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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Horse Meat Found in Ikea Meatballs; Interview with Dr. David Acheson; One Year Anniversary of Trayvon Martin Death; Nelson Mandela's Family Venture; The Fight to Sell Martha Products

Aired February 26, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


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SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. Ikea is now pulling its famous Swedish meatballs from stores in 14 European countries after horse meat was found in them. While Ikea is assuring customers in the United States that it is not an issue here, it really is just the latest in the tainted mean scandal that has been sweeping Europe. So, how worried should Americans be about horse meat could make its way into our meat supply? Here to talk about that is Dr. David Acheson, he's the managing director of food and safety import and practice at Leavitt Partners, nice to see you, sir, thanks for talking with us. I guess the big question for me is, could horse meat be in our meat supply in the U.S.?

DR. DAVID ACHESON, MANAGING DIRECTOR FOOD AND SAFETY IMPORT PRACTICES, LEAVITT PARTNERS: Yeah, you know, it could be but I think the chances are really low that it is.

O'BRIEN: Why?

ACHESON: Why, because we have such strict controls with the vast majority of our meat. I won't say you couldn't have some unscrupulous meat supplier doing it but I honestly think the chances are incredibly low because of the inspection strategies and because of the robustness of our U.S. meat system.

O'BRIEN: We now after 2011 legislation change and you can now slaughter horses, we send them out of the country, the meat out of the country so they're processed in Canada and Mexico. We get meat from Canada and in Mexico and as far as I can tell the USDA doesn't test that meat for to see whether or not it's horse meat or beef, so you know, it doesn't sound like it's such a stretch to think that possibly we'd be sending horse meat, we're sending it to Canada or Mexico and it's coming back to us packaged as beef or something.

ACHESON: You know, it's possible. I won't say it's not possible, I just think it's unlikely and I think the vast majority of the beef we're consuming is beef, and as long as it's appropriately labeled it's okay to do that. If it's labeled as horse, fine, consumers know. I think what confuses people or worries people is they think they're buying beef and it turns out it's got something else in it. That's what people worry about.

O'BRIEN: Well, here in the United States the bulk of people think it's fair to say think "ick" when it comes to eating horse.

ACHESON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And yes my technical term, "ick." But also, I think that a lot of the horses they slaughter are the retired racehorses and those are animals that have been shot up with steroids for a long time like all the time and then they use the drug butte on our horses, I have a couple horses we put butte on our horses all the time for aches and pains but that's cancer-causing especially in small children so the risks are huge if you're dealing with animals that have any kind of drugs, right?

ACHESON: You're right, Soledad. I think you said it. If you put this on a score of zero to ten the "ick" factor clearly gets a ten. Everybody hates the notion they're eating horse. From a food safety perspective you're down at a one or a zero. You raise the point of drug residues absolutely and it is a possibility but if you take a low likelihood it's in there anyway, horse meat and the possibility that horse meat contains some cancer causing drug at some low level, let's put this in perspective of risk to the public and recognize that the safety side is low, the "ick" factor I agree with you is way up there, really an unpleasant thought.

O'BRIEN: I get you and don't want to put it out of perspective for the real risk to the population. At the same time, there are people now in Europe who had no idea they were eating horse, so somehow, something happened that allowed them to, who also thought they were having beef or some kind of meatball that didn't have horse in it, to have horse. So I can't figure out why you're so certain that it's not a potential problem.

ACHESON: You know, I didn't say I was certain.

O'BRIEN: You're right. I'll give you that.

ACHESON: Right, I'm not saying it's certain. I am saying the likelihood is low and let's put it in the context of safety and you make the point the Europeans didn't know and what that speaks to is the American consumer, the European consumer when they read a label and it says beef they want beef, they want assurance that the beef supply is beef.

O'BRIEN: God, I do, yes.

ACHESON: Right. So that speaks --

O'BRIEN: I'm following you, you're saying it's a low, low risk. I appreciate your time this morning Dr. David Acheson, is the managing director of food and safety import practice at Leavitt Partners. Thank you for being with us sir, appreciate it.

ACHESON: Great pleasure thank you.

O'BRIEN: We're also following the other big story the deadly winter storm and John has a look at that and other news, too. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, it is developing at this moment. Millions of people in the heart of the Midwest caught squarely in the path of a killer storm. This massive system leaving thousands buried under more than a foot of snow in the southern plains. Two people have been killed and snow-choked highways are shut down in several states. Winter storm warnings stretch all the way to the great lakes with severe weather in the forecast all the way to Florida. This historic system now tracking to the north and east with Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan all in its path of destruction, a very big storm.

A young couple from California has gone missing in Peru and their families are desperate for information. Jamie Neil and Garrett Hand, avid cyclists in their mid-twenties, have not been heard from since January 25th. They were in Peru on a biking communication when all communications stopped. It's feared they may have been kidnapped.

So a New York state lawmaker, Dove Haiken said he's sorry if he offended anyone by dressing in black face for a Purim party. The assemblyman wore an afro wig and had his face painted brown by a professional makeup artist for a party at his home, celebrating the Jewish holiday. He told the New York times he was supposed to be a black basketball player.

O'BRIEN: Okay, there's so many questions I have in this story. Walk us through the Purim party celebration thing.

BERMAN: I'm actually not an expert. But I guess you can dress up in costumes and go to the party, and he thought that going as a black basketball player was appropriate.

O'BRIEN: Why?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Obviously not totally thought through.

O'BRIEN: Wow, what with - an elected official. I find that so odd. I mean I think it's stupid when regular folks do that but an elected official, you don't think someone is going to take a picture, put it on their Facebook page and everyone's going to say that is stupid?

NATALIE JACKSON, ATTORNEY FOR MARTIN FAMILY: A bunch of stereotypes, black basketball player, why doesn't he be a white basketball player.

O'BRIEN: So much to talk about. Thanks, John, appreciate it.

One year ago today 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman claims that he acted in self defense, and he has been charged with second-degree murder. The trial will go on in June. Trayvon Martin's parents stopped by in our last hour and they spoke about devoting their lives to what they call ending senseless gun violence in the wake of their son's death. Here's what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the anniversary of the killing of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin that sparked protests and rallies across the country, there is now a renewed fight over the controversial stand-your-ground law that could make his killer, George Zimmerman, a free man, once again.

MICHAEL SKOLNIK, TRAYVON MARTIN FOUNDATION: Can you start a fight, lose the fight and claim stand-your-ground?

BLACKWELL: Michael Skolnik of the Trayvon Martin Foundation believes stand-your-ground laws are ineffective and should be repealed.

SKOLNIK: It promotes vigilantism. It promotes that idea that you go out there and you take care of the situation or don't listen to the police or law enforcement.

BLACKWELL: Late last week a task force commissioned by Florida Governor Rick Scott at the height of the public outcry returned to its final report supporting the law. It asserts all persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: All stand-your-ground is, is a form of the self-defense defense, but it gives a defendant a lot more ability to use self-defense because self-defense is so broadly defined in stand-your-ground.

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: You can do away with the statute and look to common law.

BLACKWELL: Zimmerman's legal team led by attorney Mark O'Mara has signal they'll argue not the controversial stand-your-ground, but basic self-defense.

O'MARA: He was allowed to do exactly what he did, which was being in reasonable fear of great bodily injury, and resist with deadly force.

BLACKWELL: Weeks before the start of the stand-your-ground hearing Florida lawmakers are considering several competing bills ranging from incremental changes to stand-your-ground to full repeal. Something Skolnik acknowledge it will not be easy.

SKOLNIK: We are in for the fight. We know that when America changes, we have growing pains. These are difficult growing pains.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: In the wake of that shooting many gun control advocates want Florida to scrap that stand-your-ground law which permits people to use force to protect themselves without retreating their ground, the law gained nationwide attention when George Zimmerman was claiming that he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

So of course the question now becomes since the governor of Florida has basically said, the panel that he impaneled has basically said they think that stand-your-ground should stay, what does this mean for the case itself?

JACKSON: I think for the case it really never had an impact. We've said from the beginning that George Zimmerman didn't qualify for the stand-your-ground law. This became an issue because the Sanford police department said he did and they provided that defense for him, that's why there was an outcry for an arrest.

O'BRIEN: The next step the judge has to decide is this a stand-your- ground case or not.

JACKSON: Yes. There'll be an immunity hearing where a judge will be presented the evidence, and the judge will decide if this is a stand- your-ground case. Now, Mark O'Mara said that he is not sure if he'll have the immunity hearing or if he'll just go to trial and have a self-defense claim.

BROWNSTEIN: But is it conceivable then he could decide this is a stand-your-ground case and that is the end?

JACKSON: That's what would happen at an immunity hearing, that would be it, there would be no trial.

BROWNSTEIN: That could be appealed?

JACKSON: No.

BROWNSTEIN: So he can end this case with that ruling.

JACKSON: Yes, Judge Nelson could end that case.

O'BRIEN: Everybody will be watching what Judge Nelson will be doing. That'll be in June.

JACKSON: The stand-your-ground hearing is scheduled for April and the trial is for June.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: If it goes forward.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT the name Mandela of course is associated with civil rights but now getting a new association, wine. Nelson Mandela's daughter and granddaughter, look what they have brought for us this early in the morning. We're back in just a moment with STARTING POINT.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back. If you mention the name Mandela most people think of the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela. But the Mandela name is now on a product not associated with his legacy, wine, and a fine wine it is. His granddaughter and daughter formed the House of Mandela brand and a portion of the profits of hair wine sales will improve the lives of Africa's poverty stricken places. Maki (ph) Mandela, Nelson's daughter, and Maki's daughter Tukwini. Thank you for joining us.

MAKAZIWE MANDELA, NELSON MANDELA'S DAUGHTER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Why this as the next step to really leverage the very wildly famous and important name Mandela in South Africa?

M. MANDELA: Well, I think it's important to use this name to promote South Africa itself. The wine industry itself is an agricultural product, it's about the soil. It employs about 450,000 people in South Africa. It contributes bout 3-4 billion rand to the GDP of South Africa so it's an important industrial sector of South Africa and why not we use the House of Mandela name to promote a good product, a product of the fruits of the soil to South Africa, Africa and the world.

O'BRIEN: Were there people in the family concerned about using the Mandela name on any sort of thing versus as you know right, the Mandela name to some degree is really about an ideal in a way.

M. MANDELA: Yes. I think there will always be concern. What my father has always said to us, if you use the name either for commercial or charitable or political, use it with a lot of integrity and responsibility. What we are trying to do as the House of Mandela is continue our legacy of the House of Mandela to promote the values that my father also emphasizes very strongly that he was made by the customs, by the traditions, by the values of his ancestors, they shaped him and he always tells us we should always remember who we are and remember those values, so we believe, because this is the fruits of the (inaudible) the Mandelas where they come from are agricultural people, they farmed so there's a lot of good synergy between what we are doing and the Mandela family itself.

O'BRIEN: Tukwini, tell me how you pick the vineyards that get to contribute to what eventually becomes a bottle of cabernet sauvignon for the House of Mandela?

TUKWINI MANDELA, NELSON MANDELA'S GRANDDAUGHTER: Yes so when we began we work with a Master of Wine because we essentially wanted to make sure that the wineries that we chose adhere to certain principles so we wanted to make sure that they were family-owned wineries because we're a family-owned business. We wanted to ensure that they treated their workers with dignity and respect. We wanted to ensure that they respected the biodiversity of South Africa so they'll maintain the land for future generations.

So those things are quite important to us in terms of the wineries that we chose. And you'll see that the (inaudible) collection is a fair trade product so it comes from a fair trade farm and with fair trade products there's a premium that's placed on the product so that money goes back to the farm workers so it's for their education, it's for their housing, it goes toward the salaries if they have a stake in the wine farm because most fair trade wine farms are co-ops, so they are -- they're owned by the workers themselves.

So we are very, very conscious of those things and making sure that you know all of the wineries adhere to those principles. Because honestly if the wineries don't adhere to the principles we don't work with them.

O'BRIEN: So I'm going to take a sip. But I'm going to ask you a question about two things that are very interesting to me right now.

T. MANDELA: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Oscar Pistorius, what is your take on what's happening there in South Africa and also we now know there's going to be a movie made of your father's autobiography, "The Long Walk to Freedom" so Edris Elba will be portraying your father, your grandfather. Tell me about those two things while I sit here at 9:00 in the morning I have a glass of wine.

M. MANDELA: Well Soledad I have to say to you the -- the Oscar Pistorius issue is a -- is a tragedy. I am a mother. I am a mother of four children. I have brought up also my late brother's children so in all I have 11 children that I've brought up. And I think if I was a parent either Reeva's parent, I would be devastated. I wouldn't know what to do.

My son, my youngest son knows Reeva and he says she was a very, very good person and I feel sorry for -- I also empathize, you know, with Oscar Pistorius' parents because if it was my son, I don't know where I would start. You know if your son killed somebody as it is alleged so it's a tragedy for all of South Africa also, it's not just a tragedy for those two families, for us as South Africa because Oscar Pistorius was a role model to a lot of kids.

O'BRIEN: Right, right.

M. MANDELA: Reeva was a beautiful person inwardly you know who -- who associated with people from different walks of life, so it's truly a tragedy for us. And we wish South Africa could quickly get over this and we look for a better -- a better future, not just one that puts a cloud on our country.

O'BRIEN: Maybe the trial will be sort of a start to a beginning and end or you know whatever ends up happening in that trial. Thank you for joining us.

M. MANDELA: Yes, yes.

O'BRIEN: This wine by the way I had a sip is delicious. It's wonderful. I know it's early to be drinking wine so I'll stop it. I just had to technically I was forced to taste it and tell you that it's great. Thank you for being with us and good luck with the new business venture.

M. MANDELA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: It's wonderful to have you here.

T. MANDELA: Thank you very much.

M. MANDELA: Thank you very much Soledad. Thank you very much, thank you. O'BRIEN: We've got to take a break. But still ahead on STARTING POINT Macy's and Martha Stewart? It's a big fight and JC Penney in the middle. We'll tell you about this legal showdown up next.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans "Minding your Business."

Stock futures indicate a higher open today. Home Depot shares right now up about two percent before the open, a strong earnings report for Home Depot. It's another good time for the housing recovery. In just a few minutes in about six and a half minutes we're going to get a home price report and the new home sales data in a little over an hour.

That would be relief for -- from a brutal day for stocks yesterday. The DOW, the S&P 500 had the worst day of the year yesterday thanks to an elections in Italy that resulted in gridlock and fear here over impending forced budget cuts.

Now when it comes to saving for college, Americans are falling short, this is a new critical study from Sallie Mae. It says only 50 percent of Americans with kids are saving for college, that's down from 60 percent from three years ago. Even those who do save aren't saving as much as they like. Parents say, parents telling Sallie Mae that when it comes to saving for college they feel quote, "overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated or scared." Me too.

Martha Stewart's messy business dealings under scrutiny in a New York courtroom. Macy's CEO testified he hung up the phone up on Martha Stewart when she told him she'd be doing business with rival JC Penney. Macy's says it has exclusive rights to sell Martha's Home Goods.

Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren is suing both Stewart and JC Penney testified that Martha's deal with Penney's completely shocked him and made him, quote, "sick to his stomach". She called him to break the news the day before the Penney deal went public. He hung up on her he says and hasn't talked to her since.

Her line of sheets, towels and housewares are a strong seller still for Macy's. This, you guys, is a rare look into the business dealings of three household names. And so interesting too. When she came out of prison in 2005 it was a big Macy's deal that helped rebuild her brand. Now, the Macy's CEO is saying, wait a minute, you can't go behind my back.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Isn't there a lawyer somewhere having to explain why there's an ironclad exclusivity in a contract if it's as valuable as you're saying?

ROMANS: That's what a New York Supreme Court case is going to find if it really is such an exclusive deal. Apparently Martha Stewart and JC Penney think it isn't. Macy's thinks it is.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, and I think any lawyer would tell you, right, that everything is very flexible when it comes to contracts at times but, you know, at the end of the day we look at Terry Lundgren and he just -- he feels betrayed.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

O'BRIEN: He feels like -- that is the interesting thing is that he just feels like for all he did for that brand and for her personally.

ROMANS: It's a very rare look behind some titans of the things that we buy and household names. It's interesting.

O'BRIEN: We have to take a break. "End Point" is up next. Back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Coming up tomorrow on STARTING POINT, we're going to be talking to Mark O'Meara, he's George Zimmerman's defense attorney. We'll talk to him about the next step in the case from their perspective. Also Congressman Aaron Schock will join us and Congressman Steve Israel as we continue to talk about these forced budget cuts day two.

So we're really -- I know we're not calling it the cliff anymore but technically in two days we head over that cliff.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. I'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning for STARTING POINT. Have a great day.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the "NEWSROOM" breaking overnight, a hot air balloon horror. The balloon filled with 21 people explodes and plummets a thousand feet.

Also a blizzard for the history books.