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Storm Slams Northeast; Intern Killed By African Lion; More Gains for the Dow; Interview With Rep. Steny Hoyer

Aired March 7, 2013 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, coastal areas are getting slammed. Look at these pictures. High winds, flooding on the ground with what this major storm is expected to bring today.

Plus, a 350-pound lion goes on the attack at an animal sanctuary, a 24-year-old intern is killed before police shoot the animal dead. We'll talk about the dangers of working with the wild animals with animal expert Jack Hanna.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Political theater. For nearly 13 hours, Senator Rand Paul finally ends his epic filibuster earlier this morning in protest of the White House drone policy that says Americans could be fair game.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Stock futures climbing after the Dow has another record day. What's behind these market highs and should you be buying right here?

O'BRIEN: Later this hour, we'll meet the British radio personality, a young man whose interview with actress Mila Kunis has gone viral, charming the Internet.

It's Thursday, March 7th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Will Cain is back. He's a CNN contributor, columnist for

Radhika Jones joins us. She's executive editor at "TIME" magazine.

Richard Socarides is with us. He's a writer for, also former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton.

So, right now, if you take a look at the New Jersey shoreline, what a mess. Severe flooding there as the winter storm is moving through the Northeast.

Let's look at Sea Bright, New Jersey, some live pictures from there. You can see the water rising up right to people's doors. High tide was three hours ago. More images of Sea Bright from our affiliate WABC. Wind gusts up to 50 miles an hour, and that, of course, is pushing water into the streets. The area is still trying to recover from the damage from superstorm Sandy and many people who were given the opportunity to evacuate considering the damage last time around, they've evacuated.

Windy, snowy mess is going to hit other parts of the Northeast. Today, flurries in the New York City right now. Same relentless system that was pounding Midwest, burying Virginia under about 20 inches of snow is now making its way to New England.

Right now, seven states under severe winter warnings from New Jersey to Maine.

So, we begin this morning with Jennifer Delgado. She's in Scituate, Massachusetts.

How is it looking in Scituate?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's -- I think you can kind of get an idea right now, very windy. The winds have been kicking up roughly to about 45 miles per hour. They're going to stay that way up to about 50.

What you're looking at is the Massachusetts Bay. Again, we are in Scituate. But you notice, you're seeing some of those white caps. Well, when you get those winds coming in from the north, very strong, the fetch builds and we're going to see wave heights today still roughly about 20 feet. Now, we did have high tide right around 6:50 and we did see tide height of 13.6.

That level is coming down and that's good news to some of the residents. But keep in mind, with this happening here, we're talking about coastal erosion as well as coastal flooding, and residents here have -- many of them have left their homes to get away because (AUDIO GAP) are impassable with the water level rising. (AUDIO GAP)

If you look over towards the east you can see a lot more of those homes. (AUDIO GAP) A lot of the areas are filtered with homes along the coastline. So certainly a lot of people are still in danger.

And tomorrow, Soledad, we're going to look at wave heights being even higher right around 7:00 tomorrow morning.

O'BRIEN: Oh, what a mess there.

All right. Thanks, Jennifer.

DELGADO: It's a mess out here.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: Other developing story -- a young woman, an intern, mauled to death by a 350-pound lion that she loved dearly. The victim is 24- year-old Dianna Hanson of Seattle. She worked at the Cat Haven sanctuary in northern California. An African lion whose name was Cous Cous killed after she entered his cage, unclear exactly why she was there.

Hanson's father said his daughter was thrilled to be working with the big cats.


PAUL HANSON, VICTIM'S FATHER (via telephone): She was so happy when she got that internship and she was having so much fun down there. It was her dream job and she was so happy there. It makes it bearable that she died so happy.


O'BRIEN: Dan Simon is live for us in Dunlap, California, this morning.

Dan, good morning.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

I think the main question this morning is how did this woman find herself in harm's way, were protocols followed? Were they ignored? As for this place called Cat Haven, seemed to have a decent reputation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a Cousy, a North African lion.

SIMON (voice-over): A lion shot dead Wednesday afternoon.

DALE HANSEN, CAT HAVEN FOUNDER: Female volunteer intern entered the lion's enclosure where she was attacked and fatally injured. The lion was shot and killed per our safety protocols.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the -- our friend and family and to her family at this time and this trying time.

SIMON: The 24-year-old volunteer has been identified as Dianna Hanson from Washington state. Her Facebook page shows her pictured with large cats.

Her father released a statement last night saying in part, "Dianna was so excited at working in Cat Haven and living in California. Her favorites were the tiger and the lion Cous Cous who killed her today."

JENNIFER MICHAELS, THE JUNGLE JENNY FOUNDATION: We're moving over to the African lions and I'm going into the den.

SIMON: Jennifer Michaels also known as "Jungle Jenny" got an up-close view of the lion while getting a tour of the animal sanctuary called Cat Haven in central California.

MICHAELS: I didn't see any type of aggressive behavior or anything that I need to be worried about. SIMON: Cat Haven is a 100-acre, wooded sanctuary, home to some of the rarest cats in the world, including lions, tigers and leopards. It describes as an innovative park, dedicated to the preservation of wildcats.

Five-year-old Cous Cous came to the sanctuary as a cub.

Founder Dale Hansen says this species of lion no longer exist in the wild.

HANSEN: The North Africans were killed off in the wild about the 1920s. So, all the ones you see are in captivity.

SIMON: As for the victim, Dianna Hanson, it's not clear exactly how she died. But her father says big cats were her passion, writing, "We will miss you so much but I know you will be happy. For now, you truly are in the eternal Cat Haven."


SIMON: Well, apparently, this lion had never shown aggression toward humans in the past it makes you wonder whether or not this young woman had some kind of false sense of security while being around this lion. Of course, you can never let your guard down around these kinds of cats -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You know, earlier when we talked to --

BERMAN: Jeff Corwin.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Corwin, thank you.

He was telling us the animals are hardwired into -- you know, it's not about do they appear aggressive. They are inherently aggressive. It's an animal in the wild.

All right. Dan Simon with our update on that story this morning.

John has got a look at other stories making news.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

Overnight, North Korea intensifying its rhetoric threatening a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States, this as the U.N. Security Council prepares to vote on tougher sanctions against North Korea. That vote expected later today. Right now, it's believed that Pyongyang does not have the capacity to launch a nuclear strike at the United States.

To the nation's capital now and this just in -- Rand Paul has stopped talking. It only took him 12 1/2 hours and 52 minutes, it happened -- 12 hours and 52 minutes. It happened overnight last night.

This was all about a serious issue. The Kentucky senator protesting the administration's domestic drone policy with an old-fashioned filibuster, pausing only for an occasionally sip of water, a bite of a candy bar -- this all while delaying the confirmation of CIA director John Brennan. And as with many old fashioned filibusters, he had to get a bit creative at times.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Has "America the Beautiful" become Alice's wonderland? No, no, said the queen, sentence first, verdict afterwards.

Release the drones, said the queen, as she shouted at the top of her voice.

Lewis Carroll is fiction, right?


O'DONNELL: You know, we also saw quotes from "The Godfather", Jay-Z, others, from other senators trying to help Rand Paul. Paul began his filibuster shortly before noon yesterday. He finally yielded the floor and wrapped it up at 12:48 Eastern this morning.

A new sign this morning that President Obama may be reaching out to Republicans. He's invited Congressman Paul Ryan and Chris Van Hollen to lunch at the White House today. Ryan, Republican chair of the House Budget Committee, Van Hollen is the ranking Democrat on that committee.

Last night, it was dinner with a dozen Republican senators in Washington, the president picked up the tab. The menu included steak and sea bass, as well as some frank talk about spending and taxes. One senator, "It's a good first step toward compromise."


SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Very positive, encouraging, candid, focused on how do we come together?

Compromise is necessary and it's possible. The issue is, how do we get there? That's why these dialogues are so important and there needs to be more of them.


BERMAN: And in a few minutes, we will speak with Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer about the president's dinner date, as well as Rand Paul's old fashioned filibuster.

Questions from jurors coming fast and furious at the Jodi Arias murder trial. She will be back on the witness stand today, a day after answering nearly 150 questions from the jury that listened to her testify for 15 days, all these questions about many graphic and sexual topics. It does seem the jury may be skeptical.


JUDGE: Why is it that you have no memory of stabbing Travis? JODI ARIAS, ON TRIAL FOR MURDERING TRAVIS ALEXANDER: I can't really explain why my mind did what it did -- maybe because it's too horrible.


BERMAN: Now, Arizona is one of just three states that allows juror questions for witnesses during a criminal proceeding. If convicted, Arias could face the death penalty.

So, an asteroid the size of a football field is set to buzz by our planet on Saturday. It is 330 feet wide. It is expected to miss us by a mere 600,000 miles. It will be too far away from the naked eye to see.

But astronomers in Italy plan a webcast with a live telescopic view of the fly-by beginning tomorrow afternoon. So, if you speak Italian and you're astronomer, tune in.

O'BRIEN: I like that. All right. Thanks.

The stock market opening in a little more than an hour. We could see another record high mark for the Dow.

Christine has got an update for us.

ROMANS: Futures are a little undecided right now in part because we get jobless claims in about 20 minutes and we have a big jobs report tomorrow. But look at how far stocks have come over the past year. It's been a remarkable rally.

The Dow 30 up 12 percent, the NASDAQ up 10 percent. The S&P 500, that's the stock gauge. It's more what's in your 401(k). The stock part of your 401(k), up 14 percent.

Here is the case for buying stocks. The Fed has been stimulating the economy. There is no alternative. You keep hearing about this from investment advisers, specifically David Kelly at J.P. Morgan, TINA investing.

Corporate profits are strong, $1.7 trillion, record amounts of cash in the banks for companies. They're not hiring as much, as they could perhaps. They're giving the money back to shareholders and they're making profits and keeping their cash.

And stocks are at a pretty fair value overall. You don't see stocks when you look at the price of the stock to the earnings of the company they're not necessarily overvalued, so the bulls are saying that's why stocks keep going up.

Here is the case against stocks quickly -- Europe is in a recession, Washington is in the throes of debt drama, strapped American consumers continues. There could be profit taking, you know? I mean, people can look and say, up 14 percent in the past year I'm taking some off the table. There are hedge funds who are betting against the market at this point. Futures basically at this point pretty mixed, I think you're going to get the direction from jobless claims in about 19 minutes.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, thanks. Looking forward to that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: From drones to dinners, we're going to talk to Congressman Steny Hoyer. He was at dinner last night with the president, talk about whether Republicans and the president, can they ever come to see eye to eye, at least any time soon?

Plus, one of Hollywood's hottest actresses proves she's also just super, super cool. I think I love Mila Kunis after she did this interview with the British radio personality who had -- absolutely was so panicked that he was adorable. We'll talk to him, straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Last night, two different scenes just a few miles away from each other in a swank hotel, Republican senators sat down for dinner with the president trying to find some common ground on the budget. At least one senator telling CNN it was a positive first step.

But on the Senate floor, Senator Rand Paul, he was not in that dinner. He was snacking on candy bars as he was continuing a filibuster holding up the nomination of John Brennan as the chief of the CIA. Paul demanding answers on the use of drones against American citizens here at home.

I want to get right to Congressman Steny Hoyer. He's the Democratic minority whip and represents the state of Maryland. Nice to have you with us, sir. We certainly appreciate your time.

REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MARYLAND: Thank you very much. Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Give me a sense of what you think of this dinner between GOP senators and the president and what was genuinely accomplished out of this coming together?

HOYER: Well, I don't know what was genuinely accomplished, frankly, but I think it was a positive sign. I think the senators that went obviously wanted to talk to the president about whether or not they could reach common ground on a lot of very important issues including, most importantly, a compromise that we could get this country on a fiscally sustainable path and have what we call a big deal ala Bowles- Simpson.

But the fact of the matter is that the mere fact of meeting, talking, discussing, and the fact that the senators came out and said it was a positive meeting, I thin, it's a good sign. But we need a lot more than that, of course. We need substance as well as discussion.

O'BRIEN: Earlier, I was talking to Senator Dan Coates, and he was telling me that the tone of the dinner was fairly friendly. I want to play a little bit of what he said. It looks like, actually, I don't have that, my apologies for that. But he did say it wasn't contentious, because I was sort of -- kind of sort of joking with him about it could have potential considering how nasty some of these discussions have gotten, it had the potential to be very contentious and very unpleasant, and he said no.

It was actually very civil, but of course, as you point out, it's the first step. So then, what's the second step? I mean, what makes this go beyond a really nice, friendly dinner?

HOYER: The second step is, I think, we have to come to grips with the fact that if you're going to solve the fiscal problem confronting us, the budget problems confronting us, getting this country on a stable path, it's got to be along the lines of all of these commissions have been bipartisan, Simpson-Bowles, Domenici-Rivlin, Gang of Six which was six senators saying you got to have a balanced way forward.

That means you got to cut spending. You got to look both at discretionary spending. You got to look at entitlement spending, but you also have to look at revenues. And if you put those together, we can get to where we need to be. These discussions, I'm sure, involved what has been the real point of contention and that is whether or not we need a balance of revenues.

There clearly is great support for cuts in spending. There's a contention about entitlements and there's contention about revenues, and I'm sure there's discussions involved with those two items. We passed a budget frankly, not us, a continuing resolution to fund the government going forward which, frankly, wasn't bipartisan at all.

Adapted numbers which are going to hurt the economy and CBO says if we're going to lose 750,000 jobs over the next 18 months, that obviously was not consensus seeking. Hopefully, as we move forward as the Senate talks with the president clearly envisioned but haven't realized, we're going to have to have bipartisan agreement if we're going to get this country on a stable path and stop having this crisis every 60 days or 90 days or 120 days.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, I'm sure everybody would appreciate --

HOYER: That's not good.



O'BRIEN: I would agree with you on that. All right. Let me ask you a quick question about Senator Rand Paul who went on this long 12-plus hour long filibuster. While everybody was eating dinner, he was sort of snacking on candy bars to keep up his energy.

He was referring to the attorney general's comments about drones and the Attorney General Holder said it was possible, I supposed, he said, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under U.S. law for the president to authorize the use of lethal force within the United States, basically, a drone attack within the United States potentially on an American.

HOYER: Right. First of all, I think this is a serious question and I've said this in the past that the Congress ought to look at it. The administration needs to consider. We need to come up with an agreement on what this policy ought to be.

Very frankly, the fact that we had a live filibuster, if you will, so the American people could see the positions being taken as opposed to some sort of private filibuster, which simply says to the leader of the Senate, look, we're going to filibuster this, unless, you have 60 votes, don't bring it up where the American people never see the substance of objection or proponents or opponents.

So, I think, to that extent, I'd like to see not more filibusters, but at least, the American public seeing what questions are being raised.

O'BRIEN: I understand.

HOYER: But this is a serious issue. And I think that we need to look at it. We need to look at it from a policy standpoint, but let me make the observation, Soledad, that a drone is a weapon of -- a weapon, just like a gun, it's more sophisticated, it can go more places, but clearly, I'm sure what the attorney general was speaking of, if in fact, there was a terrorist act, even if it was a terrorist act being committed by a U.S. citizen, he did not want to preclude any opportunities that we have to prevent that terrorist act or during the course of that terrorist act taking out those who are perpetrating it. So -- but I think the --

O'BRIEN: He did say it was hypothetical, that was his comments.


O'BRIEN: Steny Hoyer, congressman, nice to have you with us this morning. We certainly appreciate your time. Thank you.

HOYER: Soledad, thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet. Got to take a break. STARTING POINT is back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. Trending online this morning, do you put the pep in peperoni? Pizza Hut wants to hear from you in fast. It's hiring a social media manager of greatness. That's an awesome title. It will be the whole hyper-speed, 140-second interviews heads out by southwest in Austin, Texas. That's how they're going to see if they can fill the slot by doing Twitter type interviews.

Also, take a look at Snooki. I have a picture of Snooki on my office door. She is my inspiration. Look how great she is.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: She doesn't look like this. She looks good. O'BRIEN: She doesn't look like that she look that, my picture. But look at her. She looks great. She's no longer a member of teen meatball selling off her post baby body. She lost 42 pounds. She and her fiance welcomed their baby boy whose name is Lorenzo last August.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Snooki is my inspiration, not said very often.



RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: Do you think you do Twitter interviews?

O'BRIEN: I think I can -- first of all, I have lot of crazy people tweet me. So, yes. I (INAUDIBLE) just cut off 75 percent of the people who are applying for a job out by the craziness on Twitter sure, and the 25 you probably want to meet see them face-to-face, don't you think?

SOCARIDES: Yes. I think so. I think you'll be good, and I know you're a good tweeter.

O'BRIEN: I'm fast. I don't know if that's a big skill, but I'm fast.

All right. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, she's the very powerful woman behind Facebook, the one in a way, who broke up the boys club there. "Time" magazine got a revealing interview with Cheryl Sandberg. (INAUDIBLE) is with us. She said she's going to talk about that interview.

Then, it's the interview that charmed the internet. We're talking with the young man of British radio personality whose interview with Mila Kunis, first interview he's ever done, ever, has become an internet sensation. That's ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT.

Federal investigators are now looking into five women's claims that the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill routinely mishandled sexual assault cases. They say UNC didn't appropriately respond to claims or provide appropriate grievance procedures. David Mattingly has a report this morning. Good morning, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. This has been in the works for several months here at the university. Five women, four claiming that they had been raped as students at UNC, and one, a former associate dean of students. One of the more disturbing allegations in this complaint involves one student.

She says that she tells the story of how she reported allegations that she had been raped and was told by administrators that, quote, "Rape is like football, you take a look back at it and wonder what you could have done differently." Well, the complainants here are saying that women were made to feel that administrators fostered an environment of silence and hostility toward cases of alleged rape.