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Toddler Cured of HIV; Picking the Next Pope; A Deadly Sinkhole; March Snowstorm Looming; Britain's Queen Elizabeth Hospitalized

Aired March 4, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A first in the fight against HIV. Researchers claim they've cured a toddler of the virus that causes AIDS.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now in Rome, cardinals of the Catholic Church meeting in the Vatican to plan the conclave to pick the next pope.

BERMAN: A deadly sinkhole revealed, a new look at the freak event that swallowed a man in his own bedroom.

SAMBOLIN: In line a lion, a March snowstorm, believe it or not, about to bear down on cities like Minneapolis and Chicago, with Washington, D.C. not far behind.

BERMAN: A mean, cruel, merciless lion.

SAMBOLIN: I'm so tired of it. I know everybody is, right?

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Monday. We'll help you through it. March 4th, 5:00 a.m. in the East right now.

We're starting with what could be a major, major medical breakthrough, a game-changer in the fight against HIV this morning. Scientists say a Mississippi girl who was born with the virus that causes AIDS has been cured. That would make her the first child, only the second person in the world, who can make that claim.

As senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen told us, this all happened by accident.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a startling announcement. Doctors say they've cured a 2-year-old in Mississippi of HIV. The infection she'd had since birth, gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it's fantastic news from any number of angles, of course, that a child has been cured. But this actually happened really quite easily and quite inexpensively.

COHEN: The cure came about as kind of a fluke. The baby was born to an HIV-positive mother who transmitted the virus to her daughter. The baby was put on HIV drugs, but the mother, for some reason stopped giving them to her when she was about 15 months old.

She was taken back to the doctor around her second birthday, and tests showed the baby was HIV-free, even though she had been off medication for eight to 10 months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What fantastic news. This is something that I don't think anybody would have expected.

COHEN: The key to success might have been that the baby received relatively high doses of three HIV drugs soon after birth. Usually, HIV-positive newborns get low doses of one or two drugs after birth. If other babies could be cured after just 15 months on drugs, that would be huge. Now, HIV-positive babies take these drugs for life, and they can be toxic.

More studies need to be done, but this case may have inadvertently paved the way for other babies to have a brighter future.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.


BERMAN: This is such big, important news for so many people.

SAMBOLIN: Incredible.

BERMAN: At 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time on "STARTING POINT", Soledad will talk to Dr. Rowena Johnston. She is the vice president and director of research for amfAR. That's the foundation that funded the study for this girl's cure.

SAMBOLIN: And a little later on, Elizabeth Cohen is going to join us as well to talk a little bit more about this story.

Two minutes past the hour.

More than 100 cardinals beginning the process of choosing the new pope. A Vatican spokesman says Catholics around the world may not have to wait long to find out who it will be. The new pontiff could be in place, listen to this, by March 15th, before Easter. The cardinals meeting this morning and this afternoon to set a date for the conclave.

And one cardinal who abruptly resigned and said he would not attend the conclave is now admitting he is guilty of sexual misconduct. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who is Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, released a statement saying, quote, "There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."

Three current and one former priest accuse him of inappropriate sexual contact.

BERMAN: New developments overnight with John Kerry's first overseas trip as secretary of state. During his stop in Saudi Arabia, officials say Kerry is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This is a late edition to the secretary's schedule.

Kerry wrapped a two-day visit to Egypt on Sunday, pledging $250 million in U.S. support to that country's future as a democracy.

SAMBOLIN: And new developments in a story that we saw unfold right here on EARLY START. It is a deadly sinkhole opening up beneath a Tampa area home. Demolition teams are tearing down the house right now. Take a look at these pictures.

And if you look closely at the aerial pictures, you can catch a glimpse of the massive hole. It's said to be about 30 feet ride, 60- feet deep. And it's filled with clay debris.

Rescue workers giving up their search for 37-year-old Jeff Bush, there is a picture of him. He's presumed dead two days after he fell into the sinkhole. This all happened, folks, while he was sleeping.

George Howell is in Seffner, Florida, for us this morning.

What is the latest here, George?


You can see it behind me. There's not much left of what was once a one-story blue home. This was a house that was full of family memories. Here, it's kind of like a memorial site. All weekend family and friends, they watched tearfully as crews carefully, as they delicately tore down the walls here.


HOWELL (voice-over): A demolition crew started work Sunday on a Florida home condemned because of a sinkhole that killed one of its occupants. Hundreds of spectators watched as a backhoe plunged through the roof, ripping down walls, and putting pieces of the Bush family life on public display.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The family is very close-knit. Many of the family actually lived in the house over the years, belonged to the grandmother. And so, they all have a close, personal connection.

HOWELL: Crews helped salvage valuables, including military medals and an American flag. But authorities say it will not be possible to recover the body of 37-year-old Jeffrey Bush, he is the only one of six family members at home who was unable to escape when the sinkhole opened Thursday night. His brother, Jeremy, says he tried to save him.

JEREMY BUSH, BROTHER: I ran in there, all I could see was this big hole. All I seen was the top of his bed. I could see nothing else.

So I jumped in the hole, tried digging him out. I couldn't get him. All I could hear -- I thought I could hear him screaming for me, hollering for me help me. I couldn't do nothing. HOWELL: The search for Bush was called off when authorities said it became clear he could not survive. Tearing down the home will give officials a better look at the sinkhole which is still expanding and help them find the best way to fill it. Several other homes had to be evacuated. People were only given 30 minutes to get their belongings.


SAMBOLIN: And, George, how long will it take for the crews to clear through all of the debris and actually unearth this sinkhole?

HOWELL: You know, Zoraida, still to be determined, because again it's a delicate, methodical process. We know that the demolition will continue this morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time. But, again, you know, how long it takes, they're doing their best to go slowly, to remove any valuables they can as they tear the walls down and eventually we'll get to see the scope and scale of this sinkhole.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I have been reading that sinkholes are common in that area, but people actually dying is very uncommon. We're watching as they tear apart these peoples homes that's been there for their family for generation. So, who pays for all of this, where does this family go?

HOWELL: Well, from our understanding, the family will rely on insurance, exactly how that insurance, Zoraida, kicks in, you know, still to be seen. But we know that it will take some time to clear all of this and the family is getting support from the community through memorials and such.

SAMBOLIN: All right. George Howell, live for us in Florida, thank you.

HOWELL: Seven minutes after the hour right now. And millions of people in the Midwest waking up this morning to more snow. Yes, you heard that right, more snow. Another winter storm dropping several inches from North Dakota to Iowa and heavier snow is expected in Chicago this afternoon with up to 10 inches on the ground by tomorrow.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning through Tuesday for the region. Many people wondering will it ever stop?

Let's get right to Jennifer Delgado in the CNN weather center right now. So, Jennifer, who's next?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, we are going to see that snow actually moving through. It's going to start off in the north. Right now, you see coming down really good through parts of North Dakota and a little bit through South Dakota.

But notice for areas like Minnesota, it's spreading into the region there, as well as into eastern parts of Iowa.

So where is it headed? John wants to know.

Well, eventually, areas like Chicago, they're going to be looking at the potential of six to eight inches of snowfall, from here working over towards the East. Of course, that's going to come a little later in the day. And really, we're talking about the storm coming in two waves for parts of the Upper Midwest and the Northern Plains.

So, right now, here's a look at some of the winter storm warnings as well as watches out there. You saw this last week, you saw this a week before. You kind of are used to it.

Well, those are going to be in place until Tuesday in the afternoon. Now, how much snow we're talking, you can kind of visualize for yourself. A lot of these areas, six to eight inches, right along the area and the border between Indiana as well as Illinois. We could see potentially seven to 10 inches of snowfall.

Then, the uncertainty comes as it moves over towards the East. For Washington, D.C., I know you're wondering, are you going to be picking up snow? And the totals here showing you potentially 10 to 12 inches of snowfall. Well, that's going to depend on whether or not we get warmer air in there. If we get the arm air, that's going to scale back totals.

And then for areas like New York, and up the East Coast, it's all going to depend whether or not this low is going to move to the North or to the East. Well, today, high temperatures are not looking bad. Weather going downhill Tuesday and Wednesday, it never ends, right?

BERMAN: You showed, like, 10 inches over Washington, D.C.

DELGADO: I know.

BERMAN: You wanted to see a shutdown and the government grind to a screeching halt? That will do it.

DELGADO: I caused hysteria in D.C.

BERMAN: All right. Jennifer Delgado, thanks very much.

DELGADO: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It's nine minutes past the hour now.

President Obama is ready to announce his choice for budget director. He plans to nominate Sylvia Matthews Burwell to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. Burwell is 47 years old and currently heads the Wal-Mart Foundation. Previously, she served as deputy chief of staff for President Bill Clinton.

BERMAN: So can you feel it? That's the question as we kick off the first full week of forced spending cuts, $85 billion getting slashed from the budget between now and September. One thing is clear: no one knows what kind of impact this will have on the U.S. and the U.S. economy.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We're going to begin to unravel the finest military in the history of the world at a time when we need it most.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Spending cuts that will cost unemployment, instability and uncertainty.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: They are cutting the seniors that they deliver meals to back by one meal a day because of the sequester cuts.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It's a pittance. I mean, it's a slowdown in the rate of growth. There are no real cuts happening over 10 years.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction. People will lose their jobs.


BERMAN: So that clears things up. The White House says President Obama worked the phones this weekend, calling lawmakers on both sides of the aisle looking for some kind of compromise on this budget and spending situation.

SAMBOLIN: This next story is for you, Berman. She is the first woman ever invited to try out at the NFL combine. But her dream of making history as an NFL kicker quickly turned into a bit of a nightmare. Lauren Silberman's NFL try-out ended yesterday after just two kicks.


SAMBOLIN: I know. Each one roughly 12 yards each.

It turns out Lauren aggravated a quad injury and was forced to bow out. She is the first woman ever invited to a league-sanctioned tryout. Silberman is a club's soccer players and hopes to show everyone her leg when it is healthy.

BERMAN: She hurt her leg in training.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. But at least she was there. She started. It's a step in a right direction.

BERMAN: There was a lot of press there. She can do better than that. I know she can do better than that.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely.

BERMAN: But she did have a hurt leg. It's a shame actually.


BERMAN: Eleven minutes after the hour right now. In worldwide concern this morning for the queen. Queen Elizabeth lies in a London hospital bed this morning. We'll have a live report from London, coming up next.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, how a canine cop managed to fire a gun in the line of duty.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

A developing story this morning in London: Queen Elizabeth is in the hospital right now battling what appears to be a stomach bug. Buckingham Palace says the 86-year-old monarch was hospitalized yesterday as a precautionary measure after showing symptoms of gastroenteritis. This is really just a nasty stomach bug. It can cause dehydration, a particular concern among elderly patients.

CNN royal correspondent Max Foster joins us now from London with the latest. Max, how is she doing?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we haven't had an update so far today. The palace in these situations doesn't like to give running commentary, as they call it. But we will expect an update.

She is the head of state and people will be worried and concerned. She hasn't been in hospital for a decade. She never cancels public engagements, but she canceled all of this week's engagements, including a very high-profile visit to Rome.

So, people are concerned about her. They want to hear an update. They want to hear that she's getting better. Is she dehydrated? How is she suffering? When will she be out?

We do expect, John, for her to be in for a couple of days. That's the guidance we've had. So, she will probably be out tomorrow if things go as planned.

BERMAN: And she did cancel a week's worth of events and activities, but just unusual for her.

Max, has the queen had any visitors?

FOSTER: She hasn't had visitors. I have to say, the British royal family don't operate like other families in this situation. They know that if visitors do start arriving, then it will heighten concern. If they were told it will only be a couple days, then they probably won't visit.

I have to say there's been discussion here about the statements put out. We don't get a lot of information, so we did pore over the information. The line that we've been given actually is that she is suffering from the symptoms of gastroenteritis. We haven't been told that she is suffering from gastroenteritis.

So are they looking for an underlying condition which would have similar symptoms to gastroenteritis? The wordings are quite clear on this. It's not saying it's gastroenteritis. So some speculation about this being something else, something possibly more serious.

BERMAN: Max, an interesting distinction. And without more information from the palace, probably hard to tell you. I appreciate your report. Max Foster in London this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date. Here is Christine Romans with our top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to both of you this morning. Scientists say a Mississippi toddler who was born with HIV has been cured. The unidentified girl is now 2 1/2 years old and is only the second person in 32 years to be cured of the virus that causes AIDS. Doctors tell us she received relatively high doses of three HIV drugs within 38 hours after birth, instead of the usual low doses of one or two of these drugs.

Cardinals of the Catholic Church are meeting right now at the Vatican and will also meet again this afternoon as they plan the conclave to select the next pope. A Vatican spokesperson said we could see a new pontiff in place by March 15th, giving him a little over a week to prepare for the next mass, Palm Sunday.

Accused murderer Jodi Arias is back on the stand again. Defense attorneys will get a chance to question her again. Last Thursday, on her fifth day under intense cross examination, Arias finally broke down. She is accused of stabbing and shooting her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, to death back in 2008.

Three Massachusetts men will be arraigned today on firearms charges. But this story has an unusual twist. Police in Essex County, Massachusetts say one of the three suspects fired a gun yesterday then ditched it in a snow bank. A K9 search dog was looking for the weapon, as the dog was searching with his paw, the gun discharged.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been in this business for a long time and seen a lot of K9s locate weapons. This is the first time I've seen a case where the gun discharged. I would imagine the dog was startled. But these dogs that make it through training are very courageous animals and they are the best of the best.

ROMANS: We can tell you, no one was hurt when the gun went off, including Ivan the dog.

"Jack the Giant Slayer", number one at the movies. But it's a hollow victory. The first big budget action film had a weak $28 million opening. It made $28 million in the opening week, it costs $300 million to make.

Still, "Jack" won the weekend. It was followed by "Identity Thief", made $9.7 million, and "21 and Over" with $9 million is the take there for "21 and Over."

BERMAN: We are in the post-Oscar zone right.

ROMANS: Right, exactly. You've got to have a lot of good weekends in a row to come up with $300 million to cover the cost of that film, yes.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, lady.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So, it is a catch-22 for the unemployed. They need a job to pay overdue credit card bills, but to get a job, they need good credit. So what do you do? We'll take a closer look, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. We are minding your business.

The stock market is still within striking distance of record highs.

BERMAN: But we have a lot going on. A lot of economic data and those forced spending cuts for investors to think about.

Christine Romans is here. Christine, how are stocks looking now?

ROMANS: Futures are pointing lower to start the week this morning and that's because there's a drop in the major markets in Europe and a huge drop in the Chinese stock market.


ROMANS: Yes, lots of data this week as we told you, headlined by that monthly jobs report, talking about those furloughed budget cuts out there. You might not notice anything didn't today in your life, but we're watching China very, very closely, because quite frankly, it's trying to cool its hot property market and that action is pushing stocks down.

We're watching about the sequester. You're not going to notice anything different today. Any signs of that those cuts are hurting the economy, though, could move the market over the next few weeks as the results of those forced spending cuts play out in the economy.

And the Dow, as you guys mentioned, 75 points away from the highest close ever.

All right. This story is so important, so frustrating for people who are looking for a job. You get a callback, you score an interview, your references put in a good word for you, and then you fail the credit check and then you don't get hire.

That's right. Employers do a background criminal check and they also do a credit check, many of them. A new report from Demos shows employment credit checks are hurting people who need to work the most, 47 percent of employers say they conduct credit checks.

They'll look at your credit history. It is legal if the employer gets permission from the applicant. Yes.

The survey found one in seven people with poor credit have been denied work because of their credit history. Poor credit is a FICO score below 620, which is usually a cutoff for prime loans, by the way. Demos says, quote, "We conclude that employment credit checks illegitimately obstruct access to employment often for the very job applicants who need the work most." Demos also found Latinos and African-Americans can be disproportionately likely to report poor credit. The unemployed also get squeezed. Many times, their credit score gets hit while they're looking for work.

So, you're out of work, you're looking for a job, your credit history is getting worse because you're looking for a job and that keeps you from getting a job. Some respondents also blame errors on their credit report for that poor rating. So, check your credit history. You're entitled to a free credit report every year.

And I think you should be ready. If you know that your credit history is bad, your credit history is bad if you had foreclosure, a bankruptcy --

SAMBOLIN: Should you bring it up?

ROMANS: If you know your credit history is horrible, you should. If you're looking for a job where you're going to have contact with money and you have liens against you -- I mean, that's going to look bad for a perspective employer.

I think you should come to the interview ready with an explanation, why it's -- but also remember, a lot of people are blown out. So, it's not just you.


ROMANS: It's probably not just you.

But be ready. Don't be surprised by it. And you should know your own credit history., And then you can see exactly what the employers are going to see before you go for that job interview.

SAMBOLIN: That was such a high percentage check the credit report. I was surprise about that.

ROMANS: A lot of jobs have positions open that people work with money. They want to know how you are with money if you're going to be handling their money.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour. Just back from North Korea of all places, and former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman has a message from Kim Jung Un for President Obama. That's coming up.