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"Truly Historic" Blizzard Batters Southern Plains; "We Are Abandoning Ship"; Dr. C. Everett Koop Dies At 96; Company in Kansas City Explosion Didn't Have Permit; Senate To Vote On Cabinet Nominees; Interview with Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin; New Cookbook: Try This At Home

Aired February 26, 2013 - 07:30   ET


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Yes, it is a mess. And this snowstorm is worse than the one we saw just last week. I will show you why. We've got really heavy, heavy thick wet snow right now as you can see, not like the fluffy snow, that we had last week. And because of that, it's snapping branches throughout the area and bringing down power lines. So we just got off the phone with Kansas City power and light and just an hour ago there were 10,000 power outages in Kansas City, we're up to 25,000 now, and they can't get repair crews out to repair those power lines until the roads are better.

We still see some cars out here on the roads, but the roads are still bad. Now I-70, the major interstate that stretches across the country really is not closed. They are conflicting reports about that, but it is open.

It's just that authorities are really urging drivers to stay off the roads as best they can. Airport is still open, but many flights are canceled -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Erin McPike for us dealing with inclement weather where she is. Thanks, Erin. Appreciate it. There are several other stories that we are watching as well including a search for a family with some young children who have been lost at sea apparently. John has got that for us.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": That's right, Soledad. A family could be floating the Pacific Ocean off Monterey, California, for a second night. Rescue crews not giving up on them. The husband, wife, and two children were forced out of their sailboat on Sunday when it started taking on water.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coast Guard, Coast Guard, we are abandoning ship. This is the "Charm Blow," we are abandoning ship.


BERMAN: That's the last anyone heard from them. The Coast Guard and other agencies plan to look again today, but they really have few clues to work with. Former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, one of the most prominent holders of that office ever, really the most prominent holder of that office, Everett died yesterday at the age of 96.

He served during most of the Reagan administration. He was instrumental in getting the nation to focus on key health issues such as HIV and AIDS prevention and convincing Americans to stop smoking. He even appeared in commercials for those life alert emergency warning devices.

We're learning more this morning about that deadly explosion last week at a Kansas City restaurant. A city official tells CNN a company laying down a fibre optic cable did not have a work permit for the job.

An employee ended up drilling into a gas line and about an hour later, the huge blast killed one person and injured at least 15. Not having that permit could mean up to six months in jail.

So about three hours from now, the Senate Finance Committee will vote on Jack Lew's nomination to be the next treasury secretary. He is President Obama's former chief of staff, former budget adviser.

The Senate is expected to vote either today or tomorrow on whether to end the Republican filibuster of Chuck Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary. Hagel is expected to be confirmed.

So more evidence suggests the secret to heart health is what you eat. A just-published study in the "New England Journal of Medicine" found eating a Mediterranean style diet including nuts, olive oil, even some wine cuts heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death rates by 30 percent.

In fact, the benefits were so clear that Spanish researchers say they decided to end the study early about five years into it saying it would be unethical not to end the study.

OK, finally now, a rap video featuring flashy cars, women in tight clothes, suggestive dancing, not unusual, but this rapper is 9 years old. That is unusual and he is using lyrics like Coke is not a bad word.

Now Child Welfare workers are taking a closer look at Li'l Poopy's YouTube video. That's his rapper name and his father. They are investigating whether there's evidence of child neglect and abuse.

The boy's father told a Boston TV station his son has done nothing wrong and police have not filed criminal charges or arrested the boy's father. They have a lawyer who says it's simply freedom of speech.

O'BRIEN: Well, we have a lawyer on our panel, Natalie Jackson, outside the craziness, I mean, he's 9. That nice red car, he can't thrive that. That jewelry is almost down to his belly button because he's so little. I mean, child endangerment seems a little strong.

NATALIE JACKSON, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: It does. I think that, you know, there is a line between freedom of speech and really investigating that nature that he's OK and the things that he is rapping about doesn't affect his life.

So I think, you know, they'll do an investigation. There won't be any charges I don't think, unless there is something in his life or his parent's life.

O'BRIEN: It's harder to get a doll than to have a child.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I like the story about the Mediterranean diet. You can live forever in Greece, but can't get a job. It's sort of like kind of mixed blessing.

O'BRIEN: The people who believe in the low-fat diet very, very low- fat diet, don't necessarily think that it's all cracked up to be.

BERMAN: It's not low fat at all.

O'BRIEN: It's hard to believe, of course, that it's been a year ago that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman who claimed that he was attacked and shot Martin in self-defense.

Martin's family claims that the unarmed teenager was racially profiled by Zimmerman. Martin Savidge has a look back at this case on the one- year anniversary.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It starts with a phone call, February 26, 2012.

ZIMMERMAN: We've had a lot of break-ins in our neighborhood recently and I'm on the neighborhood watch.

SAVIDGE: It's a cold and dreary night in Central Florida, a neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has just spotted 17- year-old Trayvon Martin walking through his gated community in Sanford.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Are you following him?


UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK, we don't need you to do that.

SAVIDGE: Moments later, Martin who is black and Zimmerman who is Hispanic struggle in the dark. Neighbors call 911.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Do you think he is yelling help?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Yes, there's gunshots.


UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Just one. SAVIDGE: Zimmerman shoots the teen, claiming self-defense. Photos show Zimmerman bleeding from the nose and back of the head. Sanford police decide not to bring charges perhaps because of Florida stand your ground law.

That decision triggers a national outcry. Three weeks later, the Justice Department announces its own investigation into Martin's death and Sanford police. Meanwhile, tensions rise with the release of 911 recordings.

In them, some hear Zimmerman using a racial slur. Analysis by CNN is inconclusive. March 22nd, Sanford's Police Chief Bill Lee steps down. That same day, Florida Governor Rick Scott appoints State Attorney Angela Curry to lead a special investigation.

The next day, President Obama speaks publicly about the case for the first time.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.

SAVIDGE: March 24th, a group call the new Black Panther Party offers a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman's, quote/unquote, "capture." Two days later, Trayvon Martin rallies held across the country demanding Zimmerman's arrest.

April 11th, Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder and turns himself in. Bond is eventually set at $150,000 and three days later, he walks out of jail in the middle of the night.

Only to return six weeks later when a judge revokes his bond after prosecutors say Zimmerman and his wife lied about being poor at his bond hearing, failing to mention hundreds of thousands of donated dollars from supporters, this time Zimmerman's wife is also arrested, charged with perjury.

July 6th. Zimmerman's release from jail again, now on $1 million bond and goes into hiding. Zimmerman appears on Fox News.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Anything you might do differently in retrospect now that time has passed a little bit?


SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, his defense team successfully lobbies to have the judge in his case replaced. February 9th, 2013, the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation hosts a day of remembrance in his hometown of Miami. It takes place four days after the youth at the heart of a national debate would have turned 18.


SAVIDGE: The anniversary is going to be marked here in the community of Sanford with a small candle-light vigil that will take a place in the park. Meanwhile, the events to come, it's anticipated April will bring a stand your ground hearing and then potentially after that in June, the trial of George Zimmerman -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, thanks for the update. Appreciate that.

Let's get right to Trayvon's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, join us this morning. Benjamin Crump is their attorney and Natalie Jackson also with us this morning as well. Does it feel like it's been a year? Does it feel like it's been ten years or does it feel like it's been just weeks?

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: As far as us losing him, it feels like a long time. I guess because the pain is deep it feels like we've going through this a long time.

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: It's been a year, and it seems like yesterday because when you -- when you have the loss of a child, not easy to get over it.

O'BRIEN: I can't imagine.

MARTIN: It's still very fresh in my mind. Just like it was yesterday.

O'BRIEN: He would have been 18 on February 5th.


O'BRIEN: When you think back to this last terrible year, are you now focused on legacy? Are you doing this for Trayvon in some way?

FULTON: We're doing this for Trayvon. We're doing this so we can help other kids because we have seen since this happened last February to Trayvon, that other kids, other teenagers have been shot and killed.

You know, through senseless gun violence and we feel like we need to do something about it as parents. I have a son on earth and a son in heaven, and I'm going to do my best as a parent to work on both.

O'BRIEN: I had a chance to meet your son. At the time, he was very affected. How is he doing now?

FULTON: It's still very hurtful for him. He is trying to stay in school. He is trying to just maintain his education and still try to get through this, you know, with losing his brother. It's difficult for him.

O'BRIEN: Do you feel like you've become activists, very involved now in not just sort of the Trayvon's case, but gun violence as a whole. You are becoming spokespeople in a way. Do you feel like it's moved you into a new role?

MARTIN: In a sense, we feel we have to become spokespersons for senseless violence and just to have our son's life taken away from us and what he meant to us was the world. So for us to go out, advocate for other parents and other voiceless people, it means a great deal not only to us, but it means a great deal to the community. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about where the case stance. Mr. Crump, the Florida Governor Rick Scott had appointed this panel what would examine whether stand your ground laws really should be changed. That panel says that in fact it should be upheld. They didn't really attack stand your ground like many people. I know you were hoping, what does this mean for your case?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Well, it means -- let's not look at it from that perspective. Let's look at some of the positives. This is the first time in about five years that there has been no new stand your ground laws enacted and any other states in America.

So I would say that was a plus for the average for Trayvon Martin. Remember, Soledad, this time last year, nobody knew about this law called stand your ground. Now everybody knows about it, saying this is asinine that you can be the aggressor, the instigator, shoot and kill an unarmed kid and say stand your ground and go home and sleep in your bed at night.

O'BRIEN: Is that ultimately what is going to decide the case? I mean, is it really going to be George Zimmerman is on trial for stand your ground. You know, stand your ground and they'll look at this murder charge as well?

CRUMP: I don't think so. I think the evidence is going to decide this case. Hopefully, stand your ground motion is going to be denied on April 29th. That's important because Tracy and Sybrina deserve to have their day in court.

They deserve their constitutional right to trial by jury and not have some asinine law to stop the killer of their child to face the evidence. It's the evidence, Soledad, that is going to convict George Zimmerman.

O'BRIEN: If you get a chance to talk to a jury, you get your time in front of a jury, what will you tell them? What would you say?

FULTON: I would tell them that to us that Trayvon was your average teenager. We know we said he was perfect. No child is perfect, but we loved him. And we just feel that his life was cut short to soon and it could have been prevented. We feel like it's just to lose a child and keep moving forward.

O'BRIEN: I cannot imagine, cannot imagine. We appreciate you coming to talk to us on the one-year anniversary, which is just a brutal day. But I know you are trying to get the message out. Thank you for talking with us. Mr. Crump, thank you as well.

We're going to take a short break. I should mention, tomorrow on STARTING POINT, we're going to be talking with George Zimmerman's attorney. Mark O'Mara will be our guest to talk about the case from their perspective.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, Manti Te'O making hard for scouts to forget about that fake girlfriend scandal. Is he having a bad day at the combine or he is just not really up to NFL standards? We'll take a look at that.

And then he masters top chef taking home the all-star title. Now celebrity chef, Richard Blais is out with his first cookbook. He's going to join us with that straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Well, I guess he couldn't really run fast enough to put the fake girlfriend thing behind him. Manti Te'O unimpressive at the NFL Combine and his dress stock may be falling fast, not only because concerns about the whole girlfriend thing and how it affected his head. But also just the fact of how he's doing speed wise.

Rachel Nichols is with us. It's nice to have you with us. You spent the weekend at the Combine.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: I was there yesterday. It was interesting watching Te'O workout because, of course, so many concerns going into this where how is going to do with the distractions?

The NFL people care somewhat about this fake girlfriend scandal, what it means. What it says? What we talk about. His character, but whether he knew, when he knew, how he knew? Honestly NFL teams care about how he plays on Sundays.

There are all kinds of players that teams have been asked to draft over the years, with all kinds of off-field scenarios. The general manager of the New York Giants put it best.

He said, I've seen a lot of people with more issues than his issues. This is not the kind of thing that should have sank him however, not playing well, not performing well on the field that will sink you every time.

O'BRIEN: How bad was he?

NICHOLS: He wasn't terrible. I mean, we're talking about degrees, obviously. You're talking about tenths of a second, but in sports, in the NFL, tenth of a second can be everything. And what it is right now that's the concern and that's all it is at this point.

It's just a concern. We don't want to be overdramatic. His last performance on the field, which was the national championship game, he was disappointing. Was he distracted by what was going on in his personal life, maybe?

Here at the Combine, he was exceedingly average, disappointing for someone who played in the national championship who was a Heisman contender so then you start to put that together and you wonder, is he distracted and is he going to be better as he goes or is he maybe not that good?

BROWNSTEIN: What is the history of performance at the Combine and the performance in the league?

NICHOLS: You know what? It's like everything else when we're all trying to predict whether it's in politics or whatever other fields. It's an indicator. Is it the indicator? Of course, not. Tom Brady drafted in the sixth round. There's all kinds of players that didn't do great at the Combine.

O'BRIEN: I have my money on Manti Te'O. I really do. I think he has a lot on his head and for that to have a mediocre performance might be perfectly fine considering what he has been dealing with.

BERMAN: Twenty linebackers --

O'BRIEN: I know but he is the one with the fake girlfriend -- he was average. Come on, people.

NICHOLS: He will have other opportunities. I do want to say that. He has a pro-day at Notre Dame coming up. He'll have individual meetings with teams. This will not sink him, just another challenge for him to overcome.

O'BRIEN: Rachel Nichols, it's nice to have you, another person with twins on our set this morning.

Got to take a short break. Still ahead, he is a fan favorite from top chef, proving that he's one of the very best. He won top chef all- stars, now Richard Blais is out with his very first cookbook. Look at that, he is bringing it to us right now. You can do these recipes at home easily. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: That's the moment that he claimed victory on Bravo season eight "Top Chef All-Stars." Now he has his very first cookbook, it's called "Try This At Home" that would be his head on the platter. It's nice to have you with us this morning.


O'BRIEN: You know, you write in your introduction about how you didn't spend your summers Provance learning all the cooking skills. He's been at McDonalds.

BLAIS: That's the typical chef story, you know, they grew up somewhere and they were scrambling milk crates in an old house. I grew up in the, you know, the dawn of like ultra-convenience food and microwave and frozen food. And my mom was not the best of cooks.

And my first job was at McDonald's, and that's my story so I had a prestigious position at McDonalds. I was the poisigniette, which means fish cook in French and I forgot to put the top on the first, I was avant-garde.

O'BRIEN: Why did you write a cookbook? You've been doing successful restaurants. Why did you feel a need to put it in here?

BLAIS: For me this book try this at home a lot of people think that my food is high-tech and science driven. We use a lot of gadgets, which is true, but when you run towards a liquid nitrogen tank cameras tend to follow you more frequently than if you run for salt, pepper and vinegar. So I can cook well with salt, pepper, butter, and I can cook normal basic home cooking food as well.

BROWNSTEIN: So are these recipes you want to cook at home on a Tuesday night or a Sunday night? This is stuff you come home from eight hours and gotten off the subway?

BLAIS: A lot of these are simple recipes you can cook during the week. Some of them are weekend things. This one here, this is the centerfold picture of the book.

O'BRIEN: That is that your family?

BLAIS: This is my family and it is the centerfold and this is topless spaghetti night and that's Sunday night for us.

BERMAN: That's us, too.

BLAIS: Kids get messy.

O'BRIEN: Who doesn't? Who is not having spaghetti topless?

BLAIS: People come over on Sundays, my 4-year-old will say you have to take your shirt off and it's a weird introduction.

O'BRIEN: If they want to eat good food, they better do it. Favorite recipe?

BLAIS: Roast chicken, everyone can pop a chicken in the oven and it's got lemon curry and black pepper and a spin-off of lemon and black pepper chicken, super easy and one of my favorites.

O'BRIEN: I want to try that because I can't cook very well.

BLAIS: You say that but --

O'BRIEN: It's true but I'd like to try that. The book is called "Try This At Home," Richard Blais. It's nice to have you with us. Congratulations.

BLAIS: Thank you so much.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, an epic winter storm to tell you about. It is battering America's heartland after burying parts of Oklahoma and Texas in up to a foot and a half of snow. States being targeted right now, we'll tell you where it's going. That's straight ahead.

And then a taste of Mandela, brand new wine that bears the name of the former South African leader. His daughter and granddaughter will join us live on STARTING POINT to tell us about their new and very unusual business venture. We're back in a moment.