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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
NSA Leaker Possibly in Hong Kong; Turkey Experiences Riot; Senate Debates Immigration Bill Today; New Panic in Newtown; Carbon Monoxide Culprit in North Carolina Hotel Deaths; Lululemon CEO Resigns
Aired June 11, 2013 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our STARTING POINT this morning, where is Edward Snowden? The man behind the NSA leak has checked out of a Hong Kong hotel, but where is he headed now? We'll go live to Hong Kong for the latest on his whereabouts.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And chaos on the streets of Istanbul unfolding live before our very eyes. Riot police have entered the city square. They're firing tear gas, water cannons at protesters. We're live in Turkey with Nick Paton Walsh where things really do appear to be getting worse by the day.
ROMANS: And then a bizarre story you have to fear (ph) to believe. A world renowned cancer specialist stands accused of using chemicals found in anti-freeze to poison the coffee of her lover. We have that story.
BERMAN: Strange, strange story that is, too.
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BERMAN (on-camera): Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
ROMANS (on-camera): I'm Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, June 11th. Welcome to STARTING POINT.
BERMAN: We begin this morning with new developments in a new vow that more NSA secrets will soon be revealed. That's what a reporter for "The Guardian" is promising this morning just as the source of the leak, Edward Snowden, goes back into hiding. They don't know where he is. Snowden is still said to be in Hong Kong. No one knows where, though. He simply vanished.
The White House saying it welcomes debate over the electronic surveillance programs that Snowden exposed and it's open to changes if a national debate shows the public wants them. But it suggests most Americans don't have an issue with being tracked. Joe Johns live in Washington covering this for us this morning.
Good morning, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: John, hey. Members of Congress are calling for prosecution, there's a briefing for house members scheduled on Capitol Hill involving the FBI and the intelligence community. Even though authorities do not know the extent of the case, how much more sensitive information from the national security agency has been leaked to a British newspaper.
JOHNS: Investigators are scouring the personal and professional life of NSA contractor Edward Snowden to determine if anyone helped him gather sensitive documents that he leaked to journalists to expose the agency's top secret surveillance programs. Snowden's last known whereabouts are traced to this hotel in Hong Kong but's no longer there. A reporter with "The Guardian," the newspaper that broke the story said on Monday he will not be the one to reveal his source's location.
GLENN GREENWALD, "THE GUARDIAN": I know where he is generally, I'm not going to talk about where he is in general or specifically. He's a source and I'm not going to disclose information about his whereabouts. He's perfectly capable of doing that himself if he wants to.
JOHNS: And signs Snowden sparked suspicion before he revealed himself, investigators visited his Honolulu home asking about his long disappearance from work. But they were too late. He and his girlfriend had cleared out.
A new national survey conducted by the Pew research center shows a majority of Americans are OK with the government surveillance. And 56 percent of respondents say they approve of the phone tracking program and even more, 62 percent say they're willing to have their privacy intruded upon if it prevents terrorism.
EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: The public needs to decide whether these programs or policies are right or wrong.
JOHNS: With his videotaped confession Snowden could face felony charges under the espionage act.
DON BORELLI, COO, THE SOUFAN: If you disclose classified information to unauthorized individuals for, that could lead to the detriment of the United States, then I believe that carries a ten-year penalty.
JOHNS: And if charged the next question is getting Hong Kong to extradite him.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: The State Department can immediately revoke his U.S. passport and then send certified copy of the revocation to the authorities in Hong Kong basically notifying them this individual is no longer traveling on a valid U.S. passport.
JOHNS: Though the most likely charge is said to be unauthorized disclosure under the espionage act, a couple members of Congress have gone so far as to suggest this should be considered an act of treason. John? BERMAN: Of course this is contingent on catching him and right now. They simply don't know where he is. Joe Johns in Washington, thank you so much.
ROMANS: If Snowden stays in Hong Kong and the U.S. wants to arrest or question him a 16-year-old treaty guarantees he will be extradited to the U.S. Anna Coren is following development for us from Hong Kong. Do we know where he is right now, Anna?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, we don't. That's just the state of play. He went to ground after he checked out of a hotel here in Hong Kong yesterday. He had been there for about three weeks, tallied up a hotel room Bill of about $8,000. So we don't know where he is now. I spoke to one of the journalists from "the guardian" who conducted the interview with Edward Snowden a few days ago and he confirmed he is still in Hong Kong. He hasn't gotten on a plane and left the city as yet. He was talking about going to Iceland, where he'd like to seek asylum but is he saying that is not the case, is he still here in Hong Kong.
ROMANS: You went to the hotel I know where he was staying before that boutique hotel the Mira. How has he been living the past few days?
COREN: It's a luxury boutique hotel, staying in a room for $400 a night, a very nice place but from all accounts he did not leave his hotel room except for pass three occasions. He ordered room service, put pillows up against the door because. He was concerned about eavesdropping when he was on his computer, he'd put a hood over himself and over the computer in case there were cameras inside the room, according to "The Guardian" journalist who spoke to him.
So this is somebody who knows that authorities obviously are now looking for him. He has left that location. This is the city of 7 million people. It is a huge place so he could be anywhere.
ROMANS: Anna, thank you.
BERMAN: Snowden supporters posting a petition for Snowden on the White House website, the petition creator calls Snowden a national hero who should be granted full, free, and absolute pardon. So far about 43,000 people have signed up. The White House does not respond to petitions until there are about 100,000 signatures. We should say there are a Lot of people are a lot of people out there also calling Snowden a traitor.
ROMANS: Police in riot gear moved into Taksim square in Istanbul where they've been facing off with protesters using tear gas and water cannons. Turkey's prime minister is set to meet with protest leaders tomorrow. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Istanbul. Nick, what can you tell us about the tone and tenor of the events behind you right now?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well there has been a somewhat dramatic development. So far what we've seen today appeared to be a police strategy to take control of the area around Central Gesi Park, an encamped area with lots of people living there in tents for weeks.
We saw riot police inside the tree line moving into the heavily encamped area. That will be a significant concern of the hundreds of people inside there. We did see tear gas go inside that camp briefly as well. There are many people in there. It's densely populated, tent in there. Many will be deeply worried about the police moving in.
They do appear to have withdrawn slightly. It's hard to see from our vantage point what is happening inside there but the real fear of course would be the impact on protesters if police moved in there. Where would they run to. It contradicts what we've been hearing from the government of Istanbul. They said we've been having more altercations because the protesters are firing fireworks at us, as we've seen that ourselves. There must have been a compelling reason for the police to intervene into the crowded place. Right now, we are hearing more tear gas being fired.
ROMANS: And you can see more it looks like water cannons being deployed on the crowds there. This is the 12th day now the protests, Nick. The Turkish prime minister said to meet with protesters tomorrow. What are we expecting to happen?
WALSH: I think what you're seeing behind me is him trying to increase his negotiation position of strength. There's little of a protest, less at this particular point there may be anger tonight from the rest of Istanbul as they get off work, over 100,000 people by some estimation but the real goal of the Taksim platform, as they call themselves, opposition leaders has been to change the development plans for what's happening behind me. And that's sort of morphed into a broader gripe against the creeping conservatism many accuse Erdogan of inducing over his decade of a rule here and many in the crowd accuse him of being authoritarian.
Images like this are going to bolster that criticism. He says he's simply restoring order and won't tolerate illegal protests. A key U.S. ally, Washington having condemned earlier police response to protests, these images may cause concern there as well.
ROMANS: You can see the tear gas wafting behind you. Go back to your gas mask and make sure everyone is safe from the fumes. Thanks, Nick.
BERMAN: You heard the thump, thump during the live shot. Those are tear gas canisters being fired into the crowds.
Nine minutes after the hour. From heat waves out west to tornadoes and rip currents in the east, the extreme weather continues across the country this morning. Indra Petersons has been tracking this extreme whether all night. Indra What is happening this morning?
INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We had the tornadoes in Kentucky and Maryland and on the west coast the extreme heat. Let's look at some of the wacky weather we've seen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just went over top of us at work.
PETERSONS: Check out this frightening amateur video on YouTube of a tornado wiping out much in its path.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, that has hit hard there.
PETERSONS: In Franklin, Kentucky, North of Nashville, roofs were lifted, houses lifted from their foundations and sections of fence found floating in a swimming pool.
STEVE DAVENPORT, FRANKLIN RESIDENT: You see a bunch of debris in the air and fence started blowing hard.
PETERSONS: Residents like Steve Davenport were picking up pieces of their countryside homes. Two elderly women were found in a bathtub riding out the storm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People in the house was very lucky, two elderly women that had minor injuries and the wall you see right there is the only wall standing in the house and that's where they were at.
PETERSONS: Much of the nation is gripped by extreme weather. In Maryland a waterspout and funnel cloud touched down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looked like it's coming this way.
PETERSONS: The storm damaging buildings at the Baltimore airport and causing flash flooding in the city leaving many in Maryland at a standstill. At the U.S. open in Pennsylvania the downpour dampened hopes on the green. On the first day of practice officials were forced to close the course for hours.
And in Gulf Shores, Alabama, rough seas and dangerous rip currents were to blame for four drowning. And in the west a much different picture, triple-digit temperatures are posing a challenge for firefighters near Kingston, New Mexico, pushing many residents to evacuate their homes.
We're still looking at rain in the northeast, the heavier amounts tapering north. The warm moist air coming out of the gulf, with that the slight risk for severe weather threat shifts from Montana all the way down south through Indiana and a threat for thunderstorms as we go through the afternoon. Other big story the heat and today not just out in the plains, all of that heat shifting east even to the south today. It's going to get hot and hotter unfortunately.
BERMAN: The hits just keep on coming. Indra, appreciate it.
Coming up next, jury selection under way in the George Zimmerman trial. Can prospective jurors keep an open mind about the case? We talk about the challenge that is facing attorneys as we head to Florida for the latest.
ROMANS: A controversial move by the White House says the administration reverses course and complies with the ruling allowing the morning after pill to be sold over the counter. Critics are outrages. We examine the debate. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: Welcome back. Top stories now: a big day on Capitol Hill where the Senate is expected to start debate on immigration reform. A bipartisan plan on the table would create a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants. Some top supporters including San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will be at the White House today as President Obama rallies support for the plan, but conservative critics say this amounts to amnesty and they could try to block it.
BERMAN: Parents and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, forced to relive a nightmare yesterday when their school was placed on modified lockdown because of a telephone threat. Nearly six months after the Sandy Hook massacre, parents scrambled to pick up their kids after receiving an e-mail yesterday informing them of a threat against staff and students at The Holly School. That's barely a mile from Sandy Hook. All district schools locked their doors for about an hour, nothing was found but school employees say emotions were raw.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have changed. People are kinder and I think Newtown people who work and live here they've been through enough, they just need to be left alone.
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BERMAN: Two days from now, House Republican leaders, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, plan to meet with families of the Newtown tragedy. A spokesman for the House speaker says he wants to hear their stories and discuss ways to reduce the culture of violence in America.
ROMANS: A couple staying at a hotel in North Carolina found dead in the hotel bed. Less than two months later, a little boy staying in the same room -- the same room -- also dies, with his unconscious mother found nearby. Now, police believe they have solved this mystery. CNN's Alina Machado live from Boone, North Carolina this morning. Good morning.
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. This is the hotel where three people have died in the last two months after staying in a room on the second floor above the pool. This hotel remains closed as police investigate, but police now believe carbon monoxide may be to blame for the deaths.
MACHADO: A frantic call for help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help ma'am, this is awful, please!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay, so there's two people in the room at this time, is that right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two that we know of, a woman and a young child, the child is in the bed.
MACHADO: After 11-year-old Jeffrey Lee Williams and his 49-year-old mother, Jeannie are found unresponsive inside a room here at this Best Western hotel in Boone, North Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please hurry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't hang up, okay?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not hanging up, ma'am. This just happened to us last month. Please, come help us.
MACHADO: When paramedics responded to the hotel Saturday afternoon, Jeffrey was dead, his mother barely alive. Both were staying inside room 225, that's the same room where Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, an elderly couple from Washington state, were staying when they died on April 16th.
MARK BRUMBAUGH, JENKINS FAMILY ATTORNY: It was really a shock to hear that that room had been occupied again after what had happened to Daryl and Shirley Jenkins.
MACHADO: Boone police say preliminary autopsy information for the Jenkins couple was inconclusive, their deaths remained a mystery until now.
ANDY LEBEAU, BOONE POLICE CAPTAIN: It was just within the past 24 hours that the toxicology reports had become available indicating that there was a lethal level of carbon monoxide, as a matter of fact, 60 percent in their blood level.
MACHADO: Authorities say elevated levels of carbon monoxide were found inside room 225 on Saturday. Investigators are still working to find out how the odorless gas got into the room.
LEBEAU: The room, 225, is located above a maintenance room in the pool which contains a heater and so of course we suspect that that could be a source of the carbon monoxide. The officials coming in, I'm certain they're going to do a comprehensive investigation and look at all possible aspects.
MACHADO: An attorney for the hotel released a statement saying, in part, "the health and safety of guests who stay at our hotel is our number one priority. We are cooperating fully with authorities."
The attorney for the Jenkins family is expressing dismay that this happened again.
BRUMBAUGH: My clients are extremely upset that this had to happen again, or was allowed to happen again.
(END VIDEOTAPE) MACHADO: The Boone police chief tells us that carbon monoxide detectors are not required in the state of North Carolina inside buildings like this hotel, but he's hoping this tragedy will help change that. Back to you.
ROMANS: It is just so sad and to happen twice, twice in the same room, I mean the attorney for the first family used the word dismay, I think dismay really understates how angry everyone must be. Thanks, Alina.
BERMAN: I can't imagine.
ROMANS: Oh yeah.
BERMAN: Can't even imagine.
All right, 19 minutes after the hour. Drugstores will soon be able to sell the Plan B morning after pill, no questions asked. The Obama administration reversing course, they agreed to drop its opposition to a federal judge's ruling that allowed the emergency contraceptive to be sold over the count with no restrictions. Critics accuse the White House of caving to political pressure.
ROMANS: There's new hope this morning for two Pennsylvania children in desperate need of lung transplants. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation network has given the go ahead to lowering the age at which someone can put on the adult transplant list from 12 to 10.
Ten-year-old Sara Murnaghan and 11-year-old Javier Acosta are both in a Philadelphia hospital. They are awaiting lung transplants. Their families have been pleading for a change in the rules.
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STEVE HARVEY, FAMILIES' LAWYER: This is going to apply to very few children nationwide, but it's very important to them because it allows them to be judged based on -- it allows them to have lungs allocated to them based on the severity of their conditions.
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ROMANS: Sarah Murnaghan's family says she could die within weeks without a transplant.
BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT this story is just nuts, noted cancer doctor in Texas facing criminal charges this morning. How prosecutors say she used a cup of coffee to try to kill her lover.
Like I said lots of twists and turns in this one. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Minding your business this morning. Dow futures are down 100 points, this follows a sell-off overseas, worries about China's economy seem to be rattling investor this is morning. Booz Allen Hamilton shares fell more than 2.5 percent yesterday. We'll watch them today. This comes as we learn the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, was a Booz Allen employee. A company that pedals secrecy having a very, revelation that really could hurt its business.
Lululemons shares are plunging 13 percent this morning. The company's CEO Christine Day is stepping down. It's just months after Lululemon pulled some yoga pants from store shelves because they were see- through. Lululemon says Day's departure has nothing to do with that particular incident. Still, it follows a string of problems. After the see-through pants debacle, Lululemon said it will cost millions of dollars, its stock price temporarily dropped, and it got rid of its top products executive. Despite the upheaval, the company still managed to report higher quarterly profit and revenue. It says the pants are fixed. They have a sheer meter to make sure all the pants are not see-though.
BERMAN: Oh yeah?
ROMANS: It's actually a sheer meter.
Over at another conference, the biggest video game makers rolling out new consoles. Already there's a pricing battle. Sony unveiled its Playstation 4 at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. Price tag $399, 100 bucks less than Microsoft's new Xbox, which will retail for $499. Both, in case you're wondering, Berman, will hit store shelves later this year. You have six more months to decide which one you're going to get. The video game market has been hit hard, because more people are using smartphones and tablets for games so they're trying to amp up their offerings.
BERMAN: I'm still thinking about the see-through yoga pants. Sorry.
ROMANS: Also Americans giving $225 to banks a year, $225 bucks, handing to the banks. We're talking about overdraft fees. This comes from a new study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Analysts say this report the strongest signal yet that the government is stepping up scrutiny of overdraft fees and trying to remind consumers, John, that some of these overdraft policies while regulated by the government wide variation and still you're paying a lot to use your own money.
BERMAN: Gotta be careful.
ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT jury selection getting underway in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, even though his lawyers told the judge they're not ready to properly defend him. A live report from central Florida ahead.
BERMAN: And in trouble from domestic violence already. Chad Johnson, he makes it even worse. You won't believe how. it was kind of a pat on the butt that lands him in jail. We'll explain. you're watching STARTING POINT.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. I'm John Berman.
ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.
BERMAN: For the first time, George Zimmerman is coming face to face with the people who could decide his fate. So was it self-defense? Was it murder? Those are the key questions for the neighborhood watch volunteer facing murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin.
This morning we expect more twists and turns in the complicated task of selecting a jury.