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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

White House Warns Iran Of "Red Line"; Four Killers "Hit The Road Running"; College Grad Salaries Rising; Stripping Governor Of Parole Power?; L.A. Cop Elbows Homeless Woman; A Kinder, Gentler GOP Campaign?; Fracking Controversy; Live Grenades Force NOLA Police Evacuation

Aired January 13, 2012 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A very good morning to you. Hello, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It is 6:00 a.m. in the east. So let's get started here.

The U.S. reportedly warning Iran, do not cross the red line. The standoff that could make oil prices skyrocket, pretty scary as well.

BANFIELD: Good heavens, we're supposed to be secretly speaking with the Iranians now according to the "New York Times." Diplomacy? You're kidding, boy.

Also, if you've been following that whole story about pardoning the killers, now there's another state that's trying to remove its governor from that whole parole process after the mess went down in Mississippi.

In the meantime, the AG there says four killers who legally, legally took off running are somewhere out there and they have no idea where they are.

SAMBOLIN: Caught on tape. L.A. cop socks a homeless woman in the face then demands a cell phone that videotaped it all. A war vet pulls off a slick move to get the video out. We have it obviously.

BANFIELD: Who knew?

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

And so up first this morning, new tensions in the standoff between the U.S. and Iran. The Obama administration warning Iran supreme leader that closing the Strait of Hormuz is a red line. "The New York Times" warning Iran through a secret channel of communication.

The Strait of Hormuz is the most vital oil shipping lane in the entire world. It would block a fifth of the world's daily oil trade. And a strike group led by the "USS Carl Vincent" has arrived in the Arabian Sea.

The timing of that is interesting. The Pentagon denying the shuffling of a Navy fleet that is actually related to the situation in Iran, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. has to be ready.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON E. PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Clearly, there are those areas that, for us, are red lines. Number one, we cannot allow them to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line. Number two, we cannot tolerate Iran blocking the Straits of Hormuz and that's the red line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. We're kind of caught here on these secret channels of communication that are happening. What is the White House saying?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there hasn't really been any reaction from them about that particular story, Zoraida. But, you know, I don't think it's too surprising that the American government would really try and find every channel it could to reach out to Iran and to communicate U.S. intentions about all of this.

You know, we have no formal real communication with that government and yet tensions are at an all time high. So what they want to do, what Panetta wants to do is lay it out in public, make it very clear.

No nuclear weapon, no closing of the Strait of Hormuz, you can't do that or we will respond. They don't want any miscalculation. They continue want any misunderstanding by Iran. So the idea is put it out there in every channel you can -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And there are some people who say, though, that that would never happen, closing the Strait of Hormuz would never happen because that would cripple their own economy.

STARR: Well, you know that is the thinking. That's why a lot of people talk about, you know, this is a ratcheting up of rhetoric. But what's the reality?

If Iran was to close the Strait of Hormuz, some people call it economic suicide for an already shaky Iranian economy. They basically put themselves out of business and exporting oil.

And the other Persian Gulf allies up and down that waterway, they also rely on this strait for oil shipments, for a lot of their commerce, a lot of their imports and exports. It's one of the busiest waterways in the world.

Even the countries around Iran are not going to support any shutdown of this strait. It's in everybody's interest to keep it open. But as everybody starts talking and you see all of this rhetoric rising, you don't want any miscalculation. I think that's what you're really seeing here. Trying to put it out right in public and everybody state their position.

SAMBOLIN: And reading this did not make anybody feel comfortable. The chief of naval operations saying the Strait of Hormuz and the business going on the Arabian Gulf is actually what keeps him awake at night.

STARR: Yes, pretty interesting, isn't it? The chief of naval operations for the Navy making those comments. I think everyone agrees. It does keep everybody up at night.

Think -- again, you know, if you look at a map, you see that the Strait of Hormuz is a very narrow waterway. Thousands of ships go up and down that.

So that makes it tense even on a good day to have so much shipping traffic pirates, commerce, the good guys and the bad guys, up and down that water way.

To throw into the mix the uncertainty at any moment of what Iran might do, any kind of miscalculation is something very unsettling.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Barbara Starr, live at the Pentagon for us. Thank you.

STARR: Sure.

BANFIELD: Lawmakers in Oklahoma are trying to make sure what happened in Mississippi does not happen in their state. The Senate in that state is introducing a bill that would strip parole power from their governor.

All of this, while the Mississippi state attorney general is now calling for a nationwide manhunt for those four killers who were pardoned by that state's governor. The AG says they hit the road running before a judge could halt Governor Haley Barbour's pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL: There's going to be a national search for some of them. We'll catch them. It's just a matter of time, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where they are?

HOOD: No. We know where their family. We're in contact with their family, local law enforcement. There's a search going on out there for them. We'll lay hands on them at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: At some point, but it's going to be a tricky, tricky proposition. They got out of prison on Sunday. They were gone. So now the A.G. wants to actually serve them with papers to say, you need to check in with your parole officer every day.

SAMBOLIN: Find them first.

BANFIELD: Yes. Well, there's a bit of legality serving these now considered to be innocent guys. These are unconditional pardons means they don't have anything in their record.

SAMBOLIN: And they could be running around with guns.

BANFIELD: And they're allowed to have guns. So the idea of actually serving them with papers to say you need to check in with a parole officer is a bit -- but you know what, it might just smit them with those papers anyway and see if they can get that legal tool to work for them, but we'll have to see if that happens.

SAMBOLIN: And hope that they can find them. That's right.

It is 7 minutes past the hour here. We have good news. Salaries for 2011 college grads are actually up so we want to talk about that. This really excited me when I saw these numbers because I thought it's such a positive sign for kids trying to decide what they're going to do.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is because there's this cocktail party conversation happening about whether or not college is worth it. You've heard people talk about it. I will say that's being had by people who went to college.

Look, college is still the way to make more money even though it's very difficult to figure out how to pay for it on the front end. Even the vice president yesterday was talking about this, this new big conversation about whether college is worth it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: For the first time in my memory being asked by middle class people, is it worth my spending all this money, is it worth my spending a minimum of $100,000 a year -- four years to send my kid to school, for them to graduate $27,000 in department if I can't get the whole $100,000, is that worth it today, today's economy? Well, it is worth it. It's worth it because on average you will make $20,000 a year more than if you just went to high school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I just ran the numbers and he's right. I mean, it's about $400 more a week you earn if you have a bachelors degree than not having a bachelors degree.

I mean, if you just went to high school, you're earning on average $626 a week, that's a median earnings, $626 a week. It's more than $1,000 a week if you've got a bachelor's degree.

The key is how to pay for it and we showed you that in the average salary last year, $41,701. The key is not to borrow more than you expect to earn the first year of school.

So that starts to become the trick. The other thing is that the fastest growing jobs in this country, the fastest growing jobs are retail jobs. They're restaurant jobs. They're not very high paid jobs.

We need to think. We've got some big questions in this country about telling everyone to go to college? What kind of jobs are we creating on the other end that people are going to be able to still get $41,000 a year for those jobs?

SAMBOLIN: How are they supposed to guess?

ROMANS: I'm not saying it's all hunky dory out there, but I'm saying if you're computer science, if you are engineering, if you have one of these relevant stem careers, you've got a good place in the economy.

SAMBOLIN: The engineering, I just want to do the hyper focus on the salary there because I thought it was remarkable.

ROMANS: It's $61,000. Now it's usually five-year program. You probably would spend more up front to do it, but $61,000 and there's great demand for those jobs.

SAMBOLIN: It's kind of starting salary base, right there?

ROMANS: Starting salary, $61,000.

BANFIELD: Let's switch gears to goodish news. I'd like to call it goodish news because the fact that mortgage rates are at an all-time low and now it sounds terrific.

ROMANS: This should be a big stimulus for the economy, but it isn't. These very low mortgage rates and here's why, because a lot of people don't qualify for them.

Until unemployment starts to really improve these low mortgage rates are not going to help the economy that much and that's what the Freddie Mac chief economist has said.

But 3.89 percent for a 30-year fixed, most people refinance into a 15-year. That's 3.3 -- 3.16 percent for 15-year money is free essentially, but as you well know, it's very difficult to get it even if you have a job.

BANFIELD: Want a candy? Psyche, that's how I feel.

ROMANS: I know those rates are really low. If you can do it it's worth the time to try to do it, but it's difficult.

SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans, thank you.

BANFIELD: Every morning we also like to give you an early start to your day we call it by alerting you to news that's happening now, but really developing into something bigger later on today and tonight.

Just a few hours, Joran Van Der Sloot is going to be sentenced in Peru. It was just earlier this week, he pleaded guilty to killing 21-year-old Stephanie Flores. The sentencing comes just a day after Natalee Holloway, remember her, the missing teen in Aruba, she was declared dead here in the U.S.

Investigators believe that Van Der Sloot killed Stephanie Flores in Peru after she found something related to the Natalee Holloway case on Joran's computer.

SAMBOLIN: A federal court will hear Rick Perry's challenge to get his name on Virginia's primary ballot. Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum have all joined that lawsuit after they didn't qualify for the ballot. Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are on the ballot right now.

BANFIELD: Hot stuff. And the reason I say that is this is my really cheap segue to the weather because our Jacqui Jeras has been watching the weather for us. It's so lame. I'm so lame. I couldn't come with anything better, Jacqui.

SAMBOLIN: Did you say 4.6 inches in Chicago of snow?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's 4.7, to be exact, yes, very close, but it's still coming down, but it's light right now. But the biggest prom isn't even -- you know, Chicago can handle 4.7 inches of snow, right?

The problem comes into play when the winds are gusting so strong and so you get near zero visibility. You get a lot of ice on some of the roadways. You know who is making money today?

It's the snow plow drivers and they're so happy to be out there because they pretty much haven't been doing it all season long. Now the snow starting widened out a little bit in some of the bigger cities here across the western Great Lakes.

But we're just starting to kick things up here across the northeast. Now, we're going to stay with the rain in places like New York City as well as down towards Baltimore. But we will get that cold air eventually in and the winds will kick in this afternoon. Here are a couple of snowfall totals that we mentioned. Chicago, the biggest number I could find so far, Indiana around 9 inches. You really get that moisture kicking in around the Great Lakes. So some of those localized snowbelt cities will see higher amounts.

The cold and the wind then will be the big story as we head into the afternoon hours. Gusts could reach 50 miles per hour so some spotty damage maybe some tree limbs down. Be aware of that.

If you're traveling today, we're expecting major delays. New York City, metro's Boston, Philadelphia and that's because the winds are going to be so strong you've got to line up those planes and go on all kinds of different runways. Not fun for travelers.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you very much. It is 13 minutes past the hour. Time to check this stories making news this morning. The Obama administration is reportedly warning Iran not to cross the so-called red line by closing critical shipment lanes in the Persian Gulf. Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in response to the latest sanctions.

BANFIELD: And also Mississippi's pardon fiasco fresh in their minds and all of ours, Oklahoma has decided to take some action. The Senate there is stepping in to try to prevent a similar mess from happening in that state by introducing a bill that could strip their governor of any rule in the parole process.

SAMBOLIN: And North Korea's new leader flexing military muscles. Officials in the south say Pyongyang test fired a series of short range missile earlier this week. The missile tests come less than a month after Kim Jong-Il died and his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un became North Korea's new leader.

All right, it's one of our favorite times of the day.

BANFIELD: She's like dealing with serious trepidation because it's that moment --

SAMBOLIN: Wake them up, right?

BANFIELD: Where we wake somebody up.

SAMBOLIN: See what happens, folks.

BANFIELD: Apparently, we're dealing getting a busy signal. Jon Stuart took big issue with us over this. I have a nice long conversation with him about it yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: And he says --

BANFIELD: He didn't like it. It was a funny segment and we could do some serious things in it. He suggested --

SAMBOLIN: It's going to be funny, be funny.

BANFIELD: I think it's going to be funnier than funny, but I don't know. I disagree with him on that.

SAMBOLIN: How well did that go?

BANFIELD: Hi, is that Ali Velshi?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hello, Ali, speaking.

BANFIELD: Ali?

VELSHI: Yes.

BANFIELD: This is your wake-up call.

VELSHI: Good morning. BANFIELD: You're late for work.

SAMBOLIN: You do know who it is, right?

VELSHI: I do. I do. Good morning to you both.

BANFIELD: We were worried about calling you this morning because of Jon Stewart completely shredded us for doing this thing, but we knew you would be a good sport about it and that you actually -

SAMBOLIN: And he would be awake.

BANFIELD: And that you would be awake.

VELSHI: I am awake. And given that Jon Stewart has already done it I'm not going to do it twice this week.

BANFIELD: You don't think you're going to get a free pass, right, my friend?

VELSHI: Exactly.

BANFIELD: You know what? One of the - one the reasons I actually think it's a great day to call you and wake you up is because there was a very early story that's been coming up about Delta Air Lines looking at maybe buying American Airlines.

VELSHI: Yes.

BANFIELD: And I sort of did, you know, the head jumble. How many of these buyouts have there been? I'm starting to feel like there's just two or three airlines left and they're massive. Am I wrong?

VELSHI: Yes. The airlines are getting rare (ph). Obviously, the most recent was United and Continental. Delta bought Northwest before that. U.S. Air and America West before that. That wasn't the world's most successful merger when it happened. So now Delta/Continental are bigger - I'm sorry - the United and Continental are bigger than Delta.

Yesterday, I spoke to both Delta and the other group that is said to be interested in buying AMR, it's the parent of American Airline. Everybody said we don't comment on rumor and speculation.

BANFIELD: Of course not.

VELSHI: But of you did. If a combination of Delta and American Airline would create such a massive airline that a lot of analysts are saying they're not even sure that the government will let that happen because it would be so big, there would be so much price control.

BANFIELD: And antitrust would come into play there, wasn't it?

VELSHI: That's right. But the bottom line is a number of mergers have gone through. So I think that's probably why if they're discussing it they try it. But I wasn't able to get on the record from anyone that it's actually happening but the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting it.

SAMBOLIN: So it's too much of a monopoly, though, Ali, because, you know, I kind of feel like I would be paying an extraordinary amount of money for my airline ticket because of competition is small then.

VELSHI: Yes. But, you know, over the last two years, Zoraida, we've seen airline fares go up for a couple of reasons - one is oil prices and we saw those fuel surcharge hikes.

We've already started this year. We've already seen our first hike in airfares. So but here's the interesting thing, January of 2012, this month is the lowest month for airfare in a few years. So for whatever reason there still seems to be enough competition. The AirTran and Southwest -

BANFIELD: They're trying to warm us.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: That's right. They're trying to warm us up for the big merge.

VELSHI: That's possible.

SAMBOLIN: You know what, Ali, I was just saying yesterday that I was actually able to fly my parents in from Chicago for $74 on Delta Air Lines.

VELSHI: Yes, so for now. So, you're right. I mean, there could be that there's still competitive routes. But, yes, that's the latest news. It will be interesting to see whether this happens.

There's been a lot of airline consolidation. You know, they are having trouble. They're all profitable this year, most of them are, but they've had some horrible years, so they're trying to figure out a model which says we sell our seats for a reasonable price that people will pay for them and offer the service they expect and also consistently make money at the same time to make our staff happy necessarily.

BANFIELD: So now that you're awake. Get to the office because everybody is going to want you to report on this for today. And keep an eye on that frequent flier point issue, too, because people want to know about their frequent flyer points.

VELSHI: Yes.

BANFIELD: Ali Velshi, thank you for being such a good sport.

VELSHI: Good to talk to you.

SAMBOLIN: I've got to tell you. Ali was the first e-mail I received when I arrived here, welcoming me to CNN. Really sweet. Really cool (ph).

BANFIELD: It's the Canadian thing. SAMBOLIN: Oh, is it?

BANFIELD: I think it is. He's a good Canadian. Good brethren.

All right-y. Time to get you up to speed on what we're going to be doing in just a few moments. Did you feel it? The earthquakes in Ohio? Any idea what they've been caused by? Fracking.

SAMBOLIN: Really? What's fracking?

BANFIELD: Fracking is a kind of a cool and not so cool thing depending on what side of the energy issue you're on. But you're going to find out more about it in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, Pittsburgh. It is 28 degrees and it's going to be 28 degrees and snowy a little later today.

BANFIELD: But other than that, you're a really nice town.

Los Angeles Sheriff's deputy has been caught on tape and you're not going to like the pictures you're about to see. He's violently elbowing a homeless and mentally ill woman in the face. It happened on the bus. Take a look. Look closely there - she is. Watch what happens. It comes about, right about - oh, gosh. It's hard to watch this.

But here's what - here's how it started. Apparently she was acting erratically. Someone called 911 on her. The Sheriff's Deputies arrived. She got into the scuffle with them and that's how they reacted.

And then here's where it gets really weird. A guy name Jermaine Green, an Iraq War vet is on that bus and he decided he was going to capture all of this on his cell phone. Then the cops came after him and said give us that phone. He takes the chip out of his phone. He's way too sly. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERMAINE GREEN, VIDEOTAPED CONFRONTATION: I turned and methodically took the memory card out of my phone and put it in my mouth and then I kissed my fiancee to give her - to give her the memory card so this story can be out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Slick.

SAMBOLIN: Jermaine's video goes national, viral. The L.A. County Sheriff's Office is taking action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF LEE BACCA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: The individual deputy who swung an elbow at the lady is looking at that as a sensible solution. We need to refrain that individual and hold him accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yes, re-training might be a way to put it.

There's so many stories at play in this one, not the least of it that that Iraq War vet thought so quickly with the chip.

SAMBOLIN: And he just happened to be there, right?

BANFIELD: Put the chip in his mouth and then kiss his girlfriend to pass it. I mean, I'm not sure. Maybe they were some CIA on the side (ph).

Our CNN Legal Analyst Sunny Hostin is here. I wouldn't get you to comment on the CIA portion of it.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you, thank you.

BANFIELD: I think that's (INAUDIBLE) soldier's body part.

But let's talk a little bit about what happened legally speaking.

HOSTIN: Sure.

BANFIELD: Because I've seen cops have to get into it with people they can't control, sometimes high on drugs with extraordinary strength, but is it ever OK to do that?

HOSTIN: It is sometimes OK. I mean, the bottom line is there are all of these policies that police officers have and they have to follow them. And generally they can use the amount of force that's reasonable to effectuate an arrest, to sort of make sure that everyone is OK on a public bus. In this case, the question is whether or not he felt that that was appropriate.

BANFIELD: Reasonable.

HOSTIN: It's reasonable. You know, Sheriff's Department has already come out and said this guy needs to be retrained. I've got to tell you, when I looked at it and I've seen, as a federal prosecutor, I've seen a lot of cases like this. I thought it was excessive. I thought that the force used was excessive.

SAMBOLIN: But, again, the guy who recorded it, I mean, he has said, you know, she didn't - this was not warranted. Nothing ever happened for her to justify that moment.

HOSTIN: Exactly. And you've got two officers there. You've got two officers there and I don't know that he was really being threatened. When an officer is being threatened, the officer can sort of escalate the use of force. I don't think that was the situation at hand.

BANFIELD: She didn't have any weapons on her.

HOSTIN: Right. BANFIELD: And that's critical in this equation.

HOSTIN: But they didn't know that. They didn't know that. And they're also dealing with what we call in law enforcement an EDP, an emotionally disturbed person. And it was obvious that she was an EDP. So there are different guidelines that come into play when you're dealing with someone that's emotionally disturbed.

BANFIELD: Different guidelines but, I mean, if you're emotionally disturbed doesn't that mean your propensity to do something even more dangerous could be there?

HOSTIN: That's right.

BANFIELD: So the guidelines could be higher?

HOSTIN: That's right. That's right. And so, you know, and in looking at it I wonder if we'd be having this conversation if it were a man, right? Would people be as outraged if it were a man instead of a woman? Would people be -

BANFIELD: Let me hold your arm for a second.

HOSTIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: Can I get a shot of this? Take a look at this. How hard am I holding your hand?

HOSTIN: Yes. Not very hard.

BANFIELD: Now how hard?

HOSTIN: A little harder.

BANFIELD: Did it look any different on camera, anybody?

HOSTIN: No.

SAMBOLIN: No.

BANFIELD: Nobody knows how strong -

HOSTIN: That's a good point. That's a good point.

BANFIELD: -- she was.

HOSTIN: Yes. No one knows.

BANFIELD: No one knows maybe whether something was hurting. Maybe there was a bracelet that was cutting into the wrist of the cop.

HOSTIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: I'm just playing devil's advocate.

HOSTIN: And that's the point. That's why it's really the officer's perception. We weren't there. We don't know. And what we saw on the videotape to me with a trained eye looked excessive. But, again, we weren't there and the guidelines allow the officer to use the force that he believed was reasonable at the time.

SAMBOLIN: But his superior came out saying he needs retraining.

BANFIELD: Yes. Well, might it be politics have played there, too, right?

HOSTIN: I mean, an elbow to the face of a woman who's emotionally disturbed doesn't look good at all.

One thing I want to mention, also, people can generally videotape officers when they are in the line of duty. And what I don't like about this story is the fact that they threatened this - this guy, this vet, and tried to take the phone away from him. I don't like that. I think that's improper.

SAMBOLIN: We just had a story out of Illinois for that same reason as can you - because of the strictest laws around about videotaping or recording officers, you can do it.

HOSTIN: Well, you can't interfere with them. But generally in most of the states you can do it. And it all comes out of Rodney King. Remember, none of us would even know anything about what happened to Rodney King without the video.

BANFIELD: In Illinois - in Illinois, you actually can.

SAMBOLIN: You can record and we got a story about that.

HOSTIN: And I don't like that. I think that's improper.

BANFIELD: More importantly, are you OK?

HOSTIN: I'm OK. It hurt a little. It hurt a little. I'm a little person.

BANFIELD: I don't really like hurting her (ph) at all. I'm just trying to like show a point.

HOSTIN: I have a law degree. I could sue you but I wouldn't do that.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, gosh. All right.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Sunny.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I shouldn't beat up our guests.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It's 26 minutes past the hour.

Ahead on EARLY START, Republican candidates tearing each other down. Is it for Obama? Are they ready to call a truce? I don't know about that. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Good morning, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. This is EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Welcome back.

It is 30 minutes past the hour, 6:30 to be exact in the East -- time to check stories that are making news this morning.

Trying to prevent a repeat of that fiasco in Mississippi, Oklahoma state senate will take up a bill designed to remove the state's governor entirely from the parole process. Four convicted murderers, pardoned, full pardoned by Mississippi's Haley Barbour as he left office. They are now being looked -- people are looking for them, trying to figure where they went.

BANFIELD: Yes. And also, if you're on the worry meter, how about this? Escalating tensions between the United States and Iran as the White House reportedly, according to the "New York Times," is sending some secret back channel -- I don't know if you want to call it diplomacy, but certainly a warning. But if Iran moves to block oil shipments to the Strait of Hormuz, the United States would consider it a red line.

SAMBOLIN: And a new book called "The Obamas," drawing a sharp response from First Lady Michelle Obama, paints a controversial picture of the first couple. The author, Jodi Kantor, spoke to CNN's Piers Morgan last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODI KANTOR, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMAS": So, these are aides who are very close with her. Also remember, I've been covering these people since 2007. I mean, Eric Schultz's protest to me sounds like some sort of protest against journalism, against the process of trying to understand these figures.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And coming up in the next hour, Jodi Kantor will be Soledad O'Brien's guest. That's on "STARTING POINT."

BANFIELD: You know, the great Ronald Reagan said it decades ago, and it's really getting some traction again now with the GOP, thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican, right? Well, it doesn't seem to matter because poor old Mitt Romney is under fire from Rick Perry, from Newt Gingrich, from Rick Santorum.

And even Rudy Giuliani was on Piers Morgan last night, calling all of this done, saying, "Cut it down, guys. You're not supposed to be cannibalizing our candidates."

In Washington, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona joins us to talk about this. CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is with us. And from Chicago, conservative commentator Lenny McAllister.

Let's get ride in to these folks.

And, Maria, I want to start with you on this. So, they're going after him not only about the whole issue of, you know, capitalism and how his work at Bain was somehow anti what they believe it should be. I didn't understand any of it, especially since everybody has come out against it and it really sort of losing traction.

But it doesn't stop there. There's a web ad right now out and it's paid for by the Newt Gingrich camp and it goes after sort of the whole language and lefty-ism of speaking other languages. Let's play it and talk on the other side.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney, he'll say anything to win, anything. And just like John Kerry -- he speaks French, too.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bonjour.

NARRATOR: But he's still a Massachusetts moderate. And a Massachusetts moderate cannot beat Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Apparently, Maria, in politics, it's not cool to speak French. So, I want to jump off that and talk about Spanish. You're a native of Colombia.

And apparently, there are all the stories breaking about Mitt Romney having a father who was born in Mexico and yet Mitt Romney is not bringing that up anywhere. I'm curious as to why not. Wouldn't it help him rather than hurt him?

CARDONA: Well, I think there's a simple reason, and that is that he really has nothing to say to Latino voters, whether that's in the GOP or in the general election or what have you. The problem with Mitt Romney is that he has taken stances that are just anathema to Latino voters, period. And it ranges from immigration to the economy, to health care to education, anything, you name it.

The key thing is that he has already basically committed to -- to vetoing the DREAM Act if it comes to his desk. Now, we understand it and we know that immigration is not the number one issue for Latino voters, but it is what we call a threshold issue, which is if you are not talking in a respectful tone about immigration to Latino voters, they're to the going to listen to you on anything else.

BANFIELD: Even if you're one of them? You know, technically.

CARDONA: Absolutely, because you know people who have been in the difficult situation of being undocumented and the only thing that you are looking at is trying to live a better life and to give your family what you couldn't back in your home country in Latin America. And so, he doesn't know how to do that.

BANFIELD: Let me switch gears a little because I'm trying to wedge on a ton of issues in such a quick segment.

But, Lenny McAllister, I was watching as Rick Santorum was stumping in South Carolina and I started to get a little uncomfortable at one point as he was suggesting to the South Carolinians that, don't get it wrong, South Carolina, don't let this happen. Don't let Obama get elected, or it's you who let's America down.

And I sort of thought, oh, no, don't hurt me. Do you think that's the right tone to take if you're trying to endear yourself to voters there?

LENNY MCALLISTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: It is if you are trying to get conservatives. It's kind of funny something that Maria said, she said that Romney is committed to voting against the DREAM Act. One of the biggest criticisms about Mitt Romney is the fact that he hasn't been committed too much of anything.

And that's what Rick Santorum is trying to get at, is saying, listen, I'm a true conservative. I've stuck to these principles since before it was popular. Mitt Romney is a Johnny come lately conservative in South Carolina.

Iowa didn't get it. New Hampshire wasn't going to get it. If you don't get it, South Carolina, in regards to voting for a true conservative, it may be too late. We may get somebody that's a wishy- washy conservative going up against a strong re-election campaign, and thus, we will get a second presidential term from President Barack Obama.

BANFIELD: All right. To end on a completely light note, Paul Steinhauser, because you have such a great sense of humor. I watched with glee as Stephen Colbert announced his presidency for the United States in South Carolina. I mean, it's adorable.

But even if it were true that he would want to jump into this fray, it's not possible, is it? You can't just jump on a ballot now, can you?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: A couple of problems here. Well, first of all, he is from South Carolina. He's a native of the Palmetto State.

But you know what? He missed the deadline to get on the ballot. That was back in November 1st, to get on the primary ballot. And guess what? South Carolina doesn't have a provision in the primaries for president to be a write-in candidate.

So, unfortunately, for Stephen Colbert, this is going to be tough.

You know what he did, though, do? He did hand over the pack to his good buddy Jon Stewart because he can't be running a PAC and running for president at the same time either. That's illegal. So --

BANFIELD: Do we know how much money is in that PAC?

STEINHAUSER: It's a good question. I don't have that figure but I will now look into it so I can give you an answer on Monday morning.

BANFIELD: I wonder what they would use it for. All right --

STEINHAUSER: You know, he did offer -- do you remember back in November when the South Carolina was run into problems moneywise?

BANFIELD: Yes, he wanted to sponsor it.

STEINHAUSER: They said thanks but no thanks.

BANFIELD: All right. Lady and gentlemen, thank you very much. Good to talk to y'all.

MCALLISTER: Thank you very much. God bless. Have a great weekend.

CARDONA: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Still ahead, a series of earthquakes in Ohio, are they manmade, caused by the gas drilling process known as fracking? Poppy Harlow is looking into it. We're going to talk to her.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 6:40 in the East.

In Ohio, new questions this morning about the controversial process, it's known as fracking.

BANFIELD: Yes. It's not like it hasn't been controversial before. But now, there's something completely new and weird about it. This whole process, if you don't know, it's the idea of jetting water super hard and fast down into the ground and splitting up taverns to release natural gasses, et cetera. I don't know if I'm the best scientist to explain that. But that's kind of what it is in a nut shell.

And now something they have to do with all that water they use that's all yucky, dirty, and nasty -- you've got to put it somewhere, right? The way they decided to dispose of that water apparently could be responsible for earthquake.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Isn't it unbelievable?

BANFIELD: Poppy Harlow, CNNMoney.com, you have done --

SAMBOLIN: Manmade earthquakes.

HARLOW: That's exactly what it is. The scientific term is induced seismicity. But it's manmade earthquake and now is the time to think it's happening in Iowa. When we heard about this, we were stunned and we thought, we got to get in the road. We got to go to Iowa. So, we literally spent the past week there figuring out what is going on. You look at Youngstown, Ohio, you have a hugely economically depressed area that desperately has needed jobs since the '70s when the steel mills left. So, now, they discovered the Marcellus and Utica Shale, and that means a lot of money and a lot of jobs for Ohio.

But as Ashleigh explained, they have to get rid of the wastes from fracking, the waste water. It's a lot of saltwater but it's also some unknown chemicals. And that has people very, very worried.

One of the state representative there's is so worried because scientists have linked 11 earthquakes -- 11 -- since mid-March in Ohio to disposal well to getting rid of this waste that's injected 9,000 feet into the ground. He's called for a moratorium on 180 wells across the state of Ohio.

On the flip side, what does that do to the jobs? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAGAN (D), OHIO: All officials are rushing to find out anything we can do to provide jobs in this area. We've lost 50,000 jobs in a 30-year period. People are desperate. They want to make sure that we do something.

On the other hand, we have to do it in a safe and environmental way.

TOM STEWART, OHIO OIL AND GAS ASSOCIATION: It was stuck. The development of the best economic opportunity that's ever presented itself over the past two decades for the state of Ohio and it would shatter the industry and the livelihood of people that are existing here now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And we also spent a lot of time in a community, meaning, trying to roll some of that video for you if we can, because about 400 people came. They were up in the arms about something that they never expected to happen in their town. They were yelling -- as you can see there.

But some folks say, look, we can handle these earthquakes if it means jobs. The biggest one has been 4.0, but we did se damage that it caused to different homes. The concern scientists have that are looking in to this, called in from Columbia University, is this can happen again. What was also troubling to me to find out is from regulators is they have known in the past that this kind of injection can be caused in earthquakes because it's done so in the past.

What they also say is that no state in this country is required to have companies test for fault lines before they drill these wells. And I said, well, you know, don't they think they should be? They said, we're looking into what that.

So, that's the big question is, at what price? Yes, we want domestic energy, right? But at what price? And that's what's going on in Ohio right now.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: -- potentially happening, right?

BANFIELD: Poppy, thank you. You're smarter than the average scientist. And way prettier.

Poppy Harlow, thanks.

SAMBOLIN: Still to come on EARLY START, Cuban-Americans furious with Mercedes Benz. Why? Because of an advertisement. We're going to show it to you.

You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. It is 46 minutes past to the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The U.S. reportedly warning Iran through secret channel, don't cross the red line. That would be shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, the most vital oil artery in the entire world. This comes as the United States sends another carrier strike team to the Arabian Sea, a move the Pentagon says is not related to Iran.

BANFIELD (voice-over): And police headquarters were evacuated in New Orleans after police found two live grenades in the trunk of a car. The police say that car had belonged to a man who allegedly killed three people earlier in the day. He, himself, was shot and killed by an officer, but the bomb squad had to come and deactivate those weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning to you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, have you guys read this book? It's called "The Obamas," and it's written by "New York Times" correspondent, Jodi Kantor. She's going to join us for breakfast with Soledad right here in the Tick Tack Diner. We're back again. She'll talk about some of what she's written in this book.

The first lady not so happy with the content. We'll ask her where she got her sources from. Did she actually talk to the couple at all? And we'll have a conversation about some of the impact of this book.

Also ahead this morning, killers on the loose. We've been talking about this national nationwide manhunt after the Mississippi governor pardoned four killers. Today, they're trying to get those four killers to report back. Proving unsuccessful. We'll sit down and chat with Jeff Toobin about what the options are at this point.

That's all ahead this morning at "Starting Point" in just about ten minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It's 6:50 in the east. And, we're getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines.

This morning, we have papers from Miami and Washington. So, let's start with the "Miami Herald." This is one of those what were you thinking. Cuban-Americans in Miami are furious with Mercedes Benz for using the image of Argentina revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevarra to sell their cars.

Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes, is apologizing now to the ad used his image with the words "Viva la Revolution".

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I don't think Cubans like that.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no, they don't.

BANFIELD: No.

SAMBOLIN: No, no. So, here, there's actually this one guy. His name is Felix Rodriguez. He's one of the three Cuban exiles that was actually recruited by the CIA to help the Libyan soldiers in search of Che. And he says, I know who Che Guevarra was, and he was a criminal, a murderer, and a person who hated the United States of America. How dare you do this?

BANFIELD: Such an icon anything image, though.

OK. You travel, I travel, we all travel, and you have to put all of your metal into these bins when you go through the x-ray, right? Done it before? Put in your watch, your ring, maybe a little bit of spare change. Ever had to do that, folks?

Have you ever forgotten to pick it up on the other side? Because, guess what, you're not alone. Are you ready for how much money airports have been making from leftover change?

SAMBOLIN: How much?

BANFIELD: $409,000. Yes.

SAMBOLIN: A year?

BANFIELD: Well, that's just the most recent yes, just 2011.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow.

BANFIELD: 2011 alone. So, apparently, they keep the money. The TSA keeps the money. If you want to know where it happens the most, it's JFK. $47,000 left at JFK.

SAMBOLIN: They just keep it. They don't donate it?

BANFIELD: Very good question. They are being asked to donate it. There's a Florida lawmaker who wants to actually them to start donating it to the United Service Organizations which helps the troops. JFK, $47,000. LAX, $19,000. It's absilitely remarkable.

SAMBOLIN: I would guess it, it's guys who are leaving the change, right? Because we don't really keep spare change in our pockets, right?

BANFIELD: It's the boys who have to start thinking either.

SAMBOLIN: Big donations you're making.

BANFIELD: Pick up your money or, you know, rest assured even though you left your money behind, it might end up going to a good cause.

SAMBOLIN: That's good.

BANFIELD: Who let the dogs out? They are unleashing the attack dogs on Mitt Romney in South Carolina, and you know what, it actually has to do with dogs. At least one dog on the roof of a car of Mitt Romney. Weird pictures, but we'll explain what they mean and why they're actually getting some traction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: That's a beautiful shot. Good morning, New York. The sun rises over that beautiful city which we love so much and like to call home.

SAMBOLIN: What's the temperature?

BANFIELD: You know, in the studio here, it's about 65.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I like to say.

SAMBOLIN: We're just not sure what it is outside, right?

BANFIELD: OK. So, you know something, the Republicans have been barking at each other long enough, and we are just getting into this whole campaign season, but now, there's a Newt Gingrich video that truly is dogging, and I mean it, dogging the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, over his one-time family pet.

SAMBOLIN: One of those literal things. Here is Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like most dogs, Mitt Romney says his dog, Seamus, liked fresh air. Well, he's getting plenty of airtime, all right, thanks to Newt Gingrich's anti-Romney ad trudging up the old dog in the kennel on the car roof story. MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have five kids inside the car, and my guess is he'd liked it lot better in his kennel than he would have like it inside.

MOOS: There's even a website Seamus 2012 that pretends it's Seamus speaking from doggy heaven. The original story was written by "Boston Globe" reporters back in 2007.

(on-camera) I'm trying to think in dog years how old is this story.

(voice-over) Writer, Neil Swidey, confirmed details of the story with Romney family members. Way back in 1983, the Romneys piled into their station wagon for a 12-hour trip to Canada with the dog in his kennel on the roof.

ROMNEY: This is a completely airtight kennel.

MOOS (on-camera): Keep in mind that Romney had built a special windshield for the kennel. So, when he put Seamus the dog up here on the roof, he was protected from the wind.

(voice-over) At some point, one of Romney's sons yelled, dad, gross. A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from a setter (ph) who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, Mitt Romney treated his dog like a mattress or (INAUDIBLE)

MOOS: Howard Stern and a parody song on YouTube.

(SINGING)

MOOS: There's even a re-imagined Hitler parody using a scene from "Downfall." Anti-Romney demonstrators have popped up with stuffed dogs on car roofs. But the writer of the original article thinks the most interesting angle has been dismissed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the dog is in distressed, Mitt Romney pulls off the side of the road into a gas station, borrows a host, washes it down, and then, puts the dog back up there.

MOOS: As Neil Swidey wrote, "It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion free cris management."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like the Beverly Hillbillies, and the Beverly Hillbillies treated their creditors better. It makes (ph) creditors.

MOOS: Look where duke the hound gets to sit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ain't bulging out of this rocker.

MOOS: And granny's in the Seamus position for shame.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BANFIELD: I wonder if the Democrats are going to use that to campaign against Mitt Romney if he's the eventual frontrunner.

SAMBOLIN: Well, that's EARLY START, the news from A to Z.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Soledad O'Brien standing by live. Let's me guess, where do you think she is? A diner, good morning.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Oh, ding, ding, ding. Good morning. Yes. How come you guys are inside in a nice studio with a working teleprompter --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: You have food.

BANFIELD: We get coffee. That's it.

O'BRIEN: I have food.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Oh, I feel so sorry for you guys.