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Flu Spreads with a Vengeance; Fast-Tracking Gun Control; Biden to Meet with NRA; Lew Tapped For Treasury Secretary; James Holmes' Evidence Hearing Ends; Hall of Fame Shutout; Road to Oscar Gold; New Mortgage Rules Coming

Aired January 10, 2013 - 06:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Watch it even if he doesn't.

A flu epidemic sweeping through dozens of states. Hospitals are crowded from New England all the way to Dakotas.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Very serious.

Vice President Biden and the NRA, their much-hyped gun control sit down now just hours away.

BERMAN: And desperate hours. The race against the clock to save whales trapped by ice. It's an amazing story up there. Very sad.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I hope they can save them. You're going to be talking to the guy at the aquarium, right, to find out --

BERMAN: If they can do anything to try to help these whales.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks for being with us, folks. I'm Zoraida Sambolin, Thursday, January 10th. It is just about 6:00 a.m. in the East.

Nasty, severe cases of the flu are spreading with a vengeance across the United States. The CDC's latest flu advisory suggesting 41 states are dealing with widespread activity. Look at the map. More than 2,200 people have been hospitalized. The hardest-hit areas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, each reporting 22 flu-related deaths.

Massachusetts declaring a medical emergency there. 700 confirmed cases in Boston, that's since October and rates ten times higher than what they saw last year.

So let's bring in senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She is in Flower Mound, Texas, with details of one fatal case. Elizabeth, what happened?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, I spent the morning with the Schwolert family yesterday. Their son, Max, 17 years old, attended this church. December 22nd he was feeling great. They were on vacation up north, he was having a great time, and then he started feeling sick.

He was sick for about two days and then he got better for another two days, even went sledding and had snowball fights with his sister and then he got worse again. He felt terrible. His parents brought him to the hospital, a small rural hospital.

And very quickly they said your son is very sick. His kidneys are shutting down. We're going to put him on a helicopter to go to a larger hospital and this is what Max said to his mother as he was getting on that helicopter.


MELANIE SCHWOLERT, 17-YEAR-OLD SON DIED AFTER CONTRACTING FLU: One of the last coherent things he said, he looked at me and there were some tears rolling down his face.


SCHWOLERT: He was scared. He said, mom, I'm scared. I said I know, buddy, I am too and then he saw me crying. He said, mom, it's going to be OK. You're going to be OK. I love you.


COHEN: So Max was airlifted to that larger hospital, went straight into the intensive care unit and four days later he died. His family, of course, reeling from how quickly this all happened, does want Max to be remembered for the love that was in his heart.

They said that he loved God, he loved his family, he loved his friends and that's why they have got this term, "Love to the Max," out there. They're making T-shirts. They have sold more than a thousand. They want to spread the word about his big heart -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: My goodness, Elizabeth, did he have a compromised immune system or was he absolutely healthy prior to this?

COHEN: He was completely healthy. That happens much more than you would think. Even completely healthy people can die of the flu. What happened in his case was that he had a -- he had the flu. He started feeling better and then a secondary infection started in and so I know that this makes parents very worried.

SAMBOLIN: It does.

COHEN: They think how would I know what to look for. It does, absolutely. So this is one of the things that you look for. If your child or actually you for that matter is feeling better and then starts feeling worse, that is not a good sign.

That's a sign that you need medical attention. Another sign especially with children is extreme lethargy. If your child doesn't want to play, doesn't want to get out of bed, all they want to do is sleep, that's a problem. Confusion is also a sign that things have gone downhill very quickly. I want to be clear most people, adults or children, who get the flu do perfectly fine. But when things go bad, they go bad very quickly.

SAMBOLIN: And you know, a lot of folks are wondering whether or not they have time to get a flu shot. Did he get a flu shot?

COHEN: No, he didn't have a flu shot. I talked to his parents about that. They said something interesting. He was in a house with 15 other relatives, several of whom had had flu shots and they also got the flu. So you can get the flu with a flu shot.

You can also -- you're much more likely to get the flu if you don't have a flu shot. There's still time. It's not too late. There's still a lot of flu out there. My advice, everybody's advice, go out there and get the flu shot, it's not too late.

SAMBOLIN: Such a tragic story, really appreciate that the parents took the time to talk to you about this and raise awareness. Thank you very much, Elizabeth Cohen.

BERMAN: All right, just about 4 minutes after the hour right now. In Washington, President Obama looking for ways to fast track some new gun control action without Congress. Vice President Biden revealing the Commander in Chief is considering using executive orders.

That announcement is coming on the eve of this afternoon's talks between Biden's gun violence commission and the National Rifle Association. It will be a long day for the vice president. This morning he meets with sportsmen and wildlife groups. This afternoon, representatives from gun owners groups including the NRA and tonight the entertainment industry weighs in. At the end of the day, Biden acknowledges his boss is prepared to use the powers of the presidency to push through parts of his own plan.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet, but we're compiling it all with help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action we believe is required.


BERMAN: All right, White House correspondent Dan Lothian is live now from Washington. Dan, there's a lot going on behind the scenes here, but let's start with that executive action. What do you think that means?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is exactly what the vice president said, that they're looking for ways to act very quickly. There is this legislative track that they believe can be effective as well, but the vice president making the point that there are things that the president can do on his own in order to prevent some of these violent acts like we saw in Connecticut. And so we don't know exactly what the specifics are. The vice president indicating that they're still trying to compile some of those specifics. But nonetheless there's the political environment, the reality of the political environment that they know.

It's very difficult to get things to move through Congress very quickly. We've seen that play out in the fiscal fights over the last few months, frankly over the last few years, and so they are looking at this as another option for the president to move quickly and in the vice president's own words, to save a lot of lives.


BIDEN: If your actions result in only saving one life, they're worth taking. But I'm convinced we can affect the well-being of millions of Americans and take thousands of people out of harm's way if we act responsibly.


LOTHIAN: He met with a dozen faith leaders. They talked about the moral imperative to act quickly. In addition to that, he had held a conference call with governors and also other state and local leaders across the country. They're trying to come up with as many options as possible so they can put together these policy proposals to present to the president by the end of the month.

BERMAN: And today, of course, the vice president meets with gun companies and gun rights groups. How are they reacting so far to the comments yesterday?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, I think they're very concerned when they hear that the president can do things on his own. We heard from Larry Pratt with the Gun Owners of America. They have not been invited to the table to take part in these discussions, but nonetheless he had very strong reaction to these developments. Take a listen.


LARRY PRATT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: What I'm concerned about and what I've been concerned about since even well before the elections is having seen the president rule by executive order where he has no authority in other areas.

I can see that he would just go ahead and -- the vice president has even hinted at an executive order that would accomplish some or all of their gun control agenda. That, I think, changes the game and throws into question the legitimacy of the federal government.


LOTHIAN: Now, there are gun companies that are concerned about talk of a ban on assault weapons. They say that that would be bad for business. In addition, the NRA saying that assault weapons ban is a, quote, "phony piece of legislation." So, John, everyone agrees that something has to be done to prevent these mass shootings, but clearly finding solutions will not be easy.

BERMAN: All right, Dan Lothian live in Washington today. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: So this time yesterday we were talking about Wal-Mart not attending the vice president's gun control meetings. Today, very different story, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. After a few hours of very pointed questions about why Wal-Mart would not be attending and why a scheduling conflict prevented any of its executives or lobbyists to be at these meetings, Wal-Mart changed its tune yesterday morning.

And said, well, they had underestimated the anticipation or the thinking that they should actually be there in person and they would be going. Look, why is Wal-Mart a stakeholder in these talks? Wal- Mart is the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart sells the AR-15 style Bushmaster modern sporting rifle like the one that was used in Newtown so it sells guns, it sells ammunition and the company told me very clearly they have a lot of rules about buying weapons at Wal-Mart that say go beyond the law.

They videotape every single transaction that happens. But clearly Wal- Mart profits from the sale of these weapons and Wal-Mart being at the table was important when you look at all of the other participants that were there.

BERMAN: You were one of the people asking all of the tough questions to Wal-Mart about why they were not going to the meeting. Were they surprised that you were asking?

ROMANS: I will tell you this. They thought that too much was being made of the story. That they didn't need to be there. They had a phone conversation earlier in the week with the vice president's office and that was enough. They had monthly sales meetings already scheduled.

Of course, the optics are this. They had monthly sales meetings scheduled for months. Newtown wasn't planned. You know, the vice president's invitation comes on the wake of something that was spontaneous and horrific. That's why the meeting was there. Clearly that trumps an already scheduled monthly sales meeting when you are quite likely the world's largest seller of weapons.

SAMBOLIN: And you would think they want to be there.

ROMANS: Well, they will be there now.

SAMBOLIN: Great. Thank you, Christine.

BERMAN: Let's talk Cabinet now. Who's in, who's out? White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew will be nominated today to be the next Treasury Secretary and the search is on right now for a new Labor Secretary now that Hilda Solis has announced she is stepping down. Remaining on the job for now at least, Attorney Eric Holder, he will be working with the president on the new gun control measures, but insiders say he may be looking to leave office in the next six to 12 months. The White House is also announcing that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will continue to serve the president in his second term.

SAMBOLIN: The evidence hearing against James Holmes has concluded in Colorado. The presiding judge will decide tomorrow if this case goes to trial.

BERMAN: Holmes is accused of opening fire inside the movie theater in Aurora last July killing 12 and wounding dozens. Yesterday prosecutors claim that Holmes cased the theater up to four weeks before the massacre. They presented photos of hallways and doors that were recovered from his cell phone along with chilling photos of him posing with weapons.

SAMBOLIN: A race against time to free a pack of killer whales that are trapped by ice. Take a look at that, 11 of them trapped in a 50- foot by 50-foot space in Northern Quebec. Experts are being sent to the scene to see what, if anything, they can do to save them.

But if the hole they're using to surface and breathe freezes over, they will eventually die. Open water is at least six miles away. In the next half hour we'll talk with William Hurley about the desperate effort to save these killer whales.

BERMAN: All right, so after yesterday's Hall of Fame vote Roger Clemens knows what it's like to be on the wrong ending of a shutout. Clemens along with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa all shut out in the balloting for baseball's highest honor, each of them tainted by the game's steroid scandal.

Now 75 percent of votes are needed to get in, Clemens and Bonds each had less than 40 percent of the vote. Sammy Sosa barely picked up 12 percent, amazing for a guy with 600 home runs. No one got into the Hall of Fame yesterday.

That's the first time that's happened since 1996. In my opinion, the biggest injustice might be for someone who had no connection to steroids at all, Craig Bizio, the great Houston fell just 39 votes short.

SAMBOLIN: What did MLB say about this?

BERMAN: Well, Major League Baseball does not run the Hall of Fame. They said they respect the Hall of Fame's right to do things how they want and they look forward to votes in the future. It's not good for baseball not to have someone elected but it has happened in the past. The next few years some of the really great untainted players come up for election. So you won't see this in the next few minutes.

SAMBOLIN: It's 12 minutes past the hour. We're counting down to this morning's academy award nominations. That is coming up.

BERMAN: And call it a wild moose chase. More of this video and the story behind it. That's ahead.


SAMBOLIN: Fifteen minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Plenty of early risers in Hollywood hoping to hear their names called when the Oscar nominations are announced less than two and a half hours from now.

CNN's Nischelle Turner, she's up, dark and early, in Los Angeles, with a bit of a preview for us.

Good morning. I'm nervous.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You know, it literally is "Zero Dark Thirty" right here in Los Angeles. I'm with you, Zoraida. It's a big day here.

And it's kind of like John and I were joking before. It's kind of like my super bowl or pro bowl of entertainment this morning here.

Now, we're about two hours away from the Oscar nominations this morning. And what I love about the Academy is they always zig when other folks zag. So you're probably going to get a surprise nomination.

And conventional wisdom is this was a very good year for films. So there's a little something for everyone.

The campaign for best picture is about to get real and there's no doubt "lincoln" will be a leading can dad. It should land a slew of nominations and not just for best picture.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like our chances now.

TURNER (voice-over): The campaign for best picture is about to get real, and there's no doubt "Lincoln" will be a leading candidate.

Steven Spielberg's civil war drama should land a slew of nominations and not just for best picture.

PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE.COM: Daniel Day-Lewis obviously for best actor. You're going to see him nominated and he's by far the front- runner to win. I'm sure you will see Sally Field nominated in supporting actress. And also Tommy Lee Jones in supporting actor.

TURNER: As many as 10 movies to be nominated for best picture.'s Steve Hammond points to a handful of top contenders.

HAMMOND: In addition to "Lincoln," "Les Miserables" is certain to be nominated. "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are both certain to be nominated. TURNER: "Silver Lining's Playbook" should score nominations for best picture and for its stars. Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro, who has endured an Oscar dry spell.

HAMMOND: Robert de Niro who has not been nominated, believe it or not, for 21 years.

TURNER: Among the possible Oscar nominees, one movie stands out as a major question mark. What will Oscar voters make of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"?

HAMMOND: "Django" is the wildcard here. "Django" could be one that gets a ton of nominations or virtually nothing. You know, it's either/or.

TURNER: "The Deed" may be silent, but critics haven't been. Some of them accusing Tarantino of trivializing slavery.

HAMMOND: It has a lot of naysayers. That can always hurt it. It's such a box office hit that could only help.

TURNER: The controversy should make for a suspenseful Oscar nomination announcement.


TURNER: Now, most of the experts are saying if the Academy decides to expand the best picture category, then "Django" could get a nomination if they go to seven, eight or nine movies, but it would be a surprise this morning if the movie's lead actor, Jamie Foxx, does get a nomination for best actor because that is one of the tightest races this year, Zoraida.

It is a great category. You're going to see people like Denzel Washington and Daniel Day Lewis get nominated, but you could see heavy hitters like Richard Gere, Joaquin Phoenix, Bradley Cooper get left out.

So, that one -- there's going to be some -- I don't know, some upset fellas here in Hollywood this morning. I'm excited for that race.

SAMBOLIN: I love Jamie Foxx in that movie. I thought he was incredible. So, it would be great to see him on that list, but that competition very, very stiff.

TURNER: Yes, that's a big one.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you. We'll be watching. And our special Oscar coverage with Soledad O'Brien and "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT's" A.J. Hammer begins at 8:15 Eastern and, of course, we'll bring you the nominations right here live.

So we want to hear your predictions and your opinions on all the Oscar nominations. Go to the "STARTING POINT" blog, We're asking for your picks for best actor, best actress and best picture. And if you're tweeting, it's #CNNnoms.

Keep in touch with us throughout the entire morning.

BERMAN: All right. Nineteen minutes after the hour. And if you've never seen a moose up close, Jeff Palmer suggests you do it by visiting the zoo, because it is no fun running into a moose on the slopes. Check this out.

That's the 19-year-old Palmer at Sugar Bush Resort in Vermont just before Christmas. He was minding his own business when the moose started charging.


BERMAN: So he did the right thing, which is he kicked off his skis and ran.


JEFF PALMER, CHASED BY A MOOSE: I looked over my shoulder and it was closing on me very fast. My life flashed before my eyes for a second. Not the way I want to see a moose for the first time. I'd rather see it at a distance rather than charging at me.


BERMAN: Luckily, the moose got tired after a short chase and wandered back into the moose.

You know, my wife and I were running once in Vermont and we came across a moose. She claims to this day that she saved my life because she's like let's hide, let's hide. I was like let's go look at the moose.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, that is not a good idea. Your wife was right, you were wrong.

BERMAN: So, she saved my life.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, she did. Yes, she did.

Twenty minutes past the hour.

Coming up, the new rules just out for mortgages and how they're supposed to protect you, the homeowner.


BERMAN: We are minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are trading higher after some positive economic news out of China overnight.

SAMBOLIN: Christine is here with the rest of the morning's business headlines. ROMANS: Good morning. We're watching gun stocks today as well because a little fizzle taken out of the gun rally as CNN Money puts it.

You know, gun stocks have done well in the days after the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting because there's been this run on guns in this country. We had a record number of background checks in December for gun purchases. That's the only way we can really track gun sales.

I want to show you what the gun stocks look like. When you have the vice president using the words "executive orders" for some kind of limits on being able to sell a lot of ammunition or selling these AR- 15 style semiautomatic modern sporting rifles, the gun stocks and gun retailers took a little bit of a hit. But I will tell you, the rally is still intact. They were still up over the last five days overall.

We'll watch Cabela's. We'll watch Dick Sporting Goods today.

You remember that Dick's stopped selling AR-15s after the Newtown shooting. But other retailers have not followed suit. And we've been reporting to you that Walmart now another seller of guns and ammunition will be attending that meeting with the White House.

Also new out of Washington today that will affect everyone in this country, new mortgage rules. Lenders now have to make sure that you can repay a mortgage. Imagine that.

You have to prove you have money, a job, a decent credit score. Of course, credit score shows that you've been paying your bills on time. That you can afford the monthly payments. That you can afford al your other housing debts and expenses.

A lender can't saddle a borrower with total debt exceeding 43 percent of income. No more deceptive teaser rates. Remember people would get a very low mortgage rate and after two years it would pop up to a high rate and they couldn't afford those.

No more ninja loans. Those were loans that were no income, no job, no assets. Can you imagine? Can you imagine -- well, that's why we had a financial crisis. Now, this is meant to make sure people understand the kind of loan they're getting into. They're not snookered on the front end by some loan that's written really crazy.

And now, if you don't meet al of these qualifications, there are still some ways to get in and get a mortgage, but this is what a qualified loan will look like and this is meant to make sure that consumers are protected.

SAMBOLIN: It's a good thing.

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

ROMANS: The one thing you need to know -- I mean, if you don't qualify for one of those loans, if you don't have that credit score, if you're worried you're not taking advantage of these really low mortgage rates, this is the year to fix your credit.

Mortgage rates will probably start creeping up by the end of the year. They're still very, very low. Pay your bills on time every time and slowly but surely you'll raise your credit score.

Also, if you have a bunch of debt, if you start paying that debt down in big chunks every month, it will raise your credit score.

SAMBOLIN: Quickly? How long does it take?

SAMBOLIN: Time heals all wounds. I mean, it usually takes to blow up your credit. It takes a long time to get it back. A bankruptcy, a foreclosure stays on your credit score for seven years.

But the most important thing you can do: pay your bills on time every time, pay down your debt and then you can qualify for those low mortgage rates.

BERMAN: You have such good advice. Christine Romans, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BERMAN: Twenty-six minutes after the hour right now. Take a look at this -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the cover of "TIME" magazine this week. Critics, they don't like it. Not because of Christie. They're kind of upset about the photo itself. We'll explain why coming up.