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Earthquake Hits Japan; Protesting President Morsi; Michigan Right-to-Work Protests; Actor Gets "Luke Skywalker" Hand

Aired December 7, 2012 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue to follow this breaking news out of Japan, where a powerful earthquake hit off the coast this morning. The quake was too strong, it was felt in Tokyo. The details, straight ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, check out what happened when an escalator malfunctioned at a Macy's department store. The story behind these pictures, ahead.

SAMBOLIN: An actor who suffered of horrific accident on the set is here to show off his new bionic hand. It's right out of "Star Wars," folks.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman this morning. It is 30 minutes past the hour

SAMBOLIN: Updating you on breaking news. A tsunami threat has now been lifted in Japan after the country is rocked by a very powerful 7.3 magnitude quake. The tremor hit off the coast, about 300 miles northeast of Tokyo. It rattled buildings there, jolting the area hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami that struck back in March of 2011.

ROMANS: In Egypt today, protesters are taking to the streets. Opponents of President Mohamed Morsi have called on followers not to let up their pressure on him. Last night in Cairo, they called on Morsi to resign, saying that his government has lost legitimacy.

Morsi's opponents are angry at his decree where he granted himself sweeping new powers. They also don't trust a new draft constitution back by him.

In a televised speech last night, Morsi defended his actions.

Ian Lee is live in Cairo this morning. Ian, what's going on right now?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now, we have Tahrir Square behind me where protesters are starting to continue to trickle in. It's 1:30 p.m. here, which is still pretty early for protests in Egypt.

But we're also monitoring a protest that's going on, marches that are going to be descended on the presidential palace in Cairo here as well. There's also protests expected all around the country. So, it's going to be a big day for protesting.

ROMANS: You know, the opposition says it won't negotiate with Morsi until he drops the decree. It cancels the referendum. Why not hold the referendum and vote the draft down? Are protesters afraid they don't have enough support? Do they think Morsi is going to corrupt the process?

LEE: Well, protesters definitely believe that if this were to go to a referendum, that they would win and that this constitutional referendum would be voted down.

But what protesters say is that they don't trust the president to move this process forward. If the Constitution is voted down, then he will then appoint the next constitutional assembly. The opposition has said they have not been represented in the ways that they should be. They haven't had enough voice in the process. They believe that it will just start all over again.


MOHAMED MORSI, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This constitution of declaration will end as soon as we issue -- make public the results of the referendum, whether the referendum was yes or no.


LEE: Well, right there, you heard President Morsi say that he would hand over his constitutional -- or his powers he granted himself after the -- after the constitutional referendum if it's voted yes or no. Still, protesters say they don't trust him to do that.

ROMANS: All right. Ian Lee -- thank you so much, Ian. Nice to see you this morning. Ian Lee in Cairo for us.

SAMBOLIN: And once again, today Internet security pioneer John McAfee faces extradition to Belize. But in it another strange twist in this case, he was rushed to a hospital, there he is there in Guatemala City, just hours after officials denied his request for asylum. He was treated for cardiovascular problems. McAfee is wanted in neighboring Belize for questioning in a murder case.

ROMANS: Michigan is about to become a right-to-work state. Despite angry protest at the state capitol, Michigan's Republican-led House and Senate pushed through legislation that critics say would limit workers rights and weaken unions. The governor says he'll sign a right-to-work bill when it hits his desk.

CNN's Poppy Harlow following developments for us. She is live in Lansing, Michigan.

Good morning, Poppy. What is it about this bill that has protesters so angry?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Well, you have to think about where we are. We are in Michigan. This is a state that's really at the heart of the organized labor movement. The United Autoworkers was born here. It is critical here.

And this right-to-work legislation would mean that in this state, unions and employers cannot mandate that employees join the union or that they pay the union dues. That money is at the core of the power of the unions. Three separate bills passed late yesterday -- two in the Senate, one in the House, really the same thing here, trying to make this a right-to-work state. It has the support of the governor.

This would affect public workers but also private workers, like auto workers at Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. So, this is very, very big. It does exclude police and firefighters. That's important.

But this was passed very quickly. This did not go through a committee. This did not go through public debate. So Democrats are calling this a subversion of the legislative process. They are angry. I want you to take a listen to the Auto Workers' president who was here protesting yesterday and also the governor, Republican Rick Snyder.


GOV. RICK SYNDER (R), MICHIGAN: To be pro-worker, to give freedom of choice to our workplace, and that the legislators move properly and efficiently and moving through the legislature and when it arrives on my desk, I plan on signing it.

BOB KING, UAW PRESIDENT: The data and facts from the right-to-work states show that it's right-to-work for less. It is an effort by the wealthy, by people like Dick DeVos from the right wing that they want to push wages and benefits down.


ROMANS: Poppy, the governor's argument is that it makes the state more competitive, it's going to lead to more jobs, right?

HARLOW: Right. Well, yes. I mean, when you look at the data, what we know, what the data shows is that union workers tend to make more, pretty significantly more than nonunion workers. The data from last year showing a median salary for a union worker was about $938 a week versus $729 for a nonunion worker.

But, look, the neighboring state of Indiana, Christine, recently passed this right-to-work legislation and the argument is being made here by supporters of this legislation, the Republicans, that jobs are going to Indiana, that they are not coming here. That in order for the jobs to be here and the states to remain competitive, it has to have this legislation.

All signs point that this will pass the House and the Senate here, both Republican controlled, next week, and then get to the governor's desk. A labor lawyer telling me this has huge significance and also saying to me this is devastating for the labor movement, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Poppy Harlow -- thanks, Poppy.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-six minutes past the hour.

A malfunctioning escalator at the Washington state Macy's sent four people to the hospital last night. Fire officials in Bellevue say one man suffered minor injuries. Three others, including two 3-year-old children were also checked out as a precaution, they say. They're not sure what caused the incident. Witnesses say several of the escalator steps were not where they were supposed to be.

ROMANS: All right. A big stink over a dead whale. It washed up on shore. There's a fight now over who's going to get rid of it.

And an accident on the set left one actor thinking his career was over. Instead, life is great and you might see he's partly bionic.


SAMBOLIN: Forty minutes past the hour. Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on STARTING POINT.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POING": Lots happening this morning.

The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he might do away with the football kickoff and sports fans all are fired up about that. There are people who say that would make the game safer. But does it go far enough and does it ruin the game or make it safer the same time?

We're going to talk to Coy Wire. He's a sports analyst and nine-year NFL veteran. He'll weigh in with us this morning.

Racial bias, seeing people of different skin colors, (INAUDIBLE) we meet a teacher who is trying to teach kids about colorism.

And then, I really love a good cup of joe. Adventurer Todd Carmichael will join us. He's got a new show. He's even risking his own life to make the perfect cup of coffee.

That and much more this morning right at the top of the hour.

ROMANS: I can't even get to the Starbucks on the corner.

SAMBOLIN: I have one in Puerto Rico I'd like to send him to. The perfect bean.


O'BRIEN: That's his passion.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Soledad.

It's December 7th and a large part of the country still finally going to start feeling some winter cold temperatures, maybe even some snow.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano joins us from Atlanta. Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Yes, it's been a warm year, hasn't it? We're trying to get a little cold air in here. We'll have some success of doing that.

The rainfall we have been seeing on the radar mostly is in the form of rain. But white mixing in, especially in the higher elevation in the Cascade. A couple frames over the last hour here in that radar dropping. But you get the picture.

Disturbances, one moving across the Great Lakes. That's bringing the rain that will eventually stretch over into Philadelphia, the New York and Boston later on today. Another one across the Pacific Northwest.

Temperatures for the most part right now at least are pretty mild. But they'll be dropping as we go through the next couple days, especially across the upper Midwest, western Great Lakes, temps will be dropping into the 20s, teens and maybe even single numbers like Bismarck, 9 degrees there.

Still 47 on Sunday, but as we get towards Monday and Tuesday, temperatures will get a little closer to the freezing mark. That may bring in some snow which may or may not help break a record of no snow in Chicago for an extended period of time.

Forty-six for the high in Chicago today, 44 degrees in New York City. So, it's not terribly cold. About what you'd expect for this time of year.

And you know what? This year has been incredibly warm. For the time period of January to November, it's the warmest first 11 months of any year on record at least. So 2012 could go down as the warmest year since 1998. That's certainly what we're on track for at least right.

And speaking of this lack of snow in Chicago, it's been 277 days with no measurable snow. The record is 280. We're going to be teasing that. There's a chance for snow here over the next few days, but temperatures may not be cold enough for it to stick.

So we'll keep you posted on that. Then, of course, we'll start talking about the chances for a white Christmas. We'll deal with that in the next couple of weeks.

SAMBOLIN: You know what? I'm headed to Chicago next week. So, I suspect we're going to have a blizzard.

MARCIANO: There you go.

ROMANS: I'm going to Chicago too. We're both going to be snowed in, Chicago. EARLY START in Chicago. All right. Thanks, Rob.

It's 43 minutes -- 44 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date on the morning's top stories. An apology from a Minnesota hospital after a newborn baby was brought to the wrong room and breast-fed by the wrong mother. Tommy Van Dyke's (ph) newborn son will have to be tested every three months for a year to make sure he wasn't exposed to an infectious disease.

Abbott Northwestern Hospital says, officials there, they say that someone on staff failed to follow normal safety procedures.

SAMBOLIN: Make sure they check that bracelet.

A letter carrier in Grapeland, Texas, is recovering this morning from a lemur attack. Marla Reeves was delivering the mail Tuesday afternoon when a lemur jumped right into her vehicle and began biting her arm and hand. The lemur belongs to a neighbor on her route. The sheriff's office is looking into possible charges now.

A lemur attack -- what are the chances?

ROMANS: Well, for her, 100 percent.

All right. There's a big stink in Malibu Beach over what to do with a dead 41-foot fin whale. It washed on shore earlier this week. Wildlife officials believe it was killed by a boat strike.

Because the beach is private, county officials say it's not their responsibility to remove the carcass. Lifeguards may attempt to tow it out to sea with a tug boat when the tide is right.

SAMBOLIN: And take a look at the official 2012 White House holiday card. It features the Obama family's Portuguese water dog, Bo, knee deep in snow. There. The picture was drawn by Iowa artist, Larassa Kabel. She says she had low expectations when she submitted her painting and admits it was a very surreal moment when the White House called to tell her First Lady Michelle Obama had selected her piece as the winner.

ROMANS: Wow. All right. Coming up, the bionic actor. We've got a young man here with his Luke Skywalker hand and an update on his recovery from a horrific accident onset.


ROMANS: Looking at New York City this morning. Bright and early, the sun starting to rise. A little clouds there, but happy Friday, everyone.

OK. Our next guest suffered a serious accident on a movie set a year ago. Jon Kondelik lost four fingers on his left hand which were severely burned and had to be amputated. He thought his career was over. John just finished a new movie called "The Rise of the Zombies." He's got a new girlfriend and is about to receive a state- of-the-art bionic finger prosthesis.


ROMANS: Sometimes call a "Luke Skywalker hand" because of the similarities to the one Luke got in the movie, "Empire Strikes Back", John is going to be able to allow his fingers to move with a slight flex of a muscle in his palm.

John joins us now along with his -- with Macjulian Lang of Advanced Arm Dynamics. So, welcome to both of you.


ROMANS: -- I'm having trouble with that word this morning. That's your career.


ROMANS: That's your career. John, it's almost a year ago. You burned these four fingers. They're making a mold of your hand, I guess, right, and used the wrong materials. It was actually burning you.

JON KONDELIK, "SKYWALKER" PROSTHETIC HAND RECIPIENT: Yes. It was pretty much the worst pain I could ever think of. It was like putting my hand in a deep fryer. But, yes. It's -- I wouldn't want to wish this on anybody else, but, you know, it happens.

ROMANS: And now the journey back to getting the range of motion back in your hand.


ROMANS: You're wearing this now.


ROMANS: Grip that bottle for me and tell me exactly sort of how it works. It's at flex of the palm allows you to sort of move the fingers and grip.

KONDELIK: Yes. And you know, Mac can help me with this, too, but just basically moving my pinkie in there.

MACJULIAN LANG, CLINICAL DIRECTOR, ADVANCED ARM DYNAMICS: He actually has a little remnant finger on the inside. And he's using very small motions with little touch pads on the inside. And, he can move the fingers fast. He can move the fingers slow. He can grip down on things harder. And he also uses his thumb for opposition up against the three fingers.

ROMANS: So, when a patient is learning how to grip it, how hard is it to use this technology and try to get the range of motion back?

LANG: Well, the -- what I like to say is the operation should be simple, but to learn how to use it well takes awhile. We have integrated occupational therapy to train people to use them. So, by the time that they leave our clinic, they should be well versed and easy.

ROMANS: (INAUDIBLE) your expectations for what your hands can do? KONDELIK: Yes. The whole process of healing has always been an adjustment. And every day is a struggle and learning something new. You know, I'll learn to discover something that I haven't been able to do before and I have to figure it out. But, you know, it's working out.

ROMANS: So, how are you moving those fingers now? Is it a flex of the palm and the remnant finger?

KONDELIK: -- by the pinkie. Yes.

LANG: Yes.

KONDELIK: There's touch pads in there, and I have a little -- the doctors when they amputated it, they were anticipating that I would get a prosthesis. So, they -- I have a little tiny finger and I can move those. So, I'm moving my pinkie up and down.

ROMANS: For a long time, people would hide the prosthesis. They would hide, you know, with either long sleeve or -- but the technology is changing so much. And now people, you know, they're showing it, using it. It's becoming more common.

KONDELIK: Absolutely. Why hide it, you know? We can -- Mac offered the option to make it look flesh tone and so --

ROMANS: Why didn't you take it?

KONDELIK: I didn't take it because I figured it would be too obvious and also I lost it a year ago. And it didn't feel like mine anymore.


KONDELIK: It's my new identity. So, it's part of who I am and I've seen fingers again. It just seems odd to me.

ROMANS: How does it change your career or change your goals or doesn't it has no impact on you?

KONDELIK: It's definitely had an impact and it's -- when it first happened, I thought everything was -- before I realized I was visited by a former patient and told me that life goes on and everything is OK. But, it --

ROMANS: We're watching a movie that you're in right now. Do I see the prosthesis in the movie even?

KONDELIK: Yes. It's in there.

LANG: That was a prototype. They destroyed that a number of times.


KONDELIK: After it was down, it was all bent and when I would close it, the fingers were all crooked. It was a lot of fun.

LANG: I was told that, you know, it might be on camera a little bit, you know? But then, they are throwing it across the room.


ROMANS: Tell me a little bit about the applications for this. What kind of patients? What other extremities? You know, legs -- how common can this be and achievable and attainable for people?

LANG: Well -- so, based on our dynamics, we just specialized in (INAUDIBLE). So, what your -- this is breakthrough technology. This is very new stuff, but it is available. And this is the type of prosthesis that we're fitting on a daily basis. We're fitting. Not everyone is fitting, but it is certainly appropriate for really anyone who has an amputation.

I mean, we have solutions, you know, from the fingertip all the way up to the shoulder. And it just depends on what the person wants to do or the person needs to do. I mean, John is an actor, so you got to make it look good. It's got to be on camera.

ROMANS: Yes. There you go. It's nice to meet you. Macjulian Lang, nice to see both of you. Best of luck to you. Thanks for coming and telling your story and showing us this amazing technology -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: That is super cool.

Fifty-four minutes past the hour. Up next, today' s "Best Advice" comes from former Florida Congressman Tom Lewis. And then we hand it up to Soledad O'Brien for "STARTING POINT." She has a ton of stuff going on, including just one day before his big fight in Vegas, she talks to boxer Manny Pacquiao.


ROMANS: All right. It is, what, 58 minutes after the hour.

SAMBOLIN: And we wrap it up as always with "Best Advice." Today, we asked former Florida Congressman Tom Lewis about the best advice he's ever received. Take a look.


FMR. REP. TOM LEWIS, (R) FLORIDA: The best advice I ever received came from my mother. She always said be particular, be watchful, be mindful.


ROMANS: Florida Congressman Tom Lewis.

SAMBOLIN: Be particular.

ROMANS: That's good.

SAMBOLIN: Be mindful. Love that.

ROMANS: All right. That's EARLY START for today. I'm Christine Romans. Happy Friday.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien is next. Stay with us.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, a developing story. A powerful 7.3 earthquake strikes off the coast of Japan near the same area that was destroyed by the tsunami last year. I'll take you there live in just a few moments.

Plus, mano-a-mano. President Obama and House Speaker Boehner shutting out the other lawmakers because they're trying to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff by clearing the room. Can these two leaders finally reach an agreement?