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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Sandy Hook Kids Head Back to School; Interview with Congressman-elect Ami Bera of California; Sexual Assault Case Plays Out on Social Media; Starbucks Reveals Reusable Cup

Aired January 3, 2013 - 06:30   ET

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


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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For us, it's a movement forward, so I think a lot of us are looking at that as this is the next step.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The students of Sandy Hook go back to school, but not the same one. We'll take you inside their new classrooms.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, she's out of the hospital, but is she in the clear? New information on Hillary Clinton's health scare.

ROMANS: We could use a new one of these right about now all right. The 113th Congress set to swear in this morning. Bye-bye, 112th.

Can some of these new faces tackle the same old battles?

SAMBOLIN: We're going to talk to one of the new ones coming up shortly.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans this morning. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

Lunches are packed and school bus engines are humming in Newtown, Connecticut. They're attempting to return to normalcy this morning as the kids of Sandy Hook Elementary head back to class for the first time since a gunman slaughtered 26 children and educators in their school nearly three weeks ago.

Deb Feyerick is live in Monroe Connecticut, near the new Sandy Hook school. Deb, a new location but the same name and a lot of anxious parents and students who need to be back into -- into the security of a classroom again.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. Not only the security of the classroom but also the routine of a classroom. I think that's one of the reasons that the kids we spoke to are so excited to get back into that sort of rhythm of their lives. They want to be with their teachers, they want to be with their friends, their classmates.

You know, people frankly who they didn't really get together in a class environment with until the day of the shooting when that all happened. So they are -- the children really are excited. The parents clearly are very nervous. But they also understand that this is a big, big part of the healing process.

And dozens of folks worked tirelessly over the holidays to get this building -- to transform this building that hadn't been used in two years into a new environment for the children. You know, they did things where they made it age appropriate. They had to put guardrails on some of the banisters. They had to do things like bringing carpeting because a lot of the younger kids, they always -- they sit on carpeting.

Not only that but they moved furniture, they moved desks from one school to the new school. So, the children when they go in, yes, it will be a new environment but it will also be a familiar environment because they can sit at their desk. They can see their pencils, everything that they had there.

You know, so it's going to be something where for everyone, they want it to happen and now is a good time, now that they have had the holidays together. It doesn't mean that they're finished processing all the feelings or even their experiences of that terrible day, but it does mean that at least for a little bit, they'll be able to sort of begin the wheels of getting back into this routine, into this rhythm of life, Christine.

ROMANS: And the parents have to get back into that rhythm, too. I mean, they have to cope with sending their kids back to school, either putting them on a bus or leaving them at school. And that's separation anxiety I think for them too.

FEYERICK: Oh, there's going to be a huge amount of separation anxiety on both sides because things have now changed. So, the parents are invited to come to the school. As a matter of fact, when they come up, the cars are going to be checked. There's going to be a checkpoint because officials do not want anybody near that school who shouldn't be near the school.

We spoke to a couple of moms yesterday. Take a listen.

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DENISE CORREIA, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK STUDENT: There's no real playbook for this. I don't think any of us really have a playbook. So we're kind of just sensing our child and trying to meet the needs that we can.

SARAH SWANSIGER, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK STUDENT: I also think being in the auditorium with some of the parents, this will be some of the first times we've had without media, without other people, without people who weren't necessarily involved. I joked with one of the other moms, I'll see you in the morning, I'll bring coffee. One of those, like, I think I need that adult time too because I'm not sure I'm ready yet to totally let them go in peace, because I think my peace has been shattered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: And, you know, so it's really a delicate balance, you know. The parents, they want to do exactly the right thing for their children, but they also have to take their cues from the children. Those two moms told us, you know, look, the kids are seeing this in a very simple way. They want to go back to class, they want to be with their friends and they want to learn.

And so the parents are caught not over-thinking all of this because they know that if they kind of can give their children a sense that it's OK, we're OK now, the bad guy is gone, then they will have a better learning experience and be able to adapt more quickly to the new environment, Christine.

ROMANS: The bad guy is gone and a new beginning for everyone. Thanks, Deb.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-four minutes past the hour.

Today marks the swearing in of the new 113th Congress. There will be 12 new members in the Senate, three Republicans, eight Democrats with one independent. And 83 new members in the House -- 34 Republicans, 49 Democrats. Democrats retain control of the Senate and Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives.

Among the 49 newly elected Democratic freshmen representative is Ami Bera from the 7th congressional district in Sacramento County, California.

I also want to mention -- you're the third Indian-American Congressman in U.S. history. Congratulations and welcome. It's very nice to se you this morning.

REP.-ELECT AMI BERA (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, thanks. It's good to be here.

SAMBOLIN: So, big battles are ahead in the new Congress. The debt ceiling vote, the sequester is looming. And political scientists are actually saying that this new Congress is even more polarized than the last one.

Are you worried that the coming negotiations will turn into a repeat of this fiscal cliff fiasco?

BERA: No, it can't. The mandate of this election really is the American public expects us to work together. They want us to reach across the aisle, work together as Democrats and Republicans. And as you guys said earlier, we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we haven't been able to see that, though, so that's why we're asking the question.

So when it comes to these negotiations, many representatives say that they feel compelled to stick to their values because that's what the constituents in their districts would want them to do. It's why they voted for you in the first place.

What is more important to you -- a compromise for the nation as a whole or keeping your promise to the people who you voted for?

BERA: Well, compromise doesn't mean we have to give up our convictions, but what it does mean is we've got to do the country's work. We have to be able to take that common ground.

We all agree we've got to deal with the national debt. We've got to deal with our deficit. The fiscal cliff was just the beginning. We've got the debt ceiling fights coming up.

And this -- we've got to get back to the ability to reach across the aisle, find that common ground and move forward. And, you know, it is about doing the country's business but it also is about representing the folks at home.

SAMBOLIN: So how do you plan to deal with the debt ceiling and the automatic spending cuts?

BERA: The first thing we've been doing is during orientation really just getting to know the Republicans in our freshman class. And they have done a good job bringing us together. Let's get to know each other as Americans and find that common ground. We've got to start living within our means.

As a doctor, you know, I've got to look at this from the perspective of the patients. There's no way to deal with the debt and the deficit without, you know, talking about Medicare, without talking about how we use the resources that we have available.

SAMBOLIN: You've been watching this fiscal cliff fiasco as we all have as well. So do you have any concrete plans, any suggestions that you're bringing to the table?

BERA: You know, again, as a doctor, we keep doing these one-year doc fixes on reimbursement. Let's have a real broad conversation about this. Let's take a broad view and look at the resources that we have available and then say here's what we have. Now, what are our priorities and so forth?

I mean, a starting point would be, let's actually pass a budget. The American people, our folks back home in our districts, expect us to pass a budget. That sets out what our values are, what our priorities are. The past Congress and the Congresses in previous years have not passed a budget for years. Let's start by actually passing a budget.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about something that's become very common place and it's the expenditure of campaigns. Your campaign was one of the most expensive in the country, more than $8.5 million in outside spending on both sides, not just your side. Isn't that a part of the problem in Washington? How do you deal with that?

BERA: You know, we should be able to have a real conversation about campaign finance reform. We should be able to talk about taking a look at Citizens United. I think most folks in my district were tired of all this outside money. If it was left up to me, I would say we should just have candidate-funded campaigns.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ami Bera, Congressman-Elect from California -- congratulations. Good luck today and thanks for spending some of your time with us this morning.

BERA: Thank you.

ROMANS: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now out of the hospital after being treated for a blood clot in her head. She was seen walking around New York Presbyterian Hospital yesterday accompanied by her husband, 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.

SAMBOLIN: The family of freelance journalist James Foley missing in Syria since Thanksgiving Day now launching a public campaign to find him. Global Post, a news Web site Foley previously reported for, told "Reuters" of 39-year-old was driving toward Syria's border with Turkey when he was intercepted by a car. He was reportedly forced out of his vehicle by two armed men and hasn't been seen or heard from since. No one has claimed responsibility either.

So, last year, 28 journalists died covering that conflict from inside Syria.

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 said to be at odds with the Pakistani Taliban over a peace agreement that he signed with the government in 2007. As part of that deal, he refused to attack Pakistani government or military targets, but he is believed to be behind a number of attacks that targeted the U.S. military. Two of his deputies were also believed to be killed in that strike.

ROMANS: In India, 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 there today. The woman's family is calling for them to be hanged. The unidentified woman and a male companion were brutally attacked on a bus, then dumped on the side of the road. He survived, she died of her injuries.

The vicious attack sparked widespread debate on how India handles sexual assault cases. Top lawyers in the district where this attack happened say they will not represent the suspects. And 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.

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SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 43 minutes past the hour.

A rape case in a city of Ohio played out on social media. It involves two high school football players, a 16-year-old girl they allegedly assaulted, and a 12-minute video.

CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is covering the case for us.

What can you tell us, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, the charges are simply horrific. A 16-year-old girl allegedly raped by two high school football players during end of the summer parties in a 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 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 video 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if that was your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it isn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it was.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm listening to myself fine.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In ten years, my daughter's going to be raped and dead in ten years. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: And 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, Zoraida, she is not.

SAMBOLIN: No, but she appeared to be in those photos. I went in and took a really close look at this. What are the charges, so far?

CANDIOTTI: Here's how it comes out. 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 will 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: And when you do take a look at that tape, there are a lot of voices in the background. There are a lot of faces. Are there any other charges, do you think, that will come out of this?

CANDIOTTI: We don't know yet. That's a simple answer. 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 are online months ago were taken down and some of them are back online again now.

SAMBOLIN: We certainly expect that you're going to be following this for us because there will be much more to come. Susan Candiotti, thank you for that. Appreciate it.

CANDIOTTI: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right. Some new numbers in and they are staggering. The number of Americans trying to buy a gun hits a record high, and boy, the rush for all those background checks keeping the FBI quite busy. That's next.

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ROMANS: In St. Louis, a firefighter is a dog's best friend.

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ROMANS: He's fine. The pooch had fallen into an icy lake. Thankfully, this was a city park lake where the water is only four feet deep so firefighter Dan Hill got the call. Why did he get the call? Because he's so tall, the water didn't come up so high on him. He put on his waders and he brought the shivering shepherd mix back. The dog will be fine. Dan Hill, nice work.

SAMBOLIN: I love that story. Isn't that great? Soledad O'Brien is off today. John Berman and Brooke Baldwin are in. Are you going to have the firefighter in your show? JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to show the video of that dog again and again and again, because it's amazing and remarkable. The poor dog shivering, but he's OK. That's the good news.

We're also going to be talking about Newtown, Connecticut, obviously, where students from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, they return to class today. So, what's staying the same for them? What's changing? We're going to talk about this emotional return to school.

Also, a brand new Congress convenes on Capitol Hill at noon with 90 new members joining. The question is, is anything else really going to change? Their first order of business, tens of billions of dollars in aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. They say they will finally get to that. Better late than never, I suppose.

Meanwhile, of course, it got ugly after the old Congress failed to act with Republicans publicly blasting other Republicans. We're going to talk to three New York Republicans from the House of Representatives, Peter King, Michael Grimm, and Nan Hayworth. Some of them had colorful things to say.

ROMANS: Did you see how mad Congressman King was on the air yesterday? I mean, I was watching with Victor Blackwell, and he just -- he was so mad at John Boehner. He was so mad at the leadership of his party. Now, he's saying that he's satisfied, but I can't wait to hear from him.

BERMAN: It should be good.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check of the morning's weather with Alexandra Steele. Good morning, Alexandra. New Year, new weather pattern taken shape.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Hi, everyone. Good morning to you. Yes. We're seeing incredibly cold temperatures. You know, 2012 will go down in the history books as probably the warmest year on record. 2013 certainly not starting that way. Right now, straight air temperature, three below in Albany, 25 in New York, Boston temperatures in the single digits.

Adding the wind chill, it feels like eight below in Boston. So, you certainly get the picture. Syracuse, waking up there, walking out the door feels like 13 below. Southeast, certainly very cool for them. On the whole around the country, we're about 10 to 15 degrees below average, but that's going to change.

It's been incredibly cold because this is the jet stream dropping as far south as Dallas, Texas, allowing that cold Canadian air to kind of funnel down. But, we're going to watch the jet move north and warm us up. So, next week at this time, temperatures will be about 10 degrees, five to 10 degrees above average. So, a very cool day.

Chicago at 30, Washington only at 40, but feeling much colder than that with the wind chill. So, the big picture, only a little rain here in the southeast, guys, but temperatures finally warming up next week. So, a couple more cold days and then things on the improve. ROMANS: All right. We'll take it. Alexandra Steele, thank you.

About 53 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date.

New Congress gets sworn in at today, noon eastern. Bunch of firsts in this bunch. The House is getting its first Hindu member, it's first female combat veterans, and it's first openly bisexual representative. The Senate will have its first Buddhist. The question is, will John Boehner be the House speaker again after today.

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

ROMANS: A record number of screenings for gun buyers. The FBI says it ran nearly three million background checks for gun purchases last month. The bureau says that's a record and that 2012, on the whole, set a record with more than 19 million checks. We don't count how many guns are sold in America, so that's kind of the only real indicator of gun sales.

SAMBOLIN: And it's good news for the father of Malala Yousafzai. He has a new job at Pakistan consulate in Birmingham, England. He's 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 orders to stop advocating education for girls.

ROMANS: Starting today, Starbucks will sell reusable plastic cups for a dollar apiece and customers will receive a 10-cent discount every time they use it to buy a drink. Starbucks has been criticized over the massive volume of paper waste its cups produce. The chain has sold reusable cups before, but now believes the low price point of this new reusable cup will spark some consumer interest and get people to conserve a little bit.

SAMBOLIN: The ten cents off my coffee will totally make me --

ROMANS: Ten cents off your $6 coffee.

SAMBOLIN: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Today's best advice coming up. You know it all adds up, right?

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SAMBOLIN: Top of the morning, New York. Look at that gorgeous skyline. Just a beautiful, beautiful view. Thanks for starting your morning with CNN. We really appreciate you. Thanks for letting us into your homes. It is 57 minutes past the hour, and we're going to wrap it up as always with "Best Advice."

ROMANS: And today, it comes from political comedian Kamau Bell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMAU BELL, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: The best advice I've ever received was from my mom who my mom said when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. That has served me throughout my life. When people have revealed themselves to be jerks, believe them the first time or if they reveal themselves to be awesome, believe them the first time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Love mama's advice.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Very good stuff.

SAMBOLIN: All right. That's it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. "STARTING POINT" with John Berman and Brooke Baldwin starts right now.