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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

A Soldier in the Edge; Tornado Terror; Attorney: Afghan Massacre Suspect Upset At 4th Tour; Mississippi Immigration Bill Passes House

Aired March 16, 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: Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're very happy you're joining us this morning. We're bringing you the news from A to Z.

It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started here.

BANFIELD: A soldier on the edge. New information this morning about the U.S. serviceman who allegedly massacred 16 Afghan civilians. And a demand now from Afghanistan's president to the United States troops: get out of our villages.

SAMBOLIN: A tornado touching down in rural southeastern Michigan -- take a look at that -- flattening homes, flooding out the roads. The grim flyover coming up next.

BANFIELD: A Republican language barrier? Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney sparring over English in Puerto Rico.

(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just needs to be a bilingual country and not just Spanish-speaking country. And right now, it is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking, but it needs to have fully integrated to American society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Fallout. Will Rick Santorum's stand cost him delegates and Latino votes?

SAMBOLIN: And iPad fever, it is gripping the planet. The new 4G- ready tablets are flying off the store shelves. They're sending Apple's stock price soaring to unprecedented heights.

BANFIELD: It is one minute now past 5:00.

First, new details about the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood. "The New York Times" is quoting a senior U.S. official saying that that soldier, quote, "just snapped," suggesting it might have been as a result of a combination of stress and alcohol. SAMBOLIN: The shooting suspect now has a lawyer, renowned Seattle defense attorney John Henry Brown.

Brown says the suspect is a highly decorated soldier. He was injured twice during three tours of duty in Iraq and was not happy about being deployed for a fourth time to Afghanistan. Brown also says another soldier on the base was gravely injured right before the killings.

He was asked what he wants the public to know about his new client.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's a tragedy all the way around. There's no question about that. I think it's of interest that we have a soldier who has an exemplary record, decorated soldier who was injured in Iraq to his brain and to his body and then despite that setback, I think that's an issue, I think it's a concern.

I think the message for the public in general is that he's one of our boys. We need to treat him fairly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: In Afghanistan, there's certainly fallout from the massacre, and had threatening to further unravel the relations that this country has with that country. The president of that country, Hamid Karzai, wanting American troops now out of Afghan villages and back on U.S. bases.

So, what does all of this means for the mission that this country has actually now performing in Afghanistan.

Joining us now from Washington, James "Spider" Marks, retired Army major general, the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center

Spider Marks, first off, right off the bat, the commands that we seem to be getting from Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, to move out of the villages and go back to tour bases. A, do we take our cues from Hamid Karzai? And, B, what's the point of being there if we're not in the villages?

JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, RETIRED ARMY MAJOR GENERAL: Well, Ashleigh, clearly, this is circumstantial. To answer your first question, we don't take our cues, we don't follow orders from President Karzai. But he's our host. We're there at his request, let's be frank.

So, clearly, we have an agreement with President Karzai, and in this particular instance, it makes sense both to the United States and to Afghanistan that we lower the international heat, we lower the U.S. profile, get out of the villages, get back on to the forward operating bases and protected area where the U.S. soldiers and Marines on the ground routinely operate and emanate their operations from.

So, that makes perfect sense in the near term. And I also need to tell you that although we'll be out of the villages, it won't be forever. It will be for a short amount of time until the heat is lowered a little bit. But still, we haven't giving up our ability to collect intelligence and make sure we don't lose the pulse of what's going on in these various locations. So we're not entirely blind based on this request.

Certainly, it's unprecedented but this is an unprecedented series of events -- the Koran burning and now this killing of Afghan civilians. So, this is a little bit of a different circumstance and you have to modify and adjust accordingly.

BANFIELD: And, General Marks, let me ask you: what's our mission there?

I was always under the impression right off the bat after 9/11, off we went in November of '01 to find Osama bin Laden. He's been found. He wasn't there. He was hosted there.

We didn't like the host. We got rid of the Taliban.

So, now, what are we trying to do?

MARKS: We have an agreement with the Afghan government to ensure that they are in a position to resist the incursion and return of any other kinds of terrorist organizations that will threaten the viability of that government.

Has our mission increased? Absolutely. Has it crept along? Absolutely. We modify it and it's been adjusted over the course of the decade.

So, everybody acknowledges that.

For mission number one, get Osama bin Laden -- that infrastructure that existed around him, we fought that infrastructure for years and last year we got Osama bin Lade. Great accomplishment.

Our mission has altered over the course of time and it's now to ensure stability and to give the Afghan government an opportunity to grow.

BANFIELD: Now, are we not seeing though --

MARKS: That's the fact of the matter.

BANFIELD: Exactly, exactly my point. Are we not seeing now with what's just transpired over the last two weeks alone, the Koran burnings and now this, and that reaction of that country to our being there, our very being there just help security, it ain't working?

It's a country that's been broke for a whole long time, and the British couldn't do it and the Russians couldn't do it. And what makes us think that we can do it?

MARKS: Well, again, let's look at what we've accomplished over the last 10 years and the fact that it has modified -- it's not a bad thing. That, in fact, tells you, you know, we have an agreement. We've worked through different challenges. We are now in a situation where we have a shared vision of what the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is supposed to look like.

We're not walking into -- we didn't walk into Afghanistan with the sense of hubris. We went in there because we had a problem because the United States was attacked and it emanated from Afghanistan and we got those guys. And we need to rip those guys apart and we did. We have to ensure they don't come back and the Afghanistan government has said, please help us do that. And so, we're there doing that.

Is there a problem right now? Absolutely. But let's not lose sight of the fact that 99.9 percent of every mission and every soldier and every marine that's been on the ground has executed their missions with extreme honor to make all of us very proud. Let's focus in on that.

We've got a problem right now. We need to get over the hump and make sure it's getting done well.

BANFIELD: To the end of getting over that hump, let me just ask you about this incident and this particular soldier. If he is charged and I'm assuming it will happen soon, when there may be a trial, if he doesn't plead out -- is there a chance they might take him back to Afghanistan just to appease the people who say try him there? He's not going to be in their justice system, but at least the military justice system on their soil. Might that do that something to help a transparency in the hearts and minds issue?

MARKS: Not in our lifetime. Not going to happen.

BANFIELD: Really?

MARKS: No, we have a Status of Forces Agreement. They would not bring that in. That would be -- that would be a play that would be played out. It would be nothing but bad news. No, I don't think that's going to happen at all, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: That's interesting. Well, stick around. We got a lot more to talk with few minutes here as well.

MARKS: OK.

BANFIELD: Spider Marks, thanks so much.

MARKS: Welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It's interesting that he said they would only temporarily be out of the villages and then they would go back. I thought that was really interesting.

Seven minutes past the hour here.

Homes torn apart and more than 200 people forced to get out -- have you seen this? As a rare tornado touches down in Michigan.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

SAMBOLIN: This is amateur video of the funnel cloud. It's right outside Ann Harbor, Michigan. The tornado ripped through the community there. It damaged or demolished a lot of home, downed tree, power lines. Take a look at this. It sparked some fires, as well.

Let's head over to Rob Marciano.

Wow. Rob, totally unexpected this time of year or --

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's rare for this time of year, that's for sure. They have had tornadoes in Michigan, March we had a couple of just a few days ago or last week.

But judging from the damage that we're seeing on video of this thing, it looks like it was at least an EF-2. If it becomes an EF-3 and they'll go out there today to survey the damage, remarkable that nobody was seriously injured or even killed in this destruction.

If they determine to be an EF-3, that will be the first time that the entire state of Michigan has that strong a tornado in the month of March. So, we're seeing unprecedented stuff really the past few weeks with the tornadoes occurring, and we had not one but three tornado reports across the state of Michigan, all with thunderstorm complex that continues to push off towards the east.

Actually, just a very weak cool front, but the air is so warm out ahead of it, especially for this time of year. And you got cold air aloft because -- you know, technically, kind of still in winter and that creates some turbulence.

All right. This front is pushing off to the East. We do expect to see some thunderstorms today -- some of which could become severe in pockets. But I think the main threat will be hail because of that colder air that's aloft.

Eighty-five degrees, certainly warm air at the surface, how about that? Record high in Atlanta yesterday -- 82 degrees, my goodness. Everything is blooming. Nashville, 82 degrees.

And these aren't the only spots. I mean, D.C., talking about this, cherry blossoms have been coming out way too early. It won't be the earliest peak on record. That was in 1990. But will be close. They're blooming out ahead of the festival. They will not last for the entire festival. That is for sure.

And this trend is expected to continue. The Climate Prediction Center has forecast not just the next six to 10 days, which we've been talking about, but likely the next 90 days of above average temperatures for a good chunk of the U.S., the way the climate pattern is shaping up.

So there you go.

Seventy-six degrees in Chicago today for the high temperature. St. Patrick's Day tomorrow could be the warmest on record there with a high temperature of 78 degrees. Zoraida, they put a little green juice in the river there to celebrate.

SAMBOLIN: You know what the funny thing, Rob? It kind of looks green all the time. It's just greener. It's a greener shade of green.

MARCIANO: It's pretty.

BANFIELD: Hey, Rob, really quickly, I want to go rerack those pictures of the tornado for a second there, because this is a really damn question, but I'm going to ask it anyway.

When you see the blackness in the funnel cloud -- is that the same blackness from what's coming from the skies or is it black from what's being churned up on the ground?

MARCIANO: Well, it depends. That looks to be condensation mixing in. But, typically, it's debris and dust churned up from the ground.

SAMBOLIN: Nonetheless it is scary.

MARCIANO: Yes, for sure.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I'm glad the people there are safe. Thank you so much, Rob. Appreciate it.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

BANFIELD: Eleven minutes now past 5:00.

And for the seventh day in a row gas prices, you know what I'm going to say -- rose $3.83 now a gallon of unleaded. That's a jump of one full cent from yesterday. Prices are up nearly 17 percent so far this year.

And also in business, the stock futures were flat after hitting a bit of a milestone yesterday. Ready for the ding? There it is. The S&P 500 index topping 1,500 for the first time in nearly four years.

SAMBOLIN: And Christine Romans joins us now. She is "Minding Your Business" this morning, and we're talking iPad, aren't we?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I know. And, look, Apple shares topped $600. Do you know that four weeks ago, Apple shares topped $500?

SAMBOLIN: No.

BANFIELD: Are you kidding?

ROMANS: Unbelievable. Yes, and I mean -- I can remember 60 --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: People were saying, I don't know, $60, could be $100 -- I mean, iPad is a sensation. Everything this company does changes the industry that it's in. There's a lot of competition. People are obviously nipping at its heels.

But investors really like Apple. It didn't close above $600 yesterday. So, a lot will be watching today. But the iPad 3, the hoopla over that, that's one of the things that was really driving the S&P 500.

And also yesterday, Apple share, gas prices as you hear, $3.83. That's a number most of you care about. I'll tell you, hey, your 401(k) is doing well this year. I don't care about that. I can't afford to put gas in my SUV.

Yesterday, there was a report from "Reuters" that said that the U.S. and the U.K. are talking about maybe setting into stone some kinds of agreements about what they would do if they were going to tap the strategic petroleum reserve to try to lower gas prices. Administration officials telling us on background that an agreement in place is inaccurate, but at least everybody is talking about this "Reuters" report about whether the U.S. and the U.K. have some kind of election year plan to kind of lower gas prices, ladies.

Yesterday, I talked to a guy named Richard Florida, author of the book called "The Great Reset." And, look, the truth is, presidents can't do much about gas prices, except for short term tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's going to be more about everyone changing their life.

And I'm going to tell you something else -- the needle on gas consumption in the world is not us. I mean our gas consumption is down, our imports are down. It's about the rest of the world.

And this is what Richard Florida had to say about what that's going to mean for us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD FLORIDA, AUTHOR, "GREAT RESET": Increasing numbers are walking and biking to work or downsizing that house. If we want to make the American economy thrive, we have to make the American economy less oil dependent. And that means the most important the president can do and we can do is change the way we live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yes. Change the way we live.

SAMBOLIN: Aha. I know I was just asking a little while ago, something that you told us earlier. What is that magic number when people actually start changing the way that they live and budgeting differently?

ROMANS: Gallup polled people about this, this week. And they said 535. That's the price where people make significant changes to their life like moving, like getting a new car, like all those things that Richard Florida was talking about. We'll talk about al these things on your "Bottom Line" tomorrow morning. You're going to be up, right, and you're going to watch my show at 9:00.

BANFIELD: Oh, I'm going to come in and watch it live.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: That's how much I care about you.

ROMANS: But we're going to be talking about the truth about gas prices. I mean, don't believe all this stuff about -- you know, do this/don't do that, do this/don't do that. Look, a lot of gas -- we used -- the consumption in this country used to drive gas prices. Now, a lot of this is happening around the rest of the world. It's not us anymore.

SAMBOLIN: I think it's interesting that dollar amount, right? Because we talk about it, we think about it. What am I going to change but actually taking action?

ROMANS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: I haven't traded in my SUV yet, but I talk about it all the time.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Gas is significant to Americans, but the oil consumption is a bigger story altogether. How about all the homes that use oil to heat? A big conversion cost.

ROMANS: The factories that used oil, I mean, you look at all the different things that industry, ship something around the world. We buy so much from China, right? Think of how much energy is consumed getting your sneakers from the factory to your local Wal-Mart store.

You know, there's a lot of different ways to think about the energy story. And as long as gas prices and oil prices remain high, at what point do companies, business, people start to change their behavior because of it?

BANFIELD: Because the CEOs aren't paying that $5.35 a gallon.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: They're hedging -- they're hedging the futures markets but look at the markets that are higher too and pulling their hair out, too.

BANFIELD: All right. Christine, thanks so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: We're going to totally switch gears from business to sports. This is really my strong suit.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. March Madness, right?

BANFIELD: OK. This is what I'm told. March Madness is kicking into high gear. I see it on the news. What they call --

SAMBOLIN: You filled out a bracket.

BANFIELD: I did, I used a dartboard. I'm bad about this. I really did.

It's one and done for the defending UConn Huskies taking on the Iowa State folks in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. There's Louisville. Cyclones opening at --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Are you? I didn't know that.

BANFIELD: Well, they opened up 22-point first half lead, never looking back, knocking out Connecticut where is that that I'm supposed to be cheering, with 77-64 victory? We could be witnessing another stunning final four run by last year's Cinderella team, Virginia Commonwealth, 12th seed Rams knocking off fifth seed Wichita State, 62-59. They'll take on Indiana tomorrow.

OK, I got through it. Ouch.

SAMBOLIN: Well done, well done, well done.

All right. It was an ugly moment during last night's matchup between Kansas State and Southern Mississippi, listen and listen very closely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Yes, as you see Mills trying to draw the charge. Rodriguez has already left the ball go in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's your green card?

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: He's a freshman but he's about as cool as they come. No facial expression whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Whoa!

SAMBOLIN: They were chanting it in the background. Did you hear it?

Members of the Southern Mississippi Band caught on camera yelling, "Where is your green card?" A Kansas state point guard Angel Rodriguez as he was shooting free throws. His head stayed in the game. Rodriguez never changed his expression and he helped Kansas State win by scoring 13 points.

Afterwards, Southern Mississippi President Martha Saunders apologized to Rodriguez for that incident, and promised quick disciplinary action against all of the students involved.

BANFIELD: Do you think he heard it? He looked so focused. Do you think he actually heard it?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes. You'd be amazed at what they can hear. But, you know, they try to block it out. That was incredible that he was able to do that and it didn't get to him.

BANFIELD: I was a green card holder for 12 years. I never heard that, never heard that. Why do you think --

SAMBOLIN: You know why. You know why.

BANFIELD: Never heard.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BANFIELD: Disgraceful.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour. Here coming up, disgraced former Illinois governor, he reports to federal prison. What awaits him inside? "Chicago Tribune" tracks down former inmates. We're going to share what they have to say in today's early reads.

BANFIELD: And take a look at this. Meghan McCain, "Playboy" magazine. Yes, that Meghan McCain, the daughter of the senator and the former presidential candidate John McCain. Pretty pictures, yes, interview, yes. The April issue, yes.

But what's really inside that front cover? Sneak peek.

G-rated, coming up next.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: God morning, Atlanta. It is 63 or 60 degrees right now. Later, guess what you're in store for? Thunderstorms, but it is a high of 79 degrees.

BANFIELD: I'm not sure if that is a trade-off.

SAMBOLIN: Nice to sleep in, though.

BANFIELD: We can't go out. Sleep in in your air-conditioning.

Twenty-one minutes now past 5:00 in the East Coast. Time to check our top stories making news this morning with Christine Romans.

Hello, Christine.

ROMANS: Good morning, again, you guys.

The new attorney for a U.S. soldier accused of killing Afghan civilians says he expects him to be moved to a U.S. military base soon. Right now, that soldier is being held in Kuwait and that has angered Afghan officials who want him to face justice in their country.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum sparring over what language should be spoken in Puerto Rico. Santorum sticking to his remarks that English should be a requirement for statehood for Puerto Rico. Romney insisting he would require no such rule. Twenty delegates are up for grabs in Puerto Rico's primary on Sunday.

At 6:30 Eastern, we'll be joined by Rick Santorum's national communications director Hogan Gidley.

A rare tornado caught on tape in Michigan, forcing 200 people from their homes. Part of a wall of severe weather from Michigan down through the South. Storms damaging or destroying several homes outside Ann Arbor. There are reports that at least three funnel clouds touched down in that area.

The ex-mistress of former presidential candidate John Edwards expected to testify in his federal trial next month. Edwards could face 30 years in prison if he's convicted of giving campaign money to Rielle Hunter.

And Meghan McCain appearing in "Playboy." Don't get too excited folks. Here's a photo from the spread. She's fully clothed. "Playboy" interviewed Senator John McCain's daughter for 20 questions.

McCain tells "Playboy" she loves sex and men. She also talks politics saying if her dad won in 2008, the recession would not have been so bad -- Ashleigh and Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: She's beautiful.

BANFIELD: Always interesting to say when you're lying in that position.

Thank you for that, Christine.

Twenty-three minutes now past 5:00 in the East Coast. We're getting an early read on your local news making big national headlines this morning. We have papers from Chicago and also from Houston.

SAMBOLIN: So, we are going to start with "Chicago Tribune." Former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich enters the slammer. He will serve his 15-year corruption sentence at a low security federal prison in Colorado. What's next for him?

Well, yesterday, the intake involves strip and search. He is also goes to a mental evaluation, a former inmate says, quote, "He's all alone." He's going to have to do some coming down. You know, that soul-searching, looking inward.

A top aide for former Governor Ryan who himself served more than four years in federal prison says it really gives you time to think. They want to see how first time offenders like Blagojevich will handle the stress. We do did find out a couple of days ago though that they are allowed to keep their hairdo which is a big thing for this particular governor.

BANFIELD: But no gel.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: Walk softly and carry a big shillelagh. How does that sound? There's advice. The crew is supposed to be giving me word of the day on that one.

SAMBOLIN: Shillelagh?

BANFIELD: Yes, big stick.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: It was a bit of a wedge there.

All right. "Houston Chronicle." Where is she going with this? Have you done your taxes?

SAMBOLIN: I started.

BANFIELD: Start and finish.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I heard. This is terrible. Listen up.

BANFIELD: If you haven't done your taxes, do them now because someone might do them for you and not in a nice way.

Somebody might steal your identity, file your taxes for you and get your refund. If you think this is just a little problem --

SAMBOLIN: How is that possible?

BANFIELD: I know. Tell you what? It's possible, because you don't have to have a lot to file taxes. You need like name, address and Social Security number and then you can do it. And, listen -- there are thousands and thousands of people who have been victimized by this. There's a woman in Texas got online, wanted to file her taxes online. It said duplicate, duplicate.

She's like, what do you mean duplicate? I haven't done this yet.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BANFIELD: And she found out it was because it was, yes --

SAMBOLIN: And they cashed her check?

BANFIELD: They cashed her check, yes. Apparently, in 2010, IRS intercepted 49,000 of these cases. And guess what they expect it to be this year, 262,000 cases.

SAMBOLIN: I believe it, tough times.

BANFIELD: Do your taxes. If you don't need incentive, get your money earlier anyway, get your money, bigger incentive now.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It's 25 minutes past the hour.

Ahead on EARLY START: Santorum and Romney are fighting over the English language in Puerto Rico. What is behind Santorum's controversial stance on statehood? We're going to talk to a political panel about this. You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: OK, so he dressed in drag and he mocked his bosses on YouTube.

SAMBOLIN: Now a flight attendant doesn't have to worry about being late, all because he is fired.

BANFIELD: Oh, boy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's people on the ramp creeping me out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of our regional managers, who is the weakest link?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'll tell you right now -- the woman that's running the flight attendants down in Miami is probably the most ineffective person there is in the whole country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Creepy. Just creepy stuff. More of the aluminum lady.

You're watching EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Welcome back, 5:29 now on the East Coast. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy to have you here.

And it's time to check the stories making news this morning.

That U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians has an attorney now. His new attorney, John Henry Brown (ph), says because of injuries suffered in Iraq, his client should not have been sent back to the battlefield. And he says there is concern about fallout from the massacre overseas and here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWN, ATTORNEY: Well, apparently Homeland Security, this morning, issued a directive that they're expecting some sort of retaliation for these allegations, so it's being taken very seriously, and I think that's why his name is not being revealed and I certainly would not reveal his name even though I know what it is. So, I think there is serious concern about the safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.

BANFIELD: The reaction to a rare march tornado that's caught on tape in Michigan. It forced 200 people from their homes, part of a severe weather outbreak from Michigan all the way down through the south. Storms damaging or destroying several homes outside Ann Arbor. There are reports that at least three funnel clouds touched down in this area.

And gas prices have a peek at your screen. No lies. It jumped by a full penny overnight while you were sleeping. The average price now, $3.83, and that's the seventh day in a row if you're keeping score that gas prices have gone up.

SAMBOLIN: A controversial immigration bill is on the verge of passing in Mississippi. The measure would require police to check the immigration status of people arrested, and it would ban illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses as well. The bill was approved by the state house and is now headed to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

And for the first time in nearly four years, folk, the S&P 500 sits above the 1,400 mark. The index gained eight points yesterday to close at 1,402. The rally sparked by good news on the jobless front and expanding manufacturing.

Tech heads all over the world are in a frenzy. The new iPad goes on sale this morning at 8:00 a.m. Right now, people are camped outside Apple's flagship store in New York City. That was Eastern Time that it goes on sale here. The device will sell starting at $499.

BANFIELD: You have to be committed if you are going to sleep on a street in Manhattan overnight.

SAMBOLIN: Wait till you find out what one woman is doing, how she's making money behind --

BANFIELD: I don't want to know.

SAMBOLIN: There's my tease. There's my tease.

BANFIELD: Making money on the streets of New York. Who knew?

SAMBOLIN: Not like that, Ashleigh, not like that.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Thirty-two minutes --

SAMBOLIN: I think it's kind of innovative and creative, and I like it.

BANFIELD: -- past the hour.

Listen, to speak English as an official language or not or as a main language and by the way, what about that word, main, official, mostly spoken, it's a burning issue that's surrounding Rick Santorum for the last two days.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes. He is wrapping up a two-day visit to Puerto Rico where 20 delegates are at stake. And there, he said, quote, "Like any other state there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law and that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii, but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

He also said this, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to speak English. That would be a requirement. It's a requirement that we put on other states. It's a condition for entering the union.

SAMBOLIN: CNN's Jim Acosta caught up with him yesterday, as well, and apparently, he's not backing down on his statements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Should it be a requirement for this territory to become a state?

SANTORUM: I think English and Spanish. Obviously, Spanish is going to be spoken here the island, but this needs to be a bilingual country, not just a Spanish speaking country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And live from Washington, Jonathan Allen, reporter for Politico. Thank you for joining us this morning. I am hyperfocusing this morning on Santorum. A lot of issues there when he was talking, he's talking about language. He was talking about statehood. He was talking about culture. Why do you think we're talking about it so much?

JONATHAN ALLEN, REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I think Rick Santorum hit a couple of real touchstones in Puerto Rico as you mentioned. Number one, the sort of assumption that Puerto Rico wants to become a state is not entirely clear. That's a huge issue on the island. The other thing is, Santorum seems to suggest that English to be the official language, the main language, the principal language in order for Puerto Rico to become a state.

He actually used the word country to refer to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, obviously, is part of the United States already, and there are no federal laws requiring that English be an official language for a territory to become a state. So, there are a lot of different things going on here.

I think one of the reasons we're talking about this is the importance of the Hispanic vote in this upcoming 2012 election, particularly, in a set of western states that have been swing states and also in Florida, which has been the swing state.

SAMBOLIN: And do you think for me and I'm of Puerto Rican descent and I spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico. I went to school there, and actually, English is a requirement in all of the schools from the time you enter kindergarten, and through college, most of the textbooks are in the English language. Do you think this is more of an emotional issue?

ALLEN: I do think it's an emotional issue. And as you point out, obviously, Puerto Rico already is bilingual. This is not a territory that where everyone is speaking Spanish and no one speaks English. But, yes, I think it's a very emotional issue, and I think a lot of particularly Hispanic-Americans obviously not everyone in Puerto Rico is Spanish but a large percentage of population.

I think a lot of Hispanic-Americans are already feel a little bit under siege these days. You showed a clip earlier today of the basketball player was having where is your green card chanted at him. We've seen the bill in Mississippi. We saw last year or a couple of years ago the bill in Arizona.

I think a lot of Hispanic voters feel like they're under siege right now, and this is going to be an issue for Republicans in the general election. We saw a big falloff in the Hispanic vote for Republicans between George W. Bush who is anywhere as high as 40 percent to John McCain, and those voters are very important, as I mentioned, at a lot of swing state.

SAMBOLIN: Now, they are an important voting bloc. So, let's talk about McCain in 2008, because he didn't have the Latino vote there, right? And they said that that, perhaps, could have cost him the election. So, I want to look at the numbers from 2008, and then, I want to compare them to some current numbers now.

If we do a match, do we have those numbers for everyone? OK. If we could just put those up, please, I would appreciate that. All right. There we go. So, that was Obama/McCain, 67 percent to McCain's 31 percent. And then, when you do a matchup and the only poll that I have here is an Obama/Romney matchup for the Latino vote.

It's considerably lower, 68 percent to 23 percent. And there is a school of thought that if you don't have the Latino vote at up around 33 percent, that you cannot win the general election in November. How are Republicans going to fix this problem?

ALLEN: Well, there's not a huge gap to make up there from 28 percent to 33 percent, but I think what you'll ser is a Republican nominee move toward the middle a little bit on issues of importance to Latino voters, and obviously, those are -- the Latino voters are not a monolithic bloc and don't vote simply on issues of immigration.

In fact, I think for most polling that I've seen, other issues are the most important issues. It's just a question of whether or not they feel like, again, they're under siege, which is if somebody is making that the issue, then they may be more likely to vote against that person. So, I think that you'll see a Republican nominee try to pivot.

Right now, in order to win a Republican primary, there's a very large part of the Republican base that either from a law and order perspective, or in some cases, I think, people would argue from, perhaps, a phobic stance doesn't like what they're seeing in terms of Hispanic immigration into the country.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jonathan Allen, thanks for joining us this morning and sharing your perspective.

ALLEN: Take care.

BANFIELD: Thirty-seven minutes now past five. And coming up, new details on what might have set off that U.S. soldier who's accused of slaughtering 16 innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

And also, Hollywood hot shot, James Cameron plummeting to new lows, and that's a good thing. He's headed on a real-life adventure to the deepest parts of the Earth below the ocean. CNN's Jason Carroll is the only news reporter with him as he prepares for the big dive. We get a live report coming up later on. You're watching EARLY START.

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SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-one minutes past the hour. New developments out of Afghanistan overnight in the shooting deaths of 16 civilians allegedly at the hands of a U.S. soldier.

BANFIELD: The lawyer for that soldier accused of committing the massacre is now talking about who this soldier is and what might have set this soldier off. Alina Cho has been monitoring all of this. She joins us now with the latest. A long news conference and a lot of information, and yet, the key stuff still missing.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We still don't have his name, but there's been a lot of reporting on this, a lot of good reporting overnight. Good morning. This morning, "The New York Times" is reporting that the soldier had been drinking alcohol, was suffering stress from being on his fourth tour of duty, and that he had problems in his marriage.

We're going to get to all of that in just a moment, but first, we can tell you as Ashleigh just said the soldier has hired a pretty well-known lawyer from the Seattle area. His name is John Henry Brown, and Brown did speak to reporters last night. Here's what he told us.

The soldier is said to be a 38-year-old highly decorated staff sergeant. He is married, has two young children ages three and four, and here is the part that could be key in the case. He's on his fourth tour of duty, was injured twice while serving in Iraq, one was a traumatic brain injury, the other injury, he lost part of his foot. In fact, he was so distraught he did not want to be deployed again.

Now, Mr. Brown, the lawyer, also had more insight into the soldier's mental state saying somebody in his unit was, quote, "gravely injured" on the day before the shooting rampage, but he rejected reports circulating out there that his client had been drinking or that his marriage was in trouble. Here's what else he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: I think he was told that he was not going to be redeployed. And the family was counting on him not being redeployed. And so, he and his family were told that his tours in the Middle East were over, and then, literally, overnight, that changed. So, I think that would be fair to say that he and his family were not happy that he was going back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, we know that the soldier has been transferred out. Do we know where he is?

CHO: Right -- our best knowledge right now is that he is in Kuwait. The military, in fact, confirms that he was transferred to Kuwait, but this morning "The Times" is reporting he could be moved again to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and that transfer could happen as early as today. So, this is all happening fairly quickly.

Of course, the big question is, when will the charges be filed because that is when we will know, according to his lawyer, the soldier's identity.

BANFIELD: Listen, and there's a lot more to it, as well, competency issues, what kind of a defense would he mount, where would this trial actually take place? Spider Marks earlier saying no way would he go back to Afghanistan. J.A.G. lawyers I've talked to has said absolutely, why not?

CHO: Well, it looks like that he will be transferred to the United States. "The Times" is reporting as early as today. And presumably, if that is the case, yes, the trial would be here in the United States.

BANFIELD: A million dollar question. All those witnesses and all the evidence, everything is there in Afghanistan. I don't think you're going to be flying over villagers to testify.

CHO: It's interesting, because this lawyer also said that he did speak at length with the soldier yesterday. He has spoken to many, many members of his family. One thing that is quite interesting is that his wife and two children have been move from their home near Tacoma, Washington, to an undisclosed location, because as you can imagine, the family and others are concerned about their safety.

But the big question, of course, remains, who is this man? Once we get his name, of course, we will learn a lot more about him.

SAMBOLIN: A decorated soldier, right, when they say that, you want to know more. Highly decorated. BANFIELD: We will. It's very unusual that we don't know by this time. Clearly, this is an initial circumstance. Alina, good work.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

BANFIELD: And 45 minutes now past the hour. Still ahead, dressing up in drag, blasting your bosses online. He may not look like the stately dowager there in the picture, but a flight attendant finding out the hard way that there are some things you just can't do.

And also, James Cameron going to the Earth's final frontier, the deepest depths of the ocean. Say that three times fast. Jason Carroll with him as he gets ready for the big journey. You're going to be along for the ride, too. You're watching EARLY START.

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SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-nine minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning. Here is Miss Christine Romans. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

ROMANS (voice-over): A rare march tornado caught on tape in Michigan forcing 200 people from their homes. Part of a wall of severe weather from Michigan down through the south. Storms damaging or destroying several homes outside Ann Arbor. There are reports that at least three funnel clouds touched down in that area.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum fighting over what language should be spoken in Puerto Rico. Santorum sticking by his remarks that English should be a requirement for statehood for Puerto Rico. Romney insisting he would require no such rule. Twenty delegates at stake Sunday in Puerto Rico's primary.

A post things about your bosses online, you might pay. An American Airlines flight attendant learning that the hard way. NBC Miami said Gailen David (ph), a 24-year veteran of American Airlines was fired, and he's fighting it. He was pretty well known in some flier circles for his videos poking fun at American's financial trouble. One of the characters, the aluminum lady like Margaret Thatcher's, the iron lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's people on the ramp creep me out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of our regional managers, who's the weakest link? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I tell you right now, the woman that's running the flight attendants down in Miami is probably the most ineffective person I have in the whole company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we fire her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, don't fire her. I like it like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: American filed for bankruptcy a few months ago and said it wants to get rid of 13,000 workers, 16 percent of its workforce. American spokesman didn't mention the videos when talking about the firing but told NBC Miami that this Gailen -- David Gailen (ph) published the private details of American Airlines' passengers and promoted its competitors on his website.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (on-camera): Whoo. Yikes, ouch.

BANFIELD: Where did he get the idea for those glasses?

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I don't know but Arab social media and digital production --

SAMBOLIN: Those are awful.

ROMANS: You can quit in "The New York Times" op-ed page. You can make videos about your employer. There you go.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: You're watching EARLY START and decided, hey, those glasses are kind of cute.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right. From the man who brought us "Avatar" and "The Terminator." Look at this. Hollywood director, James Cameron, is taking us on a new, real-life adventure to the deepest part of the ocean where only two people have gone before. Up next, you're going to have an up-close look as he prepares for his big journey. Scared to death for him.

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(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning, folks. Fifty-four minutes past the hour here. He has literally changed the way we see the world, not this guy to our right. Maybe, perhaps, he's going to introducing us to brand- new images on screen. Now, Hollywood filmmaker, James Cameron, is planning his biggest project yet travelling to the deepest part of the ocean where only two men have gone before.

BANFIELD: James Cameron invited a third man, CNN's Jason Carroll. That's the voice you keep hearing laughing off to the side.

SAMBOLIN: Not to the deepest places of the ocean, though.

BANFIELD: I think you're laughing, because you're giddy, because you have been working all night, all day, all night, all day to get something ready for this weekend that you weren't preparing to do originally --

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes, which is great, great. We're going to have a half hour special on this, so, you're going to be able to see in detail all of what it took James Cameron to get to where he is today, and basically, he's trying to get to the Marianas Trench. This is a trench in the western pacific, at a place called challenger deep.

It's 36,000 feet down, seven miles. So, you have to ask yourself, how in the world are you going to get there? Well, he and a team of scientists with the help of National Geographic, they built this high-tech submersible to get him down there. They've been working on it for several years.

It is really a fantastic project, and a lot of people have been asking themselves what in the world does someone like James Cameron, director of "Avatar," director of "Titanic." What in the world is he doing trying to go down to challenger deep? Well, it turns out for many, many years, Cameron has been a deep sea explorer.

BANFIELD: I thought this was out of the blue.

CARROLL: No, no. And you know, in fact, Cameron sent us a picture. I want you to take a look at it. Hopefully, we can get that up for you. It was taken when he was 11 years old, growing up in a small town in Ontario, Canada. Now, you see what he's got in there. That is a submersible that he built.

SAMBOLIN: No way.

CARROLL: And inside of that is a little mouse and that was one of his earliest experiments at 11 years old. He dropped it into 20 feet of water, the mouse survived. And so, a lot of people question, is he a director, is he an explorer? He says he's both.

BANFIELD: He's both. Yes. Isn't it great to be able to take your passion and actually make money off of it, as well, right?

CARROLL: Yes. And this is also about passion. It's about science. And so, he's planning to make this attempt, you know, within the next several days. Of course, we're going to have a special to be able show it all to you. So, we're very excited. BANFIELD: Weather depending too, right?

CARROLL: Absolutely. Mother Nature always plays a key role.

SAMBOLIN: Very cool. Thank you for sharing that with us.

CARROLL: You bet.

BANFIELD: This weekend?

CARROLL: This weekend. 10:30.

BANFIELD: OK.

CARROLL: Tomorrow. Tape it. Watch it.

BANFIELD: All right. We'll do. Thank you. Jason, good stuff.

OK. So, 57 minutes --

SAMBOLIN: Seven miles underwater, right? Seven miles underwater. Unbelievable.

BANFIELD: Upside down ever (ph) and ad how much more?

CARROLL: 7,000 feet.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, good Lord.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Still ahead on EARLY START, at four minutes now before the hour, the army staff sergeant who's accused of slaughtering Afghan villagers has hired a well-known criminal defense attorney here in his country, and that attorney is saying quite a few things about the client. Who may be to blame for the mass killings if the allegations are true? We got more on that coming up.

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