Return to Transcripts main page


Tropical Storm Beryl Makes Landfall in Florida; Americans in Custody in Tokyo; Vatican Embarrassed By Leaks

Aired May 28, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST: Tropical storm Beryl slams into Florida overnight, but it's about to make a dramatic turn. The latest track of the storm straight ahead for you.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Plus, two American men arrested in Japan and charged with strangling a woman. Coming up, how a Nicki Minaj concert played into this whole story.

SAMBOLIN: And that's heavy, a 16-year-old kid comes up with a solution to a 350-year-old problem first posed by Sir Isaac Newton. It's all about gravity this morning, folks.

BANFIELD: We've had some smart 15 and 16-year-olds on this show. Good morning, everybody. And welcome to EARLY START on this Monday. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: We're very happy to have you this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. Five a.m. here in the East.

Let's get started.

BANFIED: And we'll start with this -- tropical storm Beryl making landfall in northeastern Florida near Jacksonville Beach. It's packing a wallop, 70-mile-per-hour winds, torrential rain, more than 24,000 people without power this morning in the Jacksonville area. Take a look at the pictures on your screen. That shows you the wind.

The wind warnings, storm warnings all up along the Atlantic coast from Florida to Georgia to the Carolinas, putting a severe dent in a lot of the Memorial Day festivities.

Our Rob Marciano has been pretty much up all night in the severe weather center watching all of this.

Things getting better at least for now?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the wind has died down but the rain is still coming. This event is far from over, Ashleigh, and at unusual event at that. At one point, winds at 70 miles an hour, it was almost a hurricane. And some could argue that it was a minimal category 1 hurricane when it made landfall.

Here it is on the radar scope. Just reading the latest from the National Hurricane Center, their 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time advisory, winds now down to 50 miles an hour. Obviously when these things come onshore they lose strength. This is their moisture source, their fuel source.

The center of it is about 20 miles, 30 miles to the west of Jacksonville, maybe about 80 miles east-southeast of Valdosta, Georgia. It's heading in that direction, winds moving at about 8 miles an hour. You can see your typical rotation and the thunderstorms that are wrapping around this thing, much like a tropical system.

So, impressive considering, what? It's Memorial Day. We haven't even begun officially hurricane season, starting June 1.

All right. Fifty-mile-an-hour winds gusting to 70. Here is the track, giving you an idea of what is left of Beryl. Later on tonight, we expect it to go down to a tropical depression but the moisture is the key.

Now, we badly need it so we'll take it, but, you know, it's going to take its sweet time getting offshore. So in areas that need the rain, namely north Florida and south Georgia, it's pretty dry, the ground, so the heavy rains that will come down, a lot of it will run off. So we'll see some flooding, but the catch-22 is we need the rain.

All right. Tropical storm warnings persist in Flagler Beach, all the way up to the Savannah River, for the next 12 hours at least. They may drop this later on today. The threat for tornadoes, that's there as well, and the heavy rainfall is going to be the key here as we go through time.

Four to eight inches of rainfall in this area, flash flood watches have been posted. Ironic considering this same area is in extreme drought. This thing is kind of giving it a nudge, but tropical storm Beryl, a Memorial Day tropical storm landfall -- I'm not sure that's ever happened. We're going to have to do some digging throughout the morning, and that may be the interesting tidbit being carried forward on this holiday.

SAMBOLIN: Well, you're certainly working overtime for us. We appreciate it.

MARCIANO: All right. You got it.

SAMBOLIN: Three minutes past the hour here. The United States is condemning a bloody massacre in Syria. More than 100 people have been killed, including dozens of women and children, U.N. officials say. The U.N. Security Council is blaming much of this weekend's violence on the Syrian government. The government is blaming al Qaeda-linked groups.

Officials say Syria has not fully cooperated with cease-fire agreements. The U.N. human rights chief is calling for the crisis in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

BANFIELD: A sobering warning on this Memorial Day weekend from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He says it will be, quote, "disastrous" if Congress allows $50 billion in defense cuts to take effect in January as scheduled. Those are the cuts that were triggered by Congress' failure last year to reach a deficit reduction deal. The Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says he's not going to back down on the cuts.

SAMBOLIN: In just a few hours, President Obama will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. He's also kicking off a 13-year project to honor veterans of the Vietnam War. He'll speak at the Vietnam Memorial Wall and will announce plans to honor those who served in Southeast Asia from now until 2055. The 50th anniversary of the last U.S. troops pulling out of Saigon.

BANFIELD: He has confessed to killing a little boy named Etan Patz 33 years ago. Now, a member of Pedro Hernandez' family is telling that he reported the suspect to police in Camden, New Jersey, back in the '80s and nothing came of it. The relative says Hernandez admitted to killing a boy in New York and dumping the boy in the trash. Hernandez is right now at a New York hospital on suicide watch, awaiting a psychiatric examination to determine if he's competent to go ahead and stand for murder.

A Boulder, Colorado, couple is not going to face charges for shooting and wounding a 21-year-old female student who just wandered into their home through an unlocked screen door. Police say Colorado University student Zoey Ripple had a blood alcohol level 0.2 when she entered the home early Wednesday morning.

Here's the homeowner's 911 call just moments after her husband shot that girl in the hip.


CALLER: She walked into our bedroom, and we told her, we were screaming at her. She kept coming in the bedroom. And we shot her.


BANFIELD: The 911 operator then instructs the homeowner to ask the wounded intruder a question, and it picks up from there. Take a listen.


CALLER: Do you have any weapons on you? What?

Why did you just walk into our house when we were screaming at you to get out?

She seems kind of stoned or something.


BANFIELD: So Colorado has a, quote, "make my day" law, like a stand your ground, like a castle law. It allows homeowners to use deadly force if an intruder enters their home uninvited and if they feel threatened. Prosecutors are still deciding if they're going to press charges against the intruder, Ripple.

SAMBOLIN: Scotland's Dario Franchitti captured the checkered flag at the Indy 500. The husband of actress Ashley Judd winning the race for the third time in five years after Japan's Takuma Sato tried to pass him on the left lap. He ended up crashing.

You can hear all about it when Dario Franchitti joins us live in the 7:00 hour. That is on "STARTING POINT."

BANFIELD: One young man and one big riddle. A centuries-old math problem put to rest by a 16-year-old. Are you ready for this?

Shouryya Ray of Germany solved a math problem first posed by Sir Isaac Newton over 300 years ago. It makes it possible to determine the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to resistance. Ray also closed another unsolved math problem first posed in the 19th century. An Indian-born teenager who learned calculus at 6 says his curiosity and school boy naivety led him to those discoveries.

Go figure. How about that?

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

All right. An Irish exchange student is found strangled in a Japan hotel room. Two American men are detained. We're going to go live to Japan for it details on this murder mystery.


SAMBOLIN: An international murder mystery is unfolding this morning in Tokyo. Two American men being held by Japanese police in connection with the strangling death of a 21-year-old Irish exchange student. The suspects met the female at a Nicki Minaj concert.

Kyung Lah live from Tokyo this morning.

What do you know about these two Americans?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, we're learning a little more about their background.

Police here in Tokyo are describing both men as entertainers. The 19-year-old suspect is a man that police describe as a musician. They are not releasing his name as of yet because under Japanese law, he's considered a minor.

The 23-year-old is identified as James Blackstone. He is a backup dancer, and according to Tokyo police, fairly well-known. These two men were at a Nicki Minaj concert on Wednesday night here in Tokyo when they met two Irish women. That's what the media is reporting.

Then Tokyo police tell us the foursome ended up at a Shoguko (ph) area Tokyo City hotel, and it's at that hotel that all of this happened. Someone inside the hotel reported hearing a loud noise early Thursday morning. When hotel staff went to check, they found 21-year-old Nicola Furlong unconscious and unresponsive. She was taken to the hospital.

But Tokyo police say she died of strangulation. Authorities here trying to unravel what led to this woman's death -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you for that report. We appreciate that.

Kyung Lah, live for us in Japan this morning.

The State Department is trying to get the release of a U.S. citizen who was kidnapped in the West African nation of Benin. Officials say that U.S. diplomats are providing consular assistance I the case, still not clear why the unidentified American was abducted. Benin is a country of about 9 million people.

SAMBOLIN: And live right now, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair takes a stand on the U.K. phone hacking scandal. Blair is expected to face questions about his ties to news corporation founder Rupert Murdoch. The judicial inquiry is investigating alleged ties between the British press and several government officials. Former News Corporation tabloid "News of the World" is accused of hacking the phones of several high-profile people including politicians, even a murder victim's phone.

BANFIELD: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is defending the administration's plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2014, and he's also taking a swipe at Mitt Romney over his criticism of the president for making that plan public.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Without getting into the campaign rhetoric of what he's asserting, I think you've got 50 nations in NATO that agree to a plan in Afghanistan. It's the Lisbon Agreement, an agreement that, you know, others, President Bush, President Obama, everyone has agreed is the direction we go in, in Afghanistan.


BANFIELD: The defense secretary is also warning there will be, quote, "disastrous consequences" if Congress doesn't reverse planned cuts of more than $500 billion from the defense budget early next year.

SAMBOLIN: Six people hurt, including a firefighter and a police officer, following a massive house explosion. This was in the suburbs of Milwaukee. Fire officials still aren't saying what caused Saturday's blast, but take a look at that. Witnesses were stunned by the sheer force of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, this is -- I never in my life see something like this. Whoa!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very tall, very bright, engulfing everything around it.


SAMBOLIN: The injured police officer suffered smoke inhalation and the injured firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.

BANFIELD: "The Men in Black" franchise is back. After a 10- year hiatus, 10 years, can you believe that? Ten years. How old are we?

Anyway, it was tops at the box office, "MIB 3" bethrowning "The Avengers" becoming number one. By the way, it took in $55 million this weekend to earn that title. "The Avengers" fell to second place after three weeks in place, it only brought in $36.9 million, but it's the billion-dollar movie, folks. "The Avengers" is not crying in its soup today.

SAMBOLIN: My kids saw it. Haven't gotten reviews yet.

Look, ma, no hands. At first glance, this home run yesterday looks like your typical dinger. You can see he loses the bat. Check this out. The spotlight shows the bat is actually out of Frazier's hands when he makes contact with the ball. It is a hands-free home run. Pretty amazing!

BANFIELD: I don't know a lot about baseball, but I figure that somewhere in the rule book that has to not count.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I think it counts.

BANFIELD: If you don't actually get the hit? You know what I mean

SAMBOLIN: He did. He positioned that bat to hit that ball.

BANFIELD: I don't know. I'm thinking there's some conspiracy theorists out there going over the centuries-old rules of baseball.

SAMBOLIN: That's wild.

BANFIELD: It's kind of cool what an oops moment, letting go of the bat. Go figure. Oh, no, my pen, I can't go on.

It's 16 minutes past 5:00. Time for your "Early Morning" reads. We want to get you up to speed on the newspaper stories before they're even off the presses.

This one is a head scratcher. 17-year-old honors student, she's crying because she's getting thrown in jail for missing too many days of class. Did I say she was an honor student? Yes.

Apparently, she's working two jobs to support her siblings because her parents left town. Our Houston affiliate says that Diane Tran is now living with one of her employers. She says she's sometimes so exhausted from work that she misses school. But a judge said he wanted to make an example of her so he did. He ordered her to spend 24 hours in jail and pay a $100 fine.

Did I mention she was an honors student working two jobs trying to support --

SAMBOLIN: That's an odd story. How do you make an example of that?

BANFIELD: Give her a medal for heaven's sake. Don't send her to jail.

SAMBOLIN: Help her out.

BANFIELD: Call the parents perhaps. Send the --


SAMBOLIN: A 19-year-old tech entrepreneur spends two months as a squatter at the AOL building in Palo Alto. Tech Web site CNET says Eric Simmons got a building pass working for programs renting space there. When the program ended, Simmons -- I think it's Simons actually, didn't have rent money.

So, what did he do? He decided to stay. He ate free food, took showers at the employee gym and he slept on the couch.

AOL employers thought he was just a really hard worker. Eventually he was kicked out by security and an AOL vice president said, quote, "It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office. We didn't expect it to work so well."

BANFIELD: Eric Simmons, you have a job in the news business. That's what it takes, live, eat, work and breathe.

SAMBOLIN: They said, well, this is just one of ours.

BANFIELD: I like that. I like that they thought he was just a good hard worker.

All right. So a California family says that a mistake by a sheriff's deputy led to a fire at their home. It's really unbelievable how this plays out. "The Daily Mail" is reporting that San Diego investigators were investigating a robbery and stormed the wrong house.

So mistake number one, they arrest the wrong family inside. At the time they made this erroneous arrest, the husband is cooking dinner, right? The stove is on. Husband says, would you let me turn the stove off?

Apparently they say no and they pull the family outside. Minutes later, fire breaks out, destroys the kitchen. It's like, yo, I told you!

SAMBOLIN: I have to turn of the stove.

BANFIELD: Please! Are you kidding me? I know.

So, anyway, luckily, nobody was hurt, but the sheriff's department says -- and I love this -- we're investigating. I bet you're investigating! I bet you are.

SAMBOLIN: That's odd. I guess they were all head-scratchers this morning. Why do you not allow him to turn off the stove in?

BANFIELD: I suppose these kinds of things happen, but please if you're arresting someone, at least let the neighborhood be safe.

Nineteen minutes past 5:00, for an expanded look at our stories that we just told you and a whole bunch of other ones, just for kicks,, place to go. Lots of good stuff.

Also, want to let you know that helping veterans land a job on this Memorial Day is a critical part of why we are on this planet. So what are businesses doing right now to help those who put their lives on the line for our freedom? It's important, folks. Make sure you tune in. You've got to see this.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Hi, welcome. It's 23 past 5:00. Minding your business this morning, financial markets closed for Memorial Day.

So, if you're awake, it's just because you're normally awake at this hour. When trading resumes tomorrow, analysts say the debt crisis in Europe and pesky uncertainty in Greece is continuing to be the issues.

Meantime, stocks are coming off a strong week with the NASDAQ rising more than 2 percent. Not all bad.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's bring in Christine Romans, who's taking looking at the job market for veterans today. Boy, servicemen and women are having a really hard time.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They are, but the unemployment rate is improving a bit so that's a good sign. There are companies, big companies that have big company relations pushes to hire veterans but there are also small and midsized companies doing the same thing because it's good for business.

I want to introduce you to one company that has found that the battlefield and military experience is really good for them. It actually helps them grow their business. Listen.


ROMANS (voice-over): For Dave Devanzo, to find a job, all it took was a sign.

DAVE DEVANZO, U.S. NAVY (RET.): I'd had been driving past that Modern sign probably for, you know, before I moved out here 12 years ago, for probably about, you know, 18 years before that.

ROMANS: This billboard off I-95 outside of Philadelphia, construction equipment company Modern Group wants the hire people just like him, veterans. He retired from the Navy in August after 29 years.

DEVANZO: It was a bit of a shock I think for me. I put all the applications out, all the work I had done, put my feelers out there, and got little response, very little response. So I saw the sign out front, and I called the HR department, sent them my stuff, and the rest is history.

ROMANS: And that's what led him to a job as a shop technician here.

DEVANZO: I will tell you this, my first ever job interview, and I'm 47 years old right now, happened at Modern Group. So it was a change, definitely a change.

ROMANS: Dozens of applications poured in to Dave Griffith, Modern's president and CEO.

DAVID E. GRIFFITH, PRES. & CEO, MODERN GROUP LTD.: You can imagine the visibility that that sign gets.

ROMANS: He's hired 27 veterans and reservists from all branches of the military.

GRIFFITH: They tend to be more disciplined, more focused, more sensitive to the customer. I think there's a greater attention to detail from folks coming out of the military.

JASON BLAIR, U.S. NAVY (RET.): He has shown me quite a few things around here.

JERRY MILLER, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Yes, we've got to help each other out. You know, we're all on the same team. Inevitably our mission is to get the entire job done and keep this company rolling.

ROMANS: There's a huge push to hire more veterans. The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans has been steadily improving, 9.2 percent in April, but it's still higher than the national average.

Some 40 major U.S. companies have pledged more than 100,000 jobs to veterans by 2020, including Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. Already this year, 12,000-plus vets have been hired.

The fields that have been hiring veterans? Government, health care, tech, and manufacturing.

GRIFFITH: I feel very strongly as the CEO that our obligation is to honor that service. If we can do that in such a way that we can hire these young men and women and bring them on board and also do good for our company and our stakeholders, I can't imagine why I wouldn't do that.

DEVANZO: What we deal with in the military, it's nothing more than really a snapshot of society anyway. So coming here, working with these guys here, it's just -- I think it's a perfect transition.


ROMANS: Perfect transition 27 and counting they've hired from that sign. The biggest help wanted sign I've ever seen and it's very specific. Veterans with mechanical experience, we want you.

That's a key here. You've got really smart companies in this country who are figuring out what kind of skills they're using on the battlefield they can use in their companies. Manufacturing, a lot of these jobs in manufacturing, but also health care and others as well.

So, this is one story of a company that's going out of its way to hire vets.

SAMBOLIN: Love that targeted approach.


BANFIELD: It's such a great story because on memorial day we think of our fallen soldiers but we have to remember the soldiers who are home, who are looking for jobs who have served our country. We need to pay them back best we can. That man is wonderful, what he did.

ROMANS: He's doing it -- I mean, it's good business, you know? This is what runs businesses. It's good business to hire veterans.

BANFIELD: Christine, thank you. Great story.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-seven minutes past hour. Nuns gone wild. I feel a little sacrileges saying that. I was educated by nuns.

Why the Vatican is demanding largest group of Catholics nun to reform. We'll tell you why the church is so upset.


BANFIELD: Scandals rocking the Vatican this morning. The pope's butler arrested. And also, America's largest group of catholic nuns getting a reprimand by the Vatican. Find out why and how the nuns are responding, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, it's the first tropical system to make landfall in the United States this season. We are tracking tropical storm Beryl for you this morning. BANFIELD: And it has been a deadly couple of months on Mt. Everest, one of the worst in recent history, in fact. This hour, we're going to take you up the mountain and talk live with a man who just made it to the summit and is now on his way back down the mountain.

SAMBOLIN: I am really looking forward to your interview with him.

BANFIELD: Me, too.

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: Nice to have you here with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Thirty-two minutes now past the hour. Let's get you caught up on top stories, and it looks like a stormy Memorial Day on tap, at least down south, anyway. Tropical storm Beryl coming ashore overnight in Northeast Florida near Jacksonville Beach with heavy rain and near hurricane-force winds.

The storm now working its way along the Atlantic coastline, and Rob Marciano has been busy all throughout the night tracking this storm in the weather center. So, what's the worst of the stories here, the wind or the rain?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, a little bit of both. We do have power that's been knocked out especially across the North Florida and South Georgia. The rain is going to be torrential at times, now will cause some flooding, but this is the same area of the country that is in extreme drought, so a catch-22.

We need the rain, not all at one time. Fifty-mile-an-hour winds, at one point 70-mile-an-hour winds. It was this close to becoming a hurricane, and some would argue that it did just that before landfall. Nonetheless, it's pretty big as far as the winds go, tropical storm- force winds extend well up over 100 miles out of this thing.

Right now, the center of it is about 20, maybe 30 miles west of Jacksonville, Florida. There you see the classic circular motion of the clouds and the rain there. And it will be slow to move out to sea as we go through the next 48 hours. So, it will turn into a tropical depression, obviously, weakening as it continues over land, and then will be picked up by a front that's coming through.

And in the next 48 hours, eventually, off the coastline of South Carolina then heading out to sea, but the main threat for this over the next 24 hours is four to eight inches of rainfall, locally, higher in spots. It's been so dry, guys, in this areas that the ground is kind of caked off. So, a lot will run off, but they do need the rain. So, I suppose they'll take it when they can get it -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I know. It's still tough on Memorial Day, right? Everybody wants to be out and enjoying it.

MARCIANO: Yes. Big washout.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob, thank you very much.

MARCIANO: You got it.

SAMBOLIN: Well, the butler did it. It's taking on new meaning in a Vatican investigation. The Catholic Church trying to find out who leaked confidential documents belonging to Pope Benedict XVI. Paolo Gabriel (ph) has been arrested on suspicion of leaking the material to an Italian journalist.

The documents including hundreds of the pope's personal letters reveal an internal power struggle within the Vatican. Gabriel has been the pope's butler since 2006. That highlighted pictures of him there with the pope. Barbie Nadeau is Rome bureau chief for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." She joins us now live from Rom this morning.

There are so many layers to this story, Barbie. Can you tell us what is in the documents, what they contain?

BARBIE NADEAU, ROME BUREAU CHIEF, NEWSWEEK AND THE DAILY BEAST: Well, these documents range from gossip to very serious allegations of cronyism, of financial corruption, of how the Vatican has tried to avoid paying Italian property taxes, things of this nature that have really shaken the very core of the Vatican.

There are trivial things about how 100,000 Euro white truffle ended up in a soup kitchen in Rome, but the more serious allegations do surround money laundering (ph) and financial corruption.

SAMBOLIN: And how is the Vatican responding to this?

NADEAU: Well, when the initial leak started coming out into the press and when the book with these leaks called "His Holiness" was published last week, the Vatican called it a criminal act. They have not gone, so far -- the documents are not authentic, but they say publishing them is agree (ph) to privacy and a criminal act.

The journalist (INAUDIBLE) who got these documents, who won't reveal his source, who gave him the documents, says he never paid anyone for these documents, but that someone came to him, these sources.

And, out of, you know, a drive for transparency and to try to clear up some of the misconceptions of what was happening inside the holy city and what was being said in the public sector. So, that was the reasoning the documents supposedly came out.

SAMBOLIN: Let's focus on the butler. We've been showing a picture of him highlighted there, if we could put that back up. Apparently, he is being held within the judicial system of the Vatican, the Vatican City. What can you tell us about the butler?

NADEAU: Well, the butler is part of the Pontiffica family, which is a very small group of people who around the pope (INAUDIBLE). There are two clerical secretaries, the ordain priests. There are four nuns who take care of his daily needs, you know, cooking of foods, cleaning his apartment, and then, there's the butler.

It is really just that intimate. These are the people that saw him first thing in the morning and the last people the pope saw before he went to bed each night. They were really a family, and that's why this betrayal is so saddened the pope, this alleged betrayal, has saddened the pope. It shocked him, according to the Vatican spokesman.

SAMBOLIN: Barbie, there are some people who refer to this man as a very simple man. I also read very simple minded. That they think, perhaps, there are more layers to the story, more people involved. Are we expecting more arrests here?

NADEAU: Well, the investigation right now is very complex, and I think the conventional wisdom is that this butler wouldn't have been able to act alone, that he wouldn't have had access to the right kinds of people to be able to do this. Perhaps, he was a conduit for these documents. Perhaps, he's a fall guy.

You know, these are questions that everyone is asking right now. The Italian press, of course, has gone wild with the story. They're blaming, finger-pointing, blaming all sorts of different people. But until this investigation really gets its footing, I think we won't know exactly who's involved. And for now, the journalist is not talking about who his sources were.

SAMBOLIN: Well, certainly very interesting details. Barbie Nadeau live for us in London, thank you -- I'm sorry, in Rome, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: And the pope's butler is just one of the headaches facing the Vatican this morning. In fact, America's largest group catholic nuns is another headache for the Vatican because those nuns are going to meet for three days this week to come up with a response to what was considered a pretty harsh Vatican reprimand sent their way.

The church wants major reforms from the nuns and has criticized them for their, quote, "radical feminist themes and for not speaking out enough about abortion and gay marriage," the political side of all of that. The 21-member board of the leadership conference of women religious begins its meeting tomorrow. The group represents about 80 percent of the catholic nuns in this country.

SAMBOLIN: New fallout from the North Carolina pastor who delivered an anti-gay sermon that went viral. Authorities say someone tried to burn his church down but only managed to damage the power lines outside. Meantime, thousands of demonstrators rallied outside Providence Road Baptist Church Sunday to protest its Pastor Charles Worley.

Worley gave a sermon on Mother's Day calling for gays and lesbians to be thrown behind electric fences to eventually die out. Any members of the congregation are still supporting him. BANFIELD: The parents of missing U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, are leading hundreds of thousands of motorcyclist in the annual rolling thunder rally in the nation's capital. It's held each Memorial Day weekend to remember prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.


ROBERT BERGDAHL, FATHER OF POW BOWE BERGDAHL: Thanks to you, our POWs and MIAs are never forgotten and they never will be forgotten. Bowe, if you can hear me, you are not forgotten, and so, help me God, you will come home. We will not leave you behind.


BANFIELD: Bowe Bergdahl is a 26-year-old army sergeant who was captured in June of 2009 in Afghanistan.

SAMBOLIN: Laverne Everett can cross skydiving off her bucket list. The California grandmother decided it was time to jump out of a plane to celebrate her 80th birthday last year. But she appeared (INAUDIBLE) at the moment of truth, holding on to the plane for dear life. Look at her instructor pulling her hand free before they tumble out.

But, Laverne's upper harness slips off, her partner desperately holding on to her to keep her from plunging thousands of feet to her death.


LAVERNE EVERETT, SURVIVED CLOSE CALL SKYDIVING: Once you get on that edge, that's another story. The upper harness came off, you know. It was slipped down. I didn't know anything. Only to hold on. That's all.


SAMBOLIN: Well, that's pretty smart. Laverne made it down safely, and undaunted, she says the next item on her bucket list? Driving in a race car. I was going to say she'll be safer there, but I don't know. I got to say I did that and I was harnessed, and they make sure that it's really tight. So, that is very scary.

BANFIELD: Can you imagine her partner trying to figure out, before he can pull the chute, I've got to get her back up.


BANFIELD: Because if you pull the chute and you're holding on to someone, you're not holding on to that for much longer. That's a good story, but that could have been a disaster. Oh!

SAMBOLIN: But her spirit is really something. Her spunk. She's like 80 years old. I'll do it again.

BANFIELD: Good for her.


BANFIELD: Up next, we're going to talk to a man who just finished doing something else pretty miraculous, climbing the world's tallest, highest mountain, 29,000 feet, folks, Mt. Everest. Look at all those people. Does that look like something you want to do in line behind all of those people?

SAMBOLIN: Not in line.

BANFIELD: Yes. How about when the weather blows in? We're going to find out why the soaring popularity and some really mean weather patterns are making this more dangerous than even the experts are willing to risk.


BANFIELD: Welcome back. It's 44 minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast. You ever heard of this? A human traffic jam on the world's tallest mountain? It's true. Hundreds of climbers have been scrambling to try to reach the top of Mt. Everest after really bad weather condition put a limit to the number of days during which the climbers could actually make an effort to summit.

Look at the picture on your screen. Those are people trying to climb Everest, hundreds and hundreds of them. It is crazy. It is so crazy that at least four people died last weekend in this bottleneck. One man who made it to the top last week is Kenton Cool, and he was able to fulfill a long (ph), now to bring a 1924 Olympic gold medal for alpinism to the top of Mt. Everest.


KENTON COOL, REACHED SUMMIT OF EVEREST THURSDAY NIGHT: We just summated Mt. Everest! With a gold medal.


COOL: Ten minutes ago. How are you feeling, Keith?


COOL: Number one for Keith, number ten for me.


BANFIELD: You heard that, number ten for me. It's his tenth summit, which is a pretty remarkable feat. On the phone now, he joins me from Nepal. Can you hear me, Mr. Cool?

COOL: I can hear you. How are you?

BANFIELD: I'm well. And I'm glad that you're well. And it looked like your climbing friend was not so well, and this is becoming a more and more risky endeavor for anybody who wants to summit this mountain. Not like it wasn't dangerous before. Why is it so much more dangerous now than it was, say, even five or ten years ago?

COOL: Well, to be honest, the mountain has become no more dangerous. What happened this year is the number of people and the way that the weather transpired this year, lots of people ended up trying to climb on the 19th of the month and they came on the 25th and 26th of the month.

I think if you look at statistics, it's actually no more dangerous this year than it has been in the past. It's just unfortunate that the crash that picked up on the (INAUDIBLE) occurred on the 19th which had been the sheer number of people trying to climb up. Obviously, the picture that you showed, I mean, it looks absolutely horrendous, but in reality, it's nowhere near that bad.

BANFIELD: Well, let me ask you this. I was reading in the "New York Times" a week ago -- I'm an Everest junkie. I've been there. I have climbed upper range (ph). I didn't do anything crazier than base camp, but, when I saw this headline in the "New York Times" that says, don't climb every mountain written by a Freddie Wilkinson (ph) who's guide, author and climber.

He said that not only are the crowds a problem, and they have been for a long time, but that the weather patterns are making things extremely tenuous on the mountain, at the kumbu (ph) icefalls, and the look to (ph) face are getting more and more treacherous. Such that experienced guides and operations are canceling their seasons because it is just too risky.

COOL: Well, I mean, it's one of the things, it's was -- canceled its expedition quite early in May. Lots of people would have said that it was a bit premature decision by Russell. He's a very good friend of mine. And although, I support him, I, perhaps, don't agree with him. I think if you look at the number of summits this year, which potentially will be a record number of summits, then maybe his decision wasn't perhaps the right one.

But a thing we need to remember is climbing Everest is a dangerous under taking. It's the highest mountain in the world. Climbers members who spend a lot of time in what we know the death zone, human beings can't really exist, so it comes down to very careful management of how the expedition is run.

The small expedition I was with, trying to fulfill an Olympic games pledge, what we did, we deliberately waited an extra week to get a clear run of the summit. That was on May 25th. And that day worked out extremely well. There's lots at the summit. No one got hurt. There were really no frost bites and things worked very, very well.

So, climbing big mountains is all about management and understanding about how that mountain works. And I think, unfortunately, people, perhaps, got so many people on the 19th and perhaps went to summit Olympic prematurely.

BANFIELD: Well, I'm glad that you made it down safe and congratulations on your tenth summit. That is really a remarkable feat. And I just hope within the next few days as the climbing season comes to an end, we don't have any further stories like we did. Thanks and congratulations and good luck getting home.

COOL: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

BANFIELD: Kenton Cool joining us from Katmandu, Nepal today.

SAMBOLIN: Kenton Cool and very cool, indeed.


SAMBOLIN: Very cool.

Forty-nine minutes past the hour here. Let's get you up to date, shall we?


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Two American men are being held by Japanese police. This is in connection with the strangling death of an Irish exchange student. Police say the suspects met the female victim at a Nicki Minaj concert in Tokyo last week. She is identified as 21-year-old Nicola Furlong (ph). She was found unconscious in a Tokyo hotel room. This was Thursday morning.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Seems to be a Memorial Day super soaker for people in Florida and Georgia as tropical storm Beryl comes calling. That storm making landfall overnight near Jacksonville Beach, pounding the coast of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia. Tens of thousands of people this morning are without power.

And for all of you aspiring astronomers, break out your telescopes. Tonight, sky watchers will be able to check out a half moon and Mars. For those looking to spy the red planet, it will appear as a bright yellow-orange spot above and to the left of the moon.

Mars is actually moving away from Earth, so this could be your best chance to see the planet for the next few months. If you snap a great picture, send it to us, tweet us @EARLYSTART.

BANFIELD: Fireworks flew over San Francisco last night as the city celebrated the 75th birthday -- oh, look at that -- of the Golden Gate Bridge. Tens of thousands of people flocked into the iconic bridge for that birthday bash. Bridge was built back in 1937, has since become one of America's most recognized and treasured icons.


BANFIELD (on-camera): Lady Gaga in battle with Indonesia. Why the pop star has been banned from performing in that Muslim country?

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And if you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop or on your mobile phone, just go to And on Twitter, you can reach us at EARLYSTARTCNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's time to take a look at what is trending on the web. You probably don't know who Jeff Barth is, right? But you'll know more than you ever wanted to know about him by the time you're done watching his latest ad. It is being called the greatest political ad ever.

The candidate in South Dakota for a house seat strolling down the trail with strategically placed props pointing out key moments of his life. Who wouldn't vote for a guy who rode an ostrich? Take a look.


JEFF BARTH, RODE AN OSTRICH: We lived around the world. You know, embassies, consulates, that kind of thing, Iceland, Germany, Belgium, South Africa, and even La Suit Tu (ph). Look that one up. Along the way, I learned chess in Iceland. I was afraid of nuclear war the whole time. I've ridden an ostrich. I've done a lot of stuff. For six years, I served in the U.S. military with one of these.


SAMBOLIN: The best moment in there. The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times already.

BANFIELD: I'd like to know what that sound was. Kind of sounded like a person. I think it's supposed to sound like an ostrich, but --

So, next up, trending on the web, Lady Gaga, officially calling off her concert in Indonesia over Islamic threats from that country. Gaga announcing that the show is off. She did this on Twitter where she has 25 million followers, more than anybody else.

Earlier this month, Jakarta police have refused approval for the show after the group called the Islamic defenders front have threatened violence if Gaga perform there. The talks were being held to see if she'd consider toning down the show, but what, are you kidding me? It's Gaga. You think she's going to bend to that?

No. She refused. They called her the devil's messenger who wears bras and panties. (INAUDIBLE) anyway, right? Apparently, this thing was sold out. More than 50,000 tickets have been sold. So, the good kids in Indonesia will not be getting their Gaga fix.


BANFIELD: That's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Tropical storm Beryl comes ashore knocking out power to thousands. Find out where it is heading next.