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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Powerful Winter Snowstorm; Potential Health "Nightmare"; Domestic Drone Strikes Against Americans; Russian Ballet Acid Attack; Zimmerman Won't Seek Immunity; Inspired Super Bowl Prediction; Six- Shooter Celebration On Hold?; Not Your Average Half Court Shot; Back At Home; White House Tours Canceled; A Timely Take On Gun Control

Aired March 6, 2013 - 07:30   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. Take a look. Right now, there is snow falling on the nation's capital. Schools and federal offices are closed. Winter weather alerts are in effect for much of the central and eastern part of the country and we're getting an update from utilities, more than 93,000 customers are without power this morning and most of them are in the state of Virginia.

This is all from that monster storm that's already blanketed several cities, grounded flights from the Dakotas to Ohio. Coastal flood warnings and advisories are in effect for portions of the mid-Atlantic from Maryland to Connecticut. Some people in New Jersey towns are voluntarily evacuating after they went through all that trouble and disaster during Superstorm Sandy. So it's kind of a mess across the country.

Karen Maginnis is tracking the system for us. So Karen, exactly what does it look like and when does it move on?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's going to take some time, Soledad, because as the storm system sweeps to the east it's going to slow down. You mentioned the power outages in Virginia, Northern Virginia. Why? Because the bull's-eye as far as the snowfall totals are concerned, 20 or more inches across northern sections of Virginia, where our correspondent Joe Johns is.

They could see 15 to 20 inches of snowfall there. Not to be left out, besides Washington, D.C., pretty much shutting down, 4 inches to 8 inches of snow expected there, New York City 2 to 4, 4 to 8 for Boston with the potential for coastal flooding.

Right now as we take a look at that capitol building, the snowfall is not heavy, but it's persistent and will continue for the afternoon, making travel difficult on the roadways. Expect a number of power outages for this afternoon with, Soledad, possibly 50-mile-an-hour wind gusts.

O'BRIEN: What a mess. All right, thanks for the update. Appreciate that.

Big story we're following this morning as well, there's a warning from the CDC about a hard-to-stop superbug. It's a deadly nightmare bacteria that's on the rise in U.S. hospitals. Our senior medical correspondent is Elizabeth Cohen. Tell us a little bit about this superbug.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, this superbug lives in hospitals, Soledad, and is spread by the hands of the people who work at hospitals, doctors, nurses and others. And here's the problem, most antibiotics do not work against it. And the ones that do can either -- don't work very well or can be toxic, both to the kidney and to the neurological system.

So let's look at what the numbers say according to this new CDC report. They said last year it showed that 200 hospitals had at least one case of this in their hospital or in their nursing home. So that's one case in at least 200 hospitals and nursing homes. And again, antibiotics, they have tested it and most of them just don't work -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So then what do they do? I mean, if you know immuno- compromised patients and people whose job it is to go from patient to patient to patient, it sounds like potentially a disaster.

COHEN: First of all, those people need to do a better job of washing their hands. That's been a huge problem in hospitals in this country. It's getting better by some accounts, but they need to just wash their hands better.

Another question is, what can you do since you aren't in control of what hospitals do? So you have to ask those doctors and nurses to wash their hands when they come in. Does it matter if they're wearing gloves or not. If you don't see them wash their hands or sterilize them, ask them to do it.

Also wash your own hands frequently. And if you've got a catheter in you or if you're with a family who does, get that catheter out as quickly as you can. Every day say can it come out today because those things can harbor bacteria.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right, Elizabeth Cohen for us. Thanks, Elizabeth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had one of those bugs a couple of years ago.

O'BRIEN: A superbug?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I went in for an abscess surgery under my skin and was getting ready to go. Suddenly I looked up and everybody in the room looked like they were in a moon suit. I had to stay an extra three days and I was two weeks at home on antibiotics. It was a nightmare, scary as hell.

O'BRIEN: You went in relatively healthy, but if you're someone who's not healthy and to have another flood of treatment is really, really difficult.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You're not supposed to get sicker in the hospital.

O'BRIEN: That's where all the sick people are. Clearly it makes it easier to get much sicker. All right, other stories making news -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thank you, Soledad. Attorney General Eric Holder refusing to rule out the possibility of using drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil. Senator Rand Paul had been threatening to hold up the confirmation of John Brennan for CIA director until his questions about the administration's domestic drone policy were addressed.

This morning he has his answer and Paul calls it an affront to the constitution. Chris Lawrence joins us now live from the Pentagon this morning. So Chris, lay out this White House policy, this new seemingly policy of domestic drone strikes.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, basically Eric Holder is saying that the White House and the administration have no plans to carry out any sort of drone or lethal strikes on Americans here in the U.S., but he left open the possibility that down the road there could be a circumstance in which it would.

That may be very shocking to some Americans who don't believe the U.S. government would ever have the power to assert that kind of authority. But in this letter, Attorney General Holder basically says this is a hypothetical situation. It's not something the government is considering.

And he hopes that no president would ever have to confront this. But it is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.

He goes on to provide some examples of those so-called extraordinary circumstances, such as preventing perhaps the attack on Pearl Harbor or more recently the attacks on September 11th, 2001.

But this opens up a whole can of worms. I mean when you look at the government's targeting of U.S. citizens abroad in Yemen, the killing of Anwar Al Awlaki, some of those families of U.S. citizens filed a lawsuit against the federal government.

Having that happen on U.S. soil would open up all kinds of possibilities, because while the Obama administration rightfully is saying they were asked this hypothetical question, it is hypothetical, what is hypothetical today may not be so in five, ten, 15, 20 years.

BERMAN: Very good point, Chris. A hypothetical discussion that I think will be the source of great debate in Washington very, very soon. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon, our thanks to you.

Meanwhile, a stunning confession in an attack that nearly blinded the director of Russia's famous Bolshoi Ballet. Police say the company's lead dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, has admitted to planning an acid attack on the ballet company's artistic director.

CNN's Phil Black is following developments for us live from Moscow this morning. Phil, this is just a bizarre story.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is indeed, John. Police here have released this video of the man, the leading dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet. It is a short clip that he is heard speaking in Russian confessing to this acid attack. He says I was responsible for organizing this attack but not to the extent that it happened.

So it's somewhat a qualified confession there. What did happen? Well, this was back in January when the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet was outside his apartment building. Someone approached him, called his name, he turned.

That someone threw a jar of sulphuric acid in his face. The police here now say they have also caught the person who threw the acid and a third person who acted as the driver that night.

As for the motive, well, it's always centered on the possibility here of rivalries and jealousies within the Bolshoi Ballet. Police have confirmed they believe it was because of hostile relations between these two men at work but no further details just yet.

BERMAN: All right, Phil Black in Moscow, our thanks to you.

A significant new development in the Trayvon Martin alleged murder case. Shooter George Zimmerman's defense team deciding not to seek immunity under Florida's stand your ground law.

Zimmerman's lawyers cancelling a hearing scheduled for next month that could have freed their client if it went their way. Instead they will try to convince a jury that Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed Martin in self defense. Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial begins on June 10th.

A teenage boy who disappeared while skiing with his father Sunday has been found. A snowmobiler spotted Nicholas Joy yesterday morning at Sugar Loaf Ski Resort in Maine. Joy says he simply got lost out on the trail. He told the man he drank water from a nearby stream and survived for two nights in the bitter cold by building an igloo out of snow and pine needles. That is some smart thinking.

O'BRIEN: Thank God that he's alive and safe. Wow.

Ahead this morning, since the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, gun control and ownership has been like a lightning rod issue. Why are guns so appealing in the first place? We have a new book that looks at gun culture in America. We're going to talk about that straight ahead.

And then a NASCAR tradition could be coming to an end. It's today's "Bleacher Report." We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. A heart-warming story from the NFL, the Denver Broncos Von Miller, one of the best -- what's that? Shout out to Texas. A linebacker in the NFL so inspired by his 6- year-old cousin's recovery from a coma, he's guaranteed a Super Bowl win next season. How about that for going out on a limb? Joe Carter has more on that in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hi, Joe. Good morning.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Yes, that is a pretty bold, big, strong prediction, whatever you want to call it. But this prediction does come from a very good place. It's in support for a very young boy who just dodged death on Monday.

Miller tweeted out this. He said you can post it anywhere Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl in the 2013 season. He added hash tag 4ujeremiah and I guarantee it 58. Now, when Jeremiah, the 6-year-old, came out of the coma he told everyone in the room so proudly that his cousin is a Denver Bronco.

In a recent radio interview Von Miller said that statement is what motivated the Super Bowl guarantee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My younger cousin, he got in a wreck about a week ago, and he just got out of a coma. He remembered that his cousin plays for the Denver Broncos and his name is Von Miller. It's a little bit extra for me and I'm extremely motivated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: All right, I like it. If he can beat a coma, we can win the Super Bowl.

Well, it's considered the most unique celebration in sports and it could be changing very soon. For years you've seen the winning NASCAR driver at that race in Texas celebrate by firing two six-shooters into the air from victory lane.

Well, the track president there says he's willing to change the celebration and alter it for the upcoming April 13th race if any of the race's sponsors are opposed to it.

A fan at the Lakers/Thunder game, this guy nailed a half-court shot and for it he wins $20,000. If anybody could use this money, it's this guy. See his wife right there? She's a high school teacher and she's also fighting cancer. Not only does this couple have mounting hospital bills, they have to clothe and feed seven children. Congratulations to them.

The Miami Heat last week put out their version of the "Harlem Shake." Lebron James and company in my opinion did the best sports version out there. But, like a lot of us out there, we've got "Harlem Shake" fatigue, especially the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That's how you put an end to a viral video. Goodbye. Isn't nobody got time for that. The T-Wolves mascot not feeling it anymore. Goodbye, Harlem shake.

The Chicago Blackhawks extended their record-setting point streak to 23 straight games last night by beating the Minnesota Wild. Our friends at "Bleacher Report" are making a bold prediction. They're saying this team will not win the Stanley Cup, bold predictions this morning -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You're all about the bold predictions. Can we go back to the guy who made the basket, won $20,000, wife has cancer, has seven kids. Remind us who are they? If people want to reach out and help them, $20,000 is great, but nowhere near enough for seven kids and cancer treatment. So remind us about this young lady in case someone wants to reach out and help them out.

CARTER: Well, the information that we got is that she is a high school teacher. Obviously, she doesn't make a terrible -- very large living. And that this family has a lot of bills and they could use the help -- any help that they could get. They're Oklahoma City fans. The guy says he's a Laker fan. His name -- their last name is Jamal. We still don't have a whole lot of information on them.

O'BRIEN: You know what we should do --

MARTIN: Contact the Oklahoma City Thunder and contact media relations and get the information.

O'BRIEN: We'll reach out to the Thunder and then we'll tweet that out. What a great story, but $20,000 which is a ton of money, nowhere near enough for those kids. Thank you for that update, bold, bold predictions today.

Up next, gun control debate is not only about the second amendment right to bear arms, a lot of people just like owning guns. We have a panelist with a new book that explores the nation's love affair with guns. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is out of the hospital this morning after taking a fall at his New York City home. The 89-year-old Kissinger, who served under Presidents Nixon and Ford was admitted yesterday to New York Presbyterian Hospital. No details about his injuries have been released.

So starting this weekend, all White House tours are cancelled. Casualties of the government's forced spending cuts. The tours will not be rescheduled and the White House Visitors Center says the freeze will be in place until further notice. The Republicans on Capitol Hill do note that tours of the capitol will continue to go on.

O'BRIEN: So what's that about? Is that just a PR stunt?

BERMAN: To get tickets for these White House tours you have to go through your tours you have to go through members of Congress to get them. Some people speculate the White House is putting members of Congress on the spot because they have to say no to their constituents to these White House tours.

MARTIN: It's difficult to travel if it's that much snow looking out for people's safety?

O'BRIEN: Good try. Two points for the try.

MARTIN: I'm saying we're going to have six inches of snow in D.C.

O'BRIEN: It's all political.

BERMAN: I got pretty pictures for you.

MARTIN: OK.

BERMAN: This is the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. What happened was a special $8 million installation on the Bay Bridge using more than 250,000 LED lights. Organizers say the privately-funded project is turning the 1.8 mile, 500-foot tall bridge into the world's biggest illuminated sculpture. What's really nice about this is the Bay Bridge is sometimes kind of like the ugly stepchild. The Bay Bridge, it's getting the respect it deserves.

MARTIN: Every night or a week or so.

O'BRIEN: Art installation, it's not forever, but probably for a little while. You're right. The Bay Bridge is not the pretty bridge.

BERMAN: But right now it is. It gets to be the prom queen for a little while.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for the pictures, John Berman, so appreciated.

Let's talk about gun control this morning. The issue continues to dominate the political landscape. Often it's fair to say the most extreme voices on either side of an issue get the most attention before the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Dan Baum was a self-professed gun guy, took an 18-month-long trip bypassing the NRA and extreme anti-gun activists and speaking directly with people who own guns, it's called "Gun Guys: A Road Trip." It's nice to have you with us. You're a gun guy yourself.

DAN BAUM, FORMER STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER" AND "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I'm kind of a weirdo. I am a lifelong liberal Democrat from a Jewish suburb of New York who has also been a lifelong gun guy because I was a fat guy at summer camp and the one thing I can do better than the other boys was lie on my belly and shoot a 22-rifle.

So I've been this bifurcated individual. I think -- in some way, there was one point on this trip where I thought I don't really have to go very far to learn about our nation's conflicted relationship with guns. I can just tour the inside of my own skull.

O'BRIEN: Do you think a lot of people are in the same position as you are?

BAUM: I'm hearing from them now. Since the book is out and since I've been doing some media and writing some articles, I'm hearing from liberal Democrats who like guns and who have always felt like I do. I mean, when you hang out around Democrats in my world, people say the most God awful things about gun owners and you kind have to just shut up and pretend you're a closeted gay man and chuckle along when people say these things about gun owners.

There are a lot of misconceptions. Frankly the NRA makes a lot of misconceptions about gun owners and that's why I did the book.

O'BRIEN: So 18-month trip across the nation to talk to actual gun owners.

BAUM: Stopping at every gun store.

O'BRIEN: Why do you like guns? I mean, what do you like about guns?

BAUM: First of all they are the most beautiful consumer devices you can buy. You can't buy anything else for $400 that will still be working 100 years from now.

MARTIN: Golf clubs? Just kidding.

BAUM: Probably not. Your golf clubs are probably obsolete in five or six years. They're mechanically beautiful and that's where it starts. It goes really deep. I'll tell you the surprises. I knew how much fun they were to shoot.

Here's what I didn't realize is gun owners get a tremendous amount of pride from being able to manage these dangerous things with nobody getting hurt, used effectively, take them from the safe, put them in the car, take them to the range, teach people to shoot.

And there's a little, we get a little contact high from the grim reaper to tell you the truth. There's a death thing the way for skydivers and race car drivers. We're walking up to the line of death and saying we are kind of managing the line between life and death.

O'BRIEN: I think that analogy --

BAUM: I'm not asking you to like all these people. I'm asking to you listen to these people.

O'BRIEN: Which I complete agree with.

MARTIN: Dan, I don't think it's a question of even I don't like them or I like them. I'm born and raised in Texas. I get the whole deal but I think where it begins to evolve into a different conversation, and I appreciate the love of guns.

But when you begin to look at the reality of what happens the after effect, a guy jumping out of a plane that's just affecting him. When a bullet is fired, you have no idea where that bullet is going so when you begin to talk about guns in this country and the gun culture that's when the conversation begins to shift.

BAUM: Go ahead.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask, you were right about carrying a concealed weapon.

BAUM: Yes, I did that for a year and a half to get in the gun guy head and also to identify myself to other gun --

O'BRIEN: Here is my question. I grew up with a rifle. I'm a really good shot. And I have small children so I always worry about weapons around kids.

BAUM: Sure I don't blame you.

O'BRIEN: I cover a zillion stories of kids shot by guns accidentally, but why do you need a gun when you're going to the whole foods? What's the point?

BAUM: You probably don't need a gun when you're going to the whole foods.

O'BRIEN: Why do you need a gun?

BAUM: I never needed a gun. I live in a safe place. After about a year and a half, I got tired of carrying it. But there are a lot of Americans this just in. You'd be amazed how many Americans don't live in Manhattan. Don't live on the upper west side. There are a lot of Americans who live in places where they feel they need a gun.

O'BRIEN: They're worried for their lives they may be attacked and might need to shoot someone, is that your answer?

BAUM: There are about 7 million Americans who have gotten legal handgun permits. Frankly I think most Americans get them because they want to carry a gun. The desire to carry the gun precedes the fear of the crime, but once you've got the gun you are really lit up with attention and paying attention and it changes.

O'BRIEN: We're going to continue this conversation. I have to take a commercial break or we won't need to worry about this again because they'll take me off. We'll talk more about this because I find your book fascinating the mind-set of the why, we could talk about all morning.

BAUM: As I say, you don't have to like them but you do need to understand them.

O'BRIEN: We also want to talk this morning about our other top story, which is snow falling at the capitol building, some folks are predicting 20 inches of snow in the areas surrounding Washington, D.C. We'll tell you what to expect from the monster storm, live team coverage straight ahead.

And the crane collapse caught on camera, look at that. Yes. That's a bad day, whoever is in charge of that thing. That story is ahead. We're back in a moment.

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