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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Cruise Ship Captain Admits Mistake; Crunch Time in South Carolina; Rescue Crews Return To Ship; Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline

Aired January 19, 2012 - 05:00   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 all. It is an EARLY START. And I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It is Thursday, January 19th.

So, let's get starting -- started, excuse me.

Amazing new details overnight in the Italian cruise ship disaster. A stunning admission from the captain saying that he ordered the turn too late.

BANFIELD: And also in politics, Newt Gingrich is making up some ground you might call it. He is closing the gap the front-runner Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Trouble may be brewing, though. It might not be a good day for him. His daughters are having to come to his defense after an interview which is scheduled for today is about to go after him from his ex-wife.

SAMBOLIN: And a rare winter storm that pounded the Pacific Northwest. It is now heading east. Rob is tracking the forecast, where it will go next and how much snow we are actually talking about this morning.

BANFIELD: Don't know if you're a student or it's been a while since you were a student. But things are different now, right? Look at this. Reading on an iPad. How about reading your textbook on the iPad? How nice would it be?

SAMBOLIN: That would be fantastic.

BANFIELD: Not to have that backpack that weighs 50 pounds.

We're going to talk to you about why an announcement today from Apple actually could make this a reality.

SAMBOLIN: Especially for the wee little ones that carry all that in their back.

BANFIELD: I know.

SAMBOLIN: All right. First this morning, rescuers have resumed their search for the nearly two dozen missing cruise ship passengers. The time is not on the rescuers' side. New fears this morning that stormy weather could push the doomed cruise liner into deeper waters.

The captain who has been the focus of this investigation admitting that he made a navigational mistake. This was according to leaked interrogation transcripts to a British newspaper.

He also reportedly told a judge yesterday that something went wrong while at the helm. He says, quote, "I was navigating by sight because I knew the depths well and I had done this maneuver three or four times. But this time, I ordered the turn too late. And I ended up in water that was too shallow."

BANFIELD: And we're also getting some incredible new evidence this morning as we look at these pictures once again of those passengers who were stranded on the listing vessel. The time line, the full transcript from the port authority has given us this information -- 10:06 p.m., the police are first made aware of problems; 10:14, the ship officials say this: it's only a power outage.

And then 10:26, the captain actually, finally calls the coast guard. This is 20 minutes into this thing and reports that there is something along the lines of an open hole in the ship. At 10:48, we're now 42 minutes into this, the coast guard is told that they're actually under an evaluation but then nearly an hour later, the actual evacuation process begins.

SAMBOLIN: CNN's Barbie Nadeau joins us live on the phone from Florence, Italy.

Barbie, if we could talk about the chronology here, because it strikes us that at 9:45 p.m. is when the ship struck the rock formation and actually at 10:03 p.m., it was a passenger who called police to tell them that there was a problem on board.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's right. You know, you have to just think about how traumatic this was as people on board were probably starting to panic, probably wondering among themselves what was going on. You know (INAUDIBLE) have people feeling the shudder, the lights are going out.

And then you got a lot of the Italians calling the emergency numbers here to either, to the port on the mainland, calling their relatives who then called emergency numbers. So, as more details emerge about what happened that night, you can only imagine how difficult and how scary it was for these passengers. Meanwhile, the captain is under continuing investigation right now.

You know, as the evidence comes forward, he is more and more in trouble. A lot of people, a lot of legal strategists here have been telling me that he's making these admissions -- yes, I ordered the turn too far.

Potentially, we don't know if this is strategic, potentially to set himself up for a plea bargain here, that's called an abbreviated trial in which he could potentially admit a certain amount of guilt for a lesser sentence. That seems to be why he's making these admissions at this point, with his lawyer's direction.

So, he got a lot going on. And --

SAMBOLIN: Barbie, one last thing, because we're going to lose you here in a moment. I wanted to know about the house arrest and what is the latest on the appeal of that?

NADEAU: The prosecutor in the Grosseto, which is province in control of this situation, has appealed to the judge in Grosseto and has said he will go to high court to get the captain back into jail.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbie Nadeau reporting for us live from Italy -- thank you very much. In about 30 minutes from now, we'll talk to Captain Jim Staples. He's been a captain for 20 years. About whether he is surprised this accident did not happen sooner.

BANFIELD: And tonight at 8:00 Eastern on CNN, five candidates are going to go head to head and head to head to head. They're going to debate for two hours for that Republican nomination. Did I do enough of those head to head to head?

SAMBOLIN: Head to head to head.

BANFIELD: A lot of key developments that are unfolding this morning, too, because we got what? Two days? Just two days before the critical South Carolina primary. A lot of people saying it could be all over by then.

Some big problems, though, for Newt Gingrich. ABC News is about to hit the airwaves with an interview with Marianne Gingrich. That's his second wife, on who he, you know, is reported to have cheated and is now with his third wife, Callista.

The Gingrich camp is trying to get ahead of this and very concerned about this story. In fact, his daughters from his first marriage have sent a letter to ABC and they're talking about some of the timing of the ABC report. They write this, quote, "The failure of a marriage is a terrible and emotional experience for everyone involved. Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy, filled with regrets and sometimes differing memories of events. We will not say anything negative about our father's ex- wife. He has said before privately and publicly that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to the people that he loves."

SAMBOLIN: And Newt Gingrich is taking another hit as well. Listen to former President Jimmy Carter on "PIERS MORGAN" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Gingrich in the South Carolina debate -- I watched part of it, watched the first half of it -- I think he has that subtlety of racism that I know quite well.

PIERS MORGAN, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" HOST: Really?

CARTER: And Gingrich knows quite well that appeals to some people in Georgia, particularly the right wing.

MORGAN: You think he's doing it deliberate?

CARTER: I think so. He knows as well the words that you use like welfare mamas and so forth, that have been appealing in the past in those days when we cherished segregation of the races. So, he's appealing for that in South Carolina. I don't think it will pay off in the long run.

MORGAN: I mean, that's a pretty serious charge to level at Newt Gingrich, that he's being racist.

CARTER: I wouldn't say he's racist, but he knows these subtle words to use to appeal to racist group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Interesting distinction that he was trying to make there.

The NAACP, another civil rights group, has called Gingrich's views on race divisive and problematic on several fronts.

BANFIELD: Make sure you stay with CNN for the best political coverage on television.

At 7:00 this morning, our friend on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien is going to broadcast live from Charleston, South Carolina. And one of Soledad's big gets, the authors of the book "The Real Romney." It's really interesting stuff in that book. She's going to have it all ahead on "STARTING POINT."

SAMBOLIN: And tonight at 8:00 Eastern, CNN and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference presents a two-hour presidential town hall debate live from Charleston. It will be moderated by CNN anchor and chief national correspondent John King. Tune in for that.

BANFIELD: And you know, every morning, we really like to get you ahead of the game, right? But it's so early in the morning, you think we're giving you yesterday's news? Heck no. We're giving you tonight's news, called the EARLY START and we want to give you on the developing stories that will be big news tonight.

In a little more than three hours, something is going to happen that could change the way you think about this Republican race. The Republican Party of Iowa is going to publicly release the certified vote totals of the January caucuses.

OK, fine. Important? Sure. Why not?

Mitt Romney, though, is going to know for sure whether he really did win in that narrow eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum.

And you know what? There's some discrepancy here.

SAMBOLIN: Can't wait to get those results.

And a top U.S. military commander is in Israel for high-level talks. This visit is General Martin Dempsey's first official trip to Israel since he assumed commands of the joint chiefs. Topping the agenda, concerns that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

BANFIELD: And we're waiting for a big travel announcement from the White House. The president is going to Disneyland, folks. In fact, he is heading to Orlando. But his plan is deliver a speech at Disney that's aimed at boosting tourism and creating more jobs here. The president wants to make it easier for people in places like Brazil and China to get travel visas to come to our country.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You're going to Disney, you should bring the girls.

SAMBOLIN: They have school.

BANFIELD: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: They have to go to school.

BANFIELD: There's that whole thing.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, we're minding your business now.

U.S. markets closed higher across the board yesterday. The Dow gained almost 1 percent, the NASDAQ 1.5 percent, and the S&P 500 just over 1 percent.

BANFIELD: And I hate not to just focus on upward arrows because they're great and we love them. But, listen, man, this pipeline from the transatlantic pipeline folks, it is just like -- it's usurping political news and business news.

ROMANS: Yes, because it is business news ands political news. And it's come at a time when, you know, it got tacked on to the payroll tax holiday. And so, the White House had 60 days to say whether they were going to approve this new pipeline, this pipeline to help get oil, sticky, icky oil out of the oil sands.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: It takes a lot of work to get it out. This is people who say we don't want to be independent of Middle Eastern oil. Look, Canada's already our biggest oil supplier. This is the kind of oil at $100 a barrel that actually makes financial sense in some cases to try to be getting this oil out of here.

But environmentalists hate it. They've never liked it. They've been fighting about it since the summer. The White House says it just didn't have enough time to make a 60-day decision on it. We'll be talking about the pipeline again.

BANFIELD: Can I say something really weird? I started in this business 24 years ago and I worked in Alberta.

ROMANS: And then what was oil a barrel?

BANFIELD: Nineteen bucks a barrel.

ROMANS: Right. It didn't make sense to be squeezing --

BANFIELD: Yes, they were there.

ROMANS: Yes, but at $100 a barrel, with the way the world is gobbling up oil, any place they can find oil. But now does it derail our push on green energy? It's not we're finding all of this very dirty, high intensive waste.

The oil companies say they've gotten better at getting this oil out and they've lowered sort of the carbon footprint of getting the oil out. But no question, that it takes more energy to make energy out of this oil.

BANFIELD: And money.

ROMANS: By the light sweet crude that you stick a straw in the ground and suck it out.

BANFIELD: Right.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We want to move on to AT&T. We walked in this morning and when I heard the headline of the rates going up, I thought oh, my gosh, you're kidding me. The percentage shocked me. I'm not going to share it because I could be wrong. Just explain it.

ROMANS: OK, look, if you have an AT&T wireless plan for your tablet or smartphone, you're probably going to be paying higher prices. And let me tell you what? You're probably over the next, I would say the next year or two years, we're going to be paying higher prices for our data plans. Why? Because we're gobbling up at a rate 40 percent more and we're using a lot more.

As we're getting hooked on smartphones and tablets, we're using more and more.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Oh, yes. The cheapest plan now is going to be $5 more, 20 bucks a month. But they're going to throw a little prize in there and they're going to add 50 megabytes per month. That's about -- I mean, you'll be able to send 150 more tweets maybe, or Facebook posts, maybe half an hour more streaming video. It's going to start this is for new customers only.

SAMBOLIN: But it starts Sunday.

ROMANS: I know.

SAMBOLIN: So, up until Sunday --

ROMANS: New customers. New customers.

SAMBOLIN: Right.

ROMANS: So love the plan you have. I actually am trying to figure out if my iPad plan is going to go up. I pay like 15 bucks and I'm constantly running out of data.

SAMBOLIN: You're an existing customer. Thank you.

ROMANS: There you go.

BANFIELD: Interesting.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: OK. Unto the weather here, the Pacific Northwest coping with a rare winter storm. It's a record amount at the Seattle Tacoma airport, nearly seven inches. Seattle typically sees five. But that's for the entire year.

The storms -- guess where they're headed? East.

Rob Marciano tracking it all in Atlanta for us.

Good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. Take a look at this video out of Olympia, just down the road from Seattle and Tacoma. There over a foot snow falling that broke a record also. And western Washington seeing some of its highest snowfall totals they've seen in decades.

See, there is some of the video there.

So, very, very close to Seattle itself. And what a different just a few miles makes, in some cases, the further down the road, they saw a ton of snow as well. Power outages there in Washington and Oregon where winds were impressive. We'll show you that in just a second.

Winlock, Washington, 16 inches; Chehalis, just south of Olympia, 16 inches; 14 inches in Olympia. You mentioned the record at Sea-Tac, just south of Seattle.

Here are the winds in Oregon, 110 mile-an-hour wind gusts on the coast and Otter Rock, Cape Foulweather, aptly named as well. And Newport, pretty populated, 95 mile-an-hour wind gusts there. So, very, very strong winds with this, and rainfall and now especially in Oregon, a lot of the rivers are in flood stage, tremendous amount of rain coming in there and flood warnings are posted for a good junk of that.

And then at the higher elevations, finally, we're starting to get some snow down to the Sierra Nevada, into the Wasatch of Utah, winter storm warnings there.

Pretty tranquil weather across the East Coast, although there's a clipper system moving across parts of the Midwest and western Great Lakes. And because of that, you may see some delays in Chicago and Detroit, and behind that system, guys, very, very cold air. The high temperature in Minneapolis, 1 degree. We haven't really said that much this winter.

BANFIELD: Yikes. That's chilly.

MARCIANO: (INAUDIBLE). Stay warm.

BANFIELD: You're great, Rob. Thank you far that.

Ahead on EARLY START, big debate, did you hear? Tonight on CNN. We're pretty thrilled about it.

And our next guest says this man, Rick Perry, governor of Texas, should drop out before tonight, before the debate even gets under way. Why?

SAMBOLIN: You know the Washington Monument has been closed since August, right? It was badly damaged by the earthquake. I'll tell you about a man who just signed a check for $7.5 million to fix it.

BANFIELD: His own money?

SAMBOLIN: His own money.

BANFIELD: Wow.

SAMBOLIN: I'd love to sit and chat with him for a while.

BANFIELD: You are watching EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: Give him ideas on how else he could spend that money.

BANFIELD: Nice of you (ph), best friend.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Santa Monica.

So, I hear that is the famous Santa Monica Pier. Have you been, Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: I've never been in Santa Monica Pier.

SAMBOLIN: Invite us, folks.

It's 43 degrees there. And a little bit later, it will be sunny and 65 degrees. Perfect weather.

BANFIELD: It's a good time to be in California, isn't it?

So at 17 minutes past 5:00 in the East, we want to get you an early read on some of the local news around the country that's actually is making national headlines.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: You'll be interested in these. We have papers from L.A., also in Washington, D.C.

Let's start in L.A. This is a bizarre story and a real one for the "CSI" fans. Horrible discovery on the Hollywood sign. A human head was discovered by some hikers but that's not all, folks. When the dozens of police and cadaver dogs showed up they then found two hands and then found two feet.

Here's what might be a real clue to this mystery. This person has not been dead for that long. And so, they may actually be able to use the dental records for starters. But the fingerprints from those hands that were discovered are still somewhat viable. So, the forensics experts may be able to get in on this and actually maybe start figuring out who this person was.

They can say he has graying hair, but just an awful find.

SAMBOLIN: Horrific.

All right. I've got a good story.

BANFIELD: Good.

SAMBOLIN: All right?

BANFIELD: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Billionaire David Rubenstein is cutting a check for $7.5 million. He is going to help repair the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument. So, one month ago, Rubenstein gave $4.5 million to National Zoos struggling giant panda program. Love this guy.

Washington Monument closed since the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in August. Rubenstein visited the monument as a little boy. He says that's memorable. So, I want to help restore.

He recent approached a park official and said, quote, "You got a cracked monument? How can I help?"

BANFIELD: Oh, come on.

SAMBOLIN: Seriously. Isn't that fantastic?

BANFIELD: Did the park -- monument say, security, we have a security breach here? Some really strange guy.

SAMBOLIN: No, they said, hey, listen, we got somebody you can talk to. We'll take that. Thank you very much.

BANFIELD: They took him seriously. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. As a new American, I appreciate that.

OK. Crunch time. You know what tonight is, debate time.

But you know what? Debate-schmate. My goodness, in two days, it's South Carolina time. Just two days to go before the primary race. It is getting tighter and nastier.

SAMBOLIN: And things are changing.

BANFIELD: We got a new ORC/"TIME" poll and look at the difference. Wow. Yes, Mitt Romney is in the lead, but what's significant about those numbers, folks, is that Newt Gingrich has kind of squeezed that lead to just 10 points. It was 19 not too long ago.

The momentum he's had has certainly been helping to close the gap. You can see that Rick Santorum is running behind in third place. And look, way down at the bottom, at the 6 percent range, that's Rick Perry, who's in the very last spot.

Our next guest says those numbers are telling. It's time for Rick Perry to get out of the race and then go as far as to say he should endorse Newt Gingrich.

And it's Erick Erickson, a friend of ours here on the program, editor in chief of redstate.com. He's posting that Perry just has to go ahead and do this.

All right, Erick Erickson, here's what I have to say to you. Is there no shot for a man in last place to transubstantiate this position into something a lot better like maybe, I don't know, second or third? Or is it worth it? And why would you go so far as to say quit before the debate?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is to early for me to process transubstantiate.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I want to share a secret with our viewers right now and with you. We have a little joke going with our crew and this is what they gave me today. They gave me transubstantiate.

SAMBOLIN: And look at who you gave it to.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: You guys, I named that tune in 20 minutes, folks.

OK, Erick?

ERICKSON: Just so you know, I'm Presbyterian, not Catholic.

SAMBOLIN: Good for you.

BANFIELD: Those are my boys out there.

Let's get to the business, though, because I do really want to know why you think you have the power to say these kinds of things to a guy who's been working real hard. He's got supporters. He's got money and Sarah Palin even said it's good to drag this thing out and get people more vetted.

ERICKSON: Well, that's the problem, though. I don't know if I have the power to say it. I introduced him on stage back in August as the jobs governor, the next president. He announced it at an event I was holding.

But at the same time, you know, he's going to drop out. He's going to quit the race. The question is, does he quit on Sunday or does he quite today?

If he wants someone to advance his agenda, the make Washington as inconsequential as possible, he's not going to be the guy to do it. I think his campaign knows it. They're winding down to drop out on Sunday or Monday.

So, why not do it today? He's got 6 percent right now. His people really like him. Polls show that Newt Gingrich is the second most viable person for his supporters. There are still a number of undecided people.

He could be the guy who makes Newt Gingrich win the race.

BANFIELD: You've got to admit he's fun to watch in a debate.

ERICKSON: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: He's certainly the topic a lot of headlines. I want you to see how he responded to our John King last night when King just went at him and said you're running at 6 percent. You think you can do something here? Look at Perry's reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The idea that we're going to do anything else other than try to impact this election, that's why we got in it. We didn't get in it because it was our purpose in life to be the president of the United States. We did it because it was our purpose to serve this country and that's what we've been calling for, and that's what we're going to continue doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So, just real quickly on that last point, do you think that Rick Perry is ruining the chances for Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum to become the alternative conservative to Mitt Romney?

ERICKSON: You know, I've always said that people need to be able to convince the voters themselves. But I really like Rick Perry. I'm afraid if he doesn't drop out before Sunday and endorse someone else, that he's going to be viewed legitimately as the spoiler, the guy who helped Mitt Romney win South Carolina by refusing to drop out.

He said in the interview he wanted to impact the race. The most impact he could have in the race right now is to leave before Saturday and endorse someone else.

BANFIELD: OK. I got to get Paul Steinhauser here for a second. Bear with me as I kind of awkwardly get my computer up. I think we've got some Marist poll numbers.

You -- you're the subject of this e-mail, my friend. You just e-mailed this to me that the new NBC News/Marist poll has Mitt Romney coming in at 34 percent, Gingrich coming in at 24 percent. That's -- my goodness, that sounds familiar. That's a 10-point spread.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, a 10-point spread which was just like our poll. But --

BANFIELD: Yes.

STEINHAUSER: -- here's the interesting thing about this NBC/Marist poll. It was conducted on Monday and Tuesday. So, half before and half after the first debate, the one on Monday night in Myrtle Beach. And you remember Newt Gingrich, the pundits say, had a pretty good debate, very good debate they say. And well, Mitt Romney was hammered a lot over his taxes.

So, when you break down those numbers for Marist, before the debate on Monday when they poll half of their survey, Romney had a 15- point advantage. Down to five points, Ashleigh, if you just look at the Tuesday results.

So, like our poll that's indicating that Gingrich has got momentum and that Romney's lead is shrinking and -- well, there's probably going to be another poll out later this morning and we'll se what that one says as well, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: You are so good with these numbers, I want you to do my taxes. But that's why you're our political editor.

And I want to bring in one more voice on this, too. Bernard Whitman is Democratic strategist. He's president and CEO of Whitman Insight Strategies, LLC.

I'm going to do a bit of a switcheroo here, Bernard, because I want you to get my head around, if you can, this whole eight-point lead in Iowa. Mitt Romney wins Iowa over Rick Santorum. And now, apparently, not so much. There's this guy named Edward True, love the last name, who was at this unique small precinct, who said I saw two votes for Romney. And when I looked at the results, they were recorded as 22 votes.

Let's hear from him and I want to ask you about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARD TRUE, NOTICED INACCURACIES IN IOWA VOTING TOTALS: I've seen the numbers reported by the county and then went on to check it by the precinct. And when I seen it, I had to do a double take on it because it -- first, I questioned my own self and then after seeing it again, I noticed, hey, there's something wrong here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: OK. Fascinating, unbelievable, it didn't really matter when it comes to the delegate count. But there's something about momentum and there's something about this whole lure as John Avlon has written about, the three-peater, the guy who's made history. And Mitt Romney, done what no one could do before.

But will this matter to the race?

BERNARD WHITMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, you may think, what is a handful of votes matter in the contest that happened a couple of weeks ago? The truth is, if Newt Gingrich can actually get very close to Romney or have a surprise overtaking of Romney in South Carolina, and on top of that, we find out that in fact Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney in Iowa, that can truly shake things up in Florida.

I mean, right now, Mitt Romney has a huge lead in Florida, 43 to 19 percent. But if you take the fact coming out of today that perhaps Rick Santorum actually beat Romney by a handful of votes, you come in South Carolina over the weekend, we find Romney coming within only a couple points of Newt Gingrich after having such a huge lead. That could completely up-end the race in Florida and have an entirely new ball game down south in the GOP numbers.

BANFIELD: I appreciate Bernard Whitman rolling with our breaking news this morning, as well as Erick Erickson and Paul Steinhauser. I think, by the way, real quickly, 9:15 a.m., is that when we're getting certified votes, Paul, 9:15?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, 9:15.

BANFIELD: OK.

STEINHAUSER: You got it, out of Des Moines. We sent our team out there.

BANFIELD: We're going to watch for you to be able to report to us for that on what those certifications say. It could be a very big headline. Thanks, guys.

ERICKSON: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 26 minutes past 5:00 here in the East.

Still to come, the captain's story is changing about what exactly happened on board the doomed cruise liner. We'll share all of the details with you.

You are watching EARLY START. We're glad you're with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: What are you giggling about over there, lady?

SAMBOLIN: You'll find out in a second here. I find it kind of funny.

BANFIELD: She's got something nasty planned.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: No, no. Not nasty.

BANFIELD: I think trans substantiation was enough.

SAMBOLIN: Excellent. Good job, girl.

BANFIELD: Our crew?

SAMBOLIN: Good job from the crew.

BANFIELD: Hey, everybody. It's 30 minutes past the hour. it's 5:00 a.m.-ish on the east which is really early. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): On the agenda in the next half hour. this is lime laughing. Herman Cain and Stephen Colbert taking South Carolina by storm holding a rally together tomorrow. Colbert has dubbed the event, "The rock 'em like a Herman Cain, South Cainolina primary rally, folks."

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD (voice-over): South Cainolina.

SAMBOLIN: Cainolina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD (on-camera): I can't get off that, man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD (voice-over): And we have something else. It's going to funky, and that is if you're an Apple fan and if you're a student, this day is just going to be your day. There's going to be an announcement a little later on today as to how Apple wants to get into the textbook games. I know.

SAMBOLIN: They own this technology, it's about time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD (on-camera): Why not get the textbooks all into one very light thing in your backpack?

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Yes, especially for the little ones.

All right. Thirty-one minutes past the hour here. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Rescue crews in Italy are under mounting pressure this morning. They have resumed their search for nearly two dozen missing cruise ship passengers, including two Americans, but storms are forecasted to move in to that area in the coming days making it more difficult.

BANFIELD (voice-over): And also, ABC News is going to be airing an interview with Newt Gingrich's second wife. Don't forget, he has a third wife now and the second wife has a few things to say that he might not like, nor might voters. Former speaker of the House has admitted to cheating on Maryann Gingrich during their 18-year marriage.

He has two daughters from his first marriage, and they've written a letter to ABC News questioning the timing of all of this. After all, it is just two days before the South Carolina primary.

SAMBOLIN: And the controversial Keystone XL Oil Pipeline project isn't dead. President Obama says he rejected the project yesterday simply because of an arbitrary February 21st deadline for approval that was imposed by House Republicans. The White House wants to slow things down until after the November election. So, they say other options can be explored.

BANFIELD: And we want to get you back to our top story as well. We get developments every morning, and today is no different. Rescue crews have now been able to get back into that capsized cruise ship off of the coast of Italy. At this point, they are worried, folks. There is a storm approaching, and there are still two dozen passengers missing.

The captain is also saying something that is a little astounding. He's saying that he intended at all times to stay with the ship. According to some leaked interrogation transcripts by an Italian newspaper, they are saying that he had some other things to say which are somewhat damning. At this point, CNN can't confirm or deny those, because again, those were leaked.

But, holy cow. How's this for something? The captain, apparently, telling interrogators that he tripped and fell into the life boat. Let me repeat that. He says he tripped and fell into the life boat. He's also admitting that he made one of these just catastrophic mistakes while driving the ship.

Here's a quote. "I was navigating by sight because I new the depths well. I had done this maneuver three or four times before, but this time, I ordered the turn too late and I ended up in water that was too shallow. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Well, Jim Staples joins us now on the phone. He has been a captain for 20 years as well as a master mariner in the U.S. Merchant Marine. We've got to start with that navigational error. Navigating by sight something that is commonly done?

CAPTAIN JIM STAPLES, CAPTAIN FOR 20 YEARS (on the phone): No, not in this day and age when you bring a ship that close to the beach, you know, especially at night. It's another statement that just shows how bizarre his decision making was.

When you have a cruise ship of this magnitude with probably the best equipment in the world, multiple different backup systems, to bring the ship in that close, just using the visual sight at night when it's hard enough to judge distance anyway, especially on a moving ship when you're approaching the land, but to do that at night time is, it just shows incompetence on this man, and his judgment was very, very poor.

What it also shows is that it shows the breakdown in what we call the bridge team management system. Usually, when you're making an entry towards a port or you get in close to land, you'll have multiple officers up on the bridge to assist you in case you give a wrong command or you make a mistake. There's always somebody there who's checking the systems to make sure that the system carries through.

If you give a left-handed command with the wheel and you should have given a right-hand command, there should be another officer that would step in and say, captain, we need to come stop (ph) rather than forth. It sounds to me like it was a complete breakdown to the bridge team system up there.

It will be interesting to find out how many other officers were on bridge with him. He probably had at least one other third officer that was up there on the regular navigational watch and himself --

SAMBOLIN: Captain, if I may jump in here for a moment, because there's another thing that struck us when we got the chronology of events. At 9:45 p.m. is when the ship struck the rock. At 10:03 p.m., it was actually a passenger on board that ship who contacted police. How unusual is that in the protocol?

STAPLES: This is unbelievable. This is -- you know, for something like this to happen, and the captain did not take immediate action to sound the general alarm to get those people to safety or just to get them to their boat stations to give them time to find out where they were supposed to be when this incident happened, it amazes me that this guy's decision-making is so poor.

SAMBOLIN: So, what is the protocol, because we also have a report that Captain Schettino called his boss right after the crash happened before talking to the coast guard? So, is it protocol you call the coast guard first? STAPLES: No. The protocol is to make sure that you get your passengers to their boat stations safe first, and that everybody is ready to abandon ship and (INAUDIBLE) the situation. And then, get the people off the ship before he starts making phone calls. He could have had his third officer or somebody else making those phone calls rather than himself.

He needs to stay in situation where he should command the vessel, not be distracted by making phone calls.

SAMBOLIN: If I could just switch gears here a little bit, because, you know, they are worried about an environmental problem here. There are fears that the fuel will leak out from the ship's wreck. It went aground 30,000 square mile zone that's designated a marine mammal sanctuary. Are you concerned about that?

STAPLES: Oh, absolutely. That's the major concern is the fuel in that vessel. This ship is in an unstable condition right now. So, at any time, something really catastrophic could happen, this ship could (INAUDIBLE) into deeper waters. You could break in half with the wave action that's coming in with this storm. So, yes, this is a major, major concern.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Captain Jim Staples, thank you for taking the time this morning

STAPLES: My pleasure. Thank you.

BANFIELD: And still ahead, it may not be the iPad 3 or the iPhone 5, you're waiting on that, aren't you?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: She's crazy about this stuff.

SAMBOLIN: I love the iPad, love it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: It's much easier.

BANFIELD: I see you, sometimes, walking to the ladies room with that thing.

SAMBOLIN: I do. I always have it with me. There you go. There's a revelation for you this morning, folks.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Apple is going to do something in the revelation zone. They're going to tell us about brand new stuff that's coming out that's going to help you if you're a student or if you just happen to like reading textbooks on vacation.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: I can't believe you just outed me like that.

BANFIELD: I'm kidding with, I'm kidding.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield.

BANFIELD: Hey, everybody. Apple fans, my colleague here probably being the number one fan among them, should be very excited about today, because there's going to be some breakthrough announcement, apparently. Some new technology is on the horizon, but it's so secretive. I don't understand what's going on here.

SAMBOLIN: Well, they're always secretive. This is what they're known for, right? This is what excites me, those little ones, perhaps.

BANFIELD: I know. The little ones --

SAMBOLIN: Being the recipients of the news.

BANFIELD: -- with iPads, it's the greatest thing in the world. Apparently, Apple is expected to make a big announcement about some technology involving textbooks, and it's going to be done at New York's Guggenheim Museum. And if you haven't been there, it's a lovely place to visit.

Our technology expert, Katie Lindendoll, joins us now live. Katie, I've been reading and reading and reading and reading and reading, and I still don't know what it is they're going to announce. I just know that it has something to do with getting textbooks on to iPads for kids and making it a lot easier for them to haul them around in their backpacks. And maybe not just kids, maybe, you know, grown- up adult students, too.

KATIE LINDENDOLL, TECHNOLOGY EXPERT: Right. And I think collectively first, let's all curb our enthusiasm, because we're not going to see -- I'd be shocked if we did see any hardware announcements today. No iPad 3, no iPhone 5.

Like you said, the best rumors and speculation are actually pointing towards Apple making a move in the digital textbook realm and actually further compartmentalizing that, making software that's easier for publishers to create interactive content and also educational digital textbooks. That is the best guess right now. And you might be saying, why would they make a move into this market?

BANFIELD: Right.

LINDENDOLL: $9 billion industry per year.

BANFIELD: Especially since I read that they were talking about doing this for free. LINDENDOLL: Well, that will be interesting, and we'll learn more about that today. You have to remember, on the app side alone, Apple gets a 30 percent revenue cut. If they can enter into a $9 billion textbook industry annually and one that's expected by 2015 for digital textbook to get $4.5 billion, you can bet they want some percentage of that market share.

BANFIELD: And I guess, it's always a good thing if you want to get your product into an early marketplace, young marketplace, they might be your customers for life. Didn't Steve Jobs, back decades ago, lobby Congress to get some of his Apple computers into classrooms and did so successfully?

LINDENDOLL: Absolutely. And Apple's always had a keen move on education. And I think we're also seeing a lot of Steve Jobs' previews from the biography by Walter Isaacson. We're seeing the iTV rumors are heating up. We're also seeing the talk of disrupting the digital textbook world.

But I think the interesting is the core of it that, hey, we're showing kids on iPads. When I was little, you got really excited for 64 crayons with a built-in sharpener.

BANFIELD: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

LINDENDOLL: Now, into this whole modern digital era, this is what kids are learning off of. This is what they know. We're going in a whole different direction. So, is it a smart move for Apple? Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Well, and fascinating because we always hang on every word. And what's sad this time around is that it won't be sort of Steve Jobs at the helm making that announcement. So, it will be a little bit different. Katie, thanks for getting up early with us. Appreciate it.

LINDENDOLL: Of course. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Thank you. Nice to see you.

SAMBOLIN: And they'll still be reading books, it will just be on an iPad.

BANFIELD: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-two minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Brand new evidence this morning that last week's ship wreck may not have been the first time the Costa Concordia has come far too close to shore. A weekly shipping news journal claims to have tracked down data showing at least one similar incident last summer where the ship reportedly passed even closer to shore than it did during last week's disaster.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Iran's foreign minister having a few things to say today. That that country has never tried to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz. What? But in what may be an indirect warning to us here in the United States, he's cautioning Iran's neighbors, don't put yourself in a, quote, "dangerous position." Ministers also calling on the United States to negotiate with Tehran without any conditions.

SAMBOLIN: And David Beckham is staying in L.A. Are you excited about this? The English soccer star signed a new two-year contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Leading clubs across Europe have been courting the 36-year-old midfielder the past few months just before his initial five-year Galaxy deal ran out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (on-camera): Yes, I am excited about that.

SAMBOLIN: You're excited about it?

BANFIELD: Only because I love Victoria Beckham's fashion.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I know. I'm getting crazy that way.

SAMBOLIN: Some people are nuts about him. All right --

BANFIELD: He is awfully cute.

SAMBOLIN: Coming up next, we have front-page faces for you. It's the faces behind the newspaper. We're talking to a face behind the South Carolina -- or South Carolina's largest newspaper. A new CNN/South Carolina poll shows Romney sliding, Gingrich surging. We're going to talk to him about that. You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Clapping to the beat?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I really love the music.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I'm glad.

It's nice to see you all. It's 47 minutes past 5:00 on the east coast. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. So, we have front page faces which is really the faces behind the headlines in the newspapers. We're highlighting the primary race in South Carolina this morning. A new CNN poll shows Romney on top, but he's losing ground while Gingrich is surging. So, joining us live from Charleston, South Carolina is Robert Behre, and he is a political reporter and the face behind the state's largest newspaper, "The Post and Courier." Nice to see you this morning.

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, very happy to have you. We also have this new NBC/Marist poll that just came out, but they're kind of similar here. Mitt Romney has dropped five points in our latest South Carolina poll. People that you're speaking to in South Carolina say that this is really the last-ditch effort to stop Romney.

They don't love the alternatives, you say as well. And actually, your newspaper has not come out with an endorsement yet. So, this is very last minute. What are folks waiting for? What is missing?

ROBERT BEHRE, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE POST THE COURIER": I think we just want -- I think at lot of Republican voters here just want to see as much as they can see before making up their mind. I've talked to a few who are still undecided who will be looking at what happens in the debate tonight as well as what happens tonight and over the next two days.

SAMBOLIN: And what about Romney not releasing his tax returns? Do you think that that is actually going to affect South Carolinians, because, you know, we know or we think that what it would show us is that he's really rich. South Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 9.9 percent.

Is it a liability to be rich in this race going into South Carolina? And how do you think folks re going to react about, you know, the tax forms not being released?

BEHRE: I don't know if it's a liability about being rich here. After all, John McCain, who won the primary four years ago, was also relatively wealthy. I think the bigger question surrounds electability. What's exactly on those tax returns? Why hasn't he released them?

And will, if he eventually does release them, will they show something that doesn't -- that harms him, essentially, in the general election that would make him less electable? I think that's the big question and, of course, we won't know that until the returns are out.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, let's talk about Newt Gingrich then and his electability. He's up about five points. Good for him. Because South Carolina, he says, is his last stand, right? But tonight, ABC will air an interview with one of Gingrich's ex-wives. We don know exactly what that interview is going to say.

But it's no secret that he's had multiple infidelities and divorces. How do you think that's going to play out for him in South Carolina?

BEHRE: Well, it doesn't seem to have hurt him too much, so far, but, of course, if there's anything kind of new, and if it becomes a headline this close to the election, yes, that could move the needle. I mean, there are many evangelical voters here, social conservatives who would consider that a mark against him.

SAMBOLIN: And you say that you haven't come out with your endorsement yet. Perhaps, it's going to happen on Friday here? Do you have a hint for us? Direction that your newspaper is leaning in perhaps?

(LAUGHTER)

BEHRE: That can get me in trouble, but I think it will be one of the two top runners. One of the two people atop the polls. I don't think we're going to endorse Ron Paul.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, Robert Behre, "The Post and Courier" of Charleston, South Carolina. Thank you for joining us this morning.

And you can stay with CNN for the best political coverage on television. At seven o'clock eastern this morning, "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien's broadcast live from Charleston, South Carolina. One of Soledad's big guests, the authors of the book, "The Real Romney." All that ahead on "STARTING POINT."

And then tonight, at 8:00 Eastern, CNN and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference present a two-hour presidential town hall debate. That is also live from Charleston. It will be moderated by CNN anchor and chief national correspondent, John King.

BANFIELD: Switching gears a little. You know Marky Mark? Mark Wahlberg?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: Big fan of Mark Wahlberg. He was supposed to on one of the planes on 9/11.

SAMBOLIN: Oh.

BANFIELD: And now, he's talking in an interview with a magazine about what he might have done were he on one of those planes. And let me tell you, it is not going over well with some of the victims' families. We're going to clear this up for you and tell you now how he's responding, in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Six minutes before the top of the hour here. We like to keep you in the pop culture loop as well as the news loop. So, this morning, we're looking at what's trending on social media, the internet, as some people call it. Marky Mark. May sound crazy. That's what --

(CROSSTALK) BANFIELD: -- one of our congressmen called it, the internet. He's part of a technology committee, too. So, Marky Mark, Mark Wahlberg, is having to issue some apologies today to the families of 9/11, and here's why. He gave an interview to "Men's Journal" magazine. He said a couple of things. He was supposed to be on one of the planes on 9/11. It was one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

So, he has a legitimate point of view to be able to seek about that. But here's what he told the magazine, quote, "If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn't have gone down the way it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin, and then me saying, we're going to land safely somewhere. Don't worry."

However he meant it, whether he meant it to say I'd have killed those people with my bare hands to protect my kids or as some people think, why didn't those other people do that, it certainly made things really uncomfortable for a lot of the widows and family members who have called the comments disrespectful.

And Mr. Wahlberg issued a formal apology, saying, quote, "To speculate about such a situation is ridiculous. And to suggest that I would have done anything differently than the passengers on that plane was irresponsible." He's really step in and he's trying to make --

SAMBOLIN: He's sorry. He's sorry for what he said and that's good. That's always good.

All right. I've got something so much lighter trending this morning also. Stephen Colbert and Herman Cain to hold a rally together tomorrow in South Carolina. Take a look at that picture.

BANFIELD: How did Herman Cain agree to this?

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: The event called, "The Rock Me like a Herman Cain South Cainolina Primary Rally."

BANFIELD: Can you sing that? (SINGING) rock me like a Herman Cain

SAMBOLIN: She's a singer, not me. Colbert says Cain --

(Crosstalk)

SAMBOLIN: -- Cain is the only former candidate who shares his values and says their ethics are, at least, makes them at least first cousins. Colbert couldn't get on the South Carolina ballot. So, instead, he hijacked the Cain's (INAUDIBLE). Super PAC ad this week, people to vote for Cain who is still on a ballot in South Carolina saying a vote for Cain is a vote for Colbert.

BANFIELD: Man, this guy has been messing with the process last couple of years. I'm just dying to know how much money is in the Super PAC for Stephen Colbert, because I think a lot of people would give money to him.

SAMBOLIN: And what do you do with that money?

BANFIELD: Precisely.

Still to come, we've got a lot of stuff on the agenda for you. Do you send e-mails from home, you check your work e-mail?

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: We barely ever get off our Blackberrys. Well, guess what, in one country, that is considered paid O.T. And everybody --

SAMBOLIN: Can you imagine?

BANFIELD: Yes, baby. Bring it on.

SAMBOLIN: Everybody at home is nodding. Wouldn't it be great if we got overtime for that?

BANFIELD: Could it happen, though? We've got laws you might want to know about in this --

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right. And a brand new South Carolina poll just out this morning. We're going to share that with you. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)