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Duped at Notre Dame; Americans Held Hostage in Algeria; Preparing for Gun Control Battle; Armstrong Interview with Oprah Airs Tonight

Aired January 17, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Americans held hostage. A tense standoff with militants underway right now in the Sahara Desert.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Tight squeeze. Rescuers saved a woman who somehow become wedged between two walls.

BERMAN: And it's either a brilliant move, bad business, both. How an American office worker managed to outsource his own job to China.

SAMBOLIN: This is a serious story that you're probably going to laugh at.

BERMAN: It's intriguing.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is intriguing.

BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us this morning. It is Thursday morning. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

And we're following a developing story this morning. Americans and other foreign nationals are being held hostage in Algeria. We are now being told 30 Algerians actually escaped after Islamist militants attacked a gas field. Two people were killed. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was quick to call it a terrorist attack as well.

And for more, let's go to CNNs Dan Rivers in London. Dan, what are the latest reports there on the hostage situation?

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, effectively, according to the minister of information in Algeria, this is a standoff. The Algerian security forces have surrounded this gas plant in the far east of Algeria. The Islamists are holed up inside, holding a number of hostages, of western hostages. Now, we don't know the exact numbers. There's been a press conference this morning from the Norwegian stat oil company.

It's saying that it had 17 employees there, five escaped. And therefore, 12 remain unaccounted for. Not clear if all of them are being held hostage or if some of them, you know, escaped into the desert or what says (ph). It's pretty a confused situation. The State Department, though, has confirmed that there are Americans among those being held.

We understand as well possibly British, Japanese, French as well as those Norwegians as well. So, a number of countries being embroiled in this hostage crisis which looks like it may be precipitated by Algeria's decision to allow French planes to fly over the country as part of its ongoing military campaign in Mali to the south.

SAMBOLIN: And Dan, I know you're in the middle of this story and you cannot give us really concrete numbers on the hostages, but earlier, when we were talking to Elise Labott, she told us that it maybe was three or four Americans. Is there any more concrete information about that number of the number of Americans that are being held hostage?

RIVERS: I've seen it widely reported as being possibly three Americans, but as I said, the State Department is, you know, for understandable reasons, perhaps, saying they don't want to get into numbers. You know, this is a live situation, which is incredibly delicate, and obviously, they feel it's unhelpful to start talking about the numbers or names of those who are being held.

But yes, I've seen the number of possibly three being reported in other media outlets. We, at CNN, have no other confirmation on that at present.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We appreciate that. Dan Rivers live in London for us, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. There is another big story this morning. a story that kept a lot of us up all night wondering what the heck is going on. It's the Manti Te'o story, of course. It was supposed to be the feel good story of the college football season. Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Te'o drawing strength from the supposed death of his grandmother.

She actually died, and the supposed death of his girlfriend, they supposedly happened within hours of each other when he drew on that strength to excel and lead his team to the BCS title game. But here's the rub, the girlfriend didn't die. She didn't even exist. Now, Manti Te'o claims he was duped. But the editor of DeadSpin which broke the story has some doubts.


TIMOTHY BURKE, EDITOR, DEADSPIN.COM: Te'o's story that he is completely innocent in this doesn't really shake through with us for a few reasons. First, we have a lot of stories about how they met. That, you know, she was a student at Stanford, and they met after the 2009 football game. We know that didn't happen.


BERMAN: Of course, there are questions about where the story came from in the first place. SAMBOLIN: I want to know.

BERMAN: Was he responsible? Was he not? Like I said, there are a ton of questions here, and we want to wait to hear from Manti Te'o, himself, here. Notre Dame officials maintain that that Manti Te'o never met this supposed girlfriend, and they say Te'o was the victim of a cruel hoax.

Other news now, it is billed as a night of remembrance in Aurora, Colorado, six months after a midnight movie massacre that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded. The Aurora multiplex is reopening its doors. Local and state officials say tonight's ceremony at the theater is a way of moving forward, but some victims and their families don't see it that way. They decided to boycott the event.

SAMBOLIN: Another member of Team Obama about to get a promotion. Sources say the president will name Deputy National Security Adviser, Denis McDonough, as his new chief of staff. He would replace Jack Lew who was nominated to be the next Treasury Secretary. McDonough's been a trusted Obama aide and a key voice on foreign policy issues.

BERMAN: The former South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, made it official Wednesday that he will run for that state's open Congressional seat. This comes two days after his ex-wife, Jenny, announced she would not. The former Governor Sanford says a state senator and old college friend convinced him he'd be the perfect guy for that job.


FMR. GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He called me and said Mark, you know, you got to do this. He said you were talking about debt, deficit, government spending 15,20 years ago when nobody was all that much focused on it. They are now. And here's a chance for you to take what you learned on the way up, what you learned on the way down, what you learned in Congress before, what you learned in the governorship, and apply it to what is really the debate of our time.


BERMAN: You will remember his governorship, which was riddled with that story where he admitted an affair with a woman from Argentina back in 2009.

SAMBOLIN: And take look at this, unless, you're a little claustrophobic and don't do that. This Oregon woman spent nearly four hours trapped in an eight-inch space between an apartment building and a 20-foot wall. This happened early Wednesday morning in downtown Portland. Apparently, she fell from a second floor smoking area and getting her out was not easy.

Firefighters had to cut through a section of wall and used air bags to actually widen the space. Lieutenant Rich Chatman is the firefighter who pulled that woman out.

BERMAN: That's the most comfortable thing about -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. RICH CHATMAN, PORTLAND FIRE AND RESCUE: We were assuring her that we were doing everything we could to get her out. We get out as soon as possible. We weren't going home without her. That was it. We used basically some soapy water to kind of lube up the sides of the walls, and then between us and her, she was getting out.


SAMBOLIN: We were not going home without her. And the look on her face when they finally pulled her out. Look at her. That says it all.

BERMAN: And they used soapy water. It's like MacGyver is out there figuring out.

SAMBOLIN: Airbags to expand it. Unbelievable.


BERMAN: So uncomfortable.

Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now. And amazing entrepreneur or daring double crosser? A Verizon case study spins an amazing, amazing yarn. It says an employee named Bob at an unnamed critical infrastructure company outsourced his own job to China.

SAMBOLIN: Can you believe this?


BERMAN: The company said it discovered its computer systems were being accessed from China it initially thought hackers were involved. Not so. It turns out that Bob the programmer hired a firm in Shangyang (ph) to do his work, coming in overnight on a schedule that mimic his 9:00 to 5:00 gig.

He paid them about one-fifth of his six-figure salary. And when the investigation was over, you might have guessed as Bob was terminated.

BERMAN: That is just an incredible story. I thought that was a hoax. It turns out to be true story. Incredible. Ingenious also.




SAMBOLIN: So, the president is out with his gun control proposals, but what do the people think and what do their representatives in Congress think? We're going to go live to Washington coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, just over a decade and a look at the sexiest women of the millennium. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: There she is, Washington, D.C. We will be in Washington, D.C. Monday morning for the inauguration of -- the re-inauguration, you might say, of President Obama. He will start his second term, actually, officially on Sunday. He'll do it again ceremonially on Monday as well.

President Obama vows to use his power as the powers of his office to reduce gun violence in America. Yesterday, in a front of a crowd that included parents of some of the children murdered in the Connecticut school massacre, he laid out specific proposals. He called for expanded background checks for those buying guns, and he called on Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban.

But many members of Congress are cruel to many of these proposals. And CNN has new polling on how Americans feel about stricter gun control measures.

CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, joins us now from Washington. Great to see you again, Paul.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Good morning, John. You know, after Sandy Hook Elementary School, after the massacre, there was a surge in support for gun control, and majority of American still support a lot of the things the president announced yesterday, but we're starting to see a little bit of a dip in that. Take a look at some of these numbers, as you mentioned, new from CNN/"Time"/ORC, a national poll.

Among the things, the president suggests that registering your guns with the local police, look at that, 78 percent support last month, now down to 69 percent. What about a ban on those extended ammunition clips? Still a majority support, 58 percent, but down a couple points from December, and a ban on semi-automatic weapons, again, a majority support but down from December.

And John, no surprise here, but a partisan divide on these questions. Go to the next number and you can see right here, definitely a difference of opinion between Democrats and Republicans with Democrats vastly supporting a lot of these measures. You can see the Republicans divided on gun registration and only a minority really supporting the ban on ammo clips and on banning semi-automatic weapons -- John.

BERMAN: So, Paul, given the makeup of Congress, there is a lot of skepticism that the president will be able to get all of his proposals through, but what about the chance he can get some of them through?

STEINHAUSER: That is a big question, whether he goes for everything or if he only goes a few things. And John, it all starts in the Senate about two weeks from now, the first hearing as you think with the Democrats controlling the Senate, he would have an easy time?

Not so, because remember, there's a bunch of senators, Democratic senators, from more moderate or conservative states and some of those are up for election 2014. John, if it all gets through the Senate, an even higher hurdle in the House which is controlled by the Republicans, as you know.

BERMAN: You know, and Harry Reid has only expressed lukewarm enthusiasm for pitching this to the Senate, but something will happen there.

Paul Steinhauser, thanks very much. Great to see you this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-three minutes past the hour. So, you screwed up at work and your boss decides to cut your salary in half. It is happening to one man. But you might not feel so bad for him when you find out who he is. That's coming up.

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


BERMAN: Forty-six minutes after the hour right. A lot going on this morning. Christine Romans here with the top stories.


Americans and other foreign nationals being held hostage in Algeria. Islamic militants attacked a gas field near the country's border with Libya, targeting foreign employees who worked there. And Algerian officials now say two people were killed. Several hostages including Americans were seized, and now we know 30 Algerians taken hostage have managed to escape.

A North Carolina principal was arrested for having sex with one of his female students. Authorities questioned John Ward (ph) after receiving an anonymous tip. He later admitted he was having an affair with a 16-year-old that it took place off campus for six to eight months.

JPMorgan Chase cut in half CEO, Jamie Dimon's, pay for 2012 this week, all this over the company's $6.2 billion loss in that so-called London trading whale debacle, and that brings his grand total down to a mere $11.5 million. How will he ever managed?


ROMANS: And you know, a lot of people remember that London Whale was a $ billion trading loss. Jamie Dimon as somebody who always said he didn't want more regulation of banks, and then, right under his own nose, there was a big trading loss from the London office. So, that's why that was so newsworthy (ph).

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Lance Armstrong setting the record straight.

BERMAN: Maybe.

SAMBOLIN: Finally tonight, part one of his two and a half hour interview with Oprah Winfrey. It will finally air. Other than the big bombshell, the admission that he doped, what else will he say? How will he admit to doping? No question millions of us will be watching, and his legacy and his net worth are expected to take major hits as well.

In a statement, Livestrong, that is a cancer charity that Armstrong founded, urging him to come completely clean. This is what they're saying. "We expect Lance to be completely truthful and forthcoming in his interview and with all of us in the cancer community. We expect we will have more to say at that time."

Armstrong stepped down as chairman from Livestrong last October. George Howell is following all of the developments. He is in Austin, Texas. So, damage control is already beginning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, fair to say, yes. This is not the best time for Lance Armstrong's image. Just a month ago, here in the state of Texas, he was given the badge of dishonor, so to speak, named the bum steer of the year. It's a badge of dishonor that is put out by Texas monthly magazine.

And you know, when you talk to people here on the streets, you do get the sense that he does have a very divided public image. Some people see him as a hero for all that he's done, you know, for cancer research, but there are others who see him as sort of a villain. So, we took some time to look into it.

You know, what would it take for Lance Armstrong to fix his image problem, you know, after what he is reported to say later today. And here's what one PR specialist who's handled cases like this has to say about advice for Lance moving forward. Take a listen.


JEFF HAHN, HAHN, TEXAS PR: I think one of the things that I would sincerely hope that he appreciates at this moment is that it's up to him to own this situation, not try to cast blame or try to dilute what is, in fact, the situation that's upon him right now. Accept it. Once you accept it, you're able to move forward.


HOWELL: You know, it's interesting. You know, it's kind of coming full circle, covering this 12 years ago, seeing Lance Armstrong's rise, and now, fall. You know -- and also growing up here, I know how important he's been to this city, you know? So, it will be interesting to see what he has to say, how he says it as, again, he's reported to say that he will -- that he did, in fact, take part in doping, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. You know, I put this question out on Facebook, you know, when we first heard that Oprah was interviewing him, and somebody said find me a clean cyclist and I might care. So, there are a lot of differing opinions on this. Lance's net worth, about $125 million last year. How will that be affected?

HOWELL: Well, he will definitely take hits if, you know, what is expected to happen will happen later today there. Several sponsors that have obviously cut ties with him. He could face several lawsuits from them, including the U.S. Postal Service. You know, there are reports that they've been in talks about how much money he would pay back of the money that they sponsored him.

So, you know, he will definitely take a financial hit from this. So, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh! Everybody is going to be watching. George Howell, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

And would you say cheating is now commonplace, whether it's in sports, on Wall Street, in schools and beyond? Today at three o'clock eastern, Brook Baldwin examines why we cheat, the psychology and the science behind it. Don't miss the CNN "Newsroom" special report this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN: I think it is such an interesting topic.

SAMBOLIN: It is. We talked about it a lot about, you know, I say that, you know, this is really a problem within the culture of sports, and they need to change it in order for the players not to feel like this is something they have to do in order to be competitive.

BERMAN: I agree with that, but I also think you cannot exonerate or allow individuals to get away with it.

SAMBOLIN: Consequences. There have to be consequences.

BERMAN: So, if you're traveling today, playing by the rules or cheating, check your flight because there's a huge swath of rain and snow stretching from Mississippi all the way to Eastern Seaboard. Meteorologist, Jennifer Delgado, who always plays by the rules is tracking --

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. No cheating in weather. No cheating in weather at all. You're right. And, we're looking at rain in most areas, but look what's happening. We do have some snow right now through parts of Mississippi, and it's coming down in some of these locations. Really for the south, we're talking some locations could pick up about two to four inches of snowfall.

Of course, it's going to start in Mississippi, and then spread over towards the east a bit more as we go into late morning as well as into the afternoon. Right now, just rain effecting areas like Birmingham as well into Huntsville and Atlanta. So, expect some delays there. For Atlanta, of course, with the rain around and then for Washington, D.C., Interstate 95, really just looking at some rain.

But, even for Washington, D.C., we could still see one to three inches of snowfall. This is going to help you visualize the snow amounts. They're really going to be just to the north of Interstate 40. And you can also see in southwestern parts of Virginia, of course in the mountains, the southern parts of the Appalachians, we're going to see the highest amounts.

We're talking some of these locations up to eight inches of snowfall. To help you time (ph) is a bit more. We do have a winter storm warning in place for parts of Mississippi until noon. You can see for Northern Georgia until late this evening, and then, into the morning hours as we get across parts of the mid-Atlantic.

For your delays today, for Atlanta, we are going to look at those low clouds around. We're expecting an hour or more for areas like D.C. as well as into charlotte. We'll continue to follow that. We'll send it back over to you guys. But really in New York, really just going to see a lot of clouds around for the afternoon.

BERMAN: All right. Jennifer Delgado, thanks very much. If you're stuck in an airport, we're glad to spend this time with you.

SAMBOLIN: That's right. We got plenty for you. We have a packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including the reaction to a really bizarre story. Heisman hopeful Manti Te'o and his lost love that never really existed. Was he the victim of a cruel hoax? Is there a piece of the puzzle that's missing here? We are live in South Bend.

And, we're going to need a bigger bowl. I love that joke. A fisherman reels in a giant gold fish. Did you know they could get this big?

SAMBOLIN: Oh! Check that out! What did they feed that gold fish?

All right. But first, a college student gets the attention of bankers from Wall Street to London with the very average resume. The buzz word free cover letter that's getting all the buzz on the web this morning. That's next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with John Berman, and we are taking a look at the CNN Trends on the web this morning.

BERMAN: And here she is, Miss Millennium. Beyonce showing some skin on the cover of GQ, the magazine --

SAMBOLIN: She looks amazing!

BERMAN: Just bear with me here.


BERMAN: The magazine is declaring her Miss Millennium. Now, here's the thing. If you're keeping score at home, there are still 987 years left in this millennium. So, you know, I'm not saying that their judgment is off. I'm just saying, you know, wait a little bit. The list also includes Christina Hendricks. You'll recognize here from "Mad Men," and of course, S.I. cover girl, Katie Upton.

SAMBOLIN: I bet if you ask the guys in the studio what you just read, they wouldn't know, because they were watching the pictures.


BERMAN: Right. Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: That's all they cared about.

So, late night laughs now, and Conan talking about "Zero Dark Birdie." Just listen.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Crazy story. Who here plays "Angry Birds?"


O'BRIEN: Well, put it away, it's rude.


O'BRIEN: No. It's reported that if you're playing "Angry Birds," the company is tracking your location. That just came out. Yes. This may seem silly to you, but it's actually how we got Bin Laden.


O'BRIEN: Oh, no!


O'BRIEN: Just let me get the golden egg!


O'BRIEN: His last words were, "Die piggie!"


O'BRIEN: You die, pig. No!


O'BRIEN: Why am I doing Adam Sandler now?





SAMBOLIN: EARLY START continues right now.