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Obamacare Damage Control; MacNeill Murder Trial; Could Maria be Baby Lisa?

Aired October 23, 2013 - 04:00   ET



KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Thousands of people have signed up. We know that people are getting through every day. It is not where we need it to be. It isn't as smooth as we want it to be.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Plagued with problems. The White House doubles down to defend Obamacare's rough rollout.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the first witness to find her mother in the bathtub and to interact with the defendant so that's significant for us.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A doctor accused of murdering his wife so he could marry his mistress? You'll never guess the prosecution's star witness. The defendant's daughter.

PEREIRA: And a mother's hope that her baby stolen years ago could have been found alive across the world.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: He's giggling because it's early. I'm Michaela Pereira, I'm in for Zoraida. It is Wednesday, the 23rd of October, and it is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: You came back. It's an upset victory.

PEREIRA: It's an --


Who's upset? Me or you?

BERMAN: No, no, no. I mean, you know, all the bookies had it, you know, go the other way.


BERMAN: We begin with a new fight this morning over Obamacare with Republicans turning up the heat on the administration for the troubled health care rollout. The White House has hired a big named management expert to help fix and right now he may just have the toughest job in America.

We get more now from CNN's Jim Acosta.



JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House is out to make sure the bugs in the Obamacare Web site don't bite back. So the president recorded this video message for his post-campaign volunteer team to spread the message of patience.

OBAMA: By now you probably heard that the Web site has not worked as smoothly as it was supposed to.

ACOSTA: The Obama administration has also appointed Jeff Zients, the man who will soon to be the president's top economist and who once served as acting Budget director to be the Mr. Fix-it to go after the site's technical problems.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he'll provide management advice and consultation, but for more details about his role because it's -- he's being brought on by HHS, I would refer you to HHS.

ACOSTA: But the White House is offering few additional details about the Web site rescue effort.

CARNEY: I would refer you to HHS. The text surge was announced by CMS and HHS so I would refer you to them. I would refer you to HHS for that.

ACOSTA: Republicans want more oversight. Calling for weekly reports on the Web site's progress and the delay on the individual mandate to buy insurance if the tech issues continue.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The president put politics ahead of his own program working effectively and easily for hundreds of millions of Americans.

ACOSTA: Former vice president candidate Paul Ryan is the latest top GOP leader to call on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step down saying on a Republican conference call, "This rollout has been a fiasco. I think some people should be held responsible."

But Clay Johnson, a former White House innovation fellow who worked on I.T. projects for the administration, says the real problem is with the government contractors who built the site. CLAY JOHNSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INNOVATION FELLOW: I think that they don't know how to measure success. I mean, the federal government wants to innovate so badly but it doesn't have the access to the right kinds of contractors that it needs in order to pull off these kinds of innovation.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


PEREIRA: Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been under fire for the health care debacle with Republicans calling for her resignation. Sebelius sat down with our Dr. Sanjay Gupta for an exclusive interview.

Sanjay asked her what the president knew about the Web site issues and when he knew it.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The president did say that he was angry about this. I mean, do you know when he first knew that there was a problem?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think it became clear fairly early on. The first couple of days, that --

GUPTA: So not before that, though? Not before October 1st?

SEBELIUS: No, sir.

GUPTA: There was no concern at that point here in the White House or at HHS?

SEBELIUS: I think that we talked about having -- testing, going forward. And if we had an ideal situation and could have built the product in, you know, a five-year period of time, we probably would have taken five years. But we didn't have five years.


PEREIRA: Sebelius says no one is more frustrated with the Web site rollout than her and the president. She said they're confident that an A-team of experts coming in will fix those problems.

BERMAN: Sanjay's interview with the secretary is fascinating. Worth watching the whole thing.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Go to for that. Believe me. Worth seeing.

A Treasury Department report reveals the IRS over the past decade paid out $132 billion in earned income tax credits to people who did not qualify for them. The money is supposed to go to America's poor working families. The report says the agency was unable to show it fixed the problem after it was flagged by the inspector general.

PEREIRA: A frightening mistake revealed this morning from the Air Force about the nation's nuclear arsenal. Officers trusted with the keys that could launch nuclear warheads have left the blast door to their underground compound wide open, not once, but twice this year.

The AP reports blast doors are never to be left open if the crew member inside is asleep. That what the case in both instances. Two launch commanders and two deputies were disciplined.

It's like you don't even know about things that you have to worry about, and now we need to worry about that. Doors being left open to key compounds.

BERMAN: That would seem very high on the list of ethically bad idea.

PEREIRA: High on the list.

BERMAN: All right. A love poem to Osama bin Laden for the white widow, the world's most wanted woman. Authorities found this on Samantha Lewthwaite's computer in her former home in Kenya. She wrote, "My father, my brother, my love for you is like no other."

The wife of a suicide bomber and the London underground bombing in 2005, this woman is wanted in connection with the 2011 bombing in Kenya involving the same group behind last month's siege at the mall in Nairobi.

PEREIRA: A blow this morning for efforts to end the civil war in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledging to state leaders of the U.S.-backed opposition have not committed to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry also says a U.N. peace conference may not take planned as -- may not take place as planned next month. And despite the U.S. view that Assad must leave, he says its fate is a matter for the two sides in negotiations.

BERMAN: A warning this morning to expect insurgent groups in Afghanistan to carry out an unusually aggressive campaign of violence this winter. The campaign is aimed at causing disruption ahead of next year's presidential election there. This is a report in this morning's "New York Times." A senior military officer says we may see high profile Taliban attacks targeting political officials rather than simply fighting on the battlefield.

PEREIRA: In Libya Wednesday marks two years since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi. But instead of freedom and development hoped for that country falling into anarchy. Rival Islamists in Western-backed factions are uniting with militias, turning political feuds into armed conflict. The result, a vulnerable system where political rivalries have the potential to erupt into civil war.

BERMAN: In Saudi Arabia, a protest against women seeking the right to drive. Clerics or religious scholars rallying outside the Saudi King's palace claiming that the U.S. is behind the campaign calling for women to drive on October 26th. Though no laws banned women from driving, women are not issued licenses in that ultra conservative kingdom.

PEREIRA: The dead Boston marathon bombing suspect officially linked to a brutal triple murder in newly released court documents. Federal investigators say Tamerlan Tsarnaev took part in the killings in Massachusetts back in 2011. Three men were found in an apartment with their necks slit. One was a boxer and a friend of his.

A man shot to death during questioning by an agent in Florida told investigators that the older Tsarnaev brother was involved in those murders. Tsarnaev's younger brother Dzhokhar is awaiting trial for the bombings that killed three and injured hundreds. He has pleaded not guilty.

BERMAN: A steady stream of emergency responders taking the stand at the Utah murder trial of Dr. Martin MacNeill whose wife was found dead in their bathtub. MacNeill is accused of killing her to be with his mistress. But the real drama in court is about to ratchet up with MacNeill's children set to testify for the prosecution.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is following this story.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, the children of Dr. Martin MacNeill, a step closer to testifying against their own father. Prosecutors say the first up as soon as Thursday expected to be 12-year-old Ada MacNeill. Only 6 when she discovered her dying mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want Ada to testify because she has an important story to tell here as part of the big story here. She was the first witness to find her mother in the bathtub.

MARQUEZ: The defense counters Ada should not testify, not a reliable witness, they say, as investigators used their older sister Alexis during repeated interviews.

SUSANNE GUSTIN, MACNEILL ATTORNEY: Alexis was doing the other interviewing, and investigators were saying ask her this, ask her are that. That's highly improperly.

MARQUEZ: Prosecutors have already called several first responders testifying at the scene of his wife's death. Martin MacNeill was agitated to the point of distraction as they desperately tried to save his wife's life.

DAN BECKSTROM, PLEASANT GROVE POLICE DEPARTMENT: He was hysterical. He was blurting out things like, "Why did you have to have this surgery? Why are you on so many medications?" Why god?

MARQUEZ: Prosecutors contend the drama was an act and that it was MacNeill pressuring his wife to get a facelift then using a deadly combination of prescription drugs post-surgery to kill her.

MARK SANDERSON, PLEASANT GROVE FIRE CHIEF: He made a comment that she had overdosed on her pain medication and also a comment about slipping on the tub and hitting her head. He also indicated that he was only gone for a short period of time.

MARQUEZ: MacNeill's alibi, he was at work when his wife fell on the tub. Prosecutors say they have evidence to the contrary.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Provo, Utah.

PEREIRA: Such grisly things -- details emerging from that trial.

BERMAN: What a case that is.

PEREIRA: What a case.

BERMAN: Let's get a check with the weather, shall we.

PEREIRA: Yes, I feel like you're worried he's going to say we're fair to middling today.


BERMAN: Whoopsy. Will he say fair to middling? Chad Myers with a look at the weather. Now it's for real.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. A very good early morning, too. Some airport delays today to expect but only 15 to 30 minutes, I think, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, some wind, it could be a little bit slow there. San Francisco and Seattle some fog and low clouds.

Doesn't look like any big major weather event across the country should slow you down today.

Low across the East Coast bringing showers across parts of Pennsylvania into West Virginia, even into the nation's capital and a shower or two for New York City. A high of only 53. Another cold front coming down from the weekend like we need more cold air. But it's going to be slashing all the way down even into Georgia where highs in the 70s for most of the early week in Georgia, at least in Atlanta, and then down into the 50s by the end of the week. Fifty- six, Kansas City for today, 81 in Dallas, and a pleasant 68 in L.A.

Have a great day, guys.

PEREIRA: We promise, Chad.

You heard him say no big weather event. So we're good.

BERMAN: I felt like he brought it that time. Chad --

PEREIRA: Yes. He always brings it.


PEREIRA: Coming up --


DEBORAH BRADLEY, MOTHER OF LISA IRWIN: I see the same facial structure, I see the same eyes.


PEREIRA: A mother's hope that an unidentified little girl found living in filth could be the daughter stolen from her years ago.

BERMAN: And are jerky treats dangerous to your pets? Hundreds of pets have been killed. Thousands are sick. Where the tainted treats are coming from next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Authorities in Greece are investigating nearly a dozen cases of missing children after a blond hair, blue-eyed girl known only as Maria was found in a Roma community last week. One of those cases involved Lisa Irwin, a baby who vanished from her home in Kansas City two years ago.

CNN's George Howell spoke to Lisa's parents.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): October marks two years since Lisa Irwin went missing, but now her family has new hope, thousands of miles away in Europe.

A girl only known as Maria taken by Greek officials from a Roma family charged with abducting her.

(On camera): As a mother, when you look at that picture and then the picture that we've seen from Greece, what are the similarities? What do you see?

BRADLEY: I see the same facial structure. I see the same eyes. And also, you got to remember that, for example, I have a friend that has a 2-year-old daughter whose eyes are just now changing color. Little Maria's eyes are a little bit different in the color, but they're still in the same color family.

HOWELL (voice-over): This girl found in Greece, could she actually be from Kansas City? Robert Lowery with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says a full investigation is underway.

ROBERT LOWERY, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: We reached out to the FBI this morning, working by Interpol. We're asking that the DNA data be shared with our laboratories here in the United States for comparison purposes to any of the missing children here from the United States.

Frankly, right now, it does not appear that this may be any of our children, but again, we want to confirm one way or the other.

HOWELL: There's also the question of the child's age. Dental records indicate Maria is either 5 or 6 years old. Baby Lisa would only be three next month.

JEREMY IRWIN, FATHER OF MISSING LISA: The dental records that you just mentioned, that's kind of the first time we've heard about that as a for sure type of thing so --

HOWELL (on camera): And does that discourage you or will you look at that picture?

BRADLEY: Absolutely not, doesn't discourage me at all. Because like I said, Lisa is very, very big for her age. When she was kidnapped she was almost 11 months old. And she was wearing size 18 months and 2-T. She's a very big girl.

HOWELL (voice-over): The last time Deborah Bradley saw her daughter Lisa she was just a baby. The night she vanished from her bed after what her parents say was a home invasion in 2011.

The mystery of what happened here captured national attention. The parents even questioned by police at one point but they've also seen this community rally behind them, optimistic about any lead that comes in, desperately hoping this time it's a match.

George Howell, CNN, Kansas City, Missouri.


PEREIRA: Four different types of explosives were found at the apartment of alleged Colorado theater shooter James Holmes. That's according to the -- to three FBI experts testifying Tuesday at a pretrial hearing. Holmes, of course, accused of opening fire at a crowded movie theater, killing 12 and injuring 70 in that 2012 massacre.

Prosecutors could use the discovery to prove Holmes knew the attack was a crime. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

BERMAN: It is sentencing day for Matthew Cordle, the 24-year-old Ohio man confessed on YouTube to causing a fatal DUI crash in June. The highly produced confession video went viral and Cordle pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide. At the time he said he didn't make the video for leniency but his attorneys have asked for a reduced sentence. Cordle faces up to eight years in prison.

PEREIRA: Two Colorado farmers pleading guilty Tuesday. Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen are caused with causing one of the deadliest outbreaks of food borne illness in U.S. history. Prosecutors say their listeria contaminated cantaloupes killed 33 people in 2011. Each man faces up to six years in prison and fines of up to $1.5 million.

BERMAN: The TSA can now screen your personal records before you get to the airport. "The New York Times" reports that fast travel plans, property records, even car registrations could all be fair game. The thorough background check will direct some to lighter screenings and others to more invasive ones. The government says it will streamline security. Privacy groups say that this all goes too far. PEREIRA: A warning to pet owners. Jerky treats could be hazardous to your furry loved ones' health. The FDA says more than 3,000 dogs have been sickened by the treats since 2007 and more than 580 pets have died. Most of the brands implicated originate in China but despite extensive testing the FDA still doesn't know what's causing it.

And as we're seeing volunteering recalls, if you're concerned at all, we'll let you know coming up the names of those companies that are involved so you can maybe try to avoid that.

BERMAN: Excellent. A lot of pets affected by this.

PEREIRA: Yes. A lot. A lot.

BERMAN: A remarkable story to tell you about right now. A 28-year- old double-leg amputee biking across the country. Rob Jones is a Marine veteran. He lost both legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Now he's using determination to help other deserving veterans.


ROB JONES, MARINE VETERAN: I joined the Marine Corps in 2006 as combat engineer. Went to Iraq in 2008. Afghanistan, 2010, primarily tasked with finding explosives on the ground. So I figure cycling across America will be cool. And then I figured while I'm doing it I might as well set a standard for double-above-knee amputees on an upright bike and raise money for clarity.

Double-above-knee amputees who want to ride a bike, they can see me doing it and they know that it's possible. So once you see that something's possible, it's a lot easier to do other stuff.



BERMAN: I think he's setting a high standard for everyone.

PEREIRA: For all of us.

BERMAN: Oh my goodness. Jones set out from Maine last week and plans to wrap up in San Diego in April. He hopes to raise $1 million and inspire disabled veterans everywhere. Like I said, I think he's inspiring everyone.

PEREIRA: Everyone. So admirable. What a trek, though, if you see him along the way, honk --

BERMAN: Yes. I hope there are a lot of people out there cheering him.

PEREIRA: I hope so. I hope so, too.

Coming up -- ooh, this is exciting. I know you were all a-Twitter about this. Apple rolls out its newest version of the iPad. Here's a question, though. Does it live up to the hype? Well, guess who's here? Maribel is here. She gives us the lowdown in "Money Time" next.

You know we have to sing her name?

BERMAN: Really? It's in her contract?

PEREIRA: Yes. Yes.


BERMAN: It is, it is about the money, money, right here on EARLY START.


BERMAN: Especially during "Money Time." Everything from the state of the entire economy to the state of my iPad. This is an important day.

PEREIRA: Very important day.

BERMAN: Maribel Aber is here is to give us the whole skinny.

PEREIRA: Good morning, Maribel.

MARIBEL ABER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, my friends.

Well, let's talk about the money because it is always about the money, right? Well, let's talk about money and taxes. A lingering effect on the partial government shutdown will impact all of the U.S. The IRS says the start of the 2014 tax season will be delayed by one to two weeks. It was scheduled for January 21st. So what that means is the IRS will start accepting and processing returns somewhere between January 28th and February 4th.

The IRS says it's working to minimize that delay, though, you can still send in the paper return anytime but the IRS won't look at it until the season officially starts. The IRS says it will announce that start date in December.

In tech news, Apple says it's thinner, it's lighter, it's faster and it has a new name, and of course, we're talking about Apple's new iPad, the iPad Air. The company rolled out the fifth generation of its market-leading tablet Tuesday. But really, as Berman says, what's new about it? Well, it weighs about one pound down from 1.4 pounds. It's 28 percent thinner, 28 percent lighter than the current fourth generation iPad so it's all about the weight there.

And if you always wanted to ride a helium balloon into near space --

PEREIRA: Why not?

ABER: Well your chance may come in just a few years. The "L.A. Times" says a company called World View, well, it hopes to offer rides in a massive helium balloon that will take passengers more than 18 miles above the earth's surface.

PEREIRA: Unbelievable.

ABER: The service may be ready in four years so stay tuned but here's the ticket cost. It may cost you $75,000.

PEREIRA: Not that that's affordable but it's a lot lower than I would have thought it might be.

ABER: OK. We'll be -- well, I'm going to look at your checkbook here.


The 18-mile altitude doesn't qualify as deep space, though. It will still give you a view of the curvature of the earth. The classic look from space. You won't have to go alone. The company says the balloon, it will hold eight people, two crew members and six passengers.

PEREIRA: Sounds like a reality show.

BERMAN: So you think 75,000 grand is a bargain?

PEREIRA: I don't think it's a bargain.

BERMAN: I want to party with you.


PEREIRA: I'm just saying compared to what it took to -- to go to the International Space Station --


PEREIRA: Or those other ones, the prices were very, very, very steep.

BERMAN: Yes. For the lower price of 75 grand you can ride a hot air balloon into space.

PEREIRA: You know the reason why we sing her name is because in the morning when it's very early we have to force ourselves awake when caffeine hasn't even been brewed. So we just sing Maribel.

BERMAN: I think it's a good idea.

PEREIRA: I think you should join in.

BERMAN: Next time.

ABER: Next time.

PEREIRA: It's a delight to have you. Next time.

ABER: Thank you.

PEREIRA: All right. Coming up --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a student from Sparks Middle School. Can you please send police out here? There's a kid with a gun.


PEREIRA: A terrified child, a school in panic when a 12-year-old pulls out a gun and begins shooting.



CARNEY: There are problems and there were problems that need to be addressed. And we're improving the experience for consumers every day.


BERMAN: The White House defending the president's health care law and promising to fix the Web site problems that have caused such a rocky rollout.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody brought a gun to school, they shot a teacher.


PEREIRA: We're now hearing the terrifying moments inside that middle school when a 12-year-old pulled out a gun and opened fire.

BERMAN: And a community rallies behind a teenage girl who says a high school football star raped her and got away with it.

PEREIRA: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 30 minutes past the hour. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you this morning.

PEREIRA: Well, it may very well be considered the Obama administration's biggest embarrassment but the White House continues to defend the healthcare website.