Return to Transcripts main page


Biden's "Gun Violence Project"; Cuomo to Announce New Assault Weapon Ban; James Holmes Hearing: Day Three; Out of Afghanistan; India Rape Case Suspects in Court; Top of the World, Ma!; ESPN Apologizes; Massive Shark off Florida Coast

Aired January 9, 2013 - 06:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Inside the accused Aurora shooter's alleged plot. The explosive trap police say he set as a diversion.

SAMBOLIN: And too close for comfort. A great white shark seen lurking just off a Florida beach.

SAMBOLIN: And responding to the backlash. Brent Musburger's bosses apologizing for his on-air comments about a football star's beauty queen girlfriend.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is January 9th. It is just about 6:00 a.m. in the East, so we begin with the White House and the National Riffle Association one day away from squaring off in a gun control showdown.

The NRA confirming it will meet with Vice President Biden and his gun violence group tomorrow, but they don't sound ready to actively participate. The NRA putting out a statement that reads, quote, "We are seconding a rep to hear what they have to say."

That drew this response from the president's spokesman, Jay Carney.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We look forward to hearing from a variety of organizations and civic groups and others who have insights into this problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NRA says it is here to hear what the White House has to say, so if you guys are here to listen to them, they are here to listen to you.

CARNEY: Well, the process is designed to get input.


SAMBOLIN: White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is live in Washington for us this morning. Good morning to you, Dan.


SAMBOLIN: So what is the meeting about today? You have some details for us as to what the vice president is actually proposing.

LOTHIAN: Right. Well, you know, first of all, the vice president is doing what the president asked him to do, which is get together with cabinet members, other senior members of the administration and various organizations to put together some policy proposals and then bring those to the president by the end of the month.

The focus obviously is to try to figure out a way to prevent gun violence. Certainly this is in reaction to what happened in Connecticut. So what the vice president is doing is coming up with additional options, but they are also saying there are things that lawmakers on Capitol Hill can already do, such as reinstating the ban on assault weapons or closing loopholes around background checks.

In addition, they think that lawmakers can do more to limit the high- capacity magazines. So these are things that the White House already has out there, but they are trying to come up with additional options. So they are sitting down today with victims' groups and gun safety organizations.

Then tomorrow, they will be various gun groups such as the NRA, and also this week, the vice president and his group will be meeting with representatives from the entertainment industry, those from the gaming industry. Again trying to figure out how all of these various groups can help prevent gun violence.

SAMBOLIN: Dan, we've heard that the NRA and gun rights groups are pushing back against the measures, but now we're hearing about some pushback from some Democrats. What's the reaction there?

LOTHIAN: That's right. And one Democrat in particular, Heidi Heitkamp who is senator, a newly elected senator from the state of North Dakota and she has some concerns about what she's hearing coming from the White House and she expressed those concerns on ABC's this week. Take a listen.


SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I think you need to put everything on the table. But what I hear from the administration and if the "Washington Post" is to be believed, it's way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about. And it's not going to pass.


LOTHIAN: And she said instead of focusing on gun control, there needs to be a greater focus on issues of mental illness. In addition she said that it shouldn't be a, quote, "one size fits all solution," but there should be a balance approach -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Dan Lothian live for us at the White House, thank you.

So also note worthy and I want to bring in Christine for this is, who is not coming to the meeting. The White House invited Wal-Mart, they are the major seller of guns and firearms, but they have declined to actually attend.

And we also remember from the Newtown shootings, right after they happened, they stopped advertising online also for guns. Why do you think they made that decision?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They stopped advertising the AR-15, the Bushmaster style weapon in a couple of days after the Newtown massacre. A spokesman for the company at that time had told me it was out of sensitivity to what was happening in Newtown, but they were still for sale.

The company does not tell you how many guns they sell, but many say it is likely the largest retailer of guns. It's the largest retailer of everything. Wal-Mart says they have a scheduling conflict, so they can't have anybody at the White House meetings.

It's quite rare for a company of that size to decline an invitation from the White House for the vice president's office, very rare. It's why companies have lobbyists and offices in Washington so they can be there and be a voice at the table or at least hear what the vice president's office and that group is doing.

So it's definitely -- the White House is not saying it's a statement about gun control, the gun issue but it is. Wal-Mart's absence from this meeting is offensive to the people who are trying to figure out what kind of solutions you will do to mass violence killing children.

BERMAN: It's particularly interesting because the NRA is going, even the NRA is going, yet Wal-Mart not sending a representative.

ROMANS: It really is a slap in the face to a civil discussion about what has happened, especially since this is a major, major retailer of the very kinds of weapons that killed 26 people and shocked the nation.

For a company not to go at the request of the White House, it's very, very rare. I can't think of another time. They didn't even send a lobbyist in Washington.

So we'll let's see if they rethink that. But at this point, a spokesman for the company saying they will not be attending. Wal-Mart has scheduling error and more important things to do than go to the White House.

BERMAN: Well, they have 24 hours to reshuffle that schedule. We'll see if they make --

SAMBOLIN: I am trying to find their exact statement? Do you have it? That would be great.

ROMANS: Unfortunately, we are unable to attend, but we have been having ongoing conversations with the White House and reaching out to lots of group groups and organizations on this topic and sharing our experiences. We take the sale of firearms very seriously and are committed to the responsible sale of firearms.

We were invited to attend the meeting on Thursday and we had scheduling conflicts. We're going to continue to stay engage in this topic going forward." A $444 billion of net sales last year, a huge company and there's not one person available because of scheduling conflicts? It's interesting.

BERMAN: Maybe they will find a way to fit it into their calendar in the next 24 hours. It's 5 minutes past the hour right now. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo poised to announce plans for a comprehensive overhaul of his state's gun laws.

It will reportedly include one of the nation's most restrictive bans on assault weapons. New York is one of seven states that already bans some assault weapons, but Cuomo wants to tighten those laws and broaden the number of weapons and magazines they cover.

It's this comment by Cuomo to a radio station that has some gun rights advocates up in arms. The governor saying, confiscation could be an option for all the assault weapons.

Well, he announces his new proposals later today in the state of the state address. He said that in a radio interview, and he has not said it since so some people think that he's backed off those comments.

SAMBOLIN: He may do that. All right, so day three of the preliminary hearing in Aurora, Colorado, to determine if James Homes will actually have to stand trial, prosecutors have been laying out their case against Holmes, accused of killing 12 people in a movie theatre massacre last summer.

The 911 calls from the theatre were played in court yesterday. Sounds of screaming and gunfire could be heard, 30 shots fired in 27 seconds. An FBI agent testified Holmes rigged his apartment with explosives to create a diversion from the theatre shooting.

BERMAN: So is it possible every single U.S. troop could be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014? According to the White House officials, the administration has been considering leaving up to 15,000 troops behind to fight insurgents and train Afghan security forces.

But now the president is said to be open to a scenario that involves a total pullout. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama are scheduled to meet on Friday in Washington.

SAMBOLIN: A development this morning in that rape and murder case that has shaken India. Three of the five men who have been charged have been advised by their lawyer to plead not guilty. They were brought to court on Monday under very heavy security.

The case has sparked angry protests across India about the treatment of women and its put a spotlight on laws against sexual assault. The victim was savagely attacked last month. She died from her injuries.

BERMAN: A New Jersey man scaling new heights, climbing to the top of a landmark rollercoaster that was swept out to sea during Superstorm Sandy. The 38-year-old Christopher Angelo planted an American flag on the Jet Star coaster in storm ravaged Seaside Heights. Now when Angelo finally came down, he was arrested. He says what he was doing was trying to raise awareness about storm recovery on the Jersey Shore.

SAMBOLIN: And an apology from ESPN for those remarks made by announcer Brent Musburger during Monday night BCS title game. Musburger got overly excited and a little creepy when he spotted Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron's girlfriend, beauty queen, Catherine Webb, in the stands. In case you missed it, here is a bit of a sample for you.


BRENT MUSBURGER, ESPN COMMENTATOR: Wow, I'm telling you. You quarterbacks, get all of the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman. A.J. is doing some things right. If you are a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throwing it around the backyard with pops.


SAMBOLIN: I was more offended with if you are a youngster in Alabama, this is what you need to do to get that. ESPN says we always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test.

However, we apologize, that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that. So this is not the first time Musburger has done something like this on air.

At 7 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien will be joined by actress, model and former New York Jets employee, Jenn Sterger. She says a similar comment by Musburger years ago actually helped launch her career.

BERMAN: She says she has met Musburger and actually said thank you. The baseball hall of fame announces its newest inductees this afternoon if there are any. Some baseball observes believe we could see a complete shutout largely because of the stain of steroids.

These are the headliners on the ballot. Big names like Barry Bond, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, all of course tainted in some way by baseball's performance enhancing drug scandal.

Other people on the ballot include Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, they are also on the list. Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, some other big names up for balloting. No one may get in. We'll find out this afternoon.

SAMBOLIN: You think someone will? BERMAN: I think someone will. I think maybe Craig Bizoi or Jack Morris, but we'll see. Only time will tell.

In the 7:00 hour, "STARTING POINT," "Boston Globe" columnist Dan Shaughnessy will join Soledad. He'll tell us who he could not vote for on this year's ballot. And if you're a Boston fan, one of the people he says he will vote for is a real surprise so watch if you want to find out about that.

SAMBOLIN: All right, coming up, a close encounter with a shark near a Florida beach. We'll talk to a scientist who tracks great whites.

BERMAN: Plus, a ski slope stunt nearly takes a tragic turn. Stay with us.


BERMAN: A massive great white shark in shopping distance from a Florida beach. So just try not to hum the theme from "Jaws" in your head right now when you see this. an amazing video from researchers from OCEARCH yanking the 3,500-pound, 16-foot long shark out of water way back in September.

They nicknamed her Mary Lee Ann. She has been a very, very busy girl lately. OCEARCH tagged her and they tracked her on this web site. It's so cool. You can check it out anytime.

This is the last 72 hours. Just look how close she came to Jacksonville Beach, 200 yards away. Chris Fischer is the founder of OCEARCH. He called Jacksonville Beach police all the way from Utah to get the warning out.

And police told people to stay away. Chris, this sounds incredibly cool. But before we get to how you did this and why you did this, tell me where Mary Lee is right now? Is everyone safe?

CHRIS FISCHER, FOUNDER, OCEARCH: Of course, everyone was safe all along. Mary Lee is about a dozen miles or so off shore, but she did slide in yesterday evening, right into the beach, right into the breakers off a big public beach.

And you know, I get e-mails every time the sharks around the world ping in that we are tracking, normally, it's like that's interesting, they are breeding, are they feeding? What's going on? But every once in a while I have to call somebody and that's when I picked up the phone and called Jacksonville Beach.

BERMAN: So this happened yesterday morning. What are you lounging around in bed and an e-mail comes saying a shark is in the way?

FISCHER: Yes. Well, what happened was it was in the evening before I went to bed, and I get an e-mail every time they ping in. It goes up on the tracker and I saw the location, the shark was actually in the surf break this is a big, mature, female, great white shark, 16 feet, 3,500 pounds. Mary Lee, named after my mom, and I had to call somebody. It was the right thing to do. You know, nothing to worry about, but strictly deliver the data to the police department and let them decide what was safest.

BERMAN: That's quite an honor for your mother right there. So walk me through this. When did Mary Lee get tagged and what is the process of doing that?

FISCHER: Mary Lee was tagged in mid-September of this past year off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We have the privilege in this study, my chief scientist, is Dr. Greg Skomol, from the state of Massachusetts. He's one of the world's best white shark scientists.

We went up there to enable and capture giant these great white sharks so he could do everything he always dreamed of, to solve the puzzle of their lives, get the data to protect their future. And we were working three miles offshore.

And Mary Lee showed up at the back of our research vessel called OCEARCH. We knew right away it was the perfect specimen, a big massive, mature female. A female that could show us not only where and when the North Atlantic great white shark is breeding but also could potentially lead to us the nursery where baby sharks are most vulnerable, two things we must understand to impact and ensure their future.

She was the perfect fish, the most difficult conditions when we captured her. It was coming in the dark. There was big current. She was massive. There was a lot of people around and we were able to catch, I think, one of the most legendary fish in history and get the latest technology on her and now, you can see it manifested in the tracker with the whole world able to follow her real time.

BERMAN: We are looking at very cool pictures of Mary Lee right now. She doesn't look small in any way. So, I'm wondering, how do you tag a two-ton shark? Is the answer very carefully?

FISCHER: Yes, very carefully and also you've got to have the right group of people. This has been an exercise in bringing together world class fishermen, with world class scientists. We actually bait the shark. We have a special lift on the ship. We swing the shark over.

And we have 15 minutes on the deck where we keep the shark. We know we can look after them well in that period of time and we're trying to execute up to a dozen science projects within that 15 minutes, so that we can get a nice release. And you can see Mary Lee came out of cradle strong, and she has been pinging almost every single day multiple times since we released her.

And that is not always common with white sharks. She -- you know, they have different personalities like people and Mary Lee is a real finer, which is great, because she is inspiring and igniting in enthusiasm about white sharks throughout the Southeast. I think maybe that's never been seen before.

BERMAN: Quickly, how many sharks you have tagged right now? How many you're watching?

FISCHER: We're watching about 40 sharks right now across Africa and the eastern coast of the United States.

BERMAN: All right. Chris Fischer, thank you so much. This technology is incredibly cool. And the story about how you warned people in Jacksonville, even cooler.

And I should say, we're going to tweet out the link to your Web site, because watching these sharks, tracking them, it is really just fascinating.

So, thank you very much.

SAMBOLIN: It is fascinating and an education, right? So, you want to share it with your kids.

BERMAN: Tag sharks off the coast of Cape Cod and now off the coast of Florida.

SAMBOLIN: And in 15 minutes, what they can accomplish, right, before -- that's all they have, 15 minutes to conduct hundreds of experiments. That's incredible.

ROMANS: And his last name is Fischer. I mean, perfect. What a great job.

SAMBOLIN: It is. It is very cool. So, let's get a check of our top stories.

ROMANS: All right. The NRA, the Obama administration, 24 hours away from a showdown on gun control. Vice President Biden's gun violence project gets down to business today meeting with victim rights and gun safety groups. Tomorrow, representatives of sportsmen and gun owner groups, including the National Rifle Association. They will meet with the vice president.

A homicide detectives are investigating the mysterious death of a lottery winner who died before he could collect his money. A little amount of cyanide killed 46-year-old Urooj Khan in July, less than a month after he scratched off a million dollar jackpot.

Forensic expert Lawrence Kobilinsky says cyanide poisoning can be difficult to detect and a suspect could find some in a variety of industrial settings.


LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: If you're going to try to commit the perfect murder, this is a good way to do it. If you worked in a metal processing plant, electroplating, for example, you worked in a plant where they work with insecticides.


ROMANS: Medical examiners first determined that Khan died of natural causes but they took a second look after they receive a phone call from one of Khan's relatives days after his death.

The inventors of the globe-riding sport known as Zorb are speaking out about the death of a rider in Russia. This YouTube video shows what happened. Two men riding an orb rolled down a mountain, off a cliff. A 27-year-old machine died. The other rider was injured. Zorb's inventors say they are distressed by this tragedy. They say the resort was operating the orb illegally.

Richard Blanco has been chosen to serve as the inaugural poet at President Obama's swearing in ceremony in January 21st. The son of Cuban exiles is the youngest poet ever to receive this honor and the first Latino.

The musical lineup for the inauguration is also set. The headliners include Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, and James Taylor.

BERMAN: Very interesting.

SAMBOLIN: Very nice.

ROMANS: You will be there?

BERMAN: We will be there covering the inauguration, only because James Taylor will be there because he's very, very cool.

Nineteen minutes after the hour right now.

And so, the fiscal cliff averted, but your tax returns will still be affected. We're going to tell you how, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, why the company that brings you Mickey Mouse wants you to wear a magic bracelet.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Minding your business.

U.S. stock futures for the Dow and S&P 500 up ahead of the opening bell. NASDAQ futures down slightly. Markets closed lower yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: And we got our first taste of earnings after the closing bell last night.

Christine has that for us.

ROMANS: Hi there. It's Alcoa. And Alcoa did a little better on sales than many expected, just the beginning of what we'll hear from the earnings season, 3.3 percent earnings growth overall. It's what Wall Street expecting. Not a gangbuster, but we'll se if companies can eek out gains here overall.

So, we'll watch markets closely. The S&P 500 up, but 2.2 percent so far. Do we have a long, long way to go to get to the end of the year?

I want to talk about Disney, a great story. A lot of people are talking about Disney and magic bands. Have you heard about this? You can opt in to this. As much information as you want to use. But these magic bands, when you go to the park, this is -- your credit card is tied to this. This is your room key. This is how you check in for a reservation for a ride. You bring your kid up to a booth with snow white and suddenly they know it's your child.

So it personalizes your experience. It's meant to make things easier for you, but, of course, it means that Disney knows every move you can make and can cut down wait times and make and enhance your experience by helping you spend more money.

BERMAN: The characters are even know your kid's name if you let them. So, you know, they'll say to you, Cinderella will say to your kid like, hi little Nancy.

ROMANS: You know, look, some people say, this is big brother. Other people are saying, have you been to Disney? You know, I want this to be a smooth an experience as humanly possible.

So, a lot of people talking about Disney and the Disney story and the magic bands today.

Also, a lot of people this morning talking about the Social Security of paper checks going away in March. Let me say that, again, if you are still receiving or your grandmother or mother is still receiving a paper check for Social Security or other benefits, no more after March. Back in May of 2011, new recipients getting direct deposits or getting prepaid card.

Now the IRS, Social Security, is saying that everyone is going to be doing that. You might be hearing from credit union or bank, because March is the deadline. No more paper checks after March.

BERMAN: All right. What's the one thing we need to know about our money?

ROMANS: The one thing -- IRS will start taking tax returns January 30th. We now know what the tax season is going to look like because it's fiscal cliff. Eight days later than scheduled.

This could have been a lot worse. Some tax experts were expecting delays for up to several weeks. The IRS now saying refunds should not be delayed for most filers -- early filers, maybe. For most filers, thing will be on time.

SAMBOLIN: It's nice to have that clarity, because there's so much conclusion.

BERMAN: There's such dire warnings, but it's not so bad after all.


ROMANS: They pushed it back, pushed it back again another eight days. So, it's not a normal tax season, but it could have been worse.

BERMAN: All right. SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.