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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Potential for Dangerous Storms; Obama to Nominate New FBI Director; Spread Of New Virus

Aired May 30, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This video was shot in Corinth, Texas. Look at the hail bouncing off of the ground. The Diamondbacks and Rangers game postponed Wednesday night when heavy rain and lightning moved in very quickly. The ground crew struggled to gain control as heavy winds ripped the tarp right out of their hands.

In Amarillo, Texas, heavy wind gusts were blamed for blowing down this iconic billboard, ripping its post from the ground. Owners of the business watched as the 30-year-old sign fell to the ground.

SHANNON MARTIN, VP OF TEXAS BLUE LAKE POOLS: My sales associate actually went to open up the overhead door to get ready for them because the winds were really, really strong, and then we heard him holler, so we all came running and that's when we saw the billboard actually falling down.

PETERSONS: These residents in Schenectady, New York, south of Syracuse, had a close call trying to get a glimpse of the storm from their back porch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to film, and all of a sudden, a tree cracked down right above us, and I told her, we've got to run inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was crazy. I mean, all around us is just trees and glass and everything. It's nuts.

PETERSONS: Just as crazy, floodwaters caught on this surveillance video from Tuesday. Torrential rain caused flooding that burst down the doors at an Illinois college.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS: Yes, it looks like a heat wave today for the Northeast. I mean, temperatures a good 15 to 20 degrees above average. Hot, humid weather that's really lasting for the next several days, it's going to be banking against the cold and drier to the west and with that, the severe threat still here today.

Today, 15 million of us under the threat for severe weather. The difference between today and yesterday, it shifted a little bit farther to the east. So, today, we're seeing it stretch from Iowa right down through Texas. We're really going to be paying attention, just west of Oklahoma City. There is the dry line, expected to see storms popping as we go through the afternoon. Of course, keep in mind debris on the ground. Really seeing that threat out there today, you can see instability right now. I mean, a lot of showers already out there, expected to get worse today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Vengeful end of May certainly.

All right. Thanks, Indra.

President Obama reaching across the aisle for his new FBI chief. The president plans to nominate James Comey to replace Robert Mueller as the next FBI director. The Republican has extensive track record in and out of the government. Comey served as assistant attorney general under George W. Bush and during that time, he became some of a hero to Democrats.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has more. She's live for us this morning at the White House.

Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Christine.

James Comey is currently a law professor at Columbia University and he sits on the board of a financial services firm. But nine years ago, he was number two at the Justice Department, yes, when George W. Bush was in the White House, and it was during that time that he played a major role in one of the most dramatic episodes of the Bush administration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): Like a scene out of a Hollywood thriller, a critically ill attorney general is in intensive care at a Washington hospital. Two of the president's top aides rush to his bedside, hoping to pressure him to sign off on a secret wiretapping program the night before it's set to expire.

This was real, though, and what happened that night, March 10th, 2004, put James Comey, President Obama's pick for his next FBI director, in the headlines.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.

KEILAR: Comey was Attorney General John Ashcroft's deputy. And with Ashcroft very sick, Comey was the acting attorney general when then- White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card visited Ashcroft's hospital room, a last-ditch effort to get his endorsement of a warrantless eavesdropping program he thought was illegal.

Comey caught wind of it and ordered his driver to speed through the streets of Washington, sirens blaring, and beat them there. COMEY: Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow, and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent and said to them, "But that doesn't matter because I'm not the attorney general."

KEILAR: CNN contributor Fran Townsend was one of President Bush's top national security advisers at the time.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is a man with a very strong sense, internal sense of right and wrong and what is appropriate, and he's going to follow that sort of moral compass.

KEILAR: As a federal prosecutor, Comey handled the Khobar Towers terrorist bombing case following the 1996 attack on a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 service members. He also took on the mafia, putting John Gambino behind bars. As well as the diva of domesticity, Comey brought charges against Martha Stewart and saw her convicted for insider trading.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And as I mentioned, Comey currently sits on the board of a financial services firm. Christine, he also served as general counsel to hedge fund and this is going to be I think the issue that you may see in his confirmation process. We've already heard from Chuck Grassley, who is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, raising concerns, saying, hey, if he is the FBI director, he may have to build a case against one of his former colleagues.

ROMANS: But he does have a history of working with Democrats and Republicans. So, I mean, what are they saying overall about how the confirmation process will go then?

KEILAR: That's right. I mean, unless something unforeseen happens, the expectation at this point is that this is a pick that would be safe, someone else who may have been considers a top national security adviser to President Obama, Lisa Monaco, recently coming into the position here at the White House, but had some experience when it comes to the issue of Benghazi, so she may have certainly created more of a flashpoint.

You talk to observers here. They think this is a safe bet for President Obama to get bipartisan support.

ROMANS: Brianna Keilar at the White House this morning -- thank you, Brianna.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: One of the suspects in last week's brutal hacking death of a British soldier appearing in a London courtroom this morning, 22-year-old Michael Adebowale now formally charged with murder and unlawful possession of a firearm. He and another suspect allegedly ran over soldier Lee Rigby and then killed him on broad daylight on a southeast London street, using cleavers and knifes.

ROMANS: A developing story in New York City this morning. It's now confirmed. Two letters containing threats against Mayor Michael Bloomberg have tested positive for the deadly poison ricin. One was opened at a New York City mail processing center, and several police officers who came in contact with it are being treated at a hospital. This is a precaution.

The other letter was opened by Mark Glaze in Washington. He is director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. That's an organization founded and financed by an undaunted Mayor Bloomberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: The letter was obviously referred to our antigun efforts. But there's 12,000 people who are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 are going to commit suicide with guns, and we're not going to walk away from those efforts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Both letters were postmarked in Shreveport, Louisiana, according to the American Postal Workers Union. The FBI is investigating.

BERMAN: Police in Upstate New York investigating a deadly crash between a tractor trailer and mini minivan. It happened on a two-lane roadway in the town of Truxton, near Syracuse. The trailer somehow came unhitched and struck the approaching minivan, killing seven people inside. An eighth person did survive and is hospitalized. No one in the truck was hurt.

ROMANS: An Islamic group in Florida is now demanding an independent investigation, following reports that Ibragim Todashev was unarmed when he was shot and killed by an FBI agent. Todashev was a friend of Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He was shot last week in Orlando after attacking the agent during questioning. The FBI is currently conducting an internal investigation.

A new career for former CIA chief David Petraeus. He's joining the private equity firm KKR. The company is known for corporate takeovers, banking on Petraeus' experience, his rolodex to find new deals. The former general will chairman of a new internal institute at KKR, focusing on macro economic forecast and investments in emerging market.

BERMAN: Have to believe that's going to pay pretty well.

New information about that newborn in China that was rescued from a sewer pipe. The baby boy has left the hospital after being nursed back to health. The police also say the child's mother will not be charged with a crime.

CNN's David McKenzie joins us now on the phone from China.

And, David, tell us where the baby exactly this morning?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the baby has been taken away from the hospital, baby 59 it was called. Quite extraordinary after this ordeal that happened here behind me in China, the fourth floor of this building. That child dropped into the toilet, given birth to into a toilet by his mother.

They had to hack away at the sewage pipes, take him to a nearby hospital and pry open to reveal this young child. It took about two hours still he survived. As you described, the police say they're not going to target this woman in any way through prosecution. There is a sense from the neighbors here that this woman might have been very young and very afraid. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): After she became pregnant, she moved out of her parents' house. She said she couldn't explain to her parents how come she was carrying a baby when she was so young and single. She has no solution but staying at this place and day after day, her belly was growing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: John, certainly people are scratching their heads a little with the situation and a lot of soul searching going on here in China with people wondering what exactly happened, both anger and sympathy for the mother in this case. Asking for privacy, but the good news is, that that child is doing OK.

BERMAN: And the explanation to the police seemed willing to accept right now, David, this was some kind of accident. Please explain the reasoning there.

MCKENZIE: Well, the reasoning is they say this woman knew she was pregnant, but she was very ashamed of her situation. Police and the hospital say he had gotten pregnant, her boy friend split up with her and she felt a lot of shame, and when she got the stomach pains, she maybe didn't know exactly what was happening to her.

When she went to the toilet and the baby was born, she panicked. She went to the land lady. Apparently, she didn't tell the land lady that it was her child that was stuck there, she just said I heard noises, come quickly, come quickly and then it came out that she was, in fact, the mother.

And there is a sense the police are still investigating this. But that they want to respect the family's privacy. The child has been taken by the mother's grandparents, and the police say they will help raise that child, but certainly, you know, some unanswered questions, it seems like this is a case of a desperate young woman who took desperate measures or had a terrible accident.

BERMAN: All right. David McKenzie in China for us.

I supposed the important thing is that the baby is safe and doing well. Thank you, David.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT: the World Health Organization calling it a threat to the world. Should we be more concerned about a new corona virus taking hold overseas?

BERMAN: And then imagine a black bear charging for your beloved pet and straight toward your back door. This actually happened to one Connecticut woman who took on the 200-pound animal. Her amazing story and apparently her amazing foot, coming up on STARTING POINT.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Brand new video just in to CNN of the very moment when a freight train carrying chemicals crashed into a garbage truck. This is near Baltimore. The video was captured by a local business owner on Tuesday. The truck driver was seriously injured in that accident.

Investigators -- whoa -- investigators are looking into the cause of the crash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS (voice-over): The video was captured by a local business owner on Tuesday. The truck driver was seriously injured in that accident. Investigators -- whoa. Investigators are looking in to the cause of the crash.

BERMAN (voice-over): You can see right there on the top right hand side of your screen. You don't see this often. My goodness.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (on-camera): All right. The World Health Organization concerned about a new virus that it says could be a threat to the entire world. There are already 49 cases of this new strain in eight countries. There are no reported cases in the U.S., but the question is, should we be concerned? Mary Snow joins us now with more. Good morning, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine, and is really what's concerning the World Health Organization are the unknowns about this virus. Now, health officials are saying some good news is they're not seeing sustained human-to-human transmission, but because it's an emerging virus, it's being tracked closely.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Hollywood movies like "Contagion" are sobering reminders of the real threat of deadly viruses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The average person touches their face three to five times every waking minute. In between, we're touching door knobs, water fountains, and each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we have the virus, no treatment protocol, and no vaccine at this time? SNOW: Reports of a new strain of a coronavirus overseas is nowhere near the movie version of an outbreak. So far, there are no reported cases in the United States. Its name, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. The World Health Organization is calling it a threat to the world.

GREGORY HARTL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: This is a great concern to us here internationally in WHO, because there are so many unknowns around the virus which so far has killed 55 percent of the confirmed cases.

SNOW: Cases have been linked from the Middle East to the U.K., Germany, France, and Tunisia. So far, 27 people have died with the largest number in Saudi Arabia.

Should people be concerned about this?

DR. W. IAN LIPKIN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: People should always be concerned whenever there's an emerging infectious disease, because we don't really know. We don't have ways in which we can predict and project and appropriately prepare for some of these.

SNOW: Ian Lipkin is leading a team of scientists at Columbia University to investigate the virus, which is in the same family as SARS and the common cold. Symptoms include fever and severe respiratory problems. Patients have also developed pneumonia and kidney failure. Officials have found some clusters of cases where the disease has been transmitted between family members or in a health care setting. Researchers are looking at whether it was initially passed from animals to humans.

LIPKIN: The original host, the original reservoir for the virus in SARS was a bat. And we think based, on our analysis and the sequence of this virus, that it also originated in a bat.

SNOW: Where?

LIPKIN: Well, probably somewhere in the Middle East.

SNOW: Health officials don't know much about how the virus spreads, but at this point, travel warnings have not been issued.

DR. MARK DENISON, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I don't think we should be concerned in terms of travel to the Middle East or to anywhere in the world right now, but to just be aware of it. Most of the cases and illnesses have been associated with the elderly and those with pre- existing or severe underlying medical conditions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (on-camera): Now, one of the big reasons for concern is that, right now, there's no known treatment and no way to make a vaccine, but doctors are currently working on that.

ROMANS (on-camera): Yes. No known treatment, and that scares me. BERMAN: You know, here is also terrifying. So, it's called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, yet, there's calling at a global threat as well. What's the difference here?

SNOW: Yes. And it seems to kind of go against the message that the World Health Organization was trying to get out this week, but because all of these cases have been traced to the Middle East, hence the name, but with the World Health Organization and in its message this week, what they're trying to do is get scientists from around the world to gather their resources to tackle this virus, and they're saying that no one country can fight this alone.

ROMANS: All right. Mary Snow, thanks for that, Mary.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, who invited the T-Rex? This could possibly be the best wedding picture ever. The creative use of photo shop inspired by "Jurassic Park," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back. "Minding Your Business" this morning. Dow 28,000, is that even possible? Larry Fink says yes. Who is he? He's the CEO of Blackrock. He thinks the bull market has another six years left with gains of up to 10 percent annually. That would put the Dow at, what, 28,000 by the year 2019.

Today, it's at 15,000 and futures indicate a flat open. Investors are waiting on the latest GDP report that will give us a good indication of where stocks should trade today.

New signs of a housing recovery. In some market, sellers are calling the shots. A new Century 21 survey says a third of home buyers have been looking for more than a year and many are willing to make compromises to close a deal. Compromises like putting more cash down, buying the home as is, or being flexible on the closing date.

And finally, what's the most visited business in the country, Wal- Mart, CVS? No. Fast-food. A new study say fast-food chains make up four of the five most visited businesses. McDonald's and Subway top the list, Wal-Mart, (INAUDIBLE) number three.

BERMAN: Because the Bic Macs are much better in McDonald's than in Wal-Mart.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: It turns out.

Trending this morning, pizza, the final frontier. Seventy-two-year- old actor, Sir Patrick Stewart who's traveled the galaxy in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," apparently, just ate his first slice of pizza.

ROMANS: What? BERMAN: So, Sir Pat Stew, which by the way, has to be the greatest Twitter handle ever, just tweeted this picture with the message, "My first ever pizza slice. Please note the authentic New York fold." So, well done, captain.

ROMANS: Huh! A new cartoon set to debut on the Hub Children's Network this weekend. It's stirring up some controversy, because it's -- well, the first episode hasn't even aired yet. The show is called "Shezow." Here is why this is controversy. It's about a 12-year-old boy named Guy who uses a magic ring to turn into a superhero who is not a Guy.

"Shezow" is a girl superhero. Critics are calling the show gender bending. They claim it's too confusing for target audience of seven- year-olds. The Hub Network disagrees. It compares "Shezow" to Bugs Bunny because both character make kids laugh by wearing a dress and a wig.

BERMAN: And also (ph), the subject is confusing. You've been pointed out, a talking sponge is pretty confusing.

ROMANS: You know, sponge -- yes, there's a lot of confusion in cartoons. I don't know what we're trying to -- you know, cartoons are not your life models. I think --

BERMAN: Also trending this morning, it is being called the greatest wedding photo ever taken. Take a look and judge for yourself. Louisiana photographer, Quinn Miller (ph), snapped the picture for James and Katie Lauder (ph). They happen to be dinosaur lovers.

The wedding party was told to run toward the camera with their best terrified look, and believe it or not, the T-Rex was actually photo shopped then after wasn't actually there. It does look like a scene out of "Jurassic Park." And we know how that turned out. Look at that. It's there. It's coming for us! Oh my goodness!

ROMANS: As long as I'm two steps ahead of you, Berman -

BERMAN: It's going to eat me first.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Man, always.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, America's heartland in the crosshairs of dangerous tornadoes and hail today. The east coast bracing for an oppressive heat wave. We're following very severe weather for you next.

BERMAN: We have some video that's just unreal. A base jumper takes a world record for leaping off of Mt. Everest. It hits speeds of 125 miles per hour. Unbelievable. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. I'm John Berman. ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: The midsection of the country bracing for extreme weather again today. We are following the unrelenting threat of severe storms and parts of the country already torn up by tornadoes. We've all seen those frightening videos taken right in the eye of the storm.

CNNs Chad Meyers had a chance to get an up close look at nature's fury. He joins us now live from Oklahoma City. Good morning, Chad.

CHAD MEYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. You know, yesterday, we went storm chasing out with the chasers in West Texas into Oklahoma and also Western Kansas. As it turned out, we got chased instead of we chasing the storm as they chased us all the way back to Oklahoma City. Another severe weather day because of this.

If you kind of tilt up here, this is what we call a rolling sky. All of this Gulf of Mexico moisture is heading to the north, heading into Nebraska, Kansas, into Oklahoma, and obviously, coming from Texas. Another severe weather day today. Let's take you back to Tuesday. We'll start with Michigan. Tornadoes in Michigan. And tornadoes all the way down to the south.

Here's the damage in Central Michigan here. A much bigger tornado, though, came through Kansas, Bennington, Kansas. A wedge tornado on the ground doing damage, another storm, another tornado not that far from Corinth (ph), Kansas. That's when we really arrived on the ground. That's when we landed in Wichita and planned on driving all the way to Dodge City yesterday.

So, we drove to Dodge City, hooked up with some storm chasers that were kind of doing some scientific research, saw Virginia Tech chasers there as well. They were doing research for their meteorology program. Then, we got down to Texas and the storms popped. They just blew up and moved right over the top of us, and we got hit by hail.