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Deal To Keep Tax Cut In Place; Payroll Tax Holiday Extension; Other Measure Being Negotiated; 5.5 Million Long Term Unemployed; Syria On The Brink Of Civil War; Syrian Troops Intensify Shelling; Report: Doctors To Be Questioned In Houston Death; Whitney Houston Funeral; Lin-Sanity Spreading; Service with Style; Santorum Soaring; Family Feud over Bobbi Kristina; China's Vice President Meets with U.S. Leaders; Syrian Oil Pipeline Blast Kills Four

Aired February 15, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A very good morning to you. It is the very EARLY START. It's 6:00 on the east. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're very happy you're joining us. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. Let's get started here.

BANFIELD: Tax cut deal. I know you've been waiting for it. It's moving on up the line today. A, what are you going to get? How much are you going to be able to keep in your paycheck? And, B, is it actually going to happen this time? We'll let you know.

SAMBOLIN: Syrian troops are pounding more cities now. They're slaughtering more civilians, using some of them as human shields. CNN, one of the few networks reporting from inside the country.

BANFIELD: New details this morning about the death of Whitney Houston as the tributes roll in. Look at all of these people dropping off balloons, flowers, messages.

All this as police start looking towards the drugs. Potentially an investigation on doctors and prescriptions and who filled them out. It's not going to be a Michael Jackson like farewell though, folks. Just a small service at a large childhood church.

SAMBOLIN: Although it seats a lot of people, but yes, it's a relatively small. Look at this.

Linsanity continues. In case you missed it, there it is. That led to the Knicks to a 17-point comeback with a last three- pointer. It was a last second three-pointer. It was an amazing moment. Toronto was celebrating for him, as well.

BANFIELD: Yes, the Canadians even love this guy. The foreigners are loving this guy. It doesn't happen often but the "Daily News" and "New York Post" both coming out with cover stories on Lin. Thril-lin, the play on words, I love it. Look at my hand covering the most important word there. Lin and a prayer. How many more puns can we pull off for this guy?

SAMBOLIN: Well, which is very appropriate for him because that's what he gives all the thanks to, right?

BANFIELD: Mine is still Lin it to win it. I'm going to trademark that.

So, OK, up first. Let's get you your money back, shall we? Because it's really important what's going on in Congress today with regard to your paycheck. They're on the verge of locking you into that payroll tax holiday.

The negotiators reached a tentative deal to extend that tax cut for the rest of the year and also unemployment insurance as well getting a little bit less of a billing, but still very important. Not a done deal yet though.

This could get the endorsement of the House-Senate conference committee today, which obviously would be kind of key. We're watching.

SAMBOLIN: So it happened after Republicans backed down and a demand to pay for the tax cut. Some Republicans are still saying it is stealing from our future.


REP. DENNIS ROSS (R), FLORIDA: Why are we arguing over a middle class tax cut that has been given to us for -- my name to reduce the amount we're paying into Social Security?

What we should be talking about is real tax reform, what it's going to take to increase our revenues, but by broadening our economic base, by growing our economy. We're not doing that.

We need to be talking about what the American people want to hear and that's what the jobs are going to come from.


BANFIELD: President Obama saying he's going to believes there's a deal when he physically sees a copy of it he says on his desk. Have a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You can't take anything for granted here in Washington until my signature is actually on it.


SAMBOLIN: Well, because of this agreement, 160 million working people will keep their tax cut about $1,000 for the average family. That is over a year, folks and $40 per paycheck.

Christine Romans is in Atlanta. We have a brand new poll out about the payroll tax. Tell us what Americans are saying about it.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Republicans and Democrats have message here that when you're talking about 160 million working Americans in an election year and the polls show that, you know, majority of them believe this is a good thing to keep money in the pockets of American workers.

Fifty four percent favor a payroll tax cut for all American workers and 42 percent oppose. This becomes a political reality. The big sticking point here was always how to pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut, how to pay for it?

The GOP has always said we agree we should be keeping this money in your paycheck, but we've got to make sure we pay for it with cuts elsewhere. Now they're saying we don't need the cuts elsewhere.

At least that part of the package, but other things, other little goodies out there, we've got to make sure they're paid for, guys.

BANFIELD: So, Christine, what about the people who actually don't get a bi-weekly paycheck and aren't being able to benefit from this tax holiday because they've been having a holiday from the paycheck in total, the unemployed?

ROMANS: Right, so you're talking about people in their jobless benefits, until now we've had emergency benefits. And I think 22 states, up to 22 states you can get energy be emergency benefits for up to 99 weeks.

I think we have seen the end of 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. I mean, there's a raging debate for how long you can have emergency unemployment benefits. And GOP does not want to keep spending billions and billions and billions of dollars for those jobless checks.

I think you're going to see an end to that. The question will be how will you pay for that? The emergency benefits. They will probably extend those, too, but it will not be 99 weeks. So now they're fighting over, you know, how long they're going to extend it.

There are some people in the GOP who would like to tie those jobless benefits for certain jobs, for certain people, tie them to drug testing, for example. Employment law, you know, advocates say they don't want any kind of strings attached to jobless benefits.

You know, there are supposed to be emergency benefits to help families and keep people from going -- you know, help them go forward while still a slow recovery in the labor market.

Also we're talking about the dock fix. This is something that is -- they fight about this all the time, every year they fight about this frankly.

This is the reimbursement rates for doctors who treat Medicare patients. They're going to probably solve that as well, but they're going to have to wring some money out of the Medicare system to pay for that, as well.

They're hoping, Republicans and Democrats are saying they're hoping and they're trying to make sure it's nothing that the patient would ever feel how they're going to pull the money out of that system.

BANFIELD: It's so controversial though when you talk about those -- the drug testing. I've never seen a politician being asked about how he thought if the taxpayers are paying for your unemployment benefits then you need to answer to them. The reporter said, should you be drug tested, then?

ROMANS: I've heard that a lot. People would like to see the lie detector test and drug test on the members of Congress.

BANFIELD: Right, right. All right, Christine, thanks for that.

SAMBOLIN: It's 6 minutes past the hour. Syria edging closer to an all out civil war this morning. Government forces are intensifying attacks on civilians. Four more killed this morning. Forty nine people killed yesterday.

BANFIELD: And what you're looking at right now are live pictures coming out of Homs. Look at the smoke rising. This has been going on for hours now.

In the distance you can see just this disaster on the horizon as the neighborhoods there just are under constant bombardment from what they say is government ordnance just lobbed into their neighborhood on a regular basis.

Arwa Damon is inside that city and reporting from a secure location.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What you're seeing rising is from an oil pipeline that is believed to have been hit. What we heard was three explosions at around 6:30 in the morning, shortly thereafter that, a thick plume of black smoke began covering the skyline here.

This is not the first time that we have seen these types of images from the besiege city of Homs. That pipeline has been hit on two there other occasions. The Syrian military has really intensified its defense if you're especially in the neighborhood of Babba Almis.

Activists are telling us that they believe the Syrian government is on the campaign to flatten every single neighborhood where there has been some sort of opposition, some sort of effort to try to stand up against this government.


BANFIELD: Remarkable images. Look at what you're seeing on the screen now. To the left of the tank you can see men running. This new video into CNN apparently shows those men are human shields. They're civilians.

As it being reported to us civilians being marched alongside the tanks so the opposition won't fire on the tanks. The people there now are saying there's just no turning back here. We are absolutely in a full-scale civil war and this was inevitable at this point.

SAMBOLIN: Point of no return has been reached.

It's 8 minutes past the hour here. New details in Whitney Houston's death investigation. The "L.A. Times" is reporting doctors who prescribed her drugs could be slapped with subpoenas within the next few days.

Investigators want to question the doctors and the pharmacies about medication that was found in the singer's hotel room.

BANFIELD: In the meantime, more information about how she's going to be memorialized. Not in a big way. No Michael Jackson like event. That's for sure. The family just wants something private, invitation only.

At the church where she grew up and where she began her singing is to be held this Saturday. It's the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. It only seats 1,500 people.

Susan Candiotti is live in Newark, New Jersey with the very latest on this. The 1,500 people is nowhere close to the number of people who have this sort of outpouring of emotion over what they feel they've lost in the death of Whitney Houston -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's disappointing, of course, Ashleigh. Some of the many people who live in this area and really around the world who wanted to know whether they could be a part of it if, in fact, this has been held at a big arena, but that's not going to happen.

The family says that this is the kind of fitting funeral they want for Whitney Houston in the very same church where she grew up singing as a little girl.

And, in fact, the pastor of this church who has met Whitney many times over the years, she used to sing here occasionally on big occasions, says that everyone is gathering strength from her mother, Cissy Houston.


PASTOR JOE E. CARTER, THE NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, she's hurting. She's grieving, of course. But Cissy Houston is a woman of strong faith.

She's actually was testifying about how God had been so good to her to this point and how she said He's not going to leave her now. And I was there to lift her spirits and she ended uplifting mine. It's an amazing testimony of the grace of God.


CANDIOTTI: And, Ashleigh, the pastor also says they are considering putting up a big screen television outside the church so that people can watch in that way. There might be additional cameras inside for a possible feed that everyone in the country would be able to watch.

Of course, he says the church will be filled with people who are grieving and also filled with a lot of people who want to know exactly how Whitney Houston died.

BANFIELD: Of course, that story continues as well. Susan Candiotti live for us this morning in Newark. Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It's 10 minutes past the hour here. There doesn't appear to be any cure for the millions of people around the world who are suffering from a raging case of Lin-sanity. The legend continues.

Take a look. Take a look. Take a look. Jeremy Lin singlehandedly leads the Knicks to their sixth win in a row. He calmly hit a three-pointer with half a second to go to defeat Toronto.

This was last night. Even the Raptors fans were cheering for Lin who is remaining remarkably humble.


JEREMY LIN, KNICKS POINT GUARD: Everyone smiling. There's a new energy. Everyone's just excited, and it's just -- like that's the thing, it's not because of me. It's because we're coming together as a team.


SAMBOLIN: No, no, it's you as the leader, my dear.

BANFIELD: It's you, Lin.

SAMBOLIN: According to, Jeremy Lin is auctioning off the jersey that he wore during last week's win over the Lakers. The winner of the auction also gets four tickets to next week's game against the Atlanta Hawks and will meet with Lin after the game.

At last check, the high bid was $7,000. The proceeds will benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation. It benefits underprivileged youth in the New York area. Great guy.

BANFIELD: We have a couple of papers, it is you, Jeremy Lin. It really is you. SAMBOLIN: All right, still ahead, Iran expected to expect to announce a major step forward for its nuclear program.

BANFIELD: And also a warning that vials of a fake cancer drug are actually circulating in the United States and it is missing the key ingredient. We'll fill you in on just what the story is there.

SAMBOLIN: But first a let's get a quick check of your travel forecast with Rob Marciano in Atlanta. Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. A couple of storm systems rolling across the U.S. First, one across the north east, a little bit of light rain across New York City into Boston, some light snow upstate. But this is moving out fairly quickly and still pretty warm out there.

Warm and foggy down across the Deep South, Atlanta back to Birmingham, Oklahoma City as well. A threat for severe thunderstorms beginning in Houston this afternoon and traversing across I-10, across southern Louisiana into New Orleans later on tonight.

Potentially seeing some damaging storms with that and another batch expected tomorrow, a little bit farther east. That's a quick check on weather. It's 13 minutes after the hour. EARLY START is coming right back.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning, New York City. Forty-one degrees right now. A little bit later showers, 49 degrees.

BANFIELD: There's a reason we're playing something from the soundtrack of --

SAMBOLIN: "Supermodel".

BANFIELD: -- "Clueless." It's the song "Supermodel." I love that "Clueless" movie for the oodle-headed bimbo from the '90s that sort of plagued our every thought when we thought of, like, the Valley Girls and other --

You know, I just wanted to get that word in because it was another word of the day that was tweeted to us from -- @BackPorchFriend (ph). Thank you @BackPorchFriend (ph).

SAMBOLIN: Oodle-head?

BANFIELD: That kind of egg-shaped, right, oodle? So when you think of fashion week, you probably think the last thing in your mind would be fast food, right?

SAMBOLIN: No. Who do you think dresses the people that are behind the counter? Alina Cho with a different twist on style.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What does this have to do with fashion? You'd be surprised. Designers aren't just creating clothes for the catwalk, they're also designing uniforms.

STAN HERMAN, DESIGNER: There was a time I walked around, had a hamburger at McDonald's, and they thank you, they wore my uniform. My package delivered by Federal Express, thank you very much. Everybody I thought seemed to have a Stan Herman uniform on.

CHO: Stan Herman is a multi-award-winning fashion designer who branched out into the world of the designer uniform.

HERMAN: TWA, is that cute? You would look good in it now, wouldn't you?

CHO (on camera): That's great.

(voice-over): Herman has been designing uniforms for more than 40 years for companies like McDonald's, JetBlue, and for decades, FedEx. So popular, his uniforms arguably cover more bodies than any other designer on the planet.

HERMAN: I was a hot designer on Seventh Avenue and somebody approached me and said would you like to do uniforms? I said what is that? They say it's clothes. And I discovered that I loved doing it because it was like branding, branding corporations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a Braniff International hostess meets you on the airplane, she will be dressed like this.

CHO: Gucci and Halston designed uniforms for Braniff Airlines in the '60s and '70s. Dior and Nina Ricci did it for Air France. Today, Prabal Gurung is remaking the uniforms at Sephora. The inspiration? The employees.

PRABAL GURUNG, DESIGNGER: They said all they wanted -- that we want to feel good. And that's such a universal emotion, whether it's this or that. You know, I was like, you know, that is how I want to feel and I got it.

CHO: Sophie Theallet is showing this on the runway and this at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. Cocktail uniforms she designed in spill-proof silk.

SOPHIE THEALLET, DESIGNER: For me, it's not a uniform at all. We need one dress, more like a cocktail dress really.

CHO: But how do you design a uniform that suits, well, everyone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's almost like a reality competition. Let me see how I can take these constraints and make them look fantastic.

HERMAN: Most important thing is likability. Would you put on your dress in the morning? When I felt like -- if I don't like it by the end of the day, I'm a grumpy guy. A corporation walks around in a uniform that they don't like, they become a grumpy corporation.


CHO: That's right. And then the uniform is history. And that is a big problem if you're a designer.

So what's in it for the corporation? Well, Sephora said it wanted to elevate its uniform and needed expertise beyond their own, and so that is why they hired Prabal Gurung who is in my opinion of the hottest designers on the planet right now.

But you know if you think about it, Stan Herman, who's the father of the uniform, he said to me that dress that may look great on you today but do you want to wear it every day? A uniform you have to wear every day. Price considerations come in because you're designing thousands of them. It's not an easy job.

You know, so some designers take it on as a challenge and they say can I do it, you think I can do it for this price, and that's the result.


BANFIELD: -- wearing poochie (ph) doesn't have to pay a poochie (ph) price, right?

CHO: It doesn't have to pay a poochie (ph) price.

SAMBOLIN: I saw this spill proof silk.

CHO: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: For like regular folks, right.

CHO: Sophie Theallet defined a special mill to make it.

BANFIELD: Wow. Cool.

CHO: Not easy to find.

SAMBOLIN: Very cool story. Thanks, Alina.

All right, then do not miss Alina's special this weekend. "Fashion, Backstage Pass." It airs next Saturday, the 25th at 2:30 P.M., Eastern on CNN.

We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 6:24 on the East.

Suddenly there is no stopping Rick Santorum with less than two weeks to go before the Michigan and Arizona primaries. The former senator from Pennsylvania has surged ahead of Mitt Romney. That is in the latest CNN/ORC Poll. BANFIELD: And if you don't believe us, take a look at the numbers yourself. Republicans were asked to pick the nominee. What's your choice?

And here's how they fell in to line. Thirty-four percent of respondents chose Santorum; 32 percent chose Romney. Yes, that's two percentage points. And the margin of error is over four. So it is within the margin but it is what it is, right?

Here in New York to talk about this is New Jersey Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick; in Atlanta joining us this morning Independent political analyst Goldie Taylor; and from Washington, Democratic Strategist Jaime Harrison.

Now, Jaime, while I'm going to quote you off the top, the question goes to Goldie, I believe about an hour ago you said this is political whack-amo. And Goldie I want to know if it's political whack-amo. I mean, everybody in the Republican race has had a chance at the top. Is this a chance at the top for Santorum or is it just part of the roller coaster we've been witnessing up until now?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GOLDEN TAYLOR PROJECT: I think it's a chance at top for Santorum albeit a narrow one. He does have a very narrow path to the nomination. The issue now is money and organization.

Yes, he's doing well in national polls, better than anyone ever expected him to. But, frankly, he's very good in retail politics. The door to door, house to house kind of politics that really does win races. He's doing, you know, better than expected in Michigan and, you know, the proof will be in the pudding.

BANFIELD: But that does you well in the caucus states particularly.

How about this? And I just want to throw this at you. Some folks are coming out on Romney's side and suggesting his record in Congress was a liberal. But if you look at it and you actually get the stats on it, it isn't liberal at all. In fact, I think the club for growth has put him in the extremely -- or shall I say severely conservative category. So is that going to give him some staying power at this top spot?

TAYLOR: You know, I think that for Santorum it will give him a bit of staying power over a few more states. I think Michigan may turn out to be, you know, Romney's bull run, a time when, you know, he's got the money and organization, but somebody who is wily and ready to fight will take it right to him. And that's Santorum.

And so it may be a little bit tough for Romney even though he's a native son of the state. His father was a well-loved governor. I think he may have a tough time.

BANFIELD: Let me throw up another statistic here with the polls because if you breakdown the numbers it gets even more fascinating. For blue collar voters, Santorum comes out on top, 36 to 25; for white collar workers, it flips, 41 percent favor Romney to 31 percent favoring Santorum.

And when you look at Michigan, Jon, I've got to ask you, back in 2008 Romney may be eating these words but he wrote a "New York Times" piece, an opinion piece in November 2008. And I'm just going to give you the headline because that should tell you all about what the piece was.

"Let Detroit go bankrupt". There it is on your screen. Is that possibly the reason those blue collar numbers are as high as they are, Jon?

JON BRAMNICK, GOP LEADER, NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY: Well, I think Governor Romney has explained that comment. What the issue is now is can Rick Santorum take the microscope because with Super PAC money coming into Michigan and that microscope examining Rick Santorum, he's got a lot of explaining to do with respect to his record.

So this fight just began in Michigan. I think you're going the see a similar situation in Florida where Newt Gingrich was happy in South Carolina but wasn't happy in Florida. I think Rick Santorum has a long road to hoe in Michigan.

BANFIELD: Yes. And it was interesting in Florida, you know, he said let all of those underwater mortgages fail and yet he prevailed pretty well in Florida.

Let me switch gears to the women, shall we, the gender gap. Because there are some statistics out there that show it is significant when it comes to these candidates. Women favor Romney, 38 to 29 over Santorum, but men favor Santorum 37 to 27. I don't even know what to ask out of that other than this, Jaime, what do you make of that?

JAIME HARRISON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I mean, it's very, very interesting. I think part of it is with Santorum and -- I mean, he is a true conservative. And I think so much so that I think it really turns women voters off somewhat.

Whereas Romney, you know, his history in Massachusetts where even I know he said he was a very severe conservative, I don't know what that means, but nonetheless, you know, he had a moderate record. And he was moderate for a point.

So I think in the end, you know, I'm not sure what's going to happen.

BANFIELD: I'm with you. I'm kind of like flummoxed by it. I got it --


BANFIELD: -- when it was a Gingrich thing, but I'm not sure I get it with this one.

I've got to leave it there, Jaime and Goldie and Jon. Thanks very much guys. It's nice to see you here this morning. HARRISON: Thank you.

BRAMNICK: Thank you.

TAYLOR: Thanks for having us.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-eight minutes past the hour.

Here's still ahead, will Bobby Brown attend Whitney Houston's funeral? Will the family attempt to keep him out? Someone with inside information on the details of that is going to join us.

You are watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Thirty-one minutes past 6:00 in the morning -- on the East Coast, anyway. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are happy that you're joining us this morning.

It's time to check the stories that are making news.

A tentative deal is in place to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of the year. It could still fall through, however. A House- Senate committee is taking it up today.

And new video that appears to show Syrian troops using civilians as human shields. It's right there on the left-hand side of your screen. Government troops killing 53 more civilians since yesterday with the violence now spreading across the country.

We have new details in the Whitney Houston death investigation. "The L.A. Times" is reporting that doctors who prescribed her drugs could be slapped with subpoenas within the next few days, perhaps the pharmacies as well.

BANFIELD: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to announce today that a new uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom is now fully operational.

Also making news, the Food and Drug Administration is investigating reports that a counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin has been found circulating here in this country. And also, sources tell CNN that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be named chairman of the Democrat National Convention today. The convention is scheduled for the first week of September in Charlotte, North Carolina.

SAMBOLIN: A family feud could be developing after Whitney Houston's death. Some of it related to her funeral. A private service is scheduled for Saturday in Whitney's hometown of Newark. Fans will be kept outside. They're going to put some big screens up so folks can see the funeral.

And according to our next guest, Whitney's family apparently hoping to keep ex-husband Bobby Brown away, as well.

Joining us now, Bonnie Fuller, editor-in-chief of

Thank you for joining us.

So, let's deal with that, with the relationship, the animosity between Bobby Brown and Whitney's family.

Can they set it aside for the sake of Bobbi Kristina, Whitney and Bobby Brown's daughter?

BONNIE FULLER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, HOLLYWOODLIFE.COM: Let's hope that they absolutely can set it aside. Bobbi Kristina has been inconsolable since her mother died. She had jus been -- she basically has had an emotional breakdown. She was in the hospital you twice.

And so, for her to be put at the center of a war between two families, between her mother's side of the family and her father, I think, would be an absolute tragedy.

SAMBOLIN: What is the animosity all about? Because we're taking a look at a picture here that shows Whitney with Bobby and Bobbi Kristina. What is the animosity about with the family?

FULLER: Bobby and Whitney had a very tumultuous marriage. They fought constantly. We have sources at who lived in their neighborhood who saw Whitney and Bobby fighting apparently all day, sometimes all night. Their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, used to have to go to stay with friends at their houses until some of the fighting had subsided.

So I'm sure that it goes back to those days of their difficult marriage. There were drug issues in the marriage, of course. And Whitney's family may not have ever -- I mean, may not have ever forgiven Bobby Brown. Even though he is clean now, they may not have forgiven him for the difficulties and the trouble that he brought to Whitney and their marriage, their life.

SAMBOLIN: Do you know anything about their relationship recently?

FULLER: I believe that they were on friendly terms at this point. Bobby Brown has been clean for about six years. He is planning to remarry. He's got -- he has five children, including Bobbi Kristina. He has a young child.

And what we've seen is that Bobbi Kristina does have a relationship with her father. He rushed to her side. He was grief stricken by Whitney's death. They were in communication.

And so, I don't believe the hostility was necessarily shared by Whitney herself.

SAMBOLIN: You know, there are a lot of reports out there about Bobbi Kristina and how she lived her life. Apparently, she's been living on her own. Do you know anything about that?

FULLER: Absolutely. Our sources in the neighborhood tell us that she was left alone for long period of times and that has happened in her later teenage years quite a lot. Her mother was on tour. Her father was on tour. There was -- there was a bodyguard left with her.

But that it was known that she was on her own. She was having -- she was doing what a lot of teenagers would do if they were on their own. She was having a lot of parties, but she was unsupervised.

SAMBOLIN: Before we get back to the funeral, there are some reports that Whitney reportedly had some major financial problems. Do you know anything about that?

FULLER: It has been widely reported that Whitney was broke at the time of her death and possibly in debt. At one time, she had a fortune of well over $100 million. I mean, this is a woman who sold millions and millions of records and starred in some of the biggest box office movies of our time. And yet, her lifestyle, the problems that she had, the disastrous comeback tour drained her resources.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's go back to the private funeral service that's scheduled on Saturday. You know, there are a lot of memorials that have been set up by her fans, who are hoping to be able to see her, to say their goodbyes. And they're hoping that it's a big field, like the one that Michael Jackson had.

But the pastor had this to say, and I want to talk about it after we play it.


PASTOR JOE CARTER, NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH: The family knows that they have to share Whitney with the world. They're not ignoring that.

But at the same time, it's such -- the shock of it. And I share with them -- no decision is a wrong decision at this time. It's just however they feel to do it.


SAMBOLIN: There were some reports earlier that perhaps she would have a viewing at the Prudential Center. Is that off the table?

FULLER: It's of the table. All plans for a public funeral and memorial are off the table at this time. The family feels very strongly that they want to bring their baby home to the place where she first got her start singing. They want to make their memories private.

And they want to celebrate her life with those who were closest to her. They're planning to have a lot of music at the service. She began singing in this church.

Marvin Winans, the pastor who is going to be eulogizing her, has known her for many, many years. He married Bobby and Whitney. His sister CeCe has sung with Whitney. Whitney has sung on CeCe's own record.

So, it's going to be a real family affair.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Bonnie Fuller, editor-in-chief of -- thank you for joining us this morning.

FULLER: Thanks.

BANFIELD: He is the man in line to be China's next president. So, it's a big deal if he's coming to meet the president of our country. How did the meet-and-greet go and what's in store for the next few days and will it make a difference between our country and his?

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: I can get into that.

BANFIELD: Little John Cash to wake you up, "Walk the Line" this morning.

Good morning, D.C. -- beautiful Capitol Dome lights off. But sun is rising. Forty-two degrees right now going up to 53 today. A beautiful day in the nation's capital.

SAMBOLIN: Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in the heartland today, visiting Iowa.

BANFIELD: Is he walking the line?

SAMBOLIN: He's walking the line.

Yesterday, he met with President Obama and Vice President Biden. The president is trying to walk a fine line. That's a one walking the fine line -- friendly but forceful.

BANFIELD: He told President Xi that America welcome's China's peaceful rise but said says it comes with increased responsibilities, too.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system.


BANFIELD: Joining me now to talk about this visit and the significance or insignificance of it is Gordon Chang, the columnist of, and also author of "The Coming Collapse of China."

Gordon, thanks for being with us.

I'm so thrilled to be able to talk to you about this. I read something where you quoted -- I'm going to quote you as you describe President Xi. You said he's ruthlessly pragmatic.

And it got me sort of wondering, what exactly did you mean by that?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: Well, he's like all Chinese leaders. You know, they are very tough.

Friendship to them isn't that important. It's important to Americans. But it's not so important to Chinese leaders. They look at the interest. They are going to be very pragmatic but they're going to be very, very tough.

And that's what I mean ruthlessly pragmatic.

BANFIELD: And when you say friendship, is that guangxi (ph)? Is that how you pronounce it?

CHANG: Guangxi. Yes, I mean, that is -- that's not going to be important because China has certain interests that he wants to advance. And although, you know, Xi Jinping may like the people in Iowa, he may like President Obama, that really is not going to affect the way he's going to rule because, as general party secretary, he's under institutional constraints.

The hard liners are governing Beijing right now and if Xi Jinping wants to stay in power he has to who they say.

BANFIELD: So, is it -- is it true that each ruler hands off to the next president, hands off to the next, since Mao Zedong, that the power of that president is really diminished and it's become more of a battle within politburo?

CHANG: Yes. I mean, the communist party started off with two very strong personalities, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. And then, what we have seen is the party institutionalize themselves, become bureaucratic, and so we've had weaker leaders, partly by design.

And so, we're going to see Xi Jinping be the weakest ruler of China when he takes over because his party is starting to splinter. The military is starting to act independently. And that means that Xi Jinping is in a weak position.

BANFIELD: So, all of this is terribly fascinating but it's fairly lofty as well. We hear people like Donald Trump throwing out all sorts of things (ph) about China is eating our lunch. The trade practices are unfair. They're devaluing our currency. We can't compete. What does it mean for me?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: Well, you know, this trip is just sort of get to know you. So, it's not going to really mean that much in the long run. All those concerns about the economy are longstanding. They're not just campaign problems. And so, we're going to see these continuing disagreements between the United States and China on trade.

BANFIELD: But disagreements, that's one thing, but unfair trade practices, when you have sort of a behemoth that gives all sorts of subsidies. Just to say, for instance, one of the most recent things I read was that they're subsidizing all their auto parts and shipping them over here. We can't compete with that.

CHANG: Yes, and that is a major problem, because China runs the largest program of subsidies for its manufacturers in the world. We've been complaining to the world Trade Organization and we're going to be complaining more about this. And clearly, this is something that's not going to go away.

So, you know, the Chinese leaders like to say, well, you know, this is just an election problem, but it's not. This is a long-term fundamental disagreement. And basically, we're going to have more problems in the future over trade. No doubt about it.

BANFIELD: Which means I'm booking you now for subsequent visits to come and talk to me about those problems.

CHANG: Thank you very much.

BANFIELD: It's nice to have you, Gordon Chang. Thank you very much for being here.

SAMBOLIN: Really easy to understand. I like that.

BANFIELD: When he speaks in those terms.


BANFIELD: But sometimes it's very, very confusing as to why it is that there is this sort of ongoing discussion of a trade war and impending trade war with China, but it is a fascinating -- without question, a fascinating juggernaut.

SAMBOLIN: It's 46 minutes past the hour here. Time to check stories making news this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Opposition groups in Syria say government warplanes blew up an oil pipeline in Homs. Those are the images there, killing four people. That happened this morning. The government, however, continues to blame terrorists.

Congress strikes a tentative deal on the payroll tax cut. Lawmakers are set to extend the tax cut and unemployment benefits.

The Lin-station. He just can't be stopped. Did you miss this moment? Knicks Jeremy Lin leads his team to a victory against the Toronto Raptors. Lin's three-point shot clinched the 90-87 win. We can't get enough of that or this.

A 4-year-old Pekingese wins best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Malachi beat out 5,000 other pooches. He will not retire.


BANFIELD: I have to completely bust our executive producer of the show, our super (ph) executive producer of the show, Brian Bell, who said, you know, when that dogs on the floor, it kind of looks like a Rumba.


BANFIELD: That fell flat. All right. At least, I attributed it to Brian, but I actually thought it was kind of funny.



BANFIELD: Thank you, Soledad, for coming to our rescue.

O'BRIEN: A reason to get a dog, you know? Kids want a dog.

BANFIELD: I thought it looked like a rumba duster.


BANFIELD: That's cute. What's you got coming up your show?

O'BRIEN: We have a lot coming up on the show. We're going to talk again about Jeremy Lin, you, guys, are just talking about him a moment ago.

Also, we'll talk about Whitney Houston's last day as a singer who was with her on that faithful Thursday and right before the Grammy party. We'll talk about whether there were any warning signs about what was happening in Whitney Houston's life. That's ahead this morning.

Also, we'll talk again with Congressman Allen West. He's been a guest on the show a bunch of times. You know, he is a star of the Tea Party. We're going to ask him if, in fact, he is going to vote to extend the payroll tax cut. You know, he has not been a fan of it. We'll see what his plans are.

And Nick Jonas, you know, he's starring in a Broadway now in "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." He's going to be our guest this morning talking about that. And his battle with diabetes.

That's all ahead this morning on "Starting Point." We begin roughly 10 minutes. EARLY START back in just after the commercial break.


BANFIELD: Bit of a warning for you, and this is a health alert. There's a counterfeit version of one of those cancer drugs, the one that's called Avastin. It's the world's best-selling cancer drug, and it is distributed here in the United States.

SAMBOLIN: Elizabeth Cohen is live in Atlanta with more information for us. First off, do we know if any patients were given this drug?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, we don't, but we do know that the FDA has contacted about 19 different hospitals and doctors' offices to say, hey, we have reason to think that you could be in possession of this counterfeit drug. And so, it was in those offices, was it sitting in a supply cabinet unused or did patients get it?

We don't know. But we do know that these counterfeiters have made quite a bit of money off of this for one 400 milliliter vial, they're getting like $2,400.


COHEN: So, yes, this is expensive stuff, and they were getting a lot of money for it.

SAMBOLIN: And how can you know if your Avastin is legitimate?

COHEN: You know, luckily, it's pretty easy for doctor's offices and hospitals to know if they're getting the wrong stuff. A couple of reasons. The big one is is that the counterfeit stuff, the label is in French. That's the counterfeit on the right. The labeling is in French. So, that would be your first sign. Your second sign is that it says -- and it's hard to see in this, but in the lower right-hand corner, it says that it's made by the company Roche.

It's not made by Roche. It's made by Genentech. So, if it says Roche, that's counterfeit. And, also, even the product code on it, on the counterfeit, the code contains letters. On the authentic, it's numbers only. And you can even see. I mean, look at the boxes.


COHEN: Just the boxes, they look different. So, luckily, now that we know about this, it's pretty easy to weed out the counterfeit stuff.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to read you something that really concerned me when I read it this morning. It says the Food and Drug Administration is investigating and has sent letters probably to those 19 medical practices you were talking in the U.S. at the agency says buy unapproved cancer medicines and have might bought the counterfeit Avastin. Does that seem odd to you that they would but unapproved cancer medicines?

COHEN: Well, I think -- I mean, obviously, it's counterfeit, so it's not approved at all. The drug Avastin is approved for lung cancer and colon cancer and several others. It's also, sometimes, used for unapproved diseases. And that actually is legal. You can use it off-label for other kinds of things. So, maybe, that's what they were referring to.

I'm not completely sure. But the bottom line is that no one should be using this counterfeit stuff. I mean, it doesn't contain the actual drug. So, these are people with cancer. You're trying to treat them, and you certainly don't want to give them something that doesn't have the right ingredients.

SAMBOLIN: And what do we know about these counterfeiters? Have they pinpointed who they are?

COHEN: No. According to the "Wall Street Journal," they do actually know the names of these counterfeiters. Quality Specialty Products or Montana Healthcare Solutions. Apparently, that's what they go by. And the distributor goes by volunteer distribution. So, apparently, they know quite a bit about these guys, and we hope they get them.

SAMBOLIN: So do we. Elizabeth Cohen, live in Atlanta for us. Thank you very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BANFIELD: Still ahead on "Starting Point," a couple of big stories coming up. That payroll tax holiday that you've been probably not even knowing you've been getting, looks like there could be a final deal for the rest of the year. What does it mean for you in terms of hard cash. And also, who might be standing in the way of you getting that hard cash?

SAMBOLIN: Calling all tweens, Nick Jonas live on his latest role. He's going to be sitting down with Ms. Soledad O'Brien. You are watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: And we are flat out of time. That's the EARLY START, the news from A to Z. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien is next. Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Hey. Good morning, ladies. And thank you very much.