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Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien

New Facts Emerge About Attack on U.S. Consulate in Libya; Affirmative Action Case Brought to Supreme Court; TSA Criticized for Insensitivity; Benghazi Attack Hearing; Shedding Light On Consulate Attack; Foreign Policy Fallout; Searching For Jessica; Smoke Grenade And Hatchet In Luggage; Lucky To Be Alive; Meningitis Death Toll Now At 12

Aired October 10, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our "starting point" this morning: what exactly happened in Benghazi? New details and new admissions from the State Department as Congress launches a full-scale hearing that's expected to be explosive.

Affirmative action. The Supreme Court takes up the racially charged issue today. Why this time it could be struck down.

The meningitis scare. Dr. Sanjay Gupta travels to the troubled pharmacy behind the drugs the feds say killed 11 people. What he finds is stunning.

And from singer to space tourist. Sarah Brightman is going from the stage to the stars as she prepares to visit the International Space Station. Find out what inspired her trip, just ahead.

It's Wednesday, October 10th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

O'BRIEN (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Got a packed show for you this morning. We're going to be talking to Columbia University President, Lee C. Bollinger. He's the man behind the last affirmative action case that was in front of the Supreme Court back in 2003.

We're going to talk to Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He joins us. He's right at the forefront of the Benghazi investigation by Congress.

CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, will join us, and singer Sarah Brightman is our guest.

Our "starting point" this morning is piecing together what exactly happened in Benghazi. The State Department now giving a very detailed account of last month's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in Libya.

The House Oversight Committee will weigh in on security failings during a hearing that's happening later today. And the State Department is now saying that the attack was not a spontaneous off shoot of protests. They say U.S. and Libyan security personnel in Benghazi were out manned, a reasonable security presence would not have fended off the assault. U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in that attack. Senior international correspondent Arwa Ddamon went to the consulate ruins to help piece together exactly what happened.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amid the ashes, soot, and debris, remnants of the life that was. It's all that remained in the unguarded U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi when CNN arrived on the scene three days after the September 11th attack. Eyewitnesses told us it was a complex assault. The compound's first line of defense easily breached.

According to one of the Libyan guards who was stationed at the gate, armed with only a radio, the assault happened simultaneously from three different directions. He says that he initially heard chanting growing increasingly louder and then suddenly the gunfire, the rocket- propelled grenades, and other heavy machine gunfire all began attacking the compound.

This is where Ambassador Chris Stevens slept, a makeshift safe room. Here on the floor is where CNN found the ambassador's journal. It is also the same room where the ambassador was located hours after the attack first began, separated by smoke from his security detail. The U.S. initially said the assault was a result of a demonstration turned violent.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just trans fired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo which were prompted, of course, by the video.

DAMON: That was not the case. The State Department is now saying that there was nothing unusual prior to the attack. At 8:30 p.m., everything was calm, and just over an hour later, armed men launched their assault.

Libyan officials say they warned the Americans on many occasions about the growing threat from extremists. The compound had already been attacked in June, and there had been numerous attacks on other western interests in Benghazi. And yet it remained a poorly fortified, soft target. Documents recently obtained by CNN indicate that the State Department's top security official in Libya asked for extra security but received no response from superiors. Why is just one of many questions still to be answered.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Beirut.


O'BRIEN: Let's get right to foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott in Washington, D.C. We heard Arwa end her piece with why. We heard now the dramatic crazy descriptions of what happened when this team was trying to make their way, really fight their way literally into the annex. Describe for me that horrific car ride that is being described by the State Department.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, Soledad, after there was an attack at the main compound where Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith died, they had this chase with them, with these extremists all of the way through the city. There was this traffic. There were these windy roads. As you know, Benghazi, a pretty decent size city in Libya, and so there was a t lot of traffic out in the evening.

They made their way to the annex. There was another few hours of firefight between additional extremists and additional team of U.S. guards, if you will, that were kind of a quick reaction force that came back to the annex. And after a couple of hours they said, listen, we really have to get out of here and they evacuated everybody. They found ambassador Stevens at the hotel actually at the hospital. Actually someone at the hospital didn't know who he was. Fished into his pocket and took out his cellphone and started calling people on the cellphone to determine that it was Ambassador Stevens. They got his body and they got out of Benghazi.

O'BRIEN: So when you read the details and start to understand what transpired, you really realize that the chaos of just how horrible it was. When there are questions that are now being raised and raised for a while now about the lack of security, what are the explanations from the State Department about that?

LABOTT: OK, well, there are a couple of things. There are these charges, and I think you're going to hear a lot of people speaking today. Andy Wood, a leader of this so-called security support team, providing extra support to the whole country, U.S. employees and the whole country, and also Eric Nordstrom, the top security official in Libya, asking for more security, and his responses were unanswered. And they said they wanted to keep the security presence to a minimum.

O'BRIEN: Elise, let me stop you there because I'm going to play what Andy Wood said to CBS News.



WOOD: For enhanced or continued security that we had, that we had known, that we had come to live with and work with there for the environment we had, we felt we need more, not less.


O'BRIEN: The $64,000 question, of course, is, so why would requests like that go unheard and unanswered?

LABOTT: That's the big question. When asked who said that, he said the State Department superiors. And there is one woman testifying today, Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary, where it seemed that the buck stopped with her and she was the one that said, you know, need to keep the security to a minimum. But Soledad, what officials are saying is, listen, there was security improvements made to the consulate, to the office, over the last several months leading up to the attack because there were other attacks on the consulate. There was this IED attack and other western targets.

But what they're saying is the kind of assault that they suffered that night, this 40 armed gunmen, out-manning everybody there, they say that no reasonable security presence could have fended of what they had that night. And so, yes, there will be a lot of questions about whether there was adequate security, but they're saying really we could have not foreseen this. This is unprecedented in U.S. diplomatic history.

I think, Soledad, the question that's going to be asked right now is, given the threat environment in Libya, given the threat environment in eastern Libya, Benghazi, should this office have been opened, should Ambassador Stevens have been there? They need to go throughout the country, this is the work they do, they know that it's dangerous. But despite the threats this cannot stop. I think after the attacks in Tanzania and Kenya, there was a lot of legislation put in place and I think that they're going to be a lot of calls for measures, additional measures to put in place for U.S. diplomats when Secretary Clinton says they're really on the front lines of U.S. diplomacy is what we saw.

What they're going to be talking about today at the hearing. We're going to talk to one of the congressmen who is running the hearing today. Thanks, Elise.

Let's get to our top stories. John Berman has got that for us. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of news this morning. Mitt Romney enjoying a nice bounce in the Buckeye state. Take a look at the brand new CNN/ORC poll of likely voters in Ohio after the first presidential debate, the president's lead there shrinking to four points. That is well within the margin of error. And that makes the race for 18 electoral votes sort of a statistically dead heat. Before the debate some polls had the president ahead by as many as 10 points. I should say Barack Obama only beat John McCain in Ohio by four points. I think they would take a four-point win there, no problem.

Mitt Romney's not flip-flopping on big bird after he promised to cut fund for PBS. The Obama camp went on the attack accusing the Republican nominee of trying to kill the prop particular Sesame Street character. But Romney is doubling down. Here's what he told Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" last night.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Big Bird is going to be just fine. Sesame Street is a wonderful enterprise. CNN does not get funding but somehow y'all stay on the air. I just think that PBS will be able to make it on its own just like every one of the other stations and does not require us to go to China to borrow money to keep PBS on the air.


BERMAN: The camp quickly produced a TV ad mocking Romney's position on PBS. Big Bird is feature in the spot. They're asking the White House to stop running this ad.

The vice presidential candidate is getting ready for their one in one debate, their only debate tomorrow night. Vice president Biden is in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown, preparing. Romney's running mate Paul Ryan is headed to Danville, Kentucky, where the debate will take place. Of course, you can watch the vice presidential debate live tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. eastern on CNN and on It will be interesting, to say the least.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely, it will be.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, affirmative action is what we're tackling today. The Supreme Court is taking up that racially charged issue. Up next we're going to talk to a university president who was the last to look into this issue in front of the Supreme Court. Columbia University professor Lee Bollinger, president, forgive me. I just demoted him.

And shocking and disturbing video. An SUV slams into a man. Look at that. Oh, my goodness. Crossing the street, sends him 10 feet in the air.

Plus, a look at business. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, if you drive a Toyota, enormous, enormous global recall under way. What you need to know if you're driving a Toyota next. You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans minding your business. Toyota announcing its biggest recall ever, almost 7.5 million vehicles due to a problem with its power windows that could pose a fire hazard. That includes about 2.5 million cars in the U.S. the Japanese automaker says the driver's side window could stick. The most common fix, applying a lubricant to the switch, could result in a fire.

U.S. stock futures are down pointing to a lower open. Stocks are not too far from five-year highs, but it's the jobs market, of course, everyone is worried about. Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of GE can't stop talking about the surprising jobs report from Friday. He wrote this morning in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed, quote, "the 7.8 percent unemployment figure released by the BLS last week is downright implausible. And that's why I made a stink about it."

Here's how he made that stink. In a tweet right after the jobs report came out, he said, quote, "Unbelievable jobs numbers. These Chicago guys will do anything. Can't debate, so change numbers." Economists say a large number of Americans reported working part time are starting to work at home that drove the jobless rate lower. Looking at the trend though, of course, is what economists like to do because that's more important. The jobless rate has been falling pretty consistently since the beginning of last year. So Jack Welch just can't let it go. He said he was right about the strange jobs report.

O'BRIEN: If you say so, sir.


ROMANS: In just a few hours the Supreme Court justices are going to begin hearing arguments concerning affirmative action in college admissions. The case involves a student, Abigail Fisher, claims the University of Texas rejected her because she's white. Let's talk to somebody who knows a lot about this firsthand. Lee Bollinger is the president of Columbia University, president of University of Michigan between 1996-2002, during which time he served as defendant in two Supreme Court case on affirmative action. Thank you for talking with us.


O'BRIEN: When that case ended back in 2003, the sense was, maybe we'll need to discuss this for another 25 years. So here we are nine years later. Affirmative action before the Supreme Court. What has changed that this is now before the Supreme Court again?

BOLLINGER: Well, I don't think anything has changed. I think the Gruder decision which was in 2003 as you mentioned, really for the first time set down the principle that affirmative action at universities is constitutional under the 14th amendment. Nothing is really changed since then.

The Texas case does involve an unusual set of facts. I can go into that if you want, but it is unique in higher education. Basically they admit the top 10 percent of every high school in the state. And that helps to get them diversity because the state -- the schools are de facto segregated. No other university uses that, so it's possible that the court just wants to look at that particular policy. If they do --

O'BRIEN: But there are many people think they will expand it that this will really not just look at that particular policy where they admit the top 10 percent of every single school, but, in fact, that they will look at affirmative action overall. And the makeup of the Supreme Court could have a very, you know, dramatic impact on how that's going to happen.

Let me ask you a question between -- from what this woman is saying in this case, Abigail Noel Fisher. She said this, "There are people in my class with lower grades who weren't in all the activities I was in who are being accepted to UT, and the only difference is the color of our skin. For an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me." Do you think she's wrong about her position?

BOLLINGER: Well, I think it's really every university in the country, public and private, for the past half century, basically, has tried to build diverse student bodies. And we take geographic diversity into account, we take social economic diversity into account, and we also try to build a racially and ethnically diverse student body. This is something that is part of the tradition in the United States of bringing people together from different life experiences, that it makes a better, richer educational environment.

So all the students who were admitted to schools basically can do the work. We know that. They are the very top students. And within a pool of candidates, that's how we select our student bodies. So it's not really fair, I think, to describe it as she has.

O'BRIEN: Diversity comes on all fronts. Lee C. Bollinger is the president of Columbia University. Obviously we're going to watch closely what the Supreme Court does.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a woman who is dying says the TSA humiliated her on what is likely to be her last trip ever. TSA telling a different story this morning. It's our Get Real, straight ahead. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. Our team this morning, Ryan Lizza is Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker." Roland Martin is the host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" on TV-1 and he does a radio hit right before this so he will be coming in. Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway is here with us this morning. John Berman is always with us.

Our Get Real, another potential sad story for the TSA. A woman who is terminally ill accusing airport screeners in seat of humiliating her on what she is describing as likely her last flight ever. 34 years old. Her name is Michelle Dunaj and she has leukemia. She packed a lot of prescription drugs for an end of life trip to Hawaii last week, then she cleared them with the airline ahead of time. When she actually got to security checkpoint she says TSA agents ended up puncturing one of her saline bags and was feeling all of the tubes attached to her. They refused, she said, he request for a private screening, forced her to lift her shirt so they could inspect her bandages in front of everybody. Here's what she says.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When somebody wants to take a trip, especially what I call an end of life trip because you want to see your family and friends, then it becomes -- it's even more important than just taking a trip.


O'BRIEN: TSA says in viewing videotape of the incident and say proper procedures were followed. I think the bigger issue in all of this, whenever these things happens, it's somebody who obviously is under any kind of medical treatment, that allows -- you then go to plan b, right, because clearly it's a sensitive issue. Anybody, not even someone who is on an end of life trip and dying of leukemia, anybody.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: TSA says the policy is to be as minimally invasive as possible. And in her case, I think that she's an exhibit a of somebody who is taken back in the private area and maybe somebody can look at all of her doctors' notes and not make her feel like she's on display to the other passengers.

O'BRIEN: When I tore my knee, I was on crutches. You could see there was an effort to say, we have to stick to the policy. But sometimes they would say you have to put your crutches through the machine but, OK, I cannot walk through it. I can't -- and you can see everyone sort of like, we're trying to follow the rules but it's also very tough. I could have asked to be privately screened but I never did because I was rushed on the flight.

TSA has to own up to the fact that they have rules.

O'BRIEN: That's true.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR I fly all over the country. You go through one airport, there's one procedure. You go through another. Some airports ask your name, you have to show your boarding pass as you go through.

O'BRIEN: Shoes, no shoes.

MARTIN: No belts.


O'BRIEN: I love when people are very nice. How do I get through without my crutches?

CONWAY: The baby strollers are the worse, too.

O'BRIEN: Don't even tell me. The smaller the child, the more gear they have. Very frustrating. I feel sorry for that woman. That's tough.

Still ahead, what exactly happened during the September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi? The State Department is now releasing some new details. It's a confusing story. We're going to get to the bottom of that. And also we're going to talk to Congressman Jason Chaffetz on the House Committee investigating the attack. He is just back from Libya.

And then left for dead, a man gets hits by a car, thrown ten feet in the air. Now police are trying to track down the driver. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. Congress today is looking into the murky circumstances that led to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. In just a few hours the house oversight and government reform committee is going to hold a hearing expected to focus on possible intelligence failures before the deadly September 11th attack. This is just a day after a bombshell briefing from the state department which says the violent protests over the anti-Islam video which the Obama administration had claimed for some of the deaths of those four U.S. officials never even took place in Benghazi. State Department official told reporters during a conference call this.

There had been nothing unusual during the day. There was nobody on the street. Then at 9:40, they saw the security cameras -- they saw on the security cameras there were armed men invading the compound.

Joining us this morning from Capitol is Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He is the chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, recently returned from a fact finding trip to Libya ahead of today's hearings.

It's nice to see you as always. Thank you for talking with us. So what do you think of this new information that is coming to us from the State Department call?

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: It's troubling. I'm glad it's happening. I think it's a result of the fact that we are holding this hearing that the State Department and the White House are slowly coughing up the information that we deserve to have to make sure that it never ever happens again.

O'BRIEN: What do you want out of this hearing? I mean, do you want to see what the intelligence failings were? What's your ultimate goal?

CHAFFETZ: I think what we're going to hear is that we didn't meet the basic minimum standards required for a facility such as the one we had in Benghazi and the requests for more security personnel went unheeded, unanswered, and consequently, you know, you have the death of four Americans.

We've got to make sure that that doesn't happen again in Libya, but we've also got to make sure it doesn't happen in other places around the world. So we're the Oversight Committee, but we're also the Government Reform Committee.

We've got to get at the truth. Thus far, it's been a slippery attempt to try to get to the truth because the White House and the Obama administration has been very slow in giving us the facts.

O'BRIEN: There is a guy named Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood.


O'BRIEN: And I believe he's going to be testifying before you today. Here's a little bit of what he said to CBS this morning a couple days ago. Listen.


LT. COL. ANDY WOOD, ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: For enhanced or continued security that we had, that we had known, that we had come to live with and work with there for the environment we had, we felt we needed more, not less. There was pressure to reduce the number of security people there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pressure from where?

WOOD: Higher headquarters at State Department.


O'BRIEN: So to me that is very much a red flag in that. If the issue of course would be if the numbers are being intentionally kept low, who do you blame for that?

CHAFFETZ: Well, we have two people coming from the State Department who are going to answer those questions. Thus far, they have not owned up to it.

I mean, literally it's only been in the last 12 to 16 hours that the State Department is now even admitting there were no protests, the video was not the genesis of this.

So, you know, those facts are slowly coming out. We're going to pry them out of this administration and that's what the hearing is all about at noon.

O'BRIEN: You know, you have said that you believe that there's a coordinated effort between the White House and the State Department to, I guess, give a sense that it was normalized. That everything was better than it really was. What proof do you have of that kind of collusion, if you will?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I mean, look at the statements after the attack. You had Jay Carney, the White House spokesperson. You had the ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice. You have the State Department comments coming out.

Now we come out to find that those were absolutely not true. They are somewhere between totally false and absolutely not true. It's certainly --

O'BRIEN: I think that that's an exaggeration, Congressman.


O'BRIEN: Well, let's play them then.

CHAFFETZ: What is true about what she said?

O'BRIEN: Well, let's first play the -- what Ambassador Rice had to say. I think she's the one who went on September 16th on "Meet The Press" went further than everybody.

We don't have that clip. As you know, she said that she believed it looked like it was connected to protests. She went the furthest. But Jay Carney, I think that was on September 18th, actually said something not going quite as far. So I think we have her sound bite. Let's play the ambassador first.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo. It's almost a copycat demonstration against our facility in Cairo, which was prompted, of course, by the video.


O'BRIEN: It was Jay Carney who did not go as far. So my question for you would be when you say there was some kind of collusion. That was a very serious charge. Where are you seeing evidence of collusion between the State Department and the White House?

CHAFFETZ: Well, if you actually look at what Jay Carney said, I can pull up another clip for you and I think he actually goes even further. And when President Obama was asked directly on "The View" and on other situations, he led people to believe there was a video.

Remember, we have a document that we is now out there in the media, 230 security interests -- attacks and other threats against western interests. Our facility there in Benghazi was bombed twice prior to this.

How can you -- coming up on 9/11. We're in Libya. It's been bombed twice. The British ambassador there in Benghazi, an assassination attempt -- then we're led to believe that there was no reason to believe that we were under threat there in Benghazi?

We have people testifying today that is not the case. When that intelligence information comes forward, it doesn't go just to the State Department. It also goes to the White House.

That's why we have a National Security Council. So for the White House to claim ignorance on this is absolutely, totally not true.

O'BRIEN: Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?

CHAFFETZ: Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have -- think about this -- 15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, private army there for President Obama in Baghdad.

And we're talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces? When you're in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices how to prioritize this.

O'BRIEN: OK, so you're prioritizing. So when there are complaints that, in fact, that there was not enough security, you've just said absolutely, that you cut.

You are the one to vote against, you know, to increase security for the State Department, which would lead directly to Benghazi. That seems like you're saying you have a hand in the responsibility to this.


O'BRIEN: Right? The funding of the security, you're happy to cut it? How am I wrong?

CHAFFETZ: Because there are literally close to 200 embassies, consulate consulates, those types of things. You have thousands of people that are involved in this. You have to prioritize things.

Libya, before 9/11, two bombings on or consulate out there, of course, that's got to be a higher priority than making sure we're protecting some other emphasis.

O'BRIEN: We just heard from one of the clip that's going to testify before you today that there was definitely this pressure, in his mind, to not staff the embassy fully security wise.

Wouldn't that pressure be coming from you directly, essentially, people and others who voted against funding for security? Keep it low because there's no funding for security.

CHAFFETZ: You're also talking about a vote that never came to fruition because we actually continued at the exact same funding levels moving forward. This is a vote that happened at the House.

Remember, the Senate never got to this point. So we did a resolution. It's a red herring. The reality is you have to prioritize things and when you're talking about such a small, small number of security personnel there in country, that's a problem.

Another thing we're going to talk about in this hearing is the fact that the physical facilities themselves did not meet the minimum standards. When you're in Libya after a revolution, I've got to argue that that's got to be a higher priority than protecting some other, you know, compound in (inaudible) or whatever you might be. I don't mean to pick on them.

But you've got to prioritize things and what clearly didn't happen is Libya was not a priority. I believe what I heard is that it's because they wanted the appearance of normalization. That's what they wanted. That fit the Obama narrative moving forward.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see what comes out of your hearing today. It's nice to see you as always. Thank you for talking with us.

CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it. John Berman has an update on other stories making news. Good morning. BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. Police in Westminster, Colorado, have released a home video of a missing 10-year-old girl in hoping someone has seen Jessica Ridgeway will come forward.

The fifth grader disappeared last Friday while walking to school. Police have been scouring her suburban Denver neighborhood looking for clues.

Investigators say they got off to a late start to the search because Jessica's mother works nights and slept through a call from school officials after Jessica was absent from class.

A body armor clad Boston man flying from Japan to L.A. gets stopped at LAX and what they found inside his checked luggage, this will stun you, a smoke grenade, hatchet, knives, full-face respirator, body bags, even a bio hazard suit.

Wow. The 28-year-old Harris is charged with transporting hazardous materials. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chinese descent. He is scheduled to be in court later this week.

O'BRIEN: What did he say when they say why is all of this stuff in your bag?

BERMAN: That's what I think investigators will be wondering.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too busy patting down the woman --

O'BRIEN: See, good job by the TSA.

BERMAN: They managed to catch the arsenal in the bag there.


BERMAN: We're going to keep going here. North Carolina man is lucky to be alive this morning after being struck by a hit and run driver. Watch this.

John Lewis was heading to work early Saturday morning in Charlotte when he was hit by that car. He just went flying. The driver stopped. He got out, but then he got back in his car and he drove off.

Miraculously Lewis was able to get up and walk away about 6 minutes later. That is hard to watch. Police are still looking for the driver. It's amazing he's OK.

O'BRIEN: Wow. That's unbelievable.

BERMAN: I bring you some stories, don't I?

O'BRIEN: You -- yes, you certainly do, but I just think it's incredible. A guy would get out of the car, check, and think he's dead, yes. That's crazy. Wow, a lot of good news today. Interesting news, I should say.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, 11 people dying from meningitis outbreak. It could be thousands now more at risk. How did this happen? We're going to talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He went to where this pharmacy is that is now linked to the spread to try to get some answers from them.

A stage to the stars literally to the stars, singer, Sarah Brightman has a big announcement about her plan for space travel. No joke. She's going to space. Yes, we chat with her -- I told you. Lots of interesting news today. She's not going to do the parachute thing.


O'BRIEN: No, he did not jump. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Eleven people are dead. Another 119 are sick. A growing meningitis outbreak is affecting much of the country, 23 states. At the center of it all is this contaminated steroid injections that now 13,000 people could have received.

The FDA doesn't even have the authority to regulate pharmacies like the one that's now been linked to this medicine. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta went to Massachusetts for answers and what he found is very strange. Listen.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What it all boils down to is this, how could it have all happened in the first place? I'm finding a remarkably difficult to get any information whatsoever.

In fact, we drove about 40 miles outside of Boston to Renton, Massachusetts, to the home of the owner and operator of the compounding facility. Both he and his wife work there in the Department of Pharmacy.

We wanted to ask them some simple questions, but neither one of them would come to the door.

(voice-over): So we drove 25 miles to Framingham, Massachusetts. This is the NECC, the compounding facility at the heart of this outbreak. We just wanted some answers.

(on camera): We're with CNN. We were trying to get a hold of somebody to talk to about what's been going on here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, I have to ask you guys to leave the property.

GUPTA: They literally are telling us to leave the parking lot, not even be here. We know people from the FDA are inside. Obviously, a lot of cars are in the parking lot. People are working here in some capacity, but this is another example of just how ridiculous it has been to try and get any information whatsoever.

They wouldn't let us in the building, but behind the buildings this is what it looks like. Over there, that's the NECC, the compounding facility. Back here, it's a recycling facility, essentially looks like a dump.

Walking around here, people told us that there has been this relationship between the recycling facility and NECC for some time. Doing a little bit of the digging, we realize they are, in fact, owned by the same people.


O'BRIEN: Sanjay is in Boston this morning. That is stunning. So they own a dump and they own a medical processing facility. That's crazy.

GUPTA: And they're right next to each other. I mean, it was -- normally you think of -- when you talk about sterile, good practices in these pharmacies, there's some separation between these types of things and I mean, you saw it that was literally backing up to the door of this compounding center.

O'BRIEN: So why does the FDA not have jurisdiction over them? I mean, that seems to me like the first thing they would say is, separate your dump and your pharmacy.

GUPTA: Well, you know, the FDA, and we talked to them a lot about this, Soledad. For 20 years now, this has been one of their big issues. They do want regulation over this. They keep in mind the history of these compounding centers.

They started off as sort of, you know, being for individual patients. If a patient needed a slightly different dose of the same medication or needed to flavor it, for example, so it tasted better for a child, that's often what compounding facilities did.

I don't think they ever imagined they would grow to these huge centers where they would make 17,000 doses of the same medication and literally be shipping them all across the country. So it's sort of has gotten much bigger over the years.

But these compounding centers do not need to be accredited. That's a voluntary thing. As far as licensing goes, which this center gave up their license yesterday, the licensing goes.

If there's one inspection at the beginning of the compounding center when they apply for the license, and then they only intervene if there are problems. They can go for years without any inspections whatsoever.

O'BRIEN: Wow. That is just shocking to know. All right, Sanjay Gupta for us, updating us on this meningitis outbreak. Thank you, Sanjay. It's nice to see you as always. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, never too late to go for your dreams, that's the message from singer, Sarah Brightman. She's now about to achieve one of her childhood dreams, which is to travel to space. That's up next. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Such a pretty voice. Artist, Sarah Brightman, most known as the world's best soprano. She has thrilled audiences. That was the "Phantom of the Opera" and sold 30 million albums worldwide. So next year, she's going to kick off her "Dream Chaser" world tour.

She's got a new album for that, will reach five continents. But she is about to announce an upcoming trip that's literally out of this world.

She plans to sign a contract to join the tourist flight to the International Space Station. She literally has always wanted to go to space and she's doing it.

I sat down with her to talk about that.


O'BRIEN: Tell me about this trip. It's amazing. I'm excited for you and I'm anxious for you. How did it come about? And give me the details.

SARAH BRIGHTMAN, GLOBAL RECORDING ARTIST, ACTRESS, HUMANITARIAN: Well, I've just been designated by the Russian Space Agency cosmonaut in training and I will be making a journey on the Soyuz Rocket.

O'BRIEN: Do you know the date yet?

BRIGHTMAN: I have a year of touring and then go straight into training for that and then I will be going up. They're still deciding on the exact date.

O'BRIEN: Did you hesitate for a moment when you got the call? Did you say, wow, I knew I was dreaming about this, but to really go is a kind of a different thing?

BRIGHTMAN: I had to think about it very carefully and, of course, take my family into consideration. It was very sweet because when I first told my mother that this was my intention.

And I had been asked and wanted to go up, she slivered to start -- said, you know. Soyuz rocket has an excellent past and record and I would be completely safe and then she --

O'BRIEN: Did they tell you what you would have to do in training?

BRIGHTMAN: I had to go through the medical assessments, which were incredible. I went in the centrifuge to go up to 8 g. I had to do math while I was up there, to kind of keep yourself conscious. I have to do math while I was up there.

It was an amazing feeling, but quite frightening. I was put in such a compression -- air compression chambers, put on rotating chairs, which make you feel incredibly sick.

You are very prodded and poked throughout the whole thing, a lot of injections, blood taken and a lot of the psychological examination as well.

O'BRIEN: Over the next year, will you have to physically train, like running and weight lifting and stuff like that?

BRIGHTMAN: Yes. The great thing is that they don't want you too thin. But, yes. I'm a very healthy person anyway and this has proved it because I got through. And I'm incredibly excited.

O'BRIEN: I'm excited for you. It's amazing. Normally, it would cost something like $20 million. You don't have to underwrite that, right?

BRIGHTMAN: No. I'm getting a lot of help with sponsorship. This is Sarah Brightman, to designate you as UNESCO artist for peace. The beauty of this is that I've been made am ambassador for Peace for UNESCO, who have wonderful programs for women in education, women in the stem area.

I'm hoping I can connect with students, children, anyone who want withes to live vicariously through me while I'm off at the International Space Station.

O'BRIEN: So you'll be working the whole entire time, representing UNESCO?

BRIGHTMAN: But apparently you do get the best night's sleep there. Of course, it's like sleeping in water.

O'BRIEN: I can't even imagine.

The theme of your latest album "Dream Catcher" and even the single, your first single off of it, "Angel," had that theme of sort of looking out into space. Is this something that's been in your work all along, this passion for space?

BRIGHTMAN: It has, actually. My first single when I was 17, which was a vacation in Europe, I lost my heart to a Starship trooper. It was a joke single and it was fun.

Yes, right the way through I had an album called "La Luna," which was space themed and now this "Dream Chaser." What I am hoping and we are planning is that, of course, everybody says are you going to sing to space?

I'm hoping that this is going to be a possibility. We are planning actually something very extraordinary around the world while I'm up there. So it will be a connection from space to place. Everybody if they want to be can be involved in it. It does literally bring in music.

O'BRIEN: I'm so excited. We're in. We would love to do it. When it happens, let us know.

BRIGHTMAN: OK, thank you.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations on a remarkable, remarkable trip and your new album, too. It's nice to have you to talk about it with us.

BRIGHTMAN: Thank you very much.


O'BRIEN: I love her. She could do live shots for us from the International Space Station when that happens.

Still ahead this morning -- isn't it great?

MARTIN: Already booking guests.

O'BRIEN: See, look at that. I'm doing it all. Anchoring the show but booking guests for some time next year.

Ahead this morning, and back to a serious topic, the State Department and detailed account of the calculation behind last month's attack behind the mission in Benghazi, in Libya.

The only details they're adding though, adding a lot of confusion. Just ahead of the House hearing. We're going to talk about that this morning.

And a father who takes matters into his own hands after a school punishes his son for standing up to a bully. This is not the same story we told you about another kid who finally stood up to his bully and was punished by the school. A whole new one, that one is ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're talking this morning about the truth about Benghazi. New details from the State Department as Congress launches a full scale hearing that's been happening in just a few hours.

And the Supreme Court is taking up the racially charged topic of affirmative action today.