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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Carnival Triumph Arrives Today; Warren Buffett Buys Heinz; Sheriff: Didn't "Intentionally" Set Fire

Aired February 14, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Kim McKerreghan and Mary Poret are with us this morning. Kim's daughter Ali and Mary's daughter Rebecca are close friends. They are both on board the ship with their dads, on board the Carnival "Triumph" and they are waiting there at the port for their daughters.

Ladies, it's nice to see you. I know it's been a rough go for you. Tell me a little bit if you start for me, Mary, the last time you spoke to your daughter, what did she have to say?

MARY PORET, 12-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER ABOARD CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: She was very scared, she called me at work, I pulled my phone into my office and she was very scared, hysterically crying and very, very upset. "Mommy I'm so scared. Mommy, I don't know what to do. Mommy, I don't know what's going to happen."

So while I'm trying to calm her down I'm upset myself, I'm trying to calm her down she says to me that, "Mommy, I'm so scared I won't ever get to se you again." And hearing that from your daughter, hearing that from any child, me hearing that from my 12-year-old daughter, and there's nothing I can do. There's nothing I can do to see to it that she's going to be OK.

O'BRIEN: I cannot imagine.

PORET: It's horrible.

O'BRIEN: Got to be terrible.

So, Kim --

PORET: I have not talked to her since.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness.

KIM MCKERREGHAN, 10-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER ABOARD CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: I'm having an emotional day today so it's kind of rough today.

O'BRIEN: I bet it's rough. When was the last time --

MCKERREGHAN: It is.

O'BRIEN: -- you talked to your daughter? Did you get a chance to talk to her? How is she doing? MCKERREGHAN: The last time I talked to her was at the same time Rebecca called her mom, about 1:30 on Monday and I could hear Rebecca talking to her mom, you know, just crying and I have my daughter just crying, you know, "Mom, please just come get me, I want to come home, just come get me mom. It's so hot. I so want to go home, come get me, come see me."

That devastating, you know, gut-wrenching cry, you know, you want to get to your daughter.

O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness.

MCKERREGHAN: We're just paralyzed. We cannot do anything. We can't get out there and rescue her. We're waiting and we're at the discretion of when they come in and the weather and everybody who is trying to help.

I'm so thankful everybody who is trying to bring them in, you know? I just -- we want them back. We want them home today.

O'BRIEN: My goodness.

MCKERREGHAN: On land. It's terrible.

O'BRIEN: So, we're getting word is should be and, of course, as you know these things change a lot, but sometime around 7:30, maybe 8:00 this evening is when that ship will be coming into port.

Here's what Carnival cruise line's president, Gerry Cahill, said when he held a press conference and basically had an apology. Let me play that for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERRY CAHILL, PRESIDENT & CEO, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: I think it's very important that I apologize to our guests and to their families that have been affected by this very difficult situation. At Carnival, our promise to our guests is to provide a great vacation experience and we try very hard to do that all the time. So, obviously, in this particular case, we did not deliver on that promise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Yes, that might be the understatement of the year.

What they've been offering from what we know is a $500 per person compensation, a full refund of the cruise and related travel, a bus ride or chartered flight out of there, and a 15 percent to 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

When you hear that apology and sort of the list of things that they're offering for compensation, what's your reaction?

PORET: I'm just shaking my head.

O'BRIEN: Why?

PORET: I cannot imagine that, the horror they have had to deal with, with no food, lines to go to the bathroom, seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What is the emotional, what's the emotional cost? You can't just put on that.

What is my 12-year-old daughter seeing? What is she seeing? I don't understand.

(INAUDIBLE)

O'BRIEN: As you're describing that, ladies, Lou is on our panel this morning saying he's curious to know if you think your daughters are going to need counseling and who would underwrite that?

As you describe some of the terrible things for so long. What are you going to do with your daughters? What's your first thing and will you try to get them someone to talk to about all this?

MCKERREGHAN: Well, that's correct. We don't know what they've seen. We don't know if they're all line dancing on top of the deck, we don't know what they're watching, we don't know if they're laughing, we don't know if they're huddled up in a corner crying and wanting -- I know they're wanting to get off that boat.

We have no communication. That's what's lacking here. We're going to speak to our daughters, then we're going to see their demeanor, and we're going to just let them talk it out. I'm sure if they've seen the fighting or what they're describing the conditions on that boat, they're going to need somebody to talk to. They're going to need a professional. And that's just what's so scary is this can scar them --

PORET: Forever.

MCKERREGHAN: -- because we don't know what they've seen, we have no communication.

LOU PALUMBRO, RETIRED NASSAU COUNTY, NEW YORK POLICE OFFICER: What is the supervision with them, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: We're going to talk a little bit more about that -- yes, the girls I should mention and we've talked about this before, their dads are with them. Their dads are close friends so their dads are with them, while their moms are waiting for that ship to steam in.

Kim and Mary, thank you for talking with us this morning. We certainly appreciate it. Good luck, you're breaking my heart, I got to tell you. I'm sure it's going to be an emotional day for you.

MCKERREGHAN: Thank you.

PORET: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. You know, cruise ships, geez, they lift all of those things. What are the implications for this industry? I mean, what they're describing is so disgusting and so, you know --

MARK ORWOLL, INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, TRAVEL + LEISURE: This is probably the worst example, but this is not the first time that we've heard of a cruise ship having problems out at sea.

O'BRIEN: And Carnival itself.

ORWOLL: And Carnival itself.

Actually, from an industry point of view, what I find really telling is the response from Carnival. They really are getting out there in front of the cameras and saying, we're sorry. They're saying, we're giving full refund. We're giving this extra -- whether it's enough or not is another matter, but in years past, we've seen airlines and cruise lines saying, hey, it's not our fault.

O'BRIEN: You're on your own.

ORWOLL: They're not doing that now. They're getting out there and saying, we're sorry.

O'BRIEN: We're going to continue to talk about this with Victor Blackwell. He's on a boat in Mobile Bay and, of course, that is where that ship will be steaming in, and you know I guess it looks like about 11 or 12 hours or so. What are you seeing now, Victor?

(INAUDIBLE)

O'BRIEN: We're obviously having some technical problems with his connection, as is he in Mobile Bay on a boat, and we're waiting for the ship to come in exactly that direction, but as we've been told it will be sometime around 7:30 this evening, 8:00 this evening as well.

Sandra Endo is in a helicopter flying above all of this, above the mouth of Mobile Bay. Sandra, what do you see from where you are? We're told they're 50 miles away from coming into port.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Soledad. They're actually farther out than anticipated at this hour. We're flying just south of the mouth of Mobile Bay, and we were expecting to see the ship in about an hour or so. But again they're delayed.

You have to keep in mind they are moving at only eight knots which is basically nine miles per hour. It's a very tough job they have, four tugboats basically escorting this ship towards this area.

And as you mentioned, this is going to take all day. They're not expected to arrive here until later this evening.

According to an official briefed on the plan right now, this ship is 58 nautical miles from the port which again is farther out than anticipated this morning, but we're hovering over the mouth of Mobile Bay right now, we're expecting to get the first glimpse as Carnival's Triumph makes its way towards this area, and we are just waiting to see the conditions on board that ship, the passengers who have reportedly been holed up on the upper deck and we are waiting to see how those passengers are holding up on that ship, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Sandra Endo, we're waiting to see it as well. Thank you for the update.

Let's get right to John Berman for a look at some other stories making news today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Thank you so much, Soledad. We are getting to hear from some of the victims who survived close encounters with fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner in the hours before he was apparently killed.

It looks like Dorner was hiding for days in an unoccupied resort condo just steps from a police outpost that was set up to catch him. The unit belonged to Karen and Jim Reynolds. They walked in on Dorner and wound up bound and gagged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM REYNOLDS, TAKEN HOSTAGE BY DORNER: When he jumped out and hollered, "Stay calm," Karen screamed and turned and started running and he ran after her. He caught her about the door.

KAREN REYNOLDS, TAKEN HOSTAGE BY DORNER: On the staircase.

J. REYNOLDS: On the staircase. He brought her back.

REPORTER: It sounds like he tried to calm you down.

J. REYNOLDS: He did.

K. REYNOLDS: Yes, he did. He was talking to us --

J. REYNOLDS: You could see that big gun sticking up there.

K. REYNOLDS: Yes. He had his gun drawn the whole time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It is so nice to see them in good spirits after what they went through.

Rick Heltebrake also came face-to-face with Dorner and the end of his gun. Listen to him describe being carjacked by the rogue ex-cop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK HELTBRAKE, CARJACKED BY DORNER: Well, I felt in danger, you know, as far as knowing what his history was. And that I had a gun pointed at my head. However, he said he didn't want to hurt me and I believed him. And he wanted me to get out of my truck and walk up the road with my dog and that's what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It is almost certain Dorner died in a burning cabin Tuesday after a shoot-out with police. It could be days before the charred human remains found inside the cabin are positively identified.

I want to update you on a breaking news story, a deadly shooting at the home of South African track star Oscar Pistorius. His girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp shot multiple times and killed.

We just received this picture of Pistorius leaving the police station. I think we have it for you. We saw him a short ago. There he is covered by a gray windbreaker.

A spokesperson for Pistorius says he is assisting the police with the investigation. They have no further comment at this time. Now, police not yet confirming that the 26-year-old suspect they've charged with murder is Pistorius, but we do know that Pistorius and his girlfriend were the only two people at home at the time of the shooting and police say there is only one suspect in the case.

Pistorius is 26 years old. We've also learned there were previous incidents of domestic nature at that home.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid trying to break up the filibuster, the threat of one at least, that's holding up Chuck Hagel's nomination to run the Pentagon. He is scheduled to vote tomorrow to end the debate. Democrats need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Republican Senator Rand Paul told Erin Burnett he takes this is appropriate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If they're not going to give us the information, the only way to get the information is to threaten to hold them to a higher standard of 60 votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, this is fairly unprecedented, a filibuster on a defense nominee, but Hagel's nomination is scheduled for a vote tomorrow. He made it out of the Armed Services Committee on a party line vote.

This just in to CNN: Warren Buffett is getting into the ketchup business apparently. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, along with the investment firm 3G Capital, they are buying the ketchup maker for the low, low price of $28 billion. A lot of ketchup right there. It's a big business deal.

Here in New York, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg set to unveil his latest green initiative, a war now on plastic foam. Bloomberg will propose a city-wide ban on plastic foam food packaging, which takes forever to decompose in landfills. He's going to do this in his final state of the city speech. This is part of an effort to increase the city's recycling rate. The mayor has already conquered Trans fats and he's fighting against super-sized sodas.

O'BRIEN: No big shock on that one.

PALUMBRO: Especially those in the Styrofoam cups.

BERMAN: That's a twofer. You're in big trouble in New York if you do that.

O'BRIEN: Right. Lots of questions surrounding how the police handled the final standoff with Christopher Dorner. Did they try to burn him out? Former Los Angeles police chief and commissioner of the NYPD, Bill Bratton, is going to join us, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. This morning, there are some lingering questions about just what happened at that cabin in the woods where we believe fugitive Christopher Dorner died. The sheriff yesterday tried to answer at least one of those questions: Did they try to burn Dorner out?

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF JOHN MCMAHON, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: I can tell you that it was not on purpose. We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Don't know if the remains, in fact, that were found in that cabin are Dorner's. We don't know exactly how Dorner managed to live almost across the street from the police command post from what appears at least now to be several days.

I want to get to William Bratton. He's the former Los Angeles police chief, former commissioner of the NYPD. It's so nice to have you with us, sir.

WILLIAM BRATTON, FORMER LOS ANGELES POLICE CHIEF: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: So many questions that have gone unanswered in this. What are the things that you think need to be sort of dug into at this point?

BRATTON: Well, eventually, the department is going to, as they move the investigation forward and have some answers on their own, the sheriff's department will certainly have to speak to the extent of their search, describe what they did, the fact that he appears to have been in that area throughout the whole time. So there's answers that are going to be sought certainly by the media and by the public.

O'BRIEN: One of the points on that, if we can start with that, one first is the cabin seemed to be literally across the road from the command center. And over the weekend, they sort of, I guess, scaled down from 200 to about 25 the number of people who were, you know, in the middle of this frantic search, and that surprised me. Of course, it ended up that that's where he was and then they scaled back up again. But can you explain what would go into that thinking? And it wasn't three weeks in, four weeks in to the search. It was in the early days.

BRATTON: Well, again, it goes in to the extent of the search. If they felt, and obviously they did, that they had -- none of the extensive search comprehensively -- that they were now in a position not having found him. No sightings of him over period of days to scale back, and they were evidently in that scaling down operation.

The cabin, that's a misnomer -- when you think of cabin, you're thinking a log cabin.

O'BRIEN: Right, right. It's a house.

BRATTON: -- where he finally ended up. It was a house. And the first place where it was located was a condominium development, which you showed earlier, and your reporter also reported, that he did not have a line of sight from his particular unit through the command post. A lot has been made of the fact the command post was so close, but he was not in line of sight to that command post.

O'BRIEN: There were reports out of this one L.A. station where you could hear, apparently, by reports, "Burn it down, burn that G-damn house down." And it's unclear who actually said that. And then, two hours later, that's when they lobbed the canister, the smoke canister, and then a couple of minutes after that, according to reports, there was one single shot.

You heard the sheriff answer the question that I think a lot of people in social media have kind of run with, like, was this an intention to go ahead and burn a suspect out?

BRATTON: First story is never the last story. I've learned that in 40 years in the business. The man and woman that were on your show earlier that were held hostage briefly by him, the initial story was two housekeepers, two women had been tied up by him. So there's a story that changed dramatically in the space of a day.

In the terms of what went on during those several hours of the siege, those were issues that the sheriff's department is going to have to speak to at some point in time to explain what exactly occurred there. Right now, it's all speculative. You are reporting on an L.A. station's report.

O'BRIEN: Right. Right.

BRATTON: So, you're secondhand information. I'll be giving you third hand information. All my information is literally from the media also.

O'BRIEN: And transparency in all of this for -- is key, right?

BRATTON: If there's one thing I've learned in my time in policing, you either basically get out in front of the story or the story overwhelms you. And, right now, there is a need for more information, more explanation. The sheriff was very emphatic last evening. He is the chief law enforcement officer. It was his operation that there was not an intent on the part of his department.

What needs to be addressed is the language of a number of his deputies during the course of that operation. Also, an explanation of the devices which he attempted to give at his press conference last evening that there are different types of projectiles, tear gas projectiles, cold, hot, they used sequentially oftentimes.

Cold is a less intense type of burning sensation. If that doesn't work, you escalate to hot. And so, in terms of the escalation decisions that were made, but we also need to keep in mind that this was an incredibly dangerous situation.

O'BRIEN: He killed a bunch of people from what we can tell on his way.

BRATTON: Some of the quotes from his manifesto that everybody's been talking about.

O'BRIEN: I have it right here.

BRATTON: In terms of the manifesto, it's so large, a lot of people can't basically wade through it. But just some of these quotes is just very chilling, and the officers are well aware of these, that "self-preservation is no longer important to me." "I do not fear death as I died long ago on 1/2/09." "I have nothing to lose. My personal casualty means nothing."

O'BRIEN: Right.

BRATTON: You cannot prevail against an enemy combatant who has no fear of death. "I will utilize every bit of small arms training, ordinance and survival training I've been given." He quite clearly was basically fulfilling his manifesto.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

BRATTON: And the weapons that he was armed with, the .50 caliber barrack rifle that he had, armor piercing, that round will go through just about any piece of equipment that the police have, including the armored cars.

O'BRIEN: That's amazing.

BRATTON: And that's what he is shooting at the officers with. That round hits you, it causes incredible damage to the human body. That's what those deputies were facing. So, in the intensity of it, the language on the radio, that's all going to have to be taken into context in their investigation.

O'BRIEN: But I think you're right about the transparency, ultimately, all those questions that people want to understand.

BRATTON: It's going to have to be answered. That's the way it goes. O'BRIEN: William Bratton, it's so nice to have you with us.

BRATTON: Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: We certainly appreciate your time.

BRATTON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to show you a young man whose answer to the final "Jeopardy!" was the best ever. Straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. Trending online this morning, a "Jeopardy!" teen tournament contestant whose name is Leonard Cooper gave what might be the greatest final "Jeopardy!" question ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX TREBEK, "JEOPARDY!" HOST: On June 6th, 1944, he said, "The eyes of the world are upon you." Now, we go to Leonard Cooper. He's looking pretty happy, why? Did he come up with, Ike, Dwight David Eisenhower?

LEONARD COOPER, CONTESTANT: No, I didn't.

TREBEK: You didn't. "Some gay in Normandy, but I just won $75,000."

(LAUGHTER)

TREBEK: You did, indeed!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He wagered nothing and it said, "Who is some guy in Normandy. I just won 75,000 grand!" Gutsy thing, although, apparently, he still could have lost mathematically when you actually do the calculations of what the other contestants had and, of course, how much they bet, which he would not know standing there, right. And it was a two-day tournament so you had their totals from the day before. It was not exactly clear that he would have won when he wrote that answer, "I just won $75,000."

So, it kind of makes the whole thing even gutsier, doesn't it?

BERMAN: Very gutsy --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: He was very funny, though. Congratulations.

ORWOLL: And I got the question -- I thought it was Winston Churchill, but --

(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: I didn't have a clue. I would have done his exact answer, too.

Ahead this morning, tales of sewage in the hallways, no food, few working toilets. Will the thousands of people who are stuck on that cruise ship in the Gulf, will they even need medical attention when they get to land today? Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us up next.

And then, the world's -- I guess, its first look at a little boy who was held in a bunker for six days and here's what his mother has to say about what her son went through. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The Carnival cruise ship, Triumph, is finally expected to arrive at an Alabama port sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 Eastern this evening. Passengers, though, have been stranded at sea, living under very nasty conditions ever since an engine fire left the ship drifting in the Gulf of Mexico. That happened on Sunday.

Heard a lot about health concerns and those really filthy conditions. Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is in Atlanta for us this morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: So, realistically, as disgusting as it sounds and people talked about, as you know, feces in the hallways and really not a lot of food options, running out of, you know, just eating sandwiches with just condiments in the middle of the sandwich and sleeping outside and the smells are disgusting. How medically risky is what they're experiencing?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, despite all that, still, medically, I think that the risks are pretty small. Certainly, people who are already sick, have underlying health conditions would be most at risk, but from what we're hearing, there are some medical capabilities on the ship. They needed antibiotics, for example. They probably would have received those things.