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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Huntsman Bowing Out Of Race; Two Americans Missing After Cruise Accident; Captain Blamed For Cruise Accident; European Markets Flat; Week Ahead On Wall Street; Golden Globe Awards Winners; Two Americans Missing After Cruise Accident

Aired January 16, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a very good morning to you, everyone. It is very, very , and this is EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): Jon Huntsman out of there. CNN breaking news that a little later on today, the today former Utah governor is going to call it quits and hand over his support to the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. All of this ahead of a critical week of debates.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): We're getting lots of details on that downed cruise liner. Passenger says the crew was running around like the Marx Brothers. Details of panic and horror from inside the tipped cruise ship are now coming out. Americans are among those missing.

BANFIELD: And if you didn't know it, a whole bunch of European nations have had their debt downgraded. It happened to us about six/eight months ago. I'm not sure I felt it personally that our credit rating was downgraded.

But now it's happened in Europe and now everyone is wondering what is this going to do to the markets and what's it going to mean for you? Will we notice it? Will it make a difference? It's one of the financial stories that's way up here. We're going to bring it down here.

SAMBOLIN: Ricky Gervais, who did he offend this year? The insults and the winners at the Golden Globes, did you miss it? Ashleigh didn't, right?

BANFIELD: I saw a little bit -- bits and pieces. First 10 minutes because bedtime is 6:00 for us. We rise at 1:15 so it's the old TiVo for later today, caught the highlights, though.

So less than a week after that very impressive and I do say impressive third place finish in New Hampshire because Jon Huntsman was kind of struggling along. He's now decided to call it quits. CNN is actually the first to break this story that he's announcing his withdrawal a little later on today and is expected to put his support behind Mitt Romney.

Our CNN political reporter, Peter Hamby was the one to do this, to find out first that this is what's going to happen. He's live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina right now.

So here is the big question. I suppose it's a two-fer. Is the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney going to be there to accept this support as Governor Huntsman decides to drop out, and will it matter?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Those are both good questions. I'm actually still trying to get answers on whether Governor Romney will be here. I suspect he is. Typically, sort of unity events like this, endorsements, the candidates kind of take the stage or the podium together and make nice for the cameras. So I expect he will be, but I don't want to confirm that so I'm still trying to get an answer.

Secondly, will it matter? You know, frankly, it might not. Huntsman was not really registering in the polls even nationally or down here in South Carolina. He doesn't bring to the table a big financial network that Romney can tap into.

Huntsman and Romney are kind of playing in the same lane in the Republican primary, kind of appealing to the same brand of moderate establishment pro-business-minded Republicans.

Frankly, the voters that Mitt Romney needs to appeal to are those conservative Tea Party-based Republicans that he's always had a problem connecting with. So it's a nice little show that we'll see here later.

Politically, I'm not sure it's going to be a big deal. But in terms of mending fences, Romney and Huntsman have not been very close and their staffs do not like each other one bit so maybe that will be the first step on patching up that relationship, guys.

SAMBOLIN: So, Peter, we know you broke the story. Were you surprised by the announcement?

HAMBY: I actually was a little surprised by it. I thought that after Huntsman, as you mentioned, did well in New Hampshire, but he didn't do well enough and he didn't get enough momentum to come down here to South Carolina, a more conservative state and really catch fire.

I thought he might actually stay in through the entire course of the South Carolina primary. The rest of this week because, you know, if you're a candidate, Jon Huntsman is a young guy. He's 51, he could plausible run for president again in 2016 or 2020.

And you do kind of want to lay some political groundwork in a state like South Carolina that you will need down the road, but you know, all the cameras will be here in Myrtle Beach. So if you're going to pick a time to step out it's either going to be today on Monday before the big debate tonight or on Thursday at our CNN debate.

SAMBOLIN: Peter, I love to follow the money. What happens with the money, his money, the "super PAC" money, does he keep it? Does he store it for 2016 or does it hand it over to Romney? What do they do with that stuff?

HAMBY: Yes, he probably won't give it to Romney. His "Super PAC" is sort of independent of his own campaign. And you know, his father who is a billionaire philanthropist and chemical executive in Utah was providing most of the "c" money for that "Super PAC." They can kind of hang on to it.

n terms of his own federal funds, we haven't seen the latest financial report. His latest report at the beginning of the year showed him in debt. . He has work to do to pay off some debt. So he doesn't have much money to hang on to if he still run for president down the road, guys.

BANFIELD: Good job, Peter. Nice work out there. I also want to remind our viewers to keep it right here on CNN through November for the best political coverage on television. Thursday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Southern Republican presidential debate right here live on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: Then the road to the Republican nomination for president stops in South Carolina. Tune in to CNN Saturday night, January 21st at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for the most comprehensive primary coverage you can find.

BANFIELD: Switching gears this morning, rescue crews are scouring the cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy and they've discovered a sixth body, as well.

Still more than a dozen people remained unaccounted for. That number includes two American citizens named Gerald and Barbara Heil. They are grandparents from Minnesota and their children said that they were really looking forward to this retirement trip for a long time.

U.S. embassy in Rome is confirming that those two people have not checked in since the accident on Friday. There had been a lot of questions surrounding the captain's actions in all of this. In fact, the Italians arrested him over the weekend, questioning him.

Now his employer says that he actually may have been responsible. Just holding a news conference. Here's some of the things that the CEO of Costa Cruises has been saying that while the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's master, which resulted in these grave consequences. Listen to what the captain had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANCESCO SCHETTINO, COSTA CONCORDIA CAPTAIN (through translator): I don't know if it was detected or not, but on the nautical chart it was marked just as water at some 100, 150 meters from the rocks and we were about 300 meters from the shore, more or less. We shouldn't have had this contact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And CNN's Dan Rivers is covering this story from Gigloi,Italy. Are you there, Dan?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): What the situation is here right now is the search and rescue teams have been going all through the night, divers, trying to search for survivors.

More than 2,000 cabins inside this we enormous liner that is still lying on its side here. We're told that there are still 16 people missing, including two U.S. citizens. So far six bodies have been found. Sixth body was found overnight.

SAMBOLIN: So these are live pictures of the ship right now. A press conference from the CEO just wrapped up. Here are some details.

Workers have suspended the rescue efforts. The ship has begun to slip. The accident was caused by human error and says passengers are the first priority, than their deal with the environmental concerns. Such a sad story.

BANFIELD: Amazing pictures, too, to see how close they were to shore.

SAMBOLIN: And you wonder how long it takes for that ship to totally sink.

BANFIELD: The captain says my maps didn't show those rocks. Don't those ships have some of the most state-of-the-art GPS equipment where it's not about a map? It is not about a map. There are alarms that go off like mad, even on a small boat.

SAMBOLIN: Well, they're calling that an excuse. It will be interesting to see what he says.

BANFIELD: A lot of questions.

SAMBOLIN: Every morning we give you an early start to your day by alerting you to the news that are happening later and the stories that are just developing now, but will be the big story tonight.

Lawmakers in Mississippi will be talking about taking away some of the governor's powers today to pardon convicted criminals. They're trying to prevent another mess like the one we saw last week when outgoing Governor Haley Barbour pardoned nearly 200 people including the four convicted killers.

BANFIELD: You may be up early, but it is a day off for many because special ceremonies are going to be kicking off in just a few hours at the MLK Memorial in Washington, D.C. The King family saying happy birthday and was at the monument yesterday for a wreath laying ceremony. Dr. Martin Luther King would have been 83 years old.

And on this day because it's MLK day, the U.S. markets are closed, but investors are still nonetheless keeping their eyes on the prize, which may not actually be such a prize. It's eurozone.

SAMBOLIN: We're trying to understand all of this. S&P downgraded nine European nations Friday. Alison is here with a look ahead. We're still trying to figure out. Does this really matter to us?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: OK, so as far as the markets go, the U.S. markets are closed today. The European markets are trading. That's a real good indication as to how everybody is reacting.

You know what? The European markets, they're flat right now. Really little reaction based on the fact that Standard & Poor's went ahead and downgraded nine euro zone countries after the closing bell on Friday.

As far as what it means for the U.S., we could look at what happened in August. In August, the U.S. credit rating was downgraded from AAA to AA plus. It was downgraded one notch. We saw a huge reaction in stocks.

SAMBOLIN: Right away. I mean, right away, but --

KOSIK: The Dow plunged 600 points, but then, you know what, equity stocks have recovered since. Then you look at the bond market because that's what really counts.

That shows how much -- how costly it is for the government to go ahead and borrow money and to raise money. There's no reaction in U.S. bond markets especially after this downgrade that happened on that Friday at these eurozone countries.

The interest rate for the 10-year Treasury note is below 2 percent. No reaction. Do you know why? Because Standard & Poor's kind of put the eurozone unnoticed back in December that this was going to happen to me.

They gave it that red flag already that this is coming. So when it actually came after the closing bell on Friday, no one was surprised.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, there was no what?

KOSIK: Yes, it was, OK, we expected that. Now let's move on because the bigger wild card here is Greece. Greece --

SAMBOLIN: I was just going to ask. Greece has got to be the first one.

KOSIK: Greece is drowning in its own debt and it's got big bond payments due in March. It's got to pay its creditors and it's having problems doing that. So what it's doing is negotiating with its bank creditors at this point.

They've agreed. The bank creditors have, to go ahead and take a 50 percent loss on their investment. But on Friday, there's negotiations went poof and now they're in question.

Leaders in Greece are coming out and saying we will have a deal that's reached. But the big worry is that Greece could default and ultimately go bankrupt. And it does have the potential to bring down the rest of the eurozone with it. Exactly dominos.

SAMBOLIN: Right, and what about the week ahead on Wall Street?

KOSIK: OK, the U.S. markets are certainly going to be looking at those bank earnings. This week, we're going to be hearing from the big banks like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo.

We heard from J.P. Morgan chase on Friday. Those earnings disappointed Wall Street. We saw J.P. Morgan shares fall 2.5 percent. You know, it's a bit worrisome because J.P. Morgan Chase is considered one of the healthiest of the banks.

And it sort of set the tone and the tone doesn't look too good this week. So the U.S. is really going to be focused on those bank earnings.

SAMBOLIN: Buckle up?

KOSIK: Buckle up.

BANFIELD: Bumpy ride.

KOSIK: Roller coaster.

BANFIELD: She tells it here and now. All right, thank you, Alison.

SAMBOLIN: It's 11 minutes past the hour. The northwest slammed with snow. Roads closed in Seattle and parts of Oregon. We have pictures, don't we? A messy week ahead in the northeast. Rob Marciano joining us with all those details. Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Zoraida. Hello, Ashleigh. Let's start with those pictures out of Seattle. You would think the emerald city doesn't see a whole lot of snow. They get it every couple times a winter, but not necessarily accumulating like this.

When that happens you better believe it in a place that doesn't typically get a lot of snow at least at the lower elevations, cars get stuck real quick. Chains to get up and over the pass usually, but not in and around Seattle. We may see some of that across the northeast, but not in the bigger cities although it's cold enough for that right now, certainly in Boston. It's warmed up a degree.

Two degrees this in Albany, 16 in New York City and this is the area of north and west of the cities that I'm concerned about over the next 18 hours, as some moisture begins to head this way with a warm front.

So a wintry mix expected later on tonight. Again, northwest of the I- 95 corridor some snow mixing with freezing rain and sleet at times. Typical spots tonight in through tomorrow morning as well.

Here's the moisture rolling across the Tennessee Valley, the Ohio River Valley as well. Again, heading into -- mixing up some of the air here which will make it warm after a cool start.

It's 58 for a high temperature Atlanta, 44 degrees in Chicago, and 37 in Seattle with more snow expected. If you're traveling today, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Dallas, and Denver, those are the spots most of which will be held down to below an hour.

If you are traveling to Portland or Seattle, bring your winter gear because more snow is expected over the next couple of day. Guys, back up to you.

SAMBOLIN: It's about time we talk about snow, right?

MARCIANO: That's right.

BANFIELD: Here's the weird thing, Rob. This time last year, I think we were drowning in about six or eight feet of snow and we haven't had nary a drop of it, at least in the New York area.

MARCIANO: No, it's true for the eastern two-thirds of the country and the snow pack out west has been abysmal. But the pattern is changing just a little bit and we may have a strong finish.

BANFIELD: Well, maybe -- I hope not. Thanks, Rob. We miss you.

It is now 13 minutes past 6:00 on the east coast. Time to get you caught up on top story it is you're getting ready to get out the door. Big CNN scoop. Our Peter Hamby got this one. Are you ready?

Jon Huntsman said, my third place finish in New Hampshire was nice and at the time called it a ticket to ride, but apparently it was a ticket to ride home. He apparently is about to just call it quits.

Just days before the South Carolina primary. He's going to announce today he's dropping out, and likely to expect to put his support behind the frontrunner, Mitt Romney.

SAMBOLIN: Rescue workers in Italy have temporarily suspended operations because the Costa cruiseliner has started to shift and move. The ship's chairman and CEO just wrapped up a press conference a little while ago. He says the accident was caused by human error and says passengers are the absolute first priority.

BANFIELD: And if you are a fan of that adorable Mini Cooper, and if you have one, more importantly, you might want to take a peek at it because there's a big recall of about 90,000 of these cars. Federal officials are saying there's possible fire hazard, faulty circuit board on certain models from 2006 to 2011. Nice cars.

SAMBOLIN: Cute little car.

BANFIELD: I love them. I got a smart car and they're very similar. You feel like you're driving in a toaster.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know if I want to be driving in a toaster. It doesn't sound safe.

It's 14 minutes past the hour here. Still to come on EARLY START, Wisconsin governor is facing recall. Democrats and labor unions frantically collecting signatures. Will they get enough though by tomorrow's deadline?

BANFIELD: And if you're up early and you stayed up late and saw the beautiful dresses on the red carpet, there was more to the Golden Globes than just the fabulous fashion, folks. There were winners, losers and there was Ricky Gervais.

And, by the way, that little, teeny, tiny adorable film that stole the show, a silent picture coming in with big wins? Find out all about it.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Los Angeles. It is 50 degrees in your neck of the woods. Later, sunny and 58. I'd like to be in Los Angeles.

BANFIELD: And it's very, very early in the morning there, by the way. Only 18 minutes past 3:00 in the morning. So if you're up, hello. You must be coming home from the Golden Globes party.

SAMBOLIN: Getting ready to go to bed.

BANFIELD: So we're getting an "Early Read" on some of the local headlines in the country that actually end up making headlines right across the country.

We've got a couple of papers this morning. One from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and one from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Let's talk about the "Grand Forks Herald." The FBI is asking people in parts of Montana and North Dakota - are you ready for this, check your property for signs of disturbed soil. That's because they think they might have a missing woman in a situation where she's in a shallow grave.

Sherry Arnold disappeared about nine days ago. They fear that she was kidnapped. They fear that she's dead and they think the only reason now that they might be able to get any headway is by asking people to go and look around and find see if they can find -

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.

BANFIELD: It's sort of an awful thing to hear police say. But they do have two suspects in custody from Colorado. But they do believe they think she may be buried in a remote location. So we're keeping an eye on that story.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow.

All right. Switching gears here. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's job could be on the line. Democrats and labor unions are gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures. They're hoping for a recall election. They need 540,000 signatures. The deadline, tomorrow.

Republicans are vowing to verify every signature using 5,000 volunteers. So looking for dead people on that list, perhaps Mickey Mouse -

BANFIELD: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: -- who signed. You just never know, right?

BANFIELD: And we have seen it before, especially in your rural (ph) town Chicago (INAUDIBLE).

SAMBOLIN: That's right around the corner, right? And so, you know, big union issues in that town. So we'll see how that turns out.

BANFIELD: And then if you're talking about wins and losses and votes and all the rest, who won, who lost, what were they wearing, which is one of the favorite questions when it comes to -

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: -- the fancy affairs in Hollywood.

The stars turned out at the Golden Globe Awards last nights. Of course, that's the contest that celebrates the best in movies and TV, and they dress well and they drink a lot.

SAMBOLIN: So it was a big night for George Clooney and Meryl Streep, one of my favorites.

CNN's Kareen Wynter live in Los Angeles with the morning after wrap- up. You know, I want to talk all fashion, but I guess we've got to talk about who were the winners.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Of course. We'll get you all of that good stuff.

And you mention the morning after, Ashleigh and Zoraida. It may be the morning after, but let me tell you they are still partying it up here in L.A. all around town. Why? Because that's how they do it here, especially the big kickoff to award season.

You mentioned Meryl Streep at the top. She, of course, won Best Actress for her role in "The Iron Lady." George Clooney, a big night for him but he wasn't the only leading man from Sunday night's show. How about that host Ricky Gervais after last year's, let's say a feisty performance shall we, at the Golden Globes. The British funny man was all the talk leading up to this year's ceremony and he came out swinging, guys, right away. Here's a little taste of what happened last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICKY GERVAIS, HOST, THE GOLDEN GLOBES AWARDS: -- Globes are to the Oscars is what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton basically. What? A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker, and more easily bought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WYNTER: Gees, everyone was fair game. You know, he poked fun at NBC, Justin Bieber. There were a few dirty jokes in there but we're going to keep it clean for our morning audience. Gervais pretty much picked up where he left off last year, even taking shots at Madonna and Elton John.

But for the most part, you know, he was quite well behaved this time around than a lot of people were expecting. He boosted ratings, by the way, last year when he hosted, so we'll have to see if this year's numbers are any better.

SAMBOLIN: So who are the other big winners?

WYNTER: There are so many big winners. George Clooney, he took home the Best Actor in a Drama Award for "The Descendents." Meryl Streep, she was named Best Actress, as mentioned, in a Drama for her role as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." And Michelle Williams, she was one of my favorites. I spoke with her right after the show. She seemed quite shocked and actually overwhelmed by the award. She won Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for her role as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn."

Top honors. We can't forget about TV. And that category went to ABC, "Modern Family" for Best Comedy and Showtime Thriller with Claire Danes "Homeland" took home a Globe for Best Drama.

And, guys, I don't know if we have a few seconds to talk about this. Clooney, he was, of course, a big winner but, of course, he couldn't make it through the show without poking fun at someone. In this case it was his good pal Brad Pitt. It was all in fun. As you may know, Pitt, he recently sustained a really nasty knee injury, an injury that required him to walk around with a cane, which he did on the red carpet and on stage at the Globes.

Clooney mocked his "Ocean's 11" co-star by also walking out - as you can see right there - on stage with a cane. Just another one of those unscripted Golden Globe moments -

BANFIELD: And Brad Pitt -

WYNTER: -- and all that drinking that's allowed. I think all that drinking that's allowed in the audience, you know, loosens everyone up, which makes it a great show.

BANFIELD: And Brad - Brad Pitt is like the Susan Lucci, I feel, he's such a great actor but he always gets these nominations nowadays and he never comes out the winner. Was that expected this time, or not? WYNTER: Isn't that something? You know, "Money Ball" was such a great film, so well received. Who doesn't love baseball but George Clooney, everything he touches, Ashleigh, turns to gold. He's like Oprah. He has that Midas touch.

So a lot of people were rooting for Brad. You can't forget about George Clooney. He's such a tough one. He's so charming and he always goes into these shows like humble, like, guys, I'm not going to get it and of course he goes away with the big award. So good for him.

But it's still early. We have so many more shows.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

WYNTER: the S.A.G. awards and the big show of all, the Oscars. So maybe one for Brad.

BANFIELD: So you got your work cut out for you, girl.

SAMBOLIN: Kareen Wynter, thank you so much for joining us.

WYNTER: Thanks, guys. Sure thing.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Still to come, new details about the shipwrecked cruise ship in Italy. The cruise line definitely saying it was the captain's fault. It was human errors.

Dan Rivers is live in Italy for us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Essentially ask us of what would we - if we could do anything, what would we really do? Like, what are the things we lack in our city? What are the things that we would like to do but we can't, and then make it happen?

That's exactly what architecture should be all about is to try to make the world a little bit more like our dreams.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's 28 minutes now past the hour and that's a good time to get you caught up on, oh, I don't know, top headlines for the day.

And here it is, CNN Breaking News. Jon Huntsman calling it quits, withdrawing from the race for Republican nomination. Expected to happen a little later on today.

We're the first of the story that the Utah governor is expected to actually put his support behind Mitt Romney and then calling fellow Republicans as well to rally around the GOP front-runner.

SAMBOLIN: Police in Southern California have now identified the prime suspect in the murders of four homeless men. Twenty-three-year-old Itzcoatl Ocampo was arrested Friday night after more than a dozen witnesses said they saw him stab a homeless man in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in Anaheim.

Police wouldn't comment on the "Los Angeles Times" report that says Ocampo is a former Marine who's been having problems - problems that is since returning from Iraq.

BANFIELD: And we want to get you caught up with some breaking news and developments this morning on that search for survivors on that capsized cruise ship off the coast of Italy. The pictures have been remarkable of that listing massive, nearly 1,000 foot long cruise ship.

And now we're hearing this. They have suspended the rescue operations because apparently that ship is starting to - and this is the words of those responsible for that ship flip. The ship is apparently starting to slip. Whether that means there's a danger now for anybody to try to rescue people likely is the situation here.

The cruise line CEO is apologizing very generally, though, and also saying that he knows exactly what's wrong here. He's calling it human error on the part of the captain.

Something else we're finding out about. Apparently, there were 2,300 tons of fuel still onboard that ship. Right now, they're saying there weren't any leaks. However, they have said number one, our priority is passengers. Number two, our priority will be the environment.

So, here's another comment from the owner of Costa Cruises. The crew, according to the owner, were acting like heroes. That's not exactly what we were hearing some of the passengers say, however.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dan Rivers is live in Italy. Dan, what can you tell us?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we said, within the last hour, the search has been suspended. As I'm speaking to now, a helicopter is circling around the ship. So I don't know if that means that they're going to lower more firefighters on.

About an hour ago, they were reaching firefighters off because they thought the ship was beginning to slip. I don't know if you can see that behind me, but over there, there's a helicopter just flying very below of the ship now. So, that might be an indication that they're going to do background to have a look and see perhaps if they can get more crew aboard. But as you say, not only is the concern about possible survivors or sadly the recovery of bodies perhaps after this long time, but also the environment.

Italy's environment minister has come out with a statement saying, Corrado Clini has been warning of an ecological disaster, saying that urgent action is needed and this is a very high risk situation. As you say, there's few thousand tons or more of fuel on board. Incredibly at the moment, none seems to have leaked at all, which is amazing given the size of the hull. There's about 150-foot hull down the side of the port -- hull at the moment. Incredibly, none of the fuel seems to have come out.

But this is a beautiful island. It's famed for its diving and for its marine wildlife and I think everyone here is just praying that it isn't turned into an environmental catastrophe as well as a human one.

SAMBOLIN: Dan, I know you were having trouble hearing us earlier. I hope you can now. We mentioned earlier that they had suspended the search. Is that just on board the ship? Are they continuing their search in the ocean?

RIVERS: No. I think they pulled everyone back because basically the ship is sort of sitting on a little shelf of rock, which then pulls away very rapidly and very deep water. And obviously the concern was if the weather deteriorated and the ship continued to kind of move around on the bottom, it might just drop off its shelf and go completely under, which would be catastrophic for all that fuel oil on board and also, you know, make it even more difficult to recover any more bodies than -- you know, I mean, I think after three days, the chances of anyone being found alive now is pretty slim. But the firefighters here say they're not going to give up until they know for sure they've checked the entire ship.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dan Rivers live from Italy -- thank you so much for those details.

BANFIELD: And still to come at 33 minutes past the hour, Jon Huntsman about to make a big announcement. He may look happy in these pictures but CNN breaking the news, he's calling it quit, folks, later on today and about to back Mitt Romney. So, who is going to benefit from this, Mitt Romney or not?

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 6:36 in the East.

The Republican field is down to five. But will Jon Huntsman's withdrawal have any impact at all on the outcome in South Carolina Saturday night?

So, let's talk to our panelist and see what they have to say.

From Washington, Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women from -- for America, excuse me -- from Austin, Texas. Ed Espinoza, Democratic political consultant. And here in New York City, we have John Avlon, senior political columnist for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast."

John, I want to start with you. So he's dropping out. He's pull polling at 1 percent in South Carolina. Does it matter? JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It does matter because it's a surprising move given that he just received the endorsement from the state which is South Carolina's largest newspaper. But he clearly failed that third place finish in New Hampshire to convert that to a bump in South Carolina. It is I think actually a loss for the Republican field as well because he was very well regarded in terms of the substance of this campaign, running a civil campaign. But he took the risk of criticizing hyper-partisanship.

The real surprise isn't that he's just getting out, but that a target of a lot of his criticisms is the man he's endorsing later today reportedly, Mitt Romney. That is a bit of a surprise.

So, the field winnows and Jon Huntsman is getting out before the votes are cast in South Carolina, perhaps at least to live to fight another day.

SAMBOLIN: We were waiting to hear and see if Romney would be present when Huntsman endorses him. Do you know anything about that? Have you heard anything?

AVLON: That is unconfirmed as of yet, but our Peter Hamby is reporting that out in South Carolina.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Penny, let's talk to you about these endorsements. This weekend, a group of social conservatives, they met in Texas in order to decide who are they going to rally around.

You were invited to the meeting. We understand you couldn't go. So, let's listen to this. And then we'll talk about it afterwards.

(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: There was passionate and enthusiastic support for Rick Santorum, for Rick Perry and for Newt Gingrich. But in the end, what we had supermajority expressing support for Rick Santorum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So that's Tony Perkins who is a president of Family Research Council. Were you surprised that they came to a consensus? Are you -- or do you think they're still too divided?

PENNY NANCE, PRESIDENT & CEO, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Well, I was actually a little surprised that people were able to coalesce generally around one candidate. Rick Santorum has a lot of support. I'm actually supporting Rick Santorum.

But there's definitely differences within my own organization, within my membership. People do like a number of the candidates. But I think we're starting to see people coalesce. And I would say, as far as Huntsman goes, the three people in South Carolina that we're supporting him probably will go to Romney.

But I think the real race here is going to go way past South Carolina, certainly into Florida. And I hope to see some real coalescing around a tried and true conservative like Santorum.

SAMBOLIN: So, you think Santorum will be do better?

NANCE: I expect you are starting to see his numbers go up again. I'm very, very convinced that you're going to starting to see more movement around him, perhaps very similar to what you saw in Iowa. But again, there is definitely diversity among social conservatives. People like Newt Gingrich, people like Rick Perry.

And so you may see a little more of that before you get to Florida.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about endorsements here. "The Washington Post" and Pew Research Center conducted a poll about endorsements. Let's take a look it.

In essence, it says endorsements do not make a difference in the average voters' decision. A local newspaper there, 75 percent said, you know, their endorsement just does not matter.

So what can these endorsements do for a candidate?

NANCE: Well, I think certainly --

ED ESPINOZA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I saw that poll and actually --

SAMBOLIN: If I could have Ed jump in here.

ESPINOZA: Yes. I saw that poll. I actually don't agree with the premise of it. And even though "Washington Post" said that it's probably skewed because when you ask people if it makes a difference, they say it doesn't. Although in the overall scheme of things, in the grand scale of the campaign, it probably does if only subconsciously.

Here's the issue with this endorsement from Huntsman in particular, is that he doesn't have much of a constituency. He's polling at about 4 percent in South Carolina. He's going after Republican moderates, not very many in this primary.

What does Romney gain from that endorsement? His problem is with conservatives. Huntsman is not a conservative.

So, the endorsement heading into South Carolina, they can't add up. This one in particular, I don't think does a whole lot.

SAMBOLIN: John, chime in on that.

AVLON: Yes. Look, I mean, Jon Huntsman actually had a very conservative record as governor of Utah on fiscal issues. I think the key for Jon Huntsman support, his endorsement does matter is that all of Huntsman supporters will end up going to Mitt Romney because he's the only other candidate on the center right.

So, every little bit helps, especially if Romney is trying to pull out a win in South Carolina and then looking to Florida. So, whenever the field narrows, if it moves -- narrows to the center right, it's a benefit to Mitt Romney in the short run. SAMBOLIN: All right. John, Penny, Ed, thank you for joining us this morning. We'll see what happens. We'll be watching.

BANFIELD: She has been called the most hated woman in America, and she's back. I'm talking Casey Anthony, folks. And you know what? There's always a face behind a headline of a newspaper or a magazine. And "People" magazine has some pretty interesting stuff you're about to hear. We'll talk to a face behind that headline in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: And a very good morning to you, Atlanta. It is 35 degrees in that town. Atlanta not used to that. Cloudy there. Expected to go up to about 56 degrees in your neck of the woods there, folks, so --

SAMBOLIN: Better than here.

BANFIELD: If you're up early, take heart, it will warm up somewhat, but a bueatiful shot for you this morning.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It is 45 minutes past the hour here. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Two Americans among those still missing in that overturned cruise ship in Italy. Workers have temporarily suspended rescue operations because the cruise liner has started to shift and move. The coast guard will be giving us an update on the effort in a little over an hour.

Is that a live picture we're taking a look at there? That's not a live picture. This one is not a live picture, though. We're expecting that at 8:00 a.m. eastern time.

BANFIELD (voice-over): And also, CNN making some big breaking news overnight. GOP presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, expected in South Carolina today but not to campaign, instead, to announce he's out of the race and that he's going to endorse Mitt Romney instead. We're the first to bring you that news.

Everybody else picking up on it now. The Huntsman campaign saying, you know, he believes that Romney is the best candidate to beat President Obama in November.

SAMBOLIN: And a special reclaim ceremony at the MLK Memorial in Washington, D.C. It will begin in a little over two hours. It's a first Martin Luther King Jr. Day for that memorial which President Obama dedicated in October.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (on-camera): You know, if there's one thing Soledad O'Brien likes, it is diner food and being back at her desk.

(LAUGHTER)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, no, on the diner food, no, you'd be wrong about that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: But I do like being back at my desk. Yes. Indoors. It's such a nice, nice thing. Welcome, everybody. "Starting Point" is just about ten minutes away. And this morning, we're talking to the reporter who spoke to Joe Paterno in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal. There has been tremendous silence from him. We're going to update you on what she got from Joe Paterno in her interview.

Also, the state of Arizona school district is banning certain books, literally, locking them up. Here's a hint that one of the books that they're banning, Shakespeare, really? We're going to talk about that straight ahead. "Starting Point" begins in just about ten minutes. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 6:50 in the east. Time for front page faces. New info on the whereabouts of Casey Anthony.

BANFIELD: Because we know that's all you can think of at night, right?

SAMBOLIN: But a lot of people are interested. First, a brand new photo has leaked on Twitter showing what appears to be Casey cuddling with a puppy. Remember, Casey Anthony talked about having adopted a dog in a recent video diary that also leaked online.

BANFIELD: And now, there's a brand new article on "People" magazine that reveals that Casey is living alone in Port St. Lucie County in Florida. With us now is the senior editor and the face behind the magazine, "People," and your correspondent who covered this case, Steve Helling, got this tip.

I'm just going to show your piece here because it has that picture from the -- which camera can see it best? (INAUDIBLE). All right. So, your reporter, Steve Helling, was able to get this tip that Casey has surfaced in Port St. Lucie. I'm curious as to how -- only if he's going to reveal that, I'm not sure, but how he found that out and how solid is that tip that she's there?

TATSHA ROBERTSON, SENIOR EDITOR, PEOPLE: Well, he has good sources. He's been covering Casey from the very beginning. So, I think his sources are pretty tight, and they definitely told him that she's in Florida. We know that because she has to stay there until probation, but we got an idea, you know, strong idea where she is.

We think she's living by herself. As she said in the video, she has a puppy. So, and she's also -- she's doing a lot. I mean, she's talking to counselors, to pastors. So, I think our sources are pretty tight. BANFIELD: I think I remember Steve saying when we were in trial together that you had a couple of front page stories with Casey on the cover.

ROBERTSON: We had some cover stories, yes.

BANFIELD: And they were really popular issues, weren't they?

ROBERTSON: Yes, yes, yes. I think it's because people were interested in what was going to happen to her, but also. a lot of people felt -- still felt for her daughter, Caylee --

BANFIELD: Right.

ROBERTSON: -- who, you know, who died and it was all kinds of questions. So, I think that's what the readers were bracing. This two-year-old daughter, no one knows really what happened. I mean, there's just parts went out to her. Not really to Casey but to her daughter.

BANFIELD: Tatsha, how is she surviving, do we know?

ROBERTSON: Well, we definitely know that she's getting help from some of her lawyers, some of her legal team, but also from charity, and from some churches. So, people are definitely reaching out to her. I mean, she has no -- she really has no way of making any money right now. And also, we hear she's connecting with her brother again. So, we don't know but, you know, he could be helping her.

BANFIELD: Which is a big deal.

ROBERTSON: Which is a big deal.

BANFIELD: Yes, because when that video surfaced, her family released a statement saying we didn't know about this, and we are still concerned about her safety.

ROBERTSON: Right.

BANFIELD: But you know, the prosecutors were beyond bitter on this one.

ROBERTSON: Yes.

BANFIELD: And understandably so because they had -- by all intents and purposes, they had a really good case against her. So, Jeff Ashton, the lead prosecutor in the case who's now actually running for office, should say no one should care about this girl anymore.

It seemed odd to me. I almost felt as though he might get sort of come up as if people did care and gave her a hard time and gave her that sentence that she would live with for the rest of her life not being able to live comfortably, a little like O.J.

ROBERTSON: Maybe, but I really think there is a lot of -- there are hundreds of thousand, millions of people in America who still have a problem with Casey. So, I don't think they're going to be angry with his comments, but there are people out there who feel that, you know, she's this young woman who she was found not guilty and we're going to help her, and that's how she's surviving.

BANFIELD: A little surprise with the amount of --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTSON: Yes, they do. They do.

BANFIELD: I used to cover the case and wonder is anybody listening and why, and, boy, were they?

ROBERTSON: Just one of the most popular stories in the summer, I think.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: You got that right.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks for coming in this morning. We appreciate it.

BANFIELD: Tatsha, thank you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ahead in the next hour, Joe Paterno's first interview since the Penn State scandal saying, I wish I had done more, talking about this scandal and his exit. Soledad speaks to the columnist who landed that interview. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome black. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. We are keeping you in pop culture look this morning by taking a look at what's trending on the web and in social media. I asked this morning why are we doing this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And I was told, look at the picture. This is on Yahoo!

BANFIELD (voice-over): It looks like a parking lot.

SAMBOLIN: It is a parking lot. It's being called the world's most expensive parking lot. It's the deck of a $4.5 billion USS Ronald Reagan filled with bumper to bumper cars as it heads up the pacific to its base in Washington State.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): So, these cars belong to navy sailor, seriously.

BANFIELD (on-camera): They have to move.

SAMBOLIN: They got to move. It said it's cost of $4.5 billion. They're saying it's the most expensive parking lot. So, the U.S. navy says it's actually cheaper to bring the cars to the base this way instead of having them transported another way or paying for transportation, you know, at the end of the line for the sailors.

BANFIELD: I would just love to know what it costs in fuel. If they say it's cheaper, I'm amazed.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely it would cost more money if they did it any other way.

BANFIELD: That would have just got (ph) the sailors or soldiers to drive, drive themselves to base. Wow! Anyway, it is good picture, because when you look at it, you can't imagine that that's an aircraft carrier just cruising up our coast, delivering cars.

It is great to have you here with us this morning. And you know what, we are so excited that Soledad O'Brien has finally come home to us. We've missed her dearly.

SAMBOLIN: We can actually touch her from here.

O'BRIEN: Oh, the mocking commences.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: We're glad you're here and you brought food.

O'BRIEN: I did. You know, we brought the deli to us. The diner comes here to the set, which is so nice because we have a teleprompter and actual scripts.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: It's such a nice thing. Thank you, ladies. Yes. Help yourselves because Day Bar (ph) is catering for us this morning - New York City staple. We'll talk about that a little bit later.