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Oklahoma HIV Scare; Holmes Plea Deal "Extremely Unlikely"; New Rules to Reduce Air Pollution; Obama Pressures Congress for Gun Control; School Bans Dodgeball; Interview with Ron Evans and Gladys the Gorilla

Aired March 29, 2013 - 06:30   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow, in for Zoraida Sambolin. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

And now to our top story of the morning. Seven thousand people potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis by their dentist. Dr. Scott Harrington is under investigation this morning. He's being called a menace to public health.

Ed Lavandera is live outside his dental office in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ed, good morning to you. Some inspectors who went through his office said they left physically sickened. That's how bad it was.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. That's after making several visits over the last couple of weeks, this all started because one of Dr. Harrington's patients was infected with hepatitis. And health inspectors here in the state of Oklahoma were trying to backtrack, trying to figure out how this person had contracted that infection. That led them to the dentist's office here, and what investigators say they found was shocking and disturbing.


SUSAN ROGERS, OKLAHOMA BOARD OF DENTISTRY: I will tell you that when the health department investigators, when we left, we were just physically kind of sick. I mean, that's just how bad -- and I've seen a lot of bad stuff over the years.

The instruments that came out of the autoclave were horrible. I wouldn't let my nephew play with them out in the dirt. I mean, they were horrible.


LAVANDERA: So, this is really all about the hygiene and the sanitation inside the dental practice. Highlights of what health investigators found inside Dr. Harrington's practice: rusted and unsterilized equipment, needles reused in drug vials, non-sterile gauze pads, open vials of medications.

Now those health officials say Dr. Harrington's practice dealt with a larger amount of patients who had been infected or come in contact with hepatitis and HIV, and because of that, all of these other people might have been exposed over the last six years.

HARLOW: I know that 7,000 people are receiving these letters, or calls to go get tested for these very serious diseases. Do we have any sense of how many may have been impacted? Any initial reading on that right now? Or is it too early? And also, Ed, any idea what charges this dentist may face?

LAVANDERA: Let me cover the first part of that. So far, there's only one patient that has -- health officials say has been -- has contracted the hepatitis virus. So, that is the one person that they know about. The testing, the free testing begins tomorrow, so it might take some time to get the full scope of what has happened here.

But they're urging these 7,000 people who will be getting these letters, this is people who've been here within the last six years, they're being urged to get that testing and that will begin tomorrow.

And as far as criminal charges, none have been filed so far, Poppy, but health officials say they are in contact with the district attorney's office here in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area.

So I think depending on how that testing comes back, when they get a better understanding of the full scope and magnitude of all of this, you know, I think that will have a big weight on what kind of criminal charges we might see in the future.

HARLOW: And also have to be able to directly tie the contraction of those diseases to visits to this office. They'd have to connect the dots here. So, Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty-three minutes after the hour.

And new this morning: prosecutors in the Aurora movie theater mass shooting case say they are extremely unlikely to accept a guilty plea from suspect James Holmes in order to take the death penalty off the table. Prosecutors say they're still seeking specific access to information that allows them to fully assess Holmes and his alleged actions in order to get a just outcome. They also suggest that the defense isn't acting in good faith by disclosing the offer in a public filing.

HARLOW: New this morning: the Obama administration is moving to require cleaner gasoline blends, in vehicles that emit less pollution. Reports say the EPA is set to announce new rules at some point today and they would require reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline. Also, they'd require a fleet of cleaner vehicles to hit the road by 2017. The oil industry claims the new rules could translate into a hike in gas prices, they're saying up to nine cents per gallon.

BERMAN: A zookeeper in Canada lucky to be alive this morning, surviving an attack by a Siberian tiger. He was cleaning the tiger pen yesterday morning when he was set upon by a female Siberian. The animals are supposed to be kept in a separate enclosure whenever their pen is cleaned. An investigation is under way to determine why the tiger was there.

The zookeeper was seriously wounded. He's in the hospital right now, in stable condition.

HARLOW: Well, the past catching up to a $338 million Powerball winner Pedro Quezada. It turns out he owes child support going back to 2009. But lucky for him, his winnings will more than cover what he owes. He owes 29,000 bucks.

He is expected -- it's expected that that will be paid out of the estate before his lottery wings are released. And Quezada has five children ranging from 5 to 23 years old. He has said some of his children live in North Carolina.

BERMAN: Here's what's trending this morning. Be careful what you wish for. Just months after recreational marijuana use became legal in Colorado and Washington, lawmakers from both states are considering taxing it and getting some of that green into state coffers. One Rocky Mountain congressman estimates the taxes could bring inasmuch as $100 million in potential revenue for his state alone. Medical marijuana use could take a hit in Colorado where it's not currently taxed.

You know, these taxes are one of the big reasons why these states push for it, right?

HARLOW: Absolutely.

BERMAN: I mean, it might be the only reason they push for it.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

All right. Breaking news this morning. You're wondering what's going on with Justin Bieber lately? We have your Biebs update. All that bad publicity? Well, you probably know Justin Bieber has recently generated some questionable headlines, reckless driving, paparazzi fights.

Now the 19-year-old is under investigation by the L.A. County sheriff's department for reportedly spitting on his neighbor.

Well, his mom Pattie Mallette speaking out saying, fame, it can be a double-edged sword. We all know that.

Here's what she said on HLN "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT."


PATTI MALLETTE, JUSTIN BIEBER'S MOM: It's a tough call. I think that it's tough not having privacy. But it's also, you know, it's a great platform to be able to use it to do some good.


HARLOW: She also said she doesn't meddle too much in her son's life because, like any other 19-year-old, Justin Bieber doesn't want his mom talking about his personal life.

BERMAN: And that news from our Bieber file this morning. Thirty-six minutes after the hour.

It is your choice. Minty fresh breath or breath that smells like bacon! So it appears Scope is set to introduce a new product, bacon mouthwash. Here's their new ad.


AD ANNOUNCER: Behold. The time has come to declare the crowning achievements in the world of bacon. Level one, bacon. Level two, carbonated bacon. Three, spreadable bacon. Four, lather up. Five, naming your offspring bacon.

Six, set a mood. Seven, permanent bacon. Eight, honey I love you bacon. Nine, oh, this little old thing? And bacon level 10: a bacon bacon.

Now what could possibly top bacon level 10? Well, it's none other than bacon level eleven. Scope bacon, for breath that sizzles.


BERMAN: Now I would be remiss if I did not point out that Monday is April Fools' Day. Procter & Gamble swears this is real. You make the call yourself.

HARLOW: And now look at this video. Not so fast. Coming up, how two regular guys stopped a would-be robber right in his tracks.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

Soledad O'Brien here with a look at what's ahead on "STARTING POINT".

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: So much happening on "STARTING POINT" this morning.

Ahead, we're going to talk a little bit about those 7,000 people who are now being told to get tests for HIV and hepatitis, after they visited a really dirty and disgusting dentist's office in Tulsa. Investigators say they were physically sickened by the state of the office. So how is the guy able to practice? We're going to talk this morning to the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry.

And several homes as you've been hearing all in danger of being destroyed by a landslide on a remote island in Washington state. Were there any signs this was going to happen? Washington state's chief hazards geologist will talk about that.

The hot new movie based on the book by "Twilight's" Stephenie Meyer starts a new film. The stars of the new film "The Host", Max Irons and Jake Abel will be here to talk about their film.

And he's become an Internet star. Yes, this little guy, the burglar. Remember we talked about him yesterday? He's able to pick his sister's lock and steal her pillow pet. We're going to talk to his mom and dad ahead this morning.

BERMAN: A kid who picks locks. We booked him before he goes to prison. So, important to get in there now.

O'BRIEN: The early interview.

BERMAN: That's right.

HARLOW: Right. The early interview, live and exclusive with Soledad.

Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

HARLOW: We'll see you in a bit.

And, folks, you know it's a holiday weekend. Maybe you don't have work today. Maybe you're enjoying it. What can you expect in terms of weather?

Let's go to our Alexandra Steele. She's live in the CNN weather center.

Good morning, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning to you guys.

Well, another very cold morning here in the Southeast, 30s and 40s. Frost and freeze advisories once again. But now, it's as cold as the last couple of days.

So, kind of today, this morning, bottoms out in terms of the very cold air. And then we are going to warm up as we head toward the next couple of days. Peaking on Sunday, and then this rollercoaster ride continues. So, in the South where it's been so cold, believe it or not, average feels pretty nice.

Atlanta, Chicago, even New York, all have been well-below freezing, well-below average. But now, temperatures kind of getting back to average, but then we cool down once again. Sunday's forecast for Easter, we do have a front, along it showers and thunderstorms. Not a washout by any means.

I think we're just going to see some showers, thunderstorms move through. So all Easter egg hunts aren't a total washout. So, you kind of might have to dodge some of the rain showers.

So, here's the deal. We're averaging until Sunday. Next, cold shot of arctic air comes down all the way from the Midwest, the mid- Atlantic, down into the South, as well. We're going to see it from Tuesday, to Thursday, then believe it or not, Thursday, here's the outlook for April. Second week of April, we really warm up. And, April looks to be above average, believe it or not.

HARLOW: Above average, finally? Only like two months late to the party here? BERMAN: That's right.

STEELE: That's right.

BERMAN: It will be August and it will be like 45 degrees and we'll be rejoicing about that.

Alexandra Steele, our thanks to you.

Forty-three minutes after the hour right now.

Alaska Congressman Don Young is scrambling this morning to explain why he used a derogatory term to describe migrant workers. The Republican lawmaker was talking about how technology was affecting the economy when he made his disparaging remark to an Alaska radio reporter.


REP. DON YOUNG (R), ALASKA: I used to -- my father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks, and -- to pick tomatoes. You know it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine.


BERMAN: So, he used the term, so I will, the term "wetbacks" triggered outrage among Latinos. According to anchorage television station KTUU, the congressman put out this statement last night. It says, "I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays." He says, "I meant no disrespect."

HARLOW: And Chief Justice John Roberts, proving he's sort of like everyone else, at least in one regard. Someone stole his credit card number apparently, and might have been charging stuff on his plastic.

Roberts was overheard talking about it at a Starbucks when he had to pay cash for his coffee because he had canceled his credit card.

BERMAN: You know, if there's one guy on Earth who's credit's got to be good, it's got to be chief justice of the United States.

HARLOW: I think that's part of the vetting process.

BERMAN: All right. So, you have to look at this truck teetering right now in Huntsville, Alabama. Police telling our affiliate WHNT to pickup was going the wrong way on an overpass last night when it hit two cars. The driver lost control. The truck ended up crashing over the guardrail and dangling on the edge. Rescue crews were able to get the driver who was pinned inside. Two people were seriously injured. One, we're told, with life threatening injuries.

HARLOW: Two strangers turned into Good Samaritans when they teamed up to take down a robber. Look at this video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: It's security video from a drugstore in Mesa, Arizona, a suspect demanding cash from the cashier. He got his cash but he didn't get away. Two customers, Jacob and Dustin, took the guy down.

DUSTIN HOLLANDER, GOOD SAMARITAN: Threw my stuff down and just told him no. And he decided to try and get past me. My wife works as a cashier. And, you know, if she was getting robbed I wish somebody would step in for her. So...

JACOB: It's strange. It's been my neighborhood, and I'm glad I could help.

HARLOW: Pretty awesome that their gut instinct was to jump in and help there. The guy had a gun. Well, police got there a few minutes later; took that suspect to jail.

BERMAN: Good Samaritans and good tacklers, which is a great combination --


HARLOW: Great combination.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up a gym class classic now banned. We'll tell you why one school is getting rid of dodge ball.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we know it!


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START everyone. President Obama is turning up the heat on Congress to pass stricter gun control laws. At the White House yesterday with supporters of new legislation he said the nation has cried enough over violent episodes like the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, declaring this is the moment to act.

But, it is increasingly doubtful the president will get all the provisions he wants. Here's Dan Lothian.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 100 days after the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama sensed his support for stricter gun laws slipping.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is our best chance in more than a decade to take common sense steps that will save lives.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): While surrounded by mothers touched by gun violence, the president made an emotional appeal, invoking the memory of Newtown massacre victims to shame Congress to act.

OBAMA: The entire country was shocked. The entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): One poll shows support for tougher gun laws dropping 10 points to 47 percent, from 57 percent in December. And there's tough opposition to the president's sweeping measures.

What the Senate will be taking up next month lacks some key components the president pushed for, universal background checks, and a ban on some high-capacity magazines.

In addition, four GOP senators, including Florida's Marco Rubio, say they'll block any legislation that puts more restrictions on gun owners.

In a statement Rubio said he intended to, quote, "oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms."

But the president is getting support from groups like Mayors against Illegal Guns, out with this new ad featuring relatives of the Sandy Hook victims.

GILLES ROUSSEAU, SANDY HOOK WIDOWER: She just wanted to teach little kids. And that was her goal. And she died doing it. Wonderful.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.


HARLOW: He's like very upset about it.

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. That was Dan Lothian covering the gun control story from the White House for us.

HARLOW: Well, can a dodge ball game promote bullying? That's a big question in New Hampshire right now where a school district says, yes, it can. The Windham School board has voted to ban all types of dodge ball or what they call human target activities. They argued the game promotes violence and even leads to bullying. Not everyone, though, is a fan of this ban. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's dodge ball. Dodge ball's been around as long as I can remember. Personally I think it's a blast. If you don't want to play it, don't play it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything these days they're worried about kids' feelings getting hurt, kids getting hurt. You know. How are they ever going to learn?


HARLOW: Well, the school board insists that games like dodge ball open up avenues for bullying activities, which contradict the district's anti-bullying message.

BERMAN: EARLY START back right after this break.


BERMAN: So we have a story right now about sort of the unlikeliest and furriest family around. Want you to meet Gladys.


BERMAN (voice-over): Gladys is a gorilla. And if you can believe this, the adorable 2-month old was rejected by her mother in Texas. So she was moved to the Cincinnati Zoo, where she's being raised by a rotating group of human surrogates until a gorilla assumes the role of surrogate mother.

Gladys and the primate team leader, Ron Evans, are here this morning. Oh, my goodness, Gladys, you are the best, prettiest guest we've ever had here on EARLY START. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

So, Ron, explain to me --

RON EVANS, PRIMATE TEAM LEADER: Oh, we're happy to be here.

BERMAN: I assume that Gladys can't answer my question, so I'll ask you. But how did Gladys end up in your care?

EVANS: Well, you know, she was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo -- hence the name Gladys -- in Brownsville, Texas. And her mother was a first- time mom and, unfortunately, didn't take care of her from birth. That happens sometimes because gorillas have to learn a lot of the skills they need to know, like maternal care.

Anyway, the Gladys Porter Zoo did an excellent job taking care of her themselves, but didn't have any options for a surrogate mom there because all their other gorillas had babies themselves.

So we all got together, Cincinnati, Gladys Porter, The Gorilla Species Survival Plan, which manages gorillas in North America, looked for the best option, and it was to come to Cincinnati to be with some of our experienced mothers. We have lots of options.

HARLOW: You know what I think, Ron, is so interesting, you've got actually 10 humans acting as a surrogate mother to Gladys, and they actually wear sort of furry vests over black uniforms, if you will, right, to feel as much like normal as possible?


EVANS: (Inaudible) modeling here today.

Yes, we try and act like gorillas for Gladys. We're just holding her temporarily, you know. We're keeping her temporarily until we can get her in with a real gorilla as quickly as possible. But before we get to that point we have to gorillify her a little bit. And just we try and do everything we can to make things like a gorilla mom would be, like a furry vest or the black scrubs to look like the dark gorilla skin.

She lives in the same area with the gorillas. We make gorilla vocalizations to Gladys. And we have a whole big team taking care of her 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, yes, it takes a really good team effort to take care of Gladys.

BERMAN: Ron, the gorilla vest looks terrific on you. But I guess the question here is, is there a possibility that it won't be enough? That by the time you're done Gladys will be so accustomed to humans that she won't take to the actual gorilla mom?

EVANS: Well, that's actually a very good question. But fortunately zoos have gotten together years ago and put together a comprehensive protocol on how to approach gorilla reintroductions. And we know from our collective experience that as long as we try and focus on getting Gladys in with a surrogate mom, oh, between three and five months, she doesn't have as much time to imprint on humans before we can make that transfer to a gorilla.

Now, the longer you go, the trickier it can be. But it can take a little longer than that. It's even been done over a year old. But we just know from experience it's best to try and do this within three to five months.

BERMAN: Ron Evans from the Cincinnati Zoo and, most importantly, Gladys, thank you so much for joining us. Great to see you this morning.

And that is --

EVANS: Thanks for having us.

BERMAN: That is all for EARLY START this morning. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.


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


O'BRIEN (voice-over): Our STARTING POINT this morning, a horrifying health scare. At least 7,000 people are now going to be tested for HIV and hepatitis after a dentist is accused of using dirty and rusted instruments. We've got details on this story coming up.

And then President Obama calling out Americans, saying why now is the time to support stronger gun laws.


BERMAN: Homeowners on the edge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN (voice-over): A landslide takes out one house and threatens more than a dozen others. Today, questions if they will ever be able to move back home.

GROUP: Go team! Go team! Go team!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, guys. Good morning from Dunk City. Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles, obviously the talk of the NCAA tournament.