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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Duped At Notre Dame; Dreamliner: A Lemon?; Desert Standoff

Aired January 17, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Duped at Notre Dame. One of the most inspirational sports stories of the past year proves to be a hoax. But who's to blame?

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: All the talk this morning.

And is the Dreamliner a lemon? Boeing's troubled jumbo jet grounded in America. It is grounded in Europe as well.

BERMAN: Desert standoff. Americans among those held captive right now by militants in Algeria.

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

Holy cow!

SAMBOLIN: We have a lot to talk about today, right?

BERMAN: It is crazy.

SAMBOLIN: Manti Te'o is that story. It seems like it's going to keep on giving.

Good morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's Thursday, January 17th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. And, first up, it is exactly that. The story everyone is talking about. Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te'o claiming he was the victim of a hoax.

Deadspin.com ripped a hole into Te'o's inspirational story, leading the Irish to the BCS title game while overcoming the death of a girlfriend from leukemia. But now, it turns out the girlfriend didn't die. Deadspin says that she never even existed.

Now, Notre Dame's officials are coming to Te'o's defense.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is following the story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): University of Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick fought back tears while discussing Manti Te'o at a news conference. He is convinced Te'o was the victim of an elaborate hoax.

JACK SWARBRICK, NOTRE DAME ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: The thing I'm most sad of -- sad about is -- sorry. That the single most trusting human being I've ever met will never be able to trust in the same way again in his life.

ROWLANDS: During the football season, the story of the star linebacker enduring the death of his girlfriend and grandmother on the same day transcended sports. People from around the world were touched by how in love Te'o seemed to be with Lennay Kekua, the girl he called his soul mate.

MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME LINEBACKER: I cried. I yelled. Never felt that way before. This is six hours ago I just found my grandma passed away. You take, you know, the love of my life.

ROWLANDS: On the day of his girlfriend's supposed funeral, Te'o played football. After the game, Notre Dame's football coach, Brian Kelly, actually awarded the game ball to the girl we now know doesn't exist.

BRIAN KELLY, NOTRE DAME'S FOOTBALL COACH: Award this game ball to Lennay. I'd like Manti to have this ball to take back to Hawaii.

ROWLANDS: Te'o told his coaches about the hoax December 26th. Notre Dame kept the truth under wraps despite the fact that the media was still telling the story leading up to the national championship game.

SWARBRICK: From the outset, we established a parameter that this was Manti's story to tell. We wanted to know it would be told. We wanted to know at the appropriate time when it would be told, but that it was his to tell.

ROWLANDS: Many people, including one of the reporters that broke the hoax story doesn't think Te'o's story adds up.

REPORTER: Te'o's story that he's completely innocent in this doesn't really shake through with us.

ROWLANDS: What still isn't clear is why didn't Manti Te'o ever mention that he'd never actually met Lennay when talking about how much he loved her? How did the story about how they first met at a football game start? And if it wasn't true, why didn't he correct it? And how could he be so in love with someone he never actually met face to face?

SWARBRICK: You know, I think as Manti tells the story, you'll see the same thing I saw, it does fully line up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Clearly, we still need to hear from Manti Te'o about this. But there are so many questions. Ted raised them right there. From the very beginning, there was the story about how they met. It was written that they gazed at each other after a game in California -- well, that doesn't appear to have happened.

And, you know? How could this have gone on for so long? SAMBOLIN: You know, I take issue with the university having known as early as they did and that they didn't come out and say, look, we're investigating this, or there's a separate entity investigating this, but this story seems to be a hoax here.

Yet, they -- you know, I just don't get it. There are so many questions, you're absolutely right. We've been talking about it all morning long.

Did he ever really meet this woman?

BERMAN: He didn't. He never met her. She didn't exist, and she didn't die.

SAMBOLIN: But did he say he met her or was that just information circulating based on what somebody thought they heard. So, so many layers.

BERMAN: Questions about honesty and also a lot of questions about journalism here. We will be talking about this for days to come.

SAMBOLIN: And what will the outcome be also, right?

BERMAN: Whew!

All right. We do haves some other news right now, including winter storm warnings in effect today for Mississippi to Washington, D.C.

Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado with a look at that. Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, John. Hi, Zoraida. You know, we've been talking about the heavy rain across parts of the South and now, we're talking about snow. It's coming down right now for areas, including Mississippi.

You can see on the radar right now, it's coming down this morning. We'll continue to see those winter weather advisories in place for Mississippi through the morning hours. And then that storm system will shift over to the West and we'll also it affecting areas like Alabama, especially later this afternoon and into the northern parts of Georgia.

But, right now for Atlanta, you can see, for Birmingham, we really are just looking at some heavy rainfall. Again, we'll see that rain shifting over to snow. Once we get more of that cold air working in, for Washington, D.C. right now, you are looking at rain, but you will see of that snow working in as we get to the afternoon hours.

Now, here is a look at the winter weather advisories and warnings out there, anywhere you see them in pink and purple. In addition to this, this is going to lead to driving problems. And some of these areas will look at one to two inches of snowfall for parts of Mississippi. And then notice for western parts of Virginia, some of these locations could see roughly four to six inches of snowfall in the higher elevations.

We're really watching the snow in Atlanta. Guys, I don't know if you notice, when we get snow in Atlanta, they freak out down here.

They don't go to work. They don't know how to plow it. Just the reality here.

SAMBOLIN: You'll freak out a little bit, too, you know?

DELGADO: You'll get rain. You'll deal with just the rain.

BERMAN: All right. Brace yourself down there, Jennifer. Thanks a lot.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: We do have a lot of other major news, including a hostage crisis unfolding at this hour in a remote corner of Algeria, where Islamic terrorists are holding Americans and other foreigners who are working at a natural gas complex. There could be as many as 41 hostages.

The details of the kidnapping and the number being held right now remains hazy, but there is confirmation that 13 Norwegians have been taken, along with five Japanese and one Irish national, at least three Americans, maybe more, and an unconfirmed number of British workers. One of whom was killed when the heavily armed attackers moved in.

We want to bring in Elise Labott, CNN's foreign affairs reporter in Washington right now. And, Elise, reports are saying this attack was in response to France's military action in Mali. What do you know about this?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, John, and that's what this group that took these hostages, they call themselves the "Masked Brigade", an al Qaeda affiliate, if you will, is saying that this was in response for French intervention in Mali and the Algerians basically, given their airspace. What I'm told by sources is that they could be using this as an excuse.

Of course, this French intervention and Algerians' role in it is very controversial among this group. But we're told that the level of planning that went into this attack suggests that is predates any type of French intervention, and they could just be using this to protect the fact that they've been planning for so long.

Also, John, they're also looking for a few other things other than ending this intervention. They're looking for their prisoners that are held by Algeria and others to be released to Mali, where the group is based.

BERMAN: So, at this stage of the game right now, there are so many hostages, as many as 40. What's being done to potentially free them?

LABOTT: Well, the Algerians have the lead. They say they won't negotiate with the hostages, but clearly you have the United States, the British, other countries all there contemplating rescue attempts. We don't understand -- we don't know yet what exactly they would do. But the U.S. does have a lot of assets in the region. And it's possible they could be thinking about some kind of rescue operation. Right now, Algerians are surrounding the compound.

BERMAN: All right. Elise Labott, in Washington for us this morning, following this developing story, with as many as 40 hostages being held in Algeria -- thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Eight minutes past the hour.

President Obama's call for new legislation to reduce gun violence is receiving a cool reception on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, the president unveiled a list of proposals including a ban on the sale of assault weapons and instituting background checks on all gun sales. He released his proposals one month after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first graders and six adults.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: There are many members of Congress who have already said they believe that gun control laws are an attack on their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

And a new poll shows a slight drop over the past month in support of new gun control measures. A CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll shows that 56 percent supported a ban on semiautomatic weapons. But that is down from 62 percent in December, in a poll taken right after the Sandy Hook massacre.

BERMAN: So, we said there's a lot to going on today. There's a major business story going on, on top of everything else now. Boeing with the jumbo-sized P.R. problem on its hands today, as more airlines moved to ground the much-hyped Dreamliner. We'll have the latest on that, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, kidnapped and held in a basement when she was just 10 years olds. Katie Beers tells her story 20 years later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The brakes are on the future of air travel this morning. The FAA has temporarily grounded the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to address the potential fire risk from an on-board battery. So, right now, United is the only U.S. airliner that is flying the Dreamliner.

And this move comes after battery failures forced two Japanese 787s to make emergency landings over the past two weeks. Japan's two largest airliners have also grounded their Dreamliner fleet.

CNN's Sandra Endo is following all of the developments for us. She is live in Washington. Nice to see you, Sandra. So, what exactly is this issue with the plane?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, the lithium-ion batteries used on Boeing's marquee plane, the Dreamliner, is in question here. And as you mentioned, citing a potential fire risk, the Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily grounding all U.S.-operated Dreamliners.

Now, in a statement, the FAA says before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the FAA that batteries are safe and in compliance.

United Airlines is the only U.S. airline with six Dreamliners in service and says it will immediately comply with the directive and nearly all international regulators have also followed suit.

And, Boeing, for their part, they are defending their advanced plane which debuted in 2011, saying in a statement, "We are confident the 787 is safe, and we stand behind its overall integrity. We'll be taking every step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service."

Wednesday, as you mentioned, an Al Nippon Airways flight had to make an emergency landing after an alarm indicated a possible battery problem and smoke in the forward compartment. The incident forced two Japanese airlines to ground their fleet of 787s. And last week, a battery in the Japan Airlines Dreamliner in Boston caught on fire. Well, that charred lithium battery manufactured by Japanese company GS Yuasa is now being examined by the NTSB -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And that whole lithium battery thing is brand new. So it raises a lot of questions. And I was reading it was a delay of three years because of problems as they were attempting to launch.

So, we know United only operates six of the 50 787s in the entire world. What are other countries doing now?

ENDO: Well, usually, when the FAA gives out a directive, international aviation communities also follow suit. And that's what we're certainly seeing here. We know this morning, CNN has confirmed that European, Chilean, Indian and Qatar authorities have grounded their Dreamliner fleets. So, that's nearly all worldwide they are certainly not being flown until further notice.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, until they figure out if they're safe.

Sandra Endo, live in Washington for us -- thank you.

BERMAN: Sixteen minutes after the hour right now. As we said, there was a lot going on today.

So, Christine is here with the headlines.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right. So, Americans and other foreign nationals being held hostage in Algeria this hour. The Islamist militants attacked a gas field near the country's border with Libya, targeting foreign employees working there. And Algerian officials say two people were killed, several hostages, including Americans, were seized. Thirty Algerians taken hostage have managed now to escape.

An American soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians, nine of them children, he is set to be arraigned today. A defense attorney says that Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will plead not guilty. He is being held at a base in Washington state. Bales allegedly murdered the civilians in a nighttime raid last March. He could face the death penalty if convicted -- you guys.

BERMAN: So, the world awaits Oprah Winfrey's one-on-one with Lance Armstrong tonight, it's widely reported he will admit to doping. But what else will he say? Of course, the interview hasn't aired, but the damage control is already underway. A source telling us that Armstrong is already in talks to return some of his endorsement money.

ROMANS: And, you know, a northern California man facing a $14,000 property tax bill, paid his tab in rolls of -- get this -- coin, stacks of dollar bills. You guys, Larry Casper (ph) said he tried to pay half his bill weeks ago but the county would only accept payment in full. So he scraped together the rest of the money, asking family and friends to help him out by emptying their piggy banks.

That is a unique way, shaking all the money out of couch.

OK, every year at this time, this becomes the Park City, Utah, Sundance Film Festival. This 2013 edition gets underway today. Sundance traditionally a mecca for independent films. Some 50,000 people expected to descend on the town over the next 10 days after eco parks movie watching and star-gazing.

And, you know, I guess next week, you guys are traveling to Sundance, right?

SAMBOLIN: I am headed to Sundance.

ROMANS: Awesome.

SAMBOLIN: I'll be one of those 50,000 people. I'm going to be reporting live from Park City, looking forward to it. It's my first time at Sundance.

BERMAN: Yes, you are so fabulous, aren't you? Enjoying Sundance.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, yes, I'm trying to figure out what to wear. If you have advice, let me know.

BERMAN: You'll look glamorous, no doubt. I'll just stay here.

ROMANS: Gloves and boots.

SAMBOLIN: That's what I hear. I'm hearing it's rather cold. So, layer up.

BERMAN: You'll love it. All right. It is now 18 minutes after the hour -- time to get an "Early Read" on your local news that's making national headlines.

This from the NewYorkDailyNews.com as it revisits the story of Katie Beers. Twenty years ago, as a 10-year-old girl from a broken home on Long Island, she was kidnapped and held for two weeks in a small dungeon-like room. A family acquaintance was convicted of kidnapping and serving time in prison until this day.

Beers is now a married mother of two who's just written a book about her ordeal titled "Buried Memories: The Katie Beers Story". Soledad is going to talk to Katie Beers live this morning in the 8:00 hour of "STARTING POINT."

SAMBOLIN: And in "The Washington Times", petitioning the U.S. government online just got a little bit harder. The White House is raising the minimum number of online signatures needed in order to get an official response from 25,000 to 100,000. It's getting a lot harder. And signatures have to be compiled within 30 days of the petition filing.

The White House director of digital strategy says the change was made to make sure they continue to give the most popular ideas the time that they deserve. One petition late last year called on the White House to secure funding to begin construction of the Death Star. By its closing date the petition have received 34,435 signatures.

BERMAN: To me, the Death Star always seemed impractical because there were too many glaring weaknesses. They built two, two were destroyed. Never seemed like a good investment for the U.S. government to me.

SAMBOLIN: Well, thank you so much, Berman, for weighing in on that.

BERMAN: No problem.

SAMBOLIN: Very serious story. For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Just search for EarlyStartCNN.

BERMAN: It's a good idea to do that.

All right. To understand the scope of Boeing's Dreamliner fiasco, you have to know how much money is online for the company. I'll give you a hint. It's a lot.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: We're going to break it down, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures trading mixed this morning. Markets closed mixed yesterday, too, a whole lot of mix. The Dow was dragged down by Boeing, which is down more than 3 percent in pre-market trading this morning.

ROMANS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Christine has all of the latest developments in Boeing's Dreamliner nightmare. You've been following this story closely.

ROMANS: Yes, for years actually, because this was the big new deal for Boeing. You know, Boeing is going to lead the world on this new high-tech plane, lighter materials, composite materials, high-tech systems in engineering. It's a model in outsourcing.

The company paired with companies around the world, including the Japanese company that makes the lithium ion battery that is now at the center of all of this, or one of the focus of this investigation. This was going to change the way planes were made, and a really be profitable center for Boeing.

Instead it's a lot of concerns right now. The FAA is grounding all Dreamliners. Now, Continental United is the only one flying them right now in the United States. Around the world we're seeing other countries follow suit.

This is what the FAA says. "Before further flight, operators of Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the FAA that the batteries are safe and in compliance."

The batteries seem to be the focus, this lithium ion batteries, the heat that they're putting out causing alarms to go off or smoke in the cockpit. That's a problem.

I wanted to show you the price tag here. A 787 model is $206 million airline, $206 million. Imagine if you're an airline and you bought some of these, or you're awaiting delivery of these and you're seeing these problems and you just forked out $206 million for the aircraft.

The 787 model, $243 million, it's a larger plane, that 9 model. But they seat 200 to 300 people, and these are the top of the airline experience. A lot of folks, aviation buffs, business travelers, are really looking forward to getting these things in widespread circulation, now they are grounded today.

We know Qatar just grounded its five. Ethiopian Airlines is just telling us that their four planes are still flying at this point.

So there will be an investigation here. We have a statement from the Japanese maker of the lithium battery. They are working with the American authorities to try to figure out what's going on there. That battery, by the way, is something that has been used for 20 years. You know, it's not necessarily new technology, but in a commercial aircraft, this is the first time we've seen it.

BERMAN: And to replace it, you'd have to go bigger, heavier, it would cut down on the range of these airplanes. There's a whole range of problems.

ROMANS: Exactly right. So, we're closely watching it. We got it down about 3 percent, Boeing shares. All else is being equal, Boeing is down like that today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be down because of Boeing's problems.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 25 minutes past the hour.

Want to make more money and work less?

BERMAN: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Here's an idea, outsource yourself, Berman. The true story of how one guy did it, coming up.

And if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time on your desktop or your mobile phone, just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)