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Happy With The Results; A Gun In Every Home; Seven Days Of Spending Cuts; "How Did This Happen?"; Civil War Mystery; Comedy Veteran Returns In "Black Dynamite"

Aired March 8, 2013 - 07:30   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You are watching STARTING POINT. So how young is too young to be thinking about going on a diet? Just in a few minutes, we're going to talk to author of Dara Lynn Weiss about the mother who -- did you hear the story?

Mother finds a diet list that her 7-year-old daughter has made. Some of it is the number of apples she should eat, five glasses of water, ride my bike three times a day, a specific list of things that she should do for a diet.


O'BRIEN: The spelling is terrible.

ASHBURN: That she's 7 years old.

O'BRIEN: Really kind of a heart breaking not. We're going to get to that just ahead. First though, John has a look at the day's top stories.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. We have some pretty big news in the war on terror. But first, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said he got what he wanted after that marathon 13- hour filibuster on Wednesday.

Paul's filibuster delayed the vote on John Brennan's nomination for CIA director. In a letter to Paul yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that President Obama does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil. Here's what Paul had to say about it to CNN's Erin Burnett.


SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think the response was important. You don't always get a response from the White House when you make an argument. We have been asking for six weeks from the response. The fact that we got it, I feel like it's a victory for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Now, John Brennan was still confirmed by the Senate yesterday in 63-34 vote. We are about to get more sunlight. Daylight saving time officially arrives at 2 a.m. Sunday morning so spring forward, everybody. Set those clocks an hour ahead and prepare to lose an hour of sleep and if you have young kids, prepare for two months of agony.

A small Georgia town is one step closer to requiring the head of every household to own a firearm and ammunition. The city council of Nelson, Georgia, population 1,300 voting unanimously this week to advance a measure that they are calling the family protection act.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most everybody that lived here, are original residents here have always had firearms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our government at the moment want to take as much away from us as they can.


BERMAN: Council members admit the measure will not be aggressively enforced if it makes it through a final vote next month. They said they are trying to send a message to Washington about their second amendment rights.

O'BRIEN: What happens if you decide you don't want a gun in your house?

BERMAN: They're not going to enforce.

O'BRIEN: Or what happens if you get a gun because it is mandatory and then someone in the family ends up getting injured like is there some culpability on the part of this mandatory requirement? I think a lawyer would have a field day with this potentially.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": Seems like grandstanding to me.

BERMAN: They said they are trying to make a point. All right, so here's a question a lot of people are asking today. Do you feel any different today? We are now one week into the forced spending cuts.

O'BRIEN: Older.

BERMAN: We all feel older today.


BERMAN: I don't think that is part of the sequester, Lauren. But here's what we are talking about. What happened over these first seven days and what didn't happen? Take a look.


BERMAN (voice-over): Friday, March 8, 2013, a quick review of events that did not happen this week. No Mayan apocalypse, no Jimmy Hoffa discoveries, no sign of spring and a no massive government budget implosion. Remember this?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: "The Sequester" will weaken America's economic recovery.

BERMAN: Well, it's been seven days of sequester, the first week of forced spending cuts. Our first bite at serious belt-tightening and, sort of nothing really epic -- yet. Yes, Homeland Security says there are longer customs lines at airports. Yellowstone National Park announced it will delay opening some of its entrances and members of Congress, no more travel on military aircraft, but not really any of this --

OBAMA: These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.

BERMAN: Not much of this.

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The American people are going to be less safe.

BERMAN: Doesn't seem to be a wave of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids are going to get hurt.

BERMAN: So is this a case of shall we say Chicken Little? It didn't fall unless you count the snowstorm that threatened Washington this week and practically shut down government for a day. Just because the sky did not fall doesn't mean it didn't grow a little darker.

And these crickets could soon turn to groans. With no congressional White House cooperation, cuts are coming, big ones, and soon. Thousands and thousands of defense industry employees telling them they will have an unpaid day off every week starting in April.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it will have to start closing air towers at some small and medium-sized airports starting in April and the White House says no more public tours as of tomorrow. Of course in a display of mutual maturity some members of Congress have threatened the president, no more tours, no more golf.

REPRESENTATIVE LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: They can get a tour of the White House and all it will cost is one or two golf trips less.

BERMAN: One cut that's already taken effect, the president's poll numbers. He's down four points since February. Maybe one reason he has tempered the dire prophesies, some.

OBAMA: We will get through this. This is not going to be an apocalypse as some people said.

BERMAN: And one reason perhaps he suddenly has a voracious bipartisan appetite inviting key Republicans to lunch and dinner in the last couple of days. So maybe the skies will brighten and these -- -- will turn to shouts of joy. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And the good news is they are talking sort of right now a little.

O'BRIEN: And that's the good news?

BERMAN: Sort of.

ASHBURN: They don't talk. They yell.

KURTZ: Even some Democrats say the White House went too far with the doom and gloom, the sky is falling and now that hasn't happened, right?

ASHBURN: It's going to happen, Howie.

O'BRIEN: At the end of 2013, we'll be able to look back and say 850,000 jobs but the problem is like fiscal cliff, there was a moment. There was an actual cliff. This is no cliff. There was an attempt to create a cliff.

ASHBURN: We are a McDonald's generation. If things don't happen immediately, we think things are fine.

KURTZ: Stopping the White House tours looks like a cheap stuff. Let's face it, $18,000 a week is what they are saving.

O'BRIEN: I think it's what -- $2 million, right?

KURTZ: Overall, yes.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about the story that I find pretty disheartening, honestly. Every parent can relate to finding something in the kid's room you wish you hadn't stumbled on. In this case mom found a diet list that was written by her 7-year-old daughter.

Here are some of the things on that list, 17 push-ups two times a day, 16 star jumps two times a day, two yogurt, three apples, two kiwi fruit, five glasses of water, jog, run up and down the driveway three times.

The mom, whose name is Amy Cheney wrote on her blog after she found this list in her 7-year-old daughter's bedroom. I felt sick, physically ill. Like someone had knocked the air from my chest. I could feel myself getting increasingly anxious the more words I was able to interpret.

Of course the little girl isn't a great speller. How did this happen? Dara Lynn Weiss, author of "The Heavy," it's a memoir about putting her own 7-year-old daughter on a diet after being told by doctors that her daughter was obese. And she joins us this morning.

We've talked about this book in the past. It's nice to have you with us to talk about it more.

DARA LYNN WEISS, AUTHOR, "THE HEAVY": Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: What was your reaction when you heard about this note in this little girl's room?

WEISS: My reaction was interesting. My initial response was very much like the mother who found the note. It was shocking, horrifying and heartbreaking to think that a little 7-year-old would make a list like this. As I gave it more thought and as I read what the mother wrote, what the child wrote and benefitted from the wisdom of hundreds of internet commenters, I kind of realized --


WEISS: Yes. Indeed that was the irony that I actually I learned something. I thought, you know, how much of this definition of the word diet are we bringing to this? How much of our own -- I made a list like this when I was an adolescent.


WEISS: I'm remembering that and my own experience. But is there a way of looking at this that it is just a child trying to make healthy changes in her life and she's defining diet in the proper way, which is as a habitual way of eating?

O'BRIEN: Maybe. Maybe. But at the same time -- you know what I thought was concerning is she connects fruit with jogging. There is some element of it that's a little bit off. It's not just I need to eat a healthy diet. It's I need to eat this and I need do this -- running around the backyard.

ASHBURN: I mean, if we have found Slim Fast in her room, it would be a different story. These are healthy choices. I think children -- this child who is deciding to make healthy choices, those are good.

O'BRIEN: OK. So when the mother went through -- Amy Cheney said this. It has a curse word so I can't read it all. But she wrote this, how dare you sneak into my home with your ridiculous standards and embed them in my little girl's head, polluting her innocence with your pathetic ideals.

In fact, it turned out that her daughter had been talking to a classmate who was on a diet and decided to create her own diet. So it didn't come from this, I have decided to be healthy. It came from there is another 7-year-old girl talking about a diet, which brings us back to your story. Your daughter at 7 was on a diet. Doctors said she was obese.

WEISS: Right. I mean, in our family I didn't have the luxury of not bringing up this issue with my child. She had a problem with obesity and we needed to talk about weight, food, healthy choices.

However, I think the story does underscore the point that in raising these issues with our children, we are not bringing up something they are not aware of already. They are conversations they are having that we should have with them. BERMAN: How much do they understand? The optics of this are striking. She's not old enough to spell apple or diet, but she's old enough to think about it. So you have to kind of wonder what is she understands?

WEISS: But I did, my concern was that are we assuming this child's goal is to lose weight versus -- are we projecting that on her and are we hystericizing the idea of healthy choices? I think that is a problem I found that I used the word diet in my family to mean a change in how we ate. My daughter's goal was to lose weight. I think people responded very negatively to that word.

ASHBURN: Howie, you have daughters. Don't you think this is a positive? That she is thinking of how to be healthy and it's a great educational experience?

KURTZ: I went through the same evolution. At first, it was like how dare society impose this unnaturally think ideal on kids even as young as 7 and 8? But then I didn't think this list was so bad. I have some concern about in this case and your case frankly is it's a great article, a great way of drawing attention. What about the impact on your child by making it public?

WEISS: I think obesity, food are public issues. As my situation and this situation reveals these children are having these conversations.

KURTZ: We are taking it to a national level.

O'BRIEN: I think it's there already. Obesity, it's an interesting debate. Dara Lynn Weiss, it's nice to have you with us. There are parts of your book where I was like, yes! And parts where I was like, you're a terrible mother, which I think about myself often. Thank you for talking with us. It's nice to have you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, a civil war mystery and the underwater discovery that was solved 150 years later. We're back with that.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. Later today, two U.S. Navy sailors who died during the civil war will be buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The sailors served on the USS Monitor, which made history in its battle with the CSS Virginia back in 1862.

First ever battle between two ironclad ships. Less than a year after that battle, the Monitor sank and then against all odd the remains of those two sailors survived 150 years on the ocean floor. Barbara Starr has their story this morning.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shoes worn by a sailor 150 years ago perhaps in the final moments of his life on board the USS Monitor, a renowned civil war battleship.

(on camera): This is extraordinary. We are looking -- mismatched, but a pair of shoes that one of the sailors wore.

DAVID KROP, MARINER'S MUSEUM: He had a different shoe on his left foot than he did on his right. It's hard to explain why that is. One of the possible options is that as these guys were leaving the ship the night of the sinking, it was chaotic, it was dark.

STARR (voice-over): The shoes just one clue in a detective story that started 240 feet below the surface of the sea. Who were the two men whose skeletons were found in the ship's turret in 2002? The Navy is about to bury them at Arlington National Cemetery, not knowing the answer.

(on camera): This is the 120-ton turret of the USS Monitor. It's sitting in this water preservation tank right now. This is the precise spot where they found the remains of the two Navy sailors.

(voice-over): More clues -- buttons from a uniform, a gold ring, a comb and some coins. The Monitor itself made history as the first ironclad ship. Caught in a storm on December 30, 1862 of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, it flipped over and sank. Sixteen sailors were lost. Captain Bobbie Scholley led Navy dives to the wreckage.

CAPT. BOBBIE SCHOLLEY (RETIRED), NAVY DIVE TEAM COMMANDER: We needed to take all the appropriate steps necessary to recover those sailors with all the honors and dignities.

STARR: A military lab analyzed the bones. DNA samples were taken, facial reconstructions were made. African-American sailors and officers were eliminated. The remains were Caucasian, the buttons not from officers' coats.

The list is now down to five or six men, two possibilities -- Robert Williams and William Brian. Back at the water's edge in Virginia where the Monitor battled the confederacy, the official who oversees the ship's legacy says it's more than just history.

DAVID ALBERG, NOAA: Whether it was 150 years ago or two weeks ago in Afghanistan the nation's commitment to bringing the fallen home, laying them to rest and returning them to the family stays as strong today as it ever was.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Newport News, Virginia.


O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, from "In Living Color" to animated cable hit "Black Dynamite" actor and comedian, Tommy Davidson, will join us live. That's ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The animated comedy series "Black Dynamite" has now been renewed for a second season on the Adult Swim Network and the cast from the 2009 cult film with the same name is back, they play their original characters. Here's a little bit. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a delivery for cream corn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look what Michael Jackson sent for me.


O'BRIEN: That familiar voice belongs to veteran, comedian and former "In Living Color" cast member, Tommy Davidson, who recently hosted the show time comedy special "Chocolate Sundays," which was based on a long running sketch comedy series in L.A., debuted to rave reviews last month. He's here to talk about all of that. It's nice to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: let's talk about "Chocolate Sundaes" first. That had an interesting root. That was a sketch series that you did for years and years.

DAVIDSON: "Chocolate Sundaes," the one we did here was we took a lot of young people, put them together, did some sketches and then brought some comics on, too, so it's like def jam meets "In Living Color." Of course, we know what that is.

O'BRIEN: Would you ever think "In Living Color" would come back? I love that show.

DAVIDSON: You know what? I'd like to see it come back. The last TV right now you have guys with shotguns chasing alligators and people trading 50 cent for a lamp.

KURTZ: Are you suggesting the bar has been lowered?

DAVIDSON: I it's been lowered, just a tad but there's always hope.

O'BRIEN: Talk to me about "Black Dynamite." So it was an animated series, but it was really based on an original movie. I think we have a clip of that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going down. This shouldn't take long. Whoa, whoa, take the control. What you talking about? That's dynamite.


O'BRIEN: Hilarious. So the animated series, that was my question because now you're back for a second season.

DAVIDSON: That's why we turned it into a cartoon. Actually the movie did really well. It's about two years ago we did the movie. People loved the movie, it wasn't a huge release. But Adults really liked the concept. We got together with the people who animated "The Boondocks" and turned out to be another level. My kids are like my kid does "Black Dynamite" and now I'm cool finally.

O'BRIEN: What do you think is the future of comedy for sort of the young people on the scene?

DAVIDSON: The future of comedy is really good. With this talent they have to keep going and keep going, they can't reflect on what's happening now. TV has gone a totally different way. The cream is going to rise to the top and Lionel Richie told me that years ago.

O'BRIEN: Still doing today.

ASHBURN: Is it doing well in terms of comedy?

DAVIDSON: The show has been around forever.

ASHBURN: It's still a place for young people to go.

DAVIDSON: There is a place for them to go, but see they have a network that they're on, the network that they've been on for a while.

O'BRIEN: A strong one.

DAVIDSON: But I'm optimistic, comedy has been good to me.

O'BRIEN: You've been good comedy. Thank you for being with us this morning. Appreciate it. We got to take a break.

Still ahead this morning, Martha Stewart back to this, the trial that she of course is in the middle of that court battle between two retail giants. Now a judge gives orders to both sides in this case, it's a rifting turn, we'll explain what happened next.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, major news in the war on terror, Osama Bin Laden's son-in-law is in New York City right now due in court in just a few hours, one senator called him the spokesman for 9/11. So should he be tried at Gitmo instead?

He was for it before he was against it, President Bill Clinton explaining his change of heart on the defense of marriage act in a surprising op-ed this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We are just 30 minutes away now from the monthly jobs report with Wall Street is on a tear, are more people finding work? We'll have the numbers for you and instant reaction from the markets.

BERMAN: So don't look now, another asteroid is coming, so how is this one different than the last?

O'BRIEN: Talking with us this hour, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is with us, a Democrat on the Intelligence Committee and actress, Abby Cornin, she is going to join us. It's Friday, March 8th and STARTING POINT begins right now.