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French Terror Suspect Standoff; "Million Hoodie March" in NYC; Saints Take Big Hit For Bounties

Aired March 22, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are very happy you're with us this morning. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Here are your top stories:

Loud explosions overnight at the site of a standoff between a wanted terrorist and hundreds of police officers in France. The blasts are meant to pressure the suspect Mohammed Merah to come out after more than 24 hours. He is accused of killing seven people, including a rabbi and Jewish children in a 10-day killing spree.

BANFIELD: A Million Hoodie March in New York City. They were protesting the shooting death of an unarmed Florida teenager. Demonstrators demanding an arrest and there's new trouble this morning for the police chief who was in charge of that case.

SAMBOLIN: Living under a rock, literally. Look at this. A 25- foot boulder breaking loose from a hillside in Ohio, flattening cars, putting a hole in a home, people were inside of it. The owner said he heard a sound, saw sparks, thought it was a thunderstorm.

Here's the good news: everyone inside is OK.

BANFIELD: Miraculous given that video, given that video. Holy cow.

The NFL showing no mercy on the New Orleans Saints for paying bounties for big-time hits. The league suspending head coach Sean Payton for the entire season, the general manager for eight games, and defensive coach Greg Williams who is now with the Rams, suspended indefinitely or running that bounty program.

SAMBOLIN: And Tim Tebow is taking his act to the Big Apple, traded to the New York Jets. I know you know about this. A lot of fans and analysts are saying it's not exactly a match made in heaven? Some people think it may be.

BANFIELD: It is now one minute past 5:00 in the East. They've tried talking him out, freezing him out, scaring him out, but the self-proclaimed al Qaeda terrorist who is wanted for a killing spree in France is still standing his ground this morning.

Have a listen to this.


BANFIELD: Blasts ringing out in the night, an attempt to literally rattle this guy into negotiating and surrendering. French authorities say, sadly, they have had no contact. The suspect's name is Mohammed Merah. All of this, the effort overnight, really resulting in nothing. Standoff at an apartment building is now entering its second day in France. Hundreds of heavily armed officers are under strict orders: bring him in alive.

CNN affiliate France 2 says we have amateur video of Mohammed Merah. Take a look. This would be the first time you see him up close. He's wanted in a terrorist rampage that left three Jewish children, as well as a rabbi and three French paratroopers dead.

Our Diana Magnay is live in Toulouse, France, this morning.

What's the very latest from where you are, Diana?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ashleigh. The very latest in this 30-hour siege is now in the 30th hour, we've just heard from the interior ministry that at 2:00 a.m. this morning, which is about eight hours ago, there were two gunshots fired inside the house. And they don't know why. They don't know what it was.

And since that point, they haven't had any more communication with Mohammed Merah. And they did have communication with him before.

It is very difficult to know what that means. This is purely speculation. But, you know, my reading of that, one reading of that could be that he has killed himself.

They told us that in his communications with police yesterday, he said that he did want to die with his weapon in his hands. So, it is very possible that he's killed himself. But at this stage, it's very difficult really to know what has happened.

As you said, over the course of the night, there were these sort of stun grenades thrown in. Huge bangs to kind of shock and intimidate him. It doesn't seem to have worked. The police are still ringing at his house, still maintaining they want him to come out alive to face justice for these hideous crimes that he's done, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Diana, that is absolutely remarkable news. Two shots ringing out and then dead silence.

So, my question would be this: 30 hours ago, a raid did not go well and several people who are involved in that raid, the officials, the police involved were shot, hurt. What's the plan now? What are they going to try actually entering the building again to see if he's actually dead?

MAGNAY: It's so difficult to know what they're going to do. You know, yesterday, we heard that they are using infrared technology, sensoring technology to try and find out where he is at any given point. You would have thought if he's been motionless for eight hours, then they would know about.

But obviously, we, as the press, are kept quite a long way from the house itself, we're probably the last people who are going to know. But, actually, interestingly, Ashleigh, the electricity has been cut off to the whole neighborhood. So he also, if he is still alive, won't be watching the process outside, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: That's just a remarkable development. Diana, thanks very much for that.

SAMBOLIN: National outrage is building over this morning over the shooting death of an unarmed Florida teenager by a neighborhood watch captain. Hundreds of people attended a Million Hoodie March. That was in Manhattan yesterday.

Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed last month by George Zimmerman. Demonstrators want an end to the profiling and they also want Zimmerman arrested.

Trayvon Martin's parents were there and they spoke to the crowd.


TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: Trayvon Martin did matter. I just want New York to know that we're not going to stop until we get justice.

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: Our son was not committing any crimes. Our son was your son. We want to stand up for justice and do what's right.


SAMBOLIN: CNN's George Howell is live in Sanford, Florida, where Reverend Al Sharpton will hold a rally tonight. There are big developments in the Sanford Police Department as well.

George, what can you tell us?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, this case has brought a lot of attention here to the city of Sanford. And as you mentioned, we are expecting hundreds of people to attend a rally here in the city. This comes a day after a 3-2 vote, a public vote of no confidence by city commissioners, including the city's mayor for the city's police chief.

Now, that's a big deal because it will weigh heavily on the mind of Sanford's city manager. Norton Bonaparte tells me that he welcomes a federal investigation. He wants investigators to look through the actions of his police department because he says, even to him, there are things that don't seem right.

Take a listen.


NORTON BONAPARTE, SANFORD, FL CITY MANAGER: If this took place in another city, certainly Mr. Zimmerman would have been arrested. It did not take place here. I'm being told it was because of the Florida law. That I think needs to be looked at.

HOWELL: Do you believe that your police department acted appropriately that day?

BONAPARTE: Based upon what they felt, I believe that they acted what they thought was appropriate. Now the question is, did they?


HOWELL: A lot of pressure on the city manager who has the power to hire and fire the police chief and certainly pressure on George Zimmerman who has not been seen since the shooting. We actually found a new picture of George Zimmerman when he acted as a security guard at a party back in 2005. Clearly, he was a watch captain of this neighborhood here in Sanford.

And many neighbors, some neighbors say that they appreciated the fact that he was there. But what he called self-defense that day, many in this community call murder.

SAMBOLIN: Have we heard anything from his family at all, from Zimmerman's family?

HOWELL: We spent time trying to track down relatives, friends. And at this point, it's really hard to find anyone on Zimmerman's side within his family who will speak for him. We do know that his father did deliver a letter to the "Orlando Sentinel" saying that his son did not confront Trayvon Martin. But certainly the meeting between the two ended in a deadly shooting.

SAMBOLIN: I heard reports also that he had to move because he's fearing for his life.

George Howell live in Sanford, Florida, for us. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

Ashleigh, back to you.

BANFIELD: It's now eight minutes past 5:00. Zoraida, thank you.

A major flood threat pushing eastward across the Deep South right now. I want to show you some pictures. They do not look good. That storm is triggering some bad flash flooding in Louisiana and you know what they say, do not drive through it. You don't know how deep it is. Two feet of water, filling up those roads and creeping into homes as well.

SAMBOLIN: But look, right?

BANFIELD: Obviously, a big problem. Yes. I don't know if that car was trying to drive through it. But sure, the one before it certainly was and so is this one driving with a camera.

So, not a good picture. Not something you like to see.

Rob Marciano has been not only watching this, but the rest of the weather across the country.

Hi, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. Yes, this system is moving so slowly, that not only do we have the severe weather threat, but that flood threat will be ongoing. Ahead of it, it's running into some really, really warm air.

And some of these numbers are incredible as far as what we've seen for high temperatures. Eighty-seven degrees in Chicago, the all- time record for March is 88. This was record, but missed the all-time record by one degree.

Eighty-five degrees in Columbus, Ohio. That was an all-time record for the month of March.

Marquette, Michigan, 81 degrees. They blew the record out of the water by 32 degrees. The old record was 49 degrees.

All right. Here's your system. There you go. Just kind of sitting and spinning. Not making much progress to the East. It will do so, but slowly -- very, very slowly.

So, the rain will keep coming in off the Gulf of Mexico. There will be a flood threat today. Another four to six inches across places like along the I-10 corridor, from mobile over to Pensacola, northward towards Birmingham and Montgomery. And again, ahead of this system, it's going to be a record high temperature in some cases.

Eighty degrees in Atlanta, 76 degrees in New York City and 79 once again in Chicago. Things will cool down a little bit. But I think for the most part, winter, eastern half of the country, for the most part is done.


BANFIELD: I would feel better if I didn't have to see those pictures down South.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's true. Right, Rob?

MARCIANO: Well, we kind of need the rain but not all at one time.

SAMBOLIN: All in one time, that's the problem.

BANFIELD: I know. All right. Rob, we'll check with you a little later. Thanks.


MARCIANO: I'm good.

SAMBOLIN: Ten minutes past the hour.

This just in. AAA says a new national average for a gallon of regular gas. Do you want to guess?

BANFIELD: I don't know. Is it up almost 2 cents?

SAMBOLIN: Three dollars and eighty-eight cents a gallon. That is 13 days in a row of gas prices rising.

Analysts say the high gas prices are here to say through at least the summer. So, you might want to prepare your finances for that. Adjust your budgets.

BANFIELD: Two days in a row that it's almost two cents overnight. Like those rising numbers are getting bigger each time it seems. Frustrating.

Ten minutes now past 5:00 in the morning on the East Coast. We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. markets hitting the brakes yesterday. The markets closing mixed, but mostly on the lower end of things. The Dow lost most of the three major -- rather the Dow lost -- looks like up in the NASDAQ.

So, if you want to look positive, this there you go. S&P also down slightly too. I always try to put a positive spin on things.

SAMBOLIN: This is always a good take.


SAMBOLIN: So, let's bring in Christine Romans now to talk about loans and the massive amount of debt that we are mounting in this country.

How much debt do the students really have?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, you say what's your major? Journalism, French, you know, biology. Now, you say, what's your major? The answer is student debt.


BANFIELD: Because it's major.

ROMANS: Because you're majoring a major amount of student debt.

Look, $1 trillion. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in some testimony yesterday said they think the number is above $1 trillion. That would put it bigger than credit card debt in this country for the first time ever.

And the reason is, more kids are taking on more debt because their parents can't take money out of the house anymore. They can't rate (ph) with HELOC or home equity loan. They can't get money out of the house to pay the tuition bills. Tuition is still rising.

Kids know that they need a college degree. They go into school. They see the recession. They know what they have to do.

The difference here, there's a big conversation about is college worth it? It is worth it. I mean, the unemployment rate for somebody with a college education is in the low 4 percent, below 4 percent. It's half what it is for everyone else.

But here's the thing. You cannot afford to find yourself during college. You can't afford to take five years to graduate. You can't afford to switch your major. You can't afford not to understand your student loans.

An interesting study released yesterday from a group called the Young Invincibles, found that a lot of kids don't understand their loans. They don't understand the difference between a federal loan and a private loan. And a federal loan has higher interest rates, a federal loan, if you miss some payments, they can jack up --

BANFIELD: The private loan doesn't have higher rates?

ROMANS: The private loan has higher interest rates.


ROMANS: The public loan has lower interest rates. But public loans, the government's student loans, if Congress doesn't do anything, those loan rates will jump to 6.8 percent in July.

So you're looking at possibly higher -- that's $5,000 more for a 10-year loan for about $25,000 -- another $5,000 out of your pockets.

What I'm saying, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas and kids, listen to me -- student debt is the most important investment you're going to make. I mean, you need to sit down and figure it out because kids are coming out with $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 in student debt. You need to have the right major for the right skills for the kids. There's no room for any error here.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, but a lot of kids do take a lot of time trying to make that decision. They go and try to figure it out. Maybe community colleges are a good solution?

ROMANS: Yes, that's a very good solution. The only country in the world that spends 20,000 a year for kids to go find themselves.

BANFIELD: Yes, and college just isn't for fun anymore.


BANFIELD: That's depressing.


ROMANS: Just get serious. Just get serious.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

Thirteen minutes past the hour here.

Damage control on the Mitt Romney camp this morning. The GOP front-runner insisting he will not flip-flop on his positions if he wins the Republican nomination. Those remarks coming after one of Romney's top aides made a now infamous Etch a Sketch comment on Soledad O'Brien's "STARTING POINT" yesterday.

In case you missed it, here's what adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN when he was asked how the Romney campaign might change in the fall if his candidate is the nominee.


ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: I think he hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.


BANFIELD: Well, it didn't take long for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to pounce on that remark. They even used props.

SAMBOLIN: Which I have today.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to stand for something that lasts longer than this. People aren't stupid. And so we have a real challenge. I need your help this Saturday.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An Etch a Sketch. He said you turn it over and shake it and then you start all over. Imagine, had Mitt Romney been around at the time we were drafting our Constitution. He would have shaken it and just shook it up after it was approved to rewrite it.


BANFIELD: Well, reporters also were pretty quick to confront Mitt Romney for the Etch a Sketch explanation. So, here's what he said his communications director really meant.


ROMNEY: Organizationally, a general election campaign takes on a different profile. The issues I'm running on will be exactly the same. I'm running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican as governor. I'll be running as a conservative nominee -- excuse me, at that point, hopefully, nominated as president. The policies and positions are the same.


SAMBOLIN: And just to bring a little perspective to the Etch a Sketch fiasco, Mitt Romney's wife Ann offering up her take last night to CNN's Piers Morgan. Getting a lot of play.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: It's a distraction because what we're talking about is an economic message, it's a jobs message. It's talking about, you know, capping spending, balancing budgets --

PIERS MORGAN, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" HOST: Are you going to make -- are you going to make Eric write hundred times on an Etch a Sketch, "I'm very sorry"?


A. ROMNEY: I think that's a great idea, Piers. A great idea, Piers. We'll have him do that tomorrow.


SAMBOLIN: That's really hard to do. And you could have predicted this -- the Democratic National Committee has put out a video. In it, images of Mitt Romney are altered to look like he was drawn with an Etch a Sketch.

Meanwhile, the company behind the Etch a Sketch, it is thrilled with all of the attention. They put out a statement that reads in part, quote, "A profound toy, highly recognized and loved by all is now shaking up the national debate. Nothing is as quintessentially American as Etch a Sketch and a good old-fashioned political debate."

And take a look at this. OK, this morning, I came in to the newsroom and I said, is anybody good on an Etch a Sketch? Because we have props. And look at this -- what I wanted somebody to do your profile in here.

BANFIELD: Oh, you're kidding.

SAMBOLIN: They came up with Romney instead.

BANFIELD: That's hard enough.

SAMBOLIN: This is Phil. He did this in seconds. We're working on your profile next. We'll see if we can work that out.

BANFIELD: It ain't going to happen. I'm going to shake that one up.

SAMBOLIN: I loved an Etch a Sketch. I loved it.


SAMBOLIN: Somebody called it the original iPad.

BANFIELD: Oh, good one, from the '50s. Yes, I'll buy that.

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour.

At 7:00 a.m. Eastern on STARTING POINT, Soledad O'Brien will talk about the Romney camp and it's challenges when she is joined by "Daily Beast" contributor Mark McKinnon and Amy Kremer. She chairs the Tea Party Express.

BANFIELD: And still ahead now, 17 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast, running to freedom. Somali pirates release hostages seven months after they're kidnapped off a beach. Take a look at that.


When Jeb Bush makes his pick for president and vice president. Can you guess who he picked? You probably can't.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is now 21 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. Time to check our stories making top headlines this morning.

Here's Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good morning, ladies.

Let's start in France. Wanted alive -- he standoff in France between a wanted terrorist and hundreds of heavily armed police, some in body armor. Now in the second tense day. The suspect accused of killing seven people, including a rabbi and Jewish children in a 10- day killing spree. French authorities have had no contact with Mohammed Merah overnight.

A former NASA scientist sentenced to 13 years in prison for trying to sell U.S. space secrets to Israel. Steward David Nozette was arrested nearly two years into an undercover sting operation. Nozette worked on nuclear weapons and satellite technology during decades of government science and space projects at NASA.

Somali pirates have released a British hostage nearly seven months after she was kidnapped from a beach in Kenya. You're looking at video of Judith Tibbett boarding a plane out of Somali. She says she's overjoyed to be reunited with her son and announcing plans to grief for her husband David who was killed when she was taken captive.

A pleasant stroll on the pier turned into a scary moment after a woman tripped and fell into about six feet into Lake Michigan because she was texting and walking.

Bonnie Miller's husband and a passerby jumped in after her. The Coast Guard and police were able to get her to safety. Miller says her fall should be a lesson to all -- don't walk and text.

Fr an expanded look at top stories, head to -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Definitely don't walk and text by the water.

BANFIELD: There was a story, Christine, I think like two years ago in New York City about people texting and falling into manholes.

ROMANS: I know. It just shows that you when you're in your device, you're completely oblivious. That's why people who talk about driving and texting say it's so dangerous, you know?

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you.

I will never do that one.

Twenty-two minutes past the hour. We're getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines.

And this morning, we have papers from Newark, New Jersey, the "Star Ledger," and the spur.

BANFIELD: We'll start with the New Jersey papers. This is such a big story that everyone has been talking about for so long.

Dharun Ravi who is charged in connection with the death of Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge after he's been secretly videotaped in homosexual act in his dorm room. They were roommates. Dharun Ravi is telling "The Ledger", I'm very sorry about Tyler. He's saying that he doesn't even recognize the person who he's become. He admits to being immature and insensitive.

But here's something huge. He says he does not regret saying no to the plea deal, that deal that would have kept him out of jail.

SAMBOLIN: That's interesting. His reasoning behind it.

BANFIELD: It's huge. Listen, he's facing 10 years after being convicted across the board, right? Including the bias crime, which is the big one. If he had taken that deal, it would have been no jail time at all.

So, here's what he says about that. I'm going to quote him. "I won't ever get up there and tell the world I hated Tyler because he was gay or tell the world I was trying to hurt or intimidate him because it's not true."

It's really quite something. Ravi says he was the last one to see Tyler Clementi alive. He also says that he seemed normal and then, all of a sudden, he was gone.

SAMBOLIN: Big gamble he took on that, right?

BANFIELD: Huge. That kind of a comment, and don't forget there's probably appeals in place as well. So, you're not going to get a lot more than that. But that's pretty significant.

SAMBOLIN: "Pittsburgh Tribune Review" -- Jeb Bush says it is time to support Mitt Romney. That's Florida's former governor, whose father and brother, of course, were president, says Romney earned the right to take on President Obama in November. He wants Republicans to unite around Romney.

Bush also says the economy is the most important issue and Romney will create jobs and he will get the economy growing. He says Romney should choose Florida Senator Marco Rubio as his running mate as well. He describes Rubio as dynamic, joyful, disciplined and principled.

Also saying, quote here, "He is the best orator of American politics today, a good family man. He is not only a consistent conservative but he has managed to find a way to communicate a conservative message full of hope and optimism."

And Bush also stresses the significance of the Latino vote, especially in the swing states. He says the Latino vote will be critical and urged Republicans to be more sensitive to Latino issues like immigration. The article goes on to say Bush's endorsement will signal other top Republicans to follow.

We'll see. Some folks are real thrilled about Rubio being the running mate because of how he supports immigration issues.

BANFIELD: And some people would like it to be Jeb Bush.


BANFIELD: The rising tide might float all boats. And so, you never know what's going to happen, right? Who knows?

We do know one thing and that's it's 25 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast.

And coming up, when it comes to the delegates and the numbers, who's got more and who can win this thing? Romney says one thing and Santorum says another. But they all kind of talk about math and how the math is on their side. Really, come on. Is it?

Christine Romans, who's the best person at math that I know, is going to do the numbers for us.

BANFIELD: And one for the record books. The largest ship ever to enter San Francisco Bay. Wait until you hear how big it is.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Have you heard? The Big Apple is bracing for Tebow mania. The ex-Bronco quarterback has been traded to the New York Jets.

BANFIELD: Yes. Some of the New York fans are freaking out. They're really upset about this.

SAMBOLIN: Some are excited, right?

BANFIELD: Some people are excited without question. But there's one guy, I don't know, a guy named Mark Sanchez, is probably wondering, where do I stand in all of this?

It was a deal that almost didn't happen. So, how did it happen and what's going to happen in New York. How about those jerseys? Tebow, Tebow. Tebow.

SAMBOLIN: I think they're hoping money, money, money.


SAMBOLIN: It is 29 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Nice to see you.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are very happy you're with us. It's time to check the stories that are making news this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Blasts outside the hideout of a wanted terror suspect in France. Listen to that. The standoff now in its second tense day. He's accused of killing seven people, including a rabbi and Jewish children in a ten-day killing spree. French authorities say they've had no contact with Mohamed Merah overnight.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Hundreds of demonstrators taking to the streets of Manhattan and calling for the arrest of a neighborhood watch captain in Florida who shot and killed an unarmed teenager last month. Trayvon Martin's parents, the victim, they attended last night's million hoodie march and asked for justice for their son.

In the meantime, officials in Sanford, Florida, where it happened, have issued a vote of no confidence yesterday against their chief of police for how he handled the case.

SAMBOLIN: A White teenager in Jackson, Mississippi, pleading guilty to murder and hate crime charges for running over a Black man with his pickup truck. A judge calls the act, quote, "a stain that will take years to fade." Nineteen-year-old Deryl Dedmon apologizing yesterday to his victim's family yesterday before receiving two life sentences for the death of James Craig Anderson (ph).

BANFIELD: The New Orleans Saints hit with some of the most severe penalties in NFL history, and all of it, for paying bounties for big painful damaging hits. League suspending head coach, Sean Payton, for the entire season, the general manager for eight games, and defensive coach, Gregg Williams, is now with the Rams, suspended indefinitely for running that bounty program.

SAMBOLIN: Mad stacks. The MSC Fabiola sailing into the record books. Take a look at this. It doesn't look that big, right? But it's the largest ship to ever enter San Francisco Bay. It's also the largest container ship to ever dock in North America. The Fabiola is longer than an aircraft carrier and has the capacity to carry 12,500 containers.

BANFIELD: You kind of want to see a person standing.


BANFIELD: Well, look at the ship beside it.


BANFIELD: Again, don't know the size of the ship beside it, the tugboat there, too, but it gives you a little bit. Is that a person?

SAMBOLIN: A little perspective there. Yes. There's a tiny little person there.

BANFIELD: You really do need to see someone like -- you need to see Leonardo DiCaprio on the bow.


BANFIELD: Right? At the bow foot (ph).


BANFIELD: Thirty-two minutes now past 5:00, everyone, and it is all about the math and the race to 1,144, right? Mitt Romney has been consolidating delegates, because he's being challenge, but Rick Santorum says, hey, I'm not going anywhere. Christine Romans has a look for us now at the map, the map that everybody says is on their side, Christine.

ROMANS: That's true. And I will never do this as elegantly as my friend, John King. I just like to say, but, please, let's look at this beautiful map, so we can take a look at the delegate map together. I mean, this is the race to 1,144. You can see that Mitt Romney is almost halfway there. These are his pledged delegates, 562 here, compared with Rick Santorum, 249.

Let's move through the primary calendar. Today, there's a primary in Louisiana. You take a look at this. It's expected to go for Rick Santorum. Right there. That gives a little bit more to Santorum, but look, he is still trailing pretty substantially behind Mitt Romney. Let's go through the calendar, if you will. Let's move into April. Got a few more here.

District of Columbia, Maryland, Wisconsin, take a look at that top line for Mitt Romney. Keep moving through April. Watch that top line for Mitt Romney. Now, you're into May, the middle of May, May 22nd. Let's go all the way -- Mitt Romney is getting closer and closer to this 1,144 even with Texas going for Rick Santorum with a pretty decent number of delegates there, let's go all the way to the end. And this is what the math looks like. It looks as -- you know, he makes it. Mitt Romney makes it past that number, 1,183 is his number there, even as you have Rick Santorum getting a big chunk of the middle of the country here. No matter how you start to slice it here, you see Rick Santorum who can slow down the consolidation of delegates for Mitt Romney and maybe, maybe if you turned a bunch of these states around, maybe he could keep him from getting to that number.

Maybe, but no one is forecasting that. When you look at the polls and how it all seems to go out here, you've got Newt Gingrich in a couple of states here, you've got Rick Santorum with 488 delegates and Mitt Romney making it, getting that 1,144, ladies.

SAMBOLIN: And that's going all the way to the end, right?

ROMANS: This goes all the way to the end. So, we have a long- fought battle here coming up, but the math clearly is on Mitt Romney's side at this point.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you for clearing that up. We appreciate it.


BANFIELD: I love you, Christine. But the weird thing is as if we just have the leader board, I would have come to that same conclusion, right?

ROMANS: Well, you can start -- what if you started to change things. Even if you gave this one over here -- even if you gave this one to Santorum, you know, Mitt Romney still makes it, you know? What if you came over here to New Jersey, which is clearly -- this is clearly -- you know, Chris Christie is the governor there.

He's for Mitt Romney. Then, you start to see where you're depriving Romney of the -- all the delegates, but Rick Santorum doesn't make it either.

BANFIELD: I'm also going to be on record as saying you are just as good as John King and prettier.


BANFIELD: So, there's that.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: Speechless.


ROMANS: I know. But John King, I mean, that guy -- he can do things with his magic wall that I will never do.

BANFIELD: He just do magic, you know? What can you say? Thirty-five minutes now past the hour. Thanks, Christine.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Some powerful booms rocking that small Wisconsin town of Clintonville about 40 miles west of Green Bay for days. Now, we talked to them yesterday. Residents say it sounds like a distant thunder, maybe fireworks or someone slamming a heavy door.

The city has ruled out just about every obvious source of the noise as including the city's water, storm, and switch system. You know, this is the first story I looked up this morning, because I wanted to know did they finally find a solution because they were recording overnight. Do you know it still didn't record?

BANFIELD: It still didn't record.

SAMBOLIN: It still didn't record.

BANFIELD: It's like the I.T. guy who comes down to fix your computer, and it works perfectly. But you know, here's the best part, the city officials say that they believe the most likely source, and it's not confirmed yet, but here's what they say. Geological activity caused by a natural phenomenon in the soil just a few hundred feet below the surface.

I don't get it, but they haven't confirmed that either. The sounds certainly do have the people who live there a little bit worried. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not trying to incite panic or anything, but, like, how do we tell if it's, like, getting dangerous or if we need to evacuate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We assure you that if we felt it was necessary to evacuate, we would indicate that.


SAMBOLIN: The city officials said they will have devices installed to monitor the underground activity and to try to pinpoint an epicenter. However, they warn there is a chance they may never know the exact cause of all of the sounds. Can I read that some folks are worried that maybe the Earth would open up and swallow them, and one (ph) said that's unlikely.


SAMBOLIN: Tell me (ph) definitely or in movie.

BANFIELD: They needed an expert to say that's like unlikely. I still like the idea that it's tremors from the movie. Remember those crazy critters? Yes. Just kidding.

SAMBOLIN: Well, some people mentioned aliens in the story, as well. You just -- BANFIELD: I believe we'll get to the bottom of it.

SAMBOLIN: It is scary, very scary.

And still ahead, he says he was watching a movie in his room, and all of a sudden, it sounded like a little mini earthquake. That a mini earthquake? A huge boulder damages a home. Scares a lot of people there.

BANFIELD: Man, take a look at that.

Also, here's something else that's big. Tebow mania. In the media capital of the world, Tim Tebow coming to the Big Apple after a day filled with drama. You're going to hear about it and see it. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: I just love the Eagles, but especially when they sing "New Kid In Town," and we're looking at tower cam shot upon the circle in New York City, because there's a new kid in town. His name is Tim Tebow. You may have heard of him.

SAMBOLIN: That's our front yard.

BANFIELD: It is. We're looking right out our window with that, guys.

SAMBOLIN: Right. Forty minutes past the hour here. Just when you thought Tebow mania couldn't get any crazier, it's now reaching new heights.

BANFIELD: It's crazy enough when you see the front page of the daily news and the post --

SAMBOLIN: This is a great one.


BANFIELD: And the back, too. You get to sports, you get Tebow all over the place.

SAMBOLIN: This is good.

BANFIELD: This is awesome. We love this kind of thing in New York.

SAMBOLIN: Advertisers.

BANFIELD: Star quarterback.


BANFIELD: You know, you probably know him as the star QB for the Denver Broncos, right? Known for the strong Christian values, tebowing, the internet trend, but he's now been traded to New York Jets, and this is something that was really on the verge of not happening at all. So, of course, what did we do? We picked Alina Cho --


BANFIELD: -- who is not a sports fun to talk to us about this.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know how much research I did.


BANFIELD: You are a great journalist. This is why you were picked to give us story because you're a great journalist, and we knew that you would get to the bottom of what the heck happened.

CHO: Well, let me tell you this, I mean, when I went to bed last night -- just to give you an idea of how late this happened. When I went to bed last night, it still was not a done deal. Then, I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was check my Black Berry, and I thought thank goodness he's coming. He's coming.

You know, a lot of people are excited, but some people are not, you know? But safe to say that this on again, off again deal to bring Tim Tebow to the New York Jets is, in fact, on again. The announcement did come late last night, but as you heard, it almost didn't happen. Now, here's why.

The deal nearly fell apart because of a clause in Tebow's contract called "recapture language" where the Jets would have had to pay the Broncos five million extra dollars to get him. But late last night, deal was back on after the Jets agreed to pay half of that amount. Now, those Tebow jerseys are already being printed, and Jets fans are snapping them up.

As of this morning, more than 11,000 people have liked the Tebow announcement on the Jets official Facebook page. But, again, not everyone is liking the idea. Here's what jets fans were saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be happy here if he'll fit in well here, and we're happy to have him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really psyched up. I'm looking forward to next season.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look what he did for the Broncos last year. So, it might push Sanchez to be, you know, tougher and get out there all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not going to be a quarterback.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Play him as a running back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's dumb.



BANFIELD: That's a New York moment.

SAMBOLIN: That is special.

CHO: It is.

BANFIELD: That's great.

SAMBOLIN: The combo of these two guys really is what a lot of people are talking about. What did you hear? It's a good thing or a bad thing?

CHO: Well, you know, I mean, it depends on who you ask, right?

SAMBOLIN: Sanchez and Tebow, yes.

CHO: Well, I mean, you know, if you've been following all of the news that's been trickling out, you really know that this whole saga is a three quarterback deal. It's a tale of three quarterbacks if you think about it. Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, and Peyton Manning. Remember, last year, Tebow, in case anybody, forgot turned the Broncos fortunes around at the beginning of the year.

Remember, he was a backup quarterback. Tim was not doing well, but once he became the starter, Broncos started winning. Imagine that. And some fans thought that his Christian values, his Christian faith had something to do with it. Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, but after the Indianapolis Colts let him go, he signed with the Denver Broncos.

Remember, that was Tim Tebow's team. And with a huge star like Manning, the Broncos simply didn't need Tebow anymore. But now that Tebow is going to the Jets, of course, it's raising another big question. That man there, he's the Jets current star quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Sanchez just signed a new three-year deal, guys, worth $40.5 million. Will he play nice?

Well, in a radio interview yesterday, he said, Sanchez we're speaking about, said, I think Tim will do great no matter what happens. He definitely has talent, he knows how to win, he knows how to inspire players. I mean, listen, the fact that we're -- mere fact that we're talking about it this morning, it is a very big deal whether you're a sports fan or not, especially on the heels of Lin- sanity.


CHO: Now, we've got Tebow mania, but on the back of one of the papers, I don't know, "The Post" or "The Daily News," they're calling it Tim-sanity. Tim-sanity now, huh?

BANFIELD: How about that?

CHO: He's taken over.


BANFIELD: So, here's what I don't get. I don't get it when -- well, first of all, I think that Mark Sanchez is a good quarterback. I don't know anything about football, but I see him on, you know, front page all the time, doing great things.

CHO: And with his girlfriends.

BANFIELD: There you go. And then also, same thing about Tebow. He had this huge turn around, and you would think that that would launch him into a starting position somewhere. So, I still don't get it that he does well and he still gets a backup spot?

SAMBOLIN: His overall record, too, though --

CHO: And remember, you know, New York sports ads are tough. You know, the Jets were 8-8. They did not make the playoffs last season. See, I know this.

BANFIELD: This is our girl. This is our girl.


BANFIELD: She's nobody's girl but our girl.

CHO: They're not going to be patient if Sanchez doesn't deliver. And they may call on Tebow to start starting games. Wait and see.

SAMBOLIN: We'll have to go to a break together, ladies. Thank you so much, Alina.

BANFIELD: All right. Thank you, Alina.

So, coming up a little bit, we have this picture for you. It's at a murder arraignment in Ohio, and the courtroom devolved into this. You do not want this to happen. Not at all. We'll explain why this happened and what happened afterwards.

SAMBOLIN: Emotions running high there. And, this is hard to believe, but the guy driving this car actually got out of it alive.

BANFIELD: Holy Moly!

SAMBOLIN: You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. it is 49 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning. Here is Christine Romans. Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS (voice-over): Just in, three loud explosions have been heard just minutes ago outside the building where a shooting suspect has been in a standoff with police. You can hear those explosions there. Other explosions heard overnight to try to get the self- proclaimed al Qaeda terrorist wanted for a ten-day killing spree to surrender.

The standoff in an apartment building in Toulouse entering its second day now. French authorities say they've had no contact with Mohamed Merah (ph) overnight.

And disorder in the court in Toledo, Ohio. It happened yesterday morning right after a murder suspect who's arraigned breaking (ph) out between the accuse, killer's family, and the victim's family. Sheriff's deputies were able to break it up quickly. They arrested one person.

Take a look at this video. A tree falls on to a man's car while he's driving, flattening it like a pancake. Robert Salts (ph) describes the moment that tree came crashing down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I actually went -- the tree come down, I kind of thought it might be a little smaller tree, but the tree kept coming. The roof was kind of like that on top of me and I feel awful lucky right now when I finally got out.


ROMANS: Wow. Lucky, I'll say. He only complained about being a little sore, having a headache, and overall says, Ashleigh and Zoraida, he feels just fine.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable. That was nothing short of a miracle there.


ROMANS (on-camera): Wow. You call your insurance agent and you say can you just turn on the local news?


BANFIELD: No need to visit. And I'm going to give him the same headline as the daily news. Amen that he's OK.

ROMANS: Yes. That's right.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Christine. Appreciate that.

Fifty minutes now past 5:00 in the east, and you have to see this video. It is absolutely remarkable. It's an apache. Take a look at this. It looks like it's buzzing a base about to make a hard landing and oh, my Lord. That is a hard landing. Was it a top gun stunt gone wrong or something much more serious? SAMBOLIN: And beware of falling boulders. A giant rock breaks free and crushes everything in its path. People inside that house are OK. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: We are keeping you in the pop culture loop this morning by taking a looking at what is trending on web and in social media. So, this video just posted online of a heart-stopping chopper crash in Afghanistan. I need to tell you right off the bat everyone is OK, so you can watch.

BANFIELD: Good disclaimer.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Apache helicopter buzzing a base.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): We have it for you, then swooping down, and hitting the ground really hard.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Look at this. Good Lord. You think there's people there? There are. But they all are OK.


BANFIELD: Remarkable.

SAMBOLIN: (INAUDIBLE) tells ABC News heard that it happened, listen to this, February 6th. No one on the ground is injured and the crew actually survived, as we said. Not clear whether it was a in maneuver or a pilot that was showing off there. So, military said they're now investigating. What I found remarkable about this because I watched the full video, the guy taking the video, all the way to the bitter end.

BANFIELD: I know. He watches it going down, going down.

SAMBOLIN: And then, finally puts it down. I guess, everybody rushes to make sure that they're OK.

BANFIELD: Few expletives that we had to bleep out. Clearly, this was scary from the ground and why wouldn't it?


BANFIELD (on-camera): All right. Something else that's scary from the ground. A 25-foot boulder breaking free from the hillside and rolling into your house.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Imagine that?

BANFIELD: No, I cannot. Unless, I saw the pictures, I wouldn't have believed it. And you can be the judge yourself. There's the hillside, there's the house and the car that that 25-pound boulder smashed. It is unbelievable. And here's what's even more unbelievable. There were people inside that home. Have a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sensed the pop and a flash of light, which I think was the transformer going. And thought, oh, well, we have some lightning and I'll wake up in the morning and figure out, you know, whether I've got power or not. I just went to bed. And then, about 45 minutes later, the fire department was pounding on my door and the guy said hey, do you realize that part of your hillside let go?


BANFIELD: Yes. He sure does now. And again, amazing to think that everyone is OK. Thank goodness. Neighbors have been evacuated. Well, are you ready for this? They're checking for the stability of the hillside.

SAMBOLIN: Well, thank goodness that they're doing that, right, because if that could happen, it could happen again in somebody else's home, and somebody could die. It's terrible.

BANFIELD: Good luck.

SAMBOLIN: He didn't notice.

BANFIELD: I know, right? Just going back to bed. Sounded like thunder.

Still ahead on EARLY START, the million hoodie march in Manhattan. Outrage is building nationwide over the death of this young man, and people are demanding justice and answers over the murder of Florida -- or rather the killing, at this point, so-called the killing of the Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin.

SAMBOLIN: They've tried everything to get him out, but the standoff continues between French police and a suspected killer. You're watching EARLY START.