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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Sanford Rejects Police Chief's Resignation; Sins of Saints; Springs Snowstorm Hits Northeast; Interview With Rep. Bob Brady; Planned Parenthood Targeted?

Aired April 24, 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 are bringing you the news from A to Z.

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

BANFIELD: And we start with this: the man who left George Zimmerman walk free after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin is still effectively on the job this morning. The city of Sanford, Florida, refusing to let its police chief resign outright.

SAMBOLIN: It was a sucker punch. The Northeast says it's cleaning up after a powerful late April snowstorm socked the region, with over a foot of snow in some areas, covering the roads, runways, and the flowers that had already blossomed.

BANFIELD: And first, there was bountygate. Now, there's spygate. The general manager of the New Orleans Saints is being accused of bugging the Superdome to listen in on the visiting coaches. There's talk of criminal charges, but Mickey Loomis is saying this: the report is 1,000 percent false.

SAMBOLIN: Come out with your hands up, and a dog in your rear end. A police dog named Rambo sent in to end a high speed chase. Apparently, he worked it out. The video you do no want to miss.

BANFIELD: That's some nice maneuvers.

It's now one minute past 5:00 a.m.

And up first this morning, a dramatic turnaround in the Trayvon Martin case. The Sanford, Florida City Commission has voted to reject the Police Chief Bill Lee's offer to resign over how he handled the shooting investigation of Trayvon. Last month, the commissioners blasted Lee for not arresting the neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman immediately after the fatal shooting.

But now, they question the fairness of removing him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTY MAHANY, SANFORD, FLORIDA CITY COMMISSIONER: Chief Lee is paying for the sins of past police officers, these police chiefs. He's been here -- he has been in office 10 months. How do you steer a boat that big, Mr. Mayor? How do you steer a boat in 10 months to a complete turnaround? You don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Heated discussion, but on the meantime, these pictures are the last we've seen of George Zimmerman. He is charged with second-degree murder and is out on bail. We have no idea where he is this morning. His attorney, Mark O'Mara, says, his client, though, is relieved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: He's doing well. He's very glad to be out, trying to get settled in. Still worried about his safety, but talking to his family and feeling much better than being in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Sanford, Florida. He's following this story from the very beginning.

So, a lot of developments, seemingly political, but what we saw with the council and the police chief maneuvering, does it have any bearing or effect on what's going on with the upcoming litigation in this case?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it doesn't have a direct impact, but you can't ignore the fact that it's certainly going to have an impact on the periphery.

Let me give you a point of context for what was going on last night. And, boy, the passions were flowing at the commissioner's meeting. First and foremost, Chief Bill Lee had been on the job only about 10 months when the whole Trayvon Martin case erupted in the community of Sanford. And as you know, it was about a month ago that the city commissioners voted no confidence in him and he stepped down temporarily because of the way it was thought he handled the Trayvon Martin investigation.

And yesterday, he decided, well, maybe I should make that temporary resignation a more permanent thing. And that's when the city commissioners, the same ones that had voted no confidence, came back and said, you know what, we're not going to accept your resignation. It was a very heated and very spirited thing.

So what does it mean? It means Chief Lee stays on as the chief of police, but he's not really the chief of police because he has stepped down. He's still getting paid, so the city will find a temporary chief of police, paying two chiefs of police, only one of them is going to be on the job.

In the meantime, though, you have Trayvon Martin's family and attorneys speaking out saying the city missed an opportunity to move on. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATALIE JACKSON, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: I feel that if Chief Lee recognized the need to turn in his resignation so that this city can heal, then the city commissioners should have accepted it and moved forward so that the city could move forward and unite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: And there you have it. There are going to be some saying, look, the city needs to move forward and needs to heal. And it cannot do that as long as Chief Lee is around.

But others are saying, look, there is still an investigation underway as to how the city's police force handles this case. You cannot let the man go until it's resolved.

BANFIELD: All right. CNN's Martin Savidge, live for us in Sanford, Florida, this morning -- thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is four minutes past the hour here.

The NFL team that put bounties on opponents is now accused of eavesdropping on them as well. The New Orleans Saints are denying a report by ESPN alleging their general manager, Mickey Loomis, intercepted radio communications between opposing coaches for nearly three seasons.

Loomis is firing back with a statement saying, quote, "It just didn't happen." The Saints' G.M. is already facing an eight-game suspension for his role in the team's bounty scandal.

Joining us live from New Orleans this morning is Larry Holder. And he covers the Saints for CBSSports.com and co-hosts a talk radio show on WIFT in New Orleans called "The Sports Hangover."

Thanks for being with us this morning.

I want to clear up a couple of things. It was anonymous sources that familiar with Saints game day operations that talked to ESPN, the FBI, the U.S. attorney's office aware and they are looking into it.

You covered the Saints for six years. What do you think?

LARRY HOLDER, CBSSPORTS.COM: It's hard not to believe some of these things considering what you're seeing with the bounty program, because they lied to the NFL. The NFL has believed that they lied about that. So, it's almost hard to believe the Saints when they say they're 1,000 percent innocent because they've been proven liars before.

But they have come out more on the offensive with this than they have with the bounty scandal. When you saw the bounty scandal, it was more apologies. This, they're coming backfiring.

So, it may be a different case. But I know it has people in New Orleans again up in arms, because it's something that was not expected at all.

SAMBOLIN: No, absolutely. And you actually say a source at the Saints told you specifically that it wasn't true for a particular reason. That is that the NFL would have actually known about the eavesdropping. Could you explain that?

HOLDER: Right. The NFL on game day, they have a frequency coordinator that checks every frequency that goes on in the Superdome. This occurs in every NFL stadium. And so, a team source told me said if this would have happened, they would have been caught by the NFL originally. So, I think that's one of the reasons why they're so vehemently against this.

But, again, I think we're in the infancy of this story. There's probably more that's going to be coming out, maybe today. Who knows? But I know more people and more ears are going to be all over this story as well.

SAMBOLIN: Now, we know that this is the third scandal with the Saints and Mickey Loomis in particular and as many years. They're talking about criminal charges. What do you think is going to happen here?

HOLDER: That's a curious question because, look, you didn't see -- you heard maybe possible criminal charges with the bounties. I don't think that's going to occur.

But for once we have a "gate" attached to something that actually has to do with some sort of spying and espionage. So that's another aspect of this that's going to have to play out. I know that investigators -- I know the U.S. attorney's office here in New Orleans are going to have to look into these allegations.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I think you said it right when you said there will be much more on this.

Larry Holder, thanks for joining us this morning.

BANFIELD: It is seven minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

The warm winter giving way to a really bizarre spring. I know you saw these pictures, nearly two feet of snow falling in some places. Around the country, heavy, wet snow causing power outages and the snow and the wind certainly wreaking a bit of havoc on those travel plans for many.

Jacqui Jeras is in for Rob Marciano this morning.

I got to be honest with you. I just never expect to see pictures like that. I get it. It can happen. But tell me, Jacqui, tell me this is over.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I hope so. Yes, hopefully, it will last for winter. I don't see anything in the long-range models that would indicate anything less. But we kind of have a book-ended winter, didn't we? We have our snowtober and our big April storm. And there wasn't a whole heck of a lot in between. But, boy, this is quite a doozy, and 50.000 people still without power here this morning.

There's the two-footer mark almost, Laurel Summit, Pennsylvania. Ten inches in Newfield, and check out Covington, around six inches of snow.

For the most part, the snow is winding down. We're still getting a little bit of action coming in off the Great Lakes. And there you can see a little bit of wet weather moving up into parts of Maine. Our big low is there in Ontario. So, it is pulling away.

The winds are going to be a little bit stronger. And this could be impacting your travel if you're heading near the airports.

One other consequence of the wind -- check out these pictures. They pushed the waves up. Oh my goodness, incredible rocking waves off of Lake Erie. There you can see him. This is in Cleveland, Ohio. Those waves are going to continue to be strong for today as the winds are going to be kicking still around 25 to 30 miles per hour.

So, the rest of the country pretty quiet, guys. We still have our big flip-flop in temperatures way below average in the East, way above average in the West. There's something wrong with 90 in Rapid City, South Dakota, and not even 70 in Atlanta.

BANFIELD: Wow. Jacqui, wow is all I can say about that video.

JERAS: Isn't it amazing?

SAMBOLIN: It really is.

JERAS: You don't want to be anywhere near there.

BANFIELD: Do they put up warning signs to say don't stand near the shore when they see these winds coming?

JERAS: I would hope, I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Nobody was standing there.

BANFIELD: I got to be honest, all too often, you see people who gaze at that stuff and there's some crises that happen afterwards. It's a dangerous stuff.

Jacqui, Thank you.

JERAS: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: It is nine minutes past the hour.

This just in: gas prices are going down. The new national average, $3.85 a gallon for regular unleaded. It's down 0.9 cents in the past 24 hours. And this was just posted on AAA's Web site just a few minutes ago. We are now at the level of where gas prices were a year ago, below them slightly, actually.

So, good news for you this morning, folks.

BANFIELD: Like a whiplash, to be honest with you.

Ten minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

And just ahead on EARLY START: a star takes the stand and it is devastating. Singer Jennifer Hudson's tearful testimony at the murder trial of the man who's accused of killing three members of her family.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, a rough ending to a crazy car chase in California. Police call in a canine to end the standoff with a suspect. Did he succeed? You're going to see the pictures.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It is 13 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. Time to check our top stories making news this morning with Ms. Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies.

Just when you thought he was out, they pulled him back in -- who am I talking about? The Sanford, Florida city commissioners have rejected the Police Chief Bill Lee's offer to resign over his department's handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting investigation. Lee has been on paid leave.

Sanford's mayor, though, said he is not ready to have lee return or to show him the door.

The government's star witness will be back on the stand this morning in the trial of disgraced former Senator John Edwards. Former Edwards' aide, Andrew Young, testified yesterday for two hours telling the court he had suspicions his boss was having an affair with that videographer Rielle Hunter back in 2006. Edwards is accused of spending nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to cover up that affair while his wife was dying.

There won't be much drama, but five states are holding Republican primaries today. Polls open in less than an hour in Connecticut and New York, and at 7:00 a.m. Eastern, voting begins in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, is already showing signs of shifting towards the middle, coming out in favor of extending low-interest rates on student loans. That plan is backed by the president and opposed by most Republicans.

A canine unit ends a standoff after a wild car chase in California. During this chase in an L.A. suburb, a woman is seen jumping into a white minivan with patrol cars in hot pursuit. The woman quickly surrendered when the chase ended. But the driver only came out after -- that's right -- a police dog, ouch, was sent into the van and shall we say convinced the fleeing driver that perhaps he should put his hands up and surrender.

BANFIELD: Convinced.

SAMBOLIN: This is the second video like this in as many weeks, two weeks, I believe. A few weeks ago, a guy with the same problem, in the street and a dog attached to his rear.

BANFIELD: Look at that though, guys, I just -- I hold my breath when I see a dog jumping into action like that because you just don't know what's going to happen.

ROMANS: In this case, the bark was as bad as the bite.

BANFIELD: Oh, Romans. Romans.

SAMBOLIN: Good job.

BANFIELD: That should be the title of your new book. Her bark is not as bad as her bite.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It's 15 minutes past the hour.

Singer and actress Jennifer Hudson broke down in tears as she gave testimony in the trial of the man accused of killing her mother, brother and nephew. William Balfour is the estranged husband of Hudson's sister, Julia. Hudson was the first witness prosecutors called yesterday.

Ted Rowlands is live in Chicago with more on the incredibly emotional testimony. We know that she was incredibly emotional. What effect did that have on the courtroom?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, I think it had a dramatic effect down in the courtroom, and specifically the jury here. You know, any prosecutor wants the victim family members to be there during a trial. When that victim family member is Jennifer Hudson, it just compounds it. And it was extremely extent and emotional.

She was the first witness out of the gate. She broke down several times. She broke down talking about her mother, how close she was to her mother, saying that the day her mother was murdered, she was worried because she didn't get a text when she first woke up and that was odd because every single day, she got early morning texts and phone calls from her mother. She said she loved her so much. She slept with her until she was 16 years old that had an effect.

And then the real effect was how she felt about William Balfour, the defendant in this case. She told the court and jury that her family did not want her sister Julia to marry Balfour. She said we told her not to marry him.

And when the prosecutor said why, she paused and said, because of the way she treated her. She started to cry again. Very dramatic. Very beneficial for the prosecution.

BANFIELD: You know, I remember I was living in Chicago at the time, the search for Julian King's body, for that little boy, from the very beginning, everybody was pointing a finger at this man, at William Balfour.

So, what is the defense strategy in this case?

ROWLANDS: Well, they're saying that because everybody was pointing the finger from the very beginning like you were saying, that they missed out on the fact that Balfour didn't do it and there's no physical evidence to back this up.

This is the crux of their case. A lot of times at a triple murder you would expect a lot of physical evidence. Not in this case, Zoraida. William Balfour is not tied with DNA, fingerprints or anything else scientifically to the murder weapon, to the vehicle he supposedly took Julian King in.

This is going to be an uphill battle for the prosecution. Having Jennifer Hudson in the courtroom helps them with that battle.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I'm sure you're going to continue to follow this for us. Ted Rowlands, live in Chicago, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: It's now 18 minutes past 5:00. And it's a good chance to get an early read on some of your local news that's making national headlines. We got papers from all over the country. They're heavy when we drop them.

So, let's start with "The Dallas Morning News."

Hello, Dallas. Miss you.

OK. So, here is a story about Deion Sanders, big hero in that town, Dallas Cowboys, for a long time. Well, yesterday, the NLF Hall of Famer was involved in a domestic dispute, it seems. He tweeted about the incident as it was happening.

Here are the tweets he was sending out before arriving at his watch. Pray for me and my kids now. They just witnessed their mother and a friend jump me in my room. She's going to jail and I'm pressing charges.

Minutes later, another tweet coming out. Filling out police reports now. Thank God for this platform to issue the truth.

And then out came the photo. Here it is. A tweet including a picture of Sanders and his two sons.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BANFIELD: Filling out forms. Sanders' wife Pilar has been arrested and charged with assault in the case. There is no accounting for the value of actually chronicling this with your children. I just can't speak to that personally. I'm not sure how those children are going process that kind of stuff later.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BANFIELD: Unbelievable but very good -- innocuous -- a nice, innocuous description. Jeepers creepers.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, let's move on.

"Los Angeles Times" here. This is a really dangerous new trend you need to know about teens are getting drunk offhand sanitizer and they are winding up in the emergency room. Six teenagers in L.A. have been treated in the last few months from alcohol poisoning from drinking hand sanitizer.

Why? Well, it's cheap and easy to get and you can Google how to distill the alcohol from it. So, what happens is it makes 120-proof liquid, the equivalent to hard liquor, like a shot of whiskey or gin. It only takes a few swallows for the kids to get drunk.

Experts say parents should buy foam instead of gel hand sanitizer because it's harder to extract the alcohol, of course until they figure that out.

BANFIELD: No response to that.

SAMBOLIN: The things you have to worry about as parents, right?

BANFIELD: Kids, you can make liquor in a jail cell toilet, too, doesn't mean you should do it. Doesn't mean it taste doo. Doesn't mean any of that. So, don't go Googling that.

(INAUDIBLE)

BANFIELD: You haven't heard that?

SAMBOLIN: No.

BANFIELD: Little secrets from prison I learned.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, do tell.

BANFIELD: I spent a lot of time in jail cells, let me just put it that way. None of them because I had to be there.

Twenty minutes now past 5:0 a.m., they said it could create 1,000 overnight millionaires, as Facebook gets ready to go public. Some folks are thinking that network could be slowing down. Hmmm, I'm curious.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-four minutes past the hour. Minding your business this morning.

U.S. markets taking a nosedive yesterday. The Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500 closing sharply lower because of concerns about Europe's financial stability.

BANFIELD: Look at those arrows.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes. That didn't go away.

BANFIELD: That didn't go away.

Markets are poised for a bounce at the open right now. Stock futures all up this morning.

Switching gear, Facebook prepping for its initial offering. Growth actually is slowing a little bit in the social network.

Having nothing to do with Aaron Sorkin's movie. So, what's the story?

ROMANS: Well, you know, growth is slowing a little bit. But here's the thing, any company would kill for the Facebook kind of growth, you know, almost 45 percent revenue growth, but that's down a little bit from what it was last year.

Why do we all care? Because we're all waiting for this huge social network to go public sometime later this spring or early summer. So, we are all scrutinizing every regulatory filing they have.

Another piece of information we have now about Facebook, it now tops 900 million users -- 900 million users. How many people log in every day? Five hundred twenty-six million people log in daily. That's why Facebook is such an important technology movement.

Number two is Twitter. Twitter has like 500 million, but about only 140 million of those are something close -- those numbers are almost right, I'm sorry. But 140 million are active users. So, you can see how big Facebook is.

BANFIELD: It's faster, too. They got those users much quicker than Facebook did.

ROMANS: Right. And Facebook has been doing an awful lot of interesting things. So, they've been buying up patents. I say sprucing up around the office, getting ready for this IPO. They've been buying up patents. You know about Instagram. They paid $1 billion for Instagram and some reporting about that deal, Mark Zuckerberg has been kind of running the show. I mean, he really is in charge there.

He did that deal with Instagram basically on his own. He informed the board about it later as reporting goes. That was a billion dollar hole to fill some mobile weaknesses for Facebook. So we made a map for you to show you how many people is that. I mean, if you thought about how many people -- Facebook has 900 million users, that's equivalent to the population of the U.S., Japan, Indonesia and Brazil. That should give you an idea.

BANFIELD: A fifth of the world's population.

ROMANS: And growing. And growing. So, there you go.

SAMBOLIN: It's long term, right?

ROMANS: They are. But, you know, the fact that growth is slowing may cool the hysteria about the coming IPO in the next month or two. So, we'll see if that slower growth is something cools that down some of the --

BANFIELD: I read some of that cool hysteria about Apple and I thought I would get you yesterday. I'm going to get you next hour.

ROMANS: All right. We will.

BANFIELD: Same time.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

And coming up on EARLY START: faking pregnancy at Planned Parenthood. What the birth control organization believes is behind a surge of what it calls hoax visits.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 30 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Ashleigh, you'll see in a moment here. It's time to check the stories making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Taking the $35 a week food stamp challenge. Leaders in Philadelphia are trying to show how hard it is to live within the limits of government benefits with thousands set to lose their lifeline under a new review. We're talking to one lawmaker who is taking that challenge.

Planned Parenthood worried that it's the target of a new undercover sting, fearing an acorn like attack from opponents on abortion.

Where are you going with my dinner? Fishermen find themselves in a tug of war, look at that, with a sea lion.

And from wheeling and dealing to doing the dishes. We are hearing new details about life behind bars for Blagojevich, and we hope to hearing doesn't ruin the due there -- Ashleigh. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: All right. Thanks, Zoraida. Thirty-one minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Think about this for a second. As you're probably getting up, thinking about breakfast this morning, do you think you could feed yourself for just $5 a day? Five dollars. Philadelphia community members as well as some elected officials are going to try this out.

They're actually going to find out if they can do it as part of something called the Greater Philadelphia Food Stamp Challenge. Food stamps are provided by S.N.A.P. That's a program that short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and that program could be scaled back both in Pennsylvania and on the federal level to the $5 level.

And the food stamp challenge is this thing that's kind of meant to send a message to Republican lawmakers not to make those cuts and not to make it as difficult as $5 a day for a lot of people out there who are trying to make ends meet. Representative Bob Brady is a Democrat from Pennsylvania. He's taking part in this $5 a day food stamp program.

Currently, he is on day two. He joins me now live. So, Congressman, tell me how are you doing so far if this is day two, I don't know if you're up and at it at breakfast at 5:30 in the morning, but so far, how is it going?

REP. BOB BRADY, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I didn't have my breakfast yet. I'm looking for a scrumptious all-grain cereal for breakfast.

BANFIELD: All right. Well, that sounds healthy, but I think the message here that you and the others who are doing the challenge is that it's very, very difficult at $5 a day, you know, on that budget to try to get healthy food to feed your family. Run through a list of the things that you were able to fill up your shopping cart with at five times seven, seven days a week, $35 grocery bill?

BRADY: Rice, pasta, bread, eggs, cereal, scrumptious peanut butter and jelly. That's about it.

BANFIELD: No fruits? No vegetables?

BRADY: Well, I had some lettuce, some carrots, you know? Didn't have enough money for any tomatoes, but we want to try it. And, I think it's just a shame that -- the worst part about it, we're going to do it for one week. But there's many families got to do it for much, much longer than that. And it's repeating. It's the same menu you have to repeat over and over again.

BANFIELD: Right. So, I think -- yes, I think a lot of people who are listening right now would probably agree with you that this is not an easy thing to do, but at the same time, other people listening would say, hold on a second, it's not as though the food stamp program is the only thing out there for people in need. That's why they call it a supplemental program. So, is it fair or is this sort of hyperbole to suggest that you have to survive on just $35 a week?

BRADY: No, it's ridiculous. You can't survive on $35 a week. And, some people do rely on it. Some families have to rely on that. I mean, you're just talking about food. There's other bills that people have. You have to buy soap. You have to buy toothpaste, you have to buy deodorant.

And this is for food, and to live on $35 a week for food, and there are a lot of families in the United States and in the city of Philadelphia that rely solely on that S.N.A.P. program, and they want to cut it back.

BANFIELD: Sorry to interrupt you, but I think my question was that this is a supplemental program. It is meant to bolster other social safety net programs that are out there. So, is it fair to suggest that people have to survive on just $5 a day for the groceries and the soap and the other things you're talking about?

BRADY: My point is not a supplemental program for some people. It's a sole program for people that are unemployed, for people that have families, and even single mothers. It's not a supplement. It's the only way to get your food.

BANFIELD: OK.

BRADY: We hear stories about people running out after three weeks, running out of their food. The children, you know, eat noodles. (INAUDIBLE). That's all they eat every day. It's not nutritious, and it's wrong. And we're thinking now about cutting it back which is totally ridiculous. We feed the whole world. Let's feed ourselves.

BANFIELD: And so, one of the other issues is the legislation is looking to do an asset test for those who qualify for the food stamp program suggesting, I think, the numbers are at about $5,500 for a family, and if that family has a disabled or an elderly person, they look after, that asset test will go up to $9,000.

The assets don't include your one car and a couple of other critical things like your home and your retirement savings. But, you know, for people out there who are exhausted by our budget deficits, our ballooning budget deficits and are struggling to sort of make ends meet in this country, is the asset test a fair way to suggest families who get food stamps do need to qualify?

BRADY: Not at all. They put the asset test in because some people are taking advantage and not being quite honest. It shows that there are -- there are people are not -- they're not taking advantage of this. That they need it. What if your car breaks down? What if your heater breaks? And you have less $5,500 (ph) in savings.

I mean, people, when they are working to be able to save some money for a rainy day. Now, you're saying if you have $55 and any kind of assets other than your car, if you have two cars, then it becomes an asset, you can't qualify for the S.N.A.P. program. It's totally ridiculous. I mean, you have that money in case something should happen.

What if there's a medical bill? Again, what if your heater breaks? What if -- again, you need a transmission in your car? Totally ridiculous. There's no need for it because there's no abuse of the program. There's no abuse at all.

BANFIELD: Well, Congressman Brady, good luck with the challenge this week. I'd love to know how you do by Sunday, and if you're sick of having --

BRADY: Give me a call, I'll let you know.

BANFIELD: -- and the peanut butter and jelly. I appreciate your time.

BRADY: Give me a call.

BANFIELD: And good luck with breakfast this morning.

BRADY: Thank you. I appreciate it.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Congressman -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-six minutes past the hour. The number of Mexicans immigrating to the United States is dropping dramatically. According to the pew Hispanic Center, 1.37 million American -- Mexican immigrants -- excuse me came to the United States between 2005 and 2010. That's about half the total from the previous five-year period.

And, from 2005 to 2010, 1.39 million Mexicans and their families left the United States to return to Mexico, more than doubling the exodus of the previous five years.

Planned Parenthood officials are worried they're being targeted. A spokesman says there's been a series of suspicious incidents at Planned Parenthood clinics in at least 11 states with two dozen or more what they're calling hoax visits reported in the past several weeks.

Those hoax visits involve women who are claiming to be pregnant, asking a particular pattern of leading or provocative questions, raising concerns that the visits are being recorded as part of an organized anti-abortion sting campaign.

BANFIELD: It's now 37 minutes past 5:00 on the east coast. And still to come on EARLY START, a ferocious fight over a fish. That looks like a nice and healthy (ph) moment, doesn't it? And then, you find out they hooked a sea lion. Yes. Salmon versus fishermen and a hungry sea lion. Who do you think comes out the winner? You all find out in a moment. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: That never gets old. That is just a gorgeous tower cam picture of good old New York City. Forty-two degrees in New York City, but we're heading up to 60.

SAMBOLIN: Yey!

BANFIELD: I know. That's nice to hear, especially after the last couple of days. We had pouring rain, cold, and nasty. Maybe we're really headed towards spring and summer finally after all.

SAMBOLIN: I hope wherever you are this morning, you are headed towards some spring-like weather as well. It is 41 minutes pas the hour. Time to check stories that are making news this morning. Here is Christine Romans. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And good morning, ladies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Well, he offered to go, but Sanford's City Commission said, hey, not so fast. They rejected the proposed resignation of police chief, Bill Lee, who has been under fire for the handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Meantime, the attorney for George Zimmerman charged with murdering the Florida teenager says that Zimmerman is relieved to be out on bail.

The FBI has told the family of Etan Patz that an extensive search of a basement near their home in Lower Manhattan has come up empty. Investigators are looking for clues in the disappearance of the six- year-old boy. That disappearance 33 years ago. The FBI source tell CNN that no obvious human remains have been found.

Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, is dismissing claims by Iran that it has reversed engineered a U.S. spy drone. That drone went down in the Iranian desert late last year. The Iranians claim they brought it down. Panetta insisting the RQ170 sentinel is intentionally designed with very limited intelligence value.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I would seriously question their ability to do what they say they've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Officials have suggested that much of the data gathered by the sentinel is not stored on the drone.

Some salmon fishermen in Portland, Oregon got a big surprise while out on the Columbia River last Friday. They netted a wild Chinook Salomon and were about to throw it back in the river, but this sea lion had other ideas. After a brief tug of war, the net broke, and the sea lion won.

And it appears Rod Blagojevich is settling into life behind bars. Two former attorneys who just visited Blagojevich say that he's washing dishes in federal prison. He plans on teaching Shakespeare. He has three (INAUDIBLE) teaching Shakespeare. Here's my -- to be or not to be, that is the question.

BANFIELD (voice-over): To be or not to be free.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: But you know, how do you do that in like, you know, the Chicago accent?

BANFIELD: You know what, though, Christine, he's got that all the time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (on-camera): Wherever he called those crazy news conferences or found himself in front of cameras, he would just quote off the cuff, all kinds of literature, not just the Shakespeare. He knows his stuff. Kind of creepy. I mean, it's not creepy. Weird that he would know it.

ROMANS (on-camera): He's got a long time to share it to his new friends in the pen.

SAMBOLIN: A big Elvis Presley fan, so I thought for sure, you know, --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: He would be singing tunes.

BANFIELD: Jailhouse rock. Christine, thank you, my friend.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Forty-four minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast.

Call it life imitating art or maybe the other way around, either way, a new revival of an old play on Broadway is certainly getting a lot of attention.

SAMBOLIN: It is called "The Best Man" by legendary playwriter, Gore Vidal. Our Alina Cho recently sat down with members of the cast. She is here with more. I am very excited to learn more about that.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was very excited to meet them. We're talking about two icons here, Hollywood, James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury. Both star in "The Best Man" both, according to the crowds, steal the show. In fact, audiences love it because what they see on stage is what they also see in real life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice-over): Gore Vidal's Broadway play, "the best man" is set in a Philadelphia hotel room in the midst of a bitter fight for the 1960 presidential nomination, party unnamed. James Earl Jones plays ex-president Arthur Hockstader. Angela Lansbury is Sue-Ellen Gamadge, a political power broker who tells the dueling candidates what women want.

ANGELA LANSBURY, ACTRESS: Women don't like you trying to be funny all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Abraham Lincoln was a bit of a humorist.

LANSBURY: Yes. Well, women weren't voting in 1860.

(LAUGHTER)

LANSBURY: We both play very big, loud-mouthed characters.

(LAUGHTER)

LANSBURY: We come out and we're on.

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: The play debuted on Broadway in 1960, and once again, is playing to the crowds during a heated presidential election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: if the people of conservative --

JAMES EARL JONES, ACTOR: If he's conservatives --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're radical --

JONES: If he radical -- oh, I tell you something, he's a retail wonder (ph).

CHO: Politics is still a dirty business.

(on-camera) What do you think about what's going on in the political dog fight that we see today?

JONES: It's great drama. Great comedy, too. You can make anything of it if you watch it. I think that's what happens in our play.

CHO (voice-over): A big reason this show is such a crowd pleaser.

LANSBURY: You'll hear somebody saying amen to that. You know, oh, don't you know it. And isn't that the truth. And wow! You know? You hear that down the rows.

CHO: Which begs the question, what do they think about the presidential contest?

LANSBURY: I'm voting for Barack Obama.

(LAUGHTER) JONES: I have a line in the play, keep your vote between you and your God.

CHO: Ah.

LANSBURY: Oh.

CHO: So, you're not willing to say?

JONES: I prefer not to. But let me say this, Obama is just a man. It's not that he didn't do enough. It's that we didn't do enough.

CHO: Two octogenarians who appear to have just as much energy and appeal now more than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I get a photo with you, please?

JONES: Yes.

CHO: Eight shows a week, 81 years young.

JONES: It's a very attractive show, not only for the audience but for us. I love doing it. I could do two a day. We do that twice a week, but I could. Where the energy come from? I don't know and I don't care.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (on-camera): I mean, what a thrill to meet them. They were just adorable. Now, keep in mind that Gore Vidal's inspiration for this play was the 1960 presidential fight between Nixon and Kennedy. Now, back in those days, the conventions were high drama, a lot of suspense in the battle for delegates.

Today, a little bit of a different story, although, we almost had that this time around until Mitt Romney sort of locked it in. Interesting side note, though, back when the film was made back in 1964, rumor has it Ronald Reagan auditioned for the part of the president. That's right. He didn't get the part, apparently, because Gore Vidal did not think he wasn't presidential enough.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: That's awesome.

SAMBOLIN: It's quite a cast, also --

CHO: Unbelievable. Candice Bergen, John Larroquette, Eric McCormack.

BANFIELD: Yes.

CHO: It's quite a cast.

BANFIELD: I got to ask you, did you ask him if he could the -- CHO: I sure did. And he did, by the way -- he is unbelievable. I said to him, you know, that voice, that wonderful booming voice, the one that you're so known for. And he said, I didn't have anything to do with that. I was just born with it.

BANFIELD: But the "This is CNN." I get chills every time I hear it. How long has been going on in a decade (ph)?

CHO: Fantastic.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Alina. That was wonderful.

Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Still ahead, the glorious nation of Kazakhstan thanking Borat? Why they're warming up to their most hated fake citizen. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty-one minutes past the hour. Happening now --

James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch, testifying before the British panel investigating a phone hacking scandal involving the company's British tabloid. Murdoch appearing before lawmakers for the third time again denied knowing about the scale of illegal activities at the papers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MURDOCH, NEWS CORP. EXECUTIVE: In hindsight and knowing what we know now, whatever controls were in place failed to create the sufficient transparency around those issues and the risks around it.

However, there were senior legal managers who, you know, had a lot of experience who were working closely with the editors and with the -- and with the newsrooms. And at the time I didn't have a view that those were insufficient or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: These are live pictures from London right now as James Murdoch's testimony continues. Rupert Murdoch is scheduled to testify tomorrow.

BANFIELD: It's now 52 minutes past 5:00 a.m. on the east coast here in the United States. Time to take a look at what's trending on the interweb. And this is called the real life captain's log. Are you ready? William Shatner, better known as Captain Kirk to the rest of us, sending a message to six astronauts who are living 240 miles above the Earth on the International Space Station.

It's a message, yes, but it's really a shameless plug for his album. His album, by the way, or, you know, the covers of all the space-themed songs, it's called "Seeking Major Tom." But hey, come on, it's Shatner, and it's Shatner talking to astronauts. He's like a rock star. So, have a look (ph). (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: I wish you really good luck, good health, get some good work done, and we'll look forward to you coming back. And I hope you enjoy "Seeking Major Tom."

And I'm floating in a most peculiar way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Can you hear him singing? And I'm floating in a most peculiar way.

SAMBOLIN: Funny.

BANFIELD: By the way, in case you're wondering, we just did a segment on an octogenarian, two octogenarians. This will be the third octogenarian.

SAMBOLIN: He looks really good.

BANFIELD: Yes. He's very funny, too.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, it turned out Borat really did boost tourism for the glorious nation of Kazakhstan after all. The country banned the film, Borat, back in 2006. Now, according to the Kazak news website, the nation's foreign minister says, visa applications are up tenfold with a flood of people waiting and wanting to visit the country.

Most with a potassium deficiency. We made that last part up, but, we do know all of the nations have inferior potassium. Of course, the nation still has to deal with stuff like this. Remember last month, when the fake national anthem from the movie was played during a medal ceremony, a shooting championship in Kuwait (ph)?

BANFIELD: And look at her. She didn't even like break face or anything. She just withstood it. That was tough.

SAMBOLIN: That is tough.

BANFIELD: And by the way, it wasn't intentional. It was a mistake. Somebody downloaded it off the internet.

SAMBOLIN: How? How is that a mistake?

BANFIELD: They downloaded it off the internet. Happens all the time.

All right. 1,700 pounds of beef and cheese on top of 600 pounds of tortilla chips --

SAMBOLIN: Ah!

BANFIELD: And you got yourself some serious nachos. Take a look at that trough, because that's truly just trough eating, folks. The world's biggest serving of nachos dished out at the Kansas relays over the weekend.

SAMBOLIN: That's not look appetizing.

BANFIELD: It doesn't, does it? Although, I got to be honest, if I were there, I'd probably like it. Weighing at 4,689 pounds, served on an 80-foot tray that was almost one foot deep. So, don't just think that was an inter-two of nachos, folks. That was a whole trough of food. Apparently, 2,000 pounds of it spoiled because of the warm weather.

Ay yay-yay. So, this, apparently, easily beat out previous records set, one of them just set in October. Organizers saying 70 percent of this big trough of food, despite much of the spoiling was consumed any way. What the heck, right? Just scrape the spoiled stuff off the top.

SAMBOLIN: I got to ask you, at what point does it become spoiled, right? How many people ate that spoiled?

BANFIELD: I think -- might have been a couple of cocktails involved. I don't know. I don't know. I'm not your best judge on that one. I got my nacho joke in there. By the way, the project was to raise money for a kitchen that feeds the hungry.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, interesting, right?

BANFIELD: Yes. And it continues. I know, right?

Still ahead on EARLY START, spygate round two. The New Orleans Saints finding themselves in the middle of another big, ugly scandal. Did their general manager bug the superdome to get an unfair edge over the competition?

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