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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN
Battle For New Hampshire; Tucson Shooting Rampage: One Year Later; Gas Prices On The Rise; CT Paramedic Accused of Rape; Eve Of New Hampshire; RPT: Iran Enriching Uranium At New Facility; Excedrin and Bufferin Products Recalled
Aired January 9, 2012 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: During the break we were talking football.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, because it's really funny that we don't know anything about football. It's the top story. Good morning, everybody. This is EARLY START at 6:00 a.m. on the East, and it's just 3:00 in the morning on the West Coast, night-night.
SAMBOLIN: We know a little bit about football. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 6:01. Let's get started.
Countdown. New Hampshire eve, the rivals turn up the heat on Romney. Will it have any affect? We'll find out.
BANFIELD: We're going to watch the numbers. You see this man? He's a paramedic, but he's being charged with rape, accusations that he may have assaulted a woman in the back of an ambulance. Are you ready for this? Christmas morning. We're going to get to the bottom of it. Tell you all about it.
SAMBOLIN: We have an over the counter drug recall to tell you about as well, Excedrin, NoDoz, Gas X. If you have these in your medicine cabinet, you need to throw them out. Our medical correspondent is going to weigh in on that.
BANFIELD: Also, did you hear the one about Tim Tebow? Hello, Super Bowl. I think that's what he's thinking or he's thinking, thank you God, thank you, Jesus, for what just happened in overtime.
It was a fabulous 80-yard touchdown. I don't know. Did everyone expect it because he's been pulling off some serious miracles, lately. What kind, do you suppose? We'll talk about it.
SAMBOLIN: You can't discount the power of prayer there.
BANFIELD: I'm with you. I'm a big fan of prayer, no matter what kind of prayer. Whether it's meditation, church, prayer, I'm a big fan because there's clinical evidence to support it that makes you healthier. SAMBOLIN: There maybe evidence of football as well. So here we are just 24 hours to go before the New Hampshire primary. And mitt Romney must be feeling like a pinata. Republican field tangled in two-weekend debates.
Romney is comfortably ahead in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He is getting attacked from all sides. Star panelist here in New York, John Avlon, senior columnist with "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast" and in Manchester, S.E. Cupp, "New York Daily" news columnist and from Washington, Democratic strategist Mo Elliethee.
All right, so let's talk start with you, John. Two new state news polls show Mitt Romney slightly down, but still ahead in the poll there's. As you're taking a look there, Romney 35 percent, Paul 20 percent, Huntsman 11 percent.
Let's take a look at the other poll that we have here as well. This is Romney at 40 percent, Huntsman at 17 percent, Paul at 16 percent. With Romney ahead by so much, what are the next 24 hours about for the candidates? What's the story to watch coming out of New Hampshire?
JOHN AVLON, SENIOR COLUMNIST, "NEWSWEEK" AND "THE DAILY BEAST": I think the most fascinating thing right now is how Huntsman and Ron Paul are both fighting over independent voters.
Remember, independent voters, what makes a difference in New Hampshire. It's an open primary. Independent voters make up 40 percent of the local electorate. So that's what folks are really fighting over.
And right now, Huntsman and Paul both rising in the polls. Romney is safely ahead, but as long as that margin closes that's the real fight. Watching Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman sort of take knocks at each other trying to rise up in the polls to knock Mitt Romney off his perch.
SAMBOLIN: All right, if we can talk to Mo here for a second. Has they're headed into South Carolina, I was reading an article this morning saying that people, even though they're not excited about Mitt Romney, that he is the only one that is going to be able to beat Obama so they're going to vote for him, nonetheless.
MO ELLEITHEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think in these primaries a lot of times, particularly when you're running against an incumbent, electability is the key issue. And there's a lot of folks out there that seemed to think Mitt Romney is the most electable of the bunch.
I don't actually agree with that. I'm actually the one guy in the Republican field that I would keep an eye on is Jon Huntsman and he doesn't seem to be going very far. But, look, there seems to be two different contests going on right now.
Up in New Hampshire, there's a contest between Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman with independents. They're seemed to be fighting for relevance. Down in South Carolina, there's another contest going on that seems to be fighting over the Christian conservative base, to be the anti-Romney.
And Romney just seems to be kind of floating above both of them. So I think he's well positioned over the next couple of contests. Someone is hoping to breakthrough, though.
SAMBOLIN: And Mo, if you can weigh in here on Huntsman. What do you think is going to happen if he doesn't finish here in the top three?
ELLEITHEE: He's done. He doesn't have the money or the organization to sustain a campaign beyond that unless he makes a big splash in New Hampshire.
SAMBOLIN: What do you think, S.E.?
S.E. CUPP, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Yes, I mean, for Huntsman, New Hampshire is to Huntsman what Iowa was to Rick Santorum.
Huntsman is hoping that if he can make it anywhere, it's going to be here. He's put all his eggs in this basket. So Mo is right. If he doesn't do it now and at least top three, I'm thinking he needs to finish second to make a convincing exit out of New Hampshire and into South Carolina, then he's done.
He is almost sought of money. So it's sort of now or never for Jon Huntsman.
SAMBOLIN: All right, Mo, S.E. and John, thank you for joining us this morning.
SAMBOLIN: And you can stay with CNN for the best political coverage on television at 7:00 Eastern. Brand new poll numbers on the New Hampshire race. And 7:30 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien will be joined by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
BANFIELD: There's that fabulous U2 music is just for us. I'm pretty sure it wasn't U2 and not commissioned for us.
This is the goose bump patrol here. Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is attending a memorial vigil in Tucson over the weekend.
You'll probably remember it's been a year now since the shooting rampage killed six people and wounded 13 others. She was one of the wounded.
She and her husband, the astronaut Mark Kelly, both spoke at this affair. She actually led the crowd in an emotional "Pledge of Allegiance." Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands one nation under God, indivisible, and liberty and justice for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Mark Kelly behind her.
SAMBOLIN: I swear, but you know what, how proud she is as well, you can tell, right, that she's come so far.
BANFIELD: I got the goose bumps again. We did this story last hour when you were sleeping, or maybe sleeping, I got the goose bumps then. I got the goose bumps again. I'm so proud of her. I'm so happy for her.
SAMBOLIN: That's a very special story. It's seven minutes past the hour. U.S. markets kicked off the year on a high note, but on Friday, the Dow and S&P 500 both slipped less than half a percent. NASDAQ eked out some small gains.
BANFIELD: Basically flat. Let's just call it flat.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You don't want me singing the "Friday Friday" song again, do you?
BANFIELD: No. We're already in a Monday.
SAMBOLIN: What's going on today, right?
ROMANS: A lot of earnings. Still have an eye on Europe so that's a really big deal, you guys, because even as the U.S. showing a little signs of stability in the economy, you still have big concerns about Europe.
Europe is our biggest customer. So if Europe has problems, if it can't get its debt deal done, if it can't get it debt problems under control that means U.S. factories close.
SAMBOLIN: What do you mean our biggest customer?
ROMANS: We sell more to Europe, the euro zone than any place else in the world.
BANFIELD: I thought Canada was our biggest trading partner?
ROMANS: Biggest country is Canada. Biggest zone is Europe as a trading zone is the biggest partner. I don't want to --
BANFIELD: You know what? I just make this stuff up.
ROMANS: Don't say that. Don't say that. That's on tape. I tell you right now. I can tell you about gas prices because where we're seeing those little pieces strengthen the economy, we're also seeing gas prices rise. Have you felt it, $3.37 a gallon?
You felt it, 12 cents in just like 10 days or something they've gone up. Gas prices are up because oil prices are up. What does the Strait of Hormuz have to do with your service station everything?
Because Iran is sabre rattling again about that closing the Strait of Hormuz. Many people say they have to take up the U.S. Fifth Fleet to do that first. That is unlikely.
They got some stuff staying in the way, like the U.S. Navy. However, the Strait of Hormuz, that's where 40 percent of the world's traded oil passes through that strait.
There's a two-mile wide shipping lane that happens to sit right off the coast of Iran. A lot of oil goes through there. Obviously, the U.S. and Iran are having conflicts right now over its nuclear program.
BANFIELD: The U.S. that was pretty peeved about this.
ROMANS: Right. It would hurt itself, too. If Iran did that it would be shutting off its economy, too. All of that, big talk about what's happening in the Strait of Hormuz is why you're seeing oil prices are moving higher.
When oil prices move higher, your gas prices move higher, too. Last year at this time, it was about $3.03. Now at $3.37, you can feel it. That's a 30-cent a gallon tax on consumers. It's a tax on consumers when you're paying a lot more like that year over year.
SAMBOLIN: Well, this is the problem. You know, because earlier we're just hearing that the temperatures are going to start plummeting so folks are going to be, you know, putting up the heat.
ROMANS: Right, and heating oil prices. This year already we know people are paying more for heating oil. It's big in the northeast, not necessarily so much here in Atlanta.
SAMBOLIN: As I found out.
ROMANS: You're right. Yes, the first time I paid my first heating bill I couldn't believe it.
BANFIELD: Can I ask you something about investing because a lot of people are going to look at their 401(k)s right now. They're going to do the reallocation and look ahead to 2012 maybe hopefully being a better year.
But every year especially as we head towards Memorial Day, we see gas prices surging. So why doesn't that translate to, gee, maybe I should ingest in oil right now. They don't translate, do they?
ROMANS: No, they don't. You've got to have a strong stomach to invest in the oil markets right now because it's -- listen, plenty of people are, but it's one of those unpredictable -- geopolitics of the oil markets, you could never predict what's going to happen tomorrow.
BANFIELD: Break it down for us in 15 seconds.
ROMANS: The entire geopolitics -- if you follow me on Twitter, I'm going to tweet you right now a risk profile so you can figure out how you should be rebalancing for the New Year.
BANFIELD: A risk profile in 58 characters?
ROMANS: Yes -- well, it's a link to one. So you'll be able to get a pie chart for how you should invest based on your age, your time horizon, your stomach. So follow me on Twitter. Right now, I'm going to do it.
BANFIELD: You are a smart cookie, officially a smart cookie.
ROMANS: That should be your New Year's resolution, right, to get your money straight this year?
BANFIELD: Thank you, Christine and Wawa.
We would like to give you an early start because that's what we call the show. We do like to give you an early start and get you up to speed on what's going to be happening later in day, big stories that are developing.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is taking shots at the U.S. right now in its own backyard meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez today. He's on a four-nation tour of Latin America. He's going to go to Nicaragua. He's going to go to Ecuador. He's going to go to Cuba. We'll see what he says.
SAMBOLIN: The Supreme Court stepping into the Texas redistricting showdown that's happening today. We'll hear arguments over new election maps that were changed by the GOP-controlled Texas legislature after the last census.
The changes could determine which party has control of the House of Representatives in 2013. Latinos say they were ignored when they carved out these new boundaries.
BANFIELD: And geek alert. The future is on display today. Did you hear about the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas? It's kicking off and it is the biggest tech showcase in the world. Look for the ultrathin laptops, the smart TVs, and big and more powerful telephones dominating this conference as the companies try to play catch-up to Apple.
SAMBOLIN: This is being called the rematch of the century, number one LSU, number two Alabama playing tonight in the Super Dome for the BCS National Championship. LSU handed Alabama its only loss in the year back in November in their first meeting.
BANFIELD: Time for some weather. Don't know what you do at 6:12 in the morning, but we do weather. Don't know if you're traveling or just want to know what's going on. SAMBOLIN: We just heard about some temperature plummeting. Rob is out. Alexandra Steele is in for us this morning.
ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: At 6:12, you do weather. I do weather at 3:12, 4:12, 5:12. We've been doing weather for hours. You know, Rob is out. I'm here to talk about this morning really the southeast getting all the action.
But there's a tornado warning actually I want to talk about. So the southeast getting it all this morning, the rain, the snow, the fog, but before I show you the big picture, just want to show you what's happening just north of Houston.
In Houston County, we do have a tornado warning you can see it there. Again, the south has and has seen and produced some trees down earlier. Tornado reported moving 35 miles and moving east. So just keep an eye on that this morning.
Not out of the question this time of year to have severe weather like that, but here in the southeast temperatures are warm. West Texas though, the antithesis of that, we've got six to eight inches of show.
East Texas is where the rain is, one to three inches of rain. All this is moving east here into the Mid-Atlantic as well. Some snow dusting West Virginia, kind of nice to look up, feel a little like January. Blue Ridge getting a little white coating, pretty this morning.
Washington, D.C., two days ago, you're in 70, now a whole different story. So here's a big picture, guys. Again, the south, rainy and warm, but look at this, still mild in the northern plains.
Temperatures there from Fargo to Minnesota to Minneapolis, 20, 25 degrees above average, but that will change, dot, dot, dot, Thursday, we're down to 17 from 44 in Minneapolis.
BANFIELD: I knew that was coming.
STEELE: Yes, of course.
BANFIELD: That's a January thing, right?
STEELE: Absolutely the fluctuations, you know?
SAMBOLIN: At least we enjoyed the warmer temperatures. Thanks for that.
STEELE: It's not totally gone. It's going to be, you know, really kind of crazy winter, I think, very highs and very lows.
BANFIELD: In your next weather hit, I want our steady cam jack to take a look at your shoes. You are not only amazing at weather, but doing them in those platforms, sister.
STEELE: No way. I like to jog in these things. Are you kidding me?
BANFIELD: Jack has got to get a look at these. I'm not kidding. If you know how hard it is to do weather, imagine doing that in these babies. Impressive, look at that.
STEELE: All right, that's enough of that. Come on.
SAMBOLIN: You're my new hero.
STEELE: When you're little, you wear high heels all the time, right?
SAMBOLIN: Thank you. It's 14 minutes past the hour here. It's time to check the stories making news this morning.
The Republican candidates making their final push in New Hampshire on the eve of the nation's first primary election. Mitt Romney is still the man to beat, and he's taking lots of heat from his fellow candidates now trying to close the gap.
BANFIELD: And brand new this morning for you. The pharmaceutical company Novartis is recalling certain popular over-the- counter medicines following complaints that they were mislabeled or broken or that other pills had gotten into some of those bottles. And the recall includes bottles of Excedrin and NoDoz. Those ones have December 20, 2014 expiration dates. But the bottles of Gas-X and Bufferin that are affected have expiration dates of December 20, 2013. Take a look.
SAMBOLIN: And Tim Tebow's playoff magic. His 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime led the Denver Broncos to an overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. And Tebow led Broncos, that is, advance to play the New England Patriots next week.
BANFIELD: Coming up on EARLY START at 6:15, Eastern Time, a Connecticut paramedic has turned himself in and this one -
SAMBOLIN: Creepy story.
BANFIELD: -- is creepy. He's accused of assaulting - sexually assaulting a semi-conscience female patient who was strapped to the gurney in his ambulance.
SAMBOLIN: And we have some pretty incredible video here. It will make you forget all about that bungee jumping fantasy that you have. Put it off the bucket list after you watch this. You're watching EARLY START.
BANFIELD: Hey, y'all. It is 19 minutes past 6:00 in the East, and 19 past 3:00 in L.A.
And we're getting an early read on your local headlines that are making national newspaper headlines.
We've got headlines from both Atlanta and Charleston, South Carolina. And I want to start with Atlanta. You have a daughter, Sophia, who is in third grade.
BANFIELD: OK. How would you like it if your daughter came home with a math homework that had some questions, a math worksheet? And are you ready for the questions? Here's one.
Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves picked them equally, then how much would each slave pick? I am not kidding. I am not kidding. This was truly in one school district.
BANFIELD: I've got another one for you. Are you ready? If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?
SAMBOLIN: What were the consequences here, actually?
BANFIELD: I don't even know where to begin with this one. It's Gwinnett County School District, obviously coming under immense scrutiny for what the heck they were thinking when they put this math sheet together. This is in a suburb outside of Atlanta., Georgia, by the way.
Are you ready for the explanation?
SAMBOLIN: No, because I can't imagine.
BANFIELD: You can't imagine, right?
The school officials thought it would be a good idea to combine history into the math teachings. And safe to say the parents are outraged.
SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.
BANFIELD: Honestly, you can't script this stuff. It's amazing.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, this is an outrage, also, but for very different reasons. This is the Charleston "Post and Courier."
So adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, had been forced to surrender their two-year-old daughter Veronica to her biological father. Why? Because he's a member of the Cherokee Nation and he says that he never knew that the girl was put up for adoption.
And he's winning custody after a court battle using a decade-old Indian Child Welfare Act. So they want to place the children first with their own tribes. The law originally intended to preserve Native American culture and families. But in this case, you know, they're fighting it because, you know, this is a family that went through in vitro, something - seven different attempts, before they finally -
BANFIELD: That child lived with them for two years?
SAMBOLIN: Yes. The child did. The mother gave the baby up for adoption and apparently the father didn't know and -
BANFIELD: Well, it's tragic.
SAMBOLIN: That's tragic on both sides.
BANFIELD: It is.
SAMBOLIN: There's a father who wants his child and there are adoptive parents who have a child. And then the law, this obscure law that, you know, occasionally gets used. So a really sad story.
BANFIELD: We had another weird one, too, coming out of Connecticut.
A paramedic - I'm not sure I ever heard of this happening before. A paramedic facing sexual assault -
BANFIELD: Yes. And I'm waiting for this. I really want to see this one come to trial because I would like to see the evidence and the details on this one.
But the paramedic is allegedly - he's facing charges for allegedly raping a 22-year-old woman who is semi-conscious in the back of his ambulance. It all happened on Christmas morning. The mug shot you're seeing is 49-year-old Mark Powell. I guess he's also being charge with unlawful restraint because the gurney had no straps.
He has turned himself in. The woman waited three days to report this crime, alleged crime, because she said that she was embarrassed and scared, which is not unusual when you talk about rape cases. But the Hamden, Connecticut Police Chief is outraged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS WYDRA, HAMDEN POLICE CHIEF: Paramedics and police officers, firefighters are in positions of tremendous public trust. These allegations represent a tremendous breach of that trust.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Well - and, again, we should stress, once again, they are allegations and that's why CNN legal analyst Paul Callan is here.
Paul, I cannot wait to chew this over with you. There's so many legal issues at play not the least of which is alcohol. Because apparently the young woman was in the ambulance after I think falling at a Christmas party. There was alcohol involved.
Could you please explain to me how alcohol could be a cornerstone to this case?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, obviously the - at some point in time when the case gets tried, Ashleigh, it's going to be her word against the word of the ambulance attendant. And if he comes in and says, this is a fantasy, she's making it up, she was under the influence of alcohol, alcohol becomes a cornerstone in the case.
But it's a really odd case. I mean, there was presumably an ambulance driver in the ambulance as well.
BANFIELD: A witness.
CALLAN: Yes. And they can see into the back of the ambulance usually. So how did this go on without the ambulance driver knowing what was going on in the rear of the ambulance? So this is a really strange one, which fortunately we don't hear too many of these happening.
BANFIELD: No, but we sure do hear a lot of alleged rape case where alcohol is involved and I know that always becomes a big part of the defense for the accused. And by the way, you said when this gets to trial. There is always a chance this may not go to trial, right?
CALLAN: Well, yes, for a variety of reasons. Obviously a plea could be taken in the case. The prosecutor might ultimately look at it and say the case is too weak, we're going to dismiss the case. There are all kinds of things that can happen between now and the time of trial.
BANFIELD: Now, his bail was relatively low. I think by regular standards, $25,000, and far be it for me to know the standard in this particular community in Connecticut. I have always been under the assumption that bail is just to make sure you stick around. But you feel differently. You think this low bail has another message?
CALLAN: Well, I think the bail is low in this case. Now, I was looking at Connecticut bail decisions over the past five or six years in rape cases. And they are a little bit on the low side compared to some other jurisdictions.
But nonetheless, when you have a case like this, this sends a fear through the entire state about helpless people on gurneys being allegedly raped by ambulance attendants. I mean, it's a horrible fact pattern. And if it's true, it's such an abuse of public trust that I would have expected a judge possibly to set higher bail in the case.
So sometimes that indicates that maybe the judge thought the case was a little bit on the weak side, and that may be something we can read from the low bail. But really this is speculation, Ashleigh. And until this lay plays out in court it's hard to know what the facts really are.
BANFIELD: And I do recall in the last year reading all the headlines about a case in New York City where a police officer and his partner let themselves into an apartment building a few times and molested - allegedly molested a woman who they had had to rescue who was loaded and vomiting and then there was this alleged rape. They got off because, again, the booze and the story just was very convoluted.
So even if the criminal case doesn't play out to either side's liking, there is always that civil issue afterwards, isn't there?
CALLAN: Well, yes, there is. And what people have to understand is that the standard in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. It's a high standard. In a civil case, it's just which side has more evidence than the other. By a preponderance -
BANFIELD: By a preponderance, right?
CALLAN: -- of the evidence. Yes. And so it's a little bit easier to win a civil case. O.J. Simpson case was an example of that.
I was looking and I found a case, I think it was in Michigan, actually, where a woman recovered a verdict of about $12 million in a fact pattern just like this, where the claim was an ambulance attendant, yes, committed a rape while transporting a patient. So this is not the first time this has happened, but it's a very unusual case.
BANFIELD: A guilty verdict in that?
CALLAN: I think it was about $12 million was awarded.
BANFIELD: Yes. But was it a guilty verdict and then a civil case?
CALLAN: I don't know - I don't think the - the press reports only referred to the civil case so I didn't see how the criminal case worked out.
BANFIELD: Well, I'm just thoroughly impressed that at 6:26 in the morning Eastern Time, you've done all of that research. So, Paul, thank you very much for coming on.
CALLAN: All right. Thank you, Ashleigh. Always nice to be with you.
BANFIELD: See you soon.
SAMBOLIN: And still to come, some popular over-the-counter pain relievers in the country, they are being recalled. Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is going to join us to tell you what to do with these drugs. Actually you need to throw them out.
You're watching EARLY START.
BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. Welcome back.
It is 6:30 in the East. It's 3:30 in the morning in L.A. So, you're probably just coming home from the club. Nice to have you here with us.
I'm Ashleigh Banfield.
SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Welcome back to EARLY START.
On the agenda in the next half hour for you, major over-the- counter recall, folks. Painkillers and other drugs you might have in your medicine cabinet. Elizabeth Cohen is going to join us live to explain what we need to do next.
BANFIELD: And now and again we like to -- well, we feel the pain of waking up very, very early in the morning, so we just like other people to feel the pain, too. And we just dial them up live on the show and get them to weigh on news topics in wake them up. Should we -- should we tease them or tell them who it is?
SAMBOLIN: No, don't tell them.
BANFIELD: Don't tell?
BANFIELD: It's a comedian and particularly happens to like politics. We're going to see how funny he is first thing in the morning. That's coming up in a bit.
SAMBOLIN: On the West Coast?
BANFIELD: I don't know. That's the good question.
SAMBOLIN: See how funny he's going to be. He's in New York.
BANFIELD: I think he's in New York City. So, all right. Wake yourself up, for crying out loud. In New York City, it's only 6:30. Please, we've been up since 1:30 -- or 1:00.
I want to get you caught up in some of the top stories of the half hour as well, because these are the ones making headlines.
Two weekend debates, did you miss them? They were like every 10 hours, they were up on the podium. They were campaigning -- the Republican candidates going into the nation's primary tomorrow. Mitt Romney well ahead in the polls in New Hampshire.
SAMBOLIN: And new this morning, an Iranian American on trial in Iran for espionage, has reportedly been sentenced to death. A news agency reports that Amir Hekmati was convicted of spying for the CIA. He was arrested in August while visiting relatives there. Amir's family and U.S. government claim he has been falsely accused.
BANFIELD: And while on the subject of Iran, it may have something to do with this story. Here at home we're paying more at the pump. Lundberg Survey says gas prices jumped 12 cents in just the last three weeks. The nationwide average is now $3.36 per gallon.
SAMBOLIN: And Tim Tebow's playoff magic. His 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime led the Denver Broncos to an overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Tebow-led Bronco advanced to play the New England Patriots. A lot of excitement there.
BANFIELD: Yes. And we had to become football experts in like 20 minutes.
SAMBOLIN: I don't know about expert.
BANFIELD: We're playing expert on TV. That's what --
SAMBOLIN: I call them a rookie, OK? So, I don't --
BANFIELD: At one point he was.
SAMBOLIN: Yes, last year.
BANFIELD: Yes, like she was totally right. That's all I'm here of say.
Pharmaceutical giant Novartis is recalling some very popular over-the-counter drugs that you actually --
SAMBOLIN: Yes, here's what they include. Certain Bufferin and Excedrin bottles. And there are complaints about mislabeled and broken pills.
Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now.
And is that what started this recall, the broken pills?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, consumers started this recall. They started calling Novartis and saying, what's going on here? There are some broken pills. And it appears that perhaps they put the wrong stuff in the wrong jar. So, maybe some NoDoz ended up with some Excedrin.
BANFIELD: It wouldn't have been particularly really lethal.
COHEN: They say nothing bad has happened but they've done this out of abundance of caution. But, of course, you don't want to be taking NoDoz when you're wanting to fake Excedrin or Gas-X when you want Bufferin. That's not good.
BANFIELD: It's a NoDoz a sleepy thing.
COHEN: Right. You'd stay awake.
BNAFIELD: Yes, because we would not be wanting to take NoDoz at certain time.
COHEN: Can you imagine? And you want to sleep, yes, that would be awful. That would be awful. But let me tell you what people should look for, because this is really important, because this is a huge group of medicines.
So, for example, Excedrin and NoDoz with an expiration date of December 20th, 2014 or earlier, 2014 or earlier. I mean, that is -- I have to imagine that's pretty much everything that's on the shelf. I mean --
BANFIELD: Isn't that millions and millions of pills?
COHEN: It's got to be millions and millions of pills. They haven't been specific about the numbers, but I don't see how it couldn't be. I mean, these are things that are expiring nearly two years from now, just more than that.
And also, Bufferin and Gas-X Prevention, December 20th, 2013 or earlier expiration date.
SAMBOLIN: So, they're just telling you to throw this away or you're supposed to take it back to your pharmacy? Or do you get a refund for what you bought?
COHEN: You know what? That is a good question. I have not seen anything specific on that. I mean, either way, don't take it.
SAMBOLIN: Yes. I mean, that's the point, is that you're not supposed to take it.
BANFIELD: That's got to cost them millions of dollars, too. I wonder if that affects stock prices.
COHEN: $120 million it's going to cost them to correct this. I mean, $120 million.
And I will tell you as a consumer, you should really be careful when you go out there because you think, oh, recall, they must have gotten it off the shelves by now. Not necessarily. I once almost bought some medicine that had been recalled because they left it on the shelf, so you have to be an empowered patient and ask or look at it yourself. And for more details, CNN.com/EmpoweredPatient.
BANFIELD: Wait a minute. Didn't you write a book called "Empowered Patient"?
COHEN: I did.
BANFIELD: I knew it.
COHEN: You can't assume that other people are taking care of things for you. You have to do it yourself.
SAMBOLIN: That's a very good point. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
SAMBOLIN: Appreciate it.
BANFIELD: We're also keeping you in the pop culture loop because we like you to know about this stuff. It's critical when you get to the water cooler.
Here's what's trending on the web and social media and the Google:
NBA player Delonte West, do you know him? The rest of his team is headed to the White House without him. This is what Yahoo! is trending.
Apparently, this Dallas Mavericks champion is not allowed to go to the White House because he's got a little background check problem. The president security team did the routine background check and popped up, West apparently had a weapons charge back in 2009. He had two loaded handguns and a shotgun. So, that's kind of like, sorry, can't come into the White House.
Anyway, the rest of the Mavericks are going to go to the White House and the long table (INAUDIBLE).
SAMBOLIN: All right. And trending also on Facebook and Twitter -- have you seen this? A woman cheats death after her bungee cord snaps. Tough one to watch.
She is OK. It was caught on tape. It happened in Zimbabwe. It snapped about 30 yards over the water. They are crocodile-infested waters. She was dragged downstream with her legs still tied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN LAUNG WORTH, SURVIVED BUNGEE CORD SNAP: It went black straightaway and I felt like I had been slapped all over. I actually had to swim down and yank the bungee cord out of whatever it was caught on to. I think it's definitely a miracle that I survived.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: It is a miracle. She made it to the rocks on the river banks where the rescuers actually pulled her to safety.
You saw her body. She's got several bruises. The doctors say they're amazed that she did not suffer any major injuries. You would have thought that, right?
BANFIELD: Listen to the beeps. You know what they're saying up top.
SAMBOLIN: Well, I'm sure that they thought she was dead. The company says operations are safe and that the broken equipment was replaced. That's one of those things I've never wanted to try.
BANFIELD: I did it. I did it, 229 feet, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand. And I know what you say --
SAMBOLIN: I feel like it snaps you.
BANFIELD: It's actually fun. It's very comfortable. But it's that your feet are both bound together and wound and then you're attached to the bungee cord. So if it does released, you're not going to be able to kick anywhere.
And, by the way, some of those streams that you bungee into are to swallow to even do a dip. So if your bungee cord snaps --
SAMBOLIN: Not in a million years.
BANFIELD: I know. Well, I'm done with all that. I'll tell you.
SAMBOLIN: That's good news.
BANFIELD: That's right. Good news for my kids anyway.
So you know the thing we always do when we feel like other people should share our pain.
BANFIELD: We're going to wake up -- have you ever heard with him? His name is Chuck Nice. And we're going to find out just how nice he is, or not nice.
Chuck is about to get the phone call that -- well, you're going to hear it. You'll find out what he's like. Is he a morning person? Is he funny in the morning?
You're watching EARLY START.
BANFIELD: It's 40 minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast and 40 minutes past 3:00 on the West Coast, which is the perfect time to just dial up a friend, you know?
SAMBOLIN: This is late.
BANFIELD: It is, isn't it?
BANFIELD: Should have done it at 5:00.
Chuck Nice is a comedian, TV personality. We're dialing him up of just to see how he is in the morning. Let's see how this works out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work. He's pretty funny dude, though.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
BANFIELD: Hello, Chuck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
BANFIELD: Chuck. Chuck, this is the FBI calling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
SAMBOLIN: This is somebody else.
BANFIELD: Oh, is this Chuck nice? Hello?
SAMBOLIN: Yes, maybe it's the wrong number. I thought I heard (INAUDIBLE).
BANFIELD: You know what? Zoraida, you're taking this one.
SAMBOLIN: We didn't mean to call you so early in the morning. We apologize whoever you are.
BANFIELD: I totally don't believe we just got a right number. OK. So, we're dialing another number. We have another number. So, stand by.
SAMBOLIN: We may get him still. Maybe we just misdialed, right?
BANFIELD: The guy has no idea he was just on CNN.
SAMBOLIN: Like you said, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, yes.
BANFIELD: Or we got, yet, a third bogus number. I could see Chuck doing that. He may be nice to others.
SAMBOLIN: You think?
BANFIELD: He's Chuck Nice, you know? He does VH1. They're hateful.
It's -- yes, he either gave us a bogus number or he --
CHUCK NICE, COMEDIAN (via telephone): Hello.
BANFIELD: Hi. Is Chuck there?
NICE: This is Chuck.
BANFIELD: Hi, Chuck. It's Ashleigh and Zoraida calling from CNN.
SAMBOLIN: You know, we just got the wrong number. Poor guy, speaking in Spanish. Do you speak Spanish?
NICE: Yes. I know, I was watching.
BANFIELD: No, you were kidding?
NICE: Yes. I'm not kidding. See, I was going to go with the whole I'm still hammered from the night before routine.
BANFIELD: I knew it!
SAMBOLIN: No, but that wasn't just you.
NICE: I'm already up and I absolutely happen to flip you guys on and then you woke up some poor Latino guy, you know, and he's just like, you know, I don't know who this is. Is this Ashton Kutcher? I don't know what's happening.
BANFIELD: So you weren't punking us, we really did screw up?
SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes, we did. We did. Yes, definitely. Unless you have a really, really good accent, that was not you.
All right. So, listen. Did you watch the debates?
NICE: Yes, I did, as a matter of fact.
SAMBOLIN: What did you think?
NICE: You know what, I -- well, I know the ABC debates it was very nice to see George Stephanopoulos go hair to hair with Mitt Romney.
BANFIELD: I love George.
NICE: That was fascinating.
BANFIELD: You know, George is my former colleague. You got to go easy on the step (ph). I used to work with him on ABC.
NICE: I think that's happening is that we're seeing Mitt Romney kind of emerge as the candidate for the Republican Party. I think that's what we're seeing.
BANFIELD: I read your tweets. They are hilarious.
NICE: My tweets?
BANFIELD: Yes. I'm going to read them. Ready? "Perry wants to go back into Iraq -- that's like Liz Taylor wanting to go back to Richard Burton, and I mean right now."
BANFIELD: And then you have one for Ron Paul, which is pretty cute, too. "Ron Paul just served up a big platter of shut the F up to Newt Gingrich. Never talk about the military to someone who is actually served."
Dude, you were watching this. You were watching closely.
NICE: Yes. I find these guys to be a well spring of material.
BANFIELD: Thank God for that. I always wonder what happens when political season ends for you guys, where you turn. Do you turn to newscasters and make fun of them?
NICE: No, no. You never make fund of newscasters because they have the ability to absolutely make fun of you back.
BANFIELD: Yes. Or calling you -- you know what? Or calling you at 5:45.
NICE: Or calling you at 5:45 in the morning which may be worse, especially if you're a Latino who's got to get up and go to work.
BANFIELD: Oh, man. I smell a civil suit coming on that one.
Hey, Chuck, you are nice. You really are nice.
NICE: Yes. You know, it's kind of hard to be a jerk with the name Chuck Nice. You know that? That's just the way it is.
NICE: That's just the way it goes.
BANFIELD: Thank you for doing this.
SAMBOLIN: Thank you for letting us wake you up nice and early in the morning. We'll call you again sometime.
NICE: Please do. I'm always here for you ladies, always here for you.
SAMBOLIN: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Thank you, darling. Have a fun political season.
SAMBOLIN: And the latest on the campaign trend from "Concorde Monitor" reporter Tricia Nadolny. You're watching EARLY START.
SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 6:48 in the east. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.
SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The last call in New Hampshire. Today's the last day for Republican candidates to shake hands, kiss babies, and attack each other. Most of those attacks aimed at Mitt Romney who is way ahead in the polls now.
BANFIELD: And Iran has reportedly started to enrich uranium at yet another nuclear facility, and it says that facility is, quote, "immune to any military attack." The plant is said to have 3,000 centrifuges in operation and says they got another facility that's even better. Iran is claiming that there is a medical purpose behind its nuclear program.
SAMBOLIN: And Tebow time, he's working overtime. The Denver Broncos quarterback threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play during overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, 29-23. The Tebow-led Broncos now advance to divisional round against the New England Patriots.
BANFIELD (on-camera): Go football! I don't know. I don't even know what team.
SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Go bears.
BANFIELD: Hey, Soledad O'Brien is joining us now with a look ahead.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Come on. Come on.
BANFIELD: Oh, yes, girl.
O'BRIEN: Come on. That game was so exciting. Please. Oh, my goodness. And, hey, are you guys going to send a basket of fruit to that nice Latino man you woke up?
BANFIELD: You know what? Soledad, do you know what we just remembered? I joked about it I said, hello, this is the FBI. That was to the wrong number.
O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. He hung up on you. I noticed.
O'BRIEN: And anyone in their right mind would do when you get that call.
O'BRIEN: Anyway, let me tell you what's coming up on "Starting Point," this morning. If it's Monday, we must be in a diner somewhere. We're back in Manchester, New Hampshire. We moved our location. We'll tell you all about it this morning. We're going to talk to Senator Rand Paul. Of course, he is campaigning for his dad, Ron Paul, as they head into, really, the final day and a half.
What's their strategy now as they inches up a little bit in the polls? We'll talk about that. And the Florida plan for the end of the month.
Plus, oh, my goodness! I had a chance this weekend to sit down exclusively with Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul. Wow! So, we talked about her health scare, as you know. She gave us ne information about that. She's lost 85 pounds. And you know, her exercise strategy actually uses Wal-Marts a lot. I'll tell you about that.
And she's getting hitched. I called her guy, the boyfriend. She said, he's my man, not my boyfriend. All of that ahead and much more this morning, is what I'm trying to say. And "Starting Point" gets underway in just about ten minutes. We'll see you back here right after this break.
SAMBOLIN: As we head into New Hampshire primary, we are talking with Tricia Nadolny. She's the "Concord Monitor" reporter. We're talking about the latest on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Are you there with us?
TRICIA NADOLNY, REPORTER, "CONCORD MONITOR": Yes, I am. Thanks.
SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. It's very nice to see you. So, there were two debates that happened this past weekend, and you had an opportunity to talk to some folks that are voting in New Hampshire. And then, your article, some folks are saying that they are comfortably unattached. And we are less than 24 hours to go here. What are they waiting for?
NADOLNY: I think voters don't really feel a rush. There is a group of undecided voters here in New Hampshire. They are holding off until fairly late. I think that they were looking at the national scene more this year trying to see that kind of clear alternative to President Obama. They didn't find it.
And so, then, they kind of set to doing what people in New Hampshire do best, they went out and vetted the candidates themselves in those debates, really, I think, played a very large role for some of those voters who said I'm still shopping around. I'm 99 percent sure, but I'm not in the booth yet. The man who told me that I'm pretty sure might make his decision actually in the booth.
NADOLNY: People here sometimes put up their decisions kind of late.
SAMBOLIN: You know, we're kind of shocked around here reading this. Now, the national average for unemployment -- because it's high, it seems that most voters are concerned about that, but Rick Santorum, when he was fielding questions, he fielded two questions or several questions about online piracy. So, talk a little about the New Hampshire voter and what they're interested in?
NADOLNY: Well, you know, the economy really is the biggest issue that's coming at the candidates here. It comes up in every single town hall. They talk a lot about tax policy. The voters here are very serious and take this responsibility very seriously. We're not seeing as many social questions come up, even with candidates like Rick Santorum that are known for talking about that.
Unemployment is not as big of an issue here, but as I said, voters are really looking at the national scene and that is what is coming up time and time again in town halls here.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Tricia Nadolny, reporter of "Concord Monitor," thank you for joining us and good luck to you.
NADOLNY: Thanks for having me.
BANFIELD: What she wants, baby she's got it. Turns out that the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, she's got her man and he put a ring on it. And guess who she's talking to?
SAMBOLIN: Oh, our very own Soledad O'Brien.
BANFIELD: That's a big --
SAMBOLIN: I wish that was me sitting there with her.
BANFIELD: Soledad is going to have the Queen of Soul coming up.
BANFIELD: You won't even miss your bus. You will not even miss your bus because it's 6:58 which means that's the news from A-Z. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.
SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien is next.
BANFIELD: And she's got such a killer interview coming. Are you ready for this? The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
SAMBOLIN: With her man.
BANFIELD: We'll see you again tomorrow. Thanks for being with us, but Soli is up now. Hey, girl.
O'BRIEN: Hey, good morning. Thanks, ladies. Appreciate it. Have a great day.