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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Kerry Calls for Talks with North Korea; with Former Ambassador Chris Hill on North Korea; Break in Texas D.A. Murder Case?; Can Human Genes Be Patented; The Battle over Guns

Aired April 15, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And thanks for being with us on this Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, Secretary of State John Kerry speaking out on North Korea and their plans to launch a missile.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: North Korea knows what it has to do. We're not, you know, changing our policy with respect to talking to them because --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Plus we have new video of protests in South Korea. Is the growing tension reaching a boiling point?

BALDWIN: And holding on to hope. Rescuers search for a missing hiker buried under an avalanche. The latest on the efforts to find him in moments.

BERMAN: And the Supreme Court is looking at a really important case. Can human genes be patented? Our medical team breaks down major implications.

BALDWIN: And terrifying moment for Hugh Jackman at the gym. What happened when he came face to face with a razor-wielding woman? Yikes.

It is Monday, Tax Day, the 15th of April. STARTING POINT begins right now.

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BERMAN: Our STARTING POINT this morning: do they want to talk or do they want to fight?

On this pivotal day in the Korean nuclear crisis, there is a new call from the U.S. for what we're calling authentic talks. BALDWIN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying the door is open for diplomacy, but the burden of ending the North's nuclear aggression falls squarely on Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un resurfacing today for a tribute to his father and grandfather, but the scene was far different in South Korea's capital and that is where we find Jim Clancy in Seoul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: After nearly two weeks of being absent from the public view, Kim Jong Un emerged at the stroke of midnight inside the great hall flanked by member of his military to pay deepest respects and humble respects -- we're told by North Korea's news agency -- to his grandfather and his father. Of course, it is his grandfather's 101st birthday and there were celebrations in North Korea.

But the scene in South Korea, much different.

Conservative groups in South Korea protested against the harsh war- like rhetoric of Kim Jong Un over the course of the last few week and burned the Kim family dynasty in effigy.

There was no immediate response to Secretary of State John Kerry's call for a dialogue with the North over the outstanding issues, but he has made clear what it will take for north Korea to be able to come to the table.

KERRY: What's important is government to government. North Korea knows what it has to do. We're not, you know, changing our policy with respect to talking to them because we need to make it clear that they have to move towards the denuclearization, they need to stop the threats, they need to stop the missile tests, stop the nuclear test, and we're prepared to come to the table under the meeting of the obligations in order to have a full fledge negotiation, and we will negotiate the full set of concerns that the north has.

CLANCY: Kerry's trip succeeded in turning down the temperature on the Korean peninsula, it also succeeded in using Kim Jong-un's own rhetoric against him with the Chinese whose viewpoint may be more in line with Washington's right now. Beijing like the U.S. does not want to see a nuclear Korean peninsula.

The question now is what is going to be Kim Jong-un and Pyongyang's next move -- Brooke, John.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Jim Clancy who is in Seoul.

We want to bring in Ambassador Chris Hill live from Denver right now. He was the ambassador to South Korea. He later became the head of an American delegation to six-party talks which dealt with for example North Korea's nuclear program.

Ambassador, thanks so much for being with us.

Just a while ago, we heard in that piece there John Kerry talking about the preconditions with which the United States might be willing to talk to North Korea. Among those were a move towards denuclearization and no test, no nuclear tests right now at all.

Are these conditions you think the North Koreans are likely to make?

CHRIS HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: Well, I mean, that's the big question. Secretary Kerry has -- those are conditions that have been out there for some time. And North Koreans agreed to those measures early on, they agreed to a joints statement in '05. So, basically what Secretary Kerry is saying is we'll talk to them on the basis of what they've already agreed.

The question is whether they're willing to go back and do that. It's very unclear at this point.

BALDWIN: We do now know in response to Secretary Kerry's offer for some kind of dialogue, this is what North Korea's committee for the peaceful reunification of Korea said. Quote, "The offer of dialogue is a cunning ploy to hide the South's policy of confrontation and mislead its responsibility for putting the Kaesong industrial complex into a crisis."

So, Mr. Ambassador, so what is North Korea waiting for?

HILL: Well, that's an example of North Korea's custom area charm.

BALDWIN: Charm.

HILL: I mean, they have no concept of how -- of how to kind of address, you know, an offer that secretary of state is making.

I mean, first of all, you have to consider that I wouldn't call that an official response. That's fairly low level by North Korean standards. So I think they haven't quite figured out what their response should be.

Obviously, they have to climb down from some of their rhetoric and in fact they probably want to climb down from what they've down in the Kaesong industrial complex, that is the banning of the South Koreans from that complex, which is an arrangement that I think benefits North Korea, as well. So they probability want to figure out a way out of that and they probably want to see what they can do in terms of what Secretary Kerry has said.

They obviously know this they have kind of kissed off the China relationship for the time being. That's got to worry some of them. So, I think the next few days will tell, but it's clear the North Koreans are trying to, as best they can, try to kind of calm their own tempers down and see if we can get back on some other track.

BERMAN: All right. Ambassador Chris Hill, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Again, talking about North Korea, the Korean situation, on the brink now for more than a week. BALDWIN: Kissing off China's relations. That's problematic if they're their only friend to so long.

Also, new developments this morning in north Texas where authorities are investigating the killings of the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife and that assistant D.A. There may be a break in this case.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas.

Ed, good morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brooke.

Well, you remember just a few weeks ago, the night that the McLellands bodies were discovered in their home, just hours after the discovery was made, investigators went and found a man by the name of Eric Williams, a former justice of the peace there in Kaufman county. And in the last three days, the search against him has intensified dramatically.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): This house belongs to a former Kaufman County justice of the peace named Eric Williams. On Friday, investigators spent hours combing through the house. Then on Saturday, those investigators descended on this storage unit 15 miles away.

Several local media outlets report investigators found 20 weapons inside the storage unit that was rented for Eric Williams. And investigators also discovered this Crown Victoria, a police style vehicle. Local media also reports this type of car was seen in the neighborhood the night the McLellands were murdered.

Eric Williams is now sitting in jail. Over the weekend, he was arrested and charged with making a terror terroristic threat. He's being held on a $3 million bond.

Williams and his lawyer have vigorously denied any involvement in the Kaufman County murders and insist they've cooperated voluntarily with investigators.

ERIC WILLIAMS, CONVICTED BY MCLELLAND & HASSE: My heartfelt condolences go out to both the McLelland family and Hasse family because they were in public office doing the right thing. And for some reason, they were not aware of, they paid the ultimate price for that.

LAVANDERA: Williams' connection to Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland dates back to last year. He was convicted on two felony counts of burglary and theft by a public servant. This video played at his trial shows him stealing computers from a county building and here he is during a police interrogation.

INTERROGATOR: So basically just took the monitors and the memory --

WILLIAMS: Not that I can remember.

LAVANDERA: It was a big scandal in a little town. Prosecutors Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland were front and center on the case. This is a picture of both men from the courtroom during that trial.

Denise Bell covered the trial "The Forney Post" newspaper.

DENISE BELL, THE FORNEY POST: It was a mega-trial for our little community. The sense of it was a big trial.

LAVANDERA: After the trial, McLelland told reporters that Williams conviction was a sign the good old boy network is gone and elected officials should be held to a higher standard. Hasse ripped into Williams calling the disgraced justice of the peace a dishonorable liar and then he was using Kaufman County as his own piggy bank. Williams lost his job and his law license and was sentenced to two years probation.

Denise Bell says she spoke with Mike McLelland in the weeks before his death. She says after Mark Hasse's murder in January, McLelland was worried about Eric Williams.

(on camera): Did McLelland tell you that he believed Eric Williams was responsible for that murder?

BELL: Yes.

LAVANDERA: He did.

What exactly and in what context did he tell you this?

BELL: In a context of be careful, Denise.

LAVANDERA: He told you to be careful?

BELL: Yes.

LAVANDERA: Why would he tell you to be careful?

BELL: Because I sat in the front row and covered this story for 10 days.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Despite Eric Williams now getting so much attention, investigators have still not officially named him as a suspect or filed murder charges against him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: So now, we wait, Brooke and John, to see exactly what investigators do here in the coming days. It will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds from here on out. And many people in Kaufman County anxious to get an answer as to exactly what is going on.

BALDWIN: Now, we wait.

Ed Lavandera, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Ten minutes past the hour right now.

And happening right now -- say it ain't snow. Parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas this morning -- I went there -- nearly a foot and a half has already fallen in some areas. Amazing. That plus gusty winds and practically zero visibility, it has caused a mess on the highways.

This rollover accident shut down a portion of Minnesota's interstate 94 on Sunday. And now, another spring blizzard is taking aim at the Denver area. Bonnie Schneider is live in the weather center with more, more of this.

Bonnie, where is spring?

(CROSSTALK)

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's got to be coming, right? Maybe it doesn't come until May for Bismarck and for Denver. Right now, we're seeing heavy snow just south of Cheyenne, moving into the Denver area, and a lot more of it stretching across Colorado.

It's been so snowy for Bismarck, they had 17 inches, shattered a record for this date. But looking ahead, you can see, we have eight inches plus, possibly up to a foot in northern Colorado. And three to six inches expect in Denver.

So the snow machine continues all the way across Wyoming and we're going to be seeing this snow stretch to go the northern plains, as well.

Switching gears, we are less than an hour away from the start of the Boston marathon. Temperatures in the upper 40s, light winds, really perfect weather for runners. It will warm up past 50 depending on how fast you run. You'll reach the finish line at either a cooler or warmer temperature, but good weather for that.

And the center of the country, we're watching severe storms. And it's not just today. It's actually going to get progressively worse Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday looks like one of the most dangerous days for severe weather in this part of the country.

Today, we're watching for the threat for Joplin on into Missouri, and you can see that in a St. Louis is also under that threat for severe weather. That means strong thunderstorms, heavy downpours and frequent lightning strikes -- Brooke, John.

BERMAN: All right. Bonnie Schneider, our thanks to you.

BALDWIN: The federal aviation agency is ordering special instructions and the replacement of potentially defective parts, more than 1,000 Boeing 737 jets, these parts control the airplane's horizontal stabilizers and could affect the pilots ability to keep the plane flying; 737s are currently flown by most major U.S. carriers.

New pictures this morning of the first grand child of George W. and Laura Bush. Meet Margaret Laura, born to Jenna Bush Hager Saturday in New York City. She is named after her grandmothers. The family will call her Mila.

BERMAN: Look at those smiles. Some happy grandparents there.

BALDWIN: Ooh. Cute.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT: can a company have exclusive patent rights to a part of the human body? The Supreme Court is taking up a really important case today.

STARTING POINT back right after the break.

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BALDWIN: Fifteen past the hour. And a fascinating question this morning before the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. The question is, can human genes be patented? This case involves Myriad Genetic, a Utah bio-technology company that discovered two genes associated with breast cancer and ovarian cancer and patented the discovery.

BERMAN: Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us right now.

And, Elizabeth, everyone talking about this case from the legal community to the medical community like it's a really, really big deal. So what's at issue today?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a really big deal, John, because it has to do with what's inside all of us. We all have genes. And with those genes tell our bodies how to function. We all have these so-called breast cancer genes. Luckily most of us they're normal and we're fine, but some people have an abnormal version of the gene. So this company called Myriad in Utah, they patented these genes. They said, well, yes, they're in everybody, but they're ours. We own them.

And so what that means is that only Myriad can make the test to detect these genes. They have a monopoly on this test. And a lot of doctors and a lot of patients very unhappy with this. And today the Supreme Court justices get to decide, can a company hold the patent on something that's inside all of us.

BERMAN: Right. So that's the sort of intellectual argument here. Can a company own effectively a piece of you? How important is this, though, to our everyday lives?

COHEN: You know, it really is important in our everyday lives. And here is why. I mentioned they're the -- Myriad is the only company that can make this test. Well, that means, there's no competition and you know, economics 101 when there's no competition -- this, by the way, is an ad for the test. When there's no competition that means that they can kind of put the price wherever they want.

And so genetic counselors tell me that the price for this test is really, really high. A lot of women can't afford it, and so therefore they say it's really not serving patients. That women can't afford it, they can't get the test, they can't make certain treatment decisions, they can't find out if they have the genes, they can't find out if they're passing this bad gene on to their own daughters. They say it just doesn't make economic sense to allow one company to own something and have a monopoly on this test.

BALDWIN: So then on the flipside, what about the company who owns the patent? What are they saying?

COHEN: Right. The company says look, we spent a lot of time and a lot of money discovering this. They say they created entire molecular entities that are just theirs. And they say look, we spent all this time on research and development, we should get to own it.

BALDWIN: Elizabeth Cohen. Thanks very much.

BERMAN: Thank you so much, Elizabeth.

BALDWIN: Ahead here on STARTING POINT, "Saturday Night Live," if you were up and watching, taking on the gun control debate and the requirements now in this new background check compromise. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No individual can purchase a handgun from private dealer without being asked, are you a good person? So as a follow-up question, seriously, are you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: What is trending is next.

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BERMAN: Some scary moments for actor Hugh Jackman is one of the trending stories we have to tell you about this morning. Police say a California woman is accused of not just stalking him, but attacking him with an electric shaver over the weekend.

BALDWIN: Electric shaver?

BERMAN: That's what it says. An electric shaver over the weekend at a New York City gym. 47-year-old Catherine (INAUDIBLE) is charged with menacing, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. I guess the electric shaver. She told police she came to New York two months ago determined to become Jackman's second wife.

BALDWIN: I don't get it, so I'll just move on. The "Avengers" one of the big winners at MTV's Movie Awards last night. The action blockbuster taking home not one, not two, but three golden popcorn prizes, including the big one, Movie of the Year. Writer/Director Josh Boone accepted the award saying, quote, "What's the opposite of humbled? We're Biebered to be standing here."

Ouch. Not so nice. BERMAN: Swipes the Bieber, left and right.

BALDWIN: Right at the Biebs.

Also host Rebel Wilson decked out in leather. Clearly went into John Berman's closet for this, this outfit. Performed with her cast mates from last year's hit "Pitch Perfect" as part of the elaborate opening number.

BERMAN: We'll just have to imagine it here.

BALDWIN: Yes, I'm waiting for the in the leather. Nevertheless, the show also premiered the first teaser trailer for catching -- "Catching Fire," the second installment in the "Hunger Games" trilogy.

BERMAN: That is exciting.

All right. "Saturday Night Live" tapped in to America's frustration for Washington's inability to getting anything done over gun control this weekend. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If our bill passes, no individual can purchase a handgun from a private dealer without being asked, are you a good person? They have agreed to limit the number of guns you can shoot at once to two. Anyone caught shooting three or mower guns at the same time will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately the punishment is we give you a fourth gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know how that act go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course this might go without saying, but none of these restrictions would apply to Florida. We don't know why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We don't know why. They just don't.

BERMAN: Very funny. All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, the search is on for a notorious gangster who escaped a French prison. How he was able to get out at gunpoint? We're going to have a live report next from France.

BALDWIN: And a new study shows teenagers are getting safer about driving in groups, but putting themselves at risk when driving alone. We'll tell you why.

BERMAN: And a little boy's quick thinking saves his friend's life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he might even be in the hospital right now if I didn't to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It's the cutest thing ever.

BALDWIN: Little boy voice.

BERMAN: How his ability to read prevented a disaster. Cuteness overflowing and life saving there. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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