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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

New York's New Tallest Building; Journalists Attacked in Sudan; Gingrich To Leave GOP Race; New Secret Service Rules

Aired April 30, 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. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Zoraida is off this morning.

It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. Let's get started.

Back on top: the new World Trade Center reaching a milestone. A new source of pride. We're live in Lower Manhattan this morning.

And also, running for cover. If you can believe it, a TV crew -- watch -- dodging gunfire, dodging bombs falling in South Sudan.

ROMANS: And profiled by the TSA? There's an app for that. How people can report if they think they're being unfairly singled out.

BANFIELD: And we want to begin this morning with a bittersweet milestone in the skies over Lower Manhattan.

One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, is about to become the tallest building in the Big Apple. And that's supposed to happen a little later on today. That's if the wind cooperates.

Workers are scheduled to install a team that's going to lift that tower to 1,271 feet. The math takes you 21 feet higher than the city's tallest building right now. That's the Empire State Building. When construction is completed later on in 2013 or early 2014, One World Trade is going to stand at 1,776 -- yes, say it quickly, it's 1776. That makes it the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere.

There's a glitch. You got to add that spire on the top to take it to that level.

Our Poppy Harlow is live in Lower Manhattan.

This is a critical time. I don't know it's coincidental, Poppy, that this milestone is being achieved as we approach the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death. Obviously, the connection there is significant.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very significant. Absolutely. We are about six years away, Ashleigh, from when they really broke ground and began the construction here at One World Trade. I spent a lot of time on the site back in August, ahead of the 10th anniversary of September 11th and I went up in the building. And we'll talk about that in a minute.

But, of course, the focus this week is: does this make One World Trade Center a bigger terrorism target? This comes a day ahead of the one-year anniversary of the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. So that is obviously top of mind for safety officials across the country and in New York.

We did get a release from the FBI last week. I want to read that to you because this is very critical. They said, "We have no credible information that terrorist organizations are plotting attacks in the United States to coincide with the anniversary." However, it went on to say, "We assess that al Qaeda affiliates and allies remain intent on conducting attacks in the homeland, specifically, of course, focusing -- and we heard this on the Sunday morning shows from John Brennan, the counterterrorism adviser to President Obama -- focusing on airlines and, obviously on airplanes given the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death and what happened down here at what was ground zero.

I want you to take a quick listen to some sound from John Brennan, the counterterrorism adviser to President Obama. This comes from "FOX News Sunday."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: There is no credible reporting right now that there is some active plot underway to coincide with the anniversary of the bin Laden takedown. But the counterterrorism community is used to making sure that we're as vigilant as possible to guard against efforts on the part of al Qaeda or terrorist groups to mark such a day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Obviously, there's going to be very tight security down here. We're going to be here all day. The port authority, which really runs this site, Ashleigh, is going to have a ceremony here this afternoon, around 2:00 Eastern Time.

And the winds right now are pretty nonexistent down here. So, it's a good bet, at least as of now, that they are going to put that steel beam at the top of One World Trade, making it by far the tallest building in New York City, surpassing the Empire State, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So, Poppy, it has been -- you know, coming up this September, it will be 11 years. And a lot of people think that is a very long time to try to rebuild from the ashes of what was one of the worst incidents this country's ever seen. We're watching the time lapse picture. I know you had a chance to tour the building with the man in charge of the construction.

So, this is a big deal for the city. Not just the country, not just our psyche, but the city.

HARLOW: It absolutely is. I had the distinct honor really of being on the site and touring with a man named Mike Munella (ph). I think we can show you some video.

What's really interesting about Mike is that he helped construct the first World Trade Center many, many years ago. He watched it collapse from Brooklyn. He came over here the next day, September 12th, 2001 and began the clean-up process, began the rescue and recovery and ever since has been down at this site every single day, helping lead the construction.

He told me what it means for him personally, what it means for the city, but also, Ashleigh, the one day that he doesn't come is on September 11t. So, we're going to talk to him a little later this morning. Obviously, very meaningful day for him and all the people that are rebuilding.

BANFIELD: And you know what, Poppy? It's nice to say Poppy Harlow reporting from One World Trade, as opposed to Ground Zero. So, Poppy, thank you for joining us from One World Trade.

HARLOW: Yes, right. Sure.

BANFIELD: Nice to see you.

ROMANS: The Obama administration this morning is scrambling to contain a diplomatic crisis that's developing right now with China. Blind dissident Chen Guangcheng is that the center of the controversy. After a dramatic escape from 18 months of house arrest in China, he ran into trouble with the Chinese government for accusing them of conducting late-term abortions and sterilizations as part of its One Child Policy. It's now believed Chen is in the protection of the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

Officials from both countries are refusing to comment. A close friend of Chen says the activist is not seeking asylum in the U.S. He wants to live freely in China, something authorities have prevented.

All of this while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to visit China for economic and strategic talks beginning Thursday.

BANFIELD: The Coast Guard is suspending its search for a missing sailor after a racing accident that left three crew members dead. Their boat was taking part in the Newport yacht race this weekend when it apparently collided with a bigger vessel in the Pacific near the Coronado Islands. Authorities say that's where three bodies and the boat's wreckage were located. That's the first death in that race's 65-year history.

ROMANS: We are learning this morning -- three generations of one family were the victims of a horrific highway crash in New York City. An SUV packed with seven people including three children flipped over a guardrail, plunged some 60 feet to the ground. It landed upside down in an area of the Bronx zoo that's closed to the public.

All seven were killed, including grandparents, parents and children. The youngest, I think, three. Police are still trying to determine what caused this crash.

Back in 2006, six people died on the same stretch of road there.

BANFIELD: U.S. troops are on the hunt for African warlord Joseph Kony. He's the villain in that viral Kony 2012 video. President Barack Obama sent about 100 Special Forces to Central Africa last year to track down the leaders of Kony's group which is called the Lord's Resistance Army.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. He and the LRA gained worldwide attention with the release of the Kony 2012 viral video. The LRA is accused of killing villagers in several African countries and abducting children to use as soldiers or sex slaves.

ROMANS: Harrowing video of Western journalists caught in the crossfire in Sudan, running for cover as at least a half dozen bombs drop on a camp in South Sudan. Reporter Robin Creile (ph) says she was on the front lines when Sudanese army warplanes attacked them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were three kilometers from the front line when we heard incoming fire from what the soldiers say were gunships and MiGs. We were then forced to take cover. Once the firing -- once there was a lull in the firing, we decided to head out in our vehicle because it was simply too dangerous. We didn't know what to expect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The president of Sudan has declared a state of emergency. South Sudan split from Sudan last year. The two nations are still fighting over borderlines and oil wealth.

BANFIELD: It's week two of the John Edwards trial. And it's about to get started in North Carolina this morning. It's going to pick up this morning where it left off on Friday, with Sheree Young on the witness stand. She is the wife of former Edwards aide Andrew Young.

And she told the court on Friday that their husband did everything for the disgraced former senator, even yard work and buying Christmas gifts for his kids. She testified it almost destroyed their marriage because her husband had no time for her or his own family.

Edwards is charged with six counts of campaign violations, accused of using campaign cash money for hush money. He's also facing 30 years behind bars if he's convicted of those counts.

ROMANS: Two presidents for the price of one. Some 500 well- healed supporters attended a Virginia fundraiser Sunday headlined by President Obama and former President Bill Clinton. Cameras were not invited to this event, the first of three joint fund-raisers for Obama and Clinton. Clinton took a shot at Obama's likely campaign rival Mitt Romney, saying he wants to do what Republicans have done before, on steroids.

BANFIELD: How about that?

And this just in, folks, gas prices dropping again over the past 24 hours. We're getting the report in right now. The new national average for a gallon of regular unleaded: $3.82. There you have it.

Gas prices on the national level have been dropping every day for the past two weeks, which is a welcomed relief for drivers. After it was looking like we were going to see $4 a gallon gas nationwide. That is the level, as Christine Romans always tells us, where more people say they start to curb their driving and their habits to save money.

As you always mention, hey, that's not my gas price in my community.

ROMANS: I know. That average gas price is a little bit like the average temperature in America. It really doesn't mean everything for you, right, because every state is different, different taxes. But that tells you it's been slowly trending lower.

Still costs me 52 bucks to fill up the minivan. So, that's the number that I care about. That's the number you care about, too, right? It's the number that cost to fill up your car, not necessarily the average.

BANFIELD: You know what it cost me to fill up my start car?

ROMANS: What?

BANFIELD: Ten 10 bucks. It's not that cheap, but it's pretty cheap.

ROMANS: We'll leave the SUV in the garage.

Ahead on EARLY START: chaos on campus. A lockdown ordered at an Alabama college after an unusual incident at one of the dorms.

BANFIELD: And some surprising information about sharks and people that may have you thinking twice about which species is more dangerous.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It's 14 minutes after the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

The One World Trade Center tower is about to become the tallest building in the Big Apple. This afternoon, workers are scheduled to install a beam. And when they install that beam, the structure will rise to 1,271 feet, making it 21 feet taller than the Empire State building. When construction is complete in late 2013, maybe early 2014, the so-called Freedom Tower will stand at 1,776 feet tall, 1,776.

BANFIELD: I get it. That's great number, isn't it? It makes you feel good to be in America.

You know, there's a diplomatic crisis developing between our country and China. A dissident named Chen Guangcheng is believed to be holed up in our embassy over there in Beijing this morning after escaping house arrest. All while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is preparing to make a visit to China about economics and strategic talks. It's scheduled for later this week.

ROMANS: The University of South Alabama has lifted a lockdown on campus. That follows an armed robbery at a college dorm yesterday. The victim was robbed of $1,000 and a cell phone and a shot was fired. No one was injured. One suspect is in custody. Police are now looking for a second gunman there.

BANFIELD: And the millionaire tycoon who adopted his 42-year- old girlfriend will today face sentencing in a drunk driving conviction. John Goodman could get up to 30 years in prison when he's against the judge today. He went ahead and adopted his girlfriend in a very strategic financing situation where she would have access to trust funds, but that they would be blocked from other avenues -- a lot of it many people thinking to block it from the victim's family, but perhaps not necessarily so.

ROMANS: All right. Can't we all just get along? A new study says humans are causing a steep decline in the shark population in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers compared the number of reef sharks in areas near human populations with those near uninhabited ones, and they found shark numbers dropped by more than 90 percent near some populated islands. So, who's more dangerous, shark or humans?

BANFIELD: I like how you called it sharkacides, or homicides.

ROMANS: I said more are killed by people though.

BANFIELD: So true.

If you have been racially profiled by the TSA, now there's an app for that. It's going to allow users to report allege profiling in real time and it will be unveiled late their morning at a news conference. Organizations representing several minority groups will be on hand to introduce what they are calling a novel marriage between technology and civil rights activism.

ROMANS: And the comedy "Think Like A Man," base on Steve Harvey's bestselling book, is the number one movie in America two weeks running. It made $18 million this weekend at the box office. "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" brought in $11.4 million. And "The Luck One" was third, $11.3 million.

BANFIELD: For an expanded look at all of our top stories, you can head to our blog CNN.com/EarlyStart.

That takes us to 16 minutes after the hour.

Rob Marciano has got a well-deserved morning off this morning. So, Bonnie Schneider is sitting in for him today.

It's nice to see you. You're looking spry on this early hour.

Hi, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Thank you. I am spry.

And we are looking at some nice weather to wake you up across the country, Ashleigh and Christine. Right now, though, I wanted to draw your attention to where we're seeing some heavy rain, the Midwest. Let's take a look.

We had quite a bit of rain over the past weekend and more of it is working its way into Kansas City and St. Louis, particularly further to the south and west, in Oklahoma City, heavy thunderstorms are coming in. Baseball-sized hail fell in Illinois -- incredibly large hail and very damaging to anyone in its path.

And this is going to be what we expect to see going through the next month or so because we are in the heart of severe weather season where we get these intense thunderstorms and they produce large hail particularly when we have really intense weather. So, as we look at the flood threat overnight, we'll be watching for it in parts of Missouri, Oklahoma and even in Texas.

But it's down in Florida, we have seen quite a bit of rain over the weekend. The totals take us to three to five inches. Flood threat continues for areas into southeast Florida. You can see the reason why -- plenty of rain sweeping into the Miami-Dade area this morning and more is expected.

Today's threat for severe weather across parts of the Midwest and even into the South, we're looking at that into areas in the Great Lakes, and further as I mentioned into Oklahoma City, we could se more large hail and damaging winds.

Well, this morning, it's feeling kind of cool out there as we wrap up the month of April. We've got temperatures of 46 degrees in New York City, but even colder in Syracuse, below freezing. And with that said, expect the teens and 20s for this morning. Eventually it will warm up to about 60 in New York City. But definitely feeling a little cooler than we've been experiencing out there -- Ashleigh, Christine.

BANFIELD: All right, Bonnie. Thank you for that. Appreciate it.

It is now 18 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. We're getting an early read, very early read.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Actually it's very late night read on the West Coast, early in the East.

BANFIELD: You've been out partying? Here's what's happening for you tomorrow.

We've got the national headlines that's coming from local papers from Salt Lake City, from Los Angeles, from New York.

Let's start with Salt Lake. "The Tribune" there saying an amazing story of survival from a 59-year-old hiker. Apparently, she broke her leg while she's out hiking and was stuck out there for four days. No food, no water on her person.

Before she finally was rescued, she had to go through dehydration, hunger pains and hallucinations. She was able to maneuver her way to a nearby creek to get water, but she says she remembers screaming through the night, "This is 10 times worse than childbirth." Yes, I imagine so.

She was rescued searchers finally spotted her tracks. Congratulations to her. We wish her a speedy recovery.

ROMANS: That's a made-for-TV movie right.

All right. "The Los Angeles Times" this morning talking about the FAA. It may soon clear the way for public safety agencies to use unmanned spy drones.

BANFIELD: I love this.

ROMANS: A lot of police departments have been buying these little spy drones for all kinds of reasons like, you know, tracking Alzheimer's patients who get, you know, who wonder away, drug crimes. The FAA has a May 14th deadline to rewrite new rules on how it will police file another agency to use these drones. A lot of them have already spent the money on these drones, but federal drones designed to protect the nation's airspace kept them grounded. New rules will determine who can fly a drone, how high, how far, whether it can pose a threat.

And critics say the FAA is moving too quickly. And, of course, there are people who are very concerned Ashleigh about privacy. Can you imagine all of these little spy drones, essentially, surveillance drones operated by local authority force a lot of different reasons?

BANFIELD: It's interesting, though. The FAA getting involved. We go to our local park every couple of weekends to watch all the people with their remote control helicopters and planes. And they are all flying below 400 feet and they said essentially that the elevations where these guys are flying -- and I think why aren't they governed by the FAA as well?

ROMANS: I think we're going to see so many of these things, that's why they're getting involved. But the privacy folks are still be very, very concerned.

BANFIELD: I also thought it's a great idea for our business, when we go to cover a story. Use one of those little control helicopters --

ROMANS: Sure is cheaper and smaller than a big helicopter.

BANFIELD: That's true.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, the inventors of digital music and tablets doing some innovating tax strategy. How Apple avoids paying billions in taxes and it's all perfectly legal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Welcome back. Twenty-four minutes now past 5:00. We're minding your business this morning.

The markets certainly closed higher for the week last week, got the gains now for you made on Friday alone. The markets closing across the board, NASDAQ ending the week, closing six points higher, still reeling from the strong earnings, though, from Apple.

BANFIELD: Right. Apple makes so much money, it's changing the lives of so many consumers, right? The company is such an incredible success story that it's gaining a lot of scrutiny over how it makes its products.

As you heard, you learned a lot about its manufacturing plants in China, and the working conditions there. Now, the "New York Times" is investigating Apple's innovative tax policies and strategies.

Apple, like other companies, works to keep its tax bill as low as it can. That's not a shock, right? To return money for shareholders, that means paying as little as humanly and legally possible to governments.

How? Here are some examples. By opening offices in states below corporate rate like Nevada. It has nothing in corporate tax, zero corporate taxes there. Tech companies like Apple have more flexibility in where they have their offices and their operations than say carmakers do. So, Apple has offices in low tax countries abroad, like Ireland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands, all perfectly legal ways to keep Apple's tax bills low.

In a lengthy response to "The New York Times" story, Apple defended its tax strategy, saying, "In the first half of fiscal year 2012, our U.S. operations have generated almost $5 billion in federal and state income taxes, including income taxes withheld on employees stock gains, making us among the top payers of U.S. income tax."

The statement continued, "Apple has conducted all its business with the highest of ethical standards, complying with applicable laws and accounting rules."

But as this company gets bigger and more successful and more people are saying, hmm, should it be employing more people in the U.S., should it be paying more taxes, you're going to be seeing more investigations like that in the "New York Times." We'll tweet it out so people can tell us what they think about it themselves.

And one thing you need to know today, we're doing this one thing --

BANFIELD: Fabulous feature Christine Romans, who is just a wealth of knowledge, writes books all the time on all her spare time, has this great tip for you every single day.

ROMANS: OK. The one thing you need to know about your money today. There's a big jobs report on Friday. You're going to be hearing a lot of politicking about jobless rates. What matters to you is your jobless rate. It's either 100 percent or zero percent. At this stage of the game, you can only focus on your own job market.

So, don't listen to any of the politicking, don't listen to any of the bashing on the campaign trail. You're job market is the one.

BANFIELD: But don't get depressed if you hear the bad numbers.

ROMANS: Absolutely, absolutely.

BANFIELD: Good, good.

All right. So, ahead on EARLY START: London is preparing for the Summer Olympic Games, the organizers have something very explosive to tell you. And that's what I mean literally, such an explosive plan that the people living there are questioning their safety. Wait until you hear what it is they're going to do there.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Thirty minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans in for Zoraida Sambolin this morning here. So, what's happening --

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): The new one World Trade Center is about to become New York's tallest building wind permitting. Live pictures right here. Workers are scheduled to install a beam this afternoon that will stretch the tower to 1,271 feet, 21 feet taller than the Empire State Building.

There's a diplomatic crisis brewing between the U.S. and China al over dissident, Chen Guangcheng who's believed to be in the protection of the U.S. embassy in Beijing this morning. This, after escaping house arrest.

And weeks two of the John Edwards' trial. Cheri Young (ph), the wife of former Edwards' aide, Andrew Young, she'll be back on the stand this morning. She told the court Friday, said her husband was so consumed with protecting the disgraced former senator, it almost destroyed their marriage -- Ashleigh.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: All right. Thanks, Christine. Thirty-one minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

Newt Gingrich certainly made the Republican nomination race interesting, you could say, with the clever attacks and the noble ideas. If you remember, specifically, SNL's treatment of the moon base, but after only winning two primaries, South Carolina and Georgia, Newt Gingrich is finally calling it quits.

A source close to the former House speaker is saying that Gingrich is going to officially end his presidential bid on Wednesday, instead of Tuesday, as previously leaked and reported.

Our Paul Steinhauser who is CNN's political editor joins us live now with more on this. OK. So, Paul, I heard an analyst, I think, on one of the Sunday morning talk shows this week sort of jokingly say, oh, he's still in the race? I can't tell you how many reports I've now heard that he's dropping out on a certain day. Does it matter?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It really doesn't matter. Listen, you know, I mean, this nomination battle has been over for a while ever since Rick Santorum, who is really Romney's main rival for the last month or two, when he suspended his campaign early in April, that's when it ended. Gingrich has not been a factor in the primaries for quite some time. Yes. It's going to be Wednesday now.

That's what we hear right here in the D.C. area. He's doing it his way, right? He's done everything in his campaign his way. He's going out. He's going to suspend his campaign his way. We know he's going to suspend the campaign. We know he's going to endorse Romney. The big question, of course, Ashleigh, will Mitt Romney be with him at that event.

We believe that Romney is going to be in the D.C. area on Wednesday. So, stay tuned. We could see the two men together.

BANFIELD: Right. So, that leaves us with the other candidate who, right around the same time, decided to call it quits and that's Rick Santorum.

STEINHAUSER: Yes.

BANFIELD: There's been this discussion about the May 4th meeting between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, and yet, still no discussion of official endorsement. What are we expecting at the May 4 meeting?

STEINHAUSER: That is the big question mark whether there will be an endorsement. And right now, you know, I don't believe that there will be one. There could be one, but I tell you, I've talked to a lot of top Santorum aides, and they're staying very mum on that. Listen, Rick Santorum wants a voice for his supporters, those Tea Party backers, those social conservatives, the people that really endorsed and backed him in the primaries. He wants to make sure they have a voice going forward under a Romney nomination. So, that's one of the things he's looking for and also look for what kind of role Rick Santorum will play in helping Romney and also in helping Republicans win back the Senate. So, stay tuned on that.

BANFIELD: You know, Paul, isn't that really what this is all about? Yes, I will give you my official endorsement, but we're going to barter first to find out what I get out of the deal.

STEINHAUSER: Behind the scenes, yes, they'll never say that publicly, but behind the scenes, you know a lot that that is going on. No doubt about that.

BANFIELD: Yes. I think Americans are smart enough to figure that one out.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: All right. Let's talk about this other thing. I always loved hearing -- even me as a news person has been kicking so many stories by saying it's on, the campaign is official. But truly, the Obama campaign kicked off the Obama campaign this weekend and they did so with a really big hitter. That would be your cue, Paul. Go for it.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I thought for a moment I stumped you. I'm like, dude, you're the political editor.

(LAUGHTER)

STEINHAUSER: I'm sorry. I thought you were tossing to some sound. No doubt about it. Listen, take a look at this video. This is from last Friday and this is pretty hard hitting. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He had to decide. And that's what you hire a president to do. You hire the president to make the calls when no one else can do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: OK. So, that's a video from the Obama re-election team. Tomorrow, of course, Ashleigh, we all know, is the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. That video from former President Clinton praising Obama's role in the decision-making process, and the video also questions whether Mitt Romney would have made the same call if he were in the oval office a year ago.

It is a pretty hard-hitting video and a lot of talk right now whether the Obama re-election team is making too much politics out of the one-year anniversary of Bin Laden. You just saw Clinton there. Listen, he's going to have a big role in this re-election. Take a look at this picture from last night, President Obama, former President Clinton and Terry McAuliffe, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, all teaming up in the McCall's (ph) house for a fundraiser.

The first time you've seen Clinton and Obama together. You're going to see a lot more of that. Four years ago, when Clinton's wife, Hillary, was running for the nomination, they were rivals. Now, Bill Clinton is firmly on board. He's going to be a big player, I think, in the Obama re-election team.

BANFIELD: And I got to be honest with you, like, didn't anybody expect that if you had a big coup under your belt during your first term like getting the worst guy in American history that you would capitalize on it? That's considered a feather in your cap, isn't it?

STEINHAUSER: And that is politics, no doubt about it. But Republicans and Senator John McCain, among them, very big critics saying, listen, this is not something you should politicize. This argument is going to go on for a while. No doubt about it, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Yes. Yes. One last question just to see if you're really awake at 36 minutes after the hour.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Steinhauser, what's the square root of pi?

STEINHAUSER: Oh, boy! You got me on that one.

BANFIELD: Totally kidding. My understanding like there will be no math in this interview. It's good to see you. Thanks for getting up early, Paul. Nice to see you -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Anti-bullying activist, Dan Savage, this morning under fire over a speech he gave at the National High School Journalist Conference. Use expletives, he bashed the bible. It was so bad, in fact, that a bunch of kids got up and walked out. Savage is best known for his, "it gets better" campaign to combat anti-gay bullying.

About a dozen teams walked out on his speech when he slammed parts of the bible using a word that we can't repeat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN SAVAGE, CREATOR OF THE IT GETS BETTER PROJECT: We can learn to ignore the full (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in the bible about gay people. It's funny that someone on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the bible, how (EXPLETIVE DELETED) some people react.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: These are high school kids that he's talking to. Savage later said, quote, "I apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings, but I have a right to defend myself." About 700 residents of an East London apartment complex have been warned surface to air missiles could be stationed on their rooftop to defend the Summer Olympic games. Yes, missiles on the rooftop. Everyone living in the complex received leaflets informing them there could also be 10 soldiers position on their roof for up to two months. The apartment facility is in the -- it's that call the bow (ph) section? Yes, the bow section.

London just two miles from site of the Olympic stadium. The London games begin in less than three months. Britain confirms more than 13,000 troops are being deployed on land, at sea, and in the air to help police and security guards protect the Olympics.

An eyewitness to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy wants the world to know that she heard two guns fired on that fateful (ph) day in 1968, and she's quite sure there was a second shooter. Nina Rhodes-Hughes was a young actress, standing just a few feet from assassin, Sirhan Sirhan and RFK in that Los Angeles Hotel more than 40 years ago.

All accounts from that day say eight shots were fired. Rhodes- Hughes says she heard more than a dozen shots but claims police altered her account.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF NINA RHODES-HUGHES, WITNESS TO ROBERT KENNEDY'S ASSASSINATION: What has to come out is that there was another shooter to my right, and Robert Kennedy was also to my right where Sirhan Sirhan was almost straight ahead and a tad to my left standing on some steel, you know, raised platform, and that there were two shooters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The 68-year-old Sirhan is serving a life sentence. The U.S. district court in Los Angeles is about to rule on his request to be released, retried, or granted a hearing on new evidence based on part on Rhodes-Hughes claim that there was another shooter that day.

There's a new code of conduct now in place for the Secret Service in the wake of the prostitution scandal in Colombia. The new rules prohibit agents traveling overseas from visiting non-reputable establishments or bringing foreign nationals to their hotel rooms.

Alcohol may be consumed in moderate amount while off-duty but is banned within ten hours of reporting for work. These aren't rules already --

BANFIELD: I was just going to say, why is that not already --

ROMANS: I'm sorry. President Obama's next foreign trip will be to Mexico in June. More sober people, apparently.

BANFIELD: No breaking the speed limit, either.

ROMANS: Right. BANFIELD: There's another one for you. All right. Thirty-nine minutes now past 5:00, and everybody and everything is fair game when it comes to the White House correspondents dinner. It happened over the weekend. Boy, was it funny? President Obama and Jimmy Kimmel were joking about the upcoming election, joking about Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and even the Secret Service scandal wasn't off limits.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMMY KIMMEL, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: I do have a lot of jokes about the Secret Service. You know, I told them for $800, I wouldn't tell them, but they only offered 30, so --

(LAUGHTER)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a lot more material prepared, but I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: Mr. President, you remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: Last week, we learned that the president's two favorite steaks are rib-eye and seeing eye.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious. Of course, I know everybody is predicting a nasty election, and thankfully, we've all agreed that families are off-limits. Dogs, however, are apparently fair game.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: It's great to be here this evening in the vast magnificent Hilton ballroom. Or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: You know, there's a term for guys like President Obama, probably not two terms but --

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: -- there is.

OBAMA: Four years ago, I looked like this. Today, I look like this.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: And four years from now, I will look like this.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: It was funny this year. I will say, last year, I thought it was funnier. Seth Myers did it last year, but it was -- you know, the president gave the orders to get Bin Laden, then went to that dinner last year. And then, by the time it was the next day, we were all talking about Bin Laden, no one was talking about the correspondents dinner.

BANFIELD: I know. Seth Meyers kind of missed all his on-cam time --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: But talk about grace under pressure, right, the president going and being funny and able to really keep a straight face and keep that secret all the way to the dinner after giving you orders and wondering, wondered how that projects going that are left behind.

ROMANS: As far as we know, there were no secrets yesterday or this weekend.

BANFIELD: As far as we know. Kind of fascinating.

ROMANS: All right. Still to come, the ugliest user -- an iPhone app attracting national attention and criticism, of course, for its take on beauty or lack thereof.

BANFIELD: Ha-yayay.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning, Washington, D.C. It's 50 degrees right now. Later, should be cloudy and 69. Look, the sun is just going to start to rise here in the next few minutes.

All right. The White House has got very sticky diplomatic crisis on its hands with China this morning. It revolves around blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng. Chen is a self-taught lawyer who rose to fame in the late 1990s for being an advocate for victims of abuse at the hands of the Chinese government, like poor women forced into sterilization, et cetera.

He served four years in prison before being confined to house arrest. Over the weekend, he made a dramatic escape from 18 months of house arrest. It's now believed he's holed up in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. And therein lies the problem. Now, both countries refusing to comment.

Stan Grant is live in Beijing for us this morning. Stan, all of this is developing as the secretary of state is preparing to head to China for critical strategic economic talks later this week. It's in the best interest of both countries to diffuse it, isn't it?

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly is, Christine, but that's going to be a problem. You know, this is now a political time bomb. We know in the past that Hillary Clinton has raised the cause of Chen Guangcheng. Human rights is always a litmus test when the U.S. and China sit across from each other.

We know they talk about other things, trade and so on. It's a very, very brittle relationship, but really, this is lighting a fire under that relationship. What happens in the next few days could be absolutely critical. What we've seen over the past week has been extraordinary, Christine, the escape of Chen Guangcheng from his captors.

Eighteen months they had him there, 24/7, day and night they were watching him. And we've seen in the past just how vigorous, how violent these guards could be. We tried to visit Chen Guangcheng last year with the actor, Christian Bale, of course, known for Batman, we saw what happened there. They attacked us physically. Punches were thrown.

There was a car chase. Our camera was damaged. And extraordinary, this man, a blind man, was able to creep out at night, jump over a wall, cross a creek as well and then meet a car at a secret rendezvous which brought him to Beijing -- Christine.

ROMANS: Wow. Now, how is China reacting to all this this morning?

GRANT: Well, China does not like surprises, and it certainly doesn't like anyone speaking out about this story either. What they've done is implement a full information crackdown. State media is not able to report this. When you go on social media here, the equivalent of Twitter, they're blocking any mention of words that may be associated with Chen Guangcheng.

Try to search blind, you're blocked. Try to search U.S. embassy, you're blocked. Put in CNN, you're blocked as well. And dissidents who speak out, they're being rounded up, detained, and questioned -- Christine.

ROMANS: And that, of course, par for the course, Stan. Just quickly, behind you, is that fog behind you? I can barely see --

(LAUGHTER)

GRANT: This is why they call it Grayjing instead of Beijing. That is dust off the Gobi desert. That's what we breathe each night.

ROMANS: Oh, my goodness. I thought, could someone wash the window? But I had a feeling the window is clean. Stan Grant, thank you so much. Nice to see you from Grayjing reporting live this morning. Thanks, Stan.

BANFIELD: That's incredible. I thought that was fog that would burn off later on. ROMANS: I caught him by surprise because he's so used to it.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I know, right? Grayjing. Interesting. And all those bicycles, too.

It's 48 minutes now past 5:00 a.m. on the East Coast. Time to check our top stories making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): It's a milestone, folks, for that new tower going up at one World Trade Center in New York City. Later today, wind permitting, wind permitting, workers are going to be able to install a beam that will make it the tallest structure in New York. It will eclipse the Empire State Building which stands at 1,250 feet tall.

ROMANS (voice-over): Police in New York City are still trying to find out what caused an SUV to lose control and plunge over a highway guardrail, plunge to the ground 60 feet below. Seven people in that vehicle died, all members of the same family, including three children.

BANFIELD: The attorney for George Zimmerman is set up a blog to keep the media and other interested parties updated on Zimmerman's legal defense. His lawyer tell us some $200,000 has already been raised in support of the neighborhood watch volunteer who's charged the second-degree murder to the death of Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin.

ROMANS: And Google has agreed to pay a $25,000 fine for allegedly obstructing an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission. The agency was trying to find out whether Google violated federal law by collecting and storing data from encrypted Wi-Fi networks. FCC officials say they didn't find enough evidence to conclude any laws were broken. $25,000

BANFIELD: A big full-bodied jolt. That is what it feels like to be struck by lightning, so says this pregnant Ohio woman. Yes. And she lived to tell the story, Christine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY LOWE, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING OUTSIDE HER HOME: It was a huge flash, just this big boom. I, like, felt it jolt up my arm, and out my left arm, and out my toes. They're rubber-soled shoes. And usually, on my way to work, I would have heels on. And, I was going to throw them away yesterday. I didn't.

I put them on today. And, first thing they said when I checked in was that they probably saved my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: My Lord.

ROMANS: Is her baby OK?

BANFIELD: Baby is OK. The doctors say that Kelly Lowe and her tummy all recovering. She and her husband are going to have quite the story to tell that little one.

ROMANS: Some a have morning sickness, some have swollen ankles, she gets struck by lightning. A lot of things to tell about --

BANFIELD: Amazing.

ROMANS: A French engineering firm claims that it modified traditional winter by creating (ph) an appliance that makes drinking water from humid air. The company plans to roll out the WMS 1000 for sale next year. They'll focus on remote locations and (ph) countries where water is scarce. The company hopes the turbines will eventually help rural areas become self-sufficient when it comes to water supply.

BANFIELD: Can you imagine just having a big old drink of the water out of New York City's air?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (on-camera): All right. Next on EARLY START, how ugly are you? A new app -- we had the same reaction. A new app has the answer. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It's time to look at what's trending on the web this morning.

Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder, but now, there's an iPhone app to determine just how ugly you are.

BANFIELD (on-camera): You're joking, right?

ROMANS: I know. The ugly meter pro is a big seller worldwide. You snap a picture, and the ugly meter scans your face and rates you on a scale of 1 to 100.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JO OVERLINE, CREATOR, "UGLY METER PRO": How you do your hair and you have a beard, those things don't matter. It's facial structure. It doesn't matter. Everybody is interested in vanity, and they like to know where they rank.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Facial structure, you can change it. I mean, it's like a brutally honest --

BANFIELD: Do they have a jerk meter?

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: I know. Certainly 100. The ugly meter lets you post the results to Facebook or Twitter.

BANFIELD: Sounds like a Mark Zuckerberg thing, doesn't it? That's how Facebook got started. He was rating all the pretty girls.

ROMANS: I don't think Facebook is going to buy this company or --

BANFIELD: And I know who would be number one on the jerk meter. Just saying.

Los Angeles Angels -- well, the Los Angeles Clippers, excuse me, because I really don't know much about sports. Anyway --

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Pulling off one of the most stunning comebacks in NBA playoff history or result, I'm told. Coming back at 27 points down on the road to the Memphis Grizzlies. It happened last night. Final score, 98-97. They finished the game with a 28-3 run in points. The incredible rally gives them a one-nothing lead in the playoff series. So, congratulations.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: You know, it's funny. I do like seeing everybody excited. I love the emotion, of course, and all those darn stats. I just don't have enough space in my head for that. I don't have much space for (INAUDIBLE), actually.

ROMANS: Ahead on EARLY START, a big milestone, of course, for the Big Apple. The new World Trade Center tower about to reach record heights in a matter of hours. You're looking at it. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)