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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

North Korea Nuclear Test; Digging Out; Manhunt For Accused Cop Killer; Life After Bin Laden; State Of The Union Address Tonight; Buzzer Beater Bounces In; Blake Griffin Unleashes Acrobatic Dunk; Michael Vick Takes Pay Cut To Stay With Eagles; Smells Are "Gross" On Stranded Cruise Ship

Aired February 12, 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: Anna Coren in Seoul, Korea for us this morning. What can you tell us about this test?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, you would have to assume that North Korea is one step closer to developing a nuclear arsenal and becoming a nuclear state. It did this by certainly conducting this third nuclear test, which is says was a success.

It says that it -- it tested an atomic bomb that was more powerful, smaller, and lighter than previous ones tested, which certainly indicates that they are on the way to creating a -- a miniaturized nuclear war head that will put on a ballistic missile.

Now we know they have the technology to launch this missile. They launched a rocket last December, which then sent a satellite into orbit. This rocket has the capability of traveling within 10,000 kilometers. That is North Korea to Mainland USA.

And at the end of the day, Soledad, this is North Korea showing the United States that it is a force to be reckoned with. So it believes by having a nuclear arsenal, it has a nuclear deterrent. That it will then be able to keep its sworn enemy, the United States, at bay -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Anna Coren for us this morning. Thank you, Anna. John Berman has a look at some of the other stories making news this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. Thousands of people in the north east are still trapped in their homes this morning three days after the blizzard buried the north east.

While some cities are beginning return to normal, others are still struggling to dig out from more than three feet of snow. One of them is Hamden, Connecticut where many people still can't get out. George Howell spoke with one of these people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Peter Curtis waited at the front door. (on camera): I'm going to come over and see if I can talk to you. Not the easiest walk as you can imagine.

(voice-over): Watching curiously to see how deep the snow is that's kept him trapped in his home for days.

(on camera): So how long have you been stuck in here?

PETER CURTIS, HAMDEN RESIDENT: I went to the store Friday morning. You know, got all the stuff I needed. So I've been here since Friday.

HOWELL: I guess, I'm your first visitor if I can make it.

CURTIS: Good!

HOWELL (voice-over): A Vietnam veteran living here alone, Curtis says he isn't able to dig himself out of the snow like a lot of his friends. But he takes it all in stride.

CURTIS: Well, you know, what you want me to say is I'm -- you know, it's terrible. But I have books I'm reading and --

HOWELL (on camera): Catching up on reading.

CURTIS: Yes, of course. I got, you know, a book here, a book there.

HOWELL (voice-over): And patience is important according to Hamden's Mayor Scott Jackson. He says digging out from 40 inches of snow will take weeks.

SCOTT JACKSON, HAMDEN MAYOR: We have our 240 miles worth of road and as of right now, about 50 percent of them are impassable.

HOWELL: The city has called in extra crews to operate payloaders that scoop up the snow. Snow plows have worked round the clock to clear most major highways and you find people in neighborhoods doing their part.

JAVIER RODRIGUEZ, HAMDEN RESIDENT: I got my friend. He lives down the street. His street isn't plowed. So I owe him a couple, but that's about it.

HOWELL: And that's what Peter Curtis is counting on.

CURTIS: As far as I'm concerned, OK, I hope to get plowed out or get some boy scouts to come and shovel me out today.

HOWELL: Neighbors helping neighbors to get life in Hamden back to normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: So the bottom line, still a lot of snow out here. A good place for a snowball fight. The good news we're seeing temperatures above freezing, that's great because there's less black ice on the road. The bad news, though, John, there's more snow in the forecast to add to all the snow that they are trying to get rid of.

BERMAN: All right, George Howell in Hamden, Connecticut. I'm not getting in a snowball fight with you if you are holding one this big.

HOWELL: There's more than that.

BERMAN: Thanks a lot, George.

Other news now, while you were sleeping, hundreds of tips pouring into the Los Angeles Police Department in the manhunt for accused cop killer Christopher Dorner. Police are now offering a $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner's arrest. Dorner is accused of killing three people in a revenge plot targeting the LAPD. The search is now in its second week.

We're hearing for the first time from the SEAL Team Six member who claims to have fire the shots that killed Osama Bin Laden. In an interview with "Esquire" magazine, he claims he was essentially abandoned by the military after 16 years of service.

Phil Bronstein who landed the interview spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360": This Navy SEAL who's had this incredible career leaves with no pension, no health insurance.

PHIL BRONSTEIN, CONTRIBUTOR, "ESQUIRE": No health insurance certainly for himself and his family. And no protection, which is really one of the big issues, because it's entirely possible his name could come out, and all the SEAL command told this shooter was, we have a witness protection program that we could institute. It's not there yet. But if you want to drive a beer truck in Milwaukee, we can arrange that. You have to cut all your ties to the rest of your family and basically disappear yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Wow. That's a fascinating story.

BERMAN: You know, it is and it also speaks to how we take care of all of our veterans and service members, but there are some strange things to this story. I mean, most people who serve in the military, you have to be in 20 years to get the pension.

So the fact that he didn't get a pension at 16, not unusual and also available to him from Veterans Affairs is medical care. If you are an Iraq or war vet, you get five years of medical service. Apparently, he didn't know or doesn't know, but you would think now he does and could go get it.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right, we'll keep watching that too.

A little more than 13 hours before the president will address the joint sessions of Congress for his "State of the Union" address. Sources are telling CNN that the White House views the speech as kind of a part two to the president's tough progressive inauguration speech.

Sources also say he will pivot back to talking about the economy, talking about your money. Gene Sperling is the director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy. He is at the White House this morning. It's nice to have you with us, sir. Appreciate your time.

GENE SPERLING, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, thanks for having us this morning.

O'BRIEN: You bet. So jobs, jobs, jobs, is sort of what we've heard in terms of what to expect for the speech, but give me a more specific preview if you can.

SPERLING: Well, I think this president has always believed that a strong middle class, not only our goal for economic policy. It's also how we spark the engine of further economic growth. And so you are going to hear him talking about how we make and continue to make the United States the magnet for strong job creation.

For locating jobs that pay well that help families make a middle class living and that will focus on manufacturing, focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, small business, and very importantly, what we have to do to give our young people and current workers the skills they need to fit those jobs.

If that doesn't seem like anything terribly new, that's because that has been our guiding light since the first day in office. How do we strengthen the middle class?

O'BRIEN: If I run a clip of the sort of mash up of all that's been said in the three previous "State of the Union" addresses, that kind of covers that ground. Let's play a clip of that first before I ask you a question on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

It is time to finally slash that tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.

It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So he wasn't repeating himself in one previous "State of the Union" address, that's clips from, you know, the three previous "State of the Union" addresses. What's different this time around in that same messaging? Are we going to hear the same exact thing? SPERLING: Well, Soledad, this isn't about coming up with new fads like the frisbee or the hula hoop. It's about what are the ingredients each and every year for what makes us a magnet for the strongest jobs. I don't think the American people want us to lose our focus and attention.

Education, training, manufacturing, making sure that we are still the most innovative, entrepreneurial country, are the key things for our future, bringing down the deficit in a way that is balanced and fair, these are things that take time and they are things you want the president to focus on.

Let's remember, we've gone from losing 800,000 jobs a month to having seen our private sector create 6 million jobs in the private sector over the last 35 months. So things are getting better, they are not good enough, and he will keep pushing on the economic things that matter to middle class families that strengthen the middle class, that spark our economy --

O'BRIEN: What about "The sequester ?"

SPERLING: -- we should want a president that has that type of focus.

O'BRIEN: What about "The sequester ?"

SPERLING: On the sequester really three points. Number one, we've already cut the deficit by $2.5 trillion overwhelming amount of that is with spending cuts. The second point, the president will make clear that he supports further bipartisan progress. That he is willing to do tough entitlement reform, but it has to be done together with closing loopholes and tax reform that also lowers our deficit.

And three, that there really are two doors here. People can work with the president in a balanced plan. They can compromise, realize nobody gets 100 percent of all they want or they can take -- we think the other door which we hope they don't, which is what some Republicans have suggested.

Which is that all further debt reduction should be on middle class, on training and education that we can't find one single penny from loopholes or revenues from high income Americans that is an ideological position, that is what would lead to the sequester , which means just harsher across the board cuts in defense, education, and what for?

Simply to ensure that we don't have a single penny on revenues, the president is going to encourage Republicans to work with him on going through the other door, which is a balanced, bipartisan plan, which is what the American public would like to see to get our deficits down even lower as part of an overall growth in jobs plan.

O'BRIEN: Well, the good news is I have a couple of Republicans right next to me who can talk about that. Gene Sperling is the director of the National Economic Council. Thank you, sir. We appreciate your time.

Let's get right to Senator Ron Johnson, back us with, a Republican from Wisconsin. It's nice to have you with us.

SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's open it up to what he said in his three-point plan. The last one was the one about the two doors. It sounds like a version of my way or the highway. What do you think of what Gene Sperling was just saying?

JOHNSON: Well, it's, again, political demagoguery. You know, it's not that difficult to start creating jobs. You have to make America an attractive place for business investment, expansion, job creation. The way you do that is you make sure that your tax code is streamlined and you actually, you know, try and promote pro-growth tax reform.

We need to utilize America's energy resources. We need to reduce the regulatory burden. But the fact of the matter is, President Obama refuses to put a plan on the table. Talk about entitlement reform, listen, those programs are going broke if we don't do something.

Soledad, in CBO's latest baseline, they are projecting $9 trillion over the next ten years. Of that, $6 trillion is more payments going to Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries and we're taking the payroll tax, that's 70 percent of that added debt.

O'BRIEN: But you don't expect him to say this in the "State of the Union" address tonight.

JOHNSON: We need to see his plan.

O'BRIEN: Now there will be two GOP responses, right? I guess if you talk to Amy Kramer from the Tea Party. She would say there are two Tea Party responses. Why do you need two -- why do you need two GOP responses?

JOHNSON: I'm not sure. I wasn't part of that. I'm sure they will be really good responses.

REPRESENTATIVE JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: It's actually very unusual and I do think it shows a splinter within the Republican Party that you have Marco Rubio giving the official response and then Rand Paul giving a Tea Party response. That's very unusual.

REPRESENTATIVE RANDY FORBES (R), VIRGINIA: I think it's an American response. I mean, the bottom line is this, Americans are tired of speeches about jobs. They want to see the jobs. Look them in the eye and say are you worried about your job and the jobs of your children and neighbors and they say yes?

O'BRIEN: You have Rand Paul and then you also have Marco Rubio doing the official --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I would love to ask the two congressmen while we have them here. I mean, the line in the sand here on avoiding the sequester seems to be from the president revenue. So is more revenue required or out of the question as in any package to avoid the sequester? Will Republicans accept any alternatives to avoid the sequester that includes more revenue and can Democrats accept any alternatives to avoid the sequester that does not include more revenue?

CASTRO: Well, I guess, I'll answer first. We know that these cuts with the sequester would be very deep, both on the social program side and on the military side. The fact that North Korea just had this launch obviously is a very unsettling thing for our country right now. So I think that the American people want to see a balanced approach and that's why I think the president is pushing it.

BROWNSTEIN: Balanced approach meaning revenue and --

CASTRO: Absolutely.

BROWNSTEIN: Can Republicans accept more revenue as part of any deal?

FORBES: Let me say this point. First of all, sequester was a terrible idea. I voted against it. The president signed it into law. The reality is, as Ron mentioned, the president has not come forward with a single proposal to stop sequestration. The House did. We actually passed a budget that would stop it with what we thought was a balanced approach.

It's not just -- it's not just sequestration that we're looking at. We're looking at massive cuts that the administration has taken to defense before this, and we don't have the tolerance right now for a bump in the road, whether it's a budget problem or North Korea or anything else that happens. We have to get defense change.

JOHNSON: The other matter, we just got 6$650 billion in tax increases, that's that part of the balanced approach. What is the other 96 percent of his balanced plan to reduce the deficit?

CASTRO: Well, but Senator, there are also been deep cuts mentioned about $2.5 trillion. The fact is when the sequester was passed, the speaker of the House, John Boehner, said that he got 98 percent of everything he wanted out of that bill. This was never meant to be a strategy to cut the deficit, to cut debt, it was a very sloppy way to do things.

FORBES: The director of the Armed Services Committee says that sequestration is something the president wanted, the administration wanted to help raise taxes and use it as a weapon to do that. It was a terrible weapon to use.

BROWNSTEIN: To go back to the question then, from the point of view of House and Senate Republicans, are revenues done?

JOHNSON: He got that part of the balanced approach. And now I think it's fair for the American people to say, President Obama, what is the other part of the balanced approach, deficit reduction. What is your plan to save Social Security and Medicare for future generations? He has no plan. O'BRIEN: We can keep talking with the hour and 15 minutes we have left on the program. Keep talking about what we expect to hear from the president. Thank you, Senator. It's nice to have you. Appreciate it.

So when does a shot that falls six feet short of the hoop still count? May be the best shot you've ever seen. We're going to show that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. A high school basketball player could be changing the game when it comes to buzzer beaters because she sank what could be the best shot ever. Jared Greenberg joins us. He's got today's "Bleacher Report." Hi, Jared. Good morning.

JARED GREENBERG, "BLEACHER REPORT": Hi, Soledad. I want everybody before they go off to school to take some notes because we're going to show the best way for a high school student to win a popularity contest.

Anna Olson is going to show you. It's nothing like you have ever seen before. Late third quarter, needed a miracle, Olson of the bounce, Olson says you bet you. Just like she planned, right? That should lock up the prom queen vote. The high school junior from Colorado with the shot of the year, Lebron James, your turn.

How about Blake Griffin first. A little closer in, dunk of the night from the NBA, mid-air, Griffin switches hands and throws it down, and a seven-foot defender fouls him. That's not human. No one in the NBA has more dunks this season than Griffin and he is not in this weekend's slam dunk contest. Why? Can't figure that one out.

And the Clippers were 17 points better than the Sixers, but there is good news for Philadelphia. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Eagles is giving Michael Vick another chance to run the offense.

The polarizing figure has agreed to restructure his contract with the Eagles, potentially forfeiting millions of dollars if he can reinvent himself this fall, he can cash in when he becomes a free agent a year from now.

Well, more money news, imagine losing nearly $13 million on Christmas. Francisco Liriano did just that. While attempting to scare his children, yes, scare his children on Christmas of all days, Liriano broke his non-pitching arm on a door, now won't be able to make his Pittsburgh debut until likely May thus, potentially foregoing millions.

What is he doing, Francisco Liriano? Not a smart move at all. For more on that more on that and everything else happening in the world of sports, we encourage to you logon to bleacherreport.com.

O'BRIEN: My God that poor guy. That's a lot of money.

GREENBERG: Mama always said someone is going to lose an eye. She never talked about breaking an arm but --

O'BRIEN: Someone will break an arm and then they are going to be really, really sorry until they don't start until May. All right, Jared, thank you.

GREENBERG: And their wallet is a lot thinner too.

O'BRIEN: Exactly, yes. They're going to lose a lot of money. All right, Jared, appreciate it.

So it was supposed to be a fabulous and relaxing cruise, turned into a nightmare though. We'll talk to a man up next whose family is now trapped on the cruise ship that stuck in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico that's straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: So people fighting over limited food, smells apparently so disgusting that people are getting sick. These are some of the reports that we're hearing from this Carnival cruiseship "The Triumph" that is stranded at sea after a fire.

This morning, the ship is now drifting northward in the Gulf of Mexico. It was supposed to be towed to Mexico, but because of strong currents it's now headed toward Mobile, Alabama, the first of two tugboats arrived on Monday.

The second should arrive this morning and the "Triumph" is supposed to be in Mobile by Thursday so that's a fair distance away if you're stuck on a ship like that. We want to bring in Brent Nutt, his wife and sisters-in-law aboard that ship.

Thanks for talking with us. When was the last time you talked to your wife? And what did she tell you about some of the reasons she's experiencing while she's stuck on the ship?

BRENT NUTT, WIFE AND SISTER-IN-LAWS ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: Well, I spoke with her yesterday about 12:30 and she was pretty broken up I guess. I mean, the conditions are getting a little bit better. The ship is not leaning quite as bad as what it was but now I mean, they are able to use restroom facilities.

But she said the water pipes on the ship are breaking and that toilets are overflowing and there's feces all over the floor and just talk about the horrendous odor that's on the ship. She says that the odor is so bad that people are getting sick and they're throwing up everywhere and stuff so it's not too good.

O'BRIEN: My goodness. So was she afraid when -- let me ask you, when the ship isn't tilting as much as it had been, that has to be terrifying. In addition to all of those things breaking down they were leaning over? Was she fearful it might just topple?

NUTT: Yes, whenever she first called me on Sunday evening about 6:30, she was crying and all she could say is that she did not want to die. She said that the ship was leaning pretty bad over to the side and that's all she could think about was they were all going to die.

O'BRIEN: I know there's no air conditioning as well. So where are they all sleeping? Are they still in the rooms? Are they out on the deck? How is that working and are they feeding them?

NUTT: Well, they're sleeping kind of on the decks. They're sleeping out on their balconies and all with blankets and stuff trying to make tents and all and everything, just trying to get some air. They said if you're inside of the ship the odor is really, really bad so a lot of people are staying out on the decks and sleeping out on the decks.

And as far as food, well, they've been bringing in, they fed -- Carnival cruise ships have been bringing food and they're not rationalizing the food and it's first come first serve. The first person in line can eat all the food he wants to and the last person gets whatever is left over.

And my wife, she only got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bottle of water within like a day and a half and I mean, that's not very good details. I mean, Carnival says that they're getting fed and all and everything, but it's very, very minimal. It's just not right.

O'BRIEN: My goodness, it sounds terrible. Trent, thank you for talking with us. Our best to you and your wife and sisters-in-law who are -- I know they're on a girls' trip, supposed to be a fun trip for them.

Supposedly by Thursday they come back to land, we'd like to talk to you again and continue to follow this as it unfolds for you to see just what Carnival will do for you at the end of the day. Trent, thanks for talking with us. We appreciate it. We have to take a short break.

Still ahead, when the president delivers his "State of the Union" address tonight, will it show bipartisan promise or will it be an attack on the right? We're going to talk with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. He gave the GOP response remember back in 2010.

And then happening overnight, another North Korea nuclear test and a big threat made to the United States. We'll share that with you ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, a new danger overnight, North Korea launching a third nuclear test and says it's because the U.S. is hostile. We know now just how big that test was, but there are some threats of even stronger action ahead.

In just about 13 hours, the president is going to speak to the nation. It's his "State of the Union" address --