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Wildfires burn through Colorado causing thousands to evacuate, and protests in Turkey are in 13th day. Tune in at 7am ET.
September 26th, 2012
02:52 PM ET

Haitian President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe on Haiti's progress and disaster preparations

The turmoil in the Middle East might be front and center this week at the United Nations General Assembly but there are still other crisis that are drawing attention from people like actor and activist Sean Penn. Two and a half years after being ravaged by a magnitude 7 earthquake, the island nation of Haiti is still struggling to get back on its feet. Last month hurricane Isaac served as a painful reminder of Haiti’s troubles. Despite a flood of humanitarian aid from around the world, Haiti’s infrastructure remains weak, and roughly 400,000 people are still living in makeshift housing and tents. This morning, Haitian President Michel Martelly and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe visit the set of “Starting Point” in their first-ever joint interview.

Martelly says during his campaign for president he promised the people of Haiti that he would get them out of the make-shift tents and he is still “moving.” “One week after the earthquake we had about 1.5 million people still under the tents and today that number is down to about 300,000 and it tells you how far we came and how well we’re doing.” Martelly says his government has a “very well elaborated program,” that rehabilitates destroyed homes or provides a years worth of money for the displaced so they can afford a better place to stay.

Lamothe says right now Haiti is better prepared because of their “very strong risk disaster and prevention management program.” Lamothe says public funds are being dropped into the public budget in order to stay prepared in the vent of another disaster. The Prime Minister adds that ten hurricane shelters are also being built in the country.

Martelly disputes claims that Haitians were not aware of Hurricane Isaac, saying that the people were aware but “they felt alone.” The Haitian president also says there are problems with the education system. “We are having a problem today,” says Martelly but “we were able to put more than a million kids in school.”

Filed under: Haiti
September 26th, 2012
02:20 PM ET

Fmr. New York Giant Tiki Barber: NFL commentary is not about the players or teams – it’s about the referees

Outrage is growing over the botched call seemingly heard 'round the world’ when replacement refs handed the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Greenbay Packers Monday night. One New Jersey politician is looking to pass a bill that would bar replacement refs from refereeing New York Jets and Giants games. Other politicians are weighing in as well. On Twitter Tuesday, President Obama wrote: "NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs' lockout is settled soon. –bo." GOP nominee Mitt Romney also chimed in, saying” "I'd sure like to see some experienced referees ... come back out of the NFL playing fields." This morning on “Starting Point,” New York Giants retired running back, Tiki Barber gives his take on the replacement refs and whether they should be removed.

Barber says the current situation with the NFL replacement refs is revealing “of what’s happening around the NFL for the last 3 weeks. Barber also says the NFL commentary is not about the players or teams but about the referees which is ultimately detrimental to the league.

Filed under: Football
September 26th, 2012
02:06 PM ET

Obama campaign Adviser Michele Flournoy: Pres. clear in his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon

Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is slated to deliver his U.N. speech later today at the U.N. general assembly. the Iranian president follows president Obama’s speech in which he laid out clear opposition to any encroachment on a nuclear Iran. co-chair, Obama campaign national security advisory committee, Michele Flournoy speaks to John Berman and Christine Romans on “starting point” about Obama’s speech.

Flournoy who also served as the Under Secy. of Defense for Policy in the Obama Administration says the president has imposed “the most crippling sanctions ever imposed on any country.” Flournoy adds that Obama’s option to apply the use of force if necessary is “very real,” adding however that “we should still give diplomacy time to work.”

Flournoy says the president has been “consistently clear” in his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been urging the U.S. to set a “red line” for Iran. The former Under Secy of defense says a red line has been laid out to prevent Iran from getting a weapon. Flournoy adds that the Obama administration has “worked very closely in a number of areas on diplomacy and on sanctions to try and further isolate Iran and get them to change their decision making calculus and give up the quest for making a bomb.”

Flournoy says the international community still has time to sort things out with Iran because their facilities are monitored under IEA safeguards and “there’s a lot that [the U.S.] would see if they were to start to dash towards a bomb.”

Filed under: 2012 Race • Iran
September 26th, 2012
01:38 PM ET

CNN's Elise Labott says Ahmadinejad will “double down and up the ante” in his U.N. speech

On Wednesday, Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will deliver his final address to the U.N. General Assembly as president of Iran. World leaders await the speech, which follow Ahmadinejad’s recent comments on eliminating Israel from the Middle East and “there will be a new world order free of American bullying.” CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott joins CNN’s “Starting Point” with a preview of Ahmadinejad's speech.

Labott says expect to hear "more of the same" in Ahmadinejad's U.N. speech where she believes he will “double down and up the ante.” Adding that, "Ahmadinejad is “very sidelined at home, not very strong right now” and “likes to use the world stage as a bullying pulpit.” Labott says that the Iranian president’s fiery comments, such as those on “a new world order” have an audience amongst leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. Labott adds that Ahmadinejad new world order comments carry “a lot of residence with…some of these countries that do feel that the United States and the Western countries… call all the shots.”

Labott says there has been a lot of talk about Iran’s nuclear program, “but I think [Ahmadinejad’s] going to go in the opposite direction.”

September 26th, 2012
01:16 PM ET

TOUGH CALL: A father admits he has a favorite child in blog post and sparks heated debate

Radio talk show host Buzz Bishop started a heated debate after admitting that his 5-year-old son is his favorite of his two sons in a post about his first son’s birth. In a second post titled, “Admit it. You have a favorite kid. I do,” he said that he doesn’t love either of his sons more than the other. He just likes one more.

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Filed under: Tough Call
September 26th, 2012
01:06 PM ET

USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon on the new school food program from the Obama Administration

A growing uprising this morning over school lunches over the new guidelines from the Obama Administration that kicked in this year. The new regulations are designed to make school food healthier and more nutritious, ultimately limiting caloric and sodium intake. The program however is sparking a lunch room rebellion from students and educators alike. In Kansas, the new program prompted two teachers and some high school students to create a parody video which recently went viral on YouTube. Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition at the USDA, Kevin Concannon helped launch the program and has been visiting schools to see how students are adjusting. This morning Concannon joins “Starting Point” to discuss the new school menus and address the concerns of students, parents and teachers.

Concannon says from his nationwide visits it is apparent that “schools have made the adjustment to a much healthier diet.” “We’re serving just about the same number of calories s most schools were in the past. The difference being these are healthier calories. More fruits and vegetables and less pizza, less of those tater tots and generally … a much healthier meal for kids.”

The Undersecretary says the USDA is more than willing to help schools provide snacks for students. The new snacks would encompass food items such as whole wheat cheese pizzas, raw grape tomatoes and low-fat milk as opposed to a regular cheese pizza, canned pineapples and tater tots.

Concannon says the program is “a systemic effort to provide healthier foods to kids – 32 million American kids who have lunch at school everyday,” and for the most part students and school administrators have been pleased with the changes. Concannon recounts a visit with a first grader in New Orleans, “The little girl…we sat next to each other and she said ‘Sir if you don’t finish your broccoli, I’ll finish it for you’ and I declared hey that’s victory. We’re winning”

Concannon says he has “no hard feelings” over the video created by Kansas students and teachers and actually thought it was quite funny.

Filed under: Education
September 25th, 2012
02:43 PM ET

PBS documentary 'Dropout Nation' follows students in Houston on the verge of dropping out

It’s a staggering number - but more than 3-million students each year - drop out of high school. Many students attend what have commonly been called, "dropout factories." There are about 1,500 "factories" nationwide where 60% or less of students graduate. In a new documentary, PBS's frontline spent time at one of the schools - sharpstown high school in Houston, Texas and followed four students on the verge of dropping out. Sharpstown high school principal Rob Gasparello and FRONTLINE producer Frank Koughan join “Starting Point” to discuss the students in "dropout factories" and the teachers, counselors and principals who wage a daily struggle to guide them to graduation day.

Gasparello says there are a lot of frustrated and angry students but “there are a lot of students who we sort of redirect that anger and get them back on track.” Koughan agrees but says he worries that he is “stacking the deck against Sharpstown by following especially problematic kids for the course of the documentary.” Koughan adds that the high school has “as many successes if not more.”

From his director’s point of view, Koughan says “it seems like 70–75% percent of the problems these kids are dealing with are all outside of school. They’re all home-life related work-life related” like gangs and drugs.

Gasparello says “despite the fact that kids come to us with lots of anger, poverty and lots of tough life situations - they can be successful.” The Sharpstown principal adds that having mentors at the school who care and connect with the children adds to his school’s behavioral turnaround rate.

FRONTLINE'S “Dropout Nation” premieres on PBS Tuesday, at 9pm ET/PT.

Filed under: Education
September 25th, 2012
02:21 PM ET

Fmr. Congressman Robert Wexler on Obama: 'president has stellar record on foreign policy'

Little time remains before President Obama is scheduled to deliver his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Other world leaders like Sect. General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande are also scheduled to speak. The white house says Obama is expected to send a clear message that the united states will never retreat from the world and will bring justice to those who harm Americans amidst recent attack in Benghazi. some are however questioning the president’s decision to not hold private meetings with world leaders and making an appearance on ‘the view.’ (D-FL) Fmr. Congressman Robert Wexler is an Obama Campaign Surrogate and joins “Starting Point” this morning to discuss Obama’s foreign policy report card.

Despite Obama’s decision to not hold private talks during UNGA, Wexler says, Obama “constantly engages with leaders all across the world.” “In the last few weeks he has talked great lengths with the president of Egypt – with the prime minister of Israel, leaders in Libya, in Yemen, in Afghanistan,” adds Wexler.

Wexler says “this is a president who has a stellar record on foreign policy and is constantly engaged with his peers across the world in Europe, in Asia and so forth.”

CNN’s Elise Labott says while it might be true that Obama talks with world leaders, she still believes he made an error in judgment in not holding high-level talks at the United Nations General Assembly. “It looks as if the president is saying, I checked this box. I’m sewn up on the foreign policy aspect and I want to connect with the American viewers in a different way.”

September 25th, 2012
02:04 PM ET

'Laverne And Shirley' star Penny Marshall on her new memoir 'My Mother Was Nuts'

A generation of TV fans remember her as Laverne Defazio from the classic TV sitcom "Laverne and Shirley". Penny Marshall writes candidly about the hit show and her life in front and behind the camera, as well as her childhood, marriages and famous friends in her new memoir entitled "My Mother was Nuts". Defazio discusses the contents of her book with Soledad O’Brien.

Defazio says that as a child she had to form a sense of humor and learn what sarcasm was in order to be around her mother. Defazio describes herself as a Bronx native who is “not a articulate person,” but says she has “a strange combination of insecurity and fearlessness.

Defazio says she is still friends with her former "Laverne and Shirley" co-star. Defazio adds that she did not mind when her co-worker received a lot of dialogue in the scripts because she was ultimately better at business. On the topic of the show’s end, Defazio says her co-worker “got married, she was very happy” and was expecting a baby.

Filed under: Book • Celebrity
September 25th, 2012
01:44 PM ET

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz on Campbell's ad, salsa and his career

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is not just a star in the football field, but in a new ad campaign for Campbell’s Chunky Soup. And while the Superbowl champion holds the team record for most receiving yards in a season, he is happy to describe himself as a “Mama’s Boy” for the ad. Cruz joins Soledad O’Brien live on “Starting Point” this morning to discuss the new Campbell's campaign and his career.

In the ad, Cruz is seen speaking to the “team mascot” who convinces him to have Campbell’s Chunky Soup. A trip-up reveals that his “mom” and “grandma” are underneath the costume. But Cruz reveals that the two women featured in the commercial are not actually his mother and grandmother! Even so, Cruz was excited to be a part of the ad. “Campbell’s Chucky Soup is such a tremendous campaign to be a part of,” Cruz says, “and I’m just humbled to be one of the athletes that they chose to be a part of it.”

O’Brien asks Cruz about his signature salsa dance on the field. The New York Giants wide receiver says it resulted from the advice of one of his coaches who told him to represent his culture when he gets in the end zone. Cruz describes the moment he took that advice during week three of his NFL career. “So, I get my first catch, I’m going up the sideline, I’m about three yards away from the end zone. I look up, and I’m like, ‘Man, I got to do this dance now.’ So I break out the dance.”
The rest is history. “It was a feel good time,” Cruz says.

The obvious next step might have been to compete in “Dancing with the Stars” but Cruz turned it down. Cruz says it is something he feels could hopefully happen down the line. “I wanted to focus on my career.” he explains. “I wanted to focus on football, focus on my craft that I was doing at the time.”

For now, Cruz is just grateful to be a New York Giant. “I’m excited to go to work. I’m thankful that I have a job,” he says. He says if it were not for that week three game a year ago, “Who knows where I’d be?” So I wake up thankful everyday, brushing my teeth, excited to go to work.”

Cruz also shares his thoughts on whether the replacement refs really blew the game for the Green Bay Packers game.

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Filed under: Celebrity • Football
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