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Powerful Storm Moves East; Dow Hits New Record High; Human Trafficking On Social Media

Aired March 6, 2013 - 08:00   ET


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

Our STARTING POINT this morning: a major snowstorm could cripple the nation's capital today. Schools, federal offices already closed. Some surrounding areas could see up to 20 inches of snow. Live on the ground where the storm is headed straight ahead.

And a dangerous superbug. Lots of hospitals on edge now. Coming up, the potentially deadly bacteria doctors say cannot be stopped by most antibiotics.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Stock futures are climbing, just a day after the day reached an all-time high. What's behind the record climb and what you do now?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Watch out. A construction crane collapses with a splash and it is all caught on camera, which you can tell because we just showed you.

O'BRIEN: We'll tell you what's behind that.

Also this morning, we're talking to Brad Goreski of Bravo TV's "It's a Brad, Brad World." Have you seen this show?


O'BRIEN: He used to be Rachel Zoe's assistant, which was a crazy show. And now, he's got his own. You can see him, too (ph). We'll talk about his show coming up.

It's Wednesday, March 6th and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Back to our team this morning: Cameron Russell is with us. Roland Martin is here. Dan Baum is a journalist, author of "Gun Guys." We've been talking about that this morning.

Nice to have you with us.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Gun dudes. O'BRIEN: All right. Happening right now: this fierce winter storm beating down on the nation's capital. They are predicting that the heart of Washington, D.C., could see four to eight inches of snow. The surrounding areas, though, much, much more, up to 20 inches of snow.

Severe winter weather warning is in effect, D.C. schools are closed, federal offices are closed. More than 93,000 customers are without power at this hour, most of those folks are in Virginia. Five major airlines have now canceled more than 1,000 flights today because the storm could dump more snow on D.C. that they've seen in years.

We've got the storm covered for you. Joe Johns is live in Winchester, Virginia. Karen Maginnis in the severe weather center this morning. Shannon Travis is live for us at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Joe, let's start with you. What a big mess and it's looking worse than when I last saw you. How is it doing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Soledad. Right now, we're seeing the wind picking up just a little bit more here in the Shenandoah Valley.

The story of the storm is not just the volume of snow. It's also the weight and the texture of the snow. As you can see how it sticks to the limbs, stick to trees, can bring trees down, can also bring power lines down as well.

And, of course, there's the problem on the roads, people have been dealing with this all across the country since yesterday.


JOHNS (voice-over): It's already breaking records and it's not over yet. The massive deadly storm started its march in the Upper Plains. Parts of North Dakota had over a foot of snow.

Ditto in Minnesota where wrecks littered the highways, when traffic did move, it moved slowly. Then, on to Wisconsin and more treacherous roads. A semi fell into the Red Cedar River, killing the driver and closing part of the interstate for hours.

In Chicago, the afternoon commute was an icy, snowy mess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't make for good driving, but at the same time, you know what? It's beautiful out, the snow, the quiet.

JOHNS: The 10 inches of snow at O'Hare Airport set a record for most snowfall on that date.

More than 1,000 flights in and out of Chicago were cancelled. Overnight, the snow started piling up in Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was scary, felt like I was on ice, really slippery. JOHNS: And Ohio.

But amid the misery, there is a bright side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pretty sweet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like being on a mattress or a cloud.

JOHNS: Now, that big monstrous cloud is bearing down on Virginia, has Washington in its sights. And it's still far from being over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have get on the road use extreme caution, drive slower than you normally wood.


JOHNS: Underscoring that it has been snowing for hours here in Winchester, Virginia, and some of the parking lots even have been shoveled and scraped a little bit. But in all likelihood, everybody's got to be back here, doing this again sometime after this evening.

Back to you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, no doubt about that. Joe Johns for us -- thank you, Joe.

Travel nightmare, airports feeling the domino effect from storm- related flight disruptions. As I mentioned, already 1,000 flights canceled, 650 of them were United flights, U.S. Airways had 350 flights that were grounded, 20 American Airlines flights grounded from the storm.

Shannon Travis is live at Washington Dulles International Airport.

So, is it chaos or are they sort of prepared for this?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's actually not chaos, it's pretty much a ghost town, as you mentioned a lot of flights canceled here at Dulles.

I want to give you a sense of other disruptions in the region. We're hearing about cancellations on the Hill. At least one Senate hearing on homeland security management canceled due to the storm, a House hearing on gun violence, Soledad, canceled. We learned about that one yesterday, the hearing is for today.

And Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, he was supposed to attend a meeting at the Cato Institute on immigration reform, that's been canceled. Apparently, he can't get out of New York. His flight can't get out.

Back here at Dulles, you mentioned the flight cancellations. We've been speaking with a few people. One person is coming from abroad, didn't even know about the storm, flew right into it and now, he's essentially sleeping on the inside of the airport. Take a listen.


ALEX THOMPSON, DELAYED PASSENGER: It's been changed to tomorrow.

TRAVIS: Changed until tomorrow?


TRAVIS: So, what are you about to do?

THOMPSON: Go sleep over there, waste my time until I can get on my flight.

TRAVIS: Why sleep in the airport, why not go back to wherever you might have come from?

THOMPSON: I came from Kenya. There's no way and I don't have hotel reservations, so I'll just sleep here.


TRAVIS: Soledad, came from Kenya, headed to San Francisco, he says that he's going to waste time and hopes his Internet holds up -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Poor guy. Oh, we've all been there. That is just the worst.

All right. Shannon Travis -- probably a little jetlag coming from Kenya. Appreciate it, Shannon. Thank you.

Let's get right to Karen Maginnis, she's tracking the system for us.

Where is it headed, Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we are watching the system that is going to impact the weather across mid-Atlantic and the Northeast for the next 48 hours. And this system is being described as impactful and very destructive. We could see downed trees, downed power lines.

Area of low pressure is going to make its way to the mid-Atlantic coast and continue to move its way out to the Atlantic. But on the back side of this, it is going to produce heavy snow or rain/snow mix even into New York City, two to four inches possible there. But for Boston, you could see four to eight. Now, the confidence is very high as to the snowfall totals to the west of Interstate 95, up to 20 inches of snow.

Our Joe Johns is in that Winchester area and it's going to be steady all day.

But then as we go in towards Thursday and Friday, we're looking at portions of Philadelphia and New York, extending all the way up to Boston, not just that but some pretty high winds as well. We could see wind gusts as high as 50 miles an hour. There is a coastal flood watch as well. But for Washington, D.C., this winter storm is roaring in with a vengeance, and could be in the top five snowfall totals of all-time -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Which is a terrible list to make, I imagine.

All right. Thank you, Karen. Appreciate it.

This morning, all eyes on Wall Street, looking to see if the market can make it two record days in a row, the Dow closing yesterday just below 14,253. That was a new record high. It breaks the old high from October 2007, which was before the economy crashed.

Ali Velshi and Christine Romans walk us through this.

So, what is this exactly mean? Is it great news for consumers?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends if you're invested or not. Christine will point out momentarily a lot of people aren't.

ROMANS: He knows what I'm going to say it. I love it.

O'BRIEN: God, you're like a married couple.

VELSHI: Think about this, Soledad, we've had this conversation.


VELSHI: If you want to make money in America, there are five ways you can do it: you can rob a bank, you can marry somebody rich, or have your investments go up, the value of your house go up, or the value of your wage go up.

And for the last five years --

ROMANS: We recommend the last three of those, by the way.

VELSHI: Yes, forget the first two.

Your housing is actually working because of low interest rates, but that's hard. You have to have money and credit and it takes a while.

The value of your wage is not going up until we get lower unemployment and higher job growth but that's happening. It's been happening for over two years.

So, ultimately, for most people, there is no other option except to have your money in the stock market and that's why money has been forced out of bank accounts where you get no interest, out of bond funds where you're not well, into the stock market.

But remember one thing, the stock market, a stock price is a multiple of how much that company is going to earn over the next year.

ROMANS: It's a reflection of how the company is doing, not how its employees are doing or how the rest of us are doing.

VELSHI: And companies are actually doing well. O'BRIEN: There was a day, right, when how the company was doing and the employees were doing was actually linked.

VELSHI: Right, right. And that's (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS: And a lot of people are discussing is there this new world where companies do better and make more money and have more money in cash and more money in the bank and they're not necessarily deploying it into their business?

What they're doing is they're giving money back to shareholders and dividends.

VELSHI: Or they're keeping it.

ROMANS: They're keeping money in the bank.

So, is there some confidence? You know, just last weekend, Warren Buffett chided CEOs saying you're too nervous, get out there and do something. You know, America is an optimistic place to be.

So, what point do companies hiring more people and every shares in the short --

MARTIN: But is it that companies are nervous or have they looked at the last four years and say, we whacked all these people, we are making more money, productivity is going up, we don't need to hire more folks.


ROMANS: They won't hire until they need to hire more people.

And, look, a lot of their revenues are coming from overseas now. So these are not "American companies". These are big multinationals. They have a huge presence overseas and they are getting more money from --

O'BRIEN: Interesting to see if they hit the number again today second day in a row.

VELSHI: It looks like the open is going to be strong. So, we'll see. But one never knows what happens in the course of the day. There's no pending news that would suggest a big market turnaround.

O'BRIEN: Right. You guys will watch it for us.


O'BRIEN: John Berman has got a look at other stories that are making news this morning.

Hey, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. Venezuelans are mourning the death of Hugo Chavez. A few minutes ago, they paid tribute with a gun salute. And later this morning, thousands are expected to line the streets to see his body, as it is taken from the hospital where he died to a military academy in Caracas. Yesterday, Venezuela's national baseball team was in Florida for an exhibition game against the Miami marlins, here is the team's fans reaction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm no fan of Hugo Chavez. I'm really happy he finally died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm happy for my country. Now, we're going to get freedom again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We let go of an era that was killing us, that was holding us back. Venezuela has so much potential.


BERMAN: Chavez will lie in-state for three days until his funeral on Friday. The country declared seven days of mourning, closed schools for the rest of the week and deployed armed forces to help keep the peace.

We have this bizarre story still developing overseas right now. Police say a star Russian ballet dancer has confessed to masterminding an attack on his boss, the head of the Bolshoi ballet company. Pavel Dmitrichenko and two others are in custody. Authorities released video of all three confessing on camera.

The victim Sergei Filin was nearly blinded in the January attack. Police say hostile relations between the two men may have led to the attack, but an exact motive is not known.

We've learned that there are two cardinal lectors who are not yet in Rome to help pick the next up. One is from Poland, the other from Vietnam. And both will be there by tomorrow. The date for the conclave has not been set yet. The cardinals say they plan to meet twice tomorrow. Meanwhile, a group representing survivors of sexual abuse by priests have made a list a cardinals it says will be the worse papal candidates based on how they handled child sex abuse claims.

New this morning, we've learned that President Obama is inviting a group of Republicans to the White House for dinner tonight. It will be a group of so far unnamed senators. No doubt, the sequestration and potential government shutdown could be on the menu. This is, of course, weather permitting. The weather in Washington may keep people from coming to the White House for dinner.

Take a look at this. A floating crane collapses in Oregon and it was all caught on camera. Utility workers were lifting up a new support structure for the high voltage power lines. And one of the supports got tangled with the power line. The pressure caused the crane to give way. Luckily, the power lines were not live at the time, no one was hurt.

We have some really sad news this morning for actress Valerie Harper. According to "People" magazine, she has been diagnosed with permanent brain cancer. Doctors say the 73 years Harper may have as little as three months left to live. The TV icon is best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on the "Mary Tyler Moore" show. And of course, the spinoff "Rhoda."

Soledad, it is sad.

O'BRIEN: That's so sad. I didn't know about that. Sad news. I love her.


O'BRIEN: Oh, absolutely.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: we're going to talk about the dangerous world of sex trafficking. We'll tell you how -- it's an interesting story on how pimps are using social media to lure young women into prostitution and what's being done about that. That's coming up next.


O'BRIEN: Believe it or not, human sex traffic is taking place on social media. It's becoming a growing concern for law enforcement and more and more women are accepting friends on sites like Facebook only to find that that friend is actually a pimp. Here's CNN's Laurie Segall with our report this morning.


LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with a friend request on Facebook.

"NINA", SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIM: My mentality was he's cute. Let me accept him, and then, once I accepted him, they would message me.

SEGALL: They quickly developed a relationship.

"NINA": He sold me the biggest dream in the world. You know, I thought like he really did like me and we were going to live this fairytale life together.

SEGALL: What she got was a nightmare.

"NINA": He pretty much was like I'm going to put you outside and you're going to walk and catch dates. I was OK with it because I liked him. Well, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, wanted to have kids. He really made it believable.

SEGALL: In a mouse click, "Nina" became a part of the growing number of victims recruited into sex trafficking on social networks. The other end of her friend request? A pimp (ph).

"NINA": I've been personally beaten with a pistol. I've been duct taped and put in a closet for 24 hours.

"LISA", SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIM: The money part. I wanted money, that's why I did it.

SEGALL: Lisa who asked us to hide her identity was trafficked for much of her life. She's free now but still receives more than 20 messages a day from pimps.

"LISA": Whassup -- Whassup wit u boo?

SEGALL: Pimps are now using many different social networks to do everything from connect to brag about money.

ANDREA POWELL, FAIR GIRLS: Almost all of our girls who we're working with now aged 11 all the way up to 22, they are being recruited online, this Facebook. It's tagged, which a lot of people don't know is sort of like I call it like the creepy Facebook and then Twitter actually, Instagram, to a smaller degree.

JACK BENNETT, FBI CYBERCRIMES SUPERVISOR: Minors will friend people whether they know them or not just to appear to be popular and somebody who is a pimp can use that information to start looking at what makes a person tick.

SEGALL: Pimps were doing exactly that in Virginia's affluent Fairfax County. Revealed in a major 2012 case, gang members were using social networking sites like Facebook to solicit women. One of the defendants sent over 800 solicitations on Facebook, many to women still in high school. But those same pages used to recruit are also used to rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can also go and see who all "liked" this and that can lead me looking for girls who look like they need help.

SEGALL: Law enforcement sources say that Facebook reacts swiftly when notified of illicit activity on specific accounts. Facebook says it takes human trafficking very seriously and has built complex technical systems to flag and block such material. says it has numerous tech and educational tools to empower and protect users and has a dedicated team to respond to unauthorized conduct on the site.

"Nina" and "Lisa," whose names were changed to protect their identities, are both still on the social networks where they were recruited. "Nina" says she's no longer looking for a boyfriend on Facebook.

Laurie Segall, CNN Money, New York.


O'BRIEN: We got Parry Aftab with us this morning. She is the executive director of She received lots and lots of awards for her work fighting online sex trafficking. I think as we watch this, we're sort of baffled like, really, you know, I find it hard to think of that young woman "Nina," college bound, middle class girl -- DAN BAUM, AUTHOR: Who would fall for that?

O'BRIEN: Right.

PARRY AFTAB, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WIREDSAFETY.ORG: Well, a lot more people than you realize. People are lonely. They're looking for love. They're looking for affection. There are ten different categories of sexual predation ploys that are used. And the good thing about social media is you can play with those different ways to find out what will lure that young woman.

O'BRIEN: So, the pimps literally sort of look at the profile and sort of send questions to figure out where the holes, the gaps are.


BAUM: When she shows up in person and finds out what's going on, why doesn't she just turn around and get out of there?

AFTAB: Because they're very needy. And what they do is they spot easy victims. Somebody who's needy, somebody who's looking for love, maybe they're overweight, maybe they're not popular, maybe they had a bad breakup, so they are at risk, and in the same way, sharks look for floundering --

O'BRIEN: Vulnerable.

AFTAB: Yes. These guys do the same thing, and they're easier to spot online than you realize.

MARTIN: -- understand, these pimps are masters at using language to get people to do things.

AFTAB: And they know how to use the ploys, the lures, and it's easy to spot. And these young women are often threatened. They're lured through love. They might be enticed with money. Fact about 11 years ago, we brought a young woman home who had been abducted by gangs and lured off to L.A.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you about that, because it seems that there's a profile of a woman who often has very conservative or strict parents and they're the ones who sort of are looking for a way to have risky behavior online.

AFTAB: Yes. And they don't he understand risks. And that's the problem. They don't see things with other kids who are more experienced, and if something goes wrong, they're more vulnerable to blackmail.


MARTIN: I have six nieces, and trust me, I will grab the phone and say let's see who you're following. And so, what do you tell a parent to say this is the control you should be exerting to understand what your daughter or even son is doing on social media? AFTAB: Well, one of the problems is that they're often getting 16, 17-year-olds, and the parents aren't looking what they're doing online and they won't see it, the kids can have different accounts. So, we're looking at guns and ways (ph) to protect yourself, unless, you're smart about using social media, you're far more exposed than a weapon is going to be able to protect you. Now, Facebook is doing some great stuff here.

They talked about the technology. I'm one of five members of their international safety advisory board where we are unpaid to yell at them --


And they watch unusual behavior and they work very closely with law enforcement. Tagged doesn't do that.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. So, I guess, it's just about being more involved.

AFTAB: Yes. And special language they use. So, even if you're looking, you won't understand that pimps have language to talk to each other and there are certain things they do with their victims.

MARTIN: I understand. I will snatch her phone.


O'BRIEN: Parry Aftab, always nice to have you. We appreciate it.

AFTAB: Always a pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we're going to talk about Taylor Swift. She is still mad at Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's joke about -- at the Golden Globe Awards. Now, the --

MARTIN: Seriously, still mad?

O'BRIEN: Just kind of mad. I think, she -- she is a young woman and she feels unsupported by some, you know, women's voices who could have said something nice about her. So, I don't think she is -- anyway, they respond. We've got that coming up.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Trending online this morning, Golden Globe's co-hosts, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler responding to some criticism from country superstar, Taylor Swift. Swift tells "Vanity Fair" magazine that she didn't appreciate the joke that Fey and Poehler made warning her to stay away from Michael J. Fox's son. She was offended at that. She was the butt (ph) of that joke at the Golden Globe.

She says this, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." She was quoting Katie Couric who told her that, you know, she'd heard that. Poehler told "The Hollywood Reporter" "I do agree I am going to hell but mostly for other reasons, mostly boring tax stuff." Fey says she doesn't understand what Swift is so upset about. She told "Entertainment Tonight" "If anyone was going to get mad at us I thought it would be James Cameron," which is true. He might be mad also. I don't know, you know?

MARTIN: They're comedians.


MARTIN: Taylor Swift, I think this is her also drama publicity, because if you keep this whole thing going, your name is out there. Is there a new album coming out real soon?

O'BRIEN: I think she genuinely is unhappy about it. I don't think it's a PR stunt. I think she feels a little bit attacked.

BERMAN: There were a lot more people who should be offended, a lot more than Taylor Swift.


CAMERON RUSSELL, MODEL: And she's only had two big breakups, right?

MARTIN: It's also a joke. It's a joke.

O'BRIEN: She does write a lot of songs about those people.


O'BRIEN: Probably has a little bit of a hand in how they become so public.

MARTIN: It's also -- you go with the beat, and guess what, you let it slide and you move on.

O'BRIEN: Move on and no one's talking about it.

A rare and dangerous superbug is what we're talking about this morning, popping up in an alarming rate in hospitals across the country. Now, doctors say it's a major threat. How at risk are you? We'll take a look.

And then, a teenager given a job by a guy who owns a restaurant who was impressed by the young man's willingness to walk for 20 miles in a winter storm for a job interview. Now, both men, it's a win/win, and they're paying it forward. We'll tell you what they're doing. That's coming up.