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NFL Officials: Back To Football; NHL Cancels Preseason Games; Minneapolis Office Shooting; "Innocence Of Muslims" Filmmaker Arrested; New Search For Jimmy Hoffa; Netanyahu Draws "Red Line"; Controversial Documentary "2016: Obama's America"

Aired September 28, 2012 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Haven't we seen this before? A last-second Hail Mary pass with the real NFL refs on the field?


BERMAN: But see what happened this time, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Also today, what police are saying about the victims and the gunman in a deadly shooting inside a Minnesota office building.

BERMAN: Plus, the search for Jimmy Hoffa. Today, the first step for possibly solving this decades-old mystery, at last, maybe or maybe not.

SAMBOLIN: Maybe not.

BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East.

Up first -- rock star referees? The real NFL officials made their season debut last night. They got a standing ovation from the crowd, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore before the Ravens/Browns game.

NFL fans were fit to be tied after three chaotic weeks with all of the replacement refs. Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for the drawn-out dispute and said both sides were ready to make a deal even without Monday night's blown call heard around the world.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I believe we would have reached agreement this week regardless of Monday night or Sunday night or the past weekend. Everybody was to the point of getting this concluded.


SAMBOLIN: So how did the real zebras do? CNN's Nischelle Turner is live in Los Angeles. So how did they do?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's funny, Zoraida, because I was kind of watching the game, taking some notes because I knew I was going to talk to you guys today about it.

And one of the things that I wrote down was, kind of hard to pay attention to the referees while watching on television. But, that's actually translated into a good thing.

Because if you don't notice the referees, that's when you know they're doing a good job when you really can't pick out any big calls that they did. Everyone was breathing a sigh of relief that they were back on the field and this lockout was over.

They got the standing ovation, like you talked about. But it didn't take long for the fans and the booers to come out because of course there's always calls that fans don't like.

And there you can hear the boos there when there's a holding call called on the Ravens last night. The home crowd certainly didn't like that. So it was kind of like, welcome back to the NFL. We're not too happy with that call.

And also there was another call, third quarter, about seven minutes in, at the game a helmet-to-helmet hit call and the crowd definitely didn't like that. You can really hear the boos there. And so, they were back then.

But of course, it wasn't like they were actually bad calls. They were just calls that the home crowd did not like. And then we had the end of the game, and it was almost like when you saw this pass, you thought, is it groundhog's day.

The end of the game, a Hail Mary pass, going all the way down the field and what happened here? Are we going to see a replay of what happened on Monday night?

Well, not so much. The ball is knocked down, the game's over and the ref there is very definitive about what happened, no catch. So --

SAMBOLIN: So that's really good news, right?

TURNER: They did really well, yes, exactly.

SAMBOLIN: Wouldn't it have been something if it would have been a repeat. That would have really been something. Commissioner Goodell actually took a lot of heat here.

And a lot of folks are wondering what it was that pushed a settlement. And he said it wasn't the infamous bad call because they had been negotiating all along. What do you know about that?

TURNER: Well, you know, the thing is he does say that. And they were in negotiations before that bad call happened. But you have to think because of the bad call, it kind of fast-forwarded things.

And he talked about that at the press conference that he had yesterday. Let's listen to a little bit of what the commissioner said.


GOODELL: We were in intensive negotiations for the last ten days. There were planned meetings. We met all through the weekend, planned meetings for Tuesday morning. I think it was just another factor that kept pushing us that this is the right thing for the game.


TURNER: And -- and what he said, basically, was, and you heard it before, that he pretty much knew that a deal would get done this week. They got the deal done late Wednesday so the refs could be back on the field for Thursday because it wouldn't be fair to have replacement refs reffing Thursday night's game.

And then the regular refs coming in and reffing the rest of the games on Sunday so they had to make the decision to get everybody back, get them back quickly, so that everyone could have the same referee crews throughout the week.

SAMBOLIN: What did he say about those replacement refs? Did he think that they did a good job?

TURNER: You know, I don't know if he went as far to say they did a good job, but they did maintain that they thought they did admirable work for the position that they were in. And everybody did say they knew they were in pretty much over their head.

But here's a quick little fun fact for you guys. I don't know if you've ever seen the movie "The Replacements." Well that's about replacement players playing in the National Football League. That movie was filmed at M&T Bank Stadium.


TURNER: In Baltimore where the game was last night. So it's a little bit fitting. The movie "The Replacements" was filmed there and the real refs come back in the same city.

SAMBOLIN: There's a concept, right? All right, thank you, Nischelle Turner live for us. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right, well, be happy you can watch good football right now because the entire hockey season may be out the door. The entire NHL preseason on ice, the regular season in jeopardy, too.

The National Hockey League canceling the rest of its exhibitions games yesterday. Here's the hopeful news for hockey fans. Formal labor negotiations are expected to resume today.

The regular season is scheduled to begin October 11th if the league and its union can figure up out to divvy up $3.3 billion in revenues.

SAMBOLIN: You think it's a bust though?

BERMAN: I'm not optimistic.

SAMBOLIN: All right, that would be terrible.

All right, it's 5 minutes past the hour. Police are trying to figure out why a gunman went on a deadly rampage inside a Minneapolis sign company. The death toll rising this morning. The shooter killing four people before turning the gun on himself.

Shots rang out around 4:30. This was yesterday afternoon, at the Accent Signage Systems Building on the north side of the city. Christine Romans is here with more details for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just a small business making indoor signs in a sleepy part of town. Police say the gunman killed four people, also took his own life, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This company, Accent Signage Systems employs around 25 people. It's known for making signs in Braille. The business is located in a mostly residential neighborhood. Police SWAT teams filled the streets, taking positions on a nearby bridge late yesterday afternoon.

In a statement, Governor Mark Dayton offered his condolences to these victims. Dayton calls the killings senseless, saying there's no place for it anywhere in Minnesota.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much.

ROMANS: We'll continue to get more details as we find out more about motive.

SAMBOLIN: All right, it's 6 minutes past the hour. The Obama administration has concluded that terrorists clearly planned the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Two and a half weeks ago that killed four Americans as you know including Chris Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday that it took some time to gather feedback on exactly what took place there. And there are still many unanswered questions that need to be resolved.


LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: What terrorists were involved, I think, still remains to be determined by the investigation. But it clearly was a group of terrorists who conducted that attack against that facility.


SAMBOLIN: The FBI is investigating the attack, but agents are not yet sure -- not yet on the ground in Benghazi due to concerns about security, which is ongoing there. They're still in Tripoli.

And sources tell CNN that the consulate site remains unsecured, as well. Meanwhile, staff is being removed from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli due to security reasons. BERMAN: There's this major development. The man who made that anti- Muslim film that ignited protests across the Muslim world, he's in custody in Los Angeles this morning. But authorities claim it had nothing to do with the movie.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was ordered held yesterday on alleged parole violations connected with his conviction for bank fraud. He was ordered not to own or use devices with access to the web without approval from his probation officer. And court records show he used at least 17 fake names including Sam Bacile, the pseudonym under which he made that film.

In just a few hours, police in Roseville, Michigan, will begin grilling for clues in a search for possible remains of Jimmy Hoffa. They'll test soil samples from underneath the driveway of a home for human remains. A tipster told police a body was buried there around the time the Teamsters Union chief vanished 37 years ago, believe it or not.

SAMBOLIN: I do not believe this.

BERMAN: Still ahead --

SAMBOLIN: You never know, right?

BERMAN: You never know. We are going to talk about this more coming up.

All right, the cast of the hit show is in shock this morning after police say a young actor killed his elderly landlady and plunged to his own death. What on earth happened to sons of anarchy star Johnny Lewis?


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 12 minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Glad you're with us this morning. President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu plan to have a little chat on the telephone today.

And it could get testy. They don't have the best of relationships. The two leaders still don't see eye-to-eye when it comes to the threat of a nuclear Iran.

SAMBOLIN: Netanyahu has been pressuring the President to draw a red line. So the Israeli prime minister drew a red line of his own yesterday, literally, at the United Nations.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Where should a red line be drawn? A red line should be drawn right here. Before -- before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is with us this morning. That was very powerful, a very powerful morning. -- moment that is. But was it effective?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, I think it got people's attention. And then when Prime Minister Netanyahu said, listen, Iran could have a bomb by next spring or summer of 2013, I think people took up and noticed.

He got a lot of applause in the hall. And I think that the world has a new urgency about needing to do something about Iran's nuclear program.

Everyone very concerned that Israel could launch a preemptive strike, and you know, what that could do to the region. Oil markets, I think everyone now is looking a little bit more closely at it.

BERMAN: He went out of his way to praise President Obama in his speech before the United Nations. I thought that was interesting.

LABOTT: Well, you know, there's been a lot of tension between these two leaders over the so-called red line. This threshold over which, if Iran were to cross, what could spark military action that the U.S. might get involved with?

President Obama went in his speech and said, "I will do what I must to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon", and I think because there's this tension, Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted to say, "Listen, I appreciate you going that far."

Look he's looking at the polls. He sees that it's very likely that President Obama could be re-elected. And he knows he's going to need his help. They need to work together.

BERMAN: The big subject today, especially a big subject all week is Syria. But today, our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be meeting with other leaders from around the region and beyond to discuss this issue.

LABOTT: That's right. She's hosting a meeting of the so-called friends of Syria. It's a group of countries from the region, from Europe, that are working really hard.

You know, this is really bedeviled the international community for a lot of reasons, not always that President Bashar Al-Assad won't step down, but at the same time, the Security Council hasn't been able to act.

World powers, like a lack of political will to take action to get Bashar Al-Assad out, and also the opposition really isn't organized. And I think today what they want to do is try and get the rebels on the ground that are fighting. The political people on the ground that are trying to help the Syrian people, and also these exiles to start working towards a common vision because they're really all over the place.

SAMBOLIN: But meantime those numbers of people being killed just continue to escalate.

LABOTT: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Elise Labott, thank you so much. We appreciate that.

BERMAN: Fifteen minutes after the hour right now.

I want to get you up to speed on all the top stories. Here's Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good morning, you guys. Thank you.

It started with a standing ovation. Fans at Baltimore welcoming the real NFL refs back last night, after suffering through three weeks of replacements. It's a scene likely to be repeated at NFL stadiums Sunday.

Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to fans for the use of replacement refs. The league lifted its lockout of the officials after these two sides agreed on a new eight-year labor deal.

Police are trying to piece together the bizarre final moments of actor Johnny Lewis' life. Investigators say the "Sons of Anarchy" star beat and strangled his 81-year-old landlady before falling from the three story home to his death, this as police sirens approached.

Investigators say drugs may have been involved but they have no proof yet. They're still trying to piece it all together.

After sharing his vision of a new world order with the U.N., Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kicked back and enjoyed a little Western highlight, this according to the "New York Daily News". Booking two entire floors at the posh Warwick Hotel in Manhattan where a single sweet goes for $1,600 a night. He even had three personal chefs on hand.

And while Ahmadinejad dined, his staffers were scrambling around town on a shopping spree. We're told they hit Costco, Walgreens, and Duane Reade stores stocking up on shampoo, soap, vitamins, cheap clothes, items that are hard to find in Iran because of economic sanctions. No word yet on how they got into Costco because you do need a membership card.

BERMAN: All the paper towels. How do you get those in the luggage back to Iran? That's an odd.


Thank you very much, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: And check this out, a pizza that the kids are not allowed to eat. Salvatore's, a chain of pizza shops in Boston -- Boston, do you know about these?


SAMBOLIN: -- serves a pie called the Vignola Cherry Pizza. It's made with fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto, honey. All sounds delicious. But here's the kicker: it is topped with cherries that have been soaked in raspberry vodka. Maybe the idea came after a few drinks, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We jazz the pizzas up. Somebody said, "Let's put booze on them." I'm like, that would be kind of cool.


SAMBOLIN: So if you're under 21, too bad for you. They card at Salvatore's when anyone orders the Vignola Cherry Pie.

BERMAN: It sounds like college. Someone said let's put booze on it, so I said, OK. I don't know how it tastes.

All right. Seventeen minutes after the hour right now.

Coming up, President Obama, job creator? It's true, as of now -- according to a new report. We'll tell you about it.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. We are minding your business this morning.

President Obama made the job creator since taking office according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BERMAN: This might make it interesting for the Republicans and their talking point, right, Christine?

ROMANS: It takes the talking point away from them. You know, they've been saying, that look, there are fewer jobs today than when the President took office, he was not able, this is the Obama job market, the Obama economy. He's not been able to recover it.

But now because of revisions, you know, labor economists and the government are always looking over these numbers and scrubbing them -- because of revisions, they found another 386,000 jobs which means that technically on paper, President Obama is a net job creator. It's nothing to really brag about. You want to be adding 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with new people in the population, but it does mean that the President came into office, remember we were losing zillions of jobs. And then it bottomed out, and since then now he has come back and he is now in that job creator actually up 125,000.

I think you're right. You won't see this in an ad for the President, but now you can see it in an ad for his opposition.

SAMBOLIN: And they'll capitalize on it. ROMANS: They will. They will. But conservatives will say, and Team Romney will say, look, you got a labor participation rate which is back to 1981 levels. People are left out of this recovery. People will point out that 60 percent of the jobs that have been created are low-wage jobs.

You know, there are thousands of different statistics you can use in this story. It takes away talking point for the Republicans basically.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I'm going to take you back to something positive. Mortgage rates, all-time lows again.

ROMANS: Again. I feel like a broken record. But mortgage rates keep going down.

The Federal Reserve says they want to keep interest rates low and the markets are definitely responding. You've got a 30-year fixed rate of 3.4 percent. A 15-year fixed rate of 2.73 percent.

Part of the reason the whole world is so uncertain, investors around the world are throwing money into treasury bonds because that's the safest place in the world to be and that drives interest rates down.

So this is really, for a family with a $200,000 mortgage, a year ago, that mortgage was at 4.09 percent. You refinance today at the new record lows, you're saving $948 a year. That's real money.

BERMAN: That is real. Quickly what is the one thing we need to know about our money today?

ROMANS: The one thing you need to know your money, today is the end of the quarter. So you're going to start to get your statements in the mail. And it's going to show the stock part of your portfolio is up. The S&P 500 is up nearly 6 percent over the past three months.

BERMAN: Thanks for that.

SAMBOLIN: Don't be scared to open it.

ROMANS: Open it up and read it and prepare. All right.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much, Christine.

Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

Years of rumors, conspiracy theories, and tips that led nowhere. But now authorities led to a suburban Detroit home in the search for Jimmy Hoffa's body. We will talk to someone who's followed this case for years, and has spoken to the new tipster.

Listen, folks, if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us on your desktop, on your mobile phone. Just go to

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: One of America's great unsolved mysteries. What happened to legendary Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa? Today, we could be a step closer to finding out.

SAMBOLIN: Cheers for the real refs. Even a standing ovation, folks. Locked-out NFL officials returned. How did they do?

BERMAN: President Obama, the target of a stinging political documentary. The man behind the movie "2016: Obama's America," he joins us live.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Twenty-eight minutes past the hour. Glad you're with us this morning.

So, in just a few hours, police will start drilling under the driveway of a home in Roseville, Michigan. They're hoping to solve of one America's great mysteries. What happened to Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa?

Investigators are working off a tip from someone who says he was present when a body was buried there at the time Hoffa disappeared. This was back in 1975. They will dig up soil samples today and test for human remains.

The local police chief says the tipster's information seems credibility but he's not convinced that they will find Hoffa's remains.


JAMES BERLIN, ROSEVILLE, MICHIGAN POLICE CHIEF: We're just investigating, this is a cold case homicide. And that has been our focus since the beginning. If it somehow happens to be Mr. Hoffa, well, great, we'll end a major mystery.


SAMBOLIN: CNN's Susan Candiotti is live in Roseville, Michigan, right outside of Detroit.

And, Susan, how confident are these investigators that they will find Jimmy Hoffa's remains?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, you heard from the chief, among other people, who are saying they're approaching this with a heavy dose of skepticism. Certainly they do believe, the police, anyway, that this tipster is credible enough that he believes he saw what could have been a body buried beneath a driveway here behind me, many, many years ago.

And they won't say exactly why they have this high degree of confidence in this man. However, they do say that after all -- because this man is convinced and that he told them, among other things, that he's very old now, he has no family, no friends, nothing to be afraid of, that they're convinced that it was good enough for them to move forward.

And "The Free Press Newspaper" here says the tipster also told them that a man who used to live here years ago was a bookie for Detroit mobster John Joccoloni (ph). So that's another reason why they might have some confidence.

They took some equipment here, noticed an anomaly beneath the ground there and that's why they're bringing in the drill.

But retired FBI agents that we spoke with who worked on this case say why would someone be -- like that be buried here in the middle of a neighborhood that's very busy? And also, they firmly believe that Hoffa was incinerated years ago when he initially disappeared.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, and a front driveway. You know, I'm just a little skeptical about this.

But I suspect that there are people who live in that house right now. What's their reaction to all of this?

CANDIOTTI: You know, it's an elderly woman and her son. And police said you can imagine when they knocked on the door, and they try to keep everything quiet, told them they had a search warrant, told them what it was about, they went, what? Shocked, to say the least.

But they've been fully cooperative. And once they cut the circle and drill down, if they get a positive result that there are human remains, then there will be a full-blown excavation. But those first results aren't expected to come back for another week or so.

So, there's a lot of waiting involved here -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Well, Susan Candiotti, we are very grateful that you are there for us, live in Roseville, Michigan. Thank you.

And later in this hour, we're going to talk about Dan Moldea, the author of "The Hoffa Wars." He's been talking to the tipster who alerted police to the Michigan location. Much more from him.

BERMAN: Thirty-one minutes after the hour.

The real NFL refs getting a hero's welcome in Baltimore for refs. They finally returned to the field last night after missing the first three weeks of the regular season due to that lockout. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to fans for the use of replacement refs.

The new agreement between the league and referees union is expected to be ratified before Sunday's games.

SAMBOLIN: The Vatican newspaper is responding to a Harvard professor's claim that she found an ancient piece of scripture in which Jesus refers to my wife. "L'Osservatore Romano" says the purported fourth century papyrus fragment, written in the Coptic language, is a fake. In an article and an accompanying editorial, the Vatican newspaper cited concerns about the fragment's authenticity, and the way in which it was purchased, as well.

BERMAN: Thirty-two minutes after the hour right now.

Another famous college marching band suspended over a hazing scandal, and allegations of excessive paddling. I think any paddling is excessive, by the way. Band members and school officials are facing questions this morning.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

With just over five weeks to go before America votes, CNN is going in- depth to give you the information you need on the key issues in the race.

BERMAN: This morning, a look at health care. The issue is back in the spotlight this week after Mitt Romney said people without insurance can always just go to an emergency room. Here's a look at how the two candidates stand.

CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since President Obama's health care law was enacted, 3.1 million people under the age of 26 are now covered by their parents plans, and preventive care is covered 100 percent by insurance companies. Seniors, in particular, have benefited on prescription drugs.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Seniors who fall in the coverage gap known as the donut hole will start getting some help. They'll receive $250 to help pay for prescriptions, and that will, over time, fill in the doughnut hole.

GUPTA: Five-point-five million seniors have saved a total of nearly $4.5 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted. That's according to the Health and Human Services Department.

OBAMA: I have strengthened Medicare. We've added years to the life of Medicare. We did it by getting rid of taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies that weren't making people healthier.

GUPTA: By 2014, the law requires everyone to have health insurance, whether they purchase it themselves, or through their employers. And insurers can't deny you if you have a pre-existing condition, or increase your rates.

In hopes of covering more people, the law planned to expand Medicaid to the states with the aim of covering 17 million more people.

But the Supreme Court ruled in June that it was up to each state to decide whether to expand coverage. The law has become a cornerstone of the Obama campaign. OBAMA: I refuse to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor and elderly or disabled -- all so those with the most can pay less.

GUPTA: But Romney says the Affordable Care Act is unaffordable.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know that health care is too expensive. Obamacare doesn't make it less expensive.

GUPTA: Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan propose to cap malpractice insurance, cut Medicaid by $810 billion over the next 10 years, give states more control over their Medicaid funds, overhaul Medicare.

The overhaul? People now younger than 55, when they reach retirement, would have the option of getting a voucher to purchase private insurance. Or they could stick with traditional Medicare.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This financial support system is designed to guarantee that seniors can always afford Medicare coverage, no exceptions.

GUPTA: While the repeal of Obamacare would get rid of the prescription drug benefit to seniors, Romney doesn't want to take out all of the law's provisions.

ROMNEY: We have to make sure that people who have pre-existing conditions are able to get insured and that folks that get sick don't get dropped by their insurance company.

GUPTA: Douglas Holtz-Eakin is the President of the American Action Forum. He doesn't support the current health care law.

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, AMERICAN ACTION FORUM: Both sides agree that the amount we spend on Medicare has to be capped. They just disagree on how to get there.

Romney and Ryan say, what we're going to do is give the money to seniors, give them a place to go, shop for competing choices. If they don't like the care they're getting, they go to another choice and that that will be the cap.

GUPTA: Jonathan Cohn supports the law and writes about health care for "The New Republic".

JONATHAN COHN, THE NEW REPUBLIC: The Obama budget says look we want to hold down costs to this target and we're going to do our very best to accomplish that. But, we're also not going to sacrifice benefits. No matter what happens, we will make sure that seniors get the same level of benefits they're getting now.

GUPTA: Both Obama and Romney agree, that health care needs to be more affordable. They just disagree about how to do that.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Sanjay.

Meanwhile, police in Roseville, Michigan, are about to begin drilling for clues in a search for the possible remains of Jimmy Hoffa. They will test soil samples from underneath a driveway. A teamster told police a body was buried there around the time the Teamster's Union chief vanished 37 years ago. That's what a tipster says.

Let's turn now to Dan Moldea. He's the author of "The Hoffa Wars." He's been following this story since Hoffa first disappeared.

Dan, you've been communicating with this tipster since last march. You've talked to him several times since then. Tell us about this person.

DAN MOLDEA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: He called me on March 30th, and he told me, and I got dozens of these tips over the past 37 years, he told me that he knew specifically where Jimmy Hoffa's body was buried.

Of course, I was very skeptical. I questioned him about a number of things. He -- I was -- I remained skeptical throughout the interview. The cast of characters didn't line up. The location of the place, and there was absolutely no privacy for this.

So I suggested did he go to the FBI. The FBI apparently was very skeptical about him, as well, having the same problems with cast of characters. He called me back two or three times, and he -- and I told him to go to the local police, the Roseville Police Department, which he did. And I have to hand it to Chief Berlin and the Roseville Police Department for pursuing this lead.

They questioned him intensively. They brought the ground radar equipment. They detected something down there. I don't know if it's a body or a root of a tree. But something's down there. And they are doing the good police work and they're going to find out what it is.

BERMAN: Explain to me who this tipster is. What kind of informant is this? Where does he fit in the puzzle?

And why is he coming forward now?

MOLDEA: He is not a mob guy. And he's not connected, per se. He is a gambler, who had a -- had a affiliation, a connection with a bookmaker in Detroit, who was working with Tony Giacalone. What was interesting to me was that Tony Giacalone was one of the two people that Jimmy Hoffa was supposed to meet at the time of his disappearance.

Tony Giacalone who was a major mafia figure in Detroit, who was a major mafia figure in Detroit, died in 2001. And Anthony Provenzano, who was not only a capo in the Vito Genovese crime family in New York, but he was also president of local 506 in Union City, New Jersey.

So, that piqued our interest and that was one of the reasons why, at least we were willing to see through this. He was adamant, I was very skeptical throughout this thing. I continue to be skeptical. It's like 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent.

But he is adamant. He absolutely says, it's almost matter of fact with him. I spoke with him last night and it's matter of fact with him, even at this eleventh hour, that this is going to be Jimmy Hoffa.

So, once again the police have determined that at least the preliminary investigation is interesting to them. And Chief Berlin and the Roseville Police Department are doing their jobs. And -- and going to get to the bottom of this.

BERMAN: Dan, I feel like we've been through this before. I moon it feels like every year we go through another Jimmy Hoffa thing. How did this keep on happening? Why are authorities still digging at the first sign of a tip? And do you think we'll ever find Hoffa?

MOLDEA: It always depends on the source. I mean, we've -- I've been involved in a lot of these things and I always treat these tipsters with respect because I've always thought certainly after 37 years that if this case is going to be broken, once and for all, and I personally think it's going to be the FBI who is going to wind up solving this case in the end.

But that it's going to come out of left field. It's going to some very suddenly out of left field and that it's going to be brought to us by someone who was not involved in the actual murder, and somebody who simply had some information, was at the right place at the right time, or in this guy's particular case, the wrong place at the wrong time.

I mean, this guy is in hiding right now. He's afraid he's going to be killed.

BERMAN: All right, Dan Moldea, author of "The Hoffa Wars" -- thank you for talking with us this morning. We'll see. That's all we can say, we'll see.

MOLDEA: Don't bet on it.

SAMBOLIN: Don't bet on it -- that was informative. Thank you very much. Forty-four minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date on this morning's top stories.

Mitt Romney's handlers are trying to lower expectations heading into next week's first presidential debate. The candidates go head-to-head Wednesday night in Denver. Romney adviser Beth Myers releasing a memo to surrogates detailing why the GOP challenger could lose head-to- head. She says the President is, quote, "a uniquely gifted speaker and one of the most talented political communicators in modern history."

Hazing accusations lead to the suspension of Texas Southern University's band. The university taking action after student who isn't in the band reported excessive paddling involving members of the trumpet section. TSU police are interviewing the band's director, staff, and members to narrow down exactly what happened. And an update to a story we brought you earlier this week. The 16- year-old girl who was voted on to her homecoming court as a prank by bullies is now talking about it. Whitney Kropp of West Branch, Michigan has now decided to go to the dance. Her mother said it is the best way to get back at all those bullies.

Other classmates started rallying around her. A Facebook page was set up in support of her. And local businesses are paying for her dress.


WHITNEY KROPP, BULLIED TEEN: You know, I'm just overwhelmed. I'm like, so many people care and they want this to end.

BERNICE KROPP, MOTHER: My daughter is out there as an inspiration to a lot of people, and that's a really cool thing.


SAMBOLIN: That is one courageous young lady.

BERMAN: Good for her.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I love her. I love her. She is the quintessential, turn something that could be very unpleasant around and make it work for you.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And hopefully for everybody, Soledad, right? Hopefully --


O'BRIEN: I know I should care about the bullies. I don't care about the bullies.

All right. We've got lots going on at the top of the hour. You were talking just a moment ago about lowering expectations. I'm always suspicious when dueling campaigns suddenly start saying really nice things about each other, and that's what's happening now as we edge closer to the presidential debate.

This morning, we're going to take a look at the strategy talk to both sides about strength and weaknesses.

Then, eavesdropping on history. Newly released tapes from President Kennedy's time in the oval office give really invaluable insight into one of the most important moments of the 20th century. That was, of course, the Cuban missile crisis and the space race, too. We'll take a look at some of those tapes.

And his skills go far beyond the basketball court. New York Knicks' Tyson Chandler showing off his talent behind the camera as well as a photographer, traveled to Africa to take some amazing pictures. We're going to talk to him about that or maybe a little basketball, too, because he's with the Knicks, and I love the Knicks.

BERMAN: He's got a great sense of humor, also, Tyson Chandler.

O'BRIEN: Yes. He's tremendously talented. Looking forward to it.

SAMBOLIN: -- has a crush on him, also.

BERMAN: And it's not me.


O'BRIEN: That's at the top of the hour. We'll see you there.

BERMAN: All right. Forty-seven minutes after the hour right now. It is the second highest grossing political documentary ever made. The surprise hit film "2016: Obama's America," and its controversial view on President Obama's world view. The producer and co-director joins us next on EARLY START to explain some of the claims that he's made.


SAMBOLIN: The controversial film, "2016: Obama's America," is now the second highest grossing political documentary ever made. And it's taken harsh criticism from those on the left for its assertion that President Obama, influenced in his youth by his Kenyan father and several other anti-imperialist figures, is attempting to fundamentally transform America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still, for Obama to make himself acceptable to America, he had to hide major elements of his past. He had to hide the group I call Obama's founding fathers. And who were his founding fathers? Let's just say they were not Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin.


SAMBOLIN: The film has grossed over $32 million domestically since July and is second only to Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11," which slammed the Bush presidency just two months before the 2004 election. So, with me now is the producer, writer, and co-director of "2016: Obama's America," Dinesh D'Souza.

Thank you so much for being with us this morning. I really want to just jump right in. I want to play a clip, and then, I want to talk about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realize that Obama's father might be the central character in Obama's search for identity, in his search for who he is, for where his deepest aspirations and values come from.


SAMBOLIN: And this is really your central theme, I think, in the documentary, which I watched. I think I was missing just a minute of it at the end. And we all know that President Obama was only two years old when his father left, right. He only saw him one time, yet, you say his father had anti-colonialist views and influences Obama's world view.

When you say anti-colonialist, do you mean anti-American? Because that is the sense that I took away from this documentary.

DINESH D'SOUZA, DIRECTOR, "2016: OBAMA'S AMERICA": Yes, the core idea of anti-colonialism is that the west, but specifically, America, has become rich and powerful by stealing from the poor countries. And also that America has been the bullies. America's been going around the world, throwing its weight around.

So, anti-colonialism tries to put the leash on America, to scale back American power in the Middle East and in the world. Look, the idea that Obama's influenced by his father isn't my idea. It's Obama's. Remember, Obama wrote an autobiography. It's called "Dreams From My Father." And in it, he says if even though my father was away, I became obsessed with him.

And we know from his autobiography that the reason that became the case is that Obama's mother constantly drummed in to him the theme that your father's a great man. Your father is like Martin Luther King. He's like Gandhi. He's a freedom fighter fighting for freedom in his country.

So, Obama always thought, although my dad is not here, he's somewhere fighting for freedom for Kenya.

SAMBOLIN: But there are some strong accusations that you make in his film. How do you make that leap to -- to President Obama's really, really saying almost that he is anti-American, he is?

D'SOUZA: Well, what I do is I say what was the father's dream? And I lay out the anti-colonial ideology, which by the way, Obama got not just from his dad but from a series of mentors at Columbia, at Harvard Law School. Later, if you look at Jeremiah Wright or Obama's (INAUDIBLE), there are common themes running through all of these guys.

Then, I just take the ideology of the father and I compare it with the actions of the son. And I say, look, it's like a detective story. Does the jigsaw fit? And it turns out that if you look at Obama's actions, even now in the Middle East, it looks like what he's trying to do is scale back American power and allow indigenous influence within the region to gain power.

SAMBOLIN: You draw a lot of parallels with yourself and Obama. I want to watch a little bit about that and I wonder why.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were both born in the same year, which is 1961. We both went to an Ivy League school. In his case Columbia, later Harvard. In my case, Dartmouth. We got our bachelor's degree. We graduated the same year 1983. We were married in the same year, 1992. We both have a kind of mixed race background.


SAMBOLIN: Almost like you have some sort of kinship with the President. Why did you do that?

D'SOUZA: Well, if I look at other presidents, they're so remote from my own life. But with Obama, I think a part of what makes him interesting to me is that he, like me, we're global guys. I was born in India. So, I feel like I see America from the outside as an immigrant, but also from the inside as someone who's lived here for 30 years.

And I think Obama's that way, too. Obama, although he was born in Hawaii, nevertheless, grew up in Indonesia for four years. His mother would take him to Pakistan. He made multiple trips to Africa. So, his sensibilities is similar to mine. Now, the real paradox, however, is that although our backgrounds are similar, we ended up in a very different place.

I'm a third world guy who sort of embraced America, the American dream. I think Obama is an american-born guy who's embraced a third- world ideology which is his father's dream.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We certainly appreciate your time this morning, Dinesh D'Souza, co-director of "2016: Obama's America." Thanks for joining us this morning. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-eight minutes after the hour. We wrap it up as always with "Best Advice."

BERMAN: And Christine's here with a great one.

ROMANS: I know. Smokey Robinson, pretty cool, right? This is what he says the best advice he ever received.


SMOKEY ROBINSON, GRAMMY AWARD WINNING MOTOWN SINGER: The best advice I ever received was from my mom. Do unto others...


BERMAN: Dot, dot, dot?

SAMBOLIN: You have done unto you.

ROMANS: Right. But you know, it's that famous -- isn't that the golden rule, do unto others as you would have done unto you. That's what his mother told him?

SAMBOLIN: Smart cookie, mom.

ROMANS: I know. Mom gets another one in the category for best advice.

BERMAN: All right. That is all for EARLY START. Have a great weekend. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.