices, home prices expected to continue to rise this year.

Now, I told that the bull is old, long in the tooth, but old bulls can still run. And a lot of people who watch the market say that's why more people are coming in, they think there's still more to go for stocks -- Soledad.

ROAMNS: Charts like that I can see why. That's a nice looking chart.

All right. Christine, thank you.

We want to introduce our morning team: Congressman Mary Bono Mack is with us. She's former representative for the state of California -- with little cast on your wrist. What happened?

FMR. REP. MARY BONO MACK (R), CALIFORNIA: A little snowboarding accident.

O'BRIEN: Look at you, snowboard. Good for you. But sorry about the arm.

BONO MACK: Top of the hill, it wasn't, it was on the bottom on the ice.

O'BRIEN: On the mend.

Roland Martin is with us, CNN political analyst.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm a brother, I stay on land.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Cameron Russell with us as well. Nice to have you all with us.

We're talking about the story of Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez once again facing allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

"Miami New Times" has a report claiming that Rodriguez got human growth hormone and some other substances that are from an anti-aging clinic in Miami, which is called Biogenesis. It's now closed. Several other big players are also named in that report.

And you're looking at the guy -- that's Anthony Bosch, apparently run the clinic, reportedly kept sloppy records. CNN has not been able to reach Mr. Bosch for a comment. DEA would not comment on whether Mr. Bosch or Biogenesis are being investigated. But there are lots of implications.

We want to talk to former Senator George Mitchell. He authored a famous report on doping in baseball in 2007.

And we talked about that at the time. It's nice to have with you us this morning.

FMR. SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL (D), MAINE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: So, what do you make of the report in this newspaper? It has really shocking and damning allegations.

MITCHELL: Well, of course, the first thing that must be said is that the report has not been authenticated. It's very dramatic. If you read it, it raises questions as to why the person who allegedly authored it would write this kind of stuff in a diary, because it not only implicates the players, of course, it implicates him.

O'BRIEN: And used real names apparently from what we know about these diaries, I guess, the journals, that have been kept. There is strangeness about that, I'll admit.

MITCHELL: The second point is several of the players whose names I mentioned have previously been implicated, and after some periods of denial have admitted that they used them. With Rodriguez, he has already admitted that he used performance-enhancing drugs, but in a prior period in his career and has denied it at this time. So that remains to be seen. The next point is that as I said at the time we spoke, when I issued my report just over four years ago, there's a constant battle going on. You have a large illicit industry of people engaged in making these drugs for profit and the sports industry trying to catch up with them.

First, it was steroids. A test was devised to detect steroids. There was a shift then to human growth hormone. Tests are now deployed with human growth hormones. So, these people go to others.

O'BRIEN: What does that say then? I mean, your report was a sweeping recommendations and changes that should take place and now, you know, if in fact this report turns out to be true, it won't be that these players were caught, if they're eventually caught, if it turns out to be true, they're not going to be caught by a test. They're going to be caught because some employee handed over records, details and a diary.

MITCHELL: The very first recommendation in my report, which was adopted by Major League Baseball, was that they create a department of investigation to investigate allegations unrelated to test results. Prior to that, very few were ever suspended based on evidence of the drug testing reports, which left a huge gaping hole.

To their credit, Major League Baseball accepted all of my recommendations and including that one, they now have a very aggressive department of investigations. The problem they face is they're a private organization. They don't have the power of government to compel testimony. And so, if a person won't speak to them or won't give them records voluntarily, it takes a lot of sort of hard work to get to building a case sometimes impossible, but they're obviously involved in working on this, have been for some time.

O'BRIEN: Roland, you want to jump in?

MARTIN: Senator, Major League Baseball rules are clear, that is the player can be suspended if they actually test positive in terms of a number of a number of games' suspension. The issue here though is that even if the owner come -- first of all, they find this guy, even if one of the players says, absolutely, I did do this, what can Major League Baseball really do outside of being not tested to penalize them?

MITCHELL: I think that there have been -- well, first, I know there have been suspensions unrelated.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL: That's right. You can be suspended. And one of the outcomes of the creation of this department of investigation was to establish a basis and a process for suspensions on evidence that is unrelated to a drug test. I think that would happen if players came forward and said that.

That's one of the tensions involved. There's a huge financial incentive for the players. O'BRIEN: Of course, the contracts are massive.

MARTIN: This is for all the teams. Let's be honest --

MITCHELL: All sides. My report was very clear that everyone involved has had some role in permitting this to develop. To its credit, Major League Baseball is the only major professional sport in our country that authorized a completely independent investigation into its drug testing practices and policies.

O'BRIEN: Should Congress take it up again? I mean, is this another time to convene a report and figure out the next steps? Because clearly as you say, the upside of cheating is so high that it's sort of worth the risk, right?

MITCHELL: I don't think it's likely to be taken up at this point. I think what will happen is that people will wait and see what develops from this. Are these records authenticated? Can these people be found? Will there be a way to gain compelling testimony and documents so that they can be independently verified the validity of these allegations?

Now, many of these players have denied them. Of course, the difficulty from the public standpoint is almost everyone in the past about whom allegations have made has denied it.

O'BRIEN: Like the denial before they admit it. Sit down with someone and admit it, it's crazy.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: False accusations.

O'BRIEN: Senator George Mitchell, so nice to have you back, sir. I appreciate it. Interesting to see how this is going to go.

We want to get right back to our other top story this morning -- the violent line of thunderstorms on a tear through the South. We've heard of a new tornado warning for Atlanta, people all over the region are being warned to take cover.

Let's get to WXIN reporter Michael Henrich. He's in Salisbury, Indiana. Michael, good morning.

MICHAEL HENRICH, WXIN REPORTER: Hey. Good morning, Soledad. We're in Greene County, Indiana, and there is a lot of damage. The National Weather Service is going to have to check out, because they want to figure out if straight line winds did this or if there was a possible tornado touchdown here. There is debris spread all the way out to the road. There are hundreds without power in this part of Indiana.

And I want to show you this. This is unbelievable how far this damage was sprayed across this family's yard. Part of their shed lifted and sprayed 40 to 50 yards away if not more, including heavy machinery. You can see the riding lawnmower, their four-wheeler, and other pieces, including some smaller things like shotgun shells spread all across the yard here. So, we do want to be careful.

More than a dozen houses, and luckily nobody was injured, Soledad, so we are happy to finish on that note.

O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness. All right. Michael, thanks very much for following that for us. We appreciate the update.

Coming up next, the amazing story of a soldier who gets a second chance. We're going to talk to the doctors who transplanted two new arms on the veteran who lost four limbs serving in Iraq.

We're back in just a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. An amazing story we were telling you about yesterday, a veteran who lost both arms and both legs undergoing a double arm transplant. The operation took 13 hours. Brendan Marrocco is now just one of seven people in the entire country who's successfully undergone the surgery.

He spoke about it yesterday saying that his arms, his brand new arms, are already part of his body.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENDAN MARROCCO, DOUBLE ARM TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: I don't even realize it anymore. I've been using the arms or the hands to text and use my computer and scratch my face and do my hair. And it's just -- they've truly become a part of my everyday life in the last six weeks and that's the way we want it. So, it's good that it's starting early.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Two of the doctors from Johns Hopkins who were involved join us this morning, Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee is the chief of plastic surgery. He was the lead surgeon. And Dr. Gerald Brandacher is the scientific director of the composite tissue allotransplantation program. He's with us as well. Nice to have you both.

I was stunned to hear Brendan say that in six weeks of the surgery, he's able to text, he's doing his hair. I mean, have you been surprised by the results or is this exactly what you expected with this remarkable transplantation?

DR. W.P. ANDREW LEE, CHIEF OF PLASTIC SURGERY, JOHNS HOPKINS: Well, Brendan has done extremely well, and we're very happy with his progress. He is a very determined person. There's no obstacle for him. So, I guess, we're really not surprised. He's already using cell phones and computers with his new arms. However, we expect much greater functions in the future, that's nerves regenerate down the arms.

BERMAN: What is the maximum range of motion you do expect? Because I was as shocked as Soledad. I can't believe he's already texting six weeks after.

LEE: Well, he probably texted even before that.

(LAUGHTER)

LEE: Well, we expect his elbow joint motion to be quite normal, but as the nerves regenerate down the arms, he will gradually regain wrist and eventually finger motion. It's hard to predict exactly how much motion. A lot of that depends on the amount of therapy he engages in, but again, he is a hard worker and he's optimistic. So, we are encouraged by his progress so far, and we expect a lot in the future from his arms.

MARTIN: When we hear about livers and kidneys and hearts, we always hear about finding a match. So, how do you determine what's a match for arms?

LEE: Well, it's even more stringent than an organ because, obviously, the tissue types and blood types need to match, but in addition, some of the physical characteristics of arms need to match such as the size and the skin color tone. They need to be close enough to the recipient.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Brandacher, let me ask you a question about the bone marrow infusion that you also did on Brendan. Why was that necessary and why is it too risky to do surgery for his legs since he's clearly done so well with the arms?

DR. GERALD BRANDACHER, SCIENTIFIC DIR., RECONSTRUCTIVE TRANSPLANT PROGRAM: Well, the requirement for high dose multidrug immunosupression and all its related side effects have been really hampered, broader application of hand and arm transplants for many years.

However, this new protocol that was designed by our group using donor bone marrow now allows us for the first time to perform this type of transplants with very low levels of anti-rejection medicine. Actually, the donor bone marrow creates a fine balance between immune cells from the donor and the recipient that can be maintained and allow for graft survival with minimal amounts of anti-rejection medication.

O'BRIEN: Wow! Congratulations to both of you, Dr. Lee and Dr. Brandacher. Thanks for talking with us about it. What an amazing thing. And Brendan, he's so young --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: He does look so young and we really hope that that will help as he moves forward, right? He's like texting. I texted before, I'm going to text again.

MARTIN: Arm transplant. Wow!

MACK: Great story. And I think it lifts all of our hearts to see this recovery and to see one of our young warriors do so well and to have the attitude he has.

O'BRIEN: He was amazing when he was speaking about it yesterday.

MARTIN: Well, give also props to those docs.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: That's a major thing. You hear about a heart and kidney, but you're talking about two arms?

CAMERON RUSSELL, MODEL: Yes. They didn't stay at a holiday inn express last night.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I don't think so, I don't think so.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I love that.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, could this be the answer to BlackBerry's problems? The new BlackBerry 10 will be unveil today. We'll have an early look at the features. That's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. A look at some of the stories that are trending this morning. The "Entourage" gang coming back for a movie. Deadline.com reports that Warner Brothers has given the green light to a big screen version of the show that ran for eight seasons on HBO.

The studio is said to be putting deals in place right now for the ensemble cast. No date on the start of production but from the whooping here is --

MARTIN: I loved that show. All seasons, loved "Entourage."

O'BRIEN: Yes. That's going to be good.

Also, Denver's mayor showing off his mile high moves. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: That mayor --

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: That is great. O'BRIEN: -- channeling his -- doing the squirrel dance the linebacker has done for years as part of -- the final part of his bet made with the mayor of Baltimore over --

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSELL: Mayor seemed to make more bets --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- or something --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: He owned that. You know --

O'BRIEN: He was good. Yes. He's --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Kind of stealing a page from Cory Booker's book, right? You know, the idea of like do a little video, movie, acted out.

MARTIN: I don't know Corey got that --

O'BRIEN: Well --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I like this. Also, this morning, we continue to follow the breaking news about severe weather, leaving a path of destruction. Tornado warnings we're talking about right. We're going to bring you the very latest on that straight ahead. You can take a look at some of these pictures. This is Nashville, Tennessee.

We know that the storms have now move passed there. They're dealing with the rain now. We're going to check in on your weather update to see where these storms are moving. That's ahead. We're back in a moment.

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We start with breaking news this morning. Violent thunderstorms turning deadly, literally, tearing across the south moving quickly east. Some new pictures into CNN of the widespread damage that's taken place in Tennessee, Nashville. Now, there's a tornado warning for the Atlanta Metro area.

Let's get right to meteorologist, Indra Petersons. She's tracking the storm for us. Good morning, Indra.

PETERSONS: Good morning once again. And we're showing you how quickly these things can develop where just a few moments ago, we just had a severe thunderstorm warning just southwest of Atlanta, and now, once again, we do have a thunderstorm or tornado warning in the area.

Now, this is going to be until nine o'clock in the morning. And once I take you out wide (INAUDIBLE) northern portions of Atlanta continue to have tornado watches in effect all the way through 4:00 p.m. this evening. So, that will continue to be the story today as we go through the afternoon.

We're going to see the severe line of storms pushing through. We also have again a more tornado watches and warning boxes out there. Severe thunderstorm watches as we continue to push off to the east today. And we're going to follow this line of storms all the way through the overnight hours tonight. In fact, we're going to be talking about a 1,600 miles of severe weather. Take a look now right near (INAUDIBLE) once again.

We're seeing another severe warning box. We also have that tornado warning box in the area as well. Remember, these storms are going anywhere from 45 to even 70 miles per hour. Things are quickly developing. We're going to heat up as we go through the afternoon. You're not going to have much time to take cover.

So, definitely, heed these warnings, please. There's Atlanta storms we've been talking about it. Notice now from (ph) Toronto all the way down towards Louisiana. It will continue to follow the cold front. It will stay ahead of this cold front, and the severe weather will develop all the way through evening hours, mid Atlantic straight down to the southeast.

O'BRIEN: Well, 1,600 miles. Indra, thanks for that update. Appreciate it.

John Berman's got a look at some of the other stories makings news.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Like, wait a minute, that's Congressman Mack. Hang on.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: I'm sure that I'm very stealthy. Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: The story is close to former Arizona congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, says she will deliver an opening statement at today's Senate judiciary hearing on gun violence. Long-time NRA executive vice president, Wayne Lapierre, will also appear today's hearing. The NRA tells CNN that the group has added half a million new mebers since the school shooting's last month in Newtown, Connecticut.

And tomorrow night, be sure to join Anderson Cooper for "GUNS UNDER FIRE". This is an "AC 360" townhall. That's Thursday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. It should be special.