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Breakthrough in HIV Battle; Winter Storm Prepared to Wallop DC; Catholic Cardinals Meet Today; Home Above Deadly Sinkhole Set for Demolition; Poor Credit May Affect Whether You Get Hired

Aired March 4, 2013 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, a stunning medical breakthrough. Doctors say a two- year-old girl is cured of HIV. We'll explain how it happened and whether or not other children could be able to be saved.

Also, watching another winter storm bearing down on the Midwest ready to wallop the nation's capital. We're tracking that storm for you live.

And then, in just about an hour, crews demolishing a home that sits above that deadly sinkhole. How could you keep something like this from happening again? We'll take a look at that this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, Catholic cardinals meeting to set a date for a vote for a new Pope. We are live in Rome waiting for the decision it could come at any moment.

Then, a nail biter ending to a high school basketball game. A player makes just an unbelievable shot to beat the clock. There he is. You will never see a buzzer beater better than that one.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I got business for you this morning. When you're looking for your job, you think you just need to worry about the wardrobe, the resume. No. Why the credit check might be something you need to think about before you walk into that interview.

O'BRIEN: To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham civil rights movement, we'll talk this morning with legendary entertainer and philanthropist Bill Cosby, the Birmingham, Alabama, mayor, William Bell, Sr., and George French, president of Miles College. It's Monday, March 4, and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: what could be a game-changing breakthrough in the battle against HIV. Scientists say a Mississippi girl who was born with the virus that caused AIDS has now been cured. That would make her the first child and only the second person in 32 years who could make the claim.

Let's get right to our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She's joining us live from the CNN center in Atlanta. Hey Elizabeth. Good morning. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Soledad, this baby's doctors said they were stunned to find that she was HIV and she wasn't even taking her medicine.


COHEN (voice-over): It's a startling announcement. Doctors say they've cured a two-year-old in Mississippi of HIV, the infection she'd had since birth gone.

ROWENA JOHNSTON, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, THE FOUNDATION FOR AIDS RESEARCH: You know, it's fantastic from any number of angles. Of course, that a child has been cured. That is actually happened really quite easily and quite inexpensively.

COHEN: The cure came about as kind of a fluke. The baby was born to an HIV positive mother who transmitted the virus to her daughter. The baby was put on HIV drugs, but the mother, for some reason, stopped giving them to her when she was about 15 months old. She was taken back to the doctor around her second birthday and tests showed the baby was HIV-free, even though she had been off medication for 8 to 10 months.

JOHNSTON: What fantastic news. This is something that I don't anybody would have expected.

COHEN: The key to success here might have been that the baby received relatively high doses of three HIV drugs soon after birth. Usually HIV positive newborns get low doses of one or two drugs after birth.

If other babies could be cured after just 15 months on drugs, that would be huge. Now HIV positive babies take these drugs for life and they can be toxic. More studies need to be done, but this case may have inadvertently paved the way for other babies to have a brighter future.


COHEN (on-camera): Now, on routine testing, they can't find HIV in this baby's body. However, under super duper sensitive testing only used for research, they found remnants of RNA and DNA from the virus, and that's why some doctors are saying she's functionally cured, that there are remnants still in her body, but that, really, she's doing fine. They're not treating her for HIV. Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning. Thank you, Elizabeth. Appreciate the update.

In a couple of minutes, we'll be talking to Rowen Johnston. She's that vice president and director of research for amfAR, the foundation dedicated to researching HIV and AIDS that funded the study into the girl's cure. We'll talk with her about some of the questions that are now coming up about this story and this cure.

Developing now, a Delta Airlines flight makes an emergency landing at Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport after a fire was reported on board. The plane was on its way to Mumbai, India. We aren't hearing any reports of injuries at this point and Delta says they're trying to figure out another flight for passengers. We'll bring you more details on that story as it happens.

Happening right now, another powerful winter storm that's got its sights on the nation's capital. Right now, it's dumping several inches of snow across the Midwest. It's headed toward D.C. That brings us to Jennifer Delgado. She's in the CNN Weather Center and has more on this for us.

All right. It's moving. How bad is it going to be?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, we're talking more than a foot of snow in some of these parts. Now, right now, it's affecting the Northern Plains and we do have blizzard warnings in place for parts of North Dakota. And then if you move over to areas like Minneapolis as well, Chicago, 6 to 9 inches, 6 to 12 inches of snowfall. But it's not just going to stay there. It's going to be moving through the Central Midwest, and the uncertainty comes as we move over towards the mid-Atlantic. We'll talk more about that.

But right now let's focus on totals. You can kind of see where the heaviest amounts are going to be. For Fort Wayne, 12 to 18 inches of snowfall. Don't forget to add in gusty winds. So the gusty winds around, of course, this is going to hurt visibility at times.

Now, for the mid-Atlantic, for Washington, D.C., anywhere you're seeing in purple, that's potentially 12 or more inches of snowfall. Of course, those high elevations, like the blue, where they're going to see the most significant snowfall. But for Washington, D.C., there's still is some question there and it all depends on the track of this low. Now, if it stays more to the south and it moves over towards the east, we will see more snow for Washington, D.C. all the way down towards North Carolina. But if it moves up toward the north, we could see that affecting more of those big cities like New York City as well as into Philadelphia.

And, Soledad, also want to point to you, with the strong winds, we're also going to be talking about the threat for some coastal flooding as well as storm surge along with the snow. And that will last through Thursday.

O'BRIEN: Aren't we close to spring?

DELGADO: Yes, March 20th. I'm counting it down with you.

O'BRIEN: All right. We'll hold our breath for that. Thanks, Jennifer.

In just about an hour, demolition teams will be back at the site of that giant sinkhole that killed a man near Tampa, Florida. Yesterday, crews began to carefully tear down the condemned house above the sinkhole, which is about 30 feet wide and 60 feet deep. It's now filled with clay and debris.

37-year-old Jeff Bush is presumed dead after the earth gave way under him as he slept in his bed. George Howell is live for us in Seffner, Florida. He has the very latest on this story. Hey George, good morning.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning. You know, to be here, to stand in front of this home, in many ways, it feels like being at a memorial site. And I want to give you a good look at the home. In the foreground, first of all, you see a small memorial. You see that stuffed bunny rabbit, flowers; these are the things that people brought. And in the background, you see that heap of wood. That was a home full of memories. Family and friends watched tearfully over the weekend as crews carefully, delicately, tore down the walls.


HOWELL (voice-over): A demolition crew started work Sunday on a Florida home condemned because of a sinkhole that killed one of its occupants. Hundreds of spectators watched as a backhoe plunged through the roof, ripping down walls, and putting pieces of the Bush family life on public display.

MIKE MERRILL, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR: The family is very close-knit. Many of the family actually lived in the house over the years, belonged to the grandmother. And so, they all have a close, personal connection.

HOWELL: Crews helped salvage valuables, including military medals and an American flag. But authorities say it will not be possible to recover the body of 37-year-old Jeffrey Bush. He's is the only one of six family members at home who was unable to escape when the sinkhole opened Thursday night.

His brother, Jeremy, says he tried to save him.

JEREMY BUSH, BROTHER KILLED BY SINKHOLE: I ran in there, all I could see was this big hole. All I seen was the top of his bed. I could see nothing else. So I jumped in the hole, tried digging him out. I couldn't get him. All I could hear was -- I thought I could hear him screaming for me, hollering for me help me. But I couldn't do nothing.

HOWELL: The search for Bush was called off when authorities said it became clear he could not have survived. Tearing down the home will give officials a better look at the sinkhole, which is still expanding, and help them find the best way to fill it.

Several other homes had to be evacuated. People were only given 30 minutes to get their belongings.


HOWELL (on-camera): Back to a live picture here in Seffner, Florida, where you see this chain-linked fence around the two homes beside that blue home. Again, it's still unclear whether the sinkhole is growing, so those two homes on either side have been condemned. The demolition is expected to continue here within the next hour, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: George Howell for us this morning. Thank you, George.

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking out four months after he lost the presidential election. We're learning that he and his wife aren't quite over it yet, a little more Ann than the governor.

In his first post-election interview, a very candid Mitt Romney acknowledged his campaign failures, then also talked about the agony of defeat.


MITT ROMENY (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still care and I still believe there are principles that we need to stand for. And I look at what's happening right now, I wish I were there. It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done.


O'BRIEN: CNN's Shannon Travis is live for us in Washington, D.C., with more. Hey Shannon, good morning.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Hey there. Good morning, Soledad. Yes, I was part of the team that covered Mitt Romney during the campaign. I have never seen him this candid before, admitting in that quote that you just played that it kills him to not to be in the White House, admitting that he doesn't have a lot of credibility with the Republican Party in terms of advising them on how to win going forward.

And then there's this, him talking about the very moment that he actually realized that he'd lost the election. Take a listen.


ROMNEY: It was a slow recognition, ultimately until when the Ohio numbers came in, and they were disappointing. I said, look, this looks like we've lost. It wasn't uncertain. Some people said, oh look, if this number here comes in, well, you could win. By 8:00, 9:00, it was pretty clear that we were not going to win.


TRAVIS: And then there's those 47 percent comments that he made at a secret meeting with donors. Take a listen to what Mitt Romney says now about how much that damaged his chances.


ROMNEY: When you speak in private, you don't spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and could come out wrong and be sued. But I did, and it was very harmful. What I said is not what I believe. Obviously, my whole campaign, my whole life, has been devoted to helping people, all the people. I care about all of the people in the country. But that hurt. There's no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.


TRAVIS: And, Soledad, Ann Romney, a part of that interview, also equally candid, saying that she's cried several times over the loss, that she mourns the fact that her husband is not president. And also she's assigning some blame. Take a listen.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: It was not just the campaign's fault. I believe it was the media's fault as well. Is that he was not being given a fair shake, that people weren't allowed to really see him for who he was.


TRAVIS: Now, Soledad, Ann Romney says that she has gotten over most of it. And one last little thing, she revealed that she actually thought about going on "Dancing with the Stars", but she's turning 64. Soledad, she says she's just not flexible enough.

O'BRIEN: But who really is? That's what you have to do the workout for. No, I thought that was a very interesting and revealing interview, and she clearly is far more upset in the aftermath and one could understand that. I mean, she's obviously a big booster for her husband and so any slight that comes his way, she feels probably twice as deeply as he even did.

TRAVIS: She's a big defender of his.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Yes, clearly, and has been a big champion of his as well. Shannon Travis for us. Thanks, Shannon.

At the bottom of the hour, we're going to get reaction from New York Congressman Peter King to talk a little bit more about the Governor Romney's regrets, the latest on the sequestration standoff between Dems and Republicans, and some of the harsh words he's had to say about a certain senator who's been fundraising in New York after not voting for aid after Hurricane Sandy. So lots to talk about with Peter King, straight ahead.

First, though, John Berman's got a look at some other stories making news.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. Catholics may have a new Pope in less than two weeks if everything goes quickly. A Vatican spokesman says Benedict XVI's successor may be in place by March 15th. More than 100 cardinals are meeting this morning and then again this afternoon. One of the things they may get to, setting a date for the conclave.

As that goes on, former British cardinal Keith O'Brien, who abruptly resigned and said he would not attend the conclave, he's now admitting he's guilty of sexual misconduct. He released a statement saying, "There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.: Really starting comments right there. CNN analyst and correspondent for the "National Catholic Reporter," John Allen, is in Rome for us. John, any insight yet as to when we can expect the conclave to begin?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN ANALYST: Hi, John. Officially no. As you said, all of the cardinals of the world, including those who are over 80 and won't vote in the conclave, are meeting this morning. They will go back in again this afternoon. One of the top items on their to-do list is to establish the date, but we don't necessarily expect them to do that today. The leading theory in Rome at the moment is that we may be looking at a conclave beginning sometime over the weekend, perhaps as early as Sunday.

In addition to that, of course, they have got to start outlining not only the challenges facing the next Pope, but of course the real heavy lifting is who is that next Pope going to be? And we think that they are going to begin talking about that in very frank and candid fashion this week.

BERMAN: Behind closed doors, though, as we speak. All right, John Allen for us in Rome this morning. Our thanks to you.

New developments overnight, Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, while both were visiting Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The surprise meeting focusing on efforts to resume the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians Kerry wrapped up a two-day visit to Egypt on Sunday, pledging $250 million in U.S. aid to support that country's future as a democracy.

Later this morning, at the White House, President Obama is scheduled to make three nominations for his second term. We just learned he will nominate Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. She is currently an assistant administrator at the EPA dealing with air issues.

And MIT physicist Ernest Moniz will get the nod to be the next Energy Secretary. Finally, the president will nominate Sylvia Matthews Burwell to be the next director of the Office of Management and Budget. She's 47 years old; she currently heads the Walmart Foundation.

So we're now entering the first full week of those forced spending cuts. Between now and September, $85 billion must be slashed from the federal budget and there's not even a hint of compromise on Capitol Hill, even though the White House said the president was working the phones over the weekend.


GENE SPERLING, OBAMA ADVISER: We're not just trying to make calls to read out the names. He's making those calls to see where there might be a coalition of the willing, a caucus for common expense, and trying to build trust.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: The issue is spending. Spending is out of control. There are smarter ways to cut spending than this silly sequester that the president demanded.


BERMAN: Now in that interview, House Speaker John Boehner went on to say he is not sure that the forced spending cuts will actually hurt the economy.

And an incredible buzzer-beating shot decides a New York state high school championship game. New Rachelle, which is the team in black, was down two points when Khalil Edney hit a 55-footer - that is amazing - to beat archrival Mt. Vernon. This was just a chaotic scene at the end of the game.

Initially, refs waved the shot off saying time had expired, but they kept on reviewing it, and reviewing it, and reviewing, and honestly, you look at the clock, and there's like 0.1 second left as it leaves his hand right there. The shot did beat the buzzer. You will never see kind of a closer, more chaotic, unbelievable shot than that to end a game.

O'BRIEN: That was awesome.

BERMAN: There it is. I mean, seriously.

O'BRIEN: And the fans go wild in the stands.

An amazing story we're talking about this morning. A baby cured of HIV. Up next, one of the researchers who's foundation helped fund the study into her cure will talk with us.

Plus, we've got a look at business news this morning.

ROMANS: If you are unemployed, you need a job to pay your bills, but if your unpaid bills are giving you bad credit, you may have trouble getting a job. The scary cycle hurting millions of Americans, just ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Back to our top story. Doctors are saying they have cured a baby of HIV. It's taken place in Mississippi. Rowena Johnston is the vice president and director of research for amFAR, an foundation dedicated to research in HIV/AIDS that funded the study in to this girl's cure. It's nice to have you with us.

Let me understand how it all began. The baby was given retrovirals at a very high dosage 30 hours after she was born and that seems to be the thing that was incredibly effective. Why was that something that normally isn't tried on infants?

ROWENA JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR, RESAERCH, AMFAR: Well, the infant was actually given a standard treatment dose of anti- retroviral therapy. Normally what we would do is an prophylactic regimen, but the physician in question was relatively confident that this child was at quite high risk for HIV, and so she made the decision to start the infant on treatment while the diagnostic tests were ongoing to determine whether or not the infant did have HIV infection. And at roughly the same time that the anti-retroviral therapy was started, she did determine the child had become infected.

O'BRIEN: So, tell me a little bit about the testing that was done to determine the baby was, in fact, HIV positive. I'm sure you are aware, there are some who push back and think maybe she was not HIV positive. Walk me through the test that would confirm, in fact, she was.

JOHNSON: That's right. We do have to test infants in an unusual way to determine they are HIV positive, and those tests were done in this infant. These are tests that we call PCR and they look for nucleic acids that are direct evidence of the presence of the virus. These tests were actually done four times in some at the age of 30 hours and 31 hours and also subsequently for the first fewer weeks of anti- retroviral therapy treatment. The child was tested repeatedly, and each time there was evidence that the infant did have the virus. Although, the good news was that during the course of anti-retroviral therapy, those virus levels were decreasing so she was responding well to the treatment. But there are probably in total seven or eight tests that demonstrate that she was HIV infected.

O'BRIEN: The mother, we know, was getting health care and then she sort of dropped out of the system and returned. And that's kind of how the surprise that, in fact, the viral load was much less than would you expect for somebody who -- for her child who was not actually taking any medication. What are the implications potentially? Is the takeaway start giving that -- those retrovirals at 30 hours as was done in this case for any baby who might have a risk of HIV? What is the takeaway for others?

JOHNSON: I think, first of all, we need to do further research to confirm whether or not these results are generalizable to other infants. In case they are, I do think that this has very important implications for how we might go about treating infants who are born to HIV positive mothers. And ultimately if we are able to cure HIV infections, and this is an "if" - we do need further research to confirm this - but it really has huge implications, because infants who are born HIV positive, may not, in fact, face a lifetime of HIV infection and a lifetime of anti-retroviral therapy. This may be something that we can cure. This might applicable only to this population, but it really is a great, optimistic boost to our efforts to find a cure for HIV.

O'BRIEN: Rowena Johnston is a PhD, she is the vice president and director of research at amfAR. Nice to have you with us this morning. Appreciate your time.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, unemployed Americans need a job to pay their overdue credit card bills, but to get a job, often they need to have good credit. We'll take a look at the credit catch 22 coming up next.

Then he is spearheading an event to mark the 50th anniversary of 1963 Birmingham civil rights movement. Bill Cosby will join us live with details, back in a moment.


ROMANS: Welcome back, "Minding Your Business" this morning. Looking like a rough start to the week for stocks. The latest, China, government efforts there to slow down the real estate market sent stocks tumbling there. Europe also down. Now we're seeing red arrows in the U.S. as well. Futures are lower.

All right, you get a callback, score a job interview. Your references put in a good word for you and then you fail the credit check, and you don't get hired. A new report from DeMos shows employment credit checks are hurting some people who need the work the most. Forty- seven percent of employers do conduct credit checks on new potential hires. It is legal if the employer gets permission from the applicant.

The survey found 1 in 7 people with poor credit have been denied work because of that bad credit history. Poor credit is a FICO score below 620. The survey also found Latinos and African-Americans can be disproportionately more likely to report poor credit and the unemployed, right. They get squeezed right? You don't have a job, your credit score gets hit while you are looking for work because you can't always pay the bills.

This is something that is this catch-22 for people trying to get a job. One thing this report found that I thought was interesting, some of these people thought they were losing out on a job because of a mistake on their credit history. If you're going to buy a house, you're going to buy a car, or you're looking for a job in the next six months, you've got to check now to make sure there aren't mistakes. Go to for a free credit report.

O'BRIEN: That's terrible. What a terrible catch-22. I see it all the time in college students. They need the first job, and yet their college loans are sucking them dry.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Check your credit today.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, here's an interesting story: senior citizens home under fire after a nurse refused to give a dying resident CPR, in spite of the pleas that were coming from the 911 dispatcher. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not at this time.

(END AUDIO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Coming up next, how the home is defending that move.

Then, he's s legend, of course, in the entertainment industry, a huge supporter of civil rights. Coming up, we'll talk to Bill Cosby about his plan to honor 50 years since those history-changing events in Birmingham, Alabama. We're back in just a moment.