Return to Transcripts main page


Chen Wants To Leave China; Bin Laden's "Treasure Trove"; Blame The Game?; Locked In Cell Without Food Or Water; Weaver No-Hits The Twins; 13 Charged In FAMU Hazing Case; Former NFL Linebacker Junior Seau Dead; Republicans Unite; Al Qaeda Unmasked

Aired May 3, 2012 - 05:59   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Zoraida is off today. 6:00 a.m. on the east, so let's get started.


BANFIELD: And we are just hours away right now from the release of the Bin Laden files. There are documents and digital files and recordings that were found the night that terror leader, Osama Bin Laden, was shot dead. Coming up, we are going to get a sneak peek of what they say.

Junior Seau, another NFL great, gone too soon. This time from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.


LUISA MAUGA SEAU, MOTHER: He never say nothing to me. Junior!


ROMANS: His mother absolutely overcomes with grief. The fans asking if the game he loved contributed to his death. We're going to talk to a friend and former player, Jamal Anderson.

BANFIELD: Left handcuffed in a federal holding cell for five days. No food, no water. Forgotten. A college student saying he was sure at one point he was going to die.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to do what I had to do to survive, you know.


BANFIELD: He even says he started carving a goodbye note to his mom into his arm with his own broken glasses. How he ended up there and more of this unbelievable tale just ahead.

ROMANS: We begin with a stunning turn of events in Beijing where dissident Chen Guancheng is now pleading with President Obama to get him out of China.

Chen says he doesn't feel safe there, that a deal struck between the United States and China this week won't protect him or his family.

That he feels abandoned by the America after spending six days holed up in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Chen says his wife was being threatened by Chinese authorities.

He spoke to CNN's Stan Grant from his hospital room yesterday.


CHEN GUANGCHENG, ACTIVIST (through translator): I would like to say, please do everything you can to get our whole family out. I'm very disappointed with the U.S. government. The embassy kept lobbying me to leave, he says, and promised to be with me at the hospital. But this afternoon soon after we got here, they were all gone.


ROMANS: The U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Lockee, tells CNN at all points we were intent in carrying out his wishes and ensuring we could put together something that met his needs. He made it clear from the beginning he wanted to stay in China. We asked him if he wanted to go to the United States. He said no -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It is two minutes now past 6:00. Christine, thank you. In just a few hours from now, the proverbial curtain is going to be lifted off of some of Osama Bin Laden's plans for future of al Qaeda and also the way he was living before he died.

It is a hall of documents, folks. Hard drives, flash drives, all sorts of documents seized during the raid on the terror leader's hideout in Pakistan nearly a year ago. It's all going to be made public online for you to see, maybe not all, but a lot.

Some of the information, including Bin Laden's orders to his followers, but also his mind-set in the final isolated years and it certainly paints a picture of a man who was not only paranoid, but a micromanager, often dictating his follower's every move.

Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst and the author of the brand new book "Manhunt." He's one of the few people outside of the government who's already seen some of these documents, been inside that compound and one of the only people who has had a chance to interview Bin Laden himself.

It's great to see you. (Inaudible) that it would be at this very time that we get to talk to you about your book. First of all, before I get to the details of the documents, which I'm fascinated with, what was it like inside that house?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, the overwhelming impression, Ashleigh, they were not living large. This was 24 people in this compound. It's a big building, but you know, living cheap by general.

Their beds were basically bits of plywood hammered together, no air conditioning. Hot in the summer. Few gas heaters, as it gets cold in the winter. Growing their own crops. It was a squalor suburban compound. That was my overall impression.

BANFIELD: If you see those pictures of him watching television drape with blanket with his remote control. The television looks like it sort of a rudimentary setup. What about the facilities, cooking and cleansing --

BERGEN: His three wives were there. A 64-year-old, 54-year-old and a 29-year-old wife, they all had their own kitchen and their own sort of bathroom facilities.

BANFIELD: The hole in the ground is the bathroom, right?

BERGEN: His bathroom was a hole in the ground. So, you know, you -- and there was medicine scattered around the place, children's toys. There was a ferocious assault.

BANFIELD: You could see the blood?

BERGEN: Yes, you could see the blood on the ceiling where they shot him through the head. You could see the blood marks sort of spattered on the ceiling.

BANFIELD: So now tell me about some of the most significant documents you had a chance -- by the way, they didn't let you see everything?

BERGEN: Well, they're not going to release everything. I mean, there are more than 6,000 documents. Some of them were trivial, some of them were significant and some of them are still operational.

BANFIELD: What stood out the most?

BERGEN: You know, I mean, this is Bin Laden unplugged. I mean, he never thought that these memos would end up in the hands of the CIA.

BANFIELD: And did he sound kind of average?

BERGEN: I mean, 48 pages. He would write these massive memos, advising his affiliate groups in Somalia, for instance, not to use the word al Qaeda in their name. It's going to be tough to fund raise if you use the word al Qaeda.

BANFIELD: There's a branding problem?

BERGEN: A branding problem.

BANFIELD: Before you move on from that, I want to read something from your book about this branding issue and some of the ideas that Osama Bin Laden had for a brand new name for al Qaeda.

Bin Laden went on to nominate some possible new names for al Qaeda. These are some suggestions. Monotheism and Jihad group, monotheism defending Islam group, restoration of the caliphate group, Muslim unity group.

None of these suggestions exactly catchy and the group did not rename itself. Seriously, these were the names that al Qaeda might have become. This was Bin Laden thinking?

BERGEN: A dozen names like that. I didn't put them all in when I wrote the piece. So, these were not great names.

BANFIELD: What was the matter with al Qaeda? I mean, not to us, but say to --

BERGEN: Well, he thought the Obama administration had done a rather effective job of rebranding the war on terror as a war on al Qaeda and its allies and he was concerned that somehow if you rename e renamed it with an Islamic title, it would be a war on an Islamic group.

BANFIELD: Does that mean that the battle for the hearts and minds that we kept hearing on early on in a war was working?

BERGEN: Well, they were losing the war of ideas. Al Qaeda was definitely losing. Not because United States was winning, but because al Qaeda was killing so many Muslim civilians.

And one of things in these documents, Ashleigh, it's very clear Bin Laden himself was very, very aware of how damaging all the Muslim civilian deaths were, particularly in Iraq, to the al Qaeda's brand.

BANFIELD: Just the Muslim civilian death, not, say, the American civilians?

BERGEN: Well, bizarrely, yes. He was advising his Somalia affiliate don't attack in markets where you're going to kill a lot of civilians. This was a kind of constant theme.

BANFIELD: So drone attacks, there's been a lot made about drone attacks. It's a big issue right now with this deal with Afghanistan, the separation deal. In what you've been able to surmise, they're working.

BERGEN: Bin Laden's own hands suggest that he was writing notes saying get my son out of the Pakistani tribal region and send him to Qatar.

BANFIELD: Everyone else fight to the death, but my 20-year-old son isn't safe here?

BERGEN: Right, so he should go to the safest place in the Middle East, which is also one of the richest countries in the world instead of staying in the Pakistan tribal region. BANFIELD: The last question is that the document does come out in just a couple of hours. People are going to be able to read a lot of the 6,000, not all. Is this going to damage al Qaeda's brand even more? Is this going to make people angry? I follow this had guy. He was trying to protect himself and his son.

BERGEN: I mean, the brand was already damaged, but this will do more damage to it.

BANFIELD: I can't wait to read your book. Peter Bergen, great to see you. Thank you for getting up early and coming in to speak with us. Appreciate it -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, fascinating stuff, Ashleigh.

Also this morning, questions about whether the game is to blame for the death of former NFL linebacker, Junior Seau this morning. Seau was found dead yesterday in his home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

He was only 43 years old. He leaves behind four children. Still not clear whether any possible brain trauma played a role, but this may have been the second time Seau tried to kill himself.

Back in 2010, Seau drove his car off a cliff and survived. Now there were some suspicions back then, but police later concluded it was an accident caused by lack of sleep.

At 6:30 Eastern, we'll speak to former running back, Jamal Anderson, who knew Junior Seau. Were all those collisions over 19 pro seasons just too much and how is the NFL reacting this morning?

A college student from San Diego is suing the Drug Enforcement Agency for $20 million, after being left handcuffed without food, without water for nearly five days in a cell.

The 23-year-old Daniel Chong was one of nine people detained last month after DEA agents raided a suspected drug house. He was never charged with a crime.


GENE IREDALE, CHONG'S ATTORNEY: He screamed hundreds of times for help. He began to dig into the walls, thinking that he could get water that way.



ROMANS: The acting special agent in charge of the DEA San Diego office has apologized to Chong. He was ordered an investigation and says he is deeply troubled by this incident.

Tears and testimony marking a dramatic day in the trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards. His daughter, Kate, reportedly leaving the courtroom yesterday, crying, just as testimony began.

Testimony about a fight between John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth. In the courtroom, Edwards turned to his daughter and mouthed the words, I don't know what's coming. Do you want to leave?

That's when Kate exited the courtroom, wiping away tears. That fight took place in an airport in 2007. Elizabeth Edwards was battling breast cancer at the time and a tabloid had just reported Edwards was having an extra marital affair with Rielle Hunter.

History on the diamond in Anaheim last night. L.A. Angels pitcher Jared Weaver threw a no hitter against the Minnesota Twin, overpowering fashion, striking out nine batters in a 9-0 win. It's the second no-hitter in the Majors in less than two weeks -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Christine, thank you.

It's 10 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast. Still ahead, he said he just wanted to make NFL line backer Ray Lewis proud. A guy comes out of nowhere, levelled the feed, check out the video all happening in a Wal-Mart parking lot. There was one heck of a twist. Find out what it was.

Also former home of Isaac Hayes up in flames. Three people inside that mansion as it burns. We will tell you what happened. You're watching EARLY START.


ROMANS: It's 13 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date right now. Chen Guancheng wants out of China. The activist is pleading with President Obama to help him.

He says that deal between the United States and China won't protect him. It won't protect his family. He claims his wife is being threatened and he says he feels abandoned by the U.S. after spending six days holed up in the American embassy in Beijing.

BANFIELD: In less three hours, the world is going to get to go inside al Qaeda, inside the mind of Osama Bin Laden and even inside that place in Islamabad.

Some of the documents that were seized in that raid on Bin Laden's compound last year are set to be posted publicly online 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. They're being released by the Army's Combating Terrorism Center located at the U.S. Military Academy.

ROMANS: Thirteen people have now been charged in the suspected hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion. Eleven of them face a felony hazing charge, which carries a maximum penalty of almost six years.

Two will face misdemeanor charges. Champion's mother said she was disappointed that the charges were not more severe. Police say Champion collapsed and died back in November after a brutal band hazing ritual.

BANFIELD: The Tennessee mansion once owned by late singer Isaac Hayes went up in flames. Three people managed to escape from this 7,200 square foot inferno. They were treated for smoke inhalation, but otherwise OK. Hayes, also known as the voice of the chef on the TV series "South Park", died of a heart attack inside that home back in 2008.

ROMANS: All right. An anonymous bidder paid nearly $120 million for that. A pastel version of an iconic painting. The pre- sell estimate of at least $80 million for Norwegian artist Edvard Munch "The Scream" -- it's Munk in Norwegian, Munch for the rest of us -- highest ever listed at Sotheby's, which handled the auction. It's the highest price ever paid for a work of art. The previous record was a Picasso that sold for more than $106 million two years ago.

BANFIELD: A hundred and twenty million for the scream.

ROMANS: Think how famous that is. That picture, it's so famous.

BANFIELD: That's business story, girlfriend.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: Holy molly.

All right. Let me take to China, where travelers at an airport may be thrilled to have a delayed flight because look what they get to see. Not a joke. The airport has decided to hire cheerleaders to entertain passengers while they wait.

Folks there say that the cheerleaders demonstrate spirit and then perform routines that soothe the emotions of the passengers.


ROMANS: Oh, my.

BANFIELD: I love it.

ROMANS: Let's get a quick check of today's weather. Rob Marciano will have some kind of magical segue from cheerleaders a the airport to your travel delays.

Hi, Rob.

BANFIELD: Right. For those of you at the airport watching us right now, wanting some entertainment, can you dance?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, I can't. Just trying to imagine some of the cheers they would be throwing out there, you know.

BANFIELD: Don't freak out. On the gate at --

MARCIANO: Let's board now. Let's board now.

Anyway, I'll take it. I mean, in the Atlanta airport every once in a while some guy is twinkling the ivories there in the grand piano before you enter security. But get the dance team out there to give it a whirl, especially if you got a long delay.

You might have some delays across the I-95 area -- there's your transition -- from Boston to Philly. This round of showers has moved through. For the most part, it will be dry and we'll start to see things warm up. It was wet yesterday across the Ohio River Valley.

Check out some of this video out of Sharonville, Ohio, where they got about between four and six inches of rain in a short period of time. This truck parking lot was certainly inundated with a fair amount of water, slowly receding now. It's dry at the moment.

Chicago seeing temperatures up and over 80 degrees again yesterday. They'll see it again today. But with that heat comes humidity and showers interrupting that daytime heat. Also Mobile, Alabama, yesterday. They saw a tremendous amount of rainfall, and some flooding in the streets.

Today's severe weather threat will be from Buffalo, to Detroit, I should mention also Toronto -- this map doesn't highlight that. But certainly, our friends just north of the border will see the threat for maybe thunderstorms that could produce some hail and damaging winds, and obviously some torrential downpours. And there your heat will to continue to see temperatures will be well up and over seasonal averages.

Eighty-four degrees expected in Chicago. And another mid 80s in D.C.

All right. Get on your planes and bring your pompoms.

ROMANS: Rah, rah, sis, boom ba. Rob Marciano, thanks.

BANFIELD: And I'm disappointed you didn't dance, Rob. Honestly, it was a fair request.

All right. So, it is 18 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast.

Speaking of hard-hitting moments. Let's check out this video. Somebody going after a crook and leveling that crook. It's a woman, too, by the way, the crook. All of this happening in a Walmart parking lot in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

And here's what happened: the man who went after the crook, went after the woman was Shawn Cox. And he's an Iraq war vet. He was coming out of nowhere in that picture to make that tackle. But the suspect had a surprise, a knife, and stabbed the vet in the neck as they scuffled on the ground. And that woman got away.

But the next day, the victim showed up at the hero's day to say thank you.


MARIE WHITELEY, PURSE-SNATCHING VICTIM: I really, really appreciate you helping me. Not many people would do that.

SHAWN COX, TACKLED KNIFE-WIELDING PURSE SNATCHER: I served a tour in Iraq. So, I guess that made things right in my head to help people like that.


BANFIELD: Wow! Listen, that's pretty nice. You are a hero in many ways. Can't believe you're able to get up and talk after that incident.

The police say that thief too many took off with the purse and made off in a Dodge pickup and this morning is apparently still at large.

ROMANS: Something about being a Good Samaritan, you don't know what the other person is going to do, a knife, a gun. Who knows?

BANFIELD: You don't. But Shawn Cox, an Iraqi war vet, you would think, has come up against a lot worse in his life and then ends up coming back to America and being stabbed by some loser who did that.

ROMANS: All right. Sky high airline baggage fee. How does it sound to pay $1 h00 to check -- no, no, not a checked bag. A carry on bag -- $100 for a carry on bag. Find out which airline coming up.

BANFIELD: And good morning, Atlanta. Nice live picture. A beautiful sky line and your lovely sunrise, 6:19 a.m. in the East, 6:20 now if you're just waking up. Don't hit snooze.

You're watching EARLY START.

ROMANS: Don't hit snooze.


BANFIELD: Twenty-three minutes now past the top of the hour. It's great to have you here with us. Thanks for joining us on EARLY START.

We like to mind your business at this hour.

And the U.S. markets closed mix up yesterday. Dow coming of that four-year high Christina and I were talking about. S&P 500 -- and also take a look. Those two were closing down the mid arrow, the NASDAQ up slightly just a little bit of a game.

So, what's that about?

ROMANS: Until now, it's been stronger than expected corporate profits. Companies have been doing well, even though you may not feel like you have been and that's the one thing driving the market.

But the quarterly earning season is now over and attention is turning to the big jobs report which is due out tomorrow. And so, we'll be watching to see if they can get more than 120,000 jobs created in the month, which isn't enough to raise anybody's living standard or lower the unemployment rate.

And this morning, the other big story: more baggage fees. The low cost carrier Spirit Airlines says it is raising the prices for bags in general.

Listen to this -- right now, they charge $45 for those big carry-on bags right at the airport gate when you're about to board. That number is going to go up to $100 per carry on. Not checked bag, carry on. That starts in November.

This applies to the bigger carry-ons that go in the overhead compartment. Anything that fits in the overhead compartment, 100 bucks. Smaller bags like purses and briefcases, those fit under the seat and are still free.

This is how Spirit and other cheap ticket airlines make their money, Ashleigh. You know, it's called the a la carte pricing method. So, you can get as cheap as $9 one way for airfare. But you if you pay for what you use. You use more jet fuel to carry more stuff, you're going to pay for it.

BANFIELD: OK. I have a new business. Are you ready?


BANFIELD: Anybody out there who wants a new idea, you should start with fashion clothing with massive pockets.


ROMANS: Richard Quest actually put everything on him at one time and did a really great piece. He had all his pockets all over his raincoat and he walked in with a whole bagful of stuff.


BANFIELD: They'll catch up with that, too, at some point.

All right. This is something we love to with Christine because she knows so much. What's the one thing -- if I have one thing to take away, what's the one thing I need to know?

ROMANS: Mortgage rates are really, really low. We could see today that they are near another record low, when we get a read on the most recent rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed, about 3.88 percent, 15-year 3.12 percent. That's what a lot of people are refinancing into. Refinance your home loan -- refinance your home loan if you can. These rates are very, very -- they could go down a little more, maybe will go up a little more.

But these rates, we've never seen them like this in our lifetime. We may never can. If you can, if you're not under water, refinance the loan.

BANFIELD: Go for it. Thank you, Christine.

Twenty-five -- 26 minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast.

And still ahead; More proof that no good deed goes unpunished. Are you ready for the transit worker who got fired for helping out a kid in need? Not kidding. What's the deal? You'll learn in a moment.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

And here's what's happening in just this past hour. We start with this.

You know that Chinese human rights hero, Chen Guangcheng, he is now pleading with President Obama: please help me and my family get safely out of China. He left the U.S. embassy in Beijing yesterday and now says that U.S. officials pressured him to leave and he's now fearing for his life and his family's life as well.

Also, in just a couple of hours, all of those -- well, not all -- but a lot of those files that were seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound are going to be posted online. We're told that the documents include audio, video and than the best -- some of the handwritten notes of bin Laden himself. Feast your eyes on that one.

And angel on the mound. That's what we like to call it, anyway. The L.A. Angels pitcher Jered Weaver he did a no-hitter against Minnesota Twins last night in Anaheim, mowing through the lineup, they call it, mowing through the line up, in a 9-0 win. So, big congratulations to him.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you, Ash.

The death of a former football star is raising questions about long-term brain injury in the sports elite players. Forty-three-year- old Junior Seau was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest yesterday. Investigators are treating this case as a suicide right now. Seau's ex-wife told a local paper that on Tuesday he texted her and each of their children separate messages "I love you."

Now, questions whether head trauma from his playing days could have affected Seau. This, as a new lawsuit is going to be filed this morning against the NFL on behalf of 114 former players who said the league hasn't done enough. One of those players, Jamal Anderson, who joins us now. And he's a former NFL player and a friend of Seau's.

First off, I want to start, Jamal, by saying I'm sorry. I know that you knew him. You were friends with him. It's got to be difficult.

Tell me what kind of guy he was.

JAMAL ANDERSON, FORMER NFL PLAYER: You know, Junior was a terrific guy. He was a fantastic teammate for a number of guys who played with him in USC, and obviously, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and the Patriots. But just fantastic person. A guy who gave back, a guy who meant so much to the community in San Diego.

An energetic guy, type of guy who you see in the photos would always smile, have a hug and be welcoming the people. It was really important for Junior Seau to give back to his community, to his community of Oceanside. His Seau Foundation donated some $4 million to this date to the community in helping kids in impoverished neighborhoods, helping kids go to school.

And just tough, because he was such a good guy and it is so unexpected.

ROMANS: He was just in a charity golf -- played a round of charity golf on Tuesday.


ROMANS: Which is -- but he was somebody who -- look, obviously he loved his career. The end of that career must have been difficult. It must be difficult for a lot of NFL players. He was considered a likable, you know, high-spirited guy.

In 2007, he was sued for calling two women slurs. And he had these episodes of being a little aggressive. In 2010, he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. After that, he drove his car off a cliff and survived.

You know, did you notice any changes in his personality? Could there be anything to explain these? And could that -- you know, everyone is talking about the head hits. He was a linebacker.

ANDERSON: No, he was. Junior was a linebacker for a number of years. He was a physical, physical, ferocious player. He was a very intense player, the type of guy you would be assured of, if anybody on a football team was going to give 110 percent and be as physical as possible on the football team, you could count on it being number 55 in Junior Seau.

I've got no answer, Christine, for the things that have transpired in his life in any form or fashion in a negative sense. But to say that I know the type of person Junior Seau was and the type of person he tried to be on a continuing basis.

This is a shock to so many people. Frankly, when the news hit me yesterday and I got a phone call, I was like, who? You're talking about what?

So, there's so many people that are so surprised. Obviously, it was heartbreaking seeing his mom on the news last night. And just -- you know, anybody around Junior Seau, anybody who met Junior Seau -- I mean, you know, when he was in Atlanta, he made a point of calling me. If I didn't speak to him for eight, nine, 10 months, hey, let's go play golf, I'm coming in town, let's go to dinner.

Same thing in San Diego. I used his venue for an event I wanted to house. He was so open and so welcome, had many, many mutual friends and family during between the two and growing up in southern California. And he was a guy I watched at USC and looked up to.

ROMANS: So young.

ANDERSON: And having an opportunity to play against him for the first time in an NFL game. Everybody was just like, wow, it's Junior Seau. So, it's --

ROMANS: Forty-three years old. I think there's eight players from his original team who are gone under the age of 45.

ANDERSON: Unfortunately, now, Junior makes, yes, the eighth player from the San Diego Chargers '94 Super Bowl team and terribly unfortunate irony that the number of guys who have passed now -- I don't know what happened. I'm waiting, really, really waiting to see what happens with this police investigation.

I don't know what Junior's mental health was like at the time. I can't speak to that personally. I just know who he is and the type of person he is. And I have my own thoughts and beliefs. I just would like to wait to see what happens with this investigation.

I'm not prepared to say that it's conclusive on e way or the other based on the type of person --

ROMANS: You don't believe he committed suicide? You're saying you don't think he committed suicide.

ANDERSON: You know, I will wait for the investigation. I just -- Junior Seau, three kids, he was very close to his family. The community was very tight, close-knit community. Not a lot of them who ascend to this level of success, internationally, Junior Seau.

It's hard to people who know Junior, it's a hard pill to swallow. We'll see. It's just so sad.

It's just so sad, Christine, for football players and football fans to lose a guy -- a charismatic, talented, energetic, great guy like this in the community. It just -- it's really sad.

ROMANS: Jamal Anderson, thanks for like giving us your personal take on this story today.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, Jamal Anderson, former NFL football player.


BANFIELD: All right, Christine. Sad, indeed. Thank you for that.

Thirty-five minutes now past 6:00.

A San Francisco transit worker has been fired for giving a nee needy student a year's worth of free tickets. Apparently, the 16- year-old student could not afford the ride to and from school. It cost about 16 bucks a day or so. So, the agent gave him $30 worth of paid but unused tickets for the city's bus and subway system.

The trouble is the transportation officials said that's a violation of the transit system's policy because unused tickets go back into a general fund.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tickets that still have value on them, can't be just given away, because it's like cash for us.


BANFIELD: There is good news in the end for this teenager. There's a woman who watched the story and heard about she contacted the school where the teenager attends and she pledging to pay for his transportation until he graduates.

Daredevil Nik Wallenda is finally fulfilling a childhood dream. He is receiving permission to walk a tight rope across Niagara Falls because the Wallenda's have these kind of childhood dreams. Maybe you and I like to watch he likes to do.

He's going to attempt this feat on live TV on June 15th. It's a stunt that required a policy change by the state parks commission. Not only that, there had to be approval given by the New York state legislature as well. No word on whether he has to go through customs in order to get to the other side or whether he'll end up in Canada.

ROMANS: What's harder, the paperwork or actually walking the tightrope?

BANFIELD: I know the answer to that one.

ROMANS: The paperwork.

BANFIELD: You betcha.

ROMANS: Ahead on EARLY START: Republicans uniting instead of fighting. Well, we'll tell you about Michele Bachmann's big announcement today.

BANFIELD: Also, we want to a quick check on the weather story for today, especially if you're traveling or going anywhere. Hey, Rob.

MARCIANO: Good morning, guys. It's going to be warm and in some cases, showery threat exists from the Delmarva even across the border in Ontario, back to Detroit and Chicago, Omaha, Nebraska as well, threat for downpours, which yesterday created some flooding situations. Today, same deal.

Where it's not raining on the eastern third of the country, it's going to be warm and humid. The heat pump is on, some very late June, even early July-like pattern. In Chicago, you'll be into the mid-80s again today, 84 for the high, 85 in D.C. and warming now, and the rain has passed in New York, 65 degrees.

EARLY START is coming right back. Stay there.


BANFIELD: Hey, good morning, Pittsburgh. Nice to see you on our tower cam this morning.

So, here's what it looks like for you today -- some scattered storms, 64 degrees right now. But you are warming up. It's going to be a great day for you, 86 degrees. Can you say spring? No, how about summer? Nice to have you with us this morning.

So, the Republican Party is about to experience a couple of kumbaya moments, you might say, after some real cutthroat months that we've had to go through. Rick Santorum is set to meet privately tomorrow morning with Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania. More than likely they're going to be discussing an endorsement, but they're not saying that. They're saying, we're going to talk about the conservative values of this party and of this campaign.

Later today, though, Michele Bachmann is said to endorse Romney at a campaign stop in Virginia. Even Newt Gingrich seems to be coming around slowly, too, after dropping out of the race yesterday.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been asked sometimes, is Mitt Romney conservative? And my answer is simple: compared to Barack Obama?


BANFIELD: Well, that is simple, isn't it?

CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Washington this morning.

I never think I'm going to hear Newt that short spoken, but there you were.

Paul, those are three big names that we've been covering for quite some time now. So, out of Newt, Rick and Michelle, which endorsement is the most important to Mitt Romney?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: I think it's Santorum. And it's ironic I guess that you showed that live picture of Pittsburgh because that's where we've now learned that the meeting tomorrow morning will take place in Pittsburgh. Of course, Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania. He hails from Pittsburgh area.

And as you mentioned, yes, no endorsement at that meeting, but aides say, yes, it's going to be a get together. No cameras. They're trying to keep this thing quiet. No media, no press, trying to keep it out of there.

And as you mentioned, they're going to talk about conservative issues important to the former senator and to his backers. And, Ashleigh, that's really why it's so important because Mitt Romney really wants Rick Santorum's endorsement, because in the primary, Santorum did really well with Tea Party backers. He did really with social conservatives, blue collar Republicans, people that Mitt Romney didn't do so well with.

That's why he really wants him in the Romney camp.

BANFIELD: But, Paul, inside politics, they say that they're going to talk about those issues of the party and the endorsement is important. But is it also possible what kind of role do I have in your administration if you win and then you'll get my endorsement?

STEINHAUSER: Sure, and what kind of role might I have in this election campaign? No doubt about it. But that stuff they're never going to make public. But, yes, they'll be talking about that as well and the role of Santorum and of social conservatives in the general election battle that's now underway.

And talk about social conservatives and Tea Party supporters, Michele Bachmann, that's where she can help out as well. Remember, listen, her campaign didn't go very far, she ended right after the Iowa caucuses, but she's still popular with a lot of Tea Party activists. And that's why her endorsement can help. Also, she's very friendly person, somebody who could really to people. So, helping out Mitt Romney on the campaign trail would definitely be a bonus for him.

BANFIELD: She's really likeable.

STEINHAUSER: Very likeable.

BANFIELD: Talk about the folks, the swing states so critical. There's some new polling out.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. Let's look at them, because let's talk about the two biggest swing states, the two most important, I guess you can say.

Florida, check this out. Quinnipiac University, brand new, out just a couple of minutes ago basically dead even in Florida. And it's interesting because in Quinnipiac's last poll about a month ago, Obama did have a bit of advantage.

Got to Ohio, also brand new this morning from Quinnipiac University polling, and you can see basically the same story. A slight margin there for Obama, for the president. But again within the sampling error -- dead even. And they've gone away, maybe because now Romney is the pretty much unified nominee on the Republican side, and there, in Pennsylvania, you can see the president with an eight- point advantage.

BANFIELD: All right. Bachmann today, Santorum tomorrow, so you got a busy couple of days. We'll talk to you again. Paul, thanks.


BANFIELD: Christine, over to you.

ROMANS: All right. Soledad O'Brien joins us now to look at what's ahead on "Starting Point" this morning. Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, good morning to you. Ahead this morning on "Starting Point," we're going to talk to President Obama's half sister. She's got a new book out about her very diverse family, talks about what it was like meeting her brother, now the president, for the very first time.

Also, we'll sit down with Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal. He was once talked about as presidential material. What about vice presidential material? His name is being battered around as a potential VP talk.

Supermodel and "Celebrity Apprentice" cast off, Diana Mendoza talks about having to deal with racial slurs from another contestant on the show who was a teammate.

And actress, Virginia Madsen, will join us. From the big screen, now to the web, she's pioneering an original YouTube channel for women. Explain what they're doing.

If you're headed to work, you can check out the rest of our show on our live blog at or join us on Twitter at @StartingPTCNN. We'll see you then.


ROMANS: We're about to get an unprecedented look inside the world of al Qaeda and inside the mind of its deceased leader.


ROMANS (voice-over): At 9:00 a.m. eastern time, some of the documents seized in the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound last year will be posted online. They're being released by the army that Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Also, a human rights hero and Chinese dissident named Chen Guangcheng is pleading with our president to help him and his family get out of China. Chen said that his phones are being monitored. His wife is being threatened, and that a deal between the U.S. and China this week is not going to protect any of them.

He spent six days holed up in the U.S. embassy in Beijing after he escaped 18 months of house arrest. ROMANS: Police in South Carolina have released disturbing video that appears to show two elementary school workers smacking a special needs student in the face several times. The video was captured on school bus surveillance camera. It shows the women struggling to put a safety harness on this child.

The alleged victim is a 10-year-old boy who is not able to speak. Two women have been arrested and charged with assault and battery.

BANFIELD: And you can bet that video will be played at the trial.

Florida governor, Rick Scott, is rejecting a request from the mayor of Tampa to ban guns in the downtown area while the Republican convention is going on in August. Governor Scott telling Mayor Bob Buckhorn that conventions and guns have been coexisting since America's birth and will continue to do so during that four-day GOP gathering.

ROMANS: An Indiana mayor is charged with felony voter fraud accused of stealing absentee ballots in his city's primary last year. Douglas Campbell is the mayor of Austin, Indiana. Police say he conspired with a city sanitation worker and both men drove to voters' homes, asking residents to hand over their ballots. One woman says Campbell filled out her ballot for her. He says he's innocent.

High school lacrosse player in Florida has been suspended for sucker punching another player. The video shows Jake Champion (ph) during a heated playoff game in Ft. Lauderdale. The player he hit was knocked out for less than a minute and later appeared OK. Champion has been suspended from classes for at least the rest of the week.

BANFIELD: Actress Scarlett Johansson has joined the long list of Hollywood's elite by doing this. Getting down on your knees and posing for the pictures on your own star on the walk of fame. She's currently starring as the Black Widow in the "Avengers," very popular.

She's next going to be seen in the movie "Hitchcock," and guess what, she's going to play that role of actress, Janet Leigh. I cannot wait.


ROMANS (on-camera): All right. Up next, a mom arrested for taking her five-year-old daughter to the tanning booth. She says it was all a big misunderstanding.

BANFIELD (on-camera): What's the headline here, though, Christine?

ROMANS: But the headline is not that, the headline is tan- orexia.

BANFIELD: Tan-orexic.

ROMANS: Hear her story coming up. BANFIELD: Tan-tastic.

ROMANS: You're watching --


BANFIELD: Fifty-five minutes now past the top of the hour.

Time to take a look at what's trending on the interwebs and note to self, if you're visiting the lion exhibit, don't dress your baby like a zebra.

ROMANS: Oh, my.

BANFIELD: Yes. Check out the lion at the Oregon Zoo. Oh, my goodness. That is some video, I'll tell you. That tape shows the lion just clawing away, trying to bite at a small child on the other side of that very, very protective piece of glass. The kid, no idea. Just doing his thing. Check out the kid.


BANFIELD: That's a brave little guy. Once he does get wind of it, doesn't even worry about it. Just, hey, mom, take the picture. Family decided to videotape this.

ROMANS: I kind of feel bad for the lion. I mean, you know, all he wants is a little lunch.

BANFIELD: Oh, Lord, look at that. That is such a frustration. I'm not sure I could even hold the video camera if that was my son, knowing it's protective glass. Just hoping -- protect this. All right. I'm done with you. No, I'm not. Coming back.

ROMANS: All right. Moving on to a mother appearing in court -- this is just unbelievable.

BANFIELD: Do you know why it's unbelievable? It's on the cover of both New York tabloids this -- toast of the town and roasted nuts (ph)?

ROMANS: Yes. One of our crew guys said she's hot. Well, she's very warm.

BANFIELD: I think he meant figuratively or literally.

ROMANS: The mother accused of causing burns to her young daughter by taking her into a tanning booth. She pleaded not guilty yesterday to a child endangerment charge. Patricia Krenzel (ph) claims the whole story is a lie, that her five-year-old daughter got sun burned outside on a very warm day. I will say it was 90 degrees on that day in April in the area when this happened.

Krenzel (ph) admits she took the girl to the salon, but she's waited outside the booth, the little girl is. She compared it to taking her daughter along on errands like going to the grocery store. She could face a decade in prison.

BANFIELD: This is the reason, though, that the story is getting such traction. The video you're seeing right now, that little fair- haired girl, you know, standing next to her mother who truly looks like she's been painted or something.

ROMANS: I know.

BANFIELD: Wait until it pans over. Wait till the video pans over. Look at that picture, people. It's not a joke. It's not lighting. It's not makeup. It is truly what she looks like. And I think that's maybe why the story is getting more traction --

ROMANS: I've read in one of the papers that the local -- so she panned (ph) a $99 pass, she could tan as much as she wanted. The local place, like 20 times a month she tanned, which is, you know, just about everyday, two-thirds of the time. And then, they said they're sick and tired of all this publicity.

I mean, people staked out, taking pictures of the tanning salon, and that they would rather she goes some place else now.

BANFIELD: I would suggest she shouldn't go to another tanning booth for a while, at least, until this case is over. It's not looking good.

All right. I know a lot of you are going to really like this. Sharks with lasers. I am not kidding. Check it out. A marine biologist and a celebrity shark handler named Luke Triple (ph) decided to answer a challenge on Facebook. It's not a joke. The picture is real. He attached a low-level green laser to a lemon shark.

All of this happening of the coast of the Bahamas last month. Took the photos for proof. You may be wondering why. He wanted to prove he could do it, but he also wanted to test out his scientific clamp and he also wanted to make sure that he could see if sharks really did avoid laser energy as other sharks swam by. And there are scientific applications, but the bigger story is that it is just so cool and awesome.

ROMANS: It is really awesome.


MIKE MYERS, ACTOR: You know, I have one simple request, and that is to have sharks with freakin' laser beams attached to their heads. Now, evidently, my cycloptic (INAUDIBLE) informs me that that can't be done.


BANFIELD: So, that is why it is so cool, because also, they commission the velocity and the trajectory real time of sharks, so there are scientific research applications. It's not just awesome, it's awesome helpful, apparently. And that's the news from "A" to "Z." That's EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN" starts right now.