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Cured of HIV!; Choosing The Next Pope; Ex-Cardinal Admits Sexual Misconduct; Kerry Meets With Abbas; Sinkhole Home Being Demolished; Midwest Snowstorm; Obama To Nominate New Budget Director; First Full Week Of Forced Spending Cuts; Mitt Romney Speaks Out; Buffett Bullish on 2013

Aired March 4, 2013 - 06:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: It is a first in the fight against HIV. Researchers claim they have cured a toddler of the virus that causes AIDS.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And happening right now, at this very moment at the Vatican, cardinals from the Catholic Church meeting to plan the conclave to pick the next Pope.

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

BERMAN: And in like a lion. A cruel, unwelcomed lion. A March snowstorm about to bear down on cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, with Washington, D.C., not far behind.


BERMAN: You know how well Washington handles snow.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you this morning. It is Monday, March 4th. It is just about 6:00 a.m. in the East, and we begin with a potential game-changing breakthrough in the fight against HIV. Scientists say a Mississippi girl who was born with the virus that causes AIDS has been cured. That would make her the first child and only the second person in the entire world who can actually make that claim.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us live from the CNN Center in Atlanta this morning. This is just remarkable. Tell us about this.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, it really is. Newborns, when they're HIV positive, they are in for a lifetime of drugs, but given what's happened today, that could change.


COHEN (voice-over): It's a startling announcement. Doctors say they've cured a two-year-old in Mississippi of HIV, the infection she'd had since birth gone.

ROWENA JOHNSTON, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, THE FOUNDATION FOR AIDS RESEARCH: You know, it's fantastic from any number of angles. Of course, that a child has been cured. That is 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 8 to 10 months.

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

COHEN: The key to success here 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.


COHEN: This baby's story was publicly discussed for the first time yesterday here in Atlanta -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It is really just incredible news. Elizabeth, is there any possible way that the virus could reappear in the future for that child?

COHEN: Zoraida, anything is possible, but that seems unlikely because when they go looking for this virus like searching for it, they did not find this under regular routine tests. They have to use a super duper ultrasensitive test.

And even then there are only finding fragments of RNA and the DNA from the virus in the baby. And, they have to search for it very hard and they are finding it at very low levels. So could it come back? I suppose so, but it seems unlikely.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I've been reading a lot about this because I just find it absolutely fascinating. I had no idea that in the United States transmission from mother to child is actually rare now. Experts said there are only 200 cases a year or even fewer, but this could really help babies worldwide that are born with HIV, right?

COHEN: Right, it could. And the reason why those numbers are so low, Zoraida, is that most of the time doctors know that the mom is HIV positive while she is pregnant and so they give her drugs to reduce the transmission rate. This woman was more like women in some other parts of world.

They didn't know that she was HIV positive until she was delivering that baby and that may explain why they gave her super duper high doses because they hadn't been able to do anything for her while she was pregnant.

But as far as for the rest of the world, absolutely, if babies in other parts of the world didn't have to be on these drugs their entire life that would be incredible.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. All right, senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, we really appreciate you bringing in that story. Thank you.

At 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien will be joined by Dr. Rowena Johnston. She is the vice president and director of Research for AMFAR. That is the foundation that funded the study of this little girl's cure.

BERMAN: Happening right now, more than 100 cardinals gathering to begin the process of choosing the next pope. A Vatican spokesman says Catholics around the world may not have to wait very long to find out who the next pope will be.

He could be in place by March 15th. The cardinals meeting this morning and this afternoon, one of the things they will discuss is possibly setting the date for the conclave. 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 was Britain's senior Roman Catholic cleric released the statement saying, "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 accused O'Brien of inappropriate sexual conduct.

SAMBOLIN: New developments overnight, Secretary of State John Kerry is in Saudi Arabia as his marathon overseas trip continues. Officials say Kerry planned to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who is also visiting there.

It is a late addition to the secretary's schedule. Kerry wrapped up a two-day visit to Egypt on Sunday, pledging $250 million in U.S. aid to support the country's future as a democracy.

BERMAN: You saw it on full right here on EARLY START, a giant deadly sinkhole opening up underneath a Tampa area home. Demolition teams are tearing down that house right now. If you look closely at these aerial pictures, you can catch a glimpse of just the massive sinkhole.

It's said to be about 30 feet wide, 60 feet deep. It's filled with clay and debris. Rescue workers gave up their search for 37-year-old Jeff Bush. He is now presumed dead two days after he fell into that sinkhole as he slept.

George Howell is in Seffner, Florida for us. George, what is the latest? GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, good morning. To be here, you know, to see this home. This area, this neighborhood, this home, it's kind of like a memorial site right now. This was a house that was full of memories, but now you see the heap of wood that's left over.

Friends and family, they watched all weekend tearfully as crews carefully and 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 watch as a backhoe plunged through the roof reaping 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 have actually lived in this house over the years, belong to the grandmother. So they have a very 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 that opened Thursday night. His brother, Jeremy, says he tried to save him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ran in there and all I could see was this big hole and the top of his bed. I didn't see nothing else, so I jumped in the hole, tried to get him out, and I couldn't get him. I thought I would hear him screaming for me, hollering for me, but I couldn't do nothing.

HOWELL: The search for Bush called off when authorities said it became clear he could not have survived. Tearing down the home will give officials a better look at the sinkhole, which is still expanding and find the best way to fill it. Several other homes had to be evacuated. People were only given 30 minutes to get their belongings.


HOWELL: Back to a live picture in Seffner, Florida. I want to show you this home up close. You see that chain-link fence around this home in the center and then the two homes on the side, both of those homes had to be condemned. Again, because the sinkhole, as crews believed it could still be growing as they tear this down, they will have a better idea of how big it is -- John.

BERMAN: You know, George, sinkholes, they do happen to. They happened before. They happened in other places in the country. The question a lot of people want to know right now, is there any way to predict them?

HOWELLO: You know, not really. From what we understand, it comes down to the depletion of the water table here in Florida. A lot of these homes sit on limestone. When the water table is depleted, that limestone can be fragile, and that's where you have these voids that are created. Voids like the sinkhole we see here. So really, John, from what we understand, it's pretty hard to predict these things.

BERMAN: Unfortunate. All right, George Howell for us this morning in Seffner, Florida. Great to see you.

SAMBOLIN: All right, it is 7 minutes past the hour. Here we go again, millions of people in the Midwest waking up this morning to more snow. It is another powerful winter system dropping several inches from the Dakotas to Iowa, and heavier snow is expected in Chicago this afternoon with up to 10 inches on the ground by tomorrow. They are kind of used to that, but still it's just no fun. The National Weather service has issued a winter storm warning through Tuesday for that entire region.

BERMAN: I would think by March we should be done. Jennifer Delgado, she has been watching the storm for us. We blame you for this. Explain to us what's happening right now -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, and you ask whether or not you think it's late for this. Historic storms have popped up in March. Not out of picture at all. Now as we look at the radar right now, notice, we are dealing with some snow out there. And they really probably doesn't look that impressive to you.

But what we're seeing is very heavy snow coming down through North Dakota. A lighter stuff you can see through South Dakota and then from Minneapolis, you are dealing with some light snow, same for Rochester. But what we're going to see is the snow is really going to be picking up.

Even as we go later into the afternoon for areas like Chicago as well into Wisconsin, that snow is going to be picking up. But for regions in North and South Dakota, they're going to be picking up potentially about a foot of snow. In fact, we're also going to add in some strong winds and with those winds in combination with 7 to 10 inches of snowfall. We have a blizzard warning in place now.

Now anywhere you seen in pink, we are talking about a winter storm warning, anywhere from areas from like Minneapolis all the way over to Chicago, 6 to 9 inches potentially, 6 to 12 inches of snowfall. It is going to be heavy. Anywhere you see in purple.

It's going to be moving down toward the east and this is where we are going to see some up certain conditions, as we get across parts of the east coast. Now for areas like Washington, D.C., I know this model right here, showing you potentially 12 or more inches of snowfall.

It's all going to depend on the track of the system as it moves up the coast, we're also talking about the potential for very strong winds, coastal flooding, and that could lead to power outages.

But again, once we get closer to the east coast of the storm, we'll get a better idea of the impact across the region. We'll talk more about that later on. BERMAN: All right, just to be clear, that was you, Washington, D.C., in the purple right there.

DELGADO: Yes. Richmond, Virginia, everywhere.

SAMBOLIN: But at least you are forewarned.

BERMAN: Exactly. Jennifer Delgado, thanks very much.

DELGADO: You're welcome.

BERMAN: President Obama set to announce his choice for budget director. He plans to nominate Silvia 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.

SAMBOLIN: Can you feel it yet? We are in the first full week of those forced spending cuts, $85 billion getting flushed from the federal budget between now and September. One thing is clear, no one knows what kind of impact this will have on all of the U.S. and the U.S. economy.


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

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Spending cuts that will cause 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 over 10 years.

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


SAMBOLIN: Is that clearer for you now? Well, the White House says President Obama worked the phones this weekend calling lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in search of a compromised deal on the spending cuts.

Coming up, Mitt Romney opening up describing what it's like to run for president and to lose, and his wife, Ann blaming the media for the lost.

BERMAN: Plus, how a canine cop managed to fire a gun in the line of duty. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. So regrets, Mitt Romney has a few. I won't sing, don't worry. In his first post election interview, Romney reflects on the campaign and the critical mistakes that may have cost him the presidency. The Fox News interview also reveals Romney really isn't over it.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still care and I still believe that there are principles that we need to stand for. I look at what's happening right now. I wish I were there. It kills me not to be there. Not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done.


BERMAN: CNN's Shannon Travis is live in Washington this morning. And Shannon, those famous 47 percent comments came up. What is Mitt Romney saying about that now?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, he is essentially saying, John, what he couldn't say back then about them that they essentially hurt his campaign a lot. You remember that those comments were made at a private meeting with some donors and they were secretly recorded.

And Democrats hammered away at Romney for them. But now in this Fox News interview, listen at Romney describing them now, his reaction to them and how they hurt.


M. ROMNEY: You know, when you speak in private, you don't spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and could come out wrong and be used. But, you know, I did, and it was very harmful. What I said is not what I believe.

Obviously, my whole campaign, my whole life, has been devoted to helping people, all people. I care about all the people in the country. But that hurt -- there's no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.


TRAVIS: Damaging because as you remember, John, President Obama basically seized on those comments and ran with them throughout the rest of the campaign -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, it's interesting. You know, Mitt Romney said he still thinks about it. You know, he wishes he were in the White House, it hurts every day, he said.

Ann Romney also part of that interview. And if Mitt Romney is not over it, it really seems that she is really not over it, Shannon. TRAVIS: That's right. She's not. She basically says she mourns, John, mourns the fact that her husband isn't in the White House. She has admitted that she's cried at the loss a few times.

But she's also assigning blame -- casting a little bit of blame on the campaign itself, but also at us, John. Take a listen at this.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: It was not just the campaign's fault. I believe it was the media's fault as well, is that he was not being given a fair shake. People weren't allowed to really see him for who he was.


TRAVIS: Now, that's not an unusual line of attack, Republicans saying the media is to blame for a lot of their electoral problems.

One last thing, John, Ann Romney also admitted that she considered going on "Dancing with the Stars," but that she reconsidered and decided against it because she is turning 64 and she's just is not flexible enough.

BERMAN: That would have been something to see.

All right. Shannon Travis, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It would have been something to see.

All right. Sixteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date. Here's Christine.


The big story this morning: a potential blockbuster medical breakthrough. Scientists say a Mississippi toddler born with HIV has been cured. This unidentified girl is now 2 1/2 years old. She's 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 30 hours after birth. That's instead of the usual low doses of one or two drugs.

Cardinals of the Catholic Church are meeting right now at the Vatican. They'll also meet again this afternoon as they plan the conclave to select the next pope. A Vatican spokesperson says we could see a new pontiff by March 16th. Giving him a little over week to prepare for the next mass, Palm Sunday.

Three Massachusetts men will be arraigned today on firearms charges. But this story is not about those men. This story has a very unusual twist. Police in Essex County, Massachusetts, say one of the three suspects, no, it was not a dog, fired a gun yesterday and ditched it in a snow bank. And that dog, a K-9 search dog was sent to look for the weapon and the dog was searching with his paw in the snow bank when the gun discharged.


CHIEF JOHN ROMERO: 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: The long paw of alarm.

Fortunately, no -- of the law, fortunately, that would have been so clever had I said it right. No one was hurt when the gun went off, including Ivan the dog.

BERMAN: You know, our guys are wondering if the dog is going to be the subject of internal affairs investigation after the accident of discharge.

SAMBOLIN: It's great it was facing the other direction. It could have been a tragic ending.

Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. So, a neuroscientist in his mind controlled machines on this weekend's episode of "THE NEXT LIST."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A neuroscientist on the fast track to the future.

MIGUEL NICOLELIS, NEUROSCIENTIST: This lab, we can animals learning to communicate with other animals just by sending brain signals. That's why you call it brain to brain interface. The people that have speech impairment because of strokes or tumors or lesions on the brain, and this is a prototype of what could be a new way for these patients to communicate.

GUPTA: Miguel Nicolelis on "THE NEXT LIST", this Sunday, 2:30 Eastern.


SAMBOLIN: Nineteen minutes past the hour. Stocks keep climbing higher and higher. So, is now the time to become a buyer? It's rhyming this morning. Christine is back with a closer look for you.


BERMAN: Minding your business this morning. It looks like a lower start for stocks. But those record highs are still in sight.

SAMBOLIN: That is right.

Christine Romans joins us.

ROMANS: Like a 75 points or close -- I mean, this is spitting distance here for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. We are seeing a ripple effect this morning from a plunging Chinese stock market. Europe opened lower, futures here in the U.S. are lower as well. The Dow 75 points from the closing all time high. If you are looking for a record, though, it may have to wait at least for today.

Forced spending cuts are here as well. I mean, we've got now -- day three now. They will be a drag on the economy. We're just not sure how heavily. But you'll start to see more furlough notices. You'll start to see more contracts canceled from the government.

The stock market, though, has been on a tear, despite all that's going on in Washington. It's really two worlds. It's Washington and Wall Street. And they're not connected right now.

So, how did we get here? And should you be buying stocks? Right now, 75 point for the all time high for the Dow?

David Kelly from JPMorgan told us this weekend, there's one word to think of? Tina (ph).


DAVID KELLY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, J.P. MORGAN FUNDS: There is no alternative. And the point is, there is no big investment alternative to having money in the stock market. I believe home prices will move up and that's part of any person's investment plan, ought to own a home. I think buying a house in the United States right now is a great idea. So, I think that's part of the strategy.

So, you also need to have liquid financial assets. I think you should be -- you know, have a diversified portfolio, have bonds in it, but just be overweight stocks relative to where you would normally be.


ROMANS: You hear that? Stocks and a house. He moves a lot of money at JPMorgan, so that's a big endorsement.

But you also need to protect yourself. Eventually, we will see a pull back. So make sure you are ready and prepared for your age and your level of risk in the market. BERMAN: So, what is the one thing you need to know about your money?

ROMANS: The one thing you need to know -- hey, CEOs, stop being so nervous. There are opportunities in America.

So, one thing you need to know, there are opportunities in America. Don't take it from me, take it from him, Warren Buffett. In his annual letter to shareholders, he said 2013 will be a better year. He said America has faced uncertainty since 1776. Get used to it.

He needled CEOs from being nervous, for sitting on their hands rather than investing in new projects. He said, come on, come on, this is America. Things will get better. They often (ph).

BERMAN: If Warren says it, it must be true.

SAMBOLIN: It must be true.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, thanks very much.

Coming up, new concerns about childhood ADHD, how it could lead to trouble later on in life.

SAMBOLIN: This is very troubling.


SAMBOLIN: New this morning, it could be a ground-breaking case in the battle against HIV. Researchers say they have cured a little girl of the virus and it could have wide reaching affects.

BERMAN: Concern for the queen. Queen Elizabeth waking up in a hospital bed this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Had enough of winter yet? Too bad. Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., all in the path of a March snowstorm right now.

BERMAN: Brace yourself.


On that note, I'm still going to say good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. We are happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Monday, March 4th, about 30 minutes after the hour right now.