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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Severe Weather Hampers Recovery Efforts in Oklahoma; London Victim ID'd as Active Soldier; Army Sergeant Accused of Secretly Filming Female Cadets; Run or Take Cover

Aired May 23, 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, everyone, to a waterlogged Moore, Oklahoma. We've had severe thunderstorms passing through this area. Right now, the rain not falling very hard, a brief respite and we need it, because the rain has simply been coming down. And it has been torrential here, in some cases flooding the streets.

It's been very difficult to get around over the last hour or so here in Moore. We had several guests who were supposed to coming to where we are right now. They couldn't get to us because there's so much water in the streets in some places, there are flash-flood warnings. There are also some power lines down here and some debris that's been blown around a bit.

Very slow going right now in Moore, Oklahoma. It is getting in the way of the recovery effort here. It is what they need. They need some dry weather here so they continue to pick through the pieces and clear up this rubble that is really everywhere you look right now in this community behind me.

Also behind me right now is streams of water simply flowing down the street. So, again, the news here this morning is more severe weather. We are hoping it passes very quickly. The sky's brightening a bit right now but I don't think you are out of the woods just yet.

Let's go to Christine Romans in New York for more of the rest of day's headlines.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good to see that the rain's not falling quite so hard, John, for you there.

Meanwhile, we have developing news this morning from London. Prime Minister David Cameron condemning the murder of a British soldier, a murder in broad daylight outside a military barracks in London. Cameron saying just a short time ago Britain will never give in to terrorism in any form, and that nothing in Islam justifies an attack like that.

Meantime, the country remains on high alert after the gruesome killing yesterday. A suspect holding a meat cleaver, he said on camera to a passer by, it was retaliation for British soldiers killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We swear by the almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. We must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our land, our women have to see the same.

You people will never be safe. Remove your government; they don't care about. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the streets when we start busting our guns? You think the politicians are going to die? No, it's going to be the average guy like you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Let's go to Atika Shubert. She's live in London for us this morning. And he's talking about us and them, but he's speaking in this clipped British accent. It clearly sounds like he's someone who's lived there a long time but, really, what are they saying now? What do we know now about who these suspects are and what officials are saying happened?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't have any names. All we know is that those two attackers are under arrest. They are in separate hospitals. They were seriously wounded when they were shot by police and apprehended.

Now what we also know is that one of them, clearly, when he spoke to the camera, had, as you point out, that broad London accent. This is clearly somebody who grew up here, who spent most of his life here among the very people and at least one of them that he tried to attack. And this is what is so shocking about what's happened.

And just a little bit of an update. We understand that David Cameron's convoy has actually entered the Woolwich barracks, which is just right over there. He was coming from a meeting with community leaders. This is something that we've been seeing all day. In fact, London's mayor, Boris Johnson, came here also with police, talked to press briefly about what he has been seeing of the investigation, but also of the angry backlash that has also happened as a result of the attack.

Take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON, LONDON: This is not a question now of blaming the religion of Islam. It is certainly not a question blaming any aspect of British foreign policy or what British troops do in operations abroad when they risk their lives on behalf of all of us.

Everybody can see that this is -- the fault for this lies exclusively, wholly, and entirely in the minds of those who were responsible for this crime and they are going to be brought to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHUBERT: Now, just a quick update on the victim. We understand now that he was a serving British soldier, that he has been formally identified by family, but they do not want his identity to be revealed at this point. So that's why we do not have his name. That may change later. We may get more details. But as the investigation unfolds, the other thing we're trying to find out is the identity of the attackers, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Atika Shubert, we know you will continue to follow it. Thank you, Atika.

Developing this morning here, another major embarrassment for the U.S. military. An army sergeant accused of secretly videotaping female cadets in a shower and the bathroom at West Point. Military investigators are trying to contact about a dozen women, unwittingly caught on camera at the academy.

Barbara Starr, following developments for us, live at the Pentagon. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. For the elite U.S. military academy at West Point, it doesn't get any seedier, any more invasive than this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Another black eye for the U.S. military. This time, an Army sergeant first class is charged with allegedly secretly videotaping female cadets in the showers and bathrooms at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It went on for nearly three years.

His job: to mentor and train cadets.

The sergeant's conduct was discovered last year. After criminal investigation, he is now charged with indecent conduct, dereliction of duty, cruelty, and maltreatment. The story was first reported by "The New York Times."

It's the latest in the series of high-profile cases of sexual misconduct in the military.

President Obama is outraged and vowing to crackdown on assaults.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has zero tolerance for sexual assault in the military and that he believes that those who participate in it dishonor the uniform they wear.

STARR: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says accountability must improve.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Starting with some of the questions about victims saying, and rightfully so, that they didn't feel their commanders were accountable enough to be able to come forward and register a complaint.

STARR: At Ft. Hood, Texas, another sergeant first class who worked on preventing sexual assaults is under criminal investigation by the Army for allegedly trying to force a female soldier into prostitution as well as abusive sexual contact and maltreatment of subordinates.

And Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested on sexual battery charges for allegedly groping a woman near the Pentagon where he worked on sexual assault prevention.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, look, sex crimes happen in civilian society. Sex crimes have happened in the military for years. But what commanders are now saying inside the Pentagon is they know it is time that they must confront and deal with what they see as an emerging cultural issue in the military, and that is how military women are treated. Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Barbara Starr. Thank you for the report, Barbara.

I want to bring in CNN military analyst, retired Major General James "Spider" Marks. He's a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. And, you know, Barbara Starr said it so well. This is an elite institution with a seedy, seedy, seedy accusation here. Is this a culture problem? Is there a culture problem in the U.S. military regarding women?

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think the short answer is yes. It's a culture issue that doesn't manifest itself all the time and at all levels. The unfortunate thing at West Point is that you have a noncommissioned officer whose charge it is to mentor these young cadets who eventually are going to command these noncommissioned officers in combat. We're an army at war still.

And so you establish this relationship of trust, and then that relationship of trust is completely shattered when an incident like this occurs. And you juxtapose that to what has happened with several senior officers, general officers in some cases, in terms of their abuse of their position.

So you've got this abuse of power that's going on in a very selective, very finite piece and sliver of military, but when you have the abuse of trust, it really kind of -- it changes the conversation. Because now you have these aspirant young officers who have, in many cases, examples, bad examples, at the top level; bad examples at the levels that will work for them.

So it needs to be addressed across the board. Of course, it's no longer business as usual.

ROMANS: What should they do? What should they -- you say it needs to be addressed, but clearly, strong decisive action from the top is needed, because leadership -- leadership is what changes cultures.

MARKS: You got it. Christine, you've got it. Absolutely, you hit the nail on the head. It's all about leadership. Leaders are responsible for what their units do or fail to do, and we have an incident here at West Point. It's incredibly egregious. It's sickening. As the father of all girls, and having served and led in gender-mixed units, this is totally unacceptable.

And so, clearly, if there was a single solution, that would have already been addressed, it would've been put on the table, it would have been inculcated through the ranks and the military would be well on its way to getting this thing right. This is multiple levels of involvement.

I think the proposed legislation, frankly, is the right thing to do. The review of sexual assault or rape cases, gets out of the hands of the senior commander. And good order and discipline in military units is mission number one, and obviously to go accomplish these various nuanced tasks. But the fact that we take it out of commander's stands is going to be perfectly OK, and is a good first step. It's necessary, but it's not sufficient, so there is a lot that needs to be done at multiple levels.

ROMANS: Major General James "Spider" Marks, thanks for joining us.

MARKS: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, what is your best course of action when faced with a tornado? Do you run? Do you seek shelter? If so, where is the safest place? Dr. Sanjay Gupta goes through the options and we're going to continue to watch this severe weather happening right now in Moore, Oklahoma. Severe weather, moving through, again: thunderstorms, lightning, rain, we'll bring you the latest.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to a rainy and soggy Moore, Oklahoma everyone. The question a lot of the people around the country are asking is "run or take cover"? When a monster tornado is headed your way, really the wrong decision could kill you. And there really is not very much time to react.

So here is CNN's chief medical correspondent to explain what to do. Here is Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jump in when you guys are ready.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Thirteen minutes. That's the average lead time you'd have if a tornado was headed your way.

(on camera): There's obviously no completely safe option during a tornado. Your best bet is to get in the basement, somewhere below grown level. But keep in mind that if you are there, you want to see what's on the floor above you as well, a refrigerator, a piece of heavy furniture could come crashing to the floor so you want to be wary of that.

Also here in Moore, Oklahoma there aren't a lot of basements. Studies have actually shown that there is another very good option. Take a look over here an interior room or a closet like that can be the best place to be as well. The house is gone here, but that closet preserved, even the clothes inside of that.

Remember, you've just got 13 minutes, so find that safe place. Maybe grab a helmet or a bike helmet. Even throw some mattresses or a blanket over you to try and protect the head.

(voice over): One place you can't hide from a tornado is in your car. Tornado strength winds can pick up a one to 2-ton vehicle like this one and toss it around, like you or I would a basketball.

(on camera): Now you obviously don't want to be driving toward a tornado, but it's also a bad idea to be driving away from a tornado. It's hard to gauge the distance. If you must be driving, and the weather is clear, try driving at right angles to the tornado, perpendicular to get out of the path of the storm.

There's another misconception as well which is that you should get out of your car and run underneath an overpass. What happens in a situation like this is the wind is actually funneled; it's even more powerful than the storm, and there's also a lot of debris and that debris can injure you.

Now if you are stuck outside as a tornado approaches, find a ditch or any place far away from potentially dangerous objects and vehicles and stay low.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Sanjay is here with me now. And Sanjay we got the -- the official medical examiner's report, the cause of death for every one of the 24 victims. What struck you?

GUPTA: You know there weren't as many head or brain injuries as I think people expected from this sort of thing. They also have talked a lot about something known as mechanical asphyxiation. It's a tough thing to talk about, John. But basically, this is not a situation of drowning, which is the original thought, as much as it is the situation where the lungs are so compressed that someone simply cannot breathe anymore.

We also know that there are still eight adults in the big trauma center here in Oklahoma. Three are either in serious or critical condition. Two children still, one is in critical condition. So they still got a long road in front of them. But all of the other patients are either in fair condition or have been discharged now. So things are moving along.

BERMAN: It's good news that so many patients have been discharged. And of course, we're pulling for all the patients who are still receiving the care and getting the care that they need.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta is remarkably dry which means I resent you. There has been severe weather coming through this area right now, thunderstorms, wind, heavy, heavy rain. When we come back, we're going to talk about how the severe system will affect the recovery efforts. That when we come back.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to Moore, Oklahoma everyone where the skies are brightening here where we're standing a little bit and that is simply wonderful news. Because there was a system, a severe weather system with severe weather storms that passed through here with simply torrential rain, there were intense downpours.

Right now, we seem to be in a little bit of an island of calm, but most of the severe weather all around us right now. There are still severe weather warnings in a large part of the state. I'm joined here by Pamela Brown.

Pamela, you know we've been trying to get our signal out here going in and out. You were out in a car for a little while, driving through these downpours with the lightning. What was that like?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was absolutely horrendous, John. Of course this is the last kind of weather we need to see right now. But when we were driving around we just saw huge lightning bolts in the sky, lightning literally streaking across the sky.

I personally have never seen anything like it before. But I was with someone who is from this area and basically he was unfazed by it. He said this is just what you expect in Oklahoma this time of the year, but it's certainly adding insult to injury, given what we were seeing around us here and all the devastation. We've also been seeing some flooding.

You know that so much hard work and the first responders, the rescuers, the volunteers have put so much work in clearing the roads, just making that so you can drive around and now some of the debris came back in the roads, where we've seen a lot of flooding everywhere you go.

So it's nice to see that the sky is finally clearing up where we are now but that's certainly not the case in the surrounding areas.

BERMAN: No and there were flash-flood warnings briefly in place here as this was coming down. And I think if you look around us here you can see the devastation, you can see these houses where the roofs are caved in, in some cases, no walls and belongings strewn about everywhere. And it's obvious what happens when it rains like this on top of all of that, everything just gets soaked. And that's got to be heart breaking for the people returning to their homes trying to salvage anything.

BROWN: Absolutely I was with someone yesterday his name is Matt Hill and his house was destroyed in the tornado. And he went back trying to find an XBox that he had bought from his little nephew I believe and was just trying to go through all of his belongings.

It's a good thing he went yesterday, obviously today he won't be able to salvage anything, but it's -- a lot of it has already been actually salvaged. We -- I was talking to someone who said that at a local church, they had a table full of pictures that were picked up after the tornado at various homes, and someone came by there, one of the survivors of the tornado came by and looked at the table of pictures and said, "Oh my gosh, that's my entire family, that's my grandmother, that's my mother, that's my brother." It's -- it's yes so it's good that a lot has already been pulled out. But there's still a long way to go.

BERMAN: Hopefully it will dry out long enough today for more of these types of discoveries to happen. That is what they need here.

We'll be back in a moment with more from Moore, Oklahoma.

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BERMAN: That is all for STARTING POINT for Moore, Oklahoma, right now as this severe weather system continues to pass through here. Our continuing coverage of the aftermath of the devastating tornado, as well as the other major developing news around the world continues.

NEWSROOM with Carol Costello and Brooke Baldwin this morning starts right now.