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Powerball Dollars and Dreams; Murdered Over Music?; Susan Rice Back on the Hill

Aired November 28, 2012 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Dollars and dreams. We are just hours away from finding out the winning numbers in one of the largest lottery jackpots in history.


And murdered over music? A loud stereo leads to the shooting death of a teenager with the gunman claiming self-defense now.

ROMANS: Back on the Hill. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice trying again today to win over Republican lawmakers after round one leaves three of them unconvinced.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans, in for John today. He's on assignment.

SAMBOLIN: It's nice to have you with us this morning.

ROMANS: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Five a.m. in the East.

Half a million bucks, Christine, what do you think? Are you in yet?

Tonight's $500 million Powerball jackpot is the second largest in lottery history. That's a lot of office pools. We are in on it over here and have defied some serious odds to get here. Sixteen consecutive Powerball rollovers without a winner yet, and that streak is likely to end really soon.

A lottery official calculates there's just a 5 percent chance no one will win tonight if sales spike as they are expected to. And if you do happen to win, the cash value of the jackpot now stands at $324 million.

But time for a quick reality check, folks -- your odds of winning are 175 million to 1.

Alison Kosik closely monitoring Powerball fever. She is live from New York's Times Square this morning.

The odds are not good but the fever is really high, isn't it, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It really is. You know what's interesting is, we walked into this convenient store here in Times Square and you see the advertising over my shoulder here in the convenient store.

But you don't need advertising when you see a number like $500 million. That's half a billion dollars. Who doesn't want to be filthy rich no matter what the odds are?

But you know what? The odds really aren't good, because as this jackpot increases, your odds decrease. In fact, they are so bad that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning. You have better odds of dying from a bee sting. And you have better odds of getting attacked by a shark. Better odds of all that compared to winning the $500 million jackpot.

You know what? I did talk to one woman who walked in to buy her morning coffee and she didn't buy a Powerball. Instead she bought a couple of these other lottery tickets from the New York state lotto.

And I asked her, why didn't you buy the Powerball? It's $500 million. She said, "I have better odds of getting hit by a car." You know what? Here in New York City, I have to agree with her.

SAMBOLIN: I know, but just imagine if you do win.

All right. So, Alison, we are seeing this record jackpot because of changes that were made to the Powerball game. What can you tell us about that?

KOSIK: Yes, so it seems that a report say that the lotto commission earlier this year in January, went ahead and increase the price, doubled the price of a Powerball ticket from $1 to $2 in hopes of generating more revenue, but something interesting happened, sales initially went down and then they got a pop and went back up. Sales really increased because people, you know, started talking about it. All that buzz happened, that jackpot grew and grew over the months, these jackpots for the Powerball.

So, in the end, it increased sales and, of course, that generates revenue for states because, of course, you have to pay taxes on any of your winnings.

So what the lotto commission was trying to do in increasing the price was generate revenue. And they did and wow, they certainly will with this jackpot of $500 million.

SAMBOLIN: OK. Alison, did you buy a ticket? I know you're not doing it while on the job.

KOSIK: Oh, no, I have no problem admitting it. I'm going to do it very soon. Yes, I'm going to go ahead and buy a few tickets of my own.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, good luck to you. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon.

ROMANS: The other big story this morning. If at once you don't succeed, try, try again. Susan Rice, the president's U.N. ambassador and frontrunner to be his next secretary of state, returns to Capitol Hill today for a second round of meeting with Republican senators.

Rice failed to win over her sharpest GOP critics yesterday. They're still troubled about her comments following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which she said spring from a spontaneous protest.

One of those senators telling CNN's "A.C. 360" that Rice misled the American public.


SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: She would say that. She'd have to say that because she began our meeting today admitting that the representations of the video and the protests were wrong. And the impression left the American people was misleading.


ROMANS: Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain say they are more concerned now -- more concerned now than before they met with Ambassador Rice and they're not willing -- not willing still to consider her as secretary of state.

SAMBOLIN: Three mid-level managers at that garment factory that went up in flames in Bangladesh are now under arrest. They are accused of locking the main gate of the factory after the inferno broke out Saturday. That fire killed more than 100 workers and injured more than 150 other people. Several thousand people are mourning and protesting near that factory.

ROMANS: A deadly double car bombing in Syria this morning. At least 29 people were killed in the blast that happened just outside the capital of Damascus. A Syrian human rights group says the death toll is expected to rise due to the number of people injured in those bombings.

SAMBOLIN: And also new this morning, an audit in Afghanistan finds rampant corruption in the Kabul Bank. It is a depository for U.S. taxpayer-funded reconstruction dollars. "The New York Times" report the audit concludes the bank is a Ponzi scheme, allowing those connected to President Karzai access to hundreds of millions of dollars.

ROMANS: All right. Call it the fiscal cliffhanger, only 34 days now to go before severe tax hikes and spending cuts kick in. And Democrats and Republicans, you know, appear stuck. Entitlement reform is a stumbling block here. Democrats don't want deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Republicans see no other choice.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: The reason we are having these negotiations is because Washington Democrats have spent money without any care for the cost or the future and refuse to do anything to protect long-term spending programs like Medicare, a failure that's among the biggest single drivers of our debt.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D-IL) MAJORITY WHIP: One out of three people in this country are going to rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health insurance. So we need to find ways to reserve these programs.


ROMANS: Senator Durbin is suggesting the debate over the entitlement programs should be waged after the New Year once the fiscal cliff issue has been settled.

SAMBOLIN: Six minutes past the hour. New storms rolling into the Northwest this morning. And that could cause dangerous flooding.

Alexandra Steele is live in Atlanta for us. What's going on?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning to you guys.

We've got one storm that's gone and one storm that's a massive storm incoming. So let's start with this -- of course, all you guys in New York City had snow, that's for sure. But right now we certainly don't. This has all moved offshore. This was just the rain.

But what was left behind? Actually black ice there this morning. Places like New Jersey, six inches of snow. Chester, New Jersey, five. You can see Sunbury, Pennsylvania, three. Two and a half in Millbrook, that's in the Hudson Valley of New York.

So, in northeast New Jersey, the Hudson Valley of New York, and portions of Connecticut -- black ice are a factor this morning. So, maybe if you're out there -- take it slow, especially those elevated surfaces with temperatures so cold. Story number one.

Story number two, a mammoth storm, this is the water vapor. What you need to see with this is -- look at this: huge trough off the coast, all this moisture that's poised to come in. It's actually called, atmospheric river of moisture, just a barrage on the West Coast. It's called pineapple express. It's bringing moisture all the way from the Hawaiian Islands to the West Coast. And not just today, we're going to see it come onshore tonight and then we're going to see it all the way through the weekend.

So five-day affair with ample moisture, what that's going to mean is flash flooding, rock slides, Southern Cal rain and even heavy snow from the Bitter Roots to the Sierra. Those are just some of the features of the trouble we'll see on the West.

We'll talk more about that coming up. Back to you guys.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Alexandra, thank you.


SAMBOLIN: Eight minutes past the hour. After biting the hand that feeds him, millions of dollars, the kid from "Two and a Half Men" is saying sorry, sort of, in an online video. Jones who recently joined an evangelical Christian church called the sitcom filth and told viewers not to watch it. Now, he's out with a statement saying in part, "I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues, and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that."

And now former co-star Charlie Sheen who was fired from the show is weighing in, in a statement through his publicist saying, quote, "It is radically clear to me that the show 'Two and a Half Men' is cursed."

ROMANS: All right. Switching gears from another important story we're following this morning. First, the Trayvon Martin case. Now, another fatal shooting involving a teenager in Florida that could put the state's Stand Your Ground law to the test. We're going to have that story for you, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Twelve minutes past the hour here.

Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground gun law could be at the center of another murder case now. This time, a murder suspect says he was threatened after he asked four African-American teenagers in an SUV to turn down loud music at a Jacksonville gas station, that they cursed him and flashed a shotgun as well. That's when his attorney says he decided to defend himself.

Police say 45-year-old Michael Dunn peppered the SUV with eight or nine bullets. Two of them hit 17-year-old Jordan Davis. There's a picture of him right there, killing him.

Martin Savidge is following all of the developments from our headquarters in Atlanta.

Martin, what can you tell us about this story?


Well, the very latest is that Michael Dunn has turned himself into authorities and was actually arrested on Saturday. He had his first court appearance. That was on Monday. He entered a plea of not guilty to the count of murder and attempted murder. And he's currently being held without bond.

His attorney has been speaking out for him and he says that his client definitely felt that his life was threatened. First, he says that he was threatened verbally and then he was threatened with a gun.

Listen to what the attorney said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBIN LEMONIDIS, MICHAEL DUNN'S ATTORNEY: Kill that mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED). That mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is dead. You dead (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And he sees that much of a shotgun coming up over the rim of the SUV, which is up higher than his Jetta. And it's all he sees are heavily tinted front windows that are up and the back windows that are down and the car has at least four black men in it.

And he doesn't know how old anybody is, he doesn't know anything, but he knows when he knows a shotgun when he sees one.


SAVIDGE: So Michael Dunn apparently defended himself. He was licensed to carry a weapon. Authorities say there was no evidence, no finding of a weapon inside of the teenagers' vehicle -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And do we know if Dunn called police when this incident happened. We understand he left the scene. Why did he do that?

SAVIDGE: Well, again, the attorneys has said that the reason he left the scene and it was Dunn and his girlfriend was the fact that after the shooting took place, they were not sure what the reaction was going to be with the occupants inside the vehicle. They thought because they had possibly seen a gun, that they might come out shooting. On top of that as you heard the attorney said, they suspected they could be members of the gang and that the gang members could retaliate in some way.

So for their own safety they fled, even though many people find that highly suspicious.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, hard to believe that they wouldn't just reach out to police.

So, this happened in Florida, as did the Trayvon Martin shooting. Any indication that Dunn's attorney is setting up a Stand Your Ground defense here?

SAVIDGE: She's quite adamant when she says there is no Trayvon Martin case. What she implies is this is not a case of vigilantism here on the part of Michael Dunn. However, it is possible that Stand Your Ground could come into place.

Listen to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Department spokesperson as they describe the events and we'll talk about it afterwards.


LT. ROB SCHOONOVER, JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: His statement was that, you know, I just fired at these kids. And we believe at that time, I don't know that he knew he struck anyone in the vehicle. But the next morning I guess when they woke up in the hotel and saw the news that someone was killed, that's when they got in their car and fled back to the area.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE: What could be key here, Zoraida, is the language that's being used, especially by the defendant. He says that he feels threatened. Now, that can fall under the jurisdiction of Stand Your Ground law in the sense that even if the young men did not have a gun, he finds out later, if he felt he was jeopardized, he could possibly use the Stand Your Ground as a reason to take legal action against them. It remains to be seen.

What is very interesting, Zoraida, is this is Jacksonville, Florida. It is Angela Corey's jurisdiction. That is the lead prosecutor in the case against George Zimmerman. She has said she'll take the fullest extent of the law against this particular man now in custody.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Martin Savidge live for us in Atlanta -- thank you very much for that.

ROMANS: All right. Sixteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up- to-date with the morning's top stories.

Powerball fever sweeping the nation. Tonight's jackpot: half a billion dollars. It's the second largest in lottery history and a record for the 42-state Powerball game. The cash payout for a single winning ticket now stands at $324 million.

SAMBOLIN: Tragedy on Long Island. A 6-year-old boy was killed when a bus crashed right into his home in Hempstead. That was late last night. Police say the driver tried to avoid hitting a pedestrian when he swerved, lost control and crashed right into the front bedroom of that house.

The victim's 7-year-old brother was also in the bedroom. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Eleven people on the bus escaped with minor injuries.

ROMANS: The giant sinkhole is burping. An update this morning to a story we have been following since last summer. The sinkhole in southern Louisiana swallowed up trees and threatened nearby homes. There it is. Officials in Assumption Parish now say the sinkhole is pushing debris and vegetation back up to the surface. That's why they call it burping.

It's the type of fat a man carries around his middle could indicate a higher risk for bone loss and broken bones. A new study has found that men with visceral or deep belly fat have weaker bones and therefore a greater chance of bone fractures than men who carry fat just under the skin.

SAMBOLIN: And shares for Monster energy drink are seeing a monster 13 percent spike after the FDA decided not to take any immediate action against makers of the caffeinated drinks. Last month, the FDA said it was investigating reports of five deaths which could be linked to the drink. The FDA did say it would consider pushing for warnings and more information on drink labels like caffeine content, possible side effects after it finishes a safety review.

ROMANS: The Kansas City Chiefs' running back Jamaal Charles is feeling the heat from fans after cameras caught him asking for Peyton Manning's autograph just after Manning's Denver Broncos beat the Chiefs this past Sunday. In his defense, Charles said the autograph was for his mom.

SAMBOLIN: Even if it was for him, so what? Leave him alone.

ROMANS: All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour. Time for "Early Read", your local news making national headlines this morning.

No one wants cell phone towers in the neighborhood. So they are turning to a higher authority in California, Zoraida. "The San Francisco Chronicle" reporting a growing number of churches are leasing space in their steeples and their bell towers for cell antennas. It pays 4 grand a month. They're perfect because the height, the location. Churches certainly can use the cash.


ROMANS: Here's the rub, though. Nonprofits are often from property taxes unless the property is used for commercial purposes. Enter the tax man.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, that's terrible. Maybe they'll figure out a resolution there.

All right. Do you think bald is beautiful? I do. Now, it is downright profitable as well. "The New York Daily News" telling the story of the NYU graduate from Texas who turned his bald head into a business. The company is called Bald Logos. Brandon Chicotsky and two other bald evangelicals sell ad space on their scalps for $320 a day. They walk the streets. Usually, they are accompanied by two attractive females and a camera crew. That gives them attention. It is working, folks. Brandon plans to expand his business to several new cities soon.

ROMANS: There you go.

SAMBOLIN: Love that enterprising spirit.

ROMANS: Capitalism at work.

Coming up, good news -- really good news for the housing industry this morning. We dig into those details where home prices are rising.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, good.

ROMANS: I'm going to tell you, next.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-three minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are down. With Greece's bailout concerns behind us, the focus goes squarely onto fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington and the health of the U.S. economy. ROMANS: Oh, yes. And all that trouble in Washington you guys started last year with the debt ceiling. Remember that fight? The U.S. is getting very close to hitting the debt ceiling again. What's the debt ceiling? The U.S. spends between $100 billion to $120 billion more than it takes in every month, so it has to borrow money to pay its bills.

It will take an act of Congress to legally borrow more and rack up more debt. The debt ceiling right now is set at $16,394,000,000,000. As of last week, our debt level stands at $16,268,000,000,000. You can see the numbers. We're almost there.

In a new report, the bipartisan Policy Center says the U.S. could hit the debt ceiling sometime in February of next year.

Now, home prices, this is a Zoraida request.


ROMANS: We talk about home prices. They are recovering in much of the country, new home sales numbers today. We learned yesterday that home prices were up nationwide by 3.6 percent in the third quarter. This is according to the S&P/Case-Shiller. That's the biggest rise nationwide in more than two years.

But look, all real estate is local. So, we want to show you the cities with the strongest gains in the past year. Home prices in Phoenix gained more than 20 percent. Minneapolis home prices rose almost 9 percent.

There are only two big cities with homes losing value, Zoraida, New York and Chicago.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my hometown of Chicago. It's terrible.

ROMANS: They slipped a little bit year over year. We'll watch there. But what's so interesting to me is that you have seen six months in a row now of home prices gaining. And year over year, the best gain nationwide in a couple of years. So you're seeing that slow healing.

SAMBOLIN: So they look at those big cities. My concerns are always Florida and Nevada because they took such big hits.

ROMANS: You're seeing investors doing a lot of buying in places like Florida and Nevada.

In fact, nationwide investors are almost, cash deals, are almost a third of all real estate deals right now. So people who have money, it doesn't matter what their credit score is, they've got money in the bank and there are international investors doing purchasing of homes right now, too.

SAMBOLIN: I just worry about, you know, it's the biggest asset we have, right?

ROMANS: Right. SAMBOLIN: And for the folks who put all their eggs in that basket, really tough.

Thank you. I really appreciate that. Digging a little deeper. Hopefully, we'll recover.

So here's the other big news. What would you do with a half a billion dollars?

Tell us @EarlyStartCNN with your Powerball comments. We want to hear how you would spend all that cash. Or find us on Facebook to post your jackpot thoughts.

And if you're leaving the house right now, you don't need to fret. You can watch us anytime on your desktop or mobile phone. Just go to

I'm dreaming. What would I do? What would you do?

ROMANS: This chair would be empty.