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Sandy Hook Kids Back to School Today; 113th Congress Sworn in Today; Sexual Assault and Social Media

Aired January 3, 2013 - 05:30   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

The sound of children laughing on school buses is going to be heard once again this morning in Newtown, Connecticut, as parents hold their collective breath and prepare to send their kids go back to class for the first time since a gunman smashed his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and then killed 26 children and educators nearly three weeks ago.

Deb Feyerick, live in Monroe, Connecticut, near the new Sandy Hook school.

Deb, it's a new location, but it's the same name, the same sign there up on the building.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And as a matter of fact, the folks in Monroe wanted to welcome these kids. So they decided to do, they decided to put the name Sandy Hook Elementary outside. So when the kids arrive on the school buses, they will know this is, in fact, their school.

That's really sort of the whole premise. This is their building. This is their school. They'll have their things. People have been working around the clock over the holidays to get in desks, to get in back ups, cubbies, toys, furniture, everything to make the children feel comfortable, to make them understand that, yes, this is a familiar environment.

It is also very safe environment. That's one of the reasons that, you know, the media staging area is more than two miles from the school. They want to make sure that there's no sign that there's something unnatural going on, because they want to present this as a big adventure for the kids. They've got a new building. It's not just one floor. It's two floors. The kids are going to be discovering and sort of going around to see where their classes are, where the front office is.

You know, and it's interesting. There's going to be a checkpoint for any cars going into that school. That's one thing they want to do again and create a sense of safety, but there are going to be a lot of cars this morning, Christine, because a lot of parents are also going to be joining their children. They're going to be waiting in the auditorium.

They're going to have coffee. You know, it's as important for the parents to be there as it is to the children. While the children are going to be in the classes, the parents are going to be together sort of bonding and connecting, and communicating and talking, because for many, it will also be the first time that they themselves are also together -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. I mean, since December 14th, these parents have had their kids with them out of school, holidays. And now, this is the first day. I mean, there's a coping that happens with the parents, too, that might be a little different than how the kids are coping.

FEYERICK: Yes. There's no question about it. You know, a number of the parents that we spoke to said, look, you know, our experience, we have gone through so much in the course of our lifetimes, these children are very young. We can't forget that they are six, and seven, and eight, and nine. And so, they see things in a much more simple way.

The children are reconciling their feelings very differently than the adults are. The adults know what signs to look for. They know how to feel. They know what to expect. Children, it's newer. It's a bit more raw because they're so young. But we did speak to one father, Andrew Paley and his two nine-year-old twins, his nine-year-old twins. And this is what they had to tell us.


ANDREW PALEY, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK STUDENTS: I have no doubts that they're going to be safe. There -- I -- that's not an issue. That's not a concern at all. It's how are they going to be feeling? Yes, there's going to be a lot of parents there. My wife and I may be there. We're still trying to figure out what their needs are. Personally, I think they're probably ready. I mean, they're very excited. And, they may just get on that bus and not need us there. I think, in some cases, the parents probably need to be there more than the kids.

BEN PALEY, SANDY HOOK 4TH GRADE STUDENT: Well, this has been a huge crushing to us. It makes me really happy to see all those people trying to help. And that's a big part that makes me feel better. Watching people and they're all trying to make it better.


FEYERICK: One thing, you know, that all these children, they went through this tragedy together. The parents that we spoke to said that they also want the children to go through the healing together. This is something that will always bond them. They don't want to be defined by it, but it will bond them.

And, if they can come together, if they can be in their classes, laugh, learn, it's going to be tough, Christine, because remember, a number of siblings of those who were killed will also be in class today or they're expected to be in class, anyway.

So, there will be signs that, yes, things are different, clearly a different school, but the word of the day is normal. That's what school officials are aiming for and that's what they hope to achieve, Christine.

ROMANS: And for some of the older children, they will recognize their principal. She came out retirement to lead this school. Again, she retired in 2010. She knows this staff. She knows how to make this work. Our thoughts are really, too, Deb, with all the teachers and the administrators and all the hard work they've done.

FEYERICK: Yes. Absolutely. Every parent we talked to said these teachers were heroes, every single one of them. The way they responded, the way they reacted, the way they kept their kids safe. So, the parents have every single confidence that these teachers are the right folks to be there with their kids at this moment in time.

ROMANS: All right. Deb Feyerick, thanks, Deb.

You know, kids returning to class in Marlboro, New Jersey noticed something new yesterday, armed police officers. School officials say moving forward every school in that town will be guarded by a cop. And that will continue until the board of education and local township officials figure out a permanent security plan.

SAMBOLIN: President Obama signing the fiscal cliff bill into law overnight, and that measure boosts taxes for the wealthiest Americans while preserving tax cuts for most households.

It also extends jobless benefits and delays across-the-board spending cuts in defense and domestic programs. That's for two months, though. And with the president on vacation in Hawaii, he signed the bill using an auto pen, a device that copies his signature.

So, the claws will come out later, but today, the Washington welcome mat is out for the 113th Congress. Thirteen freshmen senators and 81 freshmen representatives are among the members will be sworn in today on Capitol Hill. Democrats will still control the Senate. Republicans remain in charge of the House there.

And House Speaker John Boehner doing a 180 after the blistering criticism that he received for pulling a Superstorm Sandy relief bill from consideration. The speaker promising New York and New Jersey lawmakers that $60 billion in Sandy aid would be a done deal by the middle of this month. He plans to hold the first of the two votes on the bill tomorrow, and the other one is scheduled for January 15th.

ROMANS: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now out of the hospital after being treated for a blood clot in her head. She was spotted walking on the campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital yesterday, accompanied by her husband, the former President Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea. Doctors found the clot during a medical test related to a concussion she suffered last month. She is expected to make a full recovery. Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman isn't backing down from his stance that the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa, should, quote, "die a quick death." In a press release called why must we still hear about Kwanzaa, Grothman claims the holiday is a part of a leftist plot to destroy America.

The Kwanzaa founder, Ron Karenga, was a racist who, quote, "didn't like the idea that Christ died for all of our sins so he thought Black should have their own holiday hence Kwanzaa."

Here's what he told Ashleigh Banfield on "ANDERSON COOPER 360."


STATE SEN. GLENN GROTHMAN (R), WISCONSIN: I think the underlying problem here is not enough TV types when they talk about Kwanzaa, talk about the horrible racist violent past of its founder. And if they knew the past, I think Kwanzaa would die a quick death. You got to remember, Ron Karenga --


GROTHMAN: Ron Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, who just founded it in 1966, was a Black separatist who felt the Black Panthers didn't dislike White people enough.


ROMANS: Grothman says Kwanzaa is a holiday that, quoting here, "almost no black people today care about."

SAMBOLIN: Pakistani intelligence officials say an important Taliban commander was among 15 people killed in two suspected U.S. drone attacks in a volatile tribal region of Pakistan. That commander, Mullah Nazir, was set to be at odds with the Pakistani/Taliban over a peace agreement that he signed with the government in 2007.

As part of the deal, he refused to attack Pakistani government or military targets, but, he is believed to be behind the number of attacks that targeted the U.S. military. Two of his deputies were also believed to be killed in that strike.

The U.N. estimates the death toll in Syria is now beyond 60,000 since that conflict began in March of 2011. That is 15,000 higher than estimates CNN was going with. And that number will keep going up as attacks like this persists. An opposition group says 207 people were killed in war-related violence. This was yesterday alone, most of them in Damascus and its suburbs, others in Aleppo. CNN cannot independently verify these numbers.

Six men accused of gang raping and killing a 23-year-old Indian woman are expected to face murder, rape, and kidnapping charges in court today. The woman's family calling for them to be hanged. The unidentified woman and a male companion were brutally attacked on the bus and dumped on the side of a road. He survived, she died of her injuries. These vicious attacks sparked widespread debate on how India handled sexual assault cases. Top lawyers in the district where the attack happened say they will not represent the suspects.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. Still ahead, a chilling video is posted on the web reigniting the case of an alleged underage rape in one small Ohio town. That story is coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. A rape case in a small Ohio town is playing out on social media. It involves two high school football players, a 16-year-old girl that they allegedly assaulted, and a 12-minute video.

CNN national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is covering the case. She joins us this morning right here in our New York studio. This is shocking.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, Zoraida. Good morning. The charges are horrific. A 16-year-old girl allegedly raped by two high school football players during end of the summer parties in the small eastern Ohio town of Steubenville. There are reports the girl was drunk and possibly unconscious.

And now, two special prosecutors appointed by Ohio's attorney general, Mike DeWine, are just over a month away from trying at least two teens on rape charges. But what makes this case stand out even more is talk about the alleged attack last August has been playing itself out through social media. Even Ohio's chief law enforcement officer says this case might never have come together a decade ago.

That's because police, in part, found out about the alleged rape by piecing together outrageous tweets, a cell phone photo that claims to show the girl at the center of the alleged attack being carried seemingly limp by her arms and legs, and at least one online video that shows young people callously laughing about it.


What if that was your daughter?

But it isn't.

If it was.

If that was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I just let her be dead.

Listen to yourself.

I'm listening to myself fine.

In about ten years, I'm going come back to this video.

In ten years, my daughter's going to be raped and dead in ten years.


CANDIOTTI: Now, that continues for about 12 minutes. He goes on to make offensive one-line comments about rape and talks about the girl as if she was dead, which she is not -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Susan, what are the charges so far?

CANDIOTTI: Well, two 16-year-old boys are charged with rape. One of the two is also charged with illegal use of a minor in nude material. The attorney general's office says they'll be tried by a juvenile court judge without a jury in open court next month. They've been publicly identified by authorities, however, CNN is not yet revealing their names. And because CNN's policy is not to release the name of alleged rape victims, we are also not reporting the name of the girl.

SAMBOLIN: I watched the entire tape. What about others who are involved here?

CANDIOTTI: Well, good question. Ohio's attorney general tells me the investigation is not over. Authorities are still conducting interviews. He also says he's well aware of the online video, and the photo, and postings. Some were online months ago, then were taken down, and some of them put back online. So, this seems to be far from over.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no. Absolutely. I'm sure we're going to hear more and more. I was saying, you know, that I was keeping this in order to be able to share it with my 14-year-old of things that can get incredibly out of hand. So, if there's any way to use it as a learning experience, because it's a tragedy. Thank you, Susan. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. The numbers are in and they are staggering. The number of Americans trying to buy guns hit a record high. The whole run on guns is keeping the FBI quite busy with background checks. That's next.


ROMANS: Good morning, Washington. Wow! Thanks for starting your morning with CNN. We got a bunch of some new people who had to take their oath on the Hill today. I hope they get some crash course in finance.

SAMBOLIN: You were actually making a suggestion there. Maybe, you would send your book in their direction.

ROMANS: Ali Velshi and I will send them our book. Chapter 9: Government Debt. Thank you.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-eight minutes past the hour. let's get you up to date.

Finally, you won't have to hear about the fiscal cliff every time that you turn on the news or maybe fiscal cliff part two. President Obama has signed the bill to pull the U.S. back from the cliff into law, but more tax and spending issues are coming up in the next few weeks.

ROMANS: From the cliff to the oath, the new Congress gets sworn in at noon eastern. There are a bunch of firsts in this bunch. The House is getting its first Hindu member, its first female combat veterans, and its first openly bisexual representative. The Senate will have its first Buddhist. The big question is will John Boehner be the House Speaker after today.

SAMBOLIN: It's a big day for Sandy Hook Elementary students. In just a few hours, they will return to class for the first time since the shootings. Twenty of their schoolmates and six educators were killed in Sandy Hook. That was less than three weeks ago. The kids will be in a class that have converted middle school a few miles away.

ROMANS: Relatives of some of the victims killed in the mass shooting at the Colorado movie theater this summer say they are outraged. That's because they received invitations to a private event and a movie screening at the theater the night before it reopens to the public this month. They called the evening offensive. Twelve people were killed, 58 injured in mass shooting.

SAMBOLIN: The FBI reports that it conducted nearly three million background checks for gun purchases last month. That is a record high. That's according to the agency. For all of the 2012 or for the year 2012, it conducted over 90 million checks, apparently, also a record.

ROMANS: (INAUDIBLE) decade now.

The father of Malala Yousafzai has a new job at Pakistan's consulate in Birmingham, England, working in the education office. Malala's family is in England with her where she's recovering from severe gunshot wounds. In October, in Pakistan, she was shot in the head by the Taliban for defying their order to stop advocating education for girls.

Time now for a check of the nation's weather. Alexandra Steele joins us this morning from atlanta. Good morning. A new year, a new weather pattern.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Happy New Year to you. Hi. Happy New Year, everyone. It is a new weather pattern. You know, it's a virtual certainty that 2012 will go down the record book as the warmest on record. 2013 has certainly not started that way. Some of the coldest there of the entire season.

Straight air temperature right now, Albany, New York at two below. It's eight in Boston, 25 in Atlantic City, 28 in Philadelphia. Factor in the wind chills, walking out the door and getting the Times Union. In Albany, New York, it's 14 below, two below in Providence. We get the picture. The air is cold. The winds are coming in.

And even in the southeast, temperatures here in the 30s and 40s. So, on the whole, most of the country at about 10 to 15 degrees below average. Why? The jet stream's position is keeping it cold. I'll show you that. Also, we've got a very impressive snow pack around the country keeping that cold air in essence kind of refrigerated. And the snow pack we have exceeding all of last season.

That's what a banner snow year it's been thus far. Single digits in the northeast, but, dot, dot, dot. Pattern change is coming. What we're going to see here, the cold air today, highs only in the 20s and 30s. You can see from Minneapolis to Kansas City, the northern tier of the country well below average, that will change, because what we've seen the jet stream, this is the jet stream, kind of the river of air above us, it's allowing all this cold air from Canada to come down.

But we're going to watch this jet move north, and with that, warmer temperatures. So next week by this time, we'll be about five to 10 degrees above average. So, temperatures will certainly change. We also, though, this next seven days, not going to see much in the way of snowfall. Now, a lot of snow storms crossing the country. A few little raindrops here in the southeast and the mid-Atlantic.

And one other little interesting weather note, of course, we've been watching this wind threat around Los Angeles, the Santa Anas, and we're going to see gusts 40 to 45 miles per hour. Back to you, guys.

ROMANS: All right. Alexandra Steele, thank you much.


SAMBOLIN: It is 51 minutes past the hour. A packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including outrage after Congress leaves so many cold, hungry, and helpless people waiting another day for hurricane Sandy relief. We will talk to representative from an area that took a beating.

ROMANS: Chilly dog. A firefighter with a pair of long legs wades into an icy leg to save a pooch. The heartwarming pictures when we come back.

SAMBOLIN: But first, a cute kid alert here for you. Watch a three- year-old break down a controversial play in a ball game. That's coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 55 minutes past the hour. Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Along with myself. We're taking a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning.

ROMANS: I love this one.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh! This is going to be your favorite, too. Even a three-year-old can see that's not a first down, ref. Video going viral of a pint-sized South Carolina gamecock fan going all John Maddon (ph) after one of the worst calls ever in the outback bowl on New Year's day that gave Michigan a very questionable first down. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: He's really not touching that. It's really not. Because, it's closer to that. And it's a little bit a spot. The referee said it's touching that pole, but it's really not.



ROMANS: That kid is adorable.

SAMBOLIN: Give him a job.

ROMANS: Even mannequin Tim Tebow is right at the bench. Dick's Sporting good store in the New York City area decided to kick the quarterback while he's down by having the mannequin of Tim Tebow -- Tim Tebow, you know, mannequin and Tebow jersey ride the pine (ph) in a store display. An ESPN reporter tweeted out the photo. The mannequin said he was just decided to be part of it all.


SAMBOLIN: All right. So, place money where your mouth is. The Grammy-nominated record producer and singer, Ryan Leslie, has been ordered to pay $1.2 million to a man who claim he found his stolen laptop in a forest.

Leslie had offered a million dollar reward for the intellectual property, including session files on that computer after it disappeared in Germany, but Leslie claims those files are now corrupted and they are no good. But a federal court in New York just held up the ruling saying he still owes the guy the million dollars, and guess what, there is interest attached to that as well.

ROMANS: Yes. You can't give a reward and then say when you get the thing back, oh, you know, it's not exactly the way I wanted it. That doesn't work.

SAMBOLIN: Qualify it ahead of time, right?

ROMANS: What's so funny about the fiscal cliff? A lot, especially now it is behind us.

SAMBOLIN: Even better, if you find a way to work Kim Kardashian and Kanye West baby news into all of the punch lines, right? Check out the best late night zingers.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Well, here's some good news. Police report around the country fewer drunk driving arrests this past New Year's Eve. Arrests were down. Arrests were down. You know why? Congress was stuck in session working on the --


LENO: That's 500 drunks off the road! Exactly.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": After hours and hours of tough negotiation, the most powerful people in America have finally come to an agreement. That's right. If it's a girl, they're going to name it Kim, if it's a boy, they'll name it Kanye.


FALLON: They figured it out.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's great.


LETTERMAN: I just hope the media doesn't make a big deal out of this.


LETTERMAN: I hope it doesn't get blown way out of proportion. That means she'll be seeking publicity for two now.





SAMBOLIN: The next hour of EARLY START begins right now.