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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN
Rescue Worker Treated By Paramedics; Ship's Captain Out Of Jail; Cruise Ship Salvage To Begin; Internet Blackout; Storms In Pacific Northwest; Mitt Romney's Money; Ship's Captain Out of Jail; Wisconsin Governor Recall; Yahoo's Co-Founder Leaves Company; PG&E Fails To Inspect 300-Miles Of Gas Lines Near Homes
Aired January 18, 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: Good morning. It's nice to have you all here with us. It is 6:00 on the east coast and all of the way over on the left coast, 3:00 a.m. It's good to have you with our EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're bringing you the news from A to Z. It is Wednesday, January 18th. Let's get started here.
We have breaking news overnight. The rescue operation in Italy has been suspended. Why that cruise ship is slipping. It is very dangerous conditions out there.
BANFIELD: And also, a big headline if you like to logon in the morning as you may be seeing this, nada. Wikipedia and a number of very popular websites are in a protest that basically leaves them dark or somewhat dark. It's all in a protest over, strangely enough, anti- piracy bills online. We'll sort it out for you.
SAMBOLIN: And Mitt Romney reveals he pays about 15 percent tax rate, still resisting calls to release his tax returns.
BANFIELD: Do you remember that drone that we sort of accidentally lost to Iran? Either crashed or got pulled down or whatever story you want to believe
Well, Iran has a message for us. We're going to give it back to you, but there's a catch and it's a really itty-bitty teeny- weeny catch, but it is very unusual. We'll explain that.
SAMBOLIN: But first, to the breaking news from overnight. The rescue operation to find signs of life aboard that cruise ship on hold this morning.
It was suspended just a few hours ago. The ship is teetering on the seafloor. It is slipping. It is moving. I believe 60 feet of water that it's in.
BANFIELD: Yes, but precipitously could slide to 200 because it is such a steep shelf. Also have new video that came into our CNN offices around the world. And they show one of the rescue workers being pulled from the ship and being treated by paramedics.
Our Dan Rivers suggesting it could have been exhaustion, stress, of course, the waters are so cold, 57 degrees as well. The coast guard says that the worker felt sick because of the stressful conditions under which they have been operating.
SAMBOLIN: Yes, the fear there of hypothermia.
Also developing overnight, the captain of the doomed cruise liner is out of jail this morning. This is video that we've been showing you here for a while. This is actually video of him leaving court.
That's why he's handcuffed there. He does remain under house arrest. A journalist, Barbie Nadeau is on the phone from Rome. What can you tell us, Barbie?
BARBIE NADEAU, ROME (via telephone): Well, there is definitely outrage in Italy this morning to find out this captain of this tragedy was, you know, whisked away in the middle of the night, after 2:00 a.m. he arrived in his house in Italy, beautiful off the coast area.
And he is on house arrest. The prosecutor has indicated that he is going to (INAUDIBLE) back in jail. He wants the judge to re-examine the case. And at this point, we'll just wait and see.
The judge yesterday decided not to make a definitive decision about his custody, which meant that by law in Italy, you can be held in jail up to a year before formal charges are filed.
He has not been charged with a crime at this point. About 50 percent of the cases here in Italy the suspect does have to remain in jail during that time. She, the judge, she has just decided she needed a little bit more information.
She was waiting yesterday to have a definitive number of the fatalities and other factors here. The risk of the operation, the recovery operation is still ongoing and she felt that need to be closed before she could make a definitive decision.
But he did go back to jail yesterday after court and in the middle of the night he was risked away to home.
BANFIELD: You know, Barbie, here in the United States there is such incredible outrage. I'm going to hold out for our camera the headline of the "New York Post" this morning, which shows the face, the close-up face of the captain.
It says "Chicken of the Sea." It quotes the Port Authority saying, get back on board for f sake. Look, the United States has a pristine tradition of innocence before guilt. And I'm just curious about how the Italians are feeling about this captain.
Is he being given any kind of leeway that there may have been miscommunication, that he may have actually done something right here and the media has jumped all over him? NADEAU: Well, you know, there were 1,000 Italians on that cruise ship and there was outrage. They think he should be in jail. If the judge says that he was not a risk of -- did not pose a risk of flight that was one of the things in the document, which we have right now the judge's decision, and that she needed more proof.
And that is the recovery -- the recovery phase is completed. This doesn't mean he's going to be enjoying the sun because until he isn't potentially in court and facing charges, it means that he's there for now.
And so she can make a decision. It's very possible the judge will re-examine this as early as tomorrow or next week at the very latest, when we know more, when she knows more, when the prosecutor gives her more information.
Right now his lawyer told us that he would -- it's not a definitive situation either. It's a very volatile. In Italy, though, unlike in the United States a suspect can be held in custody for up to one year without actually being charge with a crime.
So it's a different legal system and it's one that's very complicated and a lot of different avenues and a lot of different circumstances depending on what the crime is and who the suspect is.
SAMBOLIN: All right, Barbie Nadeau live for us in Italy.
BANFIELD: And joining us now is Joe Ryan who's live in Louisville, Kentucky who's a passenger on board that Italian ship. Thank God he's home and live with us to speak with us today.
Hi, Joe. It's great to see you. I just want to jump right into this because with all of our reporting today. I'm sort of wondering if you've had a chance now.
Digesting all the news that you've been seeing since arriving back home to come to terms with the magnitude of the crisis that you were involved with and how lucky you are.
JOE RYAN, PASSENGER ON ITALIAN CRUISE SHIP: Yes, I was just telling my mom this morning, I said, I really don't -- it's hard to think that I'm a survivor. I haven't heard that term, someone said, you know, I'm so lucky. You're a survivor from this.
I never really thought of it that way. I just thought, you know, how lucky I was to get off and be alive. But to realize that people did die and people are hurt. And people are still risking their lives to try to find others and see if people are still alive down there.
BANFIELD: It's just harrowing. You know, Joe, your friend who you were with, Lauren, joined us yesterday via telephone. Sort of reflected the same notion, but at the same time she also said when we showed those pictures of the infrared helicopter image of all of those passengers clamoring over the side of that ship. And you can see just hundreds of them trying desperately to escape in what can only be imagined as the most frightening and awkward darkness.
I wondered if you had the same feelings as your friend, Lauren, and that you wonder if these people that we're seeing on our screen right now were some of the missing or some of the survivors.
RYAN: Yes, I totally agree. I mean, if no one was there to see if people were off and no one was there giving directions, so I just honestly hope those people did make it ashore and did make it off, especially at least following others who made to it safety and did their best to try to get on a boat of some sort and make it out there.
BANFIELD: Joe, I read something about your account of getting into your lifeboat and how difficult it was. We heard of others struggling to find lifeboats that they were so crowded.
But this one really struck me. In your lifeboat, it was so full and people were still trying to clamor on that your fellow passengers in the lifeboat started screaming in fear that the hydraulics, the cables might snap and then started beating the other passengers off? What on earth was happening?
RYAN: Yes, it was just -- we were completely full and they had tried -- they maxed out our boat. I was able to kind of view the smallest little area that we had to see other people.
People's faces were just panic and they were trying to jump in and they just started hitting people with anything they could, the ores, the poles, trying to push people back saying, it's full, it's full, it's full.
Just kept pushing, but people were just kept persisting. That's when the screaming started and the boat and everyone was screaming. And that's when they said, all right, we need to go, we need to get this down.
It was just heartbreaking to see people still not being able to find a ship, but then again, we were kind of helpless just sitting in the boat knowing that our boat was already full.
BANFIELD: I'm going to join the chorus of friends and family and welcoming you home to safety. And our thoughts are with all the people you were with on that ship who may still be missing. Thanks very much, Joe.
RYAN: Thank you.
BANFIELD: In less than 30 minutes Paul Callan, who's a criminal defense attorney, who knows a thing or two about Italian law, is going to talk about the legal action that passengers can take and also, not only that, but the kind of exposure this captain has after some of the things he said on tape.
SAMBOLIN: It's really great to see the survivors, isn't it? Fantastic.
SAMBOLIN: It's 9 minutes past the hour here. Have you been trying in vain to look up something in Wikipedia this morning don't worry, it's not you. Wikipedia and several other popular online sites went partially dark at midnight for 24 hours.
They're protesting anti-piracy bills. Specifically Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA as it is being known or called. Legislation is now working its way through Congress.
Hollywood is pushing hard for this. We have something for you. We have a way around this. So you type Wikipedia in the web browser, as the page loads if you hit the escape key, it stops the blackout page.
Last night on CNN's "OUT FRONT" with Erin Burnett, co-founder of Wikipedia said it amounts to online censorship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY WALES, WIKIPEDIA.ORG: There's a lot of different versions of the act. In the worst versions of the bill, Wikipedia would be defined as a search engine and you would not be able to even link to something like the Powerbay even in our encyclopedic description of what Powerbay is. I think that's a real problem. That raises really serious first amendment issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Wales also says by censoring free and open internet, U.S. government would be doing exactly what China does. CNN's parent company, Time Warner, actually supports this legislation.
BANFIELD: Iran is kind of playing games. I don't think I've ever had any headline like that. Iran is having some fun with the United States.
SAMBOLIN: Those kinds of games?
BANFIELD: Yes, very weird diplomacy. Tweaking an offer to return our stealth drone that crashed there last month instead of the original top secrets game playing, what you're seeing I don't know your screen, which was sent over to us via video from the Iranians.
An Iranian company says he's going to send President Obama a teeny tiny toy replica of it. The company says it's trying to determine what President Obama's favorite color is before sending it back.
The Iranians apparently are also going to be able to buy the replica of the toy drone at $4, I'm told, in their local dollars there. You will remember that I found this to be very odd, but the White House asked formally for the return of that many billion dollar drone.
It had been operating over in Eastern Afghanistan and the whole story was it was just spying, but there might have been some story about it getting into the airspace. All sorts of reasons why that drone went down.
SAMBOLIN: It's the unofficial return.
BANFIELD: Yeah. I actually like the story. It's the first time we've actually had some nice conversation back and forth even if it is a joke.
SAMBOLIN: All right, and happening now, have you seen this? The Pacific Northwest getting a good taste of old man winter. Seattle could see the biggest snowfall in more than half a century. More than a foot of snow is expected by tomorrow.
That's more than Seattle normally gets in an entire year. Alaska Airlines has canceled dozens of flights because of the heavy snow forecast.
Thelma Gutierrez is live in Seattle. This is causing quite a mess there for you. Did you guys shut school down yesterday?
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it did, Zoraida, shut the schools down yesterday in some areas. Today, definitely so, but I can tell you that right now as you can see, there are snow flurries, really the big storm is expected to hit in a few hours.
We're expecting about five to ten inches of snow in this area, making it one of the worst storms in a very long time. In fact, we're told by the National Weather Service that if we get seven inches of snow here this could make it one of the ten worst storms since the 1940s.
When you talk about that amount of snow, if you're from snow country, it really doesn't sound like a lot. But if you've ever been to Seattle you know how treacherous this can be. This is an area we have very steep hills and especially in this downtown areas.
That can make driving very, very dangerous. The Department of Transportation since last night, 9:00, they've had many trucks out. Salting the roads, bridge, the overpasses and emergency shelters have all opened up. Everyone just really keep an eye on this storm and see how it develops today -- Zoraida.
SAMBOLIN: All right, Thelma Gutierrez, live for us in Seattle. Thank you.
So let's bring in Rob Marciano, are you going to look that weather and the rest of it as well?
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. They've already seen several inches of snow as Thelma reported. Now the big push is coming. Here it is on the radar. The leading edge of the precip is now beginning to push into the Seattle, Tacoma area. It's been snowing fairly heavy in Tacoma and Olympia. And there you see it moving off towards the north. I think the heaviest amounts of snow will be between Seattle and the Oregon border. We've already seen over three inches of snow in Vancouver. Several inches in Portland.
But you can see the warm air push now beginning to make its way into the Portland metropolitan area. Damage is done. Over 30,000 people are without power around the Portland metro area because of that heavier snowfall.
Out to the east we go with some blustery conditions expected here. Winds are gusting over 100 miles an hour in parts of upstate New York namely Syracuse. Five to 10 inches of snow expected across the Pacific Northwest later today. Guys, back out to you.
BANFIELD: I get all (INAUDIBLE) when I hear about these snow stories until I realize we are almost in February and so we do get a lot of snow. And I know some states have a better time dealing with it than others.
SAMBOLIN: Well, on that particular one, right, because snow plows and how do they make it through.
BANFIELD: No salt, either.
SAMBOLIN: And you worry about folks perhaps getting into accidents and being stranded.
BANFIELD: Those snow days are a blessing. I never had one growing up. Never did.
It is now 14 minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast. Time to get you caught up on top stories if you're trying to get out of the door.
The rescue efforts have now been suspended again in Italy for the Costa Concordia Cruise Liner which is now shifting in the ocean and it's creating quite a danger for the search and rescue crews.
By the way, reminder, there's a half a million gallons of diesel that have to be pumped from that wrecked cruise liner. Tanks were full, folks. Cruise just started. It's the first step towards hauling that massive ship away for either a complete overhaul or a complete scrap-up.
SAMBOLIN: Wikipedia and other popular online sites partially dark for 24 hours. They're protesting anti-piracy legislation now making its way through Congress. Critics say it's too broad based and amounts to censorship of the free and open Internet. Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN, supports this legislation.
BANFIELD: And also, authorities are describing some smoking object apparently that was thrown over the White House fence during an Occupy Wall Street protest. They are most certainly looking into it. Nobody was hurt. The President and the First Lady were not there at the time. They were out celebrating, in fact, because if you didn't hear, you missed your chance to say happy birthday to the First Lady. It was Michelle Obama's 40th birthday yesterday.
SAMBOLIN: And ahead on EARLY START, Romney under fire, rivals want America to see his tax returns. He said maybe in April. He's resisting but he is offering new information about how much he turns over to Uncle Sam.
You're watching EARLY START.
SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you in New Haven. It is 25 degrees, 21 later, and a little bit of snow headed your way, as well.
BANFIELD: I live fairly close to New Haven, so that's what I was waking up.
SAMBOLIN: Did it feel cold? It felt like it was 40 this morning.
BANFIELD: You know, it's weird, I'm so spaced out. Like I have this lasted response to all weather I think in the morning because I just don't even know who I am. At 1:15 in the morning when we wake up you can only say you can feel very little.
Welcome back to EARLY START, a very EARLY START for us.
BANFIELD: In politics this morning, Mitt Romney's personal taxes are really under the radar after he admitted that he pays only about 15 percent tax rate on what he has. And Newt Gingrich was on it, pouncing. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, you've got to release his taxes and find out whether or not it was really 15 percent. And second, I think that we ought to rename our flat tax. We have a 15 percent flat tax. So this will be the Mitt Romney flat tax that all Americans should then pay the rate Romney pays. That's terrific.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: So let's bring in Christine Romans to explain. Fifteen percent, you feel like -- hmmm.
ROMANS: Yes. He paid 15 percent. What does he mean by that? Is that effective tax rate, federal tax, is he accounting his tax -- I mean, we really do need to see his tax forms.
BANFIELD: Yes. ROMANS: We have not seen his tax forms.
BANFIELD: But taxes in general are such an arcane machine to figure out who pays what and what amount.
ROMANS: You really will know what your own taxes are and you curse unless you get a bug refund every year. But, do you know, OK, here's a quiz for you. What does it take -- what do you have to earn to be in the top one percent, the top one percent, what do you have to earn? What do you think?
BANFIELD: That's a lot of money.
ROMANS: Some people think the top one percent must be making millions and millions. It's $343,000, just FYI.
SAMBOLIN: Oh, this is interesting.
ROMANS: Right. So Mitt Romney is in the top of the top of the top because --
BANFIELD: Did you notice what he said about his speaker's fees yesterday?
ROMANS: $374 -- not very much. $374,000 is what we he earned in speaking fees last year and he characterized that as not very much.
So this is going to play out on the campaign trail that he's very rich. He doesn't pay his fair share of taxes. I mean, we're not quite sure -- I mean, even the Republicans, you can see Newt Gingrich even jumping in on this. He said a 15 percent tax rate, roughly about there.
Probably he mentioned dividends and capital gains, if he's not working, getting a paycheck, a paycheck, his tax rate would be like 35 percent on a paycheck. But capital gains and dividends, you pay 15 percent. Because in this country, again and again, successive administrations have tried to push to give tax breaks or lower taxes for people who invest because they think that's how you build bridges, that's how you fund sewers and schools by getting money investments.
His net worth overall is about $202 million. The big question here is, is he paying his fair share? And, you know, there are tax breaks for everyone. There are tax breaks for the middle class as well.
BANFIELD: Tax breaks for moms.
ROMANS: There's mortgage interest deduction, tax breaks for kids, state income tax you can write off. So there are people who are middle class earners who are also not paying their marginal tax rate of 25 or 28 percent because they're using deductions, charitable giving and the like.
We need to see Mitt Romney's tax records so that we can really see what his tax burden is and how he is paying 15 percent, like he says. The top one percent, according to the IRS, the top one percent on average has an effective tax rate of 24 percent. So Mitt Romney is doing better than the other very rich people.
SAMBOLIN: And what's amazing is there is no law that says he has to. It is just --
ROMANS: Oh, yes. This is all legal. Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Christine Romans, thank you very much.
Way out there. So how much of a liability is Mitt Romney's money? We're going to get our panel to weigh in.
From Chicago, we have Conservative Radio Host Lenny McAllister, and Washington Roll Call Political Writer Shira Toeplitz and Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona.
And, Lenny, I want to start with you for a very specific reason. Did you just recently have a birthday?
LENNY MCALLISTER, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Yes, I did.
SAMBOLIN: Happy 40th.
MCALLISTER: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I don't like a day over 40 at this point.
SAMBOLIN: No, you don't. I don't know if I just outed you and there's a problem with that, but there you go. 40 years old. You look great.
MCALLISTER: Well, Zoraida, not today because Wikipedia has been blacked out for a little while. You might have heard. So I'm pretty good, OK with that.
SAMBOLIN: All right. So let's start with what Gingrich said earlier. That they'll call his flat tax plan on Mitt Romney flat tax because it's 15 percent. He also said that -- this is what Mitt Romney said. He says he doesn't make very much in speaking fees, but as we heard, not very much is $374,000 last year that is according to his financial disclosures.
And so one of the things that he has been criticized for is for being out of touch. So how is this going to play out?
MCALLISTER: It's not going to play out very well for Romney at this point because you have a lot of class warfare arguments being slunk back and forth between the Republicans towards the Democrats and the Democrats towards the Republicans in regards to the Tea Party.
All that means is that the grassroots and everyday working Americans on both sides of the political isle are engaged and invigorated, and here comes the epitome of the one percent coming out there and has done a lot of very -- very not wise things in regards to the $10,000 bet and other things that make him seem detached.
And when you have President Obama who, even though he has likability issues from a political standpoint that hamper him, from a personal standpoint he's still a very likable president. You contrast that with the guy that doesn't seem to be able to relate to the rest of America, if it's those two going for the presidential White House in 2012, it looks as though President Obama is going to have an easier path than what these polls are indicating at this point in time.
SAMBOLIN: So, Maria, you're smiling there because this is great ammunition for you, right? And look what I found. When we were talking about the income tax returns, I don't know if we actually have a full screen graphic of this, but it was Mitt Romney's dad. Here you go. I'm going to show it to you. Oh, you can't really see it because it's on white.
There it is. There it is. This is from St. Joseph, Missouri. Income tax returns for the last 12 years revealed by Romney. But this is dated back in 1967. So it looks like, in fact, the Democrats are getting some really good ammunition here with this 15 percent.
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely, Zoraida. And I think, again, what it underscores is exactly what Lenny said, that this is a guy who is completely out of touch with middle class families, with working class families who are really struggling in this economy.
And if you look at everything that Romney has said during this campaign, what Democrats are going to do is we're going to use his own words against him because they are very powerful words that really underscore the fact that this guy just doesn't get it.
And what's really important here, Zoraida, to keep in mind is when a voter goes into the voting booth, especially and during a difficult economic time such as we're going through now, they inherently will vote with their gut, with their instinct, and they will vote for the person who they believe understands what they're going through and cares about what they're going through.
And in the fall, if it is -- if it does end up being Romney against President Obama, that is a fight that we are looking forward to having.
SAMBOLIN: Well, before we get there, we've got South Carolina. So Shira, let's talk about that. Gingrich said, in his own words, that South Carolina is his last -- the last ditch effort. He said, quote, "If I don't win the primary Saturday, we will probably nominate a moderate."
And the latest polls show that Romney's 29 percent, Gingrich at 25 percent. Does he have a chance to win here? Is that why he's coming out with, you know, this concept of, hey, you're going to have a moderate? SHIRA TOEPLITZ, POLITICS WRITER, ROLL CALL: Yes, I think he has a small chance. It's not a great chance. I think he's correct in his assessment that this is a bit of a last-ditch effort by his campaign, whether Romney is a moderate is obviously subject to a lot of debate. That's why Gingrich is going all out.
And it's not just New Gingrich. All of the conservatives, all of the Republicans who really dislike Mitt Romney, South Carolina represents your last chance to defeat him or at least slow down his momentum before the rest of the states because after South Carolina comes Florida and Romney is doing very well in Florida.
It's a very expensive state to run ads so candidates have to have the financial means to run a Florida campaign. And then according to the primary calendar, we basically wait a whole other month before we get to a lot of contests on Super Tuesday. So the next week and a half is going to be active weeks on the campaign trail that really starts with this Saturday.
If they can defeat him or slow him down or hold him even to within a percentage or two of Newt Gingrich -- oh, excuse me -- Mitt Romney, then maybe they can slow him down. If not, you might as well give him the nom now.
SAMBOLIN: All right, Lenny, Maria, Shira, thank you for joining us this morning.
CARDONA: Thanks so much.
TOEPLITZ: Thank you.
SAMBOLIN: And for the "Best Political Coverage on Television," keep it here on CNN. Tomorrow night at 8:00, Eastern join Soledad O'Brien and the rest of the CNN News Team for live coverage of the Southern Republican Presidential Debate.
And then join us Saturday night at 7:00 Eastern for live coverage of the South Carolina primary.
BANFIELD: OK. So where have all the occupiers gone? Remember that whole thing about Occupy Wall Street, couldn't get enough of those pictures? Well, barricades are down at Zuccotti Park, but where are the people? Where is the movement? You'll find out.
SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 6:31 in the East. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.
BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield.
And still ahead in this half hour, we're going to have more on that awful cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy. The captain is under house arrest. And there are a lot of people saying this morning he should have gone down with that vessel instead of getting overboard somehow.
But legally, what and could -- what should and what could happen to that man?
SAMBOLIN: And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker facing a recall petition that has been filed. More than a million signatures were submitted. More than half of what they needed. Walker says he is confident that he will survive this. And he will be back in office again.
But, first, let's check the stories making news this morning.
Wikipedia is one of several Web sites that partially shut down in protest at midnight last night. They're opposed to antipiracy bills now working their way through Congress. They believe SOPA, which is Stop Online Piracy Act, will lead to widespread censorship.
Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, supports this legislation.
BANFIELD: Full disclosure on that one.
So, relations between our country and Pakistan centering on this man right now. That's our U.S. envoy.
And CNN's Reza Sayah is report that Pakistan has asked Marc Grossman -- stay away from our country, for now at least.
Senior Pakistani official is saying a visit from Mr. Grossman could spark anti-American sentiments and cause some serious problems for the Pakistani government.
SAMBOLIN: And a rescue operation suspended off the coast of Italy this morning. Italian coast guards say it is too dangerous. That ship is moving. Eleven people are now confirmed dead, two dozen others are still missing. Two Americans amongst those. The ship's captain has been released from jail and he is now placed under house arrest.
BANFIELD: Those incredible recordings between the port authority and the captain. And there are so many.
BANFIELD: They're outrageous because they are damning. They're strong, they're emotional. There are swear words throughout in Italian. The captain had to be asked, how many women and children are still on board.
And the conversation got so heated -- I want you to listen to some of this but make sure that you're near you're TV screen because the Italian translated to English is going to be printed along so you can read along with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORT AUTHORITY: And you would tell me how many there are in each category. Is that clear? Look, Schettino, you might have been saved from the sea, but I will make sure you go through a very rough time. I will make sure you go through a lot of trouble. Get on board! Damn it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: You can hear it in our voices but if you couldn't read fast enough, the port authority said, "I will make sure you go through a very rough time. I will make sure you go through a lot of trouble. Get on board. Damn it."
That's the port authority talking to the captain who's left the ship.
And Paul Callan is a CNN legal contributor and defense attorney who has been looking into this for us.
I don't even know where to begin with you, Paul. But I guess the first thing would be, is there some law that says he has to go down with the ship or cannot at some point go overboard or get off the ship?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we think of this as, of course, a grand tradition in maritime law that the captain goes down with the ship. We remember Captain Smith, of course, from the Titanic. It's somewhat of a maritime myth. There's no absolutely law that requires the captain to go down with the ship.
He is required to be there to ensure the safety of his crew. There might be a situation where he could best do that of the ship. But, boy, I think -- I don't see it here. And frankly, it's a very, very rare situation that would justify a captain leaving his ship while passengers are on board.
BANFIELD: I am glad you said that because during some of those transmissions between port authority and the captain, he actually referred to why he was off the ship, saying that he got tossed. Let's have a listen. And again, follow along with your screen because the Italian translated to English will be printed out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPTAIN: What do you mean get down? We abandoned the ship. The ship turned.
DE FALCO: And with one hundred people on board you abandon the ship?
CAPTAIN: I did not abandon any ship with 100 people. The ship skidded. We were catapulted into the water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Paul, that last part, catapulted into the water. That really struck me because I felt like it was mitigating in all of this. If, in fact, he was catapulted into the water, does that amount to that Italian law that is so serious, abandon ship?
CALLAN: Well, we have to se how the facts play out on this. And, obviously, this ship was listing heavily and if he was thrown into the water, and then he was desperately trying to get back on board to supervise, he's got a very good defense.
But you know something, Ashleigh, I have any doubts about this. I mean, he's now sitting in a life boat and the coast guard commander who is now in charge of the scene, because the captain has left his ship, has said, "I've been trying to get you to get back on that ship for an hour." And he makes excuse after excuse.
One of the excuses he makes is, that it's dark outside. And there are passengers still on that ship presumably trapped. So some defense lawyer is going to have a real tough time justifying this captain leaving the ship.
BANFIELD: Paul, you're going to like this one. I got some breaking news for you. It's coming in from the prosecutors in Italy right now as we speak. They're apparently announcing that they're going to appeal the judge's decision to let him out on house arrest. And I know you know from all the work you did on the Amanda Knox case in Italy that Italian justice moves like molasses, but, man, that's only 24 hours, not even. They are on this like crazy.
Is there anything that can mitigate the case against this man, against this captain, the fact that he say he steered it into shallower waters, to try to avoid more death. Is there anything that this guy can hope for at this point?
CALLAN: Well, obviously, Italy is suffering international humiliation as a result of this incident. I think prosecutors are going to be extraordinarily harsh here.
Can he mount a defense? He may very well be able to mount a defense. He says the rock that the ship hit was an unchartered rock and that he was following in a path that should have been a safe path for the ship.
Of course, on the other side of it, Ashleigh, there are claims that there was a head waiter on the boat who lived on a nearby island and the captain was trying to veer in close to the island to sound the ship's horn.
BANFIELD: To showboat.
CALLAN: Right, to showboat --
BANFIELD: Not good.
CALLAN: -- in honor, endangering 4,000 passengers.
BANFIELD: Not good.
CALLAN: So, right now, it's not looking too good for the captain.
BANFIELD: And we'll watch and see if there were some mechanics that went wrong because that would certainly make a difference in all of this.
Paul, great. Thank you for all that.
CALLAN: Nice being with you. Take care.
BANFIELD: Nice to be with you as well. And I'm sorry in this circumstance.
In about 30 minutes as well, we're going to hear from Captain Jim Staples, who has been a captain for 20 years. He's going to talk to Soledad on "STARTING POINT" about that captain's action to abandon the ship while passengers were still on board.
SAMBOLIN: So many layers to that story.
BANFIELD: And it will go on for a long time.
So, front page faces coming up next. That's the faces behind the stories.
Over 1 million people signed a recall petition in Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker responds now and we're talking next with Wisconsin Democrat and Republican leaders. We're going to get their take on this.
You are watching EARLY START.
SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.
We have a segment called "front page faces." So we kind of talk to the folks who are making headlines here. And we're talking about the Wisconsin recall, that big recall, Democrats are handing in over 1 million signatures in a petition to oust Governor Scott Walker.
Walker responding in a statement saying, in part, "I look forward to talking to the people of Wisconsin about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget, and hold these lines on taxes. I expect Wisconsin voters will stand with me and keep moving Wisconsin forward."
So, on the phone and now is the chairman and face of Wisconsin's Democratic Party, Mike Tate.
Good morning, Mike.
MIKE TATE, WISCONSIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY (via telephone): Good morning. Thanks for having me on.
SAMBOLIN: We're happy to have you. So, listen, this is costing taxpayers $9 million. It's not just a gubernatorial recall, the lieutenant -- the state Republican lieutenant governor, and three state senators as well.
Why not just let Walker finish out his term? Why spend all of this taxpayer dollar?
TATE: Well, obviously I think it's a really good question. And the answer is the people in Wisconsin just won't wait. I mean, we have the governor who frankly lied to the people when he campaigned for office. Didn't talk about how he was going to govern. You know, didn't tell people he was going to do it.
Look, over 1 million citizens have taken a stand and said that they simply cannot wait for the next election and it's unfortunate this is going to cost a little money but frankly I think whatever question spend on this will be the best down payment on the state's future we can make.
SAMBOLIN: Well, $9 million is not a little bit of money. But at the end of the day, Governor Walker was able to sign a budget that nonpartisan fact-checker PolitiFact says will leave the state in surplus at the end of two years. That is opposed to the shortfall the state was in before.
Your unemployment rate is headed downward. It was 7.4 percent. It's now 7.3 percent -- which is well below the national average of 8.5 percent.
Can you argue with those results?
TATE: I think you can because I think they don't tell the whole story. You know, frankly, over the last five months, Wisconsin has led the nation in job loss. Since Scott Walker signed this budget, we have lost more jobs than any other state in the country.
And, you know, there are general accounting principles have looked at this budget and said it is not a balanced budget. And, frankly, he balance it by giving a tax break to the top 1 percent and raising taxes on the working poor and cutting public education by over $1 billion. It's not the way you balance the budget on the backs of working families. And I think it is simply the wrong priorities of this state.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Mike Tate, thank you for joining us.
Let's hear from the other side now. Talking now with Brian Schimming. He is vice chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
Thanks for joining us this morning.
So, we just talked about the victories, right, in your particular state. So, why is it that they were able to amass over a million folks to want to recall the governor? What went wrong?
BRIAN SCHIMMING, VICE CHAIRMAN, WISCONSIN REPUBLICAN PARTY (via telephone): Well, Zoraida, the plain fact of the matter is they decided very early on to go after the governor. They talked about signatures in the last 60 days. This has been an anti-Walker campaign that has been going on for months. It's been led by the state's public sector unions.
And so, the governor really -- what they want people to focus on is the million signatures. What they do not want people to focus on is the mess that Scott Walker got when he took over as governor -- the $3.5 billion budget deficit, 150,000 jobs lost under former Democrat Governor Jim Doyle.
SAMBOLIN: But I have to say, if I can interrupt you here, the way that he went about curtailing the collective bargaining rights of most state employees, you know, there were a lot of major protests that were happening. Do you think that that approach was simply the wrong approach?
SCHIMMING: No, not at all. In fact, I think it was the right approach. He came up with a plan. He talked about it statewide. The legislature passed it. And, while the legislature was trying to do its job, 14 Democrat senators, who frankly just didn't like the plan, decided to escape the state and go down to Illinois for weeks on end.
I don't care what party you're in. That's not a responsible way to govern is to run out on your job. So, the governor is taking the state in the right direction as he said. It's about controlling taxes and spending. Frankly, Zoraida, we're happy to have this contrast, because now, it's not about doing a few signatures on ballots across the state.
It's about a choice between going forward and going backward. And that's what we're going to be talking about.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Brian Schemming, thanks for joining us this morning. I also wanted to mention that the Wisconsin election board will have to review those recall petitions. So, we're staying at, you know, over a million --
BANFIELD: A million of them.
SAMBOLIN: Yes, yes.
BANFIELD: This is a light reading for Saturday.
Ever heard of Jerry Yang? He's a big cheese, a real big cheese. So, why is he stepping away from the company he co-founded? The Yahoo! leader saying bye-bye. You'll find out why on EARLY START.
BANFIELD: And a very good morning to you. Forty-nine minutes past the hour and time to get you caught up on top stories making news this morning.
BANFIELD (voice-over): Just into CNN, prosecutors in Italy will appeal the judge's decision to place the captain of a capsized cruise ship under house arrest instead of jail. Captain was released from bars overnight. By the way, rescue operations were also put on hold overnight because, once again, that boat has started slipping back and forth in the ocean.
SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Wikipedia along with several other websites partially down this morning. They're protesting anti-piracy legislation that the non-profits believe will ultimately lead to wide spread censorship. Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, supports the legislation.
And Yahoo!'s co-founder, Jerry Yang, is resigning from the board of directors and is no longer can have any part of that company. Yang served as CEO from 2007 to 2009 and that when he stepped down because shareholders were furious that he snubbed a $47 billion buyout bid from Microsoft.
BANFIELD (on-camera): But now, he's gone all together.
SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what's ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning, Soledad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Hi, ladies. Good morning to you. We're going to continue to talk about this cruise ship this morning with those audio reports coming out from the captain. Just really, really remarkable. We'll talk, though, about that search for survivors that has now been suspended with a former navy SEAL. He (ph) is going to join us live to talk about how dangerous and risky that is.
Plus, Iran says no, they will not be returning that secret spy craft, the drone that crashed in Iran. However, they are willing to send a $4 small toy model to the president. Talk about that.
Plus, you're moms, I'm a mom. How much do you think the job of a mom is worth? Give me a number.
O'BRIEN: Just laughter. Just laughter. Yes.
O'BRIEN: Yes. That would be right. Just hysterical laughter on that. We're going to crunch the numbers and tell you how much a mom is worth so that we can go home and present that bill to those people. That's straight ahead this morning. "Starting Point" begins in just about 10 minutes. Stay with us.
SAMBOLIN: Good morning, San Francisco. Thirty-nine degrees there. But guess what, later, it's going to be sunny, a high of 57. You're going to be loving it. It is 6:54 in the morning here in the east, and we're getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines.
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SAMBOLIN (voice-over): So, first up, the California utility, PG&E, is under fire this morning after admitting that it lost track of how many homes had been built near more than 300 miles of gas lines. All those lines should have been inspected regularly with pressure limitations. In September 2010, an actual gas explosion in San Bruno killed eight people. It destroyed an additional 38 homes.
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SAMBOLIN (on-camera): A PG&E spokesman says, "our customers deserve better."
BANFIELD: And if you're a fan of the tab-shaped papers, if you get the "New York Daily News" or if you look online, it's a great story about "Occupy Wall Street" and the movement in New York --
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BANFIELD (voice-over): at least seems to have fizzled a bit. Maybe call it winter hibernation. I'm not sure exactly, but we do know this, daily news says the donations are dwindling.
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BANFIELD (on-camera): The occupy leaders have voted to freeze a lot of spending, and they're actually conceding that the movement sort of, you know, losing steam, so to speak. The barricades may have come down at Zuccotti Park, but not that many protesters have come back.
But they are saying this, they are saying that things could really start ramping back up as we get closer to the summer because the conventions are coming. Democratic conventions in Charlotte in September. GOP conventions in Tampa in August.
SAMBOLIN: And it will be warmer.
BANFIELD: And the lovely weather outside. Tenting is beautiful at that time of year.
SAMBOLIN: All right. 6:55 in the east. We'll be right back. You're watching EARLY START.
BANFIELD: Hey, guys. Some really good stuff is coming up in the next couple of days. For the best political coverage on TV, might keep it here on CNN because tomorrow night at eight o'clock eastern, you can join Soledad O'Brien and the rest of the CNN news team for live coverage of the southern Republican presidential debate.
SAMBOLIN: Then join us Saturday night at 7:00 eastern for live coverage of the South Carolina primary.
BANFIELD: It's politics, politics all week. And that is it, though, for us. This is EARLY START, the news from A to Z. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.
SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien is starting your way right no now.