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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Tension Turns Deadly in Egypt; Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff; Instagram Nixing Pix On Twitter; Stunning New Pics of Earth from Space

Aired December 6, 2012 - 06:30   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Rage right now in Egypt. Violent crashes right outside the presidential palace. Thousands fearing they might lose the freedom they won in the Arab Spring.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: First pot, now same-sex marriage. Washington state legalized both while you were sleeping last night. The details, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: And a man in Wisconsin is ordered not to have anymore children until l he can afford them. You will never believe how many kids he's had by how many different women. We'll have that story for you, coming up.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans this morning, in this Thursday morning for John Berman.

It is December 6th and 30 minutes past the hour.

Let's get you update on fast-moving developments this morning in Egypt. Tanks and armored personnel carriers are stationed outside the presidential palace in Cairo. Soldiers are not only guarding the palace, but trying to prevent anymore violence between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi. They clashed outside the palace last night. Terrible violence left at least five dead, more than 400 injured.

Morsi is expected to address his people today. Opponents want him to withdraw the decree granting himself sweeping powers.

CNN's Reza Sayah is in Cairo with the latest. Good morning, Reza. What can you tell us?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Good morning, Christine. This is a critical day here for Egypt, as this conflict unfolds and it evolves into a violent confrontation between these two sides.

Later on today, President Morsi is scheduled to address nation. We're not sure what he's going to say, but certainly, this is a president that's under tremendous pressure to cool the situation down and unite this country, because there's all sorts of evidence that this is a country that's divided and things could get worse if something doesn't change.

We're overlooking the presidential palace right now. In front of the palace, you have a large group of supporters of the president that have gathered. And a block away, you have anti-Morsi protesters looking on. These are two sides that went at it last night. They literally brawled in front of the palace. More than 400 people injured, five people killed. And the question today, will those clashes take place again?

The tanks have moved in to protect the palace. I wouldn't read too much into that. There's no indication that the military is going to inject itself into this conflict. No indication that they've picked sides in this conflict. But certainly, they're showing their presence in an effort to calm things down, Christine.

ROMANS: Reza, a draft constitution has been approved. Egyptians are scheduled to vote on it next week. What exactly is in this proposal that these demonstrators so very angry?

SAYAH: When you look at the constitution, there's no drastic changes from the previous constitution. Nothing really jumps out at you. But the opposition says the constitution is written vaguely enough that they're concerned that down the road, an Islamist government could use the constitution to deny them the rights. These are the liberals, the moderates, the women's right's groups who are concerned about their rights.

And furthermore, I think between these two sides, there's deep mistrust. The opposition faction simply doesn't trust President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. That's why they're out here. They're worried that if he takes the helm of this government, the future of Egypt as the opposition sees it is in jeopardy, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much. Reza Sayah reporting for us from Cairo.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-three minutes past the hour. We're seeing signs of movement, but this morning, we're still facing a costly fall off that fiscal cliff. If there is no deal in 26 days, we're facing devastating tax hikes and spending cuts and a possible relapse into recession.

The President and House Speaker John Boehner broke the ice yesterday. They did speak by telephone. The two sides keeping details of their discussion under wraps, and still standing firm on tax hikes for the top 2 percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The revenues we're putting on the table are going to come from, guess who? The rich.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Once Republicans acknowledge that rates are going up for top earners, we believe that an agreement is very achievable.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SAMBOLIN: Kate Bolduan is live from Washington. So, Kate, do we have anymore details on that phone call?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think we can take from it the fact that there's been so little negotiating going on and so little movement. It's significant of itself that these two top negotiators, the President and Speaker Boehner, even spoke on the phone. This is the first time they've spoken on the phone, or as far as we know, spoken at all, in a week.

But there are no real indications of -- no readout from those phone calls and no indication of any real progress. We are still a long way from a deal.

All indications are that both the Speaker and the President remain very much dug in on their basic positions. The President has insisted, he insisted publicly yesterday and all of his aides do as well, that they're remaining firm, that as part of any deal, tax rates need to increase on the top 2 percent of wage earners.

And his deputy, his point person in these fiscal cliff negotiations, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, really doubled down on that yesterday in an interview with CNBC when he was asked if the administration was ready to go over the fiscal cliff if Republicans do not give on this tax issue. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: Oh, absolutely. Again, there's no prospect to an agreement that doesn't involve those rates going up on the top 2 percent of the wealthiest -- remember, it's only 2 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: John Boehner, though, remaining firm in his position, though he says he's already giving, because they're acknowledging that revenue will go up in taxes through the way that they would like to see taxes go up, even though they don't want to see taxes go up, through closing loopholes and eliminating deductions. John Boehner acknowledges that revenue is going to be part of this deal, but he is standing firm on -- they will not agree to at this point to raising tax rates on anyone.

So either way, the major issue remains. And while I always get heat when I'm only talking about tax rates, because there's a lot that's going on in this fiscal deal --

SAMBOLIN: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- the major issue, the major hurdle remains this -- the tax rate issue.

SAMBOLIN: Right, right. And meantime it's ticktack, right?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: And the House, I understand, is out as of yesterday. Members are headed to their home states for a nice long weekend with no deal in sight.

The majority leader, Eric Cantor, says he's going to force Congress to keep coming back and stay in session until a deal is done. Seriously?

BOLDUAN: He is serious. But, I mean, it was a pretty short workweek for the members of the house, that's for sure, as they left, not only left yesterday, they left at noon yesterday, after votes.

The fact of the matter is that this has happened before. That they will be out on recess, they will be back in their home districts and the leadership will call them back for a vote. But also, there are many procedures which I do not want to bore you with right now, that they don't even need to call everybody back. If everyone can agree to agree, they can pass something through unanimous consent and pass something through the House very quickly as well as through the Senate.

What it really comes down to is, all of these members, honestly, do not need to be in town, because they are not part of these negotiations. These negotiations at the very basic are between two men, House Speaker John Boehner and the President. And after -- once those two men agree, then they will take it to their folks.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Kate Bolduan, live in Washington -- thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: All right, recreational pot is now legal in Washington state. Under a new law which took effect at midnight, adults can possess up to an ounce of marijuana legally. It's still against the law to grow pot or to sell it. But those celebrating the new normal are accentuating the positive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY GEORGE, MARIJUANA SMOKER: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The new law doesn't allow smoking in public places, just like alcohol. But police in Seattle and across the state made an exception for overnight celebrations to ring in this new law.

SAMBOLIN: So it's another public relations problem for Penn State. The school's Chi Omega sorority is under investigation for stereotype in stereotyping Latinos. Take a look at these signs here. After a photo taken at a Mexican-themed Halloween party turned up online on Tumblr, the photos show sorority members in fake mustaches wearing ponchos and sombreros, as you're looking at, holding signs with comments like "I don't cut grass, I smoke it." The president of the Chi Omega chapter at Penn State has issued a public apology.

ROMANS: They've been missing for four months now. Police say the bodies of two young cousins have apparently been found by hunters in a wooded area in Iowa. Ten-year-old Lyric Cook and her 8-year-old cousin, Elizabeth Collins, they vanished over the summer. Their bicycles were found near a neighborhood lake and remember they drained that lake --

SAMBOLIN: Right.

ROMANS: -- looking for these girls or any evidence about where to find them. Friends and neighbors gathered at that lake last night for a vigil.

The girls' bodies still need to be officially identified by the medical examiner. But Elizabeth's mother in an emotional message on her Facebook page confirmed the bodies are those of Elizabeth and Lyric. Police say they have no suspects in that case.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour.

Nearly 4,000 e-mails that were sent or received by movie theater massacre suspect James Holmes have been released by the University of Colorado. They reveal Holmes may have had a romantic relationship with a fellow graduate student.

And CNN's Denver affiliate KMGH reports Holmes began fantasizing about killing a lot of people nearly six weeks before the shootings and that a doctor who was treating him decided against holding him for a 72- hour mental evaluation. Why? Well, because he was in the process of leaving the school.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, a strip down at city hall. Why these nudists were baring all and were fighting mad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Forty-two minutes past the hour.

Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT" this morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": Lots happening this morning. We're going to continue to talk about what happened overnight in those violent and deadly clashes in Egypt as that country unveils a draft for its new constitution. Right now, tanks are outside the presidential palace. We'll bring you a live report from Cairo this morning.

Also, at the stroke of midnight, recreational use of pot in Washington state became legal. All the rules kind of smoky, if you will, because growing and selling pot is still a crime federally. We're going to kind of make our way through the legal haze, if you will. Allen St. Pierre, he's the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Steve Sarich is the executive director of Cannabis Action Coalition. He's filed a lawsuit to try to overturn that law. We'll talk to both of them.

And, an army of one. But does it still apply when it comes to religion. We'll talk to an outgoing West Point cadet. He resigned five months before he was supposed to graduate. He says he was discriminated against because he's not religious.

That and many other stories, of course, we'll talk about this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Looking forward to it. Thank you, Soledad.

It's hard to get into the holiday spirit with temperatures around the country as warm as they have been. But I am doing a really good job of it.

Meteorologist Alexandra Steele is in for Rob. Alexandra, how warm is it?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, you guys.

SAMBOLIN: I've got to tell you, it was a little cooler this morning.

STEELE: That's right. And it will be cooler today. You should be in the low 40s this time of year. Today, that's where you've been, but she's referring to the 60s of the past few days. So where's the winter been?

Well, waking up in the morning, trying to get out, you probably enjoy that lack of cold, cold air. But the last nine days around the country, we've seen 1,600 record highs fall. So, we've got the warmth, the moisture moves in, certainly not going to follow snow, right? So, we've had a real lack of early snow in the Midwest and the Northeast.

But as we look towards these records, we could even be breaking these. In Chicago, 276 days without any measurable snow. Measurable snow means a tenth of an inch or more.

Remember, in Chicago and Milwaukee, the springs were really warm too. So, we didn't accumulate a lot of snow then either. Milwaukee, 275 days without measurable snow. And the next couple of days, we may tie or break those records.

But the cold air's a-coming. The jet stream has been very far north and kept that Arctic air in Canada and Alaska. It's going to release it and we're going to see much cooler temperatures. So, few chances for snow in Denver, Minneapolis, even Green Bay between now and Sunday.

You know, the snow's been limited, guys, to the Cascades, the Sierras, the Northern Rockies. They'll see it, but finally, maybe, Minneapolis, upper Midwest gets into a little bit of snow. But, it will feel a lot colder, that's for sure, especially by Sunday for a lot of the country.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much. Alexandra Steele. We'll take it, I guess, won't we? All right. Forty-five minutes after the hour.

SAMBOLIN: We have no choice.

ROMANS: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: One thing you can't control, the weather. Let's get up to date on the morning's top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Call it a fiscal cliff icebreaker. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner finally speaking to each other by phone yesterday. There's still no sign of progress or future talks with 26 days remaining until massive tax increases and spending cuts begin.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): A naked protest at San Francisco City Hall. The nudists are protesting an ordinance that would force them to cover up in public starting next year. The activists say the law would violate their civil rights as nudists. The ordinance was sponsored by a local supervisor who says his constituents were tired of seeing a group of naked men every day.

ROMANS: A $4.1 billion modernization project at Los Angeles International Airport wouldn't be complete without a caviar bar. Along with 18 new state of the art boarding gates, the airport is adding 50 premiere dining and luxury retail outlets along with tenants like Armani, Coach, Hugo Boss. The airport is adding a Petrossian caviar and champagne bar.

SAMBOLIN: Really?

ROMANS: Why, you ask? One of the chief developers explains the way you capture the flavor of a city is through its food. Hello! Top one percent.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: If you're away from your television right now, running around the house, getting ready for work, come on over. Take 30 seconds. NASA just released these stunning pictures of Earth at night. Check it out. We've zoomed in to the United States in this next piece of video. You see the U.S. lit up at night. Isn't that incredible?

The great thing about this is the pictures are cloud-free. Head to NASA.gov and you can see a lot more of these pictures, share them with the kiddies. They will think this is super cool.

ROMANS: That is neat. All right. Another big win for "Zero Dark Thirty" in the run-up to the Oscars. It was named Best Film by the National Board of Review. The group also named Kathryn Bigelow Best Director and the film star Jessica Chastain Best Actress. The film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden also took the top prize from the New York film critic circle earlier this week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And coming up, why your photo of today's breakfast may not reach as many people. Oh, the humanity of it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN I'm really upset about this. A social media cold war being waged between Twitter and Instagram.

All right. Folks, if you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime. Take us with you. We're going to be on your desktop or your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Fifty minutes past the hour. If you are not getting as many likes on your photos today, there may be a reason for it. Listen up. There is a digital battle brewing and our next guest is calling it the social media cold war.

ROMANS: That's right. Instagram, the social media site that allows users to share photos, is blocking its photos from appearing on Twitter. That means when you go to post a picture on Instagram and send a Twitter, only the link will appear, no photo. To see an Instagram picture, users will have to leave Twitter and go to Instagram site to access it.

Here to tell us about this battle and what it means for your social media consumption is Matt Buchanan, the tech editor of "BuzzFeed." Welcome. You call this a cold war. What's going on here?

MATT BUCHANAN, TECH EDITOR, BUZZFEED.COM: Well, if you want to go back to the beginning, Facebook sort of started it in 2010 when they cut Twitter off from accessing your friends list. And then Facebook, as you might know, acquired Instagram earlier this year.

ROMANS: For a cool billion dollars.

BUCHANAN: For a cool billion dollars. And then, shortly afterward, Twitter cut Instagram off from accessing your friends list on Twitter. And so, this is sort of the latest thing now that your Instagram photos soon won't be appearing on Twitter.com or through Twitter apps. You'll have to follow a link of an Instagram photo to Instagram in order to see the photos.

SAMBOLIN: Well, here's kind of the problem with it. At least, when I was looking at this morning, I thought, this is how I use Instagram is I tweet out pictures. And I'm not alone. Thirty-six percent of all links are shared on Twitter. They were photos of Instagram. So, this affects a lot of Twitter folks. Do you think -- how is Instagram going to survive something like this?

BUCHANAN: Well, Instagram recently passed 100 million users, which they announced in September. So, you know, they're less dependent on Twitter to get bigger than they might have been in the beginning.

SAMBOLIN: OK.

BUCHANAN: And they also have all of Facebook's might behind them and Facebook, as you know, has a billion users. So, they're definitely going to be able to survive. And they've been growing at sort of an insane rate, like when they were acquired, they were in the tens of millions of users. And since then, you know, in a few short months, they've already hit 100 million users.

ROMANS: So, who has the upper hand here then? I mean, is it Instagram who wants more social media traffic and not just necessarily raw photo stuff on their site or is it Twitter who may be compare up with somebody else on photos?

BUCHANAN: Well, Twitter is sort of an interesting place, because they've been moving from, you know, Twitter, traditionally, you think of 140 characters like small text bites. But if you look at how Twitter's changed over the last year, they've been getting more into a media-rich stream.

So like, when you go on Twitter, they want you to see photos and videos of this kind of thing in your stream and losing Instagram definitely hurts Twitter here.

SAMBOLIN: So, there are always really smart people who bypass everything under the sun. Is there a way to bypass this?

BUCHANAN: There is. And it's not terribly convoluted, but you'd have to go into your phone's photos applications and there's a way to upload to Instagram and Twitter simultaneously or there's another way to use Four Square to upload to Twitter and Instagram simultaneously.

ROMANS: What does it mean for, I guess, the end user? I mean, because for a while there, in the beginning of all these social media outlets, it was like, you could do everything everywhere.

BUCHANAN: Right.

ROMANS: And now it's kind of vulcanized again.

BUCHANAN: Right.

ROMANS: Like, you know, the brands want their own traffic, their own revenue, potential revenue, right? They don't necessarily all want to share. So, who wins in the end?

BUCHANAN: Well, it's hard to say. They all want to win in the end. And they're all sort of pursuing, in their own way, like similar strategies. You know, Facebook's using like promoted posts and sponsored things and getting brands to, you know, spend money to have users like them on Facebook. And then Twitter is sort of doing the same thing where they have promoted posts that they would like you to see.

And Instagram hasn't really done anything like that yet, but they just revealed the new Instagram.com, which sort of -- you know, if you look at Nike's page, you have this real beautiful page filled with images of, you know, Nike sneakers and that kind of thing. So --

SAMBOLIN: You know, here's a big disconnect for us. It's a way to share, it's very cool, right? For them, it's a way to monetize.

BUCHANAN: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: So, at the end of the day, that's what they're going to do. Thank you so much, Matt Buchanan, tech editor at "BuzzFeed." Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Up next, our geekiest, "Best Advice" today that comes from all-time "Jeopardy!" champ, Ken Jennings. May the force be with you. That's my hint. It's coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-eight minutes past the hour.

ROMANS: Wrap it up as always with "Best Advice." Today, we hear from all-time "Jeopardy!" champ, Ken Jennings. We ask him the best advice he's ever heard. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN JENNINGS, ALL-TIME JEOPARDY! CHAMPION: So, the best advice I've ever received is thing Yoda says about Luke Skywalker in "The Empire Strikes Back." He says, "Always has this one's mind looked to the future, to the horizon. Never has this mind been on where he was, what he was doing."

I think that's very good advice. It's made me want to think more about the moment and not just about getting on to whatever the next thing is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Ken Jennings, may the force be with you, my friend.

SAMBOLIN: And I would say Yoda is full of good advice.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: That's right. I'm Christine Romans. That's it for EARLY START for today.

SAMBOLIN: Soledad O'Brien is up now with "STARTING POINT".