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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Health Scare in Tulsa; Giant Landslide in Washington State; The Market vs. Main Street

Aired March 29, 2013 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOE CARTER, HLN SPORTS: All right, guys. Good morning from Dunk City. Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles, obviously the talk of the NCAA tournament. And as you can see, fans here in Fort Myers are loving every single minute of it. We're going to dial into this excitement right after the break.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And the S&P 500 closes at a new record high. What it means for our economy and your money. That's coming up.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus stars of a new movie called "The Host." The actors Max Irons and Jake Abel will join us live to talk about their new flick.

It's Friday, March 29th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody, our STARTING POINT this morning, an HIV and hepatitis scare is unfolding in Oklahoma. Seven thousand patients are getting the pretty terrible news that they may have been exposed to both of those diseases by their dentist. Officials are calling Dr. Scott Harrington and his Tulsa practice a menace to public health. We're told investigators who inspected his dental office were, quote, "physically sickened by what they uncovered."

Ed Lavandera is live for us in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with this developing story.

Hey, Ed. Good morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, even experienced health investigators say that when they walked into this dental practice that you see behind me, they were shocked and disturbed by what they found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Tulsa health officials say the sanitation conditions inside this building where Dr. Scott Harrington works as an oral surgeon were horrifying.

SUSAN ROGERS, OKLAHOMA BOARD OF DENTISTRY: I will tell you that when the Health Department investigators and 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. LAVANDERA: Those health officials say that as many as 7,000 patients in the last six years might have been exposed to HIV, as well as Hepatitis B and C. Health officials say Dr. Harrington treated a higher population of patients with those illnesses. But when investigators started inspecting the dental tools and equipment in the office in the last two weeks, what they discovered was disturbing and extremely unsanitary.

ROGERS: The instruments that came out of the autoclave were horrible. I wouldn't let my nephews play with them out in the dirt. I mean, they were horrible. They had rust on them.

LAVANDERA: So far health officials believe at least one patient was infected with Hepatitis C from treatments in this office. The news has sparked a nerve-wracking sense of unease. Patients are receiving letters urging them to get tested.

DR. KRISTY BRADLEY, OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: The magnitude of these infractions in clinical practices and the unknown length of time that the practices may have occurred have prompted public health to begin systematic notification of Dr. Harrington's patients and recommend testing for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses, as many persons who may be infected with these blood-borne viruses may be infected for years without experiencing any signs of illness.

LAVANDERA: State health officials say Dr. Harrington voluntarily stopped practicing after the investigation of health and safety law violations started a few weeks ago. Harrington is 64 years old, a veteran oral surgeon, who started practicing more than 35 years ago. But it's not clear if the closure is permanent or temporary. We haven't been able to reach Dr. Harrington yet, and this is the message callers to his office hear now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have reached the office of Dr. Scott Harrington. The office is currently closed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Now the free testing for all of the patients dating back over the last six years, 7,000 in all, will begin Saturday here in Tulsa. They are being urged to do that as quickly as possible. And as far as any criminal charges, Soledad, health officials here in Oklahoma say they -- no charges have been filed yet but that they are in contact with the district attorney's office here in Tulsa -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Ed Lavandera for us this morning. Thank you, Ed.

In just a few moments we're going to hear from the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry about that story.

A developing story coming to us out of Pakistan this morning where a bomb's gone off near the U.S. consulate there.

John has got that and a look at some of the other top stories this morning. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad. That bombing happened in just about five hours ago now. A suicide bomber blew himself up less than half a mile from the U.S. consulate at Peshawar near the Afghan border. Hospital officials say six people were killed, about a dozen hurt. Police say the bomber rode a motor bike up to a security checkpoint and detonated about 20 pounds of explosives that were on his body.

Also developing this morning, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordering his generals to put rockets on standby, ready to be fired at U.S. targets in the Pacific. He issued this latest threat after the U.S. confirmed that it flew B-2 stealth bombers which can carry nuclear weapons over South Korea as part of joint military exercises. Now North Korea considers those exercises a threat of war by the U.S.

The father of a former U.S. soldier charged with conspiring with al Qaeda in Iraq as he fought in Syria says his son is no terrorist. In fact, he says his son Eric Harroun is a hero for fighting alongside Syria's opposition. The FBI arrested Harroun Tuesday near Dulles Airport in Virginia. He's charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the U.S. specifically in this case it's a rocket-propelled grenade in Syria.

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 suggested that the defense is not acting in good faith by disclosing this offer in a public filing.

It is, of course, the most solemn day in the Christian calendar when believers around the world mark the death of Jesus on a cross. For Catholics today is their first Good Friday with a new Pope who really seems to do things his own way. Believers in Jerusalem following in Jesus' footsteps carrying a cross through the streets. Pope Francis providing observances in Rome today.

This Holy Week has already had its share of firsts. Yesterday the pontiff broke with tradition, washing and kissing the feet of 12 inmates, two of whom were women.

So it's not exactly the millennium falcon but it is still pretty fast. The Soyuz spacecraft made it to the International Space Station in just under six hours. That trip normally takes two days. The hash pops open after midnight Eastern Time. NASA says equipment and computer software upgrades help make the record fast flight possible. Soyuz orbited the earth four times instead of the usual 16. Two Russians and one American will be at the space station until September.

O'BRIEN: Well, it's four down and four more to go as March Madness heads from the Sweet 16 to the final four and last night another number one seed bit the dust. Four-seeded Syracuse knocking off top seed Indiana, right out of March Madness, happened last night with a 61-50 victory. The Orange raced to an 18-point first half lead and then that just kept going.

Also advancing last night the number two seed Ohio State with a 73-70 win over Arizona. Wichita State pounded over match La Salle 72-58 was the score there. And Marquette taking care of Miami 71-61 was the score there.

The Sweet 16 schedule tonight, top seed Louisville takes on Oregon. Then it's Michigan/Kansas, Michigan State/Duke, and then what everybody is looking for, 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast University, which is now John Berman's number one pick.

BERMAN: Dunk City.

O'BRIEN: They're trying to keep the dream alive against the Florida Gators. Joe Carter is in Fort Myers, Florida, with much more on that big match-up.

Hey, good morning. Wow, that's noisy for 7:07 a.m.

CARTER: And the fact that they're college kids is even more impressive. Yes, here we are in Fort Myers. They like to call themselves Dunk City. Now for Florida Gulf Coast University. The basketball team, the Eagles, the talk of the tournament. The Cinderella story. This team, you know, this is really their moment right now.

They-- this crowd, guys, has been gathering since about 5:00 this morning. We've got about 50 people over here by us. I've said there's probably about 400, 500 people here in the plaza. All to cheer on the Eagles. Of course, they're in Dallas tonight, playing at Cowboys Stadium, taking on the third seed, the Florida Gators.

In every sense of the word it is David versus Goliath. This small school against the big school. The unknown against the known. I want to talk to a couple of people real quick about tonight.

OK. So your school the obviously it -- the it school in the NCAA tournament. What everybody is talking about. What's that been like this week for you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just very exciting and surreal.

CARTER: Florida Gulf Coast. Are they on the map now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: We are a morning show. College students. College kids. All right. Let me ask you, what has this been like this week? The kind of energy that this team has generated here on campus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are so excited. (INAUDIBLE). USA.

CARTER: You know obviously this team has become the talk of the tournament, as I've said. And it's certainly been an exciting run for them. An improbable one. They beat Georgetown by 10 points.

(CHEERS)

San Diego State by 10 points. And now they find themselves as the first 15 seed in the Sweet 16.

Guys, it's been a great, incredible story to cover. And as you can see, these guys are very excited here in Fort Myers.

O'BRIEN: Wow. Wow.

BERMAN: College.

O'BRIEN: College. Go college.

(LAUGHTER)

Florida Gulf Coast University. I like the way the minute he asks a question, Joe asked the question, they're like, hang on, he's talking about the school. OK. Now we can make noise again. Let's chant.

All right, Joe Carter for us. Thank you, Joe.

Back to our top story this morning. We've been telling you about that thousands of people who have to be tested for HIV and Hepatitis C because of accusations of dirty instruments at a Tulsa dentist's office.

Let's get to Susan Rogers this morning, she's the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry. They are now investigating the practice.

Nice to have you with us. We certainly appreciate it. You've offered free testing for those 7,000 people who are the patients of this doctor. Tell me a little bit about how many you're expecting are going to take you up on that free testing.

ROGERS: That's actually the state health department. And we don't have any idea. We're hoping that anyone that hasn't been tested but that did see -- did go to that practice will actually go seek testing. And if they're afraid to go to the health department, we would ask them to go to their private physician, and visit with them, and get tested.

O'BRIEN: Give me some details about what you found in this investigation. Because you have said that this has got to be one of the worst cases, if not the worst case you've ever seen in scope and in just how bad it was.

ROGERS: You know, we have a lot of investigations of different things. We don't hardly ever have them for unsanitary conditions. And this is one where we got a phone call from the health department from -- they were doing an investigation about a potential Hep-C inspection, and that had come out of this dentist's office.

They had narrowed down a window and believed it came from there and we went out with a couple of people from the health department. One of them is a registered nurse and one of them is a dentist. They don't normally do these kind of investigations. And some of the things we found were just absolutely incredible. And it's stuff that it's just basic universal precautions for blood-born pathogens that they were just not following regular protocols.

The thing that was most upsetting to us, because we take a very dim view of this from our board's perspective, is he was allowing unauthorized, unlicensed personnel to do IV sedations. And that is completely unacceptable and illegal in Oklahoma.

O'BRIEN: So his assistants we don't --

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: And we don't know if that was part of the contraction.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. His assistants basically doing anesthesia on the patients. I want to run through some of the details of the complaint. Rusted and unsterilized equipment. Needles reused in drug vials, non-sterile gauze, and open vials of medication. I guess no one was even tracking the medication. Much of it had actually expired already.

Did his office look like it was a train wreck? I mean, if you were to walk in as a patient would you know that there was something really bad going on there? Or was it -- did it look from the, you know, initial eyeballing it, did it look fine?

ROGERS: When you walk in it looks like a normal dentist's office. Clean from the outside looking in. When the health inspectors went in there, the health department investigators, they saw things that you wouldn't necessarily know unless you pulled open cabinets and looked and were looking for specific items like we were that day.

O'BRIEN: OK.

ROGERS: We went to follow up on their investigation to see the things that they had told me that they had seen that I frankly just couldn't believe. And when we got there and went further into the investigation, looking at things that we normally look at, it was actually a lot worse than we had expected.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. It sounds horrible. So of those 7,000 patients, what's your guess the number who will actually end up with some kind of infection? I mean do you think with those kinds of conditions it's actually going to be a large portion of them?

ROGERS: We hope not. I think one of the reasons for the large number, and of course this is the health department's purview as to why they did this, when we interviewed them, he had the same personnel working there for six years, and seven years respectively, two assistants. And so we went back as far as we could with the records because they've done the same practice and procedures for all this time. And that's probably just the best way to try to contact everyone. One of the things that we're concerned about is, you know, we have people that's been there seven years ago and probably don't even live in that area. And so we would ask you to please go get tested. I truly don't even have a guess. We haven't really had a situation like this in Oklahoma where we've had this large number of people that we've had to contact to be tested.

When I visited with the health department person that's in charge of this kind of activity, she said this is about the third public notification they've had to do in about 10 years. And the last two were not near this -- near this large.

O'BRIEN: It's about one out of every 50 people in Tulsa, is how the number turns out.

Susan Rogers is the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry. Thank you for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it.

ROGERS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, 1,000 foot stretch of hillside crumbles into the ocean. We'll take you live on that Washington island where some residents might not ever be able to go back home, even if their homes are still standing.

And then two brave customers take on a robber and the whole thing is caught on camera. We're going to show you what happened. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Several homes are still threatened by that colossal landslide that tore through a neighborhood in Washington State. Happened on early Wednesday morning on Whidbey Island which is near Cookeville, that's about 50 miles northwest of Seattle.

A thousand foot stretch of hillside literally just fell off and collapsed into the ocean. One home was destroyed. But several others were just cut off. And some residents have been allowed to return. Other people are not actually sure if they're ever going to be able to go back to their homes.

Kyung Lah is live for us on Whidbey Island this morning.

Tell us a little bit about the situation right now -- Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the land is actually still moving, Soledad. And geologists say there isn't much that they can do. They have to let Mother Nature take its course when you consider this is a bluff and houses sitting right on top of it. What the city is trying to do is to lay some loose gravel. You see this big pile over here so that residents who have been evacuated out, their houses cut off, they can try to hike down. Those houses cut off because of this huge landslide.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): The view is breathtaking until you look closer. The earth is still tumbling down hundreds of feet. The grass of this backyard dangling on the edge above an impromptu cliff side that took out one house and cut off 17 others.

Daniel Garcia lives -- or lived here. His house tagged yellow means it's possible it could go tumbling.

DANIEL GARCIA, RESIDENT: Kind of seems like the best interest to go.

LAH (on camera): So you want to get out of here?

GARCIA: I wouldn't -- I'd rather not but the situation kind of dictates.

LAH (voice-over): This sort of large landslide in Washington State is a 1 in 100 or 200 year event says geologist Terry Swanson.

TERRY SWANSON, GEOLOGIST: Just beyond the cliff here. You don't want to get too close. And so the entire road, this whole section here, about 600 to 800 feet of it has been completely rotated.

LAH: Swanson says scientists knew this was coming but couldn't predict exactly when.

SWANSON: When you get lots of water, the water pressure can push the sand grains apart, and then there's no cohesion and the stuff moves.

LAH (on camera): And is this an example of man versus nature? Have we built on stuff we just didn't understand?

SWANSON: Yes, absolutely. Back in the 1930s and '40s when they were plotting this in 1950s, even the 1960s, people weren't thinking about this.

LAH (voice-over): Resident Karen McCoy certainly wasn't when she moved in a few months ago.

KAREN MCCOY, RESIDENT: I thought of it as like a huge, huge, huge wave crashing against the cement wall. And it was just really strong.

LAH: It cut off the main road to her house. She finally climbed through a dirt trail at night to get her cat.

MCCOY: She's a little freaked out right now. It's OK. There's just a lot of anxiety about, like, what's going to happen. Will I be able to move back home?

LAH: Daniel Garcia isn't anxious. He's made his choice. The man who moved into this house for the view is now leaving because he has too much of one.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAH: So the big question is, will any more houses go? Well, according to the city there is one house that's considered red. A significant risk. They don't want anyone inside that property. There are four houses considered moderate risk. Yellow. And those houses, they can walk into, but they're not recommending the residents stay. The rest are considered green, Soledad.

But when I asked the geologist in my story, hey, would you live here? He said maybe for a short period of time. But he doesn't think he'd live here permanently.

O'BRIEN: Yes, well, when the geologist who's right on the side of the -- fall there tells you yes, I wouldn't live there, it's probably good advice to take.

Kyung Lah for us this morning.

LAH: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Kyung. Appreciate it.

Coming up in the next hour we're going to talk with Tim Walsh, he's the chief hazards geologist for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. We'll talk a little bit about some of the warning signs there.

And ahead on STARTING POINT the S&P 500 closes at a record high. Is that a sign the economy is back?

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our team this morning, Ryan Lizza is back, CNN contributor, Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker." Will Cain is with us, too. CNN contributor and columnist for theblaze.com. Roland is going to be joining us a little bit.

Let's start with Alison Kosik this morning with the big news from Wall Street to talk about and good news

KOSIK: Yes, good news for a change. You got both the Dow and the S&P 500, they're sitting at record highs. But the S&P 500 doesn't get all the headlines, the Dow does. But the S&P 500 is a broader measure of the stock market. And it's 500 stocks, not just 30, in the Dow, so it's more representative of what's going on in the market. So it closed at 1569. That is pretty impressive. And the market, coincidentally, or not, it did that on the last day of the first quarter. That was yesterday. But look at these returns. Look at these gains.

The Dow up 11 percent. S&P 10 percent. NASDAQ up 8 percent in just the first three months of this year. That's really, really good returns. But there's a reality in this because a lot of people aren't in this rally. They're really not invested in it. It's only about half of Americans are invested, half are not. So they're not really feeling this. They're not feeling the rally that's going on. We're sitting here with these great headlines of these record highs. But 12 million people are out of work. You know, the jobs market, it's moving forward but just barely. I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Can I ask an economy 101 question? How come when you're seeing the Dow and the S&P and NASDAQ doing so well, there isn't some kind of a trickle down effect on the economy as a whole? Right? Not just the people who aren't investing which can completely understand that affects them that way, but you know, when you look at those charts there's one that goes like this, great gains, and then the one for sort of worker bees is like that.

Why is there no big rise for the workers when the Dow is doing so well?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You can't just gloss over the fact that you mentioned which is that so many people aren't invested in the market. We have markets going up but we have people with no savings, high debt, we still live in a society like that.

O'BRIEN: But shouldn't it help the general economy when the stock market is doing well? How come that doesn't trickle down?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Well, people are starting to work off their debt. They just haven't done it yet. All the way.

KOSIK: Right. And it's oftentimes when you see this disconnect where you're going to see as we are seeing now the markets are operating on all cylinders but the economy isn't. I mean, we're seeing pockets of other improvement. We're seeing, you know, improvement in the housing market. Consumer spending is picking up.

But look at GDP. We've also got a GDP report yesterday that -- that's the broadest measure of economic growth for this country. It's barely moving as of last quarter last year, 0.4 percent. Come on. That's anemic. It's not going anywhere.

O'BRIEN: She's mad. Alison's mad.

(LAUGHTER) LIZZA: But Soledad, the problem is even worse than that. Not just when the stock market can be performing very well sometimes and the rest of society not doing well. But when the economy was booming the middle class wages were stagnant. I mean that is one of the central economic conundrums of the modern American economy. When this economy does finally take off, you know, the big question, will middle class wages start rising again?

O'BRIEN: What happens to middle class workers.

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Even -- because even before the recession, they weren't -- they weren't getting ahead.

O'BRIEN: Right. Right. Right. Right. Right. All right. We got to go to commercial break. When we come back we're going to talk a little bit about what President Obama said. Part of it was shame on us, tell Congress don't forget Newtown to work to create better gun control laws. Some folks in Congress pushing back on that.

We're going to talk to Julie Sotto. You'll remember her sister was a teach who died in that school shooting.

And a would-be robber tries to get away with cash from a drugstore but customers stepped in and don't quite let that happen. Yes, that was -- tackling the bad guys.

And then the author of "Twilight" has a new book and a new movie. It's called "The Host." We'll talk with two of those stars, Max Irons and Jake Abel.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)