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Fiscal Cliff Countdown: 22 Days; Immigrants: Catch and Release; "Dogs of War"

Aired December 10, 2012 - 06:30   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. It is 29 minutes past the hour right now.

And we have big news in the fiscal cliff fiasco. John Boehner and Barack Obama, the Speaker of the House and the President, they are finally talking to each other. In 22 days, we go over the cliff's edge. That's when sweeping tax hikes and spending cuts kick in unless a deal gets done. And Congress set to go on holiday recess on Friday. It must be nice for them.

After 23 days without speaking face to face, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner sat down face to face and had a real-life discussion.

I want to bring in now White House correspondent Brianna Keilar live from Washington. And, Brianna, you know, we don't have a lot of details about this chat. Maybe that's a good thing.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that may be a good thing. In fact, the White House and Speaker's office, John, putting out a statement just really just saying the two men are talking and lines of communication are open, putting out the exact same statement. So, they appear to be talking in good faith. But we don't have any specifics.

It's important to notice that this conversation is going on. The President and the Speaker haven't met, have not met for a little over three weeks when they sat down yesterday. And they actually hadn't met one-on-one since the election. So, it's a pretty big deal. We don't know exactly if there are progress on specifics.

Republicans, publicly, saying they don't want to bow -- House Republicans, I should say -- to the White House insistence that income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans increase. That said there, are some Republicans who say, yes, we should go ahead and do that. Listen to Senator Bob Corker.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESEE: Yes, there is a growing group of folks that are looking at this, and realizing we don't have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before year end. A lot of people are putting forth a theory, and I actually think it has merit, where you go in and give the President the 2 percent increase that he's talking about, the right increase on the top 2 percent, and all of a sudden, the shift goes back to entitlements.


KEILAR: So, he's saying, John, increase the rates -- yes, maybe not as much as the White House wants, but give them something, and then move on to talking about reforming Medicare and Social Security. This coming on the heels of what may have been an opening by the White House -- Joe Biden saying on Friday, that he wasn't going to budge, the White House wasn't going to budge, on whether the rates should be increased. But how much? That may be negotiable -- John.

BERMAN: Any sense of what's next? Any more meetings planned?

KEILAR: No, we don't know what's next. These are the developments that we're going to be following this week.

As you mentioned, Congress is set to go on vacation at the end of the week. But I think the expectation is that if this doesn't get wrapped up, Congress isn't going anywhere, and there will be a lot of folks pulling up in Washington.

BERMAN: It might be a good idea to delay the vacation a little bit if they don't get the job done.

KEILAR: I think so.

BERMAN: Brianna Keilar in Washington -- nice to see you this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Time for the top CNN trends on the web this morning.

The music world is mourning the loss of banda superstar Jenni Rivera. Rivera died early Sunday morning when her Learjet went down with six others aboard while in route from Monterrey to Toluca, Mexico. Authorities spotted the wreckage in the northern state of Nuevo Leon. Rivera's brother tells CNN her family was informed that there were no survivors.

BERMAN: Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent is now out of jail on $500,000 bond. Investigators believe he was driving drunk when his Mercedes flipped and caught fire early Saturday. The 25-year-old Cowboy practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown, Jr. died in that crash.

Just as Brent was getting out of jail, his teammates were actually pulling off an emotional last-minute 20-19 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

SAMBOLIN: Everyone asking no mas or maybe uno mas? After Juan Manuel Marquez knocked Manny Pacquiao out cold in the sixth round of their re-re-rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Was that too many re's?

This was the fourth time the fighters met in the right, the first time that Marquez won, even though he claimed victory in the first three fights. BERMAN: You saw the first knockdown there. Marquez knocking down Pacquiao, then Pacquiao knocked Marquez down, and finally, Marquez just knocked Pacquiao out for two minutes. You don't see that often.

SAMBOLIN: You are in the know. You talked to Pacquiao, you think there is one more? Uno mas?

BERMAN: He told me -- Manny told me there was one or two more fights in him, that was before this fight. With that horrific knockout, you know he had a CAT scan shows no neurological damage. Promoter Bob Arum says he would love to see another fight. That would be the fifth Marquez/Pacquiao. But you got to wonder, when enough is enough.

SAMBOLIN: Marquez has a concussion, right?


SAMBOLIN: Pacquiao is taken for to check out if there's any neurological damage. really, guys? I don't know.

BERMAN: And Freddie Roach, Manny Pacquiao's trainer, told me, he promised me, he said when he thinks that Manny Pacquiao should hang it up, he will tell him. When he thinks he's starting to fade too much, he will tell him. You have to wonder.

SAMBOLIN: Maybe time to have that conversation.

BERMAN: Maybe time.

All right. Check out other top CNN trends, head to

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-four minutes past the hour. They are dangerous criminals who are supposed to be deported but instead end up back on the streets. Can you believe it? How could that happen? We're going to talk to the journalist behind this disturbing new report.

BERMAN: Plus, the untold story of what may have been the most powerful pets in American history. Dogs who may have won a war.


SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. Soledad O'Brien joined us now with a look at what is ahead on STARTING POINT.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: So much ahead on "STARTING POINT" this morning right at the top of the hour.

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner -- you guys have been talking it all morning -- meeting in private to try to negotiate a deal before we go off the fiscal cliff, or is that a gentle slope. Does it mean progress this meeting, or are we still stalemate?

We're going to talk this morning to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, California Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressmembers Connie and Mary Bono Mack are also are guests. I like to say politics with a Mack, get it? Also, we'll talk a little bit about the fallout from my new documentary that asked the question, what does it mean to be black in this country? Skin tone to ancestry, how you're raised. We'll take a look at racial identity in this country.

And then this young lady wowed the world with her near flawless performance at the Olympics. The gold medalist Gabby Douglas almost quit -- almost quit --


O'BRIEN: -- right before she ever made it to London. She was thinking about going to work at Chick-fil-A. No joke.

BERMAN: Really?

O'BRIEN: We'll talk with her about that. Why she decided to say as a competitor. She's got a new book out. It's a terrific book and we'll talk about that, straight ahead.

BERMAN: And Cory Booker who says he's got a big decision to make.

O'BRIEN: He sure does -- governor, senator, stay as mayor?

BERMAN: We'll get some answers.

SAMBOLIN: I'll tell you it's probably senator. But, you know, that's just me chiming in.

BERMAN: It is 39 minutes after the hour right now.

And if you're in Minnesota, you're waking up with a little work to do. As much as 17 inches of snow waiting to be shoveled outside in some parts of that state. Boy, it looks nice from here.

Meteorologist Alexandra Steele in for Rob Marciano today -- Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. You know, but they like it there. The banner of "The Star Tribune", the local newspaper says, "Welcome back, winter."

SAMBOLIN: Bring it on, yes.

STEELE: It's the biggest snow there in two years. So, last season, 22 inches the entire season. And their biggest snow was four inches.

So, you know, this is a lot of their economy too, of course. All of the snow in the winter and now finally we've seen it. Maplewood, 14 inches. Just north of the metro area, picked up between 14 and 17 inches of snow. And now, in Minneapolis right now, it's 14 degrees, feeling like three.

So the Arctic air in place, but when you look at the radar, the radar has moved this way, but the arctic air not in the Northeast. You can see the line. We've got everything from the record snow in Minneapolis to record heat potential until New York, Washington, the Pensacola, and then severe weather.

So right now in Albany, New York, Upstate New York where all the moisture moved in, it's 40 degrees. So, there's no snow there. Maybe northern Maine, eight to 10 inches, pretty much it. The air is not that cold.

Further south, here's where the heaviest rain is. Nashville, places seeing gusts to 15 miles per hour, two to four inches of rain potentially, locally, one to three. So, some heavy rain potentially even severe weather.

Record heat today. New York City, JFK, could se 57, one degree shy of the record. In town in New York, it will be rain, and it is incredibly foggy. But it could hit 60 degrees. Washington, Pensacola, but enjoy the 60s and 70s, front moves through the east today. And throughout temperatures drop 15 to 20 degrees.

So, everyone gets into the cold there -- guys.

BERMAN: All right. Alexandra Steele, a whole lot of weather this morning.

STEELE: Yes. We like it!

SAMBOLIN: Yes, 41 minutes past the hour. A shocking new report in "The Boston Globe." The U.S. government is quietly releasing thousands of dangerous undocumented immigrants into -- including rapists and murderers -- back on streets because their home countries will not take them, if you can believe that.

Maria Sacchetti is a reporter for "The Boston Globe" who actually broke this story. Thanks for spending some time with us this morning. We appreciate it.

MARIA SACCHETTI, BOSTON GLOBE: Thanks for having me.

SAMBOLIN: So, I'd like to start with how your report opens up. It's a tragic tale of Qian Wu. She's a legal immigrant to this country from China. She was brutally attacked by an illegal immigrant from China, and after Chen served his prison term, China refused to take him back.

So, what happened?

SACCHETTI: Well, so, immigration officials in Texas let him out more than once, and no point did they ever warn Ms. Wu. And this speaks to a broader issue in the immigrant question beyond just criminals. It's the issue of government secrecy and how that's putting Americans and immigrants in danger.

Immigration officials do not tell the public very much unlike the criminal system who they arrest, who they detain, and what happens to them.

So, in the case of Ms. Wu, she thought the man who brutally attacked her was in China and instead, one day, three years later, he walks through her door. And then shortly after that, he kills her.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness. So, why is this happening? Why do we have no knowledge of it?

SACCHETTI: Well, the immigration system says they are a civil immigration agency, even though they are increasingly dealing with criminals, or detaining people they treat like criminals whether they have a record or not, and they have also said that they believe that this is a private matter, that they need to protect the immigrant's privacy.

So when we request the name of criminals, they said that the public interest in this was minimal, and that the person's privacy interests prevailed. So, they won't release a criminal's name.

Today --

SAMBOLIN: I have a question for you. You have a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security. Is it for that purpose, to get a list of those criminals?

SACCHETTI: Yes, it is. Yes. We are trying to get a list of names. We know, for example, that there were 201 people convict of murder who were released, but we don't know their names, because the immigration system is protecting their privacy.

SAMBOLIN: Now, why -- these are illegal immigrants. So, why can't those folks just be sent one way back to their country of origin?

SACCHETTI: Well, because every person who gets on an airplane or gets sent to another country needs a travel document, such as a passport. You can't just put them on a plane and expect a country to accept them. And because this entire system is private, the public is largely unaware of this.

A lot of countries don't take them back. We have some links in our first day story about how Bangladesh would routinely avoid phone calls in an attempt to deport someone. And that person ended up getting out and murdering a woman in New York.

SAMBOLIN: So, how do you solve the problem?

SACCHETTI: Well, our series is really about the issue of secrecy and how this whole system, immigration has become the largest law enforcement system in the country and very much unlike the police or FBI, they operate largely in secret. So their arrests are secret, their detentions are secret.

Today, for example, we have a story about immigrants with no criminal records who are detained and don't get a right to a swift and public hearing. They're put in jails and no one in the public has a right to know this.

Our criminal system is very different, because -- perhaps people don't want the public to know that they have been under arrest, but those public protections are there to protect the people who are -- whose liberty is taken away by the government.

SAMBOLIN: I really encourage everybody to read this. I was shocked by some of your findings. So, you have another piece in tomorrow's "Boston Globe." Just a quick preview on that?

SACCHETTI: Yes. It starts with a 29-year-old woman from France who was trying to go back to France, and she was stopped at the U.S./Canadian border and jailed. And she was kept in jail for 12 days. An immigration agent made the decision to detain her briefly and privately and she died 12 days later.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Terrible story. All right. Maria Sacchetti, reporter for the "Boston Globe." Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

BERMAN: Forty-five minutes after the hour right now. Here are some of your top stories.

There is movement in the fight over the fiscal cliff. Maybe, just maybe. House Speaker John Boehner and the President sitting down for an unscheduled meeting at the White House yesterday. We have no details about their discussion (INAUDIBLE), but both sides say the lines of communication remain open. That's with just 22 days left until severe tax hike and spending cuts, they will kick in.

SAMBOLIN: Nelson Mandela is said to be comfortable after spending a second night in the hospital. A spokesman for the 94-year-old former South African president insists that there is no cause for alarm. Mandela was rushed from his home to the hospital on Saturday. The details of his condition are being kept under wraps.

BERMAN: Sunday night football. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers running for a 27-yard touchdown. You're seeing it here. This is the longest touchdown run of his entire career and illustrious career, so far. This was in a 27-20 victory over Detroit. The Packers now have an NFL record 22-game winning streak at home against the Lions.

And the Packers can clinch their second straight NFC North title with a win next week against the Bears in Chicago. Will that happen?

SAMBOLIN: No, it won't. Not against my Bears.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Forty-six minutes past the hour. The most trusted advisers of some of the most powerful men in the world. Coming up, the dogs of war. How canines helped FDR, Patton, and Eisenhower win World War II and how dogs like Bo Obama still have a special place in America.


BERMAN: So, presidential pets serve many purposes. President Obama promised a dog to his daughters after he won the election, his first election back in 2008 as a way of thanking them. And past Commanders in Chief and military leaders oft shared a unique relationship with their dogs that help them through really tough times.

So, on a new book titled "Dogs of War," author, Kathleen Kinsolving, reveals some surprising stories about these famous White House pets and also military leader's pets. She joins us now to us talk about what she found. Welcome. Such an interesting and fun topic this morning.

KATHLEEN KINSOLVING, AUTHOR, "DOGS OF WAR": Thank you, John. It's great to be on.

BERMAN: And we're really talking about three dogs here. They're the main stars of your book. We're talking about FDR's Scottish Terrier, Fala, Gen. George Patton's bull terrier, Willy, and then Gen. Eisenhower had a Scottie also named Telek. Tell me about each one of these dogs. Let's start with Fala, maybe the most famous.

KINSOLVING: Oh, yes. Well, I think, Fala is the most famous first dog in American history. If you see in the FDR memorial down in Washington, D.C., you'll see a statue erected of Fala right next to, you know, President Roosevelt. And Fala was just a very engaging, wonderful dog.

You know, Scotties are, and he was always traveling with Roosevelt. The only time he couldn't travel with Roosevelt was right before the third inauguration. He jumped into the limousine, and Roosevelt said, you can't ride now, Fala, and Fala was taken out of the car, so Eleanor could get in, and he ran off.

He ran away from the White House, because he was so upset. But luckily, they did find him at a nearby theater. They identified him because he was wearing his collar which said, "Fala, the White House".

BERMAN: Yes. Unmistakable, no doubt. And of course, anyone who's seen the famous movie "Patton" is familiar with, you know, the bull terrier, Willy, who played a supporting role in that film, but he was a real-life dog. He was really important.

KINSOLVING: Oh, yes. You know, actually, Willy was the dog that inspired me to write the book, because when I was helping a friend move one day, I took a book out of his moving van and it was "Patton: A Genius for War" by Carlo D'Este, and I saw the photo of Willy lying next to the general's foot lockers and briefcase right after the general passed away. And it's one of the most moving, most beautiful photos I've ever seen and it inspired me to write the book.

BERMAN: And then the last dog, the one who I knew the least about, might be considered scandalous by some measures today and that's General Eisenhower's dog, Telek. Tell us about that.

KINSOLVING: Yes. You know, Telek, that's an interesting name, because it's a combination of telegraph cottage where General Eisenhower stayed when he was serving in London and "K," which stands for Kay Summersby (ph), which was Eisenhower's driver. And there's -- you know, it's open for debate whether they had a romantic relationship or not. So, here we have, you know, a combination of dogs and World War II history and a war-time romance. BERMAN: And you really say in your book, you say these three dog were instrumental in helping defeat Hitler. Really?

KINSOLVING: Yes. Absolutely. I think they played a very important role. Can you imagine the intense pressure and stress that these three leaders went through? And to go home and to have a wonderful dog waiting for you with all of the unconditional love? And I think Carlos D'Este said it best. He actually wrote the forward to the book. He said, "The world owes these dogs of war a considerable debt," and I think he's absolutely right.

BERMAN: And when Eisenhower's dog, Telek, Telek was with Eisenhower when the Nazis came to sign their surrender. And in your book you write that Telek actually growled when the Germans walked in.

KINSOLVING: I think dogs are very psychic, and certainly, he knew that the Nazis were trouble, so --

BERMAN: All right.

KINSOLVING: You know, we owe everything to these wonderful dogs.

BERMAN: Kathleen Kinsolving, author of "Dogs of War," great to see you. Thanks for being with us this morning.

KINSOLVING: Thank you very much, John.

BERMAN: And when we come back, our "Best Advice" today from an actor who overcame a crippling injury. That's next.

And coming up on "STARTING POINT," the Australian DJs whosE prank phone calls sparked anger around the world, They speak out for the first time.


SAMBOLIN: We wrap it as always with "Best Advice."

BERMAN: Here's Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And today, we hear from actor, Jon Kondelik. He staged a comeback after losing four of his fingers in a movie set accident.


JON KONDELIK, ACTOR: The best advice I ever received was when I was in the hospital dealing with the amputation. I thought my life was over, and a stranger came in who was a burn survivor, and he told me just a simple phrase. "Life moves on and it's OK, you know? You can live still." And, it's just something as simple as that just turned everything around for me.


ROMANS: Wow! That's powerful stuff. When he said he wanted to end his life after he lost those fingers, and a now, a year later, he's got, you know, prosthesis and he's working.

BERMAN: Powerful staff. All right. That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin." STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.