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Rice On The Hill; $5 Million Powerball Jackpot; Fiscal Cliff Hanger; Garment Factory Managers Arrested; Twin Car Bombs Explode In Syria; Kabul Bank A "Ponzi Scheme"; Another Stand Your Ground Law Case?

Aired November 28, 2012 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: One more try. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice gets another chance today to win over Republican lawmakers. After round one left three of them unconvinced.

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

ROMANS: And guess who is apologizing? A certain rich teen actor has apparently decided it's not a good idea to bite the hand that feeds him.

SAMBOLIN: Millions and millions and millions of dollars.

ROMANS: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. John Berman is on assignment this morning.

SAMBOLIN: We're happy to have you, Christine. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's 6:00 a.m. here in the East. In just a few hours, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice will be back on Capitol Hill to meet with two more Republican senators. She hopes it goes a lot better than yesterday.

Rice met face-to-face with three of her harshest GOP critics who were not satisfied with her answers concerning the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte say they are more troubled now than before they had that meeting and all indications are they are still against the President's nominating Rice for Secretary of State.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Apparently, she misled the American public. I think that she would say that. She'd have to say that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: CNN foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is live in Washington, really nice to see you, Elise. Why are Rice's critics saying they are more concerned now?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Zoraida, they're concerned because it turns out that there was some information in classified settings that Ambassador Rice told the senators about that did indicate that al Qaeda possibly was involved, that this could be a terrorist attack.

And when she sat down with those senators yesterday, what she said was that there were unclassified talking points provided by the CIA that just talked about this so-called spontaneous protest. But at the same time, Ambassador Rice, as a member of cabinet, she's privy to classified intelligence briefing, and there was some kind of information that indicated this.

Now she also said that the CIA and the CIA has come out publicly and said that the CIA took those classified points out about the al Qaeda attack. So what Ambassador Rice was really left with was all this information about the spontaneous attack and nothing about those terrorist elements.

Let me read to you a little bit of what Ambassador Rice issued in a statement yesterday. She said we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in one key respect.

There was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi. While we certainly wish that we had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved. So certainly the senators are saying we have more questions than answers.

But they're also saying, in a position such as Secretary of State, which we all know that Ambassador Rice is the leading contender for at this point, given the vociferous defense by the White House.

In a job such as Secretary of State, you really have to ask the tough questions, and you can't just have what they're calling blind loyalty to the President -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So we hear that she's going to have more criticism today, possibly. What about supporters?

LABOTT: Well, she's meeting with Senator Corker, who is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She's also meeting with Senator Collins of Maine who is a top Republican on the Senate Homeland Committee. And they said that they will give her a fair hearing, they do have some concerns.

But Senator Joe Lieberman, who is the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Affairs Committee, said he's satisfied with what Ambassador Rice told them in the meeting. Nothing he heard could disqualify her from becoming potentially Secretary of State.

Let's take a listen to what Senator Lieberman said yesterday.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: She couldn't have said more clearly than she said to me today that she told the truth to the best of her knowledge. She said what she believed was true, and she was under no political influence from the White House.


LABOTT: So, Zoraida, she certainly has some supporters. Clearly there are a lot of Democratic supporters in the Senate that would support her. The White House is really standing by her at this point.

These senators continue to have questions, but they do say they're willing to continue the dialogue. So, certainly, if she can continue to use that diplomacy, that could be potentially good for a job as Secretary of State.

SAMBOLIN: And I know you just played Senator Lieberman there. He's retiring, isn't he?

LABOTT: He is retiring. So, even though he is satisfied and nothing would disqualify her, doesn't have a vote.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, all right, Elise Labott, live in Washington for us. Thanks so much. Nice to see you.

ROMANS: So what would you do with $500 million? That's tonight's record shattering Powerball jackpot, but climbing higher. Millions of Americans in 42 states trying to parlay two bucks into half a billion. I'm not sure what you could buy for half a billion dollars. You do pay a lot of taxes though.

Alison Kosik live from Times Square this morning. What's happening where you are?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, you talk about what would you do with the money? This guy who just left, he bought a newspaper. I asked him what would you do with the money? He said I'm not buying a ticket, I don't know what I'd do with the money, more money, more problems.

I don't know if I really agree with that, seeing some people not only buying their coffee, but also plunking down $2 for a Powerball ticket. Yes, that jackpot is huge and you have a lot of dreamers walking in this morning on their way to work and they're thinking, if I win this jackpot, I'm not showing up for work tomorrow. That's what they're saying -- Christine.

ROMANS: What are the odds? It's still pretty slim, isn't it?

KOSIK: Yes, the odds are pretty bad. I hate to break the news to you, but the odds are 175 million to one so, yes, your odds aren't good. You have better odds of let's say. I don't know getting stung by a bee, getting attacked by a shark, being struck by lightning.

But that's not dissuading everybody from buying these tickets. What's ironic your odds of actually winning are going down as this jackpot goes higher and higher. Yet, we continue to buy, including me. I happen to have the winning ticket right in my back pocket, Christine. Have you bought any tickets yet? Here's the winning ticket by the way.

ROMANS: I have not bought any tickets yet, but I am in the office pool. And we are currently -- currently electing the pool captain and the potential money manager. We're all discussing who will one the cameras in the next few days.

KOSIK: The jackpot's been rolling over since October 6th. So it's rolled over 16 times. There's only a 5 percent chance it's going to roll over again. You want to buy your ticket.

ROMANS: All right, Alison Kosik, thank you so much. We talk about this a lot. We make a lot of fun about all the frenzy over the lottery. But seriously, we spend more time worrying about the lottery than we do about saving for college!

SAMBOLIN: I made friends with this guy, Barry on Facebook, he said he would retries my foot steps for the last 40 years and help everyone who helped me through so many problems. I want to meet you, Barry.

All right, it's 7 minutes past the hour. Now to the fiscal cliff hanger, just 34 days before massive tax hikes and spending cuts kick in and Democrats and Republicans look like they are gridlocked, the sticking point, entitlement reform.

Republicans appear willing to budge on higher taxes for the wealthy, but only if programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid face cuts.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-K^) MINORITY LEADER: The reason we're 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, one of the single biggest drivers of our debt.

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


SAMBOLIN: Senator Durbin is suggesting the debate over entitlement programs should be waged after the New Year. So what are the chances Democrats and Republicans can strike a deal to fend off the fiscal cliff? Later this hour, we'll ask a member of the House Budget Committee Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Diane Black.

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

SAMBOLIN: Twin car bombings in Syria this morning. State TV says at least 34 people were killed in the blasts, which happened just outside the capital Damascus. A Syrian human rights group says the death toll may rise due to the dozens of people injured in the bombing.

ROMANS: Also new this morning, an audit of the Kabul Bank in Afghanistan. The primary depository for U S. taxpayer funded reconstruction dollars. The audit concludes that a handful of people ran a fraudulent lending scheme at the bank where those connected to President Karzai had access of hundreds of millions of dollars.

SAMBOLIN: Tragedy on Long Island. A 6-year-old boy was killed when a bus crashed right into his home in Hempstead. This 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 the house.

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

ROMANS: The Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island and New York Harbor closed for the foreseeable future. Cranes New York Business reports that 400 people have been laid off from their jobs. The popular national monument suffered damage from Superstorm Sandy and are closed at least through the end of the year, possibly much longer. You were just there.

SAMBOLIN: I'm actually headed there again tomorrow, so I'll bring you the aftermath of that, as well.

All right, so after biting the hand that feeds him, millions upon millions of dollars, the actor, Angus T. Jones, 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 this statement, saying in part, quote, "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, remember him, who was fired from the show, is weighing in, as well, 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, 11 minutes after the hour. First the Trayvon Martin case, now another fatal shooting involving a teen in Florida. It could put the state's Stand Your Ground law to the test. That story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Another possible test of Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground gun law. This time murder suspect, Michael Dunn, says he was threatened, after he asked four African-American teens in an SUV to turn down loud music, at a Jacksonville gas station.

Dunn's attorney says they hurled insults at him then flashed a shotgun, and that's when, she says, Dunn decided to defend himself. Police say Dunn peppered the SUV with eight or nine bullets. Two of those bullets hit 17-year-old Jordan Davis, killing him.

Martin Savidge is following developments from our headquarters in Atlanta. Marty, what's the latest?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. A memorial service is going to be held for that 17-year-old youth. That's Jordan Davis. It will be held tonight.

Meanwhile, the man in custody, that's Michael Dunn, 45 years of age, arrested Saturday. He had his first court appearance on Monday. He entered a plea of not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder. And right now, he continues to be in custody. There is no bond.

So that's the very latest on where it stands.

ROMANS: (AUDIO GAP) from the evidence that Davis or the other teens had a gun? I mean, this is a really key part of the whole story about he felt threatened, he sawed barrel of a shotgun over sort of the ledge of the window.

But police didn't find a gun, right? And do we know why Dunn left the scene?

SAVIDGE: Right. Two very critical points: police did not find a gun, and the teens say they did not have a weapon inside of their vehicle. The attorney that represents Dunn says, hey, it's quite possible the teens could have got rid of that gun before police arrived on the scene.

Here's how police described what Dunn told them.


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, he -- I don't know if he knew that 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 the car and fled back to the --

REPORTER: Any alcohol?

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE: And that sort of plays into your second question there, Christine, as to why he left. He apparently fires eight or nine shots into a vehicle in which he knows that there are four teens inside, but apparently thinks he didn't hit anybody, and thereby could drive off.

And it wasn't until the next morning he saw the news accounts that he learned he actually had shot and killed someone. The attorney who represents Mr. Dunn has spoken out on his behalf and says that -- oh, listen to what she said.


ROBIN LEMONIDIS, MICHAEL DUNN'S ATTORNEY: What we know is that once all the facts come out, what really happened is made known, that it will be very clear that Mr. Dun acted responsibly, and as any responsible firearm owner would have acted under these same circumstances.


SAVIDGE: Michael Dunn is a gun enthusiast, according to his attorney, and also he was licensed to carry a concealed weapon. To say that he acted responsibly, firing eight or nine shots at a crowded gas station, many might dispute that -- Christine.

ROMANS: And I'm curious, Martin, and I'll have to look into the Florida law, but if the concealed weapon's permit, if the laws in Florida allow you to discharge a weapon and -- and in self-defense but then not report it. I mean, there's -- there's not reporting it here, which is, which is so interesting.

And it's also Florida. This is where the Trayvon Martin shooting happened. Very different cases, though, but with some similarities, I guess.

Any indication that Dunn's attorney is setting up a Stand Your Ground defense here?

SAVIDGE: Well, you're right. There are similarities. Again, another 17-year-old African-American youth. And then on top of that this took place in Jacksonville, Florida. That is the home turf, that is, of Angela Corey. She is the one that is going to prosecute in the Trayvon Martin case.

However, the attorney in this particular case, the defense attorney, says that this is not a George Zimmerman here. That we are dealing with. It's not sort of a vigilantism.

And she says that she hasn't determined whether or not Stand Your Ground is going to apply. It could, because if she's saying her client felt threatened, even if the teens didn't have a weapon, it is, under that law, possible a defense could be made.

ROMANS: Certainly a dangerous situation that turned quite deadly.

All right. Martin Savidge -- thanks, Martin. ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: It is 18 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date on this morning's top stories.

Millions of Americans planning their retirement right now, folks, as Powerball fever sweeps the entire 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.

And that jackpot is probably rising right as we speak, since officials say 60 percent of sales are made on the day of the drawing. So imagine what the number will be.

ROMANS: Oh, imagine. Right. You're looking at live pictures from Indiana where they're giving away free Powerball lottery tickets to the first 500 people today.


ROMANS: People keep saying, you know, what would -- how would I spend the money? I mean you could -- you could -- oh, yes, pay off your mortgage. You could buy an oil refinery. You could buy a couple Swiss commercial banks.

You could buy I don't know how many 777 jumbo jets. You could buy a lot of very expensive stuff.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know if Indiana one of those states where, you know, there have been a lot of lottery winners. But that kind of comes to mind. So, those free Powerball tickets, folks.

ROMANS: All right. Some other good pictures for you. Persistent deer really wanted to check out a beauty supply store just outside of Detroit. They kept hearing a commotion outside yesterday. It turns out it was a deer trying to get in.

SAMBOLIN: Let me in.

ROMANS: The deer finally crashed through the door for about 15 minutes. There you go. And left on its own.

SAMBOLIN: Oh. Just wanted to warm up a little bit.

All right. Sit at your own risk. A new study says your couch may be toxic. The study surveyed 102 couches and found that 85 percent of them had some sort of flame retardant chemical in their foam. This is the largest study of its kind.

Flame retardant chemicals have been linked to fertility issues, hormone imbalances, as well as lowered I.Q., and hyperactivity in children. Get rid of the sofa!

ROMANS: Dairy farmers are so fed up they turned on the hoses, spraying milk at riot police, and on the European parliament in Brussels. Europe's milk board which planned a two-day protest says low milk prices and excessive quotas are putting small farmers out of business. All right. Location, location, location of the beautiful people. "Travel and Leisure" is out with America's most attractive people.

SAMBOLIN: And number one, probably no surprise to you, Miami. Where the physiques and bikini bods along South Beach speak for themselves.

ROMANS: Number two, sun-drenched San Diego, followed by San Juan, Puerto Rico, Charleston, South Carolina and Los Angeles.

SAMBOLIN: Where is New York on the list?

ROMANS: What is the rate of plastic surgeons per capita in all those places? Just saying.

SAMBOLIN: You know what was on the list, though, I think was it Minneapolis? I think it was. I think it was Minneapolis was on that list, as well. That kind of surprised me.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up: good news -- really good news for the housing industry this morning. We dig actually -- Christine digging in very deep. And you're going to want to listen to this.

We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are down, and with Greek bailout concerns behind us for the time being, the focus turns squarely on to fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington, and the health of the U.S. economy.

ROMANS: So let's talk about something that's good for us, right?


ROMANS: And that's home prices. They are improving and they are recovering in much of the country. New home sales, those numbers come out today and we learned yesterday that home prices were up nationwide by 3.6 percent in the third quarter. This was according to a report by S&P/Case-Shiller. That's the biggest rise in more than two years. I want to show the cities with the strongest gains over the past year.

Home prices in Phoenix up more than 20 percent. Minneapolis, 9 percent. Look at that, Detroit, Denver, Dallas, Tampa. There are only two big cities with homes losing value, just a smidge, New York, down 2 percent. Chicago down about 1.5 percent.

SAMBOLIN: Was that 20.4? Where was that?

ROMANS: Phoenix.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh! ROMANS: Unbelievable. Remember, they had a huge decline, and now they're crawling out of the hole. You're seeing a lot of cash purchases and investor purchases in some of these places. Some people, frankly, are, you know, they're buying up retirement -- their retirement home because they have the cash.

SAMBOLIN: Florida is also seeing that.

ROMANS: A lot of money from Central America, from South America, from Brazil, from China, cash purchases. Investors parking their money in real estate.

Also, another Apple Map executive losing his job. Remember the Apple Maps debacle? According to a "Bloomberg Businessweek", Richard Williamson, who oversaw the maps unit, is out. This comes off the head of Apple's operating system, Scott Forstall, lost his job after complaints about the maps software.

And the one thing you need to know about your money today: holiday airfare expected to rise 8 percent compared with last year. This is according to the travel Web site Orbitz. Experts say the earlier you book, the better.

You thought I was going to do one thing about the lottery.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I got the lottery. What would you do with half a billion dollars?

Tweet us @EarlyStartCNN with your Powerball comments or find us on Facebook. Post all of your jackpot thoughts. Do share. We like reading them.