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North Korea Launches Long Range Rocket; Gunman Kills 2 in Oregon Mall; Amazon's Workampers; Synthetic Pot: Not Natural, Not Safe

Aired December 12, 2012 - 05:30   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The search for answers in Portland, Oregon. What made a gunman snap and opened fire in a crowded mall.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea fools the world. A successful long range rocket launch when everyone thought there would be technical delays.

SAMBOLIN: Upon further review, a new ruling for the Saints players involved in the NFL bounty scandal.

Welcome back to EARLY START. It's really nice to have you with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 29 minutes after the hour right now.

And we still do not know the identity of the lone gunman who opened fire in a crowded mall in suburban Portland, Oregon, yesterday. He killed two and critically injured a third before taking his own life. It was a chaotic scene. More than 10,000 people packed inside the Clackamas County Town Center when shots rang out. Shoppers, store workers, even a small Santa had to dive for cover and scramble for the doors.

Dan Simon is live at the scene in Portland, Oregon, this morning.

And, Dan, what's the latest?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey John, you can imagine the challenge for law enforcement who came to this mall, it's 1.4 million square feet. At a certain point, they found the shooter, but for a while, they didn't know what the fate was. They didn't know if there were multiple shooters here at the mall.

At this point, police in their own words, have said they have tentatively identified the shooter, but they're not telling us who he is until they're 100 percent sure. He's reportedly in his early 20s. What we do know at this point is the shots rang out about 3:30 in the afternoon. He was carrying some kind of rifle. He was wearing dark clothing, some kind of mask, maybe a hockey mask, according to witnesses.

As you said, it was pandemonium inside the mall. People ducking for cover, people ducking under clothes racks, that kind of thing, even the mall Santa got down on the ground. Here is how one worker inside the mall described the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I work at a kiosk right in the middle of the mall right below the food court. We heard about six shots at first and then people scattered like crazy and everyone left. We waited around for a second and people at the stores were opening doors for us to get in. They're ushering everybody in there.


SIMON: Again, don't know anything about the shooter at this point. And police, at this point, are not releasing the victims' names. We know that the next news conference is at 10:00 a.m. local time. As you can imagine, the mall will remain close as the investigation continues as they're inside cleaning up things.

You can see behind me still a bunch of cars in the parking lot. That's because when this happened, a lot of folks just ran outside the mall doors, left their belongings, left their car keys. At some point, the mall will develop a system for people to come back and retrieve their items -- John.

BERMAN: Dan, still no details on the identity of the shooter, no details on weapon he used or confirmation at least. Any sense of when this will come to light?

SIMON: Those are great questions. We do know that it was apparently some kind of rifle. You know, there were early reports that he got off as many as 60 rounds that would indicate some kind of, you know, high performance rifle, but at this point, we don't know. And again, sometimes, as early reports prove to be incorrect.

So, we'll wait for the authorities to release some new information to us, and again, that's going to happen sometime this morning, John.

BERMAN: All right. Dan Simon outside from Oregon, thanks for that this morning.

And in the next half hour of EARLY START, we're going to get the latest on the mall shooting investigation when we're joined by Sergeant Adam Phillips from the Clackamas County Sheriff's office. We'll also be talking to Kira Rowland (ph). She was inside the mall when the shots rang out, holding on to her six-month-old baby.

SAMBOLIN: So, I have an interesting story for you. I'm going to switch gears here. The pontiff is actually tweeting this morning. It is his first tweet. And a lot of people are following. He's about to hit the million mark here. And he says, this is his first tweet, "Dear friends, I'm pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart."

And interestingly, on 12-12-12 at 12 noon is when he decided to tweet his first tweet. Everybody was wondering what are you going to say in 140 characters or less. I don't know if he's going to continue to do this, are we going to hear for him periodically, is he going to do all of his own tweeting? So, we're following the pontiff. In case you're interested, it is @pontifex.

BERMAN: He has nearly a million followers.


BERMAN: And this was his first tweet. So, all I can say is pope, you're doing something right. Get a million followers -- you know, one tweet right now.

SAMBOLIN: OK. Wait, in the last five minutes, he's been re-tweeted 3,400 times, including me.


BERMAN: Good stuff. Congratulations to the pope.

SAMBOLIN: How can we get that kind of leverage here, huh? Folks, follow us.

All right. Thirty-three minutes past the hour. The other major story we're following closely, North Korea. It made a bold move this morning and launched a long range rocket. In the process, it lifted a satellite into orbit. The United States immediately condemned the launch calling it a highly provocative act and South Korea called it a threat to the Korean peninsula.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea with the latest developments. What you can tell us, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, at the same time as we're hearing that international condemnation, we're seeing dancing on the streets in Pyongyang. So, in North Korea, obviously, everything is very highly choreographed. This is the view that they want the world to see, and they want the North Korean people to see, but we are seeing dancing on the streets.

We're hearing Pyongyang residents talking about how please they are and how proud they are that the North Korea has managed to do this. The North Korea says its satellite is in orbit. It claims it was a resounding success. South Korea also says the pay load did end up in orbit, but they're waiting to see at this point, according to the defense ministry, whether or not the satellite actually works.

So, certainly, the South Korean government is furious with this move. They say it's against the U.N. Security Council resolutions. They say it threatens peace on the peninsula and also across the whole world. And that's a response we've really been seeing across this region.

Now, one rocket expert we did speak to here in Seoul did say that he was surprised but said that it was quite impressive that North Korea did seem to have mastered this very complicated modular system and also said in theory North Korea if this is, in fact, a success as North Korea claims, North Korea could now attach a military payload to one of these rockets and it could reach the other side of the world including the United States -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: They knew that there was going to be mass condemnation over this. Why did North Korea launch this rocket now?

HANCOCKS: It's all about timing for Pyongyang. The timing was absolutely critical. We are just a few days away from the anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-Il. He died last year December 17th. So, Kim Jong-Un, his son who's in control now, wanted to commemorate that. And also, 2012 is a very crucial year for North Korea.

It is the centenary of the country's founder, Kim Il-Sung. And of course, this is why they attempt to this rocket launch back in April, that one failed, but it was crucial because it was within this year. So, North Korea really wanted to get this done before the end of the year.

SAMBOLIN: Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, South Korea for us. Thank you for that.

BERMAN: Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now. And a Maryland health official is confirming a second person has died there in the fungal meningitis outbreak which is linked to those tainted steroid injections.


BERMAN (voice-over): The unidentified patient died in November and had reportedly been receiving treatment. Nationwide now, 590 people have been infected in this meningitis outbreak, 37 people have died.

Four players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal have had their punishments overturned by former NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue. Tagliabue who investigated a second round of appeals calling the October suspensions handed down by current commissioner, Roger Goodell, selective and inconsistent.

Tagliabue places the bulk of the blame for the bounty program on the Saints coaches in his 22-page ruling. Head coach, Sean Payton remains suspended for the season. Defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams indefinitely suspended.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And the search is on for a robbery suspect who made a brazen Houdini style escape right after he was arrested. Police dash cam video shows 41-year-old Darren Porter slithering out of a cruiser's back door, then jumping in the front seat and taking off, all while still in handcuffs.

Officers didn't realize the cruiser was gone until people started calling 911 to report a cop car driving erratically.


KENNY BOONE, BUSINESS BURGLARIZED: Kind of reminded me of the keystone cops. They were all running for their police car to chase this guy.


SAMBOLIN: The cruiser was later found with a blown tire at a Ft. Worth apartment complex parking lot. The weapons in the trunk all accounted for. Porter is on the run.

BERMAN: Still, it's got to be a tough day for those police officers today.

SAMBOLIN: Terrible.


BERMAN: A former "Storage Wars" star is suing the A&E network claiming the show is a fake. According to RadarOnline, Dave Hester claims the network fired him in retaliation after he complained about the network stuffing lockers with valuable things to make the show more exciting. I believe they call that "assisted reality".

He also claims the show rigged the bidding and even paid for a female cast member's plastic surgery to add sex appeal. This on "Storage Wars," folks. An A&E spokesman told Radar they don't know about any lawsuit and they have no comment.


BERMAN (on-camera): I like -- say it ain't so. If you can't believe reality TV -- if you can't believe what you see on TV, you know, what can you believe?

SAMBOLIN: What can you believe, yes.

What we say? So, so camping out for the holidays, no, not for a new smartphone or video game. Listen to this, they are camping out to be close to a job. It is an incredible story, and we have it for you coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, game change the sequel. The 2012 presidential race getting the book, and perhaps, someday, the movie treatment.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 41 minutes past the hour. So, imagine, living in an RV and traveling around the country from job to job. A growing number of Americans are doing just that, especially now during the holiday season.

As Casey Wian reports, these so-called work campers have become a vital part of the workforce at a giant warehouse in Nevada.



CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's before dawn and Kelly and Walt Gunn are off to work. They're always on the road living full-time in an RV.

WALT GUNN, AMAZON WORKAMPER: We call ourselves affluen homeless.

WIAN: Today, they're drive to jobs at the massive customer fulfillment center 30 miles outside Reno, Nevada. Called workampers, hundreds of thousands of semiretired Americans are now traveling from seasonal job to job. At this Amazon warehouse, 250 workampers earn about $12 an hour plus bonuses and overtime.

The company pays for their spot at the RV park and attracts workers from all over the country, many earning extra spending money or financing vacations.

KELLIE GUNN: It's far more economical to live this way than it is in a stick house.

WALT GUNN: Just the insurance alone and taxes on property and so forth.

WIAN: Seventy-three-year-old Walt unpacks and checks merchandise from Amazon vendors. The products are then moved to shelves where pickers like Kellie, 52, gather them for packing and shipping word wide.

(on-camera) This year, Amazon is hiring 50,000 seasonal workers at its 40 fulfillment centers nationwide. 1,100 of them are work campers. Here in Nevada, the company is hiring more of them than it ever has.

PAUL PACE, GM, AMAZON, NEVADA: So, you'll see campers here at night, you'll see campers here in midday, you'll see campers here in the very early morning.

WIAN (voice-over): We wondered if older semi-retired workers could be as productive as their younger counterparts and fast pace demanding jobs like this.

PACE: I tell you what, we bring them back every year. We want them to come every year, and we're trying to grow the program as much as possible. And that, I think, is a testament (ph) to how much we want them here in the building.

WALT GUNN: Biggest thing is being on your feet for, you know, 10 hours a day or 12 hours a day. But, after a couple of weeks, you get used to that. We'd crawl in the doors first couple of weeks.

WIAN: A small but growing number of workampers are younger, forced out of jobs by the recession.

WALT GUNN: With the economy the way it is, they have to work.

KELLIE GUNN: They're too young for Social Security, so they have no retirement. When the economy dropped, they pretty much lost everything that they had, and, so, now they go from job to job.

WIAN: It has its drawbacks such as the chance you may be parked for weeks next to someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum. But among the benefits, if you don't like it, you can easily leave. Casey Wian, CNN, Fernley, Nevada.


SAMBOLIN: You know, I was reading the story of a couple who did this because they like to have experiences across the country. So, they went in, they did this, they said that right after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is when it gets really tough. They work 15-hour days and they actually had to take some time off because -- and this was a young couple.

Their feet were swollen. They were taking drugs in order to combat the pain. But they said it was a great experience. So --


SAMBOLIN: And it gives people work. Yes.

BERMAN: All right. Forty-five minutes after the hour the hour right now. And get ready for a sequel to "Game Change." The original was the best-seller about the 2008 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain, not to mention Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. The follow up will be called "Double Down: Game Change 2012."

Authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin promising to break news about the just concluded November election. This is going to be big news for political junkies. I'm already getting my copy. Due out next fall. HBO has already secured the movie rights. You'll remember that Julianne Moore played Gov. Sarah Palin in the first film.

Not natural and not safe either. Coming up, an eye-opening look at the dangers of synthetic pot.


BERMAN: Forty-nine minutes after the hour. A lot happening overnight. Let's bring in Christine Romans for the top stories.



ROMANS (voice-over): We're still waiting to learn the identity of a gunman who killed two people and critically wounded a third at a mall packed with holiday shoppers outside Portland, Oregon. Police say the gunman eventually killed himself. This tragedy unfolded late in the afternoon yesterday at the Clackamas County Town Center.

There were 10,000 people inside when shots rang out, sending customers diving for cover and scrambling for the doors.

The U.S. government reacting swiftly this morning to word that North Korea has launched a long range rocket which hoisted a satellite into orbit. It's called the development a highly provocative act. The U.S. and South Korea believe this launch is a cover for testing ballistic missile technology.

It's supposed to mimic real pot, but a new government report shows how dangerous synthetic marijuana can be. It found the substance is accounted for more than 11,000 hospital visits in 2010 alone. The report tracks patients between the ages of 12 and 29 after researchers noticed an uptick in cases. Synthetic pot was legal in most states until a national ban was enacted in July.

An overturned tractor trailer full of live turkeys blocked off parts of northbound interstate 81 in Western Virginia for hours on Tuesday morning. State police say the driver hit a guardrail before the big rig flipped over, blocking both northbound lanes. No injuries were reported. The man behind the wheel has been charged with reckless driving.


BERMAN: No injuries to people or turkeys or both?

ROMANS (on-camera): No injuries. No injuries. All I can report to you --



SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 51 minutes past the hour. People in the southeast can cannot catch a break. More rough weather on the way today. Meteorologist, Alexandra Steele, in for Rob Marciano. What's going on?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning, guys. You know, this is the same front we've been watching, but remember, yesterday, it stalled in Florida and it is still positioned in the same spot. You can see it here right from the outer banks right toward the panhandle of Florida. And with that more, showers and thunderstorms.

You can see some locally heavy rain. In Florida, we could see maybe one inch to two inches of rain with some of these locally heavy downpours. You can see some lightning around, as well, isolated hail, some strong gusty winds, but again, this is the area Southeast Georgia down through the panhandle of Florida, a wet go on I-10 and alligator alley this morning.

We're going to see it, though, move throughout the afternoon. All right. To the west we go, next storm system coming in, and we've got some snow. How about in the Wasatch of Utah, some snow there, also in Southwest Colorado, around telluride, good news there. We're going to see some snow finally for some of these mountains.

Temperature-wise, Minneapolis, actually in places like Chicago, there's more snow in Dallas, Texas than you've got. Temperatures dry from the Midwest all the way to the northeast today. No wet weather for the next couple days. And temperatures kind of holding where we should be for this time of year. Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Alexandra.

STEELE: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. So, coming up next, name recognition. This guy is selling his last name to the highest bidder, and he promises to make it go viral. I promise you, this will change everything or not.


BERMAN: Stay with us at EARLY START.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It is 56 minutes after the hour. John Berman here along with Zoraida Sambolin. This is a perfect chance to take a look at the top CNN trends on the Internet this morning.

SAMBOLIN: So, they didn't have to wait until 2112 --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it, it's a joke. That's a Rush song.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The waiting is finally over for Rush. The Canadian rock band highlighting the group of 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Fans of the band have been waiting since 1998 for the nod. It became the running joke that they weren't in. Joining them in the class of 2013, 69-year-old Randy Newman, hip-hop pioneers, Public Enemy, and the late queen of disco, Donna Summer.


BERMAN: It is a crime that she was not in before this. Donna Summer, one of the best ever.

All right. He likes the product so much, he made it his last name. A Florida man named Jason Sadler. Well, his name won't be Jason Saddler much longer. He says he will legally change his last name to the name of any company that makes the highest bid online. He launched the site last month.

He says it will also change it on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And he's buying the domain name Jason whatever his name is. He promised to do that, too. The current highest bid on the site is for $34,500. That's from JLab Audio, which makes headphones and ear bugs. So, last year, this guy, Jason, wore a different sponsored T-Shirt every day. He will do a lot of different things to make money.

SAMBOLIN: It's kind of working for him. And, you know, we're hopping on board, aren't we? BERMAN: But once you saw --


BERMAN: How much more can you do it? And then that money means more names. If his last name goes for $34,000, middle name not going to go for much more --

SAMBOLIN: He'll think of another gimmick. I suspect so.

So, the holiday season is here, but some folks are busy worrying about the fiscal cliff or, of course, the end of the world. Here's what late night comedians, Stephen Colbert and Jay Leno, had to say about.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": It's a special time of the year. We've been looking forward to it for months now. Everywhere you go, you can see the twinkle in little children's eyes because they know that in just a few short weeks, the fiscal cliff is coming to town. (LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Merry Cliffmas. And, with a dramatic name like fiscal cliff, it's got to be exciting. Jim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is asking for 1.6 trillion in revenue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $600 billion in tax hikes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Entitlement reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: dividends and capital gains.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Discretionary spending.



COLBERT: I'm up. What happened? Is it over?


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": As you know, the Mayans have predicted the world is supposed to end on December 21st or as Lakers fans feel about that, can't get here fast enough.


LENO: Can't get here fast enough. You know, I was thinking, you know --

(APPLAUSE) LENO: If the word doesn't end on December 21st, you can bet the next day, the malls are going to be overrun with Mayans trying to buy last minute gifts. You know that's going to happen (ph).



BERMAN: All right. EARLY START continues right now.


BERMAN (voice-over): Chaos at the mall. A gunman kills two before taking his own life in front of horrified shoppers.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Act of defiance. North Korea ignores all international warnings and launches a long range rocket.

BERMAN: Close encounter. An asteroid sneaks up on astronomers and buzzes right between the Earth and the moon. This really happened.


BERMAN (on-camera): All right. Good morning --

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): It looks scary.

BERMAN: I know. When you hear an asteroid snuck it in, a little bit scary. All right. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.