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Pardoned Criminals Back to Prison?; FDA Halts All Orange Juice Imports; Haiti: Two Years Later; Front Page Faces

Aired January 12, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We look a lot alike, I just noticed in the camera.

SAMBOLIN: I noticed when you got into make-up. We're wearing the same dress, it looks like it. But it's bound to happen.

BANFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) in show now.

I'm Ashleigh Banfield, everyone. We're bringing you the news from A to Z, get it?

Five o'clock in the morning in the East. So, let's get you started, shall we?

There's incredible headlines out of Mississippi. If you've probably been following the pardons story, the Mississippi governor on his outgoing day pardoning close to 200 people. He's finally talking, Haley Barbour, and he's saying a few things in a printed statement as to why he thinks it was OK.

But guess what? There are four killers who are already out and there is no hope for getting them back in. But we may have changes in the other ones who are set to be released.

SAMBOLIN: That is right.

And several bombshells in the Casey Anthony case as well. How she thinks that she got pregnant with Caylee, who killed her, and why. There are reports this morning that her attorney has quit.

BANFIELD: Quit or fired? Always want to know. But, you know, they both have something to say on this.

And new this morning as well, if you are in North Carolina, our hearts go out to you because you're dealing with some very ugly weather. Apparently, check out that funnel cloud. Remarkable. And then look at this damage.

Overnight, some severe storms really wreaking havoc in that area. A mobile home park apparently was completely wiped out. Apparently, there are families that are trapped. We're going to get an update on exactly what's happening there.

SAMBOLIN: You remember a week, we were telling you that the price of oranges had gone up. Well, there's an O.J. ban. Why? Because of fungicide fears. There are new shipments that are actually being stopped. They are headed in from Brazil.

We're going to tell you all about that coming up here shortly.

But, first, we have new developments in Mississippi, where the state attorney general says some criminals pardoned by outgoing Governor Haley Barbour may have to go back to prison, and this is after a judge issued a temporary injunction that will keep the pardoned prisoners behind bars. The problem, many are already out.

BANFIELD: Well, yes. Big problem. The Attorney General Jim Hood who is no fan, it seems, of Haley Barbour has asked for actually a court injunction. The judge has done so.

This is all in a response to a move by Haley Barbour to just let these folks go, sign those pardons and off you go -- 199 of them, convicted criminals from somewhat serious to extraordinarily serious. The A.G. absolutely slammed the governor, saying that he took the law into his own hands.

And on "A.C. 360" last night, he was talking to Anderson Cooper. He compared him to the greedy and corrupt commissioner in "The Dukes of Hazard." Have a listen.


JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL: The former Governor Barbour, he kind of ran the state, the governor's office, like Boss Hog. I mean, he didn't follow the law. This is a very simple constitutional provision. And Governor Barbour just didn't follow it.

I mean, it was clear that he had to have that this information. He didn't obtain it before he signed these pardons. That's cause a public safety issue.

These families are afraid out here. And these victims have been through a terrible amount.


BANFIELD: While that is fascinating, we also need to know the A.G. is elected. He is a Democrat and was considering at one point running for governor. So, there could be some political animosity at play there as well as the legal issues that they're chewing on in that state.

But I'll tell you, it doesn't matter what politics say when you come to the victims and family members.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh. And the folks that have to walk around with these convicted criminals, you know, the ones that were released. So --

BANFIELD: One of the pardoned criminals, his name is David Gatlin -- excuse me, one of the victims of the pardoned criminals, David Gatlin. Pardon me, let me back that up.

David Gatlin who shot two people and Martin Savidge spoke to one of his victims, as well as a family that fears they're now sitting ducks for this guy.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A full and unconditional pardon.


SAVIDGE: Which means --

WALKER: Which means he has the same rights you have. He has the same rights I have.

SAVIDGE: Including to carry a gun?


SAVIDGE: Do you worry about David Gatlin?


SAVIDGE: Are you afraid of David Gatlin?

BREWER: I'm afraid that he will come after my family, Randy's family. And like Randy says, finish what he started.


SAMBOLIN: I think David Gatlin was the guy who shot his wife while she was holding the baby, if I'm not mistaken.

BANFIELD: Yes, three-month-old.


BANFIELD: She was with him, the victim who just spoke, and had the baby in her arms. They were estranged and he walked into the trailer and --

SAMBOLIN: Shot her in the head.

BANFIELD: To the head, both of them. He survived. She did not.

SAMBOLIN: So, Governor Barbour's office is now responding to all of this.

And here's the quote, "Approximately 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody. The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote."

Because those are the rights that were restored, right? They get a right to vote and a right to carry arms.

BANFIELD: I find it fascinating that he said a right to hunt because this is a Republican governor. He was head of the Republican Governors Association. And hunting is a big Second Amendment issue in this country. So, to add that into the statement, I hope -- I'm thinking he's hoping to mitigate the effect of this because, of course, he's looking at his legacy at this point, which is going to be deeply affected by this. People in --

SAMBOLIN: Well, that particular crime was committed with a gun. So, it just -- yes, it baffles you.

BANFIELD: It's not good.

By the way, our legal guru Jeffrey Toobin -- one of my favorite people, that's him on the left. That's us on the right in case you're wondering. Jeffrey is going to come in at 6:00 and talk to us. And, by the way, if you are as outraged as a lot of other people are on this story, you're going to want to hear what Jeffrey has to say because guess what? There are some fascinating loopholes in Mississippi law that those folks are starting to put in play so they can maybe drawback on these 200-ish criminals. And maybe they won get out.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, it's five minutes past the hour. Every morning, we give you an EARLY START to your day by alerting you to news that's happening later and stories that are just developing now but they will be the big story tonight.

So, here we go --

A judge in Aruba may officially declare Natalee Holloway dead later today. And this you know is one day after Joran Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to killing a young woman in Peru. She vanished in 2005 and Van der Sloot was the last person seen with her -- talking about Natalee there. Hearing is scheduled for just after 2:00 p.m. today.

BANFIELD: And talk about a throwback to the Jim Crow days. Public swimming pool, whites only? An Ohio landlord apparently is asking a civil rights commission to reconsider its ruling that she discriminated against a black teenager by posting that sign at her pool.

The owner is claiming that the sign is historical. But the parents of that girl are saying that landlord, it wasn't about history. They accused her daughter of making the pool, quote, "cloudy" because she used chemicals in her hair. So, a fascinating debate going on there.


All right. Today is the first day same-sex couples can sign up for domestic partnerships. This is in the city of Orlando. They don't offer the full benefits of a civil union or a marriage but couples will have -- this is important -- hospital visitation rights and they're also going to be able to make health care decisions on their partners.

So, U.S. markets closed mixed yesterday. The Dow was down by 13 points, and the S&P 500 and NASDAQ were up just a little bit.

BANFIELD: But that was yesterday. What about today? I always like to say what a difference a day can make.

Christine Romans -- wait, were you in Atlanta yesterday?

SAMBOLIN: We're all back now.


SAMBOLIN: Nice, nice.

BANFIELD: Frequent flyer pointing yesterday.

ROMANS: I know.

BANFIELD: So, I actually missed a lot of the action in the markets yesterday.

ROMANS: You know, it was -- it was mixed action, quite frankly. And today, we're going to be looking to an unemployment benefits number that comes out at 8:30. That's going to give us a read of what's happening in the jobs market, how many people are being laid off.

You know, for the year mostly, we're expecting the unemployment rate to stay in the 8 percent range. So, you're kind of settling into this two -- I'd say this two-speed labor market where people who just lost their jobs are having a better time finding a job and people who have been out of work for six months or longer are still in trouble.


ROMANS: And as we head -- the candidates head south, that second part of the jobs market will be important. Look in South Carolina, I think half the people out of work in South Carolina have been out of work for six months or longer.

BANFIELD: But the unemployment was 9.9 percent there.

ROMANS: Yes, 9.9 percent. So, we're watching. Also, retail sales number. We could see -- we'll get a good sense of how much people spent in December and how that helped the economy overall though.

We're watching O.J. today.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we're going to talk O.J.

BANFIELD: Not Simpson. Let's make it very clear. He's still in a Nevada jail, folks. He ain't going anywhere.

ROMANS: That's ancient history. This is O.J. is orange juice.

And I'll tell you that they've halted, the FDA has halted all imports not just from Brazil, but all imports of orange juice.


ROMANS: Do you know that one in four glasses of orange juice in this country is imported? Steep losses in O.J. futures because we must be watching out this morning, orange juice futures because they actually popped one of the days because they were thinking there was going to be some kind of a ban on imports. So, that was going to make it more expensive. So, watching some volatility in the orange juice market.

This is because of a fungicide that was found in some of these shipments --

SAMBOLIN: I thought it was only Brazil, though.

ROMANS: But now, they are testing -- they want to test batches of anything, because look, if other countries are using this fungicide that we don't use here, we don't use it apparently because in some tests, it leads to higher risks of liver tumors in animals. So, they found some low levels of this, it was reported by an industry source that there were low levels in shipments. They're testing everything.

And if a country or company rather has three passes three random batches the FDA will say, OK, you can resume your imports. So, they just want to really double check and make sure that's not coming in.

And remember, when you're importing so much of your food as we do, different countries have different standards. And the FDA can't check everything. I think the FDA checks 1 percent maybe of things that come in.


SAMBOLIN: Do we know how long the halt will last?

ROMANS: We don't know. But they're going to start clearing up companies as they show --


BANFIELD: -- drinking orange juice now.

ROMANS: I don't know. But the FDA says the O.J., guys, that is in your refrigerator right now, the O.J. that I'm going to run across the street that I'm going to get in a little jar is safe.

BANFIELD: For real?

ROMANS: That it is safe. Don't be worried. It's safe.

BANFIELD: Don't go anywhere. Don't go anywhere, Ms. Iowa. Do you know why?


BANFIELD: Look at you showing your France.

ROMANS: Iowa, France.

BANFIELD: I know. Because we got your weather story that's just for you, special -- special delivery and all your Midwestern friends out there.

ROMANS: I know. Is it snowing?

BANFIELD: Do you want to see? Take a look. You better call your mom.

ROMANS: Where is that?

BANFIELD: This is Iowa.

ROMANS: My little sister lives right there.

BANFIELD: This is Iowa. Look at it. The mild winter is over. Sideways snow.

If you're not from places like where Christine or I am from, you do not know the pain when it hits your face.

SAMBOLIN: It happens in Chicago, too, my hometown. Yes, it's awful. Brutal.

BANFIELD: Well, it's heavy arctic air. I'm no weatherman but it is sweeping across Iowa into --

SAMBOLIN: Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit.

ROMANS: It's like "Little House on the Prairie" book, you know, where like Laura Ingalls is out there, getting blown over? That's what it's like in the Midwest.

BANFIELD: Actually, if you've seen the movie "Fargo."


BANFIELD: I watched that movie and thought, oh, dear, it's like being at home. I'm from Winnipeg where it's completely iced over for almost the entire year.

ROMANS: Look, the weather is exciting in the Midwest and that's why.

SAMBOLIN: Well, you know, who's going to tell us about it is Jacqui Jeras. Rob is out. She's in for us.

Nasty weather. Good morning to you.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. And I'm a Midwestern girl, too, by the way.

SAMBOLIN: Out of Milwaukee, right?

BANFIELD: Where you from, Minneapolis?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, Minneapolis. I thought it was Milwaukee.

JERAS: Yes, Minneapolis, and lived in Ohio a long time.

SAMBOLIN: That is brutal.

JERAS: It is brutal.

And today, you know, it feels like winter has been delayed forever and now it's coming in with quite a vengeance. The snow is moving sideways. The winds gusting 35 miles an hour, creating whiteout conditions at times. We're looking at a huge swath here across parts of Wisconsin, down through eastern Iowa, even down into parts of St. Louis where the snow is going to be heavy at times.

And, you know, by snowfall standards, this isn't going to be the worst storm that we've ever seen. But this is going to be the most significant storm that we've seen all season. So, it's been a while since you've had to drive in this type of conditions.

We've got winter weather advisories in effect. The worst of the snowfall is really going to be on the lead side of the lakes. We get the enhancement from the moisture coming from the lake.

Chicago, I'm thinking maybe three to six in the city. But we'll see a little heavier amount and a few of those isolated bands.

The big arctic blast coming in on the backside of this system, ahead of it is very warm and mild. We've been seeing spring-like weather.

Take a look at this video from North Carolina. Yesterday, North Carolina in January, that's damage likely caused by a tornado. There was quite a bit of damage. Multiple homes were destroyed as well as buildings and at least three people were life-flighted out.

So, very unusual to have that kind of weather in January.

But that winter is sweeping it all out of there now.

BANFIELD: And some serious prayers for those folks, because while we talk about it as a weather story, this is life-ending for so many people. They lose their homes, their possessions, their photos, and in some cases, their loved ones. It's pretty serious.

JERAS: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Jacqui, thank you. Appreciate it.

Twelve minutes now past 5:00 on the East, 12 minutes past 2:00 on the West. So, that's a good time to get you caught on top stories. Just as you're going to sleep L.A.

A Mississippi judge issuing a temporary injunction to block that crazy release of all those prisoners pardoned by outgoing Governor Haley Barbour. He's not going to get them all, but he could get some to stay behind bars.

You might remember, this story has been sort of dogging us all week. The Mississippi governor granted full pardons to almost 200 people, including 14 convicted murderers. The state attorney general says the pardons are a, quote, "slap in the face to law enforcement."

SAMBOLIN: Syria's opposition denies that it is responsible for the death of a French journalist, Gilles Jacquier. They claimed Syrian security forces fired the mortar shells that killed Jacquier during a pro-government rally in Homs. He's the first Western journalist to die in the 10-month uprising in Syria.

CNN's Nic Robertson had left the area just before that mortar attack.

BANFIELD: And we've got a new study out that's warning against transferring more than two embryos for folks who have gone through in vitro fertilization because there's saying there is a possible health risk not just for the mothers but for the babies too. Typically, and this has been going on for a while, three or more embryos will be implanted. That's obviously to increase your chances for conception. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has some news on this. She's going to join us and talk about some of those developments in the next hour.

SAMBOLIN: Folks want to know about that.

Still ahead here, $500,000 worth of bonuses for Solyndra executives.


SAMBOLIN: Yes. Remember that is the company that is bankrupt.


SAMBOLIN: We'll dig into that a little bit more.

BANFIELD: And that the government gave a whole bunch of money to. That will be ugly in the election year.

And also, a desperate search is underway for a missing student from Virginia Commonwealth University. We got the early reads. And we'll tell you why New Year's Eve plays into this story.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Washington.

That is a live picture of the Capitol Dome in D.C. So, right now, it is 48 degrees there. But later, it's going to be nice and sunny, 59 degrees.

BANFIELD: I wonder if one of the cost-cutting measures would be to not light it up at night.

SAMBOLIN: It looks so beautiful.

BANFIELD: I know but I can imagine what it costs.

SAMBOLIN: Maybe they can use LED lights, right?

BANFIELD: Smart move.


BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. Nice to have you back.

SAMBOLIN: So, it is now 18 minutes past the hour. We're getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines this morning.

We have papers from Washington, D.C., and Tide Water, Virginia.

So let's begin with "The Washington Times." There are some pretty big bonuses for Solyndra executives. That's hard to imagine. But that's what company attorneys are asking for.

The proposal was filed in bankruptcy court and the company lawyers request $500,000 in bonuses, only 84 employees are left in that company. And, you know, Solyndra went broke two years after winning $500 million in federal loan package guarantee and that was one year after President Obama toured its California headquarters and hailed its prospects.

BANFIELD: And you know that's going to be in campaign ads when the eventual Republican nominee is chosen and they're going after President Obama. That's going to be a big one, folks.

Let's get you to the "Tide Water Review." This is a bizarre story. Family and friends of this young man -- he's a Virginia Commonwealth senior. His name is Ian Burnet -- very concerned, because he's been missing two weeks.

And what strange about it is that he was just supposed to be coming to New York City to have fun in Times Square on New Year's Eve. But that didn't happen. And the texts and communications from him stopped coming right around December 30th. He's 5'10", 160 pounds, green eyes, curly brown dark hair, last seen wearing a long sleeved gray shirt.

Like I said, he was supposed to come for a fun trip and they stopped hearing from him. If you know anything, call police, please.

SAMBOLIN: Scary for the families, right?

All right. It is 19 minutes past the hour here.

And the Marine Corps is distancing itself this morning from a shocking online video that appears to show some disgusting and perhaps even criminal behavior on the part of Marines in a war zone.

Take a look at it here. It's pretty graphic. The video appears to show four men dressed in Marine combat gear urinating on the dead bodies of insurgents.

A Pentagon official says the pictures make him sick. Marine cops are now investigating and now the Taliban is responding, condemning the barbaric video in a text to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

So, joining us now, retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He's joining us live from Washington, D.C.

Thank you for being with us.

First of all, if you could just tell us -- have we confirmed the authenticity of that video, do you know?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET): No, I have no -- not heard confirmation of the authenticity. I think it's still being investigated.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, this kind harkens back to Abu Ghraib, the scandal back in 2004. And that was when the humiliating photos were taken of prisoners naked. And in that instance, 17 soldiers and officers were removed from duty. That was between May 2004 and March 2006.

How do you -- how do you justify this type of behavior or how do you explain, maybe not justify. Is it stress? Is it immaturity? What do you think is happening here?

KIMMITT: Well, first, there's no justification for this type of activity. It's a clear violation of international conventions. It's of clear violation of our own standards of conduct within the military.

I would suspect that this will be investigated and prosecuted if the evidence leads to individuals conducting it.

SAMBOLIN: Well, we also understand that this could perhaps be a war crime.

KIMMITT: Well, again, all of that is covered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I'm not sure war crime is a technical, legal term but there are clearly provisions within the Uniform Code of Military Justice that would account for desecration of bodies on the battlefield.

SAMBOLIN: And let's talk about retaliation here, because this is a big concern. We still have a lot of Americans working there. And if we think back to Abu Ghraib and the U.S. businessman Nick Berg who was beheaded. And at the time perhaps, there were folks that were taking responsibility for it, saying, hey, this is in retaliation for what happened at Abu Ghraib.

Are we concerned about something like that perhaps happening?

KIMMITT: I suspect the command on the ground is worried about that. And the sad part about this, it doesn't reflect the overwhelming majority of our troops over there, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who are doing the right thing every day. And photos like this, videos like this is just toxic and basically paint an impression of American and coalition efforts over there in a completely different light than the vast majority of actions that we see on a day-to-day basis.

SAMBOLIN: And what would be the punishment, perhaps, for these Marines if this is factual video?

KIMMITT: Well, this is a criminal act. So I would expect that you would see, within the Uniform Code of Military Justice, charges being brought up against these troops for dereliction of duty and a host of other articles under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There are plenty of provisions to handle whatever action the courts want to take on this.

SAMBOLIN: And I know that we have some history here where some other people have been investigated, some other soldiers and marines. How long do you think an investigation like this will take before we have answers?

KIMMITT: Oh, I was often asked that question in Iraq. The answer is the investigation will take as long as necessary to get to the root cause and to get to the facts before it's brought in front of a court.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Mark Kimmitt, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate that.


BANFIELD: You know, we've had some pretty good history of prosecutions under that code. And they are no joke. They're just as strong as the U.S. justice system and we've seen it happen.

SAMBOLIN: You got to wonder what they're thinking, though, right? To videotape that, to post it?

BANFIELD: I have never been a soldier. That's all I can say. I have not been able to do my duty that way.

But how I do my duty, I do my jury duty. And if you ever think of getting out of jury duty, you think of the duty those guys are doing for us. And go and sit in a courtroom for a little bit. You can serve your country that way. There, I'm done.

All right.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

BANFIELD: Pious, aren't I?

Armageddon --


BANFIELD: Can you believe it's in the headlines? It is. And it's because the candidates themselves are suggesting it or at least one is suggesting that if you live in South Carolina and probably Florida, you're about to undergo TV Armageddon. The campaign ads are flooding you. You will be drowning in yucky things that they say about each other.

We'll tell you a little bit about it.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: So, guess who was seen visiting President Obama at the White House yesterday? It was Hollywood's power couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie meeting with the president.

BANFIELD: Look, paparazzi shots.

SAMBOLIN: Why, why? I read somewhere it was an unplanned visit. Unplanned visit to the White House?

BANFIELD: That's pretty hard to do even if you're Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We think there's something else going here.

SAMBOLIN: Perhaps.

You're watching EARLY START. We'll be back in a flash.


SAMBOLIN: Just waking up, Ms. Banfield?

BANFIELD: A yawn and a stretch. It is 5:28 in the morning, however. So, I think we have the right.

And if you're in Los Angeles you might be getting into your PJs right now. Twenty-eight minutes past 2:00.

Hi. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're very happy you're with us this morning.

One the agenda in the next half hour for you -- it is getting nasty in South Carolina.

BANFIELD: Not the weather.

SAMBOLIN: No, no, no, it's the candidates. They are saying get ready for Armageddon.

BANFIELD: Boy, I'll say. Look at them, look at all the cameras. You can imagine TV in that state, right?

Also, this is something you might not have heard of for quite a while, swine flu. And it's back, apparently. Twelve people seem to have been infecting with something they're calling a new strain of swine flu. So, we're keeping our eyes on that story.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, apparently, if you got the flu vaccine, it's just not going to work against this.

BANFIELD: Do you have to get another shot? Or I wonder if they even have shots for this.

SAMBOLIN: I don't think so, not yet.

It is 29 minutes past the hour here.

BANFIELD: Should we acknowledge that we're not actually dressed the same? I'm in blue and she's in gray. And we didn't plan this. But it kind of look --

SAMBOLIN: It looks like the same. Although it's different on the collar. So, if you pay attention.

Anyway, now, it's time to check the stories making news this morning.

Mississippi's attorney general says he is trying to undo the damage that was done by former Governor Haley Barbour. It's a tough one. A temporary court injunction blocks the release of any more prisoners that were pardoned by Barbour during his final days in office.

And the A.G., the attorney general, says the four killers who have been released may not have processed their pardons legally, and they may be able to put them back behind bars.

BANFIELD: Two years ago today, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti killing 300,000 people. A million and a half people were left homeless. There are some signs of progress in Haiti today, maybe not entirely visible, but there are small victories. Still, very significant challenges remain for that nation.

SAMBOLIN: And the OJ squeeze. Imports have been halted while government safety officials test all shipments that are coming in for a chemical fungicide. A compactor low-levels of that fungicide not approved in the United States were found in juice that was imported from Brazil, but they stopped all shipments while they check that out.

BANFIELD: I keep wondering if we're going to have to pay a whole bunch more for orange juice. We won't know for awhile, anyway.

SAMBOLIN: Well, the price had already gone up. So --

BANFIELD: Yes. If it's not weather, it's the fungicide.

All right. Ready for this? In the words of Newt Gingrich, South Carolina is about to become Armageddon land. Yes. That's not good news if you're there. The candidates are getting all geared up for January 21st. That's when that state has its primary, and like I needed to tell you, it's getting ugly out there, folks.

Millions upon millions are being spent in that state for the attack ads. Look, they're fighting for their political lives at this point, because if Romney like clears the table, is that the billiards expression, clear the table? Run the table? If he runs the table and does three in a row, it could be all over pretty much for everybody else.

They will get to Florida, but it may not be as thrilling. So, let's bring in our political panel, shall we? In Chicago, conservative commentator, Lenny McAllister is joining us. And in Washington, D.C., Democratic strategist, Kiki McLean is with us. And then, also joining us this morning is Shira Toeplitz. Thanks to all three of you.

I want to get right to Newt Gingrich with the statement he made about Armageddon. It's always good for a sound bite, but he really means business when he said it. let's listen and talk on the other side.


NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is going to be Armageddon. I mean, they will come in here with everything they've got, every surrogate, every ad, every negative attack. At the same time --


BANFIELD: OK. So, he was speaking with our own Piers Morgan last night by suggesting that. And Lenny, let me start with you. I guess, what he's saying is that we are no longer in the land of retail politics. Now, it is all about spending, spending, spending, and hitting your TV airwaves. Is that really the case?

LENNY MCALLISTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: It really is going to be the case because we know that South Carolina has this long track record of selecting the Republican nominee, moving forward into the general election. They know that Romney probably should not have won Iowa, but because of the gap that the other front-runners had, he slipped into winning there by eight votes.

And we knew that New Hampshire was going to go to Mitt Romney a long time ago. This is the battle ground for Newt Gingrich. This is the battle ground for Rick Santorum. And particularly Gingrich, being a son of the south, he needs to win this southern state and be able to move on the floor with a win underneath his belt. If it's 3-0 for Romney going into Florida, it could be game set match.

BANFIELD: All right. Shira, I want you to weigh in on something. I don't know if we have that song that I used to love until I heard it too many times called "Who Let The Dogs Out," but that's really what I started thinking of in my mind as I was hearing another comment made by Newt Gingrich about Mitt Romney, carrying his dog on the roof of his car, instead of putting the dog in the car with them when he went on road trips with the family.

It sounded like it was a real -- I'm not going to say desperate attempt, but kind of a nasty attempt that, you know, reaching out for those pet lovers out there who might really take issue with doing that. But Shira, my point is, is that kind of low and shallow when these guys are heading into what I like to call Foreclosureville.

Christine Romans was just mentioning it earlier. These states they're headed to, Florida, Nevada, South Carolina, these places are some of the highest states in the country struggling through foreclosures and high unemployment. Should we be talking about dogs in kennels or should we talk about the more serious issues in these campaigns?

SHIRA TOEPLITZ, STFF WRITER, ROLL CALL: Yes. It is a bit of a low blow to talk about a pet Romney had maybe two decades ago and to the way he treated this pet. Although, it is kind of a famous story at this point. Look, right now, South Carolina voters are very concerned. You're right. The unemployment rate is much higher there than it is in Iowa and New Hampshire.

I think Republican candidates should be talking about that. They go out in the field. But I think this is also indicative of Newt's campaign right now. He's really fighting to remain relevant. His campaign over the last week has not become about running for president as much as become about attacking Mitt Romney. And what a whole different world that was from just a month ago when he was pledging to remain positive.

BANFIELD: All right. So, Kiki, I want you to weigh in on something entirely different. Let's jump from Newt to Paul. Ron Paul, everybody says, and I don't think it's fair that they say it, but they say it. That he doesn't got a hope in you know what, of becoming president, but he has no indications at this point that he is going to drop out of the race.

And then, I started to figure it out by listening to the pundits. He can keep stumping along and actually collecting delegates, especially in states where they're proportional. So, if he keeps going all way to the convention and, you know, collecting up delegates along the way, he gets some traction and he can affect the Republican platform once he gets there. Is that good or is that bad for Democrats?

KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It depends on who you are if you think it's good or bad. It's interesting because this is the first time Republicans have changed the rules and how they accumulate delegates through the process. So, normally or historically, it's been winner take all. He didn't have to worry about somebody holding a basket against you when you went into the convention. That's going to happen this time. It's also interesting to note, then, what is that point that you're debating? What kind of leverage do they have? And I think you're right. It's at the platform committee. What do they want? What are they going to hold out for?

BANFIELD: Yes, and Kiki, think about it for a minute, because there are some things in Ron Paul's platform that sound a bit Democratic like let's get those soldiers home, et cetera. So, I'm wondering if that's something the Democrats are bit worried about. Ron Paul keeps collecting Democrats and has a lot of say in the Republican platform. Is that going to bring that Republican nominee closer to the center?

MCLEAN: I don't know that it will bring the Republican nominee closer to the center, but Mitt Romney will need to do that in general -- in the general. You know, one of the things that's interesting to watch is the level of intensity Romney supporters have compared to the level of intensity Ron Paul supporters have.

BANFIELD: Oh, yes, no contest.

MCLEAN: And it's actually interesting to see it begin to fade a little bit on Ron Paul. You know, we've been watching some social media trends, and yesterday, when you would have thought it became all the more intense going to South Carolina, for some of these guys, it really began to become more neutral.


MCLEAN: And neutral is a bad place whether people were negative or positive for you.

BANFIELD: I got to wrap it there, but Lenny and Kiki and Shira, love talking to you. So, we'll just do it again. Why don't we, huh, in about an hour or so? You all come back now, you hear?

MCALLISTER: Let's do it.

BANFIELD: All right. Thank you.

MCALLISTER: All right.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And we are keeping you and the pop culture look this morning by taking a look at what's trending on the web and on social media.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): On Yahoo!, real estate boom in outer space. Astronomers now see more planets than stars in the galaxy. A 100 billion stars in the milky way. So even more planet, and that's just our galaxy.

And I got to read something here geeky, "We're finding an exciting potpourri of things we didn't even know could exist." This is a Harvard astronomer, including planets that mirror "Star Wars" Luke Skywalker's home planet --


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): -- with twin suns (ph) and many stars system with the door sun and shrunken planet.

BANFIELD: Can't even get my head around it. It's amazing.

SAMBOLIN: So exciting, though.

BANFIELD: All right. I love this one. I'm a huge Eddie Van Halen fan. Could be the greatest guitarist of all time except for Eric Clapton. And you know what he's done? Eddie Van Halen has taken 75 of his own personal electric guitars, and he has donated them to L.A. public schools. I love this story.

Not only because he thinks their music programs are struggling and that they could use the instruments, but think about what if they sold the instruments for the amount of money they're worth, and they could buy ten times the number of instruments. Eddie, I love you, man. And he just might be awake since he's in L.A., and you know 28 or 38 minutes past to.

SAMBOLIN: All right. This is one of my favorite stories. I actually sympathetic a couple of days ago. Save the Twinkies. Hostess files for bankruptcy. I grew up on Twinkies and Hostess --

BANFIELD: No, you didn't.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I did. $860 million in debt now for that company. They say it's mostly labor union costs. They're hoping to figure it all out. They filed for bankruptcy before. So, hopefully, they'll be able to come out of this.

BANFIELD: All right. If you were following that crazy -- the Casey Anthony case, guess what, there are some new developments that have come from depositions that have just been unsealed. The things that she said to the psychiatrists who are interviewing her are unbelievable. And I kid you not. Making allegations that make that trial sound like child's play. We'll tell you what they are. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. It's 5:41 on the east coast. You awake?

SAMBOLIN: I'm very awake.

BANFIELD: What time?

SAMBOLIN: One o'clock in the morning.

BANFIELD: What time do you get up? One?

SAMBOLIN: One. BANFIELD: Yes. I sleep in until 1:15. Total slacker.


BANFIELD: Total slacker.

SAMBOLIN: Hit the snooze button, right?

BANFIELD: Hi, everybody. We got this weird story for you, because we know you couldn't get enough of it back when the trial was happening in June, but that Casey Anthony case just keeps delivering. Now depositions that actually existed during the case but were never revealed have been unsealed by a Florida judge.

And there are all sorts of statements that Casey actually made to the two psychiatrists who were analyzing her while she was awaiting trial. They have to figure out if she's competent, so they got to go in there and talk to her. At the time, they said she was just fine, but man, the stuff that they are quoting from her. They say this, you ready?


BANFIELD: They claim that her father, she says her father may have molested and killed little Caylee and this is what Casey -- they said -- this is what they said she said to them. It gets weird, but she believes George took Caylee out of the bed, that they shared together, had some kind of sexual, some sort of sexual experience with her daughter and in order to cover it up, killed her.

Now, that is a big allegation, because she never suggested that before. She never suggested that her father killed her daughter before. Just that her father may have taken the body of the accidental drowning victim, little Caylee, and disposed of it. But this is going way further.

SAMBOLIN: Is this common to release this, you know?

BANFIELD: You got to fight for it.


BANFIELD: And I think it was "The Orlando Sentinel" that put in the request to get this stuff released. And a lot of media outlets were looking to get it released, and it's taken what, like three months to do it. So, you do have to fight in court, and they won. And there's more. These psychiatrists also said that Casey suggested that she may have been become pregnant with Caylee after being drugged, with some date rape drug and then raped at a party.

And this is what they said, again, Casey told them. Took two beers, possibly given another drug, woke up passed out, unclothed bottom. Don't remember anything at a party, age 18. This is how she said she became pregnant.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. BANFIELD: Yes. I mean, it's very serious stuff. At one point, Casey had actually said during the trial, and this was a big bombshell. It made everybody really uneasy, especially her family that her father, George, may at one point have even been Caylee's father. That was really ugly. That was her defense attorney bringing that up.

SAMBOLIN: I know you spent a lot of time there. Does this surprise you?

BANFIELD: A little. A little. Only because I thought she had done a lot of damage in her defense to her family, but this one is just really nasty. In fact, let me read this for you. This is what they said again that she told them. "Casey did indicate that, at a point in time, she was concerned if George was actually the father of Caylee, but, of course, that was ruled out by DNA.

Sunny Hostin is our legal contributor for "In Session." And, she's also a former federal prosecutor. So, she knows a thing or two about the law.


BANFIELD: A little bit. You know, Zoraida asked first, great question. Were you surprised about this? You were also knee deep in this stuff.


BANFIELD: Were you surprised by the extra allegations.

HOSTIN: I wasn't surprised, actually, because we know that these psychiatrists met with her and spoke to her. And so, if there was any place where these bombshells were going to be contained, it was going to be in these depositions. So, I wasn't surprised at all, actually.

BANFIELD: At the time, they did this investigation on her or this analysis on her. They came back and said she is fine.

HOSTIN: Yes, they did.

BANFIELD: You know, fine is a, you know, a relative word.

HOSTIN: That's right, because she was legally sane, legally competent.

BANFIELD: Legally competent.

HOSTIN: Fine like I think we're fine.


HOSTIN: Probably not so much.

BANFIELD: Actually since they said -- what puzzled me was that she was so blasted cheerful, these are their words. No feelings of guilt, not hopeless, even as she sat there behind bars.


BANFIELD: But given how we saw her during the trial, are we surprised at that part of what they described?

HOSTIN: I was a bit surprise, because I thought that she was going to not unravel, but I thought, perhaps, we would have gotten a sense of real Casey Anthony, because I don't think any of us really know who the real Casey Anthony is. We've seen so many different faces. Her brother describes someone different. Her mother describes someone different. Her father describes someone different.

BANFIELD: Her friends.

HOSTIN: Her friends, especially, described someone different. Now, we've seen these video diaries of her which also appeared to be someone different. And, you know, are we talking about someone with multiple personalities? I don't know. So, I felt the psychiatrists would have been able to peel back some of those layers.

SAMBOLIN: I just have a question, because I didn't cover this, and I was just an interested bystander, right, like everybody else riveted by the details of this.


SAMBOLIN: So, at the end of the day, what is the purpose of all of this information?

BANFIELD: Well, that, you know, that's actually a really good question, because I still don't know if this was information they got when they were assigned by the court to look at her.

HOSTIN: I believe it was.

BANFIELD: Or the information after Baez and his group wanted to hire them to analyze her.

HOSTIN: I think it was the former. I think it's when the court wanted her to be analyzed by these psychiatrists.

BANFIELD: It's pretty unbiased.

HOSTIN: Yes. But I think the reasoning behind it is, again, we want to know so much about Casey Anthony. And no one wants to pay her to tell her story, right? No news outlet wants to pay her the $750,000 that she's looking for. But I think there's so much curiosity out there.

I mean, when some of these new diaries were released, I just sent it out on my Facebook page, on my Twitter page, oh, this is new information. I got hundreds of comments immediately. And I was surprised that people still are interested in this story.

(CROSSTALK) BANFIELD: It's engrained in your brain.

HOSTIN: It really is.

BANFIELD: It's not over yet. We got to wrap this up for this block, but you're going to come back later and talk to us. Jose Baez, her attorney, was he fired? Did he quit?

HOSTIN: Yes, yes.

BANFIELD: There's a little controversy there. So, we'll hold that for this moment. Thank you, Sunny.

HOSTIN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I guess, we all love the details, right? Thank you very much. It is 47 minutes past the hour here.

And still to come, we are talking to the "Patriot News" crime reporter for the latest in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Alumni lashed out at the school president in a town hall meeting. What did they say? What did he say? You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. We're back in New York. Happy to be back home.

So, Penn State is back in the news. It was a tense town hall meeting last night at Penn State. The alumni grilled the university president over the school's child sex abuse scandal. Some were outrage over the firing of head football coach, Joe Paterno, as well.

And on the phone now, Sara Ganim, she's a crime reporter and the face behind the front pages of "The Patriot News." Thanks for being with us this morning.

SARA GANIM, THE PATRIOT NEWS (on the phone): Of course. How are you, guys?

SAMBOLIN: We're doing well. So, the president was grilled by the alumni for an hour and a half last night. They're angry about the fact that there were so many secrets, so much was hidden. They're blasting the administration for being very slow to act. How did the president respond to that?

GANIM: Well, you know, he did respond with some answers that he hasn't given before. Like, for example, he said starting next week, he's going to be posting university's bills online related to the scandal, the legal bills that they're paying. And, with this, in November alone, they paid $350,000 just for the crisis management PR -- the crisis communications team.

So, stuff like that he did answer, however, I've got to tell you, the moderator said that there were about 40 questions about Joe Paterno alone that they skipped through. The very first one was more like a statement. You know, it's unconscionable what you did to him, how could you do that to him? So, the theme was mostly about Joe Paterno, to be honest.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we actually have that sound. So, let's play it here for a minute.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you did to Coach Paterno is unconscionable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I feel that as a university, we turned our back on Joe Paterno.


SAMBOLIN: OK. So, here's what we find really difficult to comprehend. They're really upset that the school did not act quickly. They want to know what they knew and when and whether the board -- what was it exactly that the board knew ahead of time, yet, they are saying that Joe Paterno was treated unfairly. How do they explain that?

GANIM: You know, the alumni are not explaining that. We do know that there's a big faction of support in Pennsylvania for Joe Paterno, and also, a lot of anger. You know, I'll give you this example. There were a lot of questions about Joe Paterno. There were no questions, negative about Joe Paterno.

However, when someone asked if the board of trustees could dissolve and that's the governing board at the university, there was a loud applause, a booming applause in the room. And then, you know, President Erickson said basically, well, if the board were to change its dynamic, it would be up to the board to decide that.

And there was this kind of like nervous laughter. So, yes, there was a lot of tense talk about the board but nothing but support for Joe Paterno.

SAMBOLIN: We're running out of time here, but I have one more quick question for you. Did he discuss at all when the trustees actually knew that these charges were coming, the child sex abuse charges?

GANIM: He said recently to a different newspaper that it was in May and June that they were briefed, but he wasn't there.

SAMBOLIN: OK. All right. Sara Ganim, so many questions. We really appreciate you covering this story for us.

BANFIELD: Still to come, some pretty famous faces walking the halls of the White House. Did you hear? Look through the window. Take a peek. See if you can see it. Can you make out who it is? Not the guy with the beard. That guy. And the girl with him -- forget it, I'm just going to tell you. It's Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie headed into the oval office. Why you ask? Good question. We'll tell you. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. There's been a Brangelina sighting at the White House.

BANFIELD: Brangelina.

SAMBOLIN: So, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie meet the president in the oval office. We understand it was an announced visit. I don't quite understand how that happens, but they were in Washington.

BANFIELD: Maybe just unannounced to us.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, maybe. They were in Washington for the screening of a new movie Jolie directed about Bosnian war crimes. And while there, President Obama discussed Jolie's work to stop mass atrocities and combat sexual violence against women.

BANFIELD: So, if you feel guilty about your, you know, Brangelina news, you can combine it with politics and the White House and feel better about it now.


BANFIELD: Here's a story that has been outraging a lot of people in Mississippi, and by the way, not just in Mississippi, right across the country, because the governor on his outgoing day from Mississippi, just signed a whole bunch of pardons letting people free, let them walk out of prison, some of them killers, in total about a hundred, no, 200.

And now, he's talking. What's he saying? And did he do something illegal when he signed those pardons? Jeffrey Toobin is going to be our guest, and he's going to clear this up for us when we come back.