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Activist Desperate to Leave China; Seau's Death Ruled a Suicide; National Mall Makeover; Saturn V Rocket Hit By Gunfire

Aired May 4, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And happy Friday, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START.


BANFIELD: I did. It's Friday! I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Zoraida is off today.

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

BANFIELD: Details about the death of a beloved NFL player and future Hall of Famer, the medical examiner confirming that Junior Seau committed suicide. But we still don't have an answer to the biggest question there.

ROMANS: A horrible way to die in a bizarre twist in the case. A woman plunges 1,000 feet to her death in a hang-gliding accident. Police finding key evidence in the instructor's stomach?

BANFIELD: And also caught on tape. A scary armed robbery at a Dunkin' Donuts -- a customer trying to be a hero but ends up unconscious. We're going to show you how this all went down, and all of it just in matter of seconds.

ROMANS: Up first this morning: big new developments with the Chinese activist smack-dab in the middle of a diplomatic firestorm. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to speak about Chen Guangcheng in about an hour. We've just learned that Chen can apply to study abroad, that's according to a Chinese state-run news agency.

U.S. officials also say they just spoke by phone today with Chen and met with his wife in person. They're expected to meet with Chen in a hospital sometime this morning.

The blind activist says he doesn't feel safe in China and wants to come to the U.S.

He even interrupted a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday to request a meeting with the secretary of state.


CHEN GUANGCHENG, CHINESE ACTIVIST (through translator): I want to meet with the Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her. The thing I most concern right now is the safety of my mother and my brothers, and I really want to know what's going on with them.


ROMANS: Secretary of State Clinton is wrapping up her visit to China this morning. She's holding a news conference as we told in just over an hour.

BANFIELD: And one minute past 5:00 in the East Coast.

Our other big story this morning: new details in the death of future NFL Hall of Famer Junior Seau and his painful final moments, too.

Medical examiner confirming Seau killed himself with a gunshot wound to the chest. The report does not say, though, whether repeated hits to the head during his 19-year pro career may have led him down the path to suicide. Seau's mother who was so overcome with emotion at this news conference that she almost collapsed, led a prayer vigil outside of his home last night. Seau's pastor and family friend said he texted his ex-wife and children "I love you" before he pulled the trigger.

Also still in question, just how many concussions did he have while playing in his career?

CNN's Paul Vercammen is live in Los Angeles this morning.

Paul, what's the latest?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Ashleigh.

As you pointed out, the coroner's report says that Junior Seau committed suicide, and they say this was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Now, the examiner conducted this forensic autopsy, this includes a full examination -- according to the report -- of Seau's organs and collection of appropriate specimens for lab studies, that includes toxicology and microscopic examination of organs and tissues.

What the report did not do is make a link to the suicide of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson last year. You may recall that Duerson shot himself in the chest. And in his suicide note, he said that he wanted his brain studied for possible damage.

Now, later on, a Boston University research on brain injuries found that Duerson suffered from degenerative damage to his brain because of repeated hard hits.

Again, the Seau autopsy doesn't go that far at this point. A final autopsy could come out in as long as three months.

But one thing that we do know is ESPSN is reporting a forensic pathologist who first identified chronic brain damage as a factor in the deaths of some NFL players, he flew to San Diego, reportedly, to participate in Seau's autopsy. In the end, it will be up to Seau's family to see if they want to release his brain to be studied for possible damage and concussions. Again, that's up to Seau's family, according to police, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Oh, it's incredible you just said that, because as you were speaking, I just got an alert that this is going to happen, that the family has now agreed to allow researchers to study Seau's brain for evidence of damage as a result of concussions. This one coming from I believe it was "The L.A. Times," that they have done an exclusive interview with.

So, just quickly, as I'm trying to get through this wire copy, I can't read it all while I'm speaking to you. What is the issue? Is it that they want to release to certain researchers, to the NFL? Because I know this is an issue with other players as well.

VERCAMMEN: Well, when you talk to players in the football community, the ex-NFL players, I think that most of them are all worried about what may or may not have happened to them over the years. Seau, of course, an extremely long NFL career. The family is probably saying Seau being such a person in the community, such a giving person -- this is yet perhaps more of Junior's legacy. Obviously, he had his own charitable contributions.

And I think that they would fully support anything that could be done, any studies that could be done, on Junior Seau's brain that might help other NFL players, ex-NFL players in the future.

BANFIELD: Just quickly, I'll add to this report as you're speaking as well that the San Diego Chargers' chaplain, Sean Mitchell, is quoted saying it is likely the high speculation is the researchers at Boston University would most likely be the candidates to do this studying, if that ends up happening. But at this point I think it's pretty critical that the family is certainly on board for releasing Seau's brain for research.

Can I also ask you, Paul, what you know -- you're very close to the story and you've spent a lot of time amongst those who are deeply affected by this suicide. Do any of his friends, former players or people close to him, do they say there was anything leading up to this? Any kind of signal, anything that might have led them to believe there was trouble on the horizon?

VERCAMMEN: No, certainly not recently. Ashleigh, when you walk that strand in Oceanside, California, where Junior Seau lived a psychedelic life, all the friends and neighbors in the area say he was still greeting everybody every day with "hey, buddy," and playing his guitar. He would literally walk across a walk way, if you will, into the ocean and surf and be there every day.

The only thing that might have been an indicator is about a year and a half ago, you may know that Junior Seau was arrested and not charged for what's called spousal battery. And about five hours after that, he drove his car off a cliff. He said he fell asleep at the wheel. Others questioned that and wondered if possibly that was a suicidal act, Ashleigh. BANFIELD: All right. Paul, I'm just going to reiterate that breaking news as you were speaking coming in, this attributed to "The Los Angeles Times," that the family of Junior Seau is saying they've decided to allow researchers to study his brain for evidence of damage as a result of concussions.

Paul Vercammen, great work out there. Thanks very much.

ROMANS: All right. A white New York police officer now cleared in the shooting death of an ailing black war veteran in his own apartment. A grand jury declined to indict. Sixty-eight-year-old Kenneth Chamberlain was shot and killed last November after accidentally setting off his medical alert device and then refusing to allow police to enter his apartment. Cops say he pulled a knife on them.

At 7:30 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," a CNN exclusive, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., the son of the man who was killed by police, killed in his own home, joins Soledad O'Brien to talk about the grand jury decision.

BANFIELD: A hang-gliding instructor accused of eating evidence after a student plunged to her death. The police say that Lenami Godinez was on a tandem hand gliding flight over western Canada with the instructor when she slipped out and then fell hundreds of feet into the woods. The investigators say the instructor swallowed a memory card from a video camera on board. X-rays are actually confirming that.


CPL. TAMMY HOLLINGSWORTH, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE: There have been a series of x-rays taken. We have confirmed. So we are just in the waiting process here. We have confirmed that the memory card is still inside.


BANFIELD: At this point, they aren't sure if any of the video of the flight will play now.

ROMANS: Oh, my.

New this morning, the Philadelphia archbishop is announcing the fate of 27 Catholic priests suspended for child sex abuse allegations. Later today, the archbishop is expected to release the findings from the latest year-long church investigation. Previous findings were called into question by a grand jury last year.

A former top aide at the archdiocese, William Lynn, is charged with child endangerment for his handling of abuse complaints.

BANFIELD: A brown bear, two spotted leopards, and a fair of macaque monkeys are going to be returned to their Zanesville, Ohio, farm later today. If that sounds familiar, it should be. It's the same farm where 50 exotic wild animals were released into the public by their owner, Terry Thompson, last fall, right before he killed himself.

Most of those animals had to be killed by law enforcement to protect the public. Authorities did not have access to tranquilizer guns and were forced to shoot two wolves, six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight female lionesses and three mountain lions, along with 18 Bengal tigers.

The five creatures being returned to the Thompson window have been kept at the Columbus Zoo since the incident. And right now, lawmakers in Ohio are just trying to pass legislation that would tighten some of these rules in the state for exotic animal ownership.

ROMANS: All right. Investors might be sweating out the next few hours waiting for the April jobs report that's set to be released at 8:30 Eastern. And as always, it could move the markets. Economists surveyed by CNN Money expect 160,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, an improvement from March. But that pace is still slow compared jobs gains we witnessed in December, January and February.

Keep an eye on CNN all morning. I'll have the breaking details when the April jobs report is released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

BANFIELD: And still ahead, we all do it, stop by Dunkin' Donuts every so often, pick up something on the way to work. But if you see this video --

ROMANS: Oh, my!

BANFIELD: Yes. You're going to think twice about what you do next. If you have a couple of minutes, stick around. This is a short commercial break. But you have to see what happened to commercial at Dunkin' Donuts and why it happened.

ROMANS: And it's raining raccoons in one home. And I'm not kidding. This actually happened. We'll explain, next.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Fourteen minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

Let's get you up to date now. New developments this morning with that Chinese activist, the human rights activist who's at the center of a diplomatic firestorm. American officials have spoken by phone with Chen Guangcheng, and have met with his wife in person, all of this happening just today.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will wrap his visit to China this morning and she's scheduled to hold a news conference in just over an hour.

ROMANS: Scary surveillance video from a Dunkin' Donuts in Boynton Beach, Florida, thief exploding through the door, leaping onto the counters, pointing a gun at the staff. A customer grabs him, only to be thrown to the ground and knocked out -- BANFIELD: Oh, cold.

ROMANS: -- after the thief stomped on his head. Workers emptied the cash register and he got away. But thanks to this color video, several other cameras in the store, police were able to identify the thief and some accomplices.

BANFIELD: Look at that. He's just right back to the business of thieving while the poor man is unconscious behind him. That is unbelievable.


BANFIELD: Yes, that's what you'd call callus.

Police in Toronto say the culprits behind an unusual home invasion are still at large this morning. But that's OK, because those invaders -- a family of raccoons burrowing into this house through the attic and then crashing down through the ceiling. They ended up in the kitchen, where they quickly found a nice bowl of fruit to eat.

How about that? The noises absolutely terrified the homeowners.


AAK AL-HILAL, RACCOONS IN HOUSE: We heard scratching and that and water was running. We were really scared because in case the mother jumped on us, and we didn't know what to do.


BANFIELD: They locked themselves inside a bedroom, they called the police. When the officers arrived, they threw their house keys down through the balcony so the police could get in. Police were able to chase those suspects, those offenders, out of the house and the weapon of choice to do so? A broom.

ROMANS: And you know they were masked so they won't be able to identify them later.

BANFIELD: Oh, you are hilarious, Romans!

ROMANS: You have one day left to buy that bigger and brighter hat. The Kentucky Derby is tomorrow. This year's top thoroughbreds will run at the Churchill Down to kick things off. Last night in Louisville was the 57th annual Pegasus Parade, part of the city's Kentucky Derby Festival. Singer Cyndi Lauper served as the parade's grand marshal.

It's also Cinco de Mayo. So, I'm having a Cinco de Mayo and derby. So, big hat and also like lots of (INAUDIBLE).


ROMANS: I might emerge the two events tomorrow.

BANFIELD: And what's with Cindi Lauper, what's the connection there?

ROMANS: Not sure.

BANFIELD: Love her.

ROMANS: Still great --

BANFIELD: But Cindi Lauper, and the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo?

Well, I'm just confused.

ROMANS: Tomorrow is the 5th, right?



BANFIELD: Marciano is always on track with the day of the week. What's up?

MARCIANO: Talladega is this weekend. And --

BANFIELD: Talladega nights.

MARCIANO: And the full moon tomorrow night is the biggest full moon of the year.

BANFIELD: That's why we're weird.

ROMANS: Perfect day to throw a party.

MARCIANO: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: What's going on? Good weather for their fabulous celebrations across the country?

MARCIANO: There is a chance for some thunderstorms tomorrow at post time. Here's forecast for the Kentucky derby. It's going to be warm and relativity humid for this time of year, 85 degrees.

Right now, we'll put it at 40 percent, maybe 50 percent chance of seeing a thunderstorm interrupt the race at that point. But it will go off. Not sure if it will be good for mudders or fast track.

All right. Showers and thunderstorms rolling across, mostly just showers across the Northeast right now. You will see warmer weather in the Big Apple. I know that onshore wind we've been playing kind of cat and mouse with it all week long.

Winds come off the ocean this time of year. It gets cool in a hurry. Those winds will switch around eventually.

Severe thunderstorm watches are posted for parts of Kansas and through Missouri and Illinois for the next couple of hours. And that will be the focal point I think for seeing severe thunderstorms later on today and tonight as well. Also for parts of Texas, getting a piece of energy coming out of the four corner region and the decent storm heading to the Pacific Northwest at this hour.

Continued warmth, we had a few records yesterday. There will be 92 degrees in Memphis today, 91 degrees expected in Dallas and 78 degrees in New York City.

All right, the full moon tomorrow night is going to be brightest one of the year. It's at its closest point and it's full, so it will be -- it's going to be 3 percent closer than typically it would be during the year, during a close spot. And it's going to be about 16 percent brighter. So, one more reason to look at the moon tomorrow night.

ROMANS: Howl at the moon.

MARCIANO: There you go. Howl away, girl.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Rob.

ROMANS: Eighteen minutes after the hour. We're getting an "Early Read" on the water cooler worthy stories for you this morning.

The tallest man in America finally getting a new pair of shoes after his story went viral. We told you about it here, too. Twenty-nine- year-old Igor is more than 7'8" tall. He wears a size 26 shoe. For years, he really hasn't been able to walk normally because can't afford custom-made shoes.

Reebok made him sneakers years ago after visiting him at the Mayo Clinic, his medical issues changed the shape of his feet. The company now stepping up again, saying it will make him another pair. The shoes will take up to 14 weeks to make and they will cost up to $20,000. Igor is also raising money through a social media campaign, hoping to have enough money to wear shoes for life.

BANFIELD: OK, Christine, turn around. Look behind you.

That picture is a child's shoe on the top. That's a size 9 shoe in the middle. And then on the bottom that's Igor's shore. Believe that?

ROMANS: Wow. What a man.

Good luck, Igor. It's good to hear. I'm glad the viral campaign worked out.

This campaign we're about to tell you about, we're really glad it didn't work out so well. A Phoenix woman is accused of faking cancer so she could get a boob job. I'm not kidding. This comes from KTVK, our affiliate. They got the story.

Twenty-seven-year-old Jami Toler telling friends that she needed money to, quote, "help with cover medical expenses," because she has no insurance. Her mom created a Web site for the donations.

ROMANS: Her mom created the web site?

BANFIELD: No, no, the mom knew. I'm not going to indict her on this one. So far, don't know about charges there. But Toler returned to work but just couldn't provide a doctor notes for her medical leave. So her employers were a little bit suspicious and checked her medical records. And now Ms. Toler is facing felony, fraud and theft charges.

By the way, if you're going to go on medical leave and you're going to come back to work, maybe you want to wear a hoodie or something that doesn't show off what you were really up to at the doctor's office.

ROMANS: Well, she said she needed the money for a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. See? So --

BANFIELD: Jami Toler, shame on you.

ROMANS: Hope he's got deep pockets in his hoodie. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is set to become one of the richest people on the planet. Find out why and how much right after this quick break.

Stay with us.


BANFIELD: Welcome back. We're minding your business this morning.

Facebook finally naming the stock price for the initial public offering. I'm really surprised at this, $28 to $35? That's going to value the company up to $98 billion.


BANFIELD: First of all, I thought they were going to be way more expensive.

ROMANS: The thing is, they put the stock price so there will be initial public offering and then it will trade at the market. That's where it runs up if people think that initial value is too low. That's where people think it will run up.

Keep in mind though that Facebook has the option to tweak the stock price as they get closer to going public.

Let me tell you what the process, the IPO process -- what comes next. Next week, Mark Zuckerberg and other senior executives are going to kick of a road show. They meet with big investors, not little investors like you and me. They're going to meet with the big investors, the big institutional investors, that starts Monday in New York.

Then eventually it will set that final stock price the night before it goes public. And finally it will start trading publicly on the NASDAQ. This is rumored to happen on May 18th or sometime in mid-May. That's what they've been going for.

BANFIELD: OK. This is your favorite time of year. I love that you call this your Super Bowl. It's your favorite time of month.

You call this the Super Bowl of what you do for a living. It's jobs day. It's the jobs report.

ROMANS: It's the jobs day, right -- 8:30. This is what we're expecting from the jobs report. It's so incredibly important politically and also for you. You're a jobs market of one. You either have 100 percent employment or zero.

But you want opportunity out there, right? OK. So, the unemployment rate is expected to stay unchanged at 8.2 percent.

And economists are expecting about 160,000 jobs created last month. Can I show you this trend? The trend was -- this is the last year. OK. So, we had some trouble last summer. We've been having a little bit more momentum.

Look at here, January and February. March was a disappointment. This is what I would call modest job gain here. But it is better than we saw in March so we're very closely watching to see whether 160,000 jobs were created.

Here's the politics, Ash. Because you're going to be hearing a lot about -- the president is saying we're moving forward and that we have seen jobs gains, right?

BANFIELD: That's the campaign slogan. Forward.

ROMANS: Right. Mitt Romney is saying these are broken promises on jobs and energy and other things. But broken promises versus forward. That's how the campaigns are spinning the numbers.

Here you go, this is the last year of the Bush presidency. Huge job losses. Huge job losses beginning of President Obama's presidency. And this is where we've been now. Each of these black bars is steady jobs improvement, not as much as we need to see, but still a consistent trend here of job gains.

BANFIELD: I love it when you do this because it really does make it simple to see. I wonder if the campaign will take something like that.

ROMANS: The bloodletting in the job market is shared under both administrations. It started here, continued here. Here is where you're starting to see recovery.

All right. The one thing you need to know today.

BANFIELD: What is your wisdom.

ROMANS: Many of you are out of work applying for jobs left and right. A lot of you are emailing me and telling me this.

The most important thing to put on your cover letter is someone else's name.


ROMANS: You must have someone else's name. Whose name is that? It's the connection to someone you know in that company.

Blindly sending cover letters and resumes is something from the '90s. The '90s are over. You need to know -- you're going to get a job through someone else and you have to start thinking that way right now.

BANFIELD: They used to say it's not what you know, it's who you know. But this is what you're saying, it's who you know to get them to read that letter?

ROMANS: Yes, 150,000 people enter the labor market every month. If we're only adding 160,000 jobs a month, you have to know somebody who has to get you a job.

BANFIELD: Can I ask you a really silly question?

If you don't know somebody in the company, can you do something about that? Perhaps do some research and say, you know, I read that blanketty blank like this, this is my area.

ROMANS: Yes. Professional associations, networking and volunteering in groups that are around the area that you work in, meeting people that way. And, you know, a lot of people, they meet somebody painting the wall at the school for a volunteer project. Do that.

BANFIELD: Oh, man, that's great advice. One thing you need to know, folks.

All right. So, how much beeping, blaring and screeching can you take? Listen to this.

What on earth is going on at the civic auditorium? Apparently it's an effort to shoo away the homeless. Why? How? Is it working? We'll explain in a moment.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 31 minutes now past the hour. Good to have you here with us this morning. Here's what's happening in the news.


BANFIELD (voice-over): Major developments overnight in the story of that Chinese human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng. The word is what's being called a face saving deal may be in the works that will allow Chen to apply to study in the United States. American officials, apparently, saying they spoke to him overnight on the telephone and that he met with his wife in person.

Don't forget, he's in a medical facility. Hillary Clinton expected to speak on this from Beijing live in about a half hour. So, we're watching that for you.

Also, a hang glider accused of eating some evidence? After a student fell 1,000 feet to her death during a tandem flight in Western Canada. This is a very strange story. The investigators say he swallowed a memory card that contained video of that flight, but that may have actually been damaged, erasing the video. So, who knows how that's going to turn out, but very unusual, indeed.

And also in the news, a White police officer off the hook in a racially charged shooting death of a Black war veteran in his own apartment. Sixty-eight-year-old Kennel Chamberlain (ph) was killed late last year in his apartment after a standoff with police in White Plains, New York.

They showed up to check on him after his medical alert device went off, but, things went south from there -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right. America's front yard about to undergo some major yard work. It's been the site of some of the nation's most memorable and historic moments. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a dream " speech there, and it's the backdrop of many presidential inaugurations. Now, the National Mall is getting a $700 million face- lift.

The trust for the National Mall, the official nonprofit partner of the National Parks Service announced yesterday the winners of a design competition. Each will make over one of three areas of the grounds which stretch from the U.S. capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It has been 36 years since the last major renovation. More than 25 million people visit the mall every year.

Joining me now, Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall. She'll have a big hand in making this all happen. Good morning to you. And you know, half of all Americans, at some point in their life, will visit this site, which is why it's so important to be spruced up, shall we say, after about 40 years, right?

CAROLINE CUNNINGHAM, PRESIDENT, TRUST FOR THE NATIONAL MALL: Absolutely. You know, 25 million people come to the park every single year, and it has last seen any renovations about 40 years ago. And it does not look like America's front yard and what it should be the pride of our nation.

ROMANS: All right. There are three areas that will be renovated, Union Square, the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater, and also the Constitution Gardens. Tell me a little bit about how visitors are going to see a new, and I guess, more modern kind of approach to the mall.

CUNNINGHAM: You know, it's interesting. In 2010, November, Secretary Salazar signed the National Mall plan that laid out the future of the National Mall. These sites that we redesigned and that we'll be working on were the major sites in that National Mall plan. And the idea is to better meet the needs of the visitors.

You know, this place was never designed for 25 million people, and I think the designs are respectful of the historic context of the space, which is very important to us, but also, allows for more facilities, more bathrooms, food facilities, and their lovely landscape design so that we're still paying attention to the wonderful monuments and memorials.

ROMANS: And architects will have to be careful to make sure the landscape design blends nicely with, you know, the modern facilities of bathrooms and where to buy food and the like without making it Disney. You don't want Disney. You want the National Mall.


ROMANS: And that's the point here, right?

CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. You know, on the Washington Monument Grounds, the proposal is actually a landscape design. It returns the amphitheater that's there and broken down and allows the landscape to be the natural amphitheater refocusing people's attention on the Washington monument rather than having their backs there.

It tucks the bathrooms and the food facility under the landscape so you don't see them. It's really quite amazing. And at Constitution Gardens, that plan in the 1970s originally had a restaurant. They didn't simply have the money to build it.

So, we went back, redesigned the landscape to support trees, which the fill right now can't even support trees, but then put a restaurant there and a performance base, so that people can enjoy that spot.

ROMANS: You mentioned the money. The project is expected to cost $700 million. Half of it will come from taxpayer money. How will you raise the other 350 million?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I just want to make sure that people know that 700 million is for the entire National Mall plan. The projects that we'll be doing are going to be far less than that, and they're going to be only private dollars. Meaning, no taxpayer dollars will be going into these projects.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, really nice to meet you, Caroline Cunningham, president of Trust for the National Mall. And it will look different, Ash, when we take our kids. It will be upgraded and nice.

BANFIELD: We'll do it together, Christine.


BANFIELD: What a beautiful picture behind you, too, of the Capitol all lit up. It's nice. Thanks, guys.

Thirty-six minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast. Concert promoters in San Francisco have decided to use a different kind of loud noise to keep homeless residents away. For your enjoyment, listen.


(MUSIC PLAYING) BANFIELD (voice-over): That's nice to hear over your TV set at 5:36 in the morning, isn't it? Well, imagine, what it's like in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. A large influx of homeless people, apparently, have been gathering outside of that auditorium, and the venue's promoter called another planet decided to try something, just use noise pollution to try to clear them all away.

OSCAR MCKINNEY, HOMELESS SAN FRANCISCO RESIDENT: Chainsaws, jackhammers, sirens, motorcycle riding, loud obnoxious noises. I mean, really obnoxious. You can hear it 500 to 1,000 yards away.

BANFIELD: That does not sound pleasant. They crank this noise, apparently, all night long, eight to nine hours at a time. Not sure if it's working, though, but think back, 1989, Manuel Noriega? Yes. That worked for U.S. troops, didn't it, in Panama City?

Thirty-seven minutes now past 5:00. An Indiana coroner arrested for drunk driving. Look at her. Police say this woman in the pink was on her way to a death investigation. Tamara Van Gundy (ph) staggering when she arrived. Her alcohol level testing twice the legal limit. She was taken straight to jail, but you know something? She expressed remorse in a phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just a poor decision. I was like, I've got to go. I've got to go. And I should not have.

BANFIELD: Tamara Van Gundy (ph) was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Some serious infighting to tell you about this morning at Yahoo, and this is getting ugly. Yahoo's board of directors is now reviewing the CEO, Scott Thompson's, resume. Yes, the resume of their own CEO. Apparently, a hedge fund investor, hedge fund called, "Third Point," made a claim that Thompson lied about having a degree in Computer Science.

That hedge fund owns nearly six percent of Yahoo's shares and is in a strenuous battle to gain seats on the firm's board. So, there's that part.


ROMANS: Oh, that's going to get interesting.

BANFIELD (on-camera): You bet you.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on EARLY START, the very latest on the plight of Chinese activist, Chen Guangcheng. He's asking for a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, and she's about to speak in minutes in Beijing.

BANFIELD: We'll be watching for that.

And also, a major fashion magazine has decided to do something really, really different. We're talking about skinny girls, one big name, hopefully, one big change, and no more little things. We're going to explain all of that, tell you about the magazine after this quick break. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Nice to have you back with us. Forty-two minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast. And, in just the next 45 minutes, actually, we're watching the clock to hear from secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as she is going to wrap up her visit to china, and she'll go live, folks, but it's not clear, at this point, if she will specifically speak to this issue of the blind activist, the human rights hero, Chen Guangcheng.

He interrupted a Congressional hearing yesterday, pleading for help from Secretary Clinton saying, I need to get out of this country, China, telling the United States lawmakers that he and his family are just not safe.


VOICE OF CHEN GUANGCHENG, ACTIVIST (through translator): I want to meet with Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her. The thing I'm more concern right now is the safety also of my mother, my brothers, and I really want to know what's going on with them.


BANFIELD: Really remarkable if you think about the kind of power, having that access to just sort of interrupt a Congressional hearing, but Stan Grant, our correspondent who has been on this story and first on the story just about every single development, live in Beijing for us this morning.

So, Stan, let's talk -- I'd love to address what we just saw, but first, brand new information coming out this morning that, apparently, Chen is going to be allowed to apply to study abroad? Is this all diplomatic speak for, we've got to get resolution over this thing, it's wrecking a really important meeting?

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think so. I think it's also an indication that China may be looking for a way of preparing the ground for their own population here, preparing the news that Chen may leave so that he doesn't become a heroic figure here.

Just speaking to locals today, they're hearing a little bit more about this in the news coverage, despite a blanket ban over the last week or so. It's starting to be reported, but it's being reported in this way, A, that Chen is somehow a traitor to the country. They're trying to blacken his name. And that, B, China is scoring a diplomatic win over the United States with this whole saga.

So, yes, they're leaving the door open for him to be able to get a passport, apply for a student visa, and then, go to the United States. And from there, we'd assume apply for asylum. There's also been a little built of a change in Chen's tactics, as well. Speaking to him, he is now saying that he's lightening up on a lot of the criticism of the United States. He's pulling back from the high criticism of China, as well. He's now saying he just wants to go to the U.S. for either a holiday or to study, not to live there permanently. So, no one really wants to bring this to a head.

They're trying to find a pragmatic solution, and this may be the beginnings of some sort of an answer as one official put it to us today, off the record, the ice may be beginning to crack, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It's just such an us versus them story. He seems to be a real human rights hero here, but he seems to be portrayed as a huge villain there. Before I ask you about the access that he finally got to his wife, I just want to find out, how on earth is he getting the incredible access to these high-level American leaders? He broke into a meeting on Capitol Hill yesterday.

GRANT: It's extraordinary, isn't it? He really is a player, you know. He's, obviously, a courageous man. He's a guy who is able to stand up to the might of the state who has endured enormous hardship. Listening to him, you know, he's been jailed for four years. He was 18 months under house arrest. He said he was beaten constantly. He was denied medical support, then he might that extraordinary escape.

So, this is a resourceful person. He has friends in high places. He's become a real symbol for human rights here in China. Now, so, what happened in the United States with Congressional hearing was that someone very highly placed there was able to make a call to Chen and then put him up on speaker phone at the hearing himself.

BANFIELD: Amazing.

GRANT: It does go to show how much of a lightning rod he's become for all of this pent-up frustration. Yes. Amazing is the word. Yes.

BANFIELD: Just amazing. And then, just quickly about his wife, because there's been so much concern. He's terrified that his phones have been bugged, that they've been burying things in his yard, that his house is surrounded by officials, that his house has been taken over by Chinese officials.

And yet, we're now hearing that he has had some access to news of his wife through American officials who've been able to meet with her. What do we know?

GRANT: Exactly. American officials are not able to meet with Chen, despite him being at a hospital, because the hospital is so heavily guarded. There was an incredible image of the second in charge of the embassy just the other day, waiting outside in shirtsleeves in the sun, sweating, and not being able to get inside.

They did, however, get to see his wife. They put her mind at rest. They said they're doing everything they can to be able to help her and her husband. So, that, also, is making him feel a little bit more secure. But there's a long way to go in this.

This is a very, very delicate diplomatic dance to massive countries, U.S. and China, very, very powerful, neither wanting to blink in the middle of this resourceful and brave human rights fighter who's been cast as a villain, of course, here in China, but a hero in the U.S.

BANFIELD: Well, you've been doing amazing work, Stan, throughout all of this. Sometimes, I can't understand how you're getting the access to the high-level officials you're getting over there, but you're good, my friend. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

GRANT: We try.


ROMANS: All right. Forty-seven minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date this morning.


ROMANS (voice-over): Junior Seau's family will donate his brain to science. That new from "The L.A. times" this morning. The death of the former NFL linebacker has been confirmed a suicide. Still not clear, though, whether hard hits contributed and possible brain to him before he shot himself. His pastor saying Seau did have a history of concussions.

BANFIELD (voice-over): New this morning for you. You're looking at some brand new video just released of a missing six-year-old girl named Isabel Celis. Take a very close look, people, because police in Tucson are reportedly expanding their search now to Mexico. Officials there checking hotels, bus terminals, businesses.

Isabel's father saying that he put her to bed on the night of April 20th. And then, when he went to wake her up the next morning, she was simply gone. The window was open, the screen had been removed. Isabel's father desperately pleading for his baby's return.


SERGIO CELIS, ISABEL'S FATHER: Just please, please, to the person or persons who has Isabel, tell us your demand, tell us what you want. We will do anything for her.


BANFIELD: Oh, God bless that family. The Tucson police chief is confirming both of Isabel's parents have taken a lie detector test, but he hasn't revealed the results. He says, you know, this is the way it goes, folks. Everyone is a suspect at this point.

ROMANS: Whoever fired at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center could be facing federal charges this morning. Police in Huntsville, Alabama say at least one bullet hit a Saturn V rocket yesterday that was on display. Several school groups were visiting the museum at the time. Luckily, no injuries were reported, only some paint damage. The Smithsonian owns that rocket.

The money trail, hot on focus this morning in the trial of John Edwards. An interior designer by the name of Brian Huffman (ph) took the stand yesterday, and this was real interesting. He described how he helped to funnel money from a very wealthy older heiress to the former senator's top aide.

Now, that interior designer said that checks would say things like "antique tables and chairs" in the memo line when those funds were actually being used to cover up Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter. It's a woman he has a baby with. A lawyer for that heiress is going to take the stand today.

ROMANS: All right. Too young and too thin, no longer in "Vogue." "Vogue" magazine is banning underage models who look underweight. The company says, quote, "We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder." "Vogue" says it wants to promote healthy images.

Its directors will now check models' I.D.s and photo shoots and fashion shows. I thought you already --

BANFIELD: I would have thought so, too.

ROMANS: A little later, we'll be getting an opinion on this from an actual model. Emme will joins us live at 6:30 eastern time.

BANFIELD: Devastating news for the New York Yankees. Their legendary closer, Mariano Rivera, may miss the rest of the season after injuring his knee while (INAUDIBLE) during batting practice yesterday. That's been part of his pregame routine for more than a decade. So, who knows what went wrong this time.

He was carted off the field reportedly, I hate to say this, tearing his ACL. Just 42 years old. 42 years young, we like to say. And the all-time major league saves leader as well. Take a look. There he is going off the field. So, there could be some talk that this will be his final year in the big leagues, and it may have just come to a screeching halt. Oh, God, I hate seeing pictures like that.

ROMANS: He couldn't just coast? He had to be shagging fly balls. Going for it, too. That's what makes him who he is, you know?

BANFIELD: Oh, you know, it's got to hurt when a guy like that who has just been at it so long. If he's going to be down on the ground, you know there's good reason for it. Oh, Rivera, good luck to you, my friend.


BANFIELD (on-camera): Fifty-one minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast. Michael Jackson, are you ready? Making a comeback? It is odd, but it is not a Tupac hologram. It is not anything like that, but it is something really familiar to you, and you may have one reaction or another to it. We're going to test you out on it and explain all of it coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: All right. Time to take a look at what's trending on the web. The king of soda pop, Pepsi, bringing back Michael Jackson for a new ad campaign.

BANFIELD: Isn't it weird?

ROMANS: Yes. The company struck a deal with the Jackson estate to use his image in TV ads just like this iconic ad from the 1980s remember? There will also be special edition cans. Pepsi first hooked up with MJ back in 1983, and this campaign is timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the album "Bad." 25 years!

BANFIELD: Are we that old?

ROMANS: No, we're not.

BANFIELD: Maybe I am.

ROMANS: You're living on hyper speed, my friend.

BANFIELD: That's right. We are, indeed. I've been reading a couple of reactions to this, people saying, you know what? That could go either way. People could be really offended or what?

ROMANS: Yes. Well, the estate signed off on it, so maybe it will be done tastefully. We'll watch.

BANFIELD: I hope so. I love this guy. No matter what, I was so entertained by him. No matter what happened politically, legally, you cannot argue that is one heck of an entertainer, gone too soon.

All right, So, you're ready for the next one? A superhero who wears the red, white and blue, not Captain America. I think we're going to call this guy the PBR guy.


BANFIELD: Beer man coming to the rescue when a college student lost her Pabst Blue Ribbon, her PBR. University of Nebraska Lincoln student, Jessica Robinson, she said, she's just minding her own biz, waxed up on her porch (INAUDIBLE), PBR when some guys came up and threatened her with a fork.

I kid you not. I cannot make this stuff up. They threatened her with a fork, they took her beer, and when the Pabst folks heard about this, they heard it on local news, they sent over a representative to her house to replenish her stolen supply. Beer men even stuck (ph) around to have a beer with her and her friend.

ROMANS: What great PR. Remember that old ad PBR meaning ASAP? Remember it?


ROMANS: It used to be -- long time ago. PBR me, ASAP.

BANFIELD: Seriously?


BANFIELD: Apparently, they took it to heart.

ROMANS: There you go.

BANFIELD: Free beer. I guess it's really free beer, though, if you had your beer stolen, you got to replenish, but you know what it was? Free advertising, PBR. Nicely done.

ROMANS: Yes. Smart move.

All right. Ahead next hour, video you do not want to miss. A coffee run turns into terror at a Dunkin' Donuts.

BANFIELD: Holy cow!