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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Search Continues for Missing Michigan Woman; Interview with Chief Daniel Shaw; Obama to Travel to Mexico; Balancing Privacy with Prevention; Biggest Loser, Canine Edition

Aired May 2, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Expressed in the new "Time" magazine cover entitled "Homeland Insecutiry." By a 2-1 margin, Americans say they are more concerned about the government restricting their freedoms than failing to enact anti-terror policies.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A Kentucky restaurant owner is doing a damage control after his Facebook status update angered users. The status updates inluded pictures of a crock pot along with the caption, "it's a bomb, no, no, just pulled pork at the Liberty Grill." And, "tick tock, tick tock." The restaurant owner, Quincy Collier insists he was not making light of the Boston bombings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUINCY COLLIER, RESTAURANT OWNER: Not relating at all to the Boston bombings. I wasn't thinking about that when I posted that. It was a crock pot with pork in it. Complete shock, but after I got to thinking about it, people are very sensitive about the issue right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Yes, they sure are. Collier said he will delete the offending post.

ROMANS: I don't get the tick tock, tick tock part of that.

BERMAN: Yeah, I'm not sure what interpretation he was thinking about there.

The search is still on for 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa. She's the Michigan woman who may have been ducted from her job at a gas station on Friday night. Authorities released a detailed sketch of a man believed to be involved with Jessica's disappearance. According to several witnesses, he was seen talking to Jessica before she went missing.

ROMANS: They also released a second video of a van driving away from the gas station within the time frame between the time Jessica's last traction and her reported disappearance. Police Daniel Shaw (pg) of the Norton Shores, Michigan police department is investigating that for us. What is the status of the investigation at this point?

Good morning, sir, can you hear me? CHIEF DANIEL SHAW, NORTON SHORES, MICHIGAN P.D.: Yes, I can.

ROMANS: Oh, great. Tell us, what is the status of the investigation at this hour?

SHAW: Well, what we're doing right now is tracking down tips, that -- that the public has phoned in to us, names, suspect vehicles and such, and verifying whether or not the person or the vehicle was involved in this incident.

BERMAN: Now, you released new video of a minivan apparently in question. How far away was the camera when this was being taken, and how close to this to the time that Jessica was last seen?

SHAW: The latest video was approximately one mile or mile and a half north of the crime scene. As far as time frame, we believe it's about three minutes after she was taken from the gas station. So it fits right in our window that we're looking at as far as time of opportunity.

BERMAN: You've also released a composite sketch. Since you have released that sketch, have you had any calls, any up-tick in the number of tips that you are getting?

SHAW: Definitely. Within the first hour after that sketch was released, we had 75 tips right away overnight, the number was more like 250 or more.

ROMANS: And this sketch is of a man that you say witnesses or people who were at the store say was talking to her, seen in the store at some point that evening before she disappeared. Tell us why the significance of that man?

SHAW: Well, the sketch is actually of the driver of the minivan that was last seen leaving from the area of the scene about the time of Jessica's disappearance. It's also believed that that same person may have been at the store about a half hour or an hour before. So it is significant in that we're trying to find the driver to find out first if he saw anything, that could lead us to the person who abducted her or, second, to fund out what he knows about the abduction if he's involved.

ROMANS: Are you assuming, sir, you call it a crime scene. Are you saying this is an abduction, you think someone took her away from there against her will, no question in your mind?

SHAW: Without a doubt. Based on the information we've received from the family as far as her personality and the fact that she would not have left her child behind. That coupled with the lack of physical evidence inside the building, but the evidence we have processed on the outside, does lead to us believe that she was abducted.

BERMAN: Let me ask you this, if people have information or tips, what do you want them to do?

SHAW: To please call our silent (ph) observer line, 231-72-CRIME, or call the Norton Shores police department, 231-733-2691.

ROMANS: We're putting both of those numbers on the screen for you, so anyone who may have tips can call those in. Police Chief Daniel Shaw, thank you so much for joining us. Best of luck in the investigation.

SHAW: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, other news now. A court hearing for today for James Everett Dutschke, he is the Mississippi man under arrest accused of sending letters to President Obama and two others that were tainted with the poison ricin. The FBI says it seized items that belonged to him that tested positive for the deadly substance. The judge is expected to decide today if Dutschke should remain in custody.

ROMANS: New this morning, five people dead from a mysterious SARS-like virus in Saudi Arabia with two others in intensive care. The Saudi Health Ministry says it is taking precautionary measures for all of those exposed to the so-called corona virus. Little is known about the virus, other than it infects the respiratory tract and there is no treatment.

BERMAN: In just a couple hours, President Obama will be wheels up on a trip to Mexico City. This is the first stop on a three day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica. The president will meet with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto to talk about trade, security, and immigration. CNN's Dan Lothian is live at the White House with a preview of the president's trip. Good morning, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John, well the economy will be an important issue as the president heads to Mexico. How to strengthen ties between the two countries. But the president will also be talking about this ongoing drug war. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war. The U.S. and Mexico have been key partners in the fight, but the president now is likely to face a new dynamic on the U.S. involvement in that country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: In an unusually close relationship, the U.S. and Mexico have aggressively fought drug cartels, sharing intelligence and cross- border training, but there's uncertainty as President Obama head south to a new political landscape. His old partner, Felipe Calderon who launched a major crackdown has been replaced by new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, who appears to be limiting the U.S. role in his country.

JOSE CARDENAS, FMR. STATE DEPT. SENIOR ADVISOR: We have seen signs that the new Mexican government wants to tone down, wants to scale back on the integrated cooperation. That's, no doubt, very, very concerning to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

LOTHIAN: The Mexican government announced it's tightening the flow of intelligence and it's still evaluating whether a U.S.-backed to use polygraph testing to root out corrupt Mexican security officials will continue.

President Obama says he's keeping an open mind. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not gonna yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I've heard directly from them to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish.

LOTHIAN: A recent Pew Research poll shows Mexicans overwhelmingly welcomed U.S. involvement in fighting the drug war -- 74 percent support assistance in training police and military, 55 percent approve giving them money and weapon. But President Pena Nieto's institutional revolutionary party has historically been suspicious of outside influence and fiercely protects its sovereignty.

CARDENAS: Ultimately President Pena Nieto is going to be accountable to the Mexican people as to how that -- how his policies will quell or suppress the violence brought about by the cartels.

LOTHIAN: The Obama administration is downplaying the shift in security cooperation.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our relationship with Mexico is broader than that. We have deep, economic, cultural, and familial ties with Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: So the Obama administration continuing to stress an important security relationship with Mexico. Something that they will continue to work on, a lot on the president's plate as he heads to Mexico, on all these issues, but we can't forget immigration as well. The president will be touching on that as lawmakers in Washington debate the best way to fix it. John, Christine.

BERMAN: Dan Lothian at the White House, big three-day trip taking off this afternoon.

ROMANS: And a milestone this morning in New York City. Construction crews scheduled to raise the final sections of the spires at the top of One World Trade Center. That spire was supposed to go up Monday, but bad weather postponed it. When this work is done, One World Trade will stand at 1,776 feet tall, making it the tallest building in the western hemisphere, and third tallest building in the world.

BERMAN: This next story is simply stunning. Eleven years after disappearing without a trace, a 53-year-old mother of two from Pennsylvania has been found living as a homeless person in Key Largo, Florida. Brenda Heist disappeared on February 8, 2002. She was last seen dropping her two children off at school. Police say Heist was worried about financial issues and an impending divorce when she left her family behind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DET. JOHN SCOFIELD, LITITZ, PA POLICE: I was shocked. Our department was shocked. Because I will tell you, I was convinced something horrible happened to her years ago. She said she thought of her family and children every day and her parents. However, she never acted on that and never made any phone calls. Not one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Detectives say Heist spent years in Florida, sleeping under bridges and tents and eating food thrown out of fast food restaurants before turning herself in last Friday. That is a long, long time.

ROMANS: A bizarre story.

Another bizarre story. Mountain Dew under fire for an ad some are calling the most racist ever. Listen for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think I can do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's easy, Just point to him.

UNIDENTIFIED GOAT: You better not snitch on a player.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MAKE: He's wearing the do rag.

UNIDENTIFIED GOAT: Snitches get stitches, fool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, the one with the four legs.

UNIDENTIFIED GOAT: You thought she was going to catch me. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your mouth shut. When I get outta here, I'm a do you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The ad created by the founder of the hip-hop group Odd Future. It took some sharp criticism for featuring an all-black criminal line- up, except for the goat. The company has since pulled the ad, issued an apology, but not before one blogger labeled it, quote, "The most irresponsible piece of trash in the history of advertising."

A lot's been made about the race angle online, but there's also this battered woman angle. Presumably that's a woman - a battered woman. It's just very distasteful from top to bottom. They're pulling it. It was never meant to be seen on television, but it was approved by marketing executives and created. I guess the guy who created it is a filmmaker. I'm going to check into it a little more.

BERMAN: I've only seen it twice. I don't get it at all. I need kind of an explanation what they were trying to do because what is looks like is tough to take.

All right, 41 minutes after the hour. Ahead on STARTING POINT, America's mayors meeting to figure out how to keep their cities safe in the aftermath of the Boston bombing.

ROMANS: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu weighs in on that, next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: This morning, following those new developments out of Boston where three friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice as they threw out evidence from his dorm room.

BERMAN: This comes as mayors meet in New Orleans to talk about culture, but to also discuss how to keep their cities safe when they hold major events. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is a Democrat from New Orleans, he joins us now.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for being with us. You know, I understant there have been a few big events in New Orleans over time. You know, that little Jazz Fest, a Super Bowl here and there, Mardi Gras.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, (D) NEW ORLEANS: We had the great honor of hosting the first Super Bowl post September 11 and did it again last year. And right now we are in the middle of the Jazz Fest, which is a really 500,000 person event over two weekends. So, major sporting and cultural events are something we do a lot of. And so, we are thrilled to have mayors from around the country and actually around the world. WE have folds from Rio and Brazil who as you know are hosting the Word Cup in 2014 to talk about how to secure major cultural and sport events.

BERMAN: Did you tweak your security in New Orleans for jazz fest after what happened in Boston?

LANDRIEU: No question about it. As a matter of fact we actually trained for almost the exact thing that happened in Boston before the Super Bowl. You have to be -- you really have to think about things like that, unfortunately. You know our hearts go out to the folks in Boston. And it's really, really a tough situation. It seems to me that the Homeland Security folks and the first responders were spectacular in Boston. But of course you want to try to prevent it from happening.

So we're all are going to talk, we're all going to regroup. Every time an incident happens, whether it's a natural disaster or whether it's a terrorist attack. You've got to go back and look at what you did and what you didn't do, you've got plug the gaps and you have to get better.

ROMANS: We want security. We also want to live in a free society, where we don't have people looking over our shoulder all the time. So that's the trouble for folks like you, where you try to balance that.

When you look at a CNN poll out yesterday about how people feel about their civil liberties, willing to give them up to curb terrorism. This is what they said you know 40 percent say now they are willing to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism. In 1995, it was 57 percent. Do you think we have the right balance here?

LANDRIEU: Actually Frank Bruni actually wrote about this the other day. And I think he hit it exactly right the challenge in America, where we all want to live in a free society and be protected by our constitutional rights is how much of that are you willing to give up to be safe? I mean, I really think that's the essential question that people have to ask. It's a very difficult balance. Because you know a lot depends on who it is that's being looked at, how they are being looked at under what circumstances.

Right now most of us around the country have submitted to those wonderful screenings that we get from our wonderful TSA agents and all the airports who are working hard to do a good job. You know so it's a really tough balance. But you have a great group of first responders in American right now, really across the world, we want to try to get this right.

But it's a very dangerous proposition. And I think we all understand that and we just got to do better.

BERMAN: I don't want to ask you to play money Monday morning quarterback here. But I supposed the question is did Boston get it right beforehand? Before the marathon, it's not like they did nothing. They had bomb-sniffing dogs, who had gone through that area you know before the marathon, before the bomber showed up. Could Boston have done more here?

LANDRIEU: Well listen this is not a place to do any Monday morning quarterbacking. And I think that most experts would tell you that's almost impossible to protect against. I think that they did everything they possibly could do in that situation that turned horrific. I just -- I just think it points out how vulnerable we really are.

You know the United States of America is not as used to for example, London and other areas that have seen this over time. We've just got to get more vigilant, we have to get better, we have to connect the dots quicker and every event that we have is going to show us how we can get better and you know that's why we're meeting to talk about it today.

ROMANS: All right, Mayor Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans thanks so much, nice to see today.

LANDRIEU: Thank you guys. Thank you.

ROMANS: Still ahead, you can call him Obie, but don't call this dachshund an obese. Not anymore Jeanne Moos. That's nice and skinny.

BERMAN: Wow.

ROMANS: That is one -- that's one fat dog.

BERMAN: Big boned. It's big boned.

ROMANS: You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans. "Minding your Business" this morning.

Stock futures jumped after the European Central Bank cut interest rates. What are they doing there? Well the goal was to boost the European economy which is dealing with record high unemployment. More than 12 percent unemployment there.

Here at home it's also about jobs this week. Just minutes ago, we learned new jobless claims in the U.S. fell by 18,000; 324,000 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week. That's up five-year low.

BERMAN: That's a good number.

ROMANS: That's a good number. Yesterday though, another report showed private sector employers added only 119,000 jobs. That's not a good number.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: That's not a good number.

ROMANS: We're going to turn to labor market report tomorrow, the big mac daddy of those job numbers tomorrow to see just what's happening in the labor market.

Meanwhile, Disney pulling out of Bangladesh and other countries. Last week 400 workers were killed when a clothing factory there collapsed. According to "The New York Times" Disney pulled out, out of Bangladesh in March because there has been a string of safety problems there. 98 percent of clothing is made overseas and I guarantee you, you open up your closet, you will be able to see a brand in your closet right now, a brand that has been made -- has garments made at that factory in Bangladesh. You know a lot of the household names.

BERMAN: Fifty-two minutes after the hour right now.

And so once he was a portly pooch. But then Obie the dachshund got skinned. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more on the "Biggest Loser."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If you think you're sagging, consider Obie, the obese dachshund. Used to be you could actually hear his belly dragging.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a good boy.

MOOS: But on Tuesday, Obie dragged himself to Oregon expert vets and went under the knife after months of weight loss.

ALON KRAMER, OPERATED OBIE: It is a modified tummy tuck. Yes because we removed redundant skin and had to reconstruct.

MOOS: The idea wasn't to make Obie lose weight. He had already done that. At his worst, screen left, he weighed 77 pounds. Screen right, he dropped 40. (on camera): Obie's previous owners were elderly and ill. They overfed him, practically killing him with kindness.

(voice over): Eventually Obie was adopted by a veterinary technician.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh I know.

MOOSS: Norah Venata had to fight for custody of Obie. He got praised just for managing to waddle down the ramp Norah set up.

VENATA: Good job.

MOOS: Frankly Obie's belly made him look like something that have washed up on the beach. But thanks to an overweight management formula fed to Obie, in a dish that slows the dog down as he eats, he started losing weight. He didn't appreciate veggies.

VENATA: Eat your carrots.

MOOS: And he was too fat for the treadmill demonstrated by Norah's other dachshund. But over eight months --

VENATA: Look as he go.

MOOS: Look at his weight go down on the scale. Here he is at 41 pounds, by the time of the surgery, he weighed 37.5. But there was no way this extra skin and flab would ever disappear on its own, plus it was black from inflammation and infection. So in a two-hour operation --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much did you take off him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It ended up being about two and a half pounds of tissue removed.

MOOS: Dr. Kramer says the seven-year-old is recovering faster than expected.

(on camera): The goal now, to get Obie lose another five pounds so he'd be the perfect weight for a standard dachshund, 30 pounds. Finally Obie can see and even lick his own paws. He's become what he is. A wiener dog and not a stuffed sausage.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Good for him.

ROMANS: If he can do it, anybody can to it.

BERMAN: You know, I have actually been to a doggie fat camp and done a lot with it. It's really hard for pets to lose weight because it's not their fault. It's the owners. That is amazing stuff.

ROMANS: I love that dog. You go, Obie. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. This is just amazing to see. It was a Psy sighting at Dodgers' Stadium. But it was baseball legend Tommy La Sorda's reaction that made it incredibly special. So when the Korean popstar was introduced to Dodgers' Stadium Tuesday night. Psy came out right next to where the 85-year-old La Sorda was sitting. You can see it right there. And Psy started dancing to his new song.

And you have to check out Tommy La Sorda's face. There it is. All right. Look at that. So the hall of famer -- he didn't seem terribly impressed. He's like 10 billion YouTube views -- what do I care?

You know with the impromptu performance -- you know -- honestly Tommy La Sorda obviously not quite sure what Psy was doing there. Maybe he rushed out to download the video, who knows? Psy's happy though, that's what's important.

ROMANS: That is priceless.

All right that's it for STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the "NEWSROOM" cover up -- three of Dzhokhar's buddies in custody, accused of trying to throw investigators off their trail.

This morning, the minute by minute details are emerging. What they knew and what they did.

Also Seattle on edge. May Day protests getting violent.