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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Man Swallowed by Sinkhole; Budget Cuts Kick In Tonight; Resurgence of the Harlem Shake; Interview with Walter T. Shaw; From Thief to Film Producer

Aired March 1, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. New information on a terrifying situation that's happening near Tampa, Florida, where a man has been swallowed up by a sinkhole that opened up right under his bedroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It happened in Brandon, Florida. The man fell into the sinkhole from his bed. He has been identified as 37-year-old Jeff Bush and we are told he is now presumed dead. His brother told us that he tried in vain to save him. As you can imagine, he is distraught and devastated about that.

Just a few minutes ago, he -- Jeremy Bush, the brother, described what happened to his brother, Jeff, as he tried to save him.

JEREMY BUSH, VICTIM'S BROTHER: He was laying down in bed. He was -- we just got home from work. I have second job. I went to work, came home at 10 o'clock. And --

ROB MUNOZ, WFTF REPORTER: What did you hear?

BUSH: I -- well, and we left and came back and I knocked on his door and told him that we wasn't working today. So he said, OK and everything. And I went in my room. I heard a loud crash like a car coming through the house and I heard my brother screaming.

So I ran back there and tried going inside his room, but my old lady turned the light on and all I seen was this big hole, real big hole, and all I seen was his mattress and, basically, that was it. That's all I seen.

MUNOZ: You tried jumping in after him?

BUSH: Yes, I jumped in the hole and was trying to dig him out. I couldn't find him. I heard -- I thought I could hear him hollering for me help to help him.

MUNOZ: And that's last of you saw of him. Did you see any last part of him before he fell --

BUSH: I didn't see any part of him when I went in there. All I seen was his bed. And I told my father-in-law to grab a shovel so I could start digging. And I just started digging and started digging and started digging. And the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor was still falling in.

MUNOZ: So you were still at risk as well?

BUSH: Yes.

MUNOZ: Now your entire family is out here in support.

Why -- you guys are out. Why are you guys out here in support?

BUSH: Just to keep closure, I guess. Make sure he's not dead, make -- see if he's alive. I know in my heart, he's dead. But I just want to be here for him because I love him. He's my brother, man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That reporter was our affiliate reporter, WFTF reporter Rob Munoz doing that interview.

Five other people, including a 2-year-old child, were able to escape from that home as it was basically collapsing in the sinkhole.

Other stories making news and John Berman's got that for us.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Soledad.

Happening right now, live aerials of a wildfire burning in Riverside County, California. This is burning dangerously close to homes there. So far it has scorched 150 acres. Authorities have issued a voluntary evacuation orders. They say one structure is damaged, but no injuries reported. The cause of the fire right now is under investigation.

President Obama is expected to sign an expanded Violence Against Women Act as soon as it reaches his desk. The Senate version finally passed the House yesterday. It provides supports for organizations that help domestic violence victims and it stiffens sentences for convicted abusers. The new law also affords protection to gays and lesbians, immigrants and Native Americans as well.

Between now and midnight it seems almost certain that President Obama will also assign an order triggering $85 billion in forced spending cuts. But before the ax even falls, a bit of panic is setting in at the Department of Defense. More now from CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA STARR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Chuck Hagel has what his commanders tell him is a national security crisis.

CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We need to deal with this reality.

STARR (voice-over): $46 billion in mandatory budget cuts must be made by September. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are briefing Hagel on exactly what will be cut and how it will affect national security.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It will put the nation at greater risk of coercion.

STARR (voice-over): Training will be delayed for soldiers heading into Afghanistan.

GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: We will have to make a decision somewhere along the line to either extend those already there or send people there that are not ready.

STARR (voice-over): That means extended tours in the war zone. Two- thirds of Air Force combat units will drop below combat readiness levels.

And the Marine Corps?

GEN. JAMES AMOS, USMC: By the beginning of next year, more than 50 percent of my tactical units will be below acceptable levels of readiness for deployment to combat.

STARR (voice-over): But some say the Pentagon is crying wolf.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN III (D), W.V.: I followed all the post-war eras from -- starting with Korea, Vietnam, Cold War to where we are today. This will be the least amount of money that we have asked to draw down under any post-war time. But yet everyone is hollering that it will be devastating.

STARR: The effects of the military budget cuts will only grow in the coming weeks as they fully take hold. Some of the other impacts, funerals at Arlington National Cemetery will be delayed and some 800,000 Defense Department civilian workers face unpaid furloughs -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And our thanks to Barbara.

Flood conditions are causing big problems this morning in Valdosta, Georgia. The rain-swollen Cherry Creek has sent water rushing into Meadow Brook Drive and the surrounding neighborhood, forcing residents from their homes.

And to make matters worse, the flooding has overwhelmed the city's wastewater treatment plant, sending millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Withlacoochee River.

Police in Florida are on the hunt for a dog snatcher. Watch this closely. Surveillance video from the Orlando Pet Shop shows a woman browsing the store when she makes a beeline for the Bichon Frise bin, casually drops the dog into her purse, then returns the Shih Tzu she was carrying and then takes off.

So if caught this dognapper could face a grand theft charges because these dogs -- that dog there worth close to $900.

O'BRIEN: Why are they not watching that more closely?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Surveillance cameras (inaudible) obviously not (inaudible) jump in at the last moment.

LAUREN ASHBURN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, DAILYDOWNLOAD: But that poor other dog.

O'BRIEN: Booted!

BERMAN: I know.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): -- saved from the kidnapper. Are you kidding me? Gosh, that's terrible, although I guess they are just so expensive that they are worth a lot for people to steal them.

O'BRIEN: Well, the sky may, in fact, be the limit for the "Harlem Shake". The FAA is now looking into this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): This video shows the viral dance craze as in- flight entertainment on Frontier Airlines. Tory Dunnan has our story.

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You've heard of "Snakes on a Plane".

SAMUEL JACKSON, ACTOR: I've had it with the snakes.

DUNNAN (voice-over): But how about shakes on the plane?

The "Harlem Shake" is the latest viral video dance craze giving "Gangnam Style" a run for its money. They usually start with one person dancing alone and then others jump in.

Now the FAA is looking into this video. It depicts a dance on a Frontier Airlines flight in mid-air from Denver to San Diego, organized by a group of students from Colorado College's Ultimate Frisbee team.

MATT ZELIN, COLORADO COLLEGE STUDENT: It went from kind of this -- this kind of joking around idea amongst the team to suddenly it's a reality and then it was on YouTube and then there are hundreds of thousands of views and now we're talking to you guys.

DUNNAN (voice-over): The FAA wants to know if the plane was on final approach and if the passenger should have been buckled up.

A Frontier Airlines spokeswoman says "All safety measures were followed and the seat belt sign was off."

JIM TILLMON, FORMER AIRLINE PILOT: Worst-case scenario is we hit a little clear air turbulence and bodies start flying all over the place.

DUNNAN (voice-over): Former airline pilot Jim Tillmon says an airplane is not a place for fun and games.

TILLMON: Is it fun? Maybe. Is it cute? Maybe. Is it good judgment? No.

DUNNAN (voice-over): And a YouTube search turns up plenty of other Harlem shakers on planes. This group of cheerleaders from Toronto was headed to a competition and says it did its shake during a layover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plane was moving a lot. It's not a big plane so that many people jumping around like crazy was definitely moving the plane.

But in the Colorado case Tillmon said he hopes the FAA gives Frontier Airlines a strong warning. He thinks the crew should never have let the dance go on -- Tory Dunnan, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: I don't know.

ASHBURN: It's "Animal House" unhinged. I mean, on an airport, right?

HOWARD KURTZ, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, NEWSWEEK-THE DAILY BEAST: I like to have fun when I fly with a little music, but to do that on a plane with all of those people is insane.

ASHBURN: I don't know. Come on. Everybody said it was OK. I'm actually defending them here.

KURTZ: I love the airline saying, well, the seat belt sign was off. Therefore, it's OK.

(LAUGHTER)

ASHBURN: Technically speaking they should not be held to blame. They are the ones who said go ahead and do it. The -- you know? It's not a big deal.

KURTZ: (Inaudible).

ASHBURN: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: (Inaudible) is how did they let the banana suit through the --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- FAA check and carry-on luggage?

ASHBURN: I like the guy in the front who is sort of going like this, who's not part of it, what is this?

O'BRIEN: What is happening on this plane?

ASHBURN: (Inaudible).

KURTZ: (Inaudible).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Coming up next, we're going to tell you the story of a man who went from jewel thief to movie producer. He, in fact, was a former thief for the Mafia. Walter T. Shaw will join us. He has got a new film called "Genius on Hold" about the incredible troubled life of his inventor father.

KURTZ: -- missile tracking radar system, which would --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: So from jewel thief to movie producer, Walter T. Shaw led a crime ring that gained notoriety for stealing as much as $70 million back in the late '60s and 1970s. Now he's producing a movie, not about his days as a thief, but about the amazing life of his father, who was an inventor, whose name was Walter Shaw.

Here's a little bit of the movie, called "Genius on Hold."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Walter Shaw, inventor of the speaker phone, conference calling, call forwarding, touch-tone phones, technology we use every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was coming through his hands and I knew his mind amazed him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, a lot of people say you're this great genius.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But how did this brilliant family man --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dad was pretty desperate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- end up working for the most notorious organization in America?

ROBERT KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are terribly concerned about the state of organized crime throughout the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Ah, this looks so good. The film comes out today, "Genius on Hold," and Walter T. Shaw is with us. It's nice to have you back.

Tell me about your dad, because as much as we -- you listed all those things, a speaker phone and the touch-tone phone, the call forwarding and the two-way communication, I mean, the list goes on and on. And yet he never really realized any money from his invention.

WALTER T. SHAW, FILM PRODUCER: He never saw a dollar. He died broke. My father was a man that was ahead of his time, unfortunately; 30 years ahead of his time. And he saw the best in everybody. And he was just gifted with this ability.

He never went past the 9th grade. He went to work for Bell Labs. He got a degree and on his off time, he made the automatic loudspeaking hands-free telephone, which was voice-activated at that time, very first thing, 1948.

O'BRIEN: Amazing.

SHAW: But Bell told him, if you try to market this, you have to have our permission. And you have to sign over the past, present and future developments. My dad says, "You'll never own my mind." He resigned in 1952.

In 1958 or '54, Eisenhower came knocking at the door to take him to Elmendorf Air Force Base to design their alert system, the red phone. So he went there, other scientists up there, and they designed that. And of course, when he got out of the Air Force, they only put him in to do that; then he had no benefits. He opened up a --

O'BRIEN: So he was constantly taken advantage of. I mean, he's the story of like this incredible genius. And then at every turn, taken advantage of so, as the movie goes, he turns to the Mob. Why?

SHAW: They wanted him to perfect a piece of equipment. They had a bookmaking ring. And they didn't want to be traced. And he invented the black box, blue box, cheese box, where he could (inaudible) calls toll-free without being wiretapped or traced.

And call forwarding got designed in that mechanism later at that time because they wanted the phones to follow him in the boroughs (ph). So that was the beginning of call forwarding. He patented that in 1966, yet he made it in 1959.

O'BRIEN: Wow.

ASHBURN: Yes, I was just going to say, but why did he die poor? If he's got the Mob behind him?

SHAW: Well, he left that once he did a year and a day for unauthorized attachment to Bell lines (ph). When he got out, he distanced himself from the Gambinos. And he went a different direction and he was only 44 at that time. And all his great stuff afterwards.

O'BRIEN: Can I ask you a question? We opened this piece by talking about -- and you and I spoke. I think it was like last week about your own crime spree --

SHAW: Yes.

O'BRIEN: -- which he doesn't very like -- won't confirm or deny some of it. But did your father's work with the mob -- did that have anything to do with your own connection to -- to working with the mob? SHAW: Well I used his name, yes I used my father's name. I left home at 16 because of how I saw big business doing him and I said, dad, I don't want to be that way. I'm not going to let them rob me. I said what would Joe Veloci do and he said I can't think that way.

I see men the best of men like Will Rogers. There's not a man I didn't like. And I said I can't go that philosophy. I said I'm going that way. And I came into New York and looked up some guys. And I used my father's --

O'BRIEN: That kind of talk. Some guys.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST: But are you in the movie?

SHAW: Yes, I am, I am.

KURTZ: Why you followed your father's footsteps into at least --

SHAW: I went that way and because I just felt I wasn't going to let them to it to me. And like I told my dad I said if you want them to respect you put them in an ice cream truck -- or freezer, in other words.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, you're a movie producer?

SHAW: I went to the -- I went that way because I wanted to tell the story. And my dad's story needed to be told.

O'BRIEN: Your dad died in 1996. And you found him, I know living --

SHAW: My wife found him actually. And we were just dating and he was living in Reno, Nevada, in a Trailways bus station.

ASHBURN: Would your dad be proud of this film?

SHAW: Yes. He didn't need any accolades (ph) -- I was holding his hand when he died that morning. And he said, son, and says it doesn't matter what people know about me. He says my inventions will speak long after I'm gone. Because that's what's important.

KURTZ: Did you break any kneecaps to raise money for this film?

SHAW: No I didn't, I didn't have to. I met a man unfortunately he died last year before he saw the film. He was 47, he died when he was 49. But he believed in my dad's story and says the story needs to be told.

O'BRIEN: It's a great story.

SHAW: And here is the million and go make your movie the way you want it.

O'BRIEN: It's a great story.

SHAW: I think so.

O'BRIEN: Is it harder to be a movie producer or to be a jewel thief?

SHAW: Well I think it's you trade the gun for the pen it's the same thing.

ASHBURN: Do you have a pen or a gun today?

SHAW: Neither.

ASHBURN: Ok.

SHAW: I held his hand. And I said, he said "Is the war over". I said "The war is over dad. You got my word it's over."

O'BRIEN: Wow. The movie looks so amazing. It's called "Genius on Hold. And Walter T. Shaw is the producer.

SHAW: It's a great story.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations. It is a great story.

ASHBURN: He would be very proud I think.

Shaw: Well, I loved him a lot and I miss him every day.

ASHBURN: And this is in his memory.

SHAW: Totally.

O'BRIEN: The movie comes out today.

SHAW: Please go see it. My distributor is a great guy. Freestyle they believed it and they -- they stood behind this film to get it released.

O'BRIEN: It's great. tell thanks for coming to talk to us Walter, good luck with the film.

SHAW: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: We're rooting for you on that.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, swept to safety. Rescuers get very creative trying to save an animal in distress. We'll tell you what they did straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone.

Looking at our "Top Stories" right now the White House gets into the legal fray over Proposition 8 in California urging the Supreme Court to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage. In its "Friend of the Court" brief the Obama Administration says Prop 8 violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection but the Administration did not go so far as to endorse a constitutional nationwide right to marry.

We are now just about an hour away from the Space X launch of an unmanned dragon space capsule to deliver vital supplies to the International Space Station. This is the second Space X cargo supply mission. Lift off is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. Eastern Time from the Kennedy Space Center.

Canadian wildlife officials got creative when a doe and her fawn got stuck out on the ice at a harbor in Nova Scotia last month. The ice was too thin for rescuers to walk on so what they did is they called in a helicopter. The fawn ran to shore when the helicopter got close, it was scared but the doe could not get up so she ended up sliding to safety propelled by the down draft from chopper blades. It's so creative with a happy ending.

O'BRIEN: Oh that is great. That's so great.

Well she is a California physician who created a device called the "Solar Suitcase" to help doctors with deliveries in the developing world. And I want you to meet this CNN Hero, Dr. Laura Statchel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. LAURA STATCHEL, CNN HERO: There's a traditional African saying when you become pregnant that you have one foot in the grave. There are so women dying in childbirth in many communities. Pregnancy is feared.

In the last month recorded four women actually died from pregnancy complications. When I went to Africa and I saw these women one after another coming in with implications and we didn't even have adequate light to treat them.

Welcome to the world, everyone. The lights just went out.

STATCHEL: A lot of the clinics don't have any electricity. Midwives use kerosene lanterns they may use candles, they use their cell phones to deliver babies. Once I witnessed the things that I saw, I had to do something about it.

My name is Dr. Laura Statchel. I'm helping to provide a solar lighting source so mothers and babies can be saved during childbirth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very, very nice.

STATCHEL: Hospitals and clinics receive the solar suitcase for free. So the charge controller is very important. Solar suitcase provides medical quality lighting. It charges cell phones. It has a small battery charger for head lamps and for the fetal Doppler that we include.

Perfect. That's it. Mothers are now eager to come to the clinics. Just shifted them around as a health care worker.

This light is going to bring good changes. It keeps me going.

STATCHEL: There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

STATCHEL: You're so welcome.

I really want a world where women and their families get to celebrate birth and I would love to be part of making that happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: "End Point" is up next. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It is time for "End Point". Who wants to start? Lauren, I'm going to give it to you first?

ASHBURN: I'll start.

O'BRIEN: She raises her hand. I like that.

ASHBURN: Right here. I have to tell you the most riveting moment of the morning was listening to Jeremy Bush, the brother who tried to save Jeff Bush, from the sinkhole in Brandon, Florida. That emotion, to see him sobbing over this. I mean, you're in your bedroom and you start sinking into the ground. Your bedroom is the sacred space and to just watch the anguish that he went through.

O'BRIEN: When he described grabbing a shovel to try to save his brother.

ASHBURN: Just trying to save him. And he's standing there sobbing, you can't do anything to help your brother. Awful.

O'BRIEN: And they can't even get in there now, right, because it's so unsafe and the ground is so insecure that they can't even rescuers to go in there to try to help get him out or bring his body up. They think he did not survive.

KURTZ: It was heartrending to watch. A different kind of disaster -- my "End Point" is about the disaster in Washington, the sequester. I'm not supposed to use that word, I know it's bad for ratings. The automatic --

O'BRIEN: Spending cuts.

KURTZ: This is why people hate nations. Capital it seems like this has gone on forever. It's normal, as I said earlier. And the fact that it's not going to be a dramatic impact today, tomorrow, or next week is going to undercut the arguments and make the politicians look even (inaudible). -- the world is coming to an end but it's going to hurt.

ASHBURN: But the thing -- I'm sorry. The Congress is just looking so bad on this. They went home. BERMAN: They are not only ones. I mean there's a lot of blame to go around in Washington and we're about to enter this political twilight zone where the White House has got some tough decisions to make. Do they talk down the economy? Do they point out all the things that are going wrong? Or do they try to fix them? Fix the damage that is robbed by these budget cuts the next three weeks. It's a tough situation as it is.

O'BRIEN: The good news is we have Monday to talk about it all again. And Tuesday and Wednesday.

And the following week.

Thanks guys for helping us out and have you on this side of our panel this morning. I like that. I like that.

ASHBURN: We enjoyed it.

O'BRIEN: Coming up Monday on STARTING POINT on our panel will be comedian Bill Cosby.

BERMAN: Really?

O'BRIEN: Yes, that is going to be crazy.

BERMAN: Excellent.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. Have a great weekend everybody. We'll see you back here on Monday morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the "NEWSROOM"

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're on your way home. You're going home to New York.