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Hostages Rescued In Somalia; Reviving The American Dream; Speech Sets 2012 Campaign Tone; Gingrich Versus King: Round Two; Apple Stock Rises Up To 8 Percent In After Hours Trading; Torrential Rains, Lightning In Texas; Tough Sell in Congress; Save Europe, Save the World; Thousands Flood Tahrir Square

Aired January 25, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. This is EARLY START. It is the top of the hour. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

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

We have overnight breaking news. Good news actually, the freedom for two foreign aid workers. There are their pictures. One is an American. They were held hostage in Somalia for three months. We have all the late-breaking details of a U.S. rescue.

BANFIELD: And also, if you didn't see the "State of the Union" we have the breakdown for you. President Obama calling for fairness for all, especially when it comes to taxes, challenging Congress on the bipartisanship, saying to China quit cheating when it comes to trade, and then, all that reaction that comes afterwards. We've got that for you, too.

SAMBOLIN: And the big buzz on Wall Street. Did you hear? Apple's humongous explosive earnings? How big did Apple get?

BANFIELD: Massive. Massive. And then there was this really awful story out of East Haven, Connecticut, involving four police officers. FBI has been watching them for a long time and decided to charge four of them with terrorizing Latinos in that community.

If that's not a big any story, you will not believe what the mayor had to say to a local reporter who asked about representation on the force of Latinos when there's 10 percent Latinos in the community.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to play that for you, but we're going to begin here with breaking news overnight. Two foreign aid workers kidnapped in Somalia three months ago are free this morning. One is an American, Jessica Buchanan. Just moments ago, the president issued a statement saying that he authorized the operation.

BANFIELD: And also thank the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our special ops forces who carried that out. SAMBOLIN: SEAL teams, right?

BANFIELD: Two Navy SEAL teams are being reported, helicopters, gunfire, a lot of people dead, but the hostages are OK. Our team members are OK.

Chris Lawrence is our Pentagon correspondent, he joins us live. I got to say, Chris, I didn't even know that this American was missing. I don't know if it was just an amazingly kept secret, but I tell you what, this operation was certainly a well kept secret.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, reminds you a lot, Ashleigh, of the Osama Bin Laden raid from last year when no one had any idea what was going on and the president came to the White House Correspondents Dinner and seemed was happy and upbeat and no one knew all the drama what was going on behind the scenes.

We knew these hostages had been missing since late October when they were kidnapped in Somalia. They were working on a humanitarian aid mission. Now we're getting some new details about how they were rescued.

A U.S. official was confirming to CNN that Navy SEALs on board helicopters landed near the compound where these two hostages were being held. The official says that the SEALs came under fire before they even got inside the compound and had to fight their way into the compound.

There was a pitch gunfight. Two hostages were not hurt in that. The SEALs managed to rescue them, get them on board the helicopter and get them out of Somalia.

Again, last night as he was coming into the "State of the Union" address, President Obama pointed at Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and said good job tonight, good job tonight. We all kind of wondered what was he referring to, what specifically was he referring to?

Well, now we know. The president released a statement this morning saying that he will not condone or accept the kidnapping and capture of Americans.

He went on to say that Jessica Buchanan was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well being.

Last night, I spoke with Jessica Buchanan's father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family.

The Pentagon has told us that they have been taken to a safe location. They were getting a medical check of up and arrangements were being made to get them home.

BANFIELD: We have been reporting, you know, ad nauseum about Somali pirates and hijackings and that kind of thing. And there's been a lot of Navy patrolling in that area. NATO effort in that area.

Some people are saying that it worked well, but it shifted all the pirates focus to abductions and kidnappings. Does this action though, the Navy SEALs action, really put pirates or abductors in that area on notice?

LAWRENCE: Probably not because you're talking about the motivation being money. The official I spoke with said there's no real indication that these pirates had any link or this was part of some larger Jihadist group.

The motivation may have been simply kidnap, ransom, and money. That's a harder motivation to dissway, so to speak, even with the Navy SEALs coming in for this rescue.

In fact, there was another American engineer who was kidnapped just in this past week. So you can expect that this probably will not be the last attempt at kidnapping some of the aid workers who are working in a very, very dangerous area.

BANFIELD: We should also note there's still a U.S. journalist that's being held, about 30 to 40 isolated different individuals from nations all around the world who are still being held as well.

SAMBOLIN: Chris just mentioned another one. Thank you very much, Chris Lawrence reporting live for us at the Pentagon. We appreciate it.

Now to the last night's "State of the Union" address, President Obama defending the American dream. He's challenging Republicans to stop obstructing. He's calling for a 30 percent tax rate on all millionaires. Central theme that he has is restore fairness for all.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent, no debate is more important.

We will not settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Where we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.


BANFIELD: As the president framed the challenges faced by the country last night he also framed the themes he's going to be pushing in his 2012 presidential campaign.

Brianna Keilar is live in Washington for us with that one. Did sound a lot like a campaign and now we know his on the road trip to the battleground states are certainly going to be like a campaign, right? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right and he'll be focusing on different parts of the plan, parts of his plans that he laid out last night.

But a lot of what you saw last night and as he moves forward in these arguably campaign-related events, will be this defense of that unemployment figure, 8.5 percent in December, not expected to really budge too much before the election.

That is seen by the White House, by the president, as the big issue here. We saw him last night seizing on modest improvements that had been made in the economy. And highlighting just how big the financial crisis was, how bad the economy was, saying there's a whole lot more to be done.

And he also laid out a lot of provisions for investments in education, for aid to states and for infrastructure spending. The thing is some of these Republicans have already said they're opposed to, some of them no doubt they will oppose.

And so it was really, guys, that idea of fairness that he was talking about doing through tax reform, overhauling the very complicated tax code so that the wealthy pay more, something that polls well among Americans.

Sort of drawing that line in the sand saying if you make a million dollars or more a year you should pay at least 30 percent in taxes, drawing a lot of contrast, of course, to his presumed opponent, the White House still sees Mitt Romney as his presumed opponent, paying just 14 percent.

BANFIELD: A direct opposite in fact on that debate. Brianna, great job. Thank you for that.

Despite all the talk of taxes and trade and 30 percent and all the rest, I think really many people will think of the moment of the night as happening right before the president took to the podium. Have a look at this.

You got it right. That's the president hugging Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, giving her a kiss on the cheek. She's going to vote one last time today.

And then it is expected today will be the day that she submits her resignation from Congress because she says she's going to focus instead on recovering from that assassination attempt on her last January.

SAMBOLIN: I think you're right. Love that moment. It's great.

BANFIELD: That's really great.

SAMBOLIN: Newt Gingrich and CNN's John King picking up where they left off last week in South Carolina debate. Remember the former speaker appearing on "JOHN KING USA" last night.

So he famously slammed King, Gingrich did, at the debate for starting off with his ex-wife's -- NBC, the question about his ex- wife. Guess what, they were going at it again last night.


JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "JOHN KING USA": I can't speak for NBC, but says if you offered people, it would have interviewed them.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is just plain baloney. I mean, I'll check with Arci Hammond (ph) in a minute, but if they're saying that they're not being honest and -- because they said exclusively the opposite.

So I will check with Arci because he was briefing me on this the whole way through. We had several people prepared to be very clear and very aggressive in their dispute about that. And they weren't interested.


BANFIELD: Well, the CNN GOP debate in Jacksonville is going to be tomorrow night. We'll have to watch for the fireworks. If Speaker Gingrich has any more planned against the moderator, we want to mind your business now as well.

The U.S. markets closed mixed somewhat. Dow and the S&P 500 down a little bit. Nasdaq up just a little bit, but they were bigger stories and news. That's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: Let's bring in Ms. Christine Romans. Let's talk all things Apple.

BANFIELD: Do you have Apple products?

ROMANS: I'm a Blackberry girl, but I do have the first generation iPad. It doesn't have a camera, but I'm waiting to see when that third generation comes out.

BANFIELD: I'm a Blackberry girl. I have first generation iPad. I have second generation iPad.

ROMANS: You never know for sure because Apple keeps all that information really close to the vest. But I'm telling you at a stellar quarter there is no recession in Apple land and if you look at the last three months of last year, you can see that ho-ho-ho, people were buying a lot of these things.

I'm going to tell you how many, iPhones, 411,000 a day, every single day. I mean, that's incredible. For something that didn't exist a few years ago to sell 411,000 a day. Ipads, 171,000 a day. For the first time they sold more than 5 million Mac computers.

I mean, the numbers, it's just mind blowing, the numbers, one after another in this earnings report. Here's something else mind blowing. If you invested $10,000 in Apple shares, exactly five years ago today, it would be worth 48 grand.

I'm not kidding. I'm not kidding. I know somebody who started buying Apple stock at $2 a share. Every time it doubled he kept buying more. I wonder why he still works.

BANFIELD: My sister did that with Starbucks -- 20 years ago.

ROMANS: Really? Starbucks and Apple are the two kinds of things that if you understand it, if you know it. I mean, I remember the day that I noticed all the recycling boxes on Thursdays on Brooklyn, there were all of these Apple boxes and I thought, what's going on.

And Apple -- seriously, they had this resurgence. Anyway, the question is can Apple keep going from here because for many people these are new kinds of gadgets. The question is, can the stock keep going or is it a little bubbly.

This morning, a lot of folks are talking about the stock and it's up in premarket trading. So we'll be watching Apple shares.

SAMBOLIN: I just think everybody has to have the latest greatest gadget, right?

BANFIELD: And can't even fulfill the orders. What would these earnings be like if they actually could sell to all the people in China who are trying to buy them and can't get them?

ROMANS: It's so cool, too, when you think about to your point about the technology that we are pulling back in other parts of our lives, paying down credit card debt. We're spending money more strategically on technology and what it means for us.

Something that job coaches have told me, you guys, be careful about the technology you use if you're going for a job interview. Because your technology says the kind of worker you are too. It says how current you are.

It says, I have a job coach tell me don't bring newspapers, make sure you have an iPad or iPhone, or a Google android or some kind of the newest latest craze to show that you are an early adapter.

SAMBOLIN: Think about what it could do for you, right? You say I walk with my iPad everywhere and I really do because if I'm at a basketball game and my kid is playing, I can videotape him and send pictures and I can upload and it's just amazing what you can do, yes.

ROMANS: I'll watch it today to see what the stock does. Whenever you look at $400 stock, bubbly, this could be the biggest value company in the world.

BANFIELD: How long will it take you before you get the new one?

ROMANS: I don't know. My husband is the one who's bought me all of mine.

BANFEILD: For her, it's all about money. She's not going to spend it. Get it as a gift.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, Christine.

BANFIELD: If you're working hard for a living and traveling to do so you probably want your travel weather report right about now.

SAMBOLIN: We have Jacqui Jeras in for Rob Marciano today. It's nice to see you, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Nice to see you, ladies, this morning as well. Things are really rough going across the lone star state. We're focusing in on Texas at this hour with the threat of severe thunderstorms, damaging winds, isolated tornadoes, and flooding.

Look at these pictures we have already this morning out of Austin, Texas, where between one and two inches has fallen just since midnight, a lot of lightning, a lot of reports of flooded roads. It will be slow going this morning.

Not just the case in Austin, but also in San Antonio where flash flood warnings remain in effect. This is going to be a very slow moving system, guys. This is going to stick with us through a good part of the day.

Dallas, you're not in the watch right now, but you're going to be getting that heavy rain. Houston, even though it doesn't look like you're in the tornado watch you technically are. It's going to be a little while before the heavier thunderstorms though get into your neighborhood.

If you're going to be traveling today, major delays will be expected at the airports in places like Dallas and Houston. Delays could reach over an hour especially late this morning.

Memphis looking for heavy rain and thunderstorms and we've got a lot of fog in New Orleans for today, but boy, it's going to be crazy warm, a high of 80 degrees today.

This is really the big storm system that we're dealing with across the country. Still a little wet and snowy in the Pacific Northwest. Everybody else is doing pretty much OK including your guys in New York.

BANFIELD: It isn't 80 degrees, I can say that much.

JERAS: That's true.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you, Jacqui.

Still ahead, President Obama calls for comprehensive immigration reform. How will this resonate with the Latino community? We're going to talk with the mayor of San Antonio who was at the president's address last night.

BANFIELD: And if your little one gets lunch at school, we've got some news for you that you may be thrilled about. Good food? Coming from the school to their mouth? How come it took this long?

You're watching EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: Actually it's a little confusing I think when we -


SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Louisville. It is 30 degrees right now. And you're going to have some showers but it's going to bump up to 44 degrees a little bit later. That's a good news, right?

BANFIELD: That sounds about right for Kentucky, right? That's Kentucky (ph).

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Kentucky, well, this time of year.

BANFIELD: This time of year. It's nice to have you with us. I hope you - well, it certainly is better than the earlier start of the week for y'all.

It is 19 minutes past 6:00. Great to have you here with us. Let's get you up to speed on your top stories this morning before you head out the door.

Look at these pictures. These are live pictures coming out of Tahrir Square in Egypt. The Egyptians are gathering in Cairo in the Main Square to mark the one-year anniversary. Remember these pictures? Remember the uprising?

These pictures were incredible from January 2011. And there are now concerns about new clashes today between the military and the protesters who are so frustrated by the slow pace of change, since President Hosni Mubarak was forced out a year ago.

SAMBOLIN: Four police officers in East Haven, Connecticut have been arrested on charges of racial profiling. The FBI claims they terrorized Latinos in the city.

And as for his reaction to the arrest, East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo was caught on camera saying, quote, "I might have tacos when I go home."

BANFIELD: Yikes, not good.

Also from the pop culture file, actress Demi Moore is reportedly seeking treatment after she was rushed to the hospital after a 911 call. A spokesperson for Moore says that she is seeking professional assistance to treat exhaustion and also to improve her overhaul health.

SAMBOLIN: We wish her well.

BANFIELD: Yes, we do. She had a rough year.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, she had. About 20 minutes past the hour here. President Obama making his case for re-election in this year's State of the Union Address, so he stood before Congress and the country, of course, illustrating what the next four years might look like if he indeed gets a second term. The main theme there was greater fairness.

So joining me now is the Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro. He was selected to sit with the First Lady last night's State of the Union Address. Thanks for being with us this morning.


SAMBOLIN: So there was quite an impressive list of people sitting with the First Lady. Mark Kelly, the astronaut - Gabby Giffords' husband, the astronaut, an army sergeant who served two terms in Iraq and his husband is deployed in Afghanistan, they were entrepreneurs, volunteers. How did you get that coveted invite? CASTRO: Well, you know, I - it's always part secret. You know, there's always a mystery to it. But, you know -

SAMBOLIN: Do tell. Do tell.

CASTRO: -- San Antonio just a few weeks ago was ranked by the Milken Institute as the top performing local economy in the nation. And one of the things that we've done well is really find the inner section of job creation and environmental stewardship, particularly with investments in renewable energy. And so I think that that was probably the reason.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, congratulations on that.


SAMBOLIN: I want to talk immigration with you because your state where immigration is a really big issue. Last night the president touched briefly on immigration reform. He said that he wants comprehensive immigration reform. He wants Congress to send him a bill that sounds a lot like a Dream Act so that he can actually sign it, but his opponents say he should have acted on it already. So let's listen to three years of him at the State of the Union.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system. I strongly believe that we should take on once and for all the issue of illegal immigration. I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration.


SAMBOLIN: So you know his opponents are going to say this is an issue that he ran on. He should have accomplished this earlier. What do you make of the lack of progress on immigration reform? And is he going to be held accountable for that? CASTRO: Well, there's no question that - that it has not happened yet. At the same time, it's very clear, particularly in politics, that it takes two to tango. And the administration over these last couple of years has pushed hard for comprehensive immigration reform, particularly the Dream Act, which I think is the closest set of policies that could get passed. But at the same time, there's just no appetite in the Congressional Majority to make it happen.

So hopefully during this year 2012, that will change and I was glad to hear the president challenge the Congress to take it up.

SAMBOLIN: But do you think that he's done enough? Do you think that he's done enough at the state levels in order to get the kind of support that he needs in order to pass it?

CASTRO: I think he's pushed very hard, yes. I also believe that the case-by-case analysis that the administration is taking on deportations is a welcome change. It makes sense.

In the Hispanic community, of course, there's a real concern for families. Very family oriented community. And so a case-by-case analysis of those deportations is important. And that was a step that the president took himself.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's switch gears here and talk about Mitt Romney on the same issue. You've been critical of the Texas State government for introducing immigration proposals that you describe as discriminatory. Monday night Mitt Romney talked about how he would address illegal immigration. Listen and then we'll talk about it.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is self deportation, which is people decide that they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here. And so we're not going to round people up.


SAMBOLIN: Phrasing aside, is this a viable option?

CASTRO: Well, I think somebody else in that debate pointed out that you already have that. There's de facto self deportation and it's called the economy. Right now, we're seeing less folks cross the border from Mexico than we've seen in a very long time because there's less economic opportunity.

It's also an explanation of why folks come here. They don't come here with bad intentions. You know, the vast majority of them, you know, they come here to work, to provide for their families.

And so when I listen to Mitt Romney, I described Governor Perry of Texas as having ushered in the most anti-Hispanic agenda while he was governor during this last session. And when I listen to Mitt Romney, I hear the echoes of the same approach.

I think it's unrealistic. I don't think - not only doesn't serve the Hispanic community well, but it doesn't serve the nation well. It's not - it's not realistic.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Thanks for taking the time this morning.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: If you're thinking of a lovely vacation in Davos, the hotel rooms are all booked up. Sorry. Because all the world's financial leaders are there, but are they going to be able to do much about the global economic crisis that we find ourselves in. Sure looks pretty, but what about the talk, is it pretty?

We're going to break it down for you on EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 6:29 on the East Coast. Welcome bark to EARLY START. Good to have you with us. Let's get you set up for your day with the top stories, shall we?

Breaking news overnight, freedom for two foreign aide workers. Here they are. The American woman on the left, the Danish man on the right. They've been held hostage in Somalia for the last three months.

President Obama released a statement a short time ago thanking some extraordinary work by the U.S. Special Operations Forces who freed them. Both of these former hostages are said to be in good condition and in a safe undisclosed location today.

SAMBOLIN: Well, the news is not as promising for the family of an American student who disappeared in Syria earlier this month. There's the picture of 21-year-old Ohio native is both an American and Syrian citizen. He had flown to Damascus with his brother who says when they landed, security guards just took his brother away.

BANFIELD: After the speech comes the big sell. President Obama is doing that. He's hitting the road today on a three-day five-state tour to drive home the campaign themes that he laid out in the State of the Union address last night.

First up, Iowa, and then Arizona. If they sound like battleground states to you, that's because they are.

So, selling your ideas to the people, that would be one thing. Selling your ideas to Republicans in Congress would be an entirely different ball game.

And the president said that he would take action with or without them. Are those fighting words?

Let's ask our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan who is live in Washington, D.C.

Kind of sounded like fighting words to me. And this is a campaign year.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a campaign year, and everything in some regard has to be look through all the issues that happened in the Washington through the lens of an election, of a campaign.

I mean, look, this speech last night was one that Democrats loved and Republicans frankly did not. I mean, Congress was clearly a target in the president's remarks last night. Some have described it more as a lecture to Republicans than a speech to the Congress and a speech to the nation, even though the American voter was obviously also someone that the president was trying to speak to very much last night.

I mean, the president talked about economic fairness. All day even before the president took to the mike, Republicans, you know, had their fire ready and were ready to blast the president for his speech what they called purely political and more of a campaign speech, because when he's talking about economic fairness they say -- they say that this is a code word for class warfare and pitting the rich against the poor and looking to more divide Americans than trying to unite them.

And that is really where Republicans are criticizing the president and his remarks. They say the president is trying to distract the Congress and distract voters from his record, which they say has now worked when they point to unemployment numbers and such. They're trying -- that he's trying to distract from that rather than -- because he can't defend it is their argument as he tries to target Congress and say it's up to you now to try to help this economy and push forward legislation and work with me.

I mean, bottom line, Ashleigh, we've talked about this a lot -- even before the president's speech last night, there was not a lot of optimism on Capitol Hill that Congress was going to be able to pull off any kind of significant legislation. It doesn't look like with the president's remarks last night and the reaction from congressional Republicans that they are any more motivated to find common ground at this point.

BANFIELD: We have both sides digging in.

Kate Bolduan, nice of you to stay up late and then get up early with us.

BOLDUAN: You're so sweet.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Kate.

SAMBOLIN: And now to a crisis thousands of miles away could easily affect your family here at home. Europe's economy on the brink due to the debt crisis and today some of the most powerful minds in government and in finance are coming together to try to stave off a worldwide recession.

So, CNN's Money Poppy Harlow minding your business this morning from Davos, Switzerland.

It looks beautiful behind you. I have to say that. But quite a bit of topics on the debate agenda today -- the future of capitalism, the rise of China, financial regulation, the aftermath of popular protests around the world. How are all of those dialogues going to have an impact here in the United States?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: All of them will matter greatly to people watching now in the United States. It's a tiny town, Davos, Switzerland, home to the World Economic Forum. There are 2,600 participants here right now, word leaders. We have Timothy Geithner, the U.S. treasury secretary here. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will address the forum this evening. You have David Cameron. You have Felipe Calderon of Mexico.

They are all focusing on one thing specifically, the state of Europe, because just late yesterday, the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, came out and steeply cut its growth forecasts for the world economy for this year.

Why do we care? Because the United States relies very much on Europe to export its goods. If Europe does not do well, the United States as well.

One of the heads of the IMF came out, Zoraida, and said that if the crisis in Europe gets worse, if it intensifies, quote, "The world could be plunged into another recession."

Therefore, it matters greatly to every politician at home, greatly to every American looking for a job at home trying to hang on to their job. That is the focus tonight.

The big focus will be on Germany tonight and those comments from the German chancellor. Germany is seen as center of Europe, the stronghold, the strength in Europe's economy right now. The question is what happens, that what is the future of the eurozone and it greatly matters to us here.

Social unrest as you said. That is a huge topic as well right now. Not just the Occupy movement in the U.S., of course, the Arab Spring. And what I'm hearing from leaders here, economists, is that we should pay more attention to social unrest, it will likely increase this year as it does not look like things are getting materially better in terms of jobs either in Europe or in the United States.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Poppy Harlow, thank you for joining us this morning.

BANFIELD: And still ahead, some pretty good news if you got little kiddies who eat at school, apparently their lunch rest going to get a lot more healthy. But what about the pizza and French fries? Because Congress seems to think those are veggies, still.

We'll let you know what's going on.

SAMBOLIN: And we're getting an early read on what's making news in America today as well.

You are watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: New York, New York.

SAMBOLIN: It's beautiful.

BANFIELD: Yes, it doesn't get old, does it?

SAMBOLIN: No, it does not.

BANFIELD: Lovely, lovely. I wish I had the temperature there. I don't. I need to tell you this, it was kind of cold coming in. Just a little bit cold, I'm going to tell you that. Not a lot.

SAMBOLIN: But we're going to guess -- 30s, somewhere in the 30s this morning, folks.

BANFIELD: Something like that.

SAMBOLIN: In New York City.

It is 6:39 here on the East Coast. And we're getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines. This morning, we have papers from New Orleans and Miami.

So first, we are going to go to "The Times-Picayune," with a story of a Louisiana man taking on oil giant BP in court. His name August Walter Jr. and he helped BP develop clean-up strategies after the Gulf spill. So, he is claiming that the company took shortcuts, falsely reporting some beaches as clean when they were not.

BANFIELD: That's not good.

SAMBOLIN: He said that BP threatened him and fired him when he threatened to blow the whistle. Specifically what he says, BP was refusing to pick up oiled debris on beaches and islands and then falsely reporting the areas were clean. This is all in an effort to wrap up its responsibilities early and leave the remaining clean-up to the coast guard.

BANFIELD: I think BP is going to have something to say about that in court, without question. You always have that in a whistle- blower situation.

Let's get you to "The Miami Herald."

A pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC says it is pulling out all the stops. They bought $6 million of advertising in Florida. Oh, people of Florida, I am so sorry for what you're about to be seeing. All of this stuff is so nasty.

I can tell you this. The ad buy at this particular time with this particular super PAC is going after the whole Romney versus Obamacare, Romneycare, Obamacare, using quotes from the "Wall Street Journal," trying to connect them. This is the Winning Our Future super PAC. They get very confused and still have similar names. This is the Winning Our Future Gingrich super PAC.

And you should know that, too. If you didn't know much about super PAC before, this is all new this year.

Gingrich got $5 million from a casino owner in Nevada because that's legal now. And then just within days that casino owner's wife wrote another $5 million.

SAMBOLIN: You know what? I didn't know that. I thought it was a casino owner's wife. But it was both of them?

BANFIELD: Sheldon Adelson and then his wife, Mrs. Sheldon Adelson --

SAMBOLIN: That is a lot of dough.

BANFIELD: -- wrote $10 million. I think in the course, my days off here, but the course of about a week, Gingrich got $10 million injection from that pair.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of ad time.

BANFIELD: I don't know how -- I don't know why or how they could do that, but I would love to have that kind of disposable income, especially if you live in Vegas.

Money talk is dominating the fight for Florida. The front- runners duking it out. I'm not sure what that funny character is behind Newt Gingrich, but you know, Gingrich is blasting -- Gingrich is getting blasted for his connections to Freddie Mac. Romney is being blasted for his tax returns and how rich he is and what he paid in taxes.

But what's going to matter more in Florida?

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Forty, I know.


BANFIELD: We're a little amazed here, folks, because our political editor at CNN, Paul Steinhauser, just sent us an e-mail with a brand new Quinnipiac poll for Florida. And the numbers are pretty fascinating. Romney coming in at 36 percent in Florida. Gingrich coming in at 34 percent. But I think what's most fascinating --

(CROSSTALK) BANFIELD: -- the last three days. After the win in South Carolina, and Monday's debate --

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Gingrich was at 26 percent and then soared to 40 percent. Romney, 37 percent and went to 34 percent.

BANFIELD: I don't think Romney's camp is going to like those numbers.


BANFIELD: They're going to probably tap those down and say, well, our internal polls say different. But we can tell you one thing, Susan MacManus might have something to say about it. She's professor of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida. Susan, does that surprise you, hearing those numbers swapping like that?

SUSAN MACMANUS, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: Not really. This is such a volatile state, and these candidates are given it all they've got. It's ago for broke time for each of them. They are combing this state from top to bottom. The ad wars are well under way.

And this is a state where Republicans are very different than those in South Carolina. But, obviously, some are very encouraged by Gingrich. Others really want Romney. So, there we have it, a great fight.

BANFIELD: Yes. And I tell you what, when we talked about Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, we had specific narratives. In Iowa, it was the evangelicals. In New Hampshire, it was the independents. In South Carolina, it was kind of back to the evangelicals.

But when I look at your state, my friend, I can't get my head around what's more important, healthcare with all the seniors who are in that state, the Latino vote and the immigration issues, or the housing crisis and the foreclosure issues. Do you have a grasp on what's going to be leading issue for these candidates? Are they all equal?

MACMANUS: It is definitely the economy, the economy, the economy. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. We've heard that everywhere else, but the bottom line is that this state is very used to leading the nation out of recovery after a recession. Now, it's lagging behind and it's a position that Floridians simply aren't used to being in.

They're very impatient. They're very angry. And they just want some assurance that whoever that they vote for has some kind of clear idea how to get Florida moving again.

BANFIELD: Well, Susan, if your Floridian friends are angry, I don't know how they're going to feel about this next thing I'm about to play for you and our audience. When I said housing crisis and the issues that your Floridian counterparts face, Mitt Romney has tried to make this an issue tying Newt Gingrich to his connections to Freddie Mac and suggesting that while Newt was with Freddie Mac, everybody in Florida was, you know, focusing and having to cope with all these foreclosures.

But then we went and found this itty-bitty little bite, this sound bite from Mitt Romney from, I think, back in the fall. Have a listen.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy the homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up.


BANFIELD: Don't try to stop the foreclosure. I get what he's saying. I get free markets. Let it happen. But, do those words play in your Peoria?

MACMANUS: Well, the housing crisis, of course, is a great urgency which is why they really emphasize it in their ads and why it was a big deal in debate the other night. But it does work a little bit different. I mean, you have an older population here that's a little bit, as we say, healthier, wealthier, younger, and better educated.

And they understand the business aspects of things a little bit more. They're more invested in the market. So, for some, they'll see that as simply, oh, you took something out of context. But for the working person whose lost their home or their job, they see those as fighting words.

And the issue is that you can take those kinds of comments from both Gingrich and Romney, put them on a screen and what happens is ultimately people just say I don't like either of them. There's a danger that that might tamp down turnout, even though I think we will have contrast wise a higher turnout than usual.

BANFIELD: I do. Susan, it's great to talk to you. I hope you'll come back and join us again.

MACMANUS: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

BANFIELD: Susan MacManus joining us from Florida. Smart lady.


It is 49 minutes past the hour. Let's go to the live pictures now.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): They're just coming into the CNN Newsroom. They're from Egypt's Tahrir Square. Thousands, maybe, tens of thousands of people. Take a look at your screen. They are gathering to mark the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak. There are new tensions in the area as well. Some activists are not happy with the pace of the democratic change.

They demand the ruling military counsel relinquish powers. Again, these are live pictures that we're just getting into the CNN newsroom. We're actually going to get a live report right after the break as well from that area.


BANFIELD: So confusing for people because they look at those pictures and they think a year ago, we saw the same thing. Didn't they oust Hosni Mubarak? What's their problem now? Sometimes, the deadly you now (ph) not as that is a deadly you don't know. We're not sure that that's the situation, but clearly, the military and the people are not getting along in that country.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to get a live report and get some more information for you. Meantime, Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning to you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, good morning. Oh, we've got a lot to talk about this morning. We're actually going to talk about those very pictures that you were showing about Tahrir Square in just a moment.

Also, we'll start with the reaction to the "State of the Union." We'll have Democratic congressman, Steny Hoyer, joining us this morning and Republican congressman, Jeb Hensarling. You know, there were a lot of calls for bipartisanship on both sides, actually, last night. So, we'll see if the two sides can agree on anything as we move post-state of the union address.

I was telling you about these fascinating tapes, 45 hours of secret tapes made by John F. Kennedy Jr. They have been released, and we're going to talk about JFK's last three months of his life with presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley.

That is all ahead this morning as "Starting Point" gets underway in roughly nine minutes or so. "Early Start" is back right after this short break. We'll see you from the hour (ph).


BANFIELD: Pretty shot.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I love New York, I love Chicago.

BANFIELD: But you've got a new favorite.

SAMBOLIN: I love those people in Atlanta. Good morning to you. Thirty-seven degrees right now. Guess what? Sunny, 65 later. Those folks out there are super nice.

BANFIELD: Sunrise looks beautiful, doesn't it? The Halcyon Environment and Existence in Atlanta. Welcome back to EARLY START. We got eight minutes until the top of the hour. Some big changes for your kids' school lunches are being unveiled a little later this morning. We're still going over that whole beef about pizza being a vegetable. Yes, it still is.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, she is in Atlanta with some of these proposed changes.

BANFIELD: I'll tell you what, the one thing I want Elizabeth to answer is that if they have these changes and they're supposed to be great news, why is it that still, still the Congress -- the Congressional decision on pizza and French fries being vegetables still holds?

SAMBOLIN: Well, there you go, Elizabeth.



SAMBOLIN: Hey, there.

BANFIELD: Can you answer that? Because that's one thing that has me really beefed this morning is that it's still got -- they still have that issues, even though you've got good news, there's still that issue of pizza and French fries.

COHEN: Right. Well, let's take about pizza and French fries first, OK, because that is what's on everyone's mind. This has been discussed now for months and months. Right now, in schools, as we speak, pizza and French fries count as vegetables. Pizza because there are two tablespoons of tomato paste and French fries, as well, they are potatoes.

And you know, pizza, French fries, love them. They're delicious, but really, should they count as vegetables? And there's been a lot of opposition to this. The Obama administration has pushed to make them not count as vegetables the same way that they are now. And, we're going to hear later today what's happened.

But I know the Congress last year said, no, we want pizza and French fries to be a vegetable. And a lot of people say they were just kowtowing to industry interests. And the food lobby you just said, we want them to count as vegetables, and so, Congress voted last year, they are going to count as vegetables.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Elizabeth, if you could talk a little bit about this new standards, because Ashleigh and I were talking earlier, trying to figure out how many calories should our children be consuming a day at one meal? So, can you talk about these new standards that they're going to implement at the schools? Maybe it's an education for us.

COHEN: Well, what's incredible is that there's even this thought of proposing limits at all. I mean, when you think about it, we live in a time when there is this horrible childhood obesity epidemic and you would think that there would be limits on calories on school lunches, and you know what, there aren't. You can have a zillion calories in a school lunch.

So, this is the first time that people are talking about putting calorie limits on school lunches. Some people say this is way too late and should have been done a long time ago, but thank goodness that they're doing now. I can't really give you numbers, because it really depends on different ages, different stages. It's going to be very complicated.

It's going to be different for high school than for elementary school students, for some larger kids, for example, it might -- or older kids, it might be, let's say, 800 calories, approximately 800 calories for a school lunch. It all depends. But, a lot of people see this as really a step in the right direction to even be talking about putting limits on calories in school lunches.

BANFIELD: Baby steps.

COHEN: Baby steps. Right.

BANFIELD: Elizabeth, thank you. It's always good to see you.

COHEN: Good to see you.

BANFIELD: Your tower cam shot was beautiful, by the way.


COHEN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: It's five minutes to 7:00 on the east, and we'll be right back after this.


BANFIELD: I love that we were talking about those school lunches. I'm still wondering what the kids are going to be eating.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, we have the new standards. And -- so, now, you have to serve skimmer, 1 percent milk. No longer home milk. Two servings of veggies, whole grains, no trans-fats. I know that you like that. The current standard is a minimum of at least 825 calories. New standard now is down to 750 calories. And they added a max of 850 for high schools.

BANFIELD: Big question, how many things are going to get thrown out off the tray?


BANFIELD: Well, that's an issue for our Soledad O'Brien, because EARLY START is officially over. Thanks for being with us, everybody -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Hey, good morning, ladies. Nice to see you.