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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Yahoo! Buys Tumblr for $1.1 Billion; Army Specialist Gets Homecoming Surprise; Will Jodi Arias Take the Stand?; Inside a Grizzly Bear's Mouth

Aired May 20, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. The U.S. heartland gets hammered. Dozens of tornadoes touching down throughout the night and the threat of severe weather is not over in many spots. Initial estimates show some 300 homes were damaged or destroyed. That was in Oklahoma.

This massive tornado bore down on central Oklahoma in the city of Shawnee. This is a live look at a nearby neighborhood turned into piles of debris in Little Axe. One man who lived in a trailer park there has died. About a dozen other people were injured.

BERMAN: Friends of a woman from Oregon missing in Hawaii for four days are praying for her safe return. Ivy Harris was last seen talking with a man outside a bar in Waikiki early Thursday morning while out celebrating her 29th birthday. She'd gone there on vacation with several friends. At the time of her disappearance, her friends thought she had just gone off on her own, but now they're worried something bad has happened.

SAMBOLIN: And this just in. Yahoo! is buying blog Web site Tumblr for $1.1 billion the companies announced this morning. So it marks the biggest deal for CEO Marisa Mayer since joining the company last summer. Mayer is trying to revamp Yahoo! but the company's profits are struggling and last month it issued a downbeat outlook.

BERMAN: The newest vaccine for whooping cough may not be as effective as the old one. Researchers say children who got the new vaccine were six times as likely to get the illness known as pertussis as those who received the older version that was phased out after doctors and parents complained about too many side effects. The latest research suggests that it might be time to develop still a newer vaccine.

SAMBOLIN: Imagine so. And actress Kerry Washington plays a professional fixer on the ABC soap "Scandal," but she went back to her alma mater George Washington University for a very unscandalous task, delivering the commencement speech and imparting some wisdom to new graduates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY WASHINGTON, ACTRESS: I am here today to remind each of you that you are the heroes of your story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: "Scandal" fans, the intrigue will continue. ABC has renewed the show for a third season.

BERMAN: And a star-studded salute to cast member Bill Hader's last night on "Saturday Night Live" had hilarious surprise guests. During Weekend Update, one of his more popular characters, Stefon, announced to anchor Seth Meyers that he was leaving him to marry another man -- who turned out to be none other than our own Anderson Cooper.

The confrontation at the altar is one for the ages. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Get ready for Anderson Cooper 360.

(SHOUTING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow your heart, bro.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Just so you know, Anderson is doing fine. He was not injured at all in the filming of that. No animals were hurt either. The couple returned to the studio where presumably they will live happily ever after.

SAMBOLIN: And vets returning home from military duty often expect changes in their families. But one army specialist from North Carolina got a pretty amazing transformation and his wife when they were reunited. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Twenty-seven-year-old army specialist Lary Shaffer returning from a year in Afghanistan got an incredible welcome home surprise. His wife had lost 100 pounds while he was away.

LARRY SHAFFER, ARMY SPECIALIST HOME FROM AFGHANISTAN: When I saw her at the airport, I was in shock. I didn't know what to expect, and when I saw her, I was like this -- there is no way that that's my wife that I left a year ago.

SAMBOLIN: Misty Shaffer went from 254 pounds to 150 pounds in 12 months. And her husband had no idea what she was up to.

MISTY SHAFFER, ARMY WIFE LOST 100 LB. TO SURPRISE HUSBAND: I was like, you know what, I'm going to keep this a surprise for him because he's never seen me like this.

SAMBOLIN: Misty lost 15 pounds within the first two months eating healthy foods and keeping portions under control.

MISTY SHAFFER: When he was gone, I was like, hey, I'm going to try this and with not having him here and eating ice cream at night and stuff, I was like I can do this.

SAMBOLIN: She only sent photos from her shoulders up and he couldn't tell until he met her at the airport last week.

LARRY SHAFFER: Out of the five years we've been married, you know, I haven't really been this long without seeing her. Then I come home and she tells me that she's losing all this weight and now I'm here and she's literally half the person she used to be. I couldn't say anything. Words couldn't describe how I felt. It was pretty amazing.

SAMBOLIN: Larry also got another amazing gift -- Areunion with his 3- year-old daughter, Navea (ph), whom he hadn't seen in over a year. And while Larry couldn't recognize the new Misty, their daughter Navea can't recognize the old Misty.

MISTY SHAFFER: She does look at old pictures of me and she'll be like, "Mommy, who's that?" And I was like, "That's Mommy."

SAMBOLIN: But her transformation wasn't Misty's only gift to her husband. She also surprised Larry with a new home and he says he is proud of how she's managed while he was away.

LARRY SHAFFER: She kept her weight loss and the house pretty much away from me for the past year. So I know she was able to face pretty much anything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: No kidding. That's quite a woman. Ironically, the first thing Larry wanted to do after arriving home was actually get some food, but now he is being very careful, he says, about making sure that the food is healthy. Larry Shaffer's also looking forward to spending time with that beautiful little daughter of his. He now says he can finally have adult conversations with her since she was only two when he left.

BERMAN: I melt every time I see that little girl hug her daddy. I just melt. So cute. Touches his face. Adorable.

SAMBOLIN: Aw, you marshmallow.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, Jodi Arias expected to speak in her own defense today. How could her words affect the jury's decision to give her life or death?

SAMBOLIN: And, boy, Mother Nature in action. We'll talk with the wildlife photographer who captured this -- are we going to call it awesome footage?

BERMAN: Yes, we're going to call it awesome. This is amazing footage. Look at this!

SAMBOLIN: This is Go Pro. His camera became the grizzly bear's snack. We have all of these fabulous images for you coming up.

BERMAN: They are fabulous. Stay with us.

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SAMBOLIN: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. Happening right now, we're updating you on a story that we have been following all morning long. A search is underway for a firefighter that is missing in a six alarm condo fire. This is Northeast Dallas.

We're taking a live look at the scene as they're fighting that fire. At least six residents had to be rescued from there. One of them was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and of course, as we said, one firefighter is still missing. We'll continue to monitor the situation for you and bring you updates throughout the morning.

BERMAN: Other news now, today Jodi Arias could find out if she will get the death penalty for the murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Arias is set to speak in her defense along with her ex- boyfriend, Darryl Brewer, and her friend, Patricia Womac, as the sentencing phase of her trial continues. Once testimony wraps up, there will be closing statements and then the case will go to the jury who must decide the convicted killer's fate.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Phoenix with a preview of this. Good morning, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. A big day here for Jodi Arias as she fights for her life in Arizona. As you mentioned, first we're expecting two witnesses to testify on her behalf -- her former boyfriend who actually testified during the trial in chief and then a childhood friend, Patricia Womac, who is expected to testify. But there are some reports now that she may be backing out, and this could make sense.

Last week, the judge issued an order that there would be no televised coverage of her testimony because she was so concerned about going on national TV and defending Jodi Arias, and now we are hearing there is a possibility she may have backed out altogether.

The big witness, though, will be Jodi Arias herself. What will she say? After she was convicted of first-degree murder, she did a television interview with a local reporter and said she wanted the death penalty. So will she take the stand, that is one of her options, or will she just make a statement? If she takes the stand, of course she'll be subjected to Juan Martinez, the prosecutor in this case. If she makes a statement, there will no cross-examination.

And what will she say? Will she say she wants to be spared or will she ask, like she said did in that interview, for the death penalty? We will wait and see.

BERMAN: High drama indeed. Ted Rowlands. And again we should point out that when Jodi Arias does take the stand, CNN will cover it live. More dramatic twists and turns in this case. Ted Rowlands for us, thanks so much. SAMBOLIN: And joining us now is HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson. And you have been covering this for quite some time. The big question is will she take the stand? We're hearing that she will. What will she say? What do you think?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, here's what I think, first of all, Zoraida. I don't believe she'll take the stand. I think she'll make a statement.

Now here's the distinction, OK. If she takes the stand, she's savaged. She's subject to cross-examination. And anyone who has been following this trial closely, John, Zoraida, will know that -- listen, this person, Juan Martinez, is absolutely wound up and will cross- examine her very effectively almost to the point where it detriments her. So I believe, Zoraida, is that she'll make a statement.

What she'll say in that statement is always subject to question because she's so volatile. You don't know what she's going to say. You remember the interview that Ted just referenced she gives just after she's being convicted, "Longevity runs in my family. As a result, I think I want them to sentence me to death." And she's still putting the blame on everyone else while caught.

BERMAN: Well, that's what's so strange here. So what if she does take the stand and pleads for her life or tries to give the jury a reason to keep her alive. You know, what about that statement in the interview where said she essentially wants the death penalty?

JACKSON: You know, interestingly enough, John, this stage is about mitigation, right? What does mitigation mean? It means anything relevant that the jury can consider to spare your life.

So your question, very pointedly and properly so, what she will say? But what she says has to be, if she wants to live -- and who knows what she's doing? Was it reverse psychology by saying I want to die? Did she really mean that? But she has to, at this point accept responsibility.

Anyone who's following this trial knows, it's all about everyone else. Travis Alexander abused me; he was a pedophile. Everyone mistreated me. The prosecutor is doing me wrong. Nothing falls on her. So unless she's prepared to get on that stand and say, "I took his life. He was none of the things that I told you he was. The buck stops with me. I am sorry. I beg you for mercy. I beg you for leniency. I beg you for my life." I think, absent that, and even if she does that, she still may be sentenced to death.

SAMBOLIN: Right, because she kept on changing her story so many times, so this would be another way of her changing her story at the eleventh hour, which I don't know would go over very well with the jurors.

But let me ask you about this latest development. And there's a woman potentially not taking the stando n her behalf. How will that affect?

JACKSON: OK, now, as far as Patty Womac -- that I'm not too sure. Because even though she's a childhood friend, what is she going to say? Jodi Arias was a good child. She a good person. She took care of people. And all the prosecutor has to say is, "Was she good when she was stabbing Travis Alexander? Was she a good person when she shot him in the head? Was she a good person when she showed him no mercy and slit his throat?"

So I think, I mean, he'll dispatch of that, the prosecutor, relatively easily. The big question was whether her mom would testify, and even if her mother testifies, Zoraida, I don't even know if that would help her because she said my mom abused me, my mom was terrible to me. So what's the mom going to say?

In my view, the only person, John, Zoraida, who can help her is herself. And what she'll say, anybody's guess.

BERMAN: And this is what she's up against. She's up against very emotional testimony last week from people who were close to Travis Alexander. His sister testified and gave, like I said, very emotional, very dramatic testimony. Let's listen quickly to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMANTHA ALEXANDER, TRAVIS ALEXANDER'S SISTER: I am a police officer. And some of these photos are more gruesome than I've ever seen in my 11 years of law enforcement. Our minds are permanently stained with images of our poor brother's throat slit from ear to ear. Our minds are stained with the image of Travis' body slumped dead in the shower.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So typically -- and I know there isn't necessarily a typically when it comes to death penalty cases -- but typically how does a jury weigh dramatic emotional testimony like that compared to something that is a convicted killer might say?

JACKSON: John this was so compelling and riveting. I mean just unbelievable. You listen to that family. You know, they sat there for four and a half months as this trial was going on. What grace, what dignity they comported themselves with as they just stood there listening to their brother's name besmirched, his character torn apart. You have to know and believe that the impact of the sister Samantha's statement about who Travis really was painting a brush about what his life really meant, you couple that with his brother's testimony as he talked to the jury about what Travis meant. And I have to tell you that this has to be so impactful to that jury and when they weigh that against what she might say or anyone else might say, you look at the scales, they have to weight, have to weigh against her without question.

SAMBOLIN: And so if she does get the death penalty, how -- how long before -- we know that sometimes it's a very long process before she actually faces death.

JACKSON: Sure. You know, what's right is the typical standard for Arizona right now is 10 to 12 years before the death penalty is imposed. And that of course is because of the variety of appeals and that type thing that it takes. And there should be appeals because we want to make sure that every -- you know I was dotted and every T was crossed. But at the end of the day ultimately this trial I think was a fair one, it was an open one, it was an accessible one and there's no question the jury got it right. She's guilty.

SAMBOLIN: And a bizarre one. Joey Jackson, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

JACKSON: It's a pleasure to be with you. A pleasure.

SAMBOLIN: Right, you can watch Arias speaking live on CNN and HLN, the coverage starts at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: And as Joey said you know we simply do not know what it is she might say.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: It could be high drama there in Arizona. It's 47 minutes after the hour.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, open wide. A camera catches the terrifying look inside the mouth of a real life grizzly bear as the bear tries to eat the camera. The amazing thing the camera survives, we're going to speak to the wild life photographer who accidentally capture this unbelievable moments, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. It is 51 minutes past the hour. Here are your "Top Stories" this morning.

President Obama now -- Obama excuse me -- planning to speak Thursday about the administration's policies on counter terrorism including the use of drones. In a speech at the National Defense University the President is also expected to outline the most serious threats facing the U.S. today and the latest efforts to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

BERMAN: History being made in today's mayoral election in Los Angeles no matter who wins incumbent Antonio Villaraigosa the city's first Latino mayor is stepping down because of term limits. Seeking to replace him are city controller Wendy Greuel and city Councilman Eric Garcetti. Greuel would become the first female mayor of LA and Garcetti who's mother is Jewish would become the first Jewish mayor.

SAMBOLIN: And a British scientist is paying tribute to actor Johnny Depp. Imperial College researcher David Legg discovered a 505 million year old fossil with scissor like claws. Legg says it's a distant ancestor of lobsters and scorpions. Do we have a picture? And when he saw those claws, Depp's "Edward Scissorhands" was the first thing that came to minds. So when given the chance to name his discovery Legg went with the obvious, Kooteninchela Deppi.

BERMAN: I've been waiting for you to say that.

SAMBOLIN: Kooteninchela Deppi.

BERMAN: All right, now.

SAMBOLIN: And we don't even get to see it.

BERMAN: Our most important story of the day. Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be eaten by a grizzly bear?

SAMBOLIN: All the time.

BERMAN: One hungry cub in Alaska gave us a chance to find out when it came across wild life photographer Brad Joseph's GoPro camera and decided to eat it. The bite generated some incredible footage and amazingly the camera the GoPro undamaged.

Let's look.

BERMAN: Oh, yes. Let's see it again. Come on, take another bite.

SAMBOLIN: All right, if this grizzly is looking for --

BERMAN: Oh yes, oh yes.

SAMBOLIN: Oh that's so gross. For a moment in the spotlight, it certainly found it. Berman is a big fan the YouTube video Brad posted has more than 600,000 views. I'm shocked there's not more.

Brad is joining us now from Homer, Alaska. Brad, you are a superstar this morning to so many people. We are truly enjoying this -- this video that we have.

So you placed this camera on a rock in a stream where you knew the bears would go. Is this the shot that you were going for?

BRAD JOSEPHS, FILMED GRIZZLY BEAR EATING GOPRO: No ironically guys, it wasn't the shot that I was going for because you know normally about 99 percent of the time I think that bear would have probably crushed the camera. And I would have been out another $300 because I have lost a lot of cameras to bears.

So I really kind of -- try to avoid that. I guess I got lucky that the bear did that. We got that perspective in the mouth. But it didn't destroy the camera, which would have been so easy. I was mostly going for you know just the bears walking by or catching fish and eating them nearby and stuff and usually what they will mostly do is ignore these little cameras.

BERMAN: So I've never seen anything like this I have to say and as you said, you're shocked the camera survived. How did this camera survive and perhaps most importantly, how tough was it cleaning it off afterwards?

JOSEPHS: There was some saliva and stuff on there. But it wasn't very hard to clean it off.

How did it survive? They're pretty tough cameras. GoPros are pretty sturdy. But I think really obviously the bite force of a grizzly wouldn't stand up to anything like that. So I don't know. I think that bear probably knew it was my camera and just wanted to sort of smell it, play with it a little bit. But just didn't want to break it.

I've watched that cub grow up for three years now. And she understands us and we respect her, she respects us. Maybe that's part of it. I don't know.

SAMBOLIN: That's really sweet. So this is kind of personal to you. How close do you actually get to these bears?

JOSEPHS: Well, we don't -- I never approach the bears. I just -- if I know a place a bear might go, I get there first and that way I never bother them. But usually we place ourselves in areas and act in a way that's not threatening to the bears. They generally come by pretty close. Just depends on the bear and the day. We have some pretty amazing stuff.

BERMAN: As you've said, you've been following this bear for a long time. Why do you feel so close to this bear besides the fact you've now seen inside her mouth?

JOSEPHS: You know I think anytime you watch a child grow up or a kitten or a puppy or whatever it is grow up and learn from the mother, it's pretty fascinating, you know. And interesting and you know -- I don't have any connection to these bears other than just being an observer. But yes -- no, I watch this little gal grow up since she was a tiny cub.

SAMBOLIN: Last question, are you surprised by how popular this video has become?

JOSEPHS: No. Well, maybe, yes. I expected a bunch of hits, but I didn't expect all this. I also really want to say it wasn't my intention to make a video that's scary about bears because everybody -- of course, everybody is scared of bears. I'm not trying to play off that at all.

My whole job in life really is to make people appreciate bears. Because when you appreciate these animals, people start loving them, appreciate them and they want to conserve them. And that's what the bears really need. They don't need more what I what I would call bear-anoia.

Most of the clips I get they're -- and most of the interpretation or whatever I do for bears, it's to try to make people understand them. They're sort of misunderstood. So I didn't mean to scare everybody. And this cub like I said didn't damage the camera. It was just messing around.

BERMAN: Well Brad Josephs, your love for these bears really comes through talking to you. Thank you so much and thank you for this remarkable footage. As I said, I've never seen anything like it. So Brad Josephs, thanks so much. We're debating here whether it's awesome, that's my view; or a little bit gross, that's her view. Tweet us. Let us know what you think. I'm JohnBerman, this is ZoraidaCNN; tell us. Are you with awesome or gross? Awesome, gross.

SAMBOLIN: Or awesomely gross. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

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