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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Tension Turns Deadly in Egypt; Chemicals in Bombs; "Pot Party" in Washington State

Aired December 6, 2012 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, tanks and personnel carriers stationed outside the presidential palace in Egypt, clashes turning deadly overnight. Rage at the new leader fears he may become the old leader. We're live from outside the palace in 30 seconds.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, new reports this morning that Syria is putting chemical components in bombs. The details, straight ahead.

ROMANS: As of this morning, for the first time in the history of our country, it is now legal to smoke pot for recreational purposes in a state and we are there for the pot party.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman this Thursday morning.

SAMBOLIN: I bet you never thought you'd say that, we're live at a pot party.

ROMANS: I know.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East here.

Up first this morning, it's a developing situation in Egypt where tension has quickly turned to deadly violence in Egypt. This morning, tanks and armored personnel carriers are guarding the presidential palace, this is in Cairo.

It was there last night that supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi clashed. They hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at each other. At least five people were killed, hundreds injured. The root of the violence, it is growing anger over what many Egyptians believe is Morsi's grab for power.

Ian Lee joins us by phone from Cairo this morning. Ian, can you tell us what's happening right now?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Right now, we have the elite Republican guard, and this is the unit that's tasked to protecting the president. They are the ones with the tanks and the armored personnel carriers. They're fortifying their position around the presidential palace, putting up barbed wire and road blocks, to diverting traffic and people away and trying to keep the two sides, the pro-Morsi and the anti-Morsi protesters away from each other.

Last night, we saw thousands of pro-Morsi supporters camp outside of the presidential palace, that is after they went there, and removed, by force, the anti-Morsi protesters. But now, we have a small -- protests are planned for today against Morsi and their plan to defend, again, on the presidential palace.

SAMBOLIN: Ian, a draft constitution has been approved and Egyptians are scheduled to vote on it. That is scheduled for next week. Is it something in this proposal that has protesters so angry?

LEE: Well, a lot of protesters are angry at the quickness that this draft constitution was first put forward. It was really rushed through. We saw in a 48-hour time period. And that was in response to President Morsi's constitutional decrees. He said once a constitution is approved, the powers that he took, he would no longer have those.

So, they were eager to rush through the constitutional draft but a lot of the people here, moderates, liberals, Christians, say that they don't protect the right of the minorities or of the people and they benefit the Islamists in particular. It says it's vague on religious minorities and also vague on the role of women in the state.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's talk a little bit more about what is in there. Many demonstrators are calling Morsi a dictator as we've been talking about. But the draft constitution does contain term limits for the president. Do they think that Morsi is insincere there?

LEE: It's -- that's not something we're hearing too much of. Yet, there are people that are concerned that this power grab is a larger move to control power and to consolidate the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. A lot of people are upset, especially talking to constitutional experts, that said that this draft constitution and their belief isn't one that is set to serve Egypt and serve the Egyptian people, that it's vague in a lot of places and it really doesn't have defined rights as you see in other constitutions.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ian Lee, live in Cairo for us this morning-- be safe. Thank you.

And potentially worrying new developments this morning in Syria as well, increasing the fear that Bashar al Assad's embattled regime may be preparing to use chemical weapons against its opponents. NBC News reports that Syria's military has loaded the component chemical for the deadly nerve gas sarin into aerial bombs that could be drop from fighter jets.

CNN reported on Monday that Syrian forces started combining chemicals that could be used to make that gas for weapons.

ROMANS: All right. Here at home, big news in the state of Washington. It's the first in the nation, the first state in the nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Voters approved a ballot initiative last month, making it legal for adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The new law took effect at midnight and people marked the occasion with a pot party at Seattle Space Needle overnight. But it's not a blanket license to smoke pot anywhere anytime.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has been up all night, live in Seattle for us. So it's not illegal to smoke marijuana but the whole distribution network of marijuana -- and the distribution and sale of marijuana is still illegal. So, there's a big asterisk here for recreational pot users.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for now it is. In the next year or so, that will be taken care of, as this law takes effect. But today was the first big step in what people here are calling a revolution. That was that pot, less than an ounce, is now legal to possess and use.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The moment recreational pot, anything less than an ounce, no longer illegal in Washington state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing. I'm not a criminal anymore. I can't go to jail for small amounts of marijuana, you know? It's -- I'm free to be free.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Several dozen hard core smokers showed up here to the base of the Space Needle, the symbol of the city and state to light up at the stroke of midnight. While the new law does not allow smoking in public places, Seattle police and police departments across the state are turning a blind eye tonight, allowing celebrations to light up.

This is what you assume the stores will look like, or something along these lines?

JAMEN SHIVELY, FORMER MICROSOFT EXECUTIVE: Yes. Our stores are going to have the feel of a fine cigar shop.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Jamen Shively, once a high profile executive at Microsoft, is now preparing to open as many as two dozen high-end marijuana shops in Washington and Colorado. Yesterday, he'd be called a drug dealer. Today, an entrepreneur.

SHIVELY: Our target market is actually baby boomers. So, these are folks who maybe tried it in college a couple of times, maybe they didn't inhale. But now, it's actually safe to inhale.

MARQUEZ: He's already working on packaging and attractive displays for future clients. The state liquor control board has a year to regulate and license the growing, processing and retailing of marijuana here -- all of it taxable at a very high 25 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're looking at the potential of bringing in more than $500 million each year in new tax revenue.

MARQUEZ: The big question still, what will the federal government do? Pot is still illegal federally. Today, a legal toak-up revolution burning here and soon Colorado.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: The only things the feds are saying at this point is that marijuana is still illegal federally. And think of it this way in Washington state, it's going to be treated like booze, basically. Like hard liquor, you have to be 21. You can get busted for DUI. You can't drink it in public, those sorts of things. But all those rules are yet to be written, yet to be in placed. In a year or so, you'll have pot stores all over this state.

Back to you.

ROMANS: You know, Miguel, it's interesting, because a number of big employers in Washington like Boeing and Costco, they ban their employees from smoking marijuana. I mean, there are a lot of other companies that do drug testing. Before you can get a job, you got to show that you haven't had anything in your system. Will this new law change anything for employers? Can workers still get fired for testing positive?

MARQUEZ: The simple answer is no, you can still get fired. You can't smoke pot and go to work. It doesn't change anything with regard to employers who have those rules in place. Even with universities here, the University of Washington here is saying that pot will still not be allowed on campus.

So, there are going to be limits to this thing. It's going to take a long time for people to get used to just how legal and open it is here, Zoraida.

ROMANS: Yes. What about the DUI law? How is that going to work?

MARQUEZ: Almost exactly the same as the DUI law for drinking. If you refuse a blood test, then your license will be taken right there. If you allow a blood test, then when it comes, they'll figure out if you have enough active THC, or the part of the marijuana that actually causes you to get high. If there's enough of that in your blood, you'll be over the limit and you will be charged and lose your license, same as when you're drinking.

ROMANS: How does this -- Miguel, how does Washington's pot law differ from Colorado?

MARQUEZ: The biggest difference is, you can grow it in Colorado. You cannot grow it here. Once this thing is completely implemented, it will only be licensed growers that will be able to grow pot. Licensed processors will be able to process it. And then licensed retailers that will be able to sell it -- Zoraida.

ROMANS: Miguel Marquez, thanks so much.

Zoraida, it was so interesting, too. I was looking at some of the public polling in Washington and women -- the majority of women didn't think it should be legal. The majority of men by a larger margin thought it should be. So, kind of, you know, people have different views on it.

SAMBOLIN: We were talking about this and I said my mommy mode kicks in. I have a 14-year-old who could potentially be facing laws, you know, that aren't as strict as they used to be. So, what does that mean? So, I've got to think about this, to digest this, as I'm sure all of you have to do as well, right? Well, maybe all the women.

All right. Nine minutes past the hour here.

John McAfee, the Internet security pioneer, could face deportation to Belize. This is as early as today folks. Guatemalan officials took him into custody yesterday, accusing him of entering their country illegally. McAfee is wanted for questioning in Belize in connection with a murder.

He says he is innocent. He has maintained that from the beginning. But he went into hiding a couple weeks ago because he feared persecution by police in Belize. McAfee turned up in Guatemala on Tuesday.

ROMANS: The suspect accused of shoving a man to his death in a New York City subway station is s now facing a murder charge. Thirty- year-old Naeem Davis was arraigned last night in a Manhattan courtroom. Police say Davis, who's homeless, pushed 58-year-old Ki- Suck Han off a platform and on to the tracks as the train was entering the station. They say Davis watched the train strike and kill Han before fleeing the scene.

Witnesses helped police track him down.

SAMBOLIN: The University of Colorado releasing nearly 4,000 e-mails that were sent or received by movie theater massacre suspect James Holmes. They reveal he may have had a romantic relationship with a fellow graduate student. And CNN Denver affiliate KMGH reports Holmes began fantasizing about killing a lot of people. That was nearly six weeks before the shootings.

And a doctor who was treating him decided against holding him for a 72-hour mental evaluation because he was in the process of withdrawing from school.

ROMANS: Three American men accused of plotting to blow up U.S. bases in Afghanistan, they pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say Arifeen Gojail, Ralph Deleon, and Miguel Santana planned for almost a year to fly to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda and the Taliban. The California men were arrested last month, just days before investigators say they were to board a plane bound for Istanbul and then on to Afghanistan.

The FBI arrested their alleged ringleader in Afghanistan, brought him back to the U.S. He has not faced a grand jury or been indicted.

SAMBOLIN: Let the countdown continue -- 26 days until the fiscal cliff. The focus has been on taxes, but that's only half of what this is all about. The other ways you could be affected, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: It is 15 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date on the morning's top stories.

President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner breaking the ice.

SAMBOLIN: That's good news, right?

ROMANS: The two leaders -- yes -- discussing the fiscal cliff by telephone yesterday. No word of significant progress with just 26 days remaining to get a deal done. But there are signs of compromise. Oklahoma's Republican Senator Tom Coburn breaking ranks, saying he's OK with raising taxes on the very rich.

SAMBOLIN: And a huge cocaine haul unloaded by the Coast Guard in St. Petersburg, Florida. It came from two separate seizures off the coast of the Dominican Republic last month, authorities recovering more than 50 bales of coke. It is weighing close to two tons. The drugs had a street value of $45 million. It will now be destroyed.

ROMANS: Are you losing your keys or misplacing your wallet?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: No worries. Designers are closed to unveiling a new quarter- sized Bluetooth enabled button that can stick to that hard to find remote or your pet collar to communicate with a smartphone.

SAMBOLIN: And sneakers, that's hysterical.

ROMANS: Right. Excuse. The app will have a radar feature that tells you if they're getting warmer or colder as they search for a missing item.

My BlackBerry charger, I always leave my BlackBerry charger somewhere. That's what I need it for.

SAMBOLIN: It just has to tell you where it is, not if it's getting colder or warmer. It is located.

All right. And a real sticky situation on a highway. This is New Hampshire. A tractor-trailer loaded with a cargo of maple syrup overturned on the interstate near Mansfield, New Hampshire. Police say the semi flipped on an on-ramp. Boy, that was terrible. Diesel fuel also spilled on to the highway. There were no reports of any injuries.

ROMANS: All right. Seventeen minutes after the hour this morning, time for your "Early Read" -- your local news making national headlines.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, we've got a lot for you this morning.

ROMANS: We do.

From the "Seattle Post-Intelligencer" -- as of 12:01 a.m., having an ounce or less of marijuana now legal in Washington state for people 21 and older, people there celebrated once the clock passed midnight by lighting up. A street law decriminalizing marijuana passed by a 12- point margin on Election Day last month.

Under the state law, smoking it in public is still banned. You also can't light up in bars or restaurant. Selling pot is still illegal for now. Pot remains illegal, of course, under federal law.

SAMBOLIN: And you're seeing that party because they made an exception, just this one time. But you cannot go out and do that.

All right. A man facing child neglect charges after he reportedly -- listen to this -- had his pit bull baby sit an infant. CBS in Tampa says the mother left the 10-month-old with 41-year-old James Irvine. He soon decided to leave the child and go drinking. He allegedly told the mother that he did not leave the child alone. It was in the care of his pit bull who was sitting outside the closed door where the baby was placed.

This is a true story. I know, right?

ROMANS: Speechless.

His company is built around brightening your day. But the head of Starbucks has some sobering thoughts about the state of the economy. We'll bring that to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-one minutes past the hour. Good morning. And welcome back to EARLY START.

We are minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are trading higher. The focus is on Washington as fiscal cliff negotiations continue. We will also get an update on the health of the labor market when the weekly jobless claims report comes out later this month.

ROMANS: And, you know, by now, you all know the siren logo. You have a cup of coffee.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's right. Many of you will grab a cup of coffee this morning. But Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has some sobering advice to offer on the looming fiscal cliff, that the consequences will be far worse than last year's debt ceiling fight when the U.S. credit rating was downgraded for the first time ever. His message to lawmakers: now is not the time to play politics. It's about doing right by the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, STARBUCKS: I think if people would get in the room and leave their ego behind, and not be so skewed towards the party but be so sensitive to the lens of the American people, we will have an agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: Poppy Harlow is joining us now with more on her conversation with Howard Schultz. And we've been talking about how this is going to affect us. But he says this goes way beyond our borders.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Way beyond our borders, it's global. But, you know, something that stuck with me talking to him about this, is he said the people that need a deal most will be hurt the most. Here's why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: This single issue has a seismic affect on the rest of the world, that we have never been as connected and the domino effect of a bad outcome here will have significant negative consequences, domestically and around the world, not the least of which will be the level -- the fracturing of confidence in the United States of America.

HARLOW: Seismic and significant -- very powerful words.

SCHULTZ: Yes.

HARLOW: How could this play out for Americans if we don't have a deal? What is that going to feel like to them, Howard?

SCHULTZ: I think there are going to be tremendous personal pressure on people who will see their daily lives affected in ways that are hard to fathom, hard to calculate and hard to understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So what does that mean? He said every day we don't have a deal, people pull back on their discretionary spending, buying trips, making investments, buying Christmas presents. That has a massive ripple effect. He thinks 50/50 chance we get a deal. You know, who knows?

He also told me -- and I pushed him on this -- can we have a deal without raising rates? And said, look, looking at the map, no. We have to raise rates.

Interestingly, too, you just talked this week to the CEO of FedEx who said, you know, I'm dismayed that Washington can't get it together. I said to him, do you agree with Warren Buffett, that if we raise rates that will not stifle investments because that's the argument we're hearing by many Republicans? He said, I do agree with that. And that sets him at odds with many other business leaders.

ROMANS: Fred Smith from FedEx basically say, he's like -- you know, the fighting about raising rates on the top 2 percent, you know, it's -- that's not going to stop, you know, business and investment. There's a lot of other things that happen that have to do that.

You know, one thing about all of this is that some people are trying to downplay the affects of the fiscal cliff, saying if we go over for a few days, it will be OK. HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: CEOs aren't saying that. You look at third quarter GDP -- already, companies are spending less money on software and equipment because they don't know what's going to happen. So, the effects of the fiscal cliff are already holding back recovery.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Not to mention not hiring, or not hiring as many people. That's felt by every day Americans. What stood out to me from Howard Schultz is saying, the people that need it the most, the average American is going to feel this to the core. And every day we don't have a deal, that hits confidence. And as you know, confidence is the cornerstone.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it makes you make decisions, right? Big decisions, small decisions, I'm not going to buy that, I'm not going to do that, I'm scared to death. Here's my question for the two of you --

HARLOW: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: -- since you are the experts here: are more big CEOs falling in line with the "yes, let's raise the taxes on the 2 percent"?

HARLOW: You know, I think -- if I don't know if a majority. Would you say a majority?

ROMANS: I don't know. I mean, I think they want a deal and they know that people have to make -- it's hard to make compromises.

HARLOW: We've heard it from Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, we've heard from Howard Schultz, Warren Buffett, Fred Smith.

SAMBOLIN: Pretty big names there.

ROMANS: They want a deal. They just want them -- they want a deal. They want some clarity. And that's the most important thing here right now. The interesting thing to me is the stock market and bond market haven't freaked out yet about this. People in the stock market are saying, look, they're not stupid enough to let us go there.

HARLOW: To let this happen.

ROMANS: Even for a few days, they think that they're going to get something down.

SAMBOLIN: Gosh, I hope so.

ROMANS: Me, too.

SAMBOLIN: That would be great. Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: You got it.

SAMBOLIN: Appreciate it. Twenty-five minutes past the hour. An awards season shocker. The company that produces the little Oscar statuettes, Chicago-based R.S. Owens is laying off nearly 100 employees. That's more than a third of its workforce. The company also made awards for the Emmys and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

ROMANS: Changing the look of the men and women in uniform. The military is looking for a new style of camouflage. In doing so, they may take a page out of Harry Potter. We'll explain.

SAMBOLIN: And if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop, your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)