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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

7.3 Earthquake Hits Japan; Fiscal Cliff Countdown: 25 Days; Boehner To Top Dems: "Step Aside"; Protesting President Morsi; Michigan Right To Work Protests; Could Kickoffs Get The Boot?

Aired December 7, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine. I'm in for John Berman.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, December 7th. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: We begin with breaking news this morning. A massive earthquake gives Japan a major jolt, a hit off the coast about 300 miles northeast of Tokyo. The quake rattling buildings there. There were tsunami concerns, but tsunami warnings have now been lifted.

Senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is following these developments for us from London. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, the latest is that this 1 meter tsunami in eastern Japan has come ashore in the Miyagi Province, which is exactly the same area that was hit in March 2011 by devastating tsunami that killed 15,000 people and caused widespread damage as well. The tsunami this time hit a place called -- or near a place called Ishinomaki, which is a town that was almost totally devastated in the 2011 tsunami earthquake.

This time, it's a 1 meter-wave, which is much, much less than the 10, 11 meter tsunami wave that hit just over a year ago. So the damage is much less significant. In fact, there have not been any reports of any damage or any casualties at this stage, but it's still a significant wave.

It still could cause potentially some damage to the infrastructure there and certainly some flooding as well. So it's being watched very closely.

ROMANS: You know, Matthew, I mean, TEPCO and the government still trying to contain a nuclear crisis quite frankly from a year and a half ago and that big earthquake. We know this morning that TEPCO says everything is under control. There's been no residual damage.

CHANCE: That's right. I mean, people in Japan generally and in this area specifically are, of course, very edgy about the safety of their nuclear infrastructure. It was so badly damaged. Remember, the Fukushima nuclear plant back in March of 2011 melting down.

That's why the company that runs the nuclear reactors in the area, Tokyo Electric, have been very quick to issue a statement urging calm, making sure everybody understands that the reactors themselves have not been affected on this occasion by the earthquake and the tsunami and the work to stabilize the reactors from a year ago still continues unaffected.

ROMANS: All right, Matthew Chance in London. Thank you, Matthew.

SAMBOLIN: It is 2 minutes past the hour here, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner one-on-one in the fight over the fiscal cliff. We take the plunge in 25 days now. So that means devastating tax hikes and spending cuts take hold at the start of the New Year, January 1st.

Remember, Congress breaks for the holidays in seven days, but Democrats and Republicans may be making some headway. According to "The New York Times," House Speaker John Boehner has asked Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to get out of the way so he and the President can negotiate a deal alone.

Everyone seems to be on board. CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Washington. It's nice to see you, Paul. So you've got some new polls. What do Americans want to see in a fiscal cliff deal?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: You know, the polls, Zoraida, are actually pretty clear about what Americans want and don't want in any deal to avert the fiscal cliff. Look at these numbers from Quinnipiac University, one of the biggest sticking points, should taxes be raised on incomes over $250,000 a year? The answer it appears is yes, Americans are OK with that. Majority in this Quinnipiac poll say that's a good idea to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 a year.

Zoraida, this is the third poll in the last week in a half to say that. You can see the numbers right there. Go to the next screen though. This is interesting. There is a partisan divide on this. There's definitely gap. Democrats and independents OK with raising incomes over $250,000 a year. Republicans only a minority feel that way and that's probably why most Republicans in Congress are opposed to that move that the President backs.

What do they not want in any kind of a deal, Medicare? Keep your hands off Medicare. The polls are pretty clear on that. Look at the Quinnipiac numbers, again, this is the third poll in the last week and a half to indicate that a majority of Americans are opposed to raising the age -- the eligibility age from 65 to 67 -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Paul, new this morning, Vice President Joe Biden will be meeting with a group of middle class Americans today. This is, of course, the day after President Obama a family in Virginia. What can you tell us about that?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, this is a move it seems to take the case outside of D.C. and talk to real Americans. The Vice President will sit down as you mentioned for lunch with a bunch of middle class Americans whose taxes would be raised if there's no deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

Yesterday as you said, the President was in Northern Virginia, he was meeting with a middle class family as well who would suffer most likely if there was no deal. Remember, last week the President went to suburban Philadelphia to a small business again to make the point of his side in these fiscal cliff negotiations.

It's very different than a year and a half ago when the President dealt only with Republicans in Congress. This time he seems to be taking the case to Americans and getting outside of Washington, D.C. Congressional Republicans, Zoraida, are not so happy that the President is doing this.

SAMBOLIN: We understand that. Paul Steinhauser live in Washington, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's talk a little bit more about the fiscal cliff. Ryan Lizza is with us. He is the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" and a CNN contributor. Good morning, Ryan.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning. How are you guys doing?

ROMANS: We're great. You know, this piece in the "Times" -- according to the "Times" saying it's just John Boehner and the President in a room, just the two of them. Good idea?

LIZZA: I think it is a good idea actually. If you look at the accounts of the negotiations in 2011 when you had Boehner, McConnell, Eric Cantor, and Nancy Pelosi all in the room, it's a great account of this by Bob Woodward in his last book, very detailed accounts.

And frankly, the negotiations didn't go anywhere when everyone was in the room. They only got off the ground. They only made progress when Boehner and the President who were on the phone meeting privately. And those two could go back to their important constituents. The President could go to Pelosi and the Democrats. Boehner could go to Eric Cantor and his House Republicans and see what kind of deal they could get. But that was the dynamic it didn't work in the end. But that was the dynamic that came the closest.

ROMANS: They didn't have control of their parties basically, right? Does John Boehner have more control of Republicans this time?

LIZZA: That's the most important question on this fiscal cliff, the negotiations. Everyone, most people think that Obama can get just about anything through the House of Representatives, that he has more control over the Democrats than Boehner may have over the conservatives. But everything that has happened in the House of Representatives since the election all of the moves in the Republican caucus have been about Boehner consolidating control over that Tea Party caucus that didn't allow Boehner to get a deal in 2011.

SAMBOLIN: There will be some criticism though, right, about it just being two people at the table. So do you think they will get a deal done and what do you think the criticism will be?

LIZZA: I think there's some criticism from Republicans about secret negotiations. I mean, I hate to break it to people in Washington or elsewhere, but all negotiations over policy are secret in Washington. That's how legislation gets done. You have to be in a room with negotiators cutting a deal. So I wouldn't fret over the fact that these are private negotiations --

ROMANS: They get criticized for not talking to each other and criticized for how to talk to each other. You know, what about Jim DeMint? OK, king maker, Tea Party king maker, right? Leaving before his term is up. Says he could be more effective outside of the senate. What are they making of this in Washington?

LIZZA: You know, a lot of people say the allure of being at a big think tank with a big salary --

ROMANS: More than a senator of the United States?

LIZZA: A lot of people get frustrated in the Senate. It's a very slow moving body. It's difficult to advance an agenda. If you're Jim DeMint, you want a much smaller government. Even since the rise of the Tea Party and as long as he's been in the Senate, he hasn't been able to accomplish what he wants.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people say that you have more influence from the inside than you do on the outside. It will be curious to see how he gets more influence from the outside. Who do you think Nikki Haley will appoint?

LIZZA: I don't know. You know, there are four congressmen just re- elected in South Carolina. Representative Scott is African-American. That would be fascinating if she appointed the first African-American Republican senator since reconstruction.

The Republican Party could use some diverse faces right now. It's a challenge for them demographically. So I don't know if you can appoint yourself in South Carolina, but if she wanted to be a U.S. senator, now is not a bad time.

SAMBOLIN: Ryan Lizza, a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks.

ROMANS: We're waiting to see what happens in the streets of Egypt today. Opponents of President Mohamed Morsi are calling on their followers to join a new protest. And at this hour, they are gathering in Tahrir Square. They were chanting it's time for their new president to resign.

Their anger was sparked two weeks ago when Morsi issued a decree granting himself sweeping powers. In a televised speech last night, he refused to rescind that decree. We'll go live to Cairo for the latest at the half hour.

SAMBOLIN: Michigan's governor says he will sign a Right to Work bill when it hits his desk, which could come next week. State lawmakers pushed through legislation yesterday despite protests from Democrats and organized labor. Union supporters say it was a power play by the Republican-led legislature.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF BEAN, UNITED TEACHERS OF FLINT: It terrifies me that they are trying to pass this through so quickly with no discussion from the other side, no understanding of what's important and no discussion about the finer points and all the things this will affect. I think democracy is way too important to let it slide through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Proponents of the Right to Work bill say they are not out to bust unions. Just to make Michigan competitive with other states. Michigan would be the nation's 24th right to work state.

ROMANS: The man charged with shooting and killing unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin is suing NBC. George Zimmerman accusing the network of editing his 911 call to police on that deadly night to make him sound racist.

Three NBC employees have been fired for their role in producing the story. Zimmerman claims because of NBC's actions the public wrongly believes he used a racial slur while describing Martin to the police dispatcher.

SAMBOLIN: Saved from the attic, a woman rescued after had her ex- husband tried to seal her inside that attic. Hear what he was doing when police burst in.

And is this for real? Could the NFL be close to eliminating kickoffs? A former player joins us live to talk about it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have now won eight games after being one of their arch rivals the Oakland Raiders, 26-13 in Thursday football. Denver improves to 10-3 in the season. They have already clinched the AFC West and are now looking for a first round playoff.

SAMBOLIN: Last week, a shocking murder-suicide at the hands of Chiefs' linebacker Jovan Belcher is just the latest in the string of bad publicity for the NFL. And perhaps another sign of the punishing effects the game can have over the long term.

In a new cover story, for "Time" magazine, Commissioner Roger Goodell opens up about some of the ways he hopes to reform the sports so it takes less of the toll on its athletes.

Among some of the ideas on table are doing away with kickoffs, which are seen by many to be one of the most dangerous elements of the game. So right now, it's only a suggestion, but it has fans and professionals alike wondering what's in store for the future of football?

So joining me now from Atlanta is Chris Draft. He is a former NFL linebacker and founder of the "Chris Draft Family Foundation." It's very nice to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

CHRIS DRAFT, FORMER NFL LINEBACKER: It's great to be here.

SAMBOLIN: So we know that Roger Goodell actually floated this idea when he was meeting with a "Times" reporter, but it first game from Tampa Bay coach head, Greg Schiano.

So I want to put this up for everybody to see what's being proposed here. After a touchdown or field goal instead of kicking off, a team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line where it's fourth and 15. The options are either to go for it and try to retain possession or punt.

What do you think of this idea and do you think the NFL will potentially eliminate kickoffs for good?

DRAFT: I don't see them getting rid of kickoffs for good, but what you see there is just thinking, thinking out loud. There has to be some changes. There have been changes -- you have seen this in the past year. The kickoff was moved up five yards which has eliminated a lot of returns right now. Kickoff was proven to be, you know, have the biggest impacts of any one play throughout the game of the NFL.

So making adjustments with that or even just talking about the adjustments, really just say that the NFL is looking towards player safety, they are always looking towards player safety. You'll always have those things come up. You're always going to hear about some of the suggestions, but you're always going to have them come up.

SAMBOLIN: You know, when they moved it from a 30-yard line to the 35, I want to elaborate a little bit on what you said. There were 15 fewer concussions during kickoffs from 2010 and 2011. So, do you think eliminating kickoffs is perhaps an effective way to deal with the issue of concussions?

DRAFT: I think it deals a little bit with it. You know, definitely based on the numbers, it's very clear that that actually helps with it. But as a guy that played special teams throughout my career, I'll say that that's a huge part of the game in terms of kickoff returns and just covering kickoffs. These are huge plays that can make a difference in the game.

So, it's a very exciting play, so I don't see them getting rid of it, but you can see the adjustments have worked. They have worked.

SAMBOLIN: How do you think the fans are going to react to this potentiality?

DRAFT: I don't think anyone wants to see kickoffs be eliminated. But you can see that the rules have evolved. Again, this is just a suggestion. You know, you're talking about a competition committee that has to put up suggestions.

I think when you see this suggestion, it's about being inside the meeting and somebody allowing the suggestion to come out. I think there were probably a lot of other ones. It's just that Greg's suggestion actually came out in "TIME" magazine.

SAMBOLIN: You know, this is not a safe game. You know, I -- any onlooker would tell you that this is an incredibly dangerous game. Now, we have the proof, right? We have all the research that tells us that these concussions are causing these long-term effects for these athletes.

So, at the end of the day, are injuries even inevitable here when you start making changes like this? As a player, would you like to see changes?

DRAFT: You definitely want the game to be safer. I think it's increasing in that -- it's moving towards that being safer. But it is football. It is a game where you run and hit people with your head and kind of knock each other around of sorts.

But I'll tell you, there's been a drastic difference from when I came in the league. I was drafted in 1998 by the Chicago Bears and finished up with the Redskins in 2010. I have seen a drastic change in the way that injuries were reported.

I think when you look at players, a lot of players are liars, and not to say they're liars just like it's real bad, but liars in that you want to be on that field, those are your teammates. I want to get back out there.

I think what the NFL done --

SAMBOLIN: You don't want to potentially lose your spot either, right?

DRAFT: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Because if you say, yes, I am injured, then at the end of the day, like what happened to the San Francisco 49ers, the quarterback, he's kind of out of a job.

DRAFT: That's the balance. But that's why it's important that the doctors and trainers are paying attention. You have to take that away from the player. When you're talking about their health and future, you have to take away. I mean, they want to play. I want to be that guy on the field, but there has to be someone there that says, you know what? No, no, no, you're not ready.

That's a huge change that has happened in the last 12 years is that those doctors and trainers have stood up more. You know, again, you want them to stand up a little bit more. But it's clear that player safety is paramount in the NFL right now.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I wish we had more time to talk about this because then there are the lawsuits and, you know, potentially, this costing a lot of money to the NFL.

So, Chris Draft, I appreciate your time. Former NFL linebacker --

DRAFT: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: -- thank you.

ROMANS: All right. It is 19 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date with the morning's top stories.

Both sides dropped the gloves in the NHL labor talks, the owners rejecting the latest player union proposal. There have been cautious optimism to the resolution 83-day old player lockout within reach. Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league still hasn't set a date for saving the 2012-2013 season.

SAMBOLIN: And police are holding a northern Californian man without bail this morning for allegedly keeping his ex-wife prisoner in his attic. The victim says 29-year-old Lawson Rankin sexually assaulted her repeatedly. This was over a two-week period.

Police say they arrested Rankin after catching him in the act of sealing off the attic with a dry wall mud while his ex-wife was still inside.

ROMANS: This little girl from Arkansas is one lucky toddler. Her name was Chloe Jorsett (ph). She was playing with her mother on a bed next to a window when Chloe leaned against the screen, it gave way and she tumbled out the window, falling two stories to the ground below. Amazingly, she suffered only scratches and bruises.

And did you know that windows are the most dangerous place in a home for children? It's windows. It's not the stove or pulling the TV down. Windows have the most dangerous --

SAMBOLIN: Sadly, I do know that. You have to get the extra locks on the windows when you have little ones around.

ROMANS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie explains his change of heart toward President Obama in the days after Superstorm Sandy and before the presidential election. You remember that. Check out what he told Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: People have different skill sets at different times.

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I see. So he wasn't a leader until you needed leadership?

CHRISTIE: Maybe until -- maybe until he was presented with a stark opportunity to lead.

STEWART: Yes, opportunity. All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: How much did Hurricane Sandy set back the economy recovery? The first jobs report impacted by the superstorm is out this morning. And Christine is going to have a preview for us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 24 minutes past the hour. We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are down slightly this morning after closing higher yesterday. But gains were limited because of fiscal cliff concerns with no major progress out of Washington.

ROMANS: We're going to get the November jobs report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern this morning. A CNN Money survey of economists forecasts 8 percent unemployment. That would be ticking up from 7.9 percent in October.

Seventy-seven thousand jobs added. That's the forecast. A lot slower growth we have seen for much of this year. October, 171,000 jobs were added then.

It's likely Hurricane Sandy skewed these numbers maybe dramatically. Economists at Deutsche Bank, they expect only 25,000 jobs were added. They studied past big hurricanes affects on jobs. After Hurricane Katrina, the jobs reports numbers were revised much higher because it was too difficult for the Labor Department to collect the data during and after the storm.

In today's report, we're going to be watching four sectors that were hit hardest by the storm -- manufacturing, retail, leisure and hospitality and temporary help industries.

Mark Zandi is the chief economist of Moody's Analytics, he said aside from the storm, the job market turned in a good performance during the month. This is especially impressive given by the uncertainty of the presidential election and the fast-approaching fiscal cliff. He says businesses appear to be holding firm in their hiring and firing decisions.

Another unusual factor this month in these numbers, the layoffs and strikes at Twinkie maker Hostess. Those could also affect the numbers. Hostess filed for bankruptcy last month. And I want to bring you up to speed on Facebook moving on up.

The social network will be listed oven the NASDAQ 100 starting next week. It could be added to the widely tracked S&P 500 index soon. You know, the shares were down nearly 30 percent since that much-hyped IPO. Market value, though, is about $60 billion.

So, it would rank among the top 50 largest companies on the index. One equity strategist said the move is eminent. It could happen in the few weeks.

Facebook growing, getting in the NASDAQ 100, probably in the S&P, too.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

We're following breaking news from Japan. An earthquake rattles Tokyo and there are injuries reported.

And hold up, an escalator goes out of control with shoppers aboard sending them flying.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)