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Queen Cancels Appearance; Fukushima Remembered; Cat Sanctuary In California Reopens; Jeb Bush: "You Guys Are Crack Addicts"; NFL To Partner With GE; "We Agree On Too Much"; Representative Ryan's Budget Equals No "Obamacare"; Tiger Cruises To Win At Doral; Champion Heat Win 18th Straight; 20 Loss Team Makes NCAA Tournament; Furry Creature Invades Pitch; Reasonable School Discipline Act

Aired March 11, 2013 - 07:30   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We begin with John Berman. He has an update on the day's top stories. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": So this just in to CNN, Britain's Queen Elizabeth has canceled an appearance today as she recovers from an illness. She is no longer attending the Commonwealth Day Observance of Westminster Abbey. She will, we are told, attend a reception for the celebration tonight. The 86-year-old monarch was hospitalized last week for symptoms of gastroenteritis.

A moment of silence today in Tokyo as the Japanese government marked two years since the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of that country and created a nuclear catastrophe. More than 15,000 people died in the disaster. The subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant forced more than 150,000 people from their homes. Sunday thousands took to the streets in Tokyo protesting the country's nuclear power programs.

The California Cat Sanctuary where a lion killed a worker has reopened and it did so with the permission from the victim's mother. Diana Hanson's mother issued a statement that said, in part, "I am living every mother's worst nightmare in losing a cherished child. I am pleased that Cat Haven is reopening today and share in their sorrow in the loss of Couscous.

It is my desire that they continue their mission in support of saving my daughter's beloved creatures." Couscous the lion escaped and pounced on Hanson when she was cleaning an enclosure last week. Hanson was just 24 years old.

So Jeb Bush seems to have had his fill of speculation about whether he will run for president in 2016. Check out his response to a question on NBC's "Meet the Press" about how he stacks up against another presumed White House hopeful.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's the hottest Florida politician right now, is it you, or Marco Rubio who are we more likely to see in the White House?

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Man, you guys are crack addicts. You really are obsessed with all this politics. Marco Rubio is a great guy. OK heroin addict, is that better?


BERMAN: He was really shocked he was asked that question. Jeb Bush says he's proud of the work that Marco Rubio has done as senator. He also believes history will be kind to his brother George W. Bush and his presidency.

O'BRIEN: Is it too early for these conversations?

BERMAN: No, of course not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're just conversations.

O'BRIEN: Please but already like how do you stack up against someone else. We have many years --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm with you. I think it's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we come out we just barely woke up from the last election. But he is doing an awful lot of media, for --

BERMAN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how can he say that we're obsessed with politics? Wait a second, this guy lives politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm doing my book tour.

O'BRIEN: John, you've got another story --

BERMAN: How dare you ask me questions when I come here to answer questions? A new partnership announced today could be good news for preventing head injuries in the NFL. The league is partnering with GE to develop technologies to prevent and detect concussions.

Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. Elizabeth, what can we expect to hear on this today?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're expecting to hear about this really interesting and pretty innovative deal between the NFL and GE. So it's a $50 million deal and much of that money, John, is going to go towards trying to find better imaging systems for concussions.

And even worse, for encephalopathy where people become aggressive and depressed and even try to commit suicide. It's very hard to see these kinds of injuries on imaging. So that's where a big chunk of the money is going to go. Now the NFL is doing this after some very bad PR and a big lawsuit from players and their families -- John.

BERMAN: I'm a Giant fan. One of the things they've been talking in the NFL for a long time is helmet technology. Is that something that will be discussed?

COHEN: That's right. A big chunk of this money is also going to go to developing better helmets. GE is putting it out there. They're crowd sourcing it and saying whoever wants to give us an idea, we're going to give prizes, money to the five best ideas.

Better helmets. But the issue is, how do you get a helmet that not only prevents this kind of injury to the skull, but then the brain sort of bashes against the skull inside the skull, it will be tough to find a helmet that will try to prevent that.

BERMAN: Dangerous, dangerous sport. The NFL seems to be taking it very seriously. Elizabeth Cohen, our thanks to you.

COHEN: Thanks.

BERMAN: Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, all eyes are on Washington, D.C. now. Where politicians on both sides of the aisle are looking pretty desperately to get a deal on the budget, of course, since it's Washington, D.C. Not going to happen very fast, at least.

The president's going to head to Capitol Hill this week to meet with Republicans as Congressman Paul Ryan introduces a budget that would require Obamacare to be fully repealed. Washington insiders like Tom Coburn say it is just pretty much a hot mess. Listen.


SENATOR TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Washington's dysfunctional but it's dysfunctional in a dysfunctional way. Members of Congress and the administration agree on too much. We agree on spending money we don't have. We agree on not oversighting the programs that should be oversight. We agree on continuing to spend money on programs that don't work or are ineffective. Basically we agree on too much.


O'BRIEN: Congressman Jason Chaffetz is a Republican from Utah. It's nice to have you with us. He was just saying that Washington is dysfunctional in a dysfunctional, dysfunctional kind of way and then went on all the ways the only things that you all do agree on is spending money we don't have and all the dysfunctional things that are happening in D.C. I'm going to assume that you agree with Tom Coburn?

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Yes, and one of the fundamental things we're supposed to do is a budget. Now, in the last two years, when we've had Speaker Boehner we've actually done a budget. What is frustrating the United States Senate, it's been more than 1,400 days since the Senate has actually passed a budget.

And the challenge for the president is, in the four years that he was president, he introduced a budget, there's not a single person in the House or Senate, Republican or Democrat, who has ever voted in favor of the president's budget. He was supposed to introduce a budget on February 4th. He didn't. He said he'd do it in March. Now he says he's supposed to do it in April.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Ryan has a budget, and it's a budget that would, I guess, close the gap within 10n years. The first original one was 30 years. Now we're looking at ten years. Part of that deal, though, would be repealing Obamacare.

CHAFFETZ: Well, that's what we believe should be -- is the way to get to the path that you need to. Now one of the fundamental questions, I think the first question we have to ask is, should we actually achieve a balanced budget because in order to pay down the debt you actually have to balance the budget first? So can we agree? Do you or do you not want to balance the budget? The president has never introduced the budget that ever balances.

O'BRIEN: But isn't a better question is, no one is going to agree to repeal Obama care? Here's an interview that Congressman Ryan did with Chris Wallace on Fox. Let's play that.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX: Are you saying that as part of your budget you would repeal, you assume, the repeal of Obama care?


WALLACE: Well, that's not going to happen.

RYAN: Well, we believe it should. That's the point. This is what budgeting is all about, Chris. It's about making tough choices to fix our country's problems.


O'BRIEN: So he says, I believe it should, Chris Wallace said that's not going to happen, and I think 90 out of 100 people in the know would answer that question the same way. It's not going to happen. So to some degree isn't it a waste of time to be negotiating something in a budget that is not going to happen? You're not going to be able to repeal Obamacare unless a bunch of Democrats agree with you, which they're not?

CHAFFETZ: Well, this is why it's important that the House pass a budget. The Senate's supposed to pass a budget. The president's supposed to way in and get to reconciliation to work out these problems. Question one for me is are we or are we not going to balance our budget?

Paul Ryan is suggesting, the budget committee's suggesting what's going to come before the house before the end of the month is yes, if you want to balance the budget within ten years you've got to take care of the health care expense. And the problem with Obamacare is it's making its more expensive --

O'BRIEN: But there's no way to get rid of Obamacare. You heard in the interview with Chris Wallace. It's not going to happen. So isn't it taking a conversation that's here and further derailing it? Which I think is a big source of frustration for Americans in general, right? It's a sense of like you're negotiating something that is unrealistic?

CHAFFETZ: If the Democrats disagree then they have a duty to put forward a budget and show us, show the rest of the country, how they expect to do it. So remember when we were -- I was on the budget committee last year.

We had a budget that balanced but it took like 28 years to get to that point. If we're going to do it in spend years because the spending is so out of control this is one of the tools and mechanisms you would put in place to achieve that balance.

O'BRIEN: I feel like you're going in circles on this.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's fine as a statement of priorities for Republicans to say we disagree with Obamacare and our budget repeals it. I think that's reasonable. Did you vote against the fiscal cliff deal?

CHAFFETZ: Yes, I did.

LIZZA: Is this budget going to assume the $600 billion in new revenues in that fiscal cliff deal?

CHAFFETZ: Well, we haven't gotten to the final product. Paul has not yet released it. The Budget Committee -- well, it potentially will.

LIZZA: It potentially would?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I want to look at it, in totality. When you do a budget, I'm not trying to punt, I'm trying to say you have to look at all of the things -- I was a kicker in college. But look, at the end of the day you've got to put numbers on a piece of paper and achieve balance. So I think there's a mix there --

LIZZA: Speaking to America's frustration, Republicans voted overwhelmingly against a deal that raised $600 billion in revenue, and now it sounds like they're going to put out a budget that pockets that $600 billion and put that up for a vote. So I think that paradox is -- is a little difficult to understand.

CHAFFETZ: We have won some things and we've lost a lot of things, OK.

LIZZA: You are conceding that fight it sounds like. You guys are conceding the fight on those higher taxes and saying, we lost that battle, and we're going --

CHAFFETZ: What we've always said is we want to broaden the base, lower the rate. I do believe that there is common ground --

LIZZA: But this will still increase the rates.

CHAFFETZ: I do believe that there is common ground in getting rid of a lot of these loopholes, I really do. But we want to broaden the base and lower the rate. We fundamentally don't believe we're just one good tax increase away from prosperity in this country and we've already had --

LIZZA: -- Obama won that fight on the higher taxes?

CHAFFETZ: We've lost a number of fights.

O'BRIEN: A little bit of punting there, too.

CHAFFETZ: We have, but I want to get to the point, and I think the fundamental question for the Democrats was, I have for Chuck Schumer and the president and others is, should we at some point actually balance our budget? And if you're going to do so, how are you going to do that because at least we're putting something on paper and introducing it. Democrats haven't done that in the Senate for now close to four years.

O'BRIEN: What is going to be the big ticket? It's not going to be Obamacare, which means the message in that is there's got to be some big ticket item that is going to be in place that will balance the budget. Obamacare is not going to be it because you don't have the votes for that.

CHAFFETZ: We do --

BONNIE FULLER, FOUNDER, HOLLYWOODLIFE.COM: Who says that we have to balance the budget? Lots of economists say that we don't, but this is a complete and utter waste of time. That it's much better to get the economy moving so more people are employed. You bring in more revenues instead of trying to cut, cut, cut.

And besides, even talking about households, how many households today have balanced budgets? Most of us carry debt. We've got to send our children to college. We, as families, have to make investments in our future. Why would you be spending all this time obsessing about trying to balance the budget? And by the way, the law -- you guys lost. We want Obamacare. We voted for it.

CHAFFETZ: I actually won, that's why I'm sitting here.

O'BRIEN: Let the congressman answer.

CHAFFETZ: You're making the case that scares the living daylights out of me. Because to continue to spend in perpetuity without any regard for our future, and our finances, and putting us on the back of the kids, at some point, somebody's going to have to pay this $16 trillion. You just can't spend into infinity without eventually sometime balancing your books. That's when states do it. My state of Utah we balance our budget.

FULLER: The federal government has never balanced a budget.

O'BRIEN: And the two of you can stay around afterwards and have a balanced budget discussion. We're out of time. I've got to get to the next commercial. Congressman, always nice to have you with us. We appreciate it.

Coming up next, we're going to take a look at Tiger Woods, he's back. Can he keep up the momentum as he heads into the masters? That's ahead.


O'BRIEN: Tiger Woods roars again to win at Doral. He may not be ranked number one, but he certainly played like he was the best golfer in the world this weekend. Joe Carter has more for us in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hi, Joe.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, what's up, Soledad? Yes, a year ago, this exact same tournament Tiger limped of the course with an Achilles injury that forced him to sit out for a few months during the summer.

Back then there was a lot of concern this guy would never get his golf game back. Well, since returning from that injury, Tiger has rattled off five wins, the most of any golfer in the world.

Of course, this year he won at Torrey Pines and then again yesterday at Doral. Both of those wins were dominant wins. And to think that he's got two of his favorite courses ahead of him in Bay Hail, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and of course, Augusta National, the Masters.


TIGER WOODS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It's how I know I can play. That's the thing and I build it close and get the "Ws" on top of that. That's nice. Any time I can win, you know, prior to Augusta. It always feels good.


CARTER: All right, let's talk a little NBA. The Miami Heat won their 18th straight last night beating the Indiana Pacers by 14 points. What's up with the Pacers? A lot of people thought they would challenge the Heat better last night. Where did the defense go?

Lebron James, one of his quietest nights of the year offensively, but that didn't matter because Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade each scored more than 24 points. Miami Heat goes for the 19th win in a row tomorrow night against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Liberty University, they are the ultimate Cinderella story. They just made the NCAA Tournament despite losing 20 games this season. You know, they started out their year losing their first eight games. But then they got hot when it counted the most, and yesterday they won their conference tournament, the big south, which gave them an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

And look at this pine martin. Loose at a professional soccer game in Switzerland actually interrupted the game for a short time. One of the players trying to grab the pine martin but then pays for it. The pine martin will actually bite him right there.

Ouch! Ouch, and then the goalkeeper, of course he's wearing those big gloves, was able to snag the pine martin and then take him off the pitch to safety for all your entertaining sports news, including how the U.S. pulled out a come from behind win over Canada, the world baseball classic, check out

O'BRIEN: What happened to the pine martin?

CARTER: That's the biggest question of the morning. He is safe.

O'BRIEN: He's been put out in a forest somewhere. Appreciate it. You remember last week. We were talking about this second grader who was suspended because apparently he was eating a pastry and he chewed it into the shape of a gun. There was a whole debate over whether or not he had said, bang bang, et cetera, et cetera.

So now a lawmaker is stepping in and wants legislation to make schools stop overreacting. Maryland State Senator J.B. Jennings is going to join us up next to talk about that.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Last week, we were telling you the story of an elementary school in Maryland suspended a 7-year-old boy for allegedly taking his breakfast Danish and chewing it into the shape of a gun.

I know it's hard to get through the story. The school also claims that the boy. His name is Josh Welsh said bang bang while he was holding up the said Danish. I spoke to Joe and his dad. And Joe said it was not true. He never said bang bang. Listen.


JOSH WELCH, SUSPENDED 7-YEAR-OLD: I do draw tanks and I do draw a lot of stuff. And I do like guns, but I don't make guns out of food and stuff.


O'BRIEN: So now lawmaker in the district has introduced a bill that would make sure something like this, and by this I mean punishment for the boy, not the this the chewing of the Danish into the shape of a gun, making sure that that doesn't happen again.

Maryland State Senator J.B. Jennings is with us this morning to talk about this. It's nice to have you, Senator. Thank you for being with us.

It seems like the entire story honestly, and I talked to the dad and the little boy the other day, seems ridiculous that they would be suspending a 7-year-old kid for this. But does it merit legislation?

J.B. JENNINGS, MARYLAND STATE SENATE: I think it does. The state -- it's taken a while to get to this point. We've had several issues come up. Boards of education have talked about addressing it, but they haven't. It's taken us months to get to this point and you have a child that's gotten suspended for eating a pop tart into the shape of a gun. It's time to talk about it. O'BRIEN: But in terms of spending people's valuable time on important issues, is this one? I mean, when I look at the education, the reasonable school discipline act of 2013 which is your Senate Bill 1058, it looks like it would prohibit the principal to do certain things.

It would authorize him to do other things. Establish maximum discipline levels for K through 8, different ones for 9 through 12. And then finally keep things off of someone's record.

But I guess in school, the original problem to me seemed there was a lack of flexibility in understanding how to deal with small children. And what your legislation does is the opposite thing, but kind of the same thing.

JENNINGS: What it does -- the Boards of Education have handcuffed the teachers and principals in these schools with zero tolerance. What this does is it takes it away it gives discretionary back to the principal, back to the teacher. They can come in and say, hey, was this done on a threatening level, was it done -- was the kid playing around? And if they were, they can bring in the parents, they can sit with the parents and say --

O'BRIEN: But shouldn't that flexibility not be legislated, shouldn't that be back to the school board saying sometimes zero tolerance is problematic in that it's zero tolerance and you're talking about small children?

So the place to make that change is back in the school board, not by legislating some kind of flexibility because in a way, you also force people to make decisions. You have a different kind of punishment for K through 8 and different for 9 through 12.

I could imagine situations where it's problematic. The teacher might think that something is more aggressive punishment for a 7th grader is worth doing.

JENNINGS: The school boards haven't stepped up to act. They have not been here. We've talked about it in this state two years ago when our state superintendent left, she talked about addressing this issue. They haven't done anything.

That's why I put the legislation in. It has started the discussion. You say are talking about it on national TV. Now it's being addressed. Hopefully, the Boards of Education will now take this and move forward with.

O'BRIEN: Right, but I thought talking about it on national TV with the kid and his dad was also a mistake because it was silly that it got to that. The point that I was doing an interview about a 7-year- old boy about biting his Danish into the shape of a gun and he had been suspended was ridiculous.

So I think the fact that we're continuing the conversation around something that seems to be common sense and reasonable behavior for people who are dealing with little people who are usually not particularly reasonable and don't have a lot of common sense sometimes, children.

It seems like flexibility is what is needed and legislation, I guess I just think you're going up the wrong tree on this one.

JENNINGS: I think -- do you think the child should be suspended for doing what they did?

O'BRIEN: Do I think the school was right in doing what they did?


O'BRIEN: I think that they were unreasonable and I think that the way to fix the problem is not through legislation. I said this to the dad when I interviewed him. I think it's ridiculous what they did, but I think that then going to legislation is also unreasonable.

And spending your time with your colleagues at a time when the country seems to be like stuck on a lot of issues also unreasonable. If you were my state senator, I'd want you to be doing other things and not worrying about the Danish shaped into a gun to be perfectly honest.

JENNINGS: My constituents have called me. They're upset that their students are getting in trouble for these minor infractions and getting suspended and they want it addressed. They want changes made so that these school boards will layoff some of these children.

Give the teachers, the principals more flexibility to handle this in the classroom. Let these teachers have teachable moments. That's what this legislation is about.

O'BRIEN: I hear you. I get it. I just think to legislate teachable moments is problematic, but I thank you for your time this morning. I will be interested in seeing where the Senate Bill 1058 goes. Thank you for talking with us.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet. We got to take a break. We're back in a moment.