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Toddler Cured of HIV; Another Powerful Winter Storm; Sinkhole Search Called Off; Jodi Arias Back On The Stand

Aired March 4, 2013 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, a remarkable breakthrough to tell you about. A 2-year-old cured of HIV. Is it even possible? We'll talk a look at what researchers are calling the key to a medical success.

Plus, March snowstorm bearing down on cities like Minneapolis and Chicago, with Washington, D.C., not far behind. We'll have the forecast for you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now as we speak, crews demolishing a home that sits above a deadly sinkhole. How can something like this be prevented from happening again?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The Dow is approaching an all time high. So, is it to buy? Why one top investor says yes, but there's a catch.

O'BRIEN: We're talking with a 7-year-old boy who's been suspended for turning his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun. Was he playing with his food, or was he genuinely creating a threat? We'll talk with the little boy and his father straight ahead.

It's Monday -- I can't even get through that with a straight face. It is Monday, March 4th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Christopher John Farley is senior editorial director of digital features of "The Wall Street Journal," editor of "Speak Easy" blog. Former Florida Congressman Connie Mack.


O'BRIEN: And California congresswoman Mary Bono Mack joins us as well.

So, our STARTING POINT this hour: for the first time in the 32-year- old battle against HIV, a child has been cured. Scientists say it's a little girl from Mississippi who was born with the virus that causes AIDS and that she's now infection-free. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Hey, Elizabeth. Good morning.


Soledad, this really is a potential breakthrough, not because there are any new drugs involved, but because a mother was actually noncompliant with doctor's orders.

So, let's take a look at what happened in Mississippi. So, this baby was born to an HIV-positive mother, and then the baby tested positive for HIV. The baby was then put on HIV drugs, anti-retroviral drugs for 15 months. And then around that time, the mother stopped giving them for reasons we just don't know. She just stopped.

So, she also didn't bring the baby into the doctor. Finally, she did bring the baby in to the doctor around her 2nd birthday, and she was HIV-free after being off drugs for eight to 10 months, and her doctors were stunned and even brought in other doctors to test her, and they found the same thing. She was HIV negative.

O'BRIEN: There's some people who say, Elizabeth, that, in fact, maybe the baby wasn't HIV positive. We spoke earlier with one of the researchers. And, of course, some of the people who are criticizing a study at this point, this early stage, say that one answer could be that the baby never really was HIV positive.

COHEN: Right. And we asked that same question. And we were assured this baby was tested multiple times in the first year of life, and she was indeed HIV positive. And in fact, when you go in with super duper ultrasensitive tests, you can find remnants of DNA and RNA from HIV in the baby's body. So, she's got remnants of genetic material of HIV, and so they offer that up as another piece of proof that, yes, she was HIV positive at one point.

O'BRIEN: Oh, it's a fascinating story. It would be interesting to see what the implications could be for other children. Even if adults could have some kind of benefit from that.

Elizabeth Cohen for us -- thanks, Elizabeth. Appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Fierce winter storm to tell you about, setting its sights on Washington, D.C. Right now, it's covering the Midwest with several inches of snow. Chicago, they say, could see 10 inches of snow before the nation's capital gets even more than that.

Jennifer Delgado is live for us in the CNN weather center.

Hey, Jennifer.


It seems all we ever talk about are big winter storms out there.

O'BRIEN: Yes. All we ever talk about, you and I.

DELGADO: And if you're wondering, this will be the fourth one in six weeks, if you're keeping count.

Now, the snow coming down through the Dakotas, but as we go through the evening, into the morning hours, we're really going to see this storm get energized. It's going to be bringing snow to areas like Chicago overnight as well as into Tuesday.

Then it affects Erie, like Indiana Tuesday afternoon. And then, by Wednesday, this becomes a mid-Atlantic problem.

Let's talk about the snow totals. And, of course, we know we're talking a foot or more in some of these locations. For Minneapolis, six to 12. Chicago, six to nine. And then, for Ft. Wayne, 12 to 18 for you.

Now for the mid-Atlantic, this is where it gets a bit more tricky, because the storm system is going to be moving right along the coast, as it does, potentially, we could see potentially in these locations, of course, right around the mountains, 12 or more inches of snowfall. For Washington, D.C., 10 to 12 for you.

That is going to depend on the track of the storm, if it moves more towards the North, we could see this becoming a problem for parts of the Northeast.

But, Soledad, right now we do have blizzard warnings, winter storm warnings in place from the Dakotas all the way over towards Virginia. This could be potentially a whopper out there.

O'BRIEN: We have talked about whopper -- you and I have covered way too many whoppers. How many times have you said that to me? It's going to be a whopper, Soledad.

DELGADO: I know, quadruple whopper.

O'BRIEN: Let's move in to the hot weather soon.

Jennifer Delgado -- thanks, Jennifer.

DELGADO: All right.

O'BRIEN: So, right now, demolition teams are at the scene of that giant sinkhole that killed a man near Tampa, Florida. Yesterday, crews began to carefully tear down the home around the sinkhole. The sinkhole is roughly 30 feet wide, 60 feet wide. Imagine that, 60 feet deep. It's now filled with clay and debris.

Thirty-seven-year-old Jeff Bush is presumed dead after the earth gave way under him as he was sleeping.

George Howell is live for us in Seffner, Florida, with more.

Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning. You know, neighbors are starting to come out. They are still in shock that this happened in this neighborhood. And I want to show, give you a good look at this house. You're starting to see the crews turn out around this track hoe as they will start the work to tear down the home.

And look back there at the debris leftover. I say debris, but there are family memories, a lot of history has that's really been destroyed. As the crews go through this house, the demolition expected to start any minute now as crews continue to tear down the house.


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.

MIKE MERRILL, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR: 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 KILLED BY SINKHOLE: 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 to help him. 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.


HOWELL: A live picture here in Seffner, Florida, where -- what do you see here? You know, a mattress, a few chairs. And in the foreground, if we could pan over to it, you can see the memorial that's been set up. These are things that people brought, you know, a stuffed bunny rabbit, flowers. You can tell that this community is coming together for the family, again, as this demolition, Soledad, is expected to happen at any time now.

O'BRIEN: George Howell for us this morning. Thank you, George.

John Berman has got a look at some of the other stories making news -- John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

New developments overnight: a surprise meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in an effort to get Israel and the Palestinians talking again. It happened while both were visiting Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

Kerry is in the midst of his first official overseas trip. He wrapped up a four-day trip to Egypt, where he pledged $250 million in U.S. aid to support their future attempts as a democracy.

Catholics may have a pope in less than two weeks. A Vatican spokesman saying the pope's successor could be in place by March 14th. More than 100 cardinals are meeting this morning and then again this afternoon. One of the first orders of business, to try to set a date for the conclave.

This as former British Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who abruptly resigned and said he would not attend the conclave, now admits he's guilty of sexual misconduct. He 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."

President Obama is expected to make three key nominations for his second term in a couple of hours at the White House. He'll nominate Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. She's currently an assistant director at the EPA. She worked for Mitt Romney at once in Massachusetts. MIT physicist Earnest Muniz will get the nod to be the next energy secretary. And Sylvia Matthews Burwell will be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. She currently heads the Walmart Foundation.

CNN will bring you these nominations live. That will happen 10:15 Eastern Time.

On the subject of Mitt Romney, we're hearing this morning from the former Massachusetts governor, his first public comment since losing the election. In a FOX News interview, Mitt Romney and his wife Ann reflect on the campaign and how they ended up on the outside looking in at the White House. Both admitted it still hurts.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still care, and I still believe that there are principles that we need to stand for. And 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.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: I know he would have been a fabulous president, and I mourn the fact that he's not there. It would have been -- it would have been much better for America, I believe, in my heart, if he had been there right now.


BERMAN: Governor Romney acknowledged one of the biggest mistakes of his campaign was the comment that 47 percent of people are dependent on the government and don't take personal responsibility for their lives.

So if it seems that no one wants to talk about a really even deal with the forced spending cuts on Capitol Hill, thank goodness "Saturday Night Live" is dealing with it with a little help from the Village People.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, of course, these cuts will affect our military, our civil service, federal construction projects, and even grants to Native Americans.

And I'm the one who has to tell these folks, young men, there's no need to feel down. Young man, pick yourself off the ground. Young man, just because your funding is down, there's no need to be unhappy.


BERMAN: Where were they a week ago when we needed a break, right?

O'BRIEN: You know, we really could just run that every day if this thing drags on.

Thanks, John, appreciate that.

What did you think of that Romney interview?

MARY BONO MACK (R), FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSWOMAN: I thought it was great to see them out there again. I think for the American people to see the agony of defeat and how big it was. I think that Mitt still don't necessarily quite have the answers that the American people want to hear.

I think for me with Ann, it resonates. I think it's harder to be the spouse of the politician, without a doubt, the pain can be greater.

O'BRIEN: Like she seems more mad actually or --

CONNIE MACK (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: I thought it was a great interview. Typically, in interviews like this, you see a candidate who, you know, is soft on the interview, but I thought Mitt put it all out there. He still has raw feelings about the election.

I think that's good. I think it was good for him, I think it was good for the country to hear what he has to say. Just because he lost the election doesn't mean that things that he cared about during the election, that he stops caring about.

O'BRIEN: He clearly still wants to be involved in some capacity.

CHRIS JOHN FARLEY, SR. EDITORIAL DIRECOTR, DIGITAL FEATURES, WSJ: It's also fascinating that once you remove the campaign structure from around them, candidates often feel freer to speak their minds, because they don't have these other people to answer to.

O'BRIEN: Let's ask the two candidates.

BONO MACK: How can you say that?

O'BRIEN: I don't notice it with these two people at all. Huh.

Ahead this morning, I'm going to share a story that I think is just insane. Second grade kid has been suspended from school, which I didn't realize you can do in second grade. He molded his breakfast pastry into allegedly the shape of a gun.

We're going to talk to the boy, who's 7. We're going to talk to his dad. They say the whole thing is blown out of proportion.

Also, Jodi Arias, the woman who's accused of murdering her ex- boyfriend, will be back on the stand today. What can her defense team do to turn things around after the prosecution got her to break down and just went on and on and on. We'll hear what the defense strategy could be, right after this.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Jodi Arias is back on the stand. Fourteen day of this trial. Defense now trying to do some damage control, because on Thursday, Arias admitted that after she shot her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, she then slit his throat. She stabbed him nearly 30 times and then attempted to cover her tracks. This is what she said in the courtroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you crying when you were shooting him?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you crying when you were stabbing him?

ARIAS: I don't remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about when you cut his throat? Were you crying then?

ARIAS: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, take a look then. You're the one that did this, right? ARIAS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're the same individual that lied about all this, right?



O'BRIEN: That's Juan Martinez. He's the prosecutor in this case, just brutal. Beth Karas is in Phoenix. She's covering the trial for truTV's "In Session." Nice to have you with us, Beth. OK. So, boy, did that drag out with the prosecution. Now is the defense turn. How did they possibly in cross-examination make that any better?

BETH KARAS, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION ON TRUTV: Well, good morning, Soledad. You know, we have seen 13 days of Jodi Arias on the stand. Eight days by her attorneys, five days by the prosecution on cross, and now, her attorneys get another day, two, three days, who knows, to try to rehabilitate. What can they do with her? I'm not sure. They'll go over some of the areas they already covered on direct examination.

She had great recall when her lawyers were questioning her about all kinds of detail in her life except when it came to the killing, itself. She's in a fog, blurry. She remembers shooting and nothing else until she's driving in the desert about a half an hour later, probably, maybe more. This is after slicing him up and slitting his throat and deleting photos on a camera of his, incriminating photos that placed her at the scene, which investigators later found. Pretty incredible stuff.

So, on cross-examination, she had memory loss about all the kinds of detail she remembered earlier in her life. All of a sudden, I don't know, I'm not sure. So, I think her lawyers are going to try to deal with that. Why aren't you sure about these things when you were earlier in your testimony?

O'BRIEN: Jurors are allowed to ask questions too, which is really unusual. How is that going to go?

KARAS: Well, you know, they have a wire basket sitting on the rail in front of them, and they can put pieces of paper with their questions in it. Now, there weren't really any questions until last Thursday, the last day of cross-examination. So, now, they're starting to assemble the questions.

The judge will hold them until after all questioning by the attorneys is finished, then the judge will review the questions with the attorneys and ask them on behalf of the jurors if they're appropriate. That will give us an idea of at least where one or two jurors are going and where they feel there may be some holes in her story.

O'BRIEN: So what's the tone like? I mean, from just watching it on TV, it just seems like a complete train wreck for the defense. I mean, how does it feel in the courtroom when she falls apart like that and she's sobbing and covering her eyes and the prosecutor's haranguing her.

KARAS: You know, the dynamic is always a little different when you're there in person. We do the best we can showing it on a two- dimensional TV screen, right? But when you're in the courtroom and I'm taking it in, I'm watching family members on both sides, I watch the jury, it was -- the feeling in the courtroom was palpable.

I mean, people were just hanging on her words at the end because she was breaking down really for the first time on the stand in what you just showed last week as she had to acknowledge that she did all these things because she didn't remember anything when her lawyer asked her questions, and she barely cried when her lawyer asked her questions. So, it was really very moving.

And of course, the family members of the victim, Travis Alexander, have been crying periodically throughout the trial. Jodi Arias' mother, other family members here all the time, obviously, emotional also but less so than the victim's family.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness, what an awful thing. All right. Beth Karas is the correspondent for "In Session" on truTV. Thanks, Beth. We're going to keep watching it with you as well. Appreciate it

Oh my gosh. What a brutal -- just the details of this case are so horrific.

C. MACK: I can't -- I mean, I know they have to go through the court process, but you can't see and watch this and go maybe she didn't do it.

O'BRIEN: No. They're fighting over getting her death.

C. MACK: I know. I know.

O'BRIEN: But this whole entire thing is will she be put to death, right? And I actually think the prosecutor, by having her breakdown and cry, may have undermined his whole point, right? He humanized her more, because she didn't cry with the defense attorneys. She now is falling apart. I think that actually humanizes her more. It might be --

C. MACK: I don't know how all this works, but -- you know, I don't -- I don't understand that part, how it humanizes her, because the things that she did, I mean, is --

O'BRIEN: But I think they won't put her to death, right? She's a sobbing young woman who's teary. I think that actually makes it more likely for them. Again --

BONO MACK: It's bone chilling. I think the opposite.

O'BRIEN: Really?

BONO MACK: She seems just evil.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SR. EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, DIGITAL FEATURES, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I find when people say they forget horrific acts on the stand. I mean, is it a psychological condition where this happens again and again or is it a defense strategy to do this?

O'BRIEN: She's had about, what, three or four different iterations of what happened in this horrible killing. You know, at one point, she wasn't there and then she was -- I think there was kidnap, and then she was mentally -- I mean, there's a whole range.


O'BRIEN: Who know? All right. So, let's talk a little bit about North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un. Usually, regularly, I think it's fair to say, he threatens the United States. Dennis Rodman says he loves the guy. Kind of a strange trip that he took to North Korea.


O'BRIEN: And we'll tell you what Dennis Rodman says the leader wants President Obama to do next. That's ahead.



This morning, stock futures are lower, moves to slow the real estate market in China, sending a ripple around the global markets. The Dow, though, still just 75 points now away from its record high. Despite all the worries coming out of Washington about what it's doing or not doing, the market has been in rally mode. Why? David Kelly From JPMorgan calls it TINA.


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 right, have it diversified portfolio, have bonds in it, but just the overweight stocks relatively normally (ph) be.


ROMANS: He also says owning a home is a great investment right in this low interest rate environment. Bottom line, be smart about your money, know your goals, make sure you're diversified. A lot of people asking me, is now the time to buy stocks? No, about six months ago was the time to buy stocks, Christine.


ROMANS: But you need to figure out what your age is, what your goal is, and at least, David Kelly of JPMorgan says stocks are still the only alternative. TINA.

O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning on STARTING POINT, a new study takes a look at adults who are diagnosed with ADHD as kids and the powerful effects on them later in life. We'll tell you why researchers say it's not just a behavioral problem but a serious health condition.

Plus, did a school overreact when they suspended a seven-year-old boy for molding his breakfast pastry -- I can't get through the sentence -- molding his breakfast pastry into something that looked like a gun. We're going to talk to the second grader and his dad about the punishment coming up.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. It is estimated that seven percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD. And this morning, we're learning that these kids might grow up to have some serious psychological problems.