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Stars Aligning On Immigration Reform?; Four Arrests in Brazil Nightclub Fire; At Least 38 Dead in Egyptian Protests; On the Trail of a Gun; Whopper of a Funeral

Aired January 29, 2013 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Momentum building for immigration reform. President Obama outlines his plan just hours from now.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: New developments in the Brazil nightclub tragedy. Police make arrests in connection with the inferno that left hundreds dead.

ROMANS: Casey Anthony plotting a return to the courtroom, but this time, she hopes not as a defendant.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

CHO: Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. It's Tuesday morning. Thirty minutes past the hour.

The Hispanic community eagerly awaiting President Obama's speech in Las Vegas today, expecting him to call for sweeping changes on immigration. Democratic sources tell CNN that Dems in the Congressional Hispanic caucus told him not to announce his own legislation. Bipartisan talks on the issue have been that sensitive.

"The Washington Post" says the president does have a plan and that it's more liberal than the bipartisan effort in the Senate, including a faster path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Yesterday, a team of eight senators, four from each party, unveiled their first step toward immigration overhaul.

Conservatives aren't happy with it, rejecting it as a form of amnesty. As for why lawmakers are tackling the issue now --


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Elections. Elections. The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens. And we realize that there are many issues in which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a pre-eminent issue.


CHO: House lawmakers are said to be working on a bipartisan plan of their own, but they are said to not be as far along as they are in the Senate.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, Brazilian authorities have now made four arrests in connection with Sunday's mass of nightclub fire that killed more than 230 people. Two of the men arrested on Monday are owners of the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria. That's in Southern Brazil. The other two suspects are members of the band that was playing when the club caught fire.

They had been using pyrotechnics in their show just moments before a fire engulfed the club. CNN's Alejandra Oraa is standing by now in Santa Maria, Brazil, where funerals are now underway for the victims of Sunday's fire. Alejandra, what's the latest on the arrest and the investigation?

ALEJANDRA ORAA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Christine. It's right now 8:34 local time in Santa Maria, Rio Grande, in Brazil. And I would like to share with you a couple of the front page news of the local newspapers. It says that simple failures and errors caused the horrific tragedy. Local newspapers are saying there is a lack of transparency from the authorities.

They do not want to show the fire permit of the nightclub. They're also talking about how it only had one exit, the Kiss nightclub, and this is one of the reasons why this horrific tragedy occurred. Authorities and firefighters are saying, however, that it's not necessary, according to Brazilian law, to have more than one exit, but, you should always have at least one fire or emergency exit in the opposition direction of any main entrance of any establishment here in Brazil.

(INAUDIBLE) are now requesting at least two exits in any establishment. And I can tell you by being in the city of Santa Maria, that you feel a very horrific mood. You feel a very gloomy mood, and although, people are trying to get back to the normal -- around the area, you can definitely feel that it will take some time to try to get back together to how Santa Maria used to be this tragedy.

ROMANS: Yes, no question. All of those young people and still such a shock there. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone. Alejandra Oraa, thank you so much.

CHO: The prognosis is not good for snowmobiler Caleb Moore following last Thursday's horrific crash at the winter X Games in Aspen.

A family spokesman says the 25-year-old Moore is now in critical condition at a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. Moore underwent heart surgery on Friday and is experiencing a, quote, "secondary complication involving his brain." Moore's grandfather tells the "Denver Post," quote, "it's almost certain he is not going to make it."

ROMANS: President Obama vowing to sign a $50 billion hurricanes Sandy relief bill as soon as hits his desk. The Senate approved it yesterday four weeks after a delay that triggered bipartisan fury from lawmakers along the northeast. The package includes grants for homeowners and businesses along with funding for public improvement projects on the electrical grid, hospitals, transit systems. Senators denied an effort to require budget cuts elsewhere to offset the cost.

CHO: In just a couple of hours, John Kerry is expected to be confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as the next secretary of state, and he is expected to sail through the full Senate after that. Kerry, of course, is replacing Hillary Clinton at state.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is expected to name a replacement tomorrow to fill out Kerry's current term in the Senate.

ROMANS: All right. The skies could erupt across the south this morning. The threat of some powerful thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.

Jennifer Delgado is tracking the extreme weather threat for us. It's only Tuesday and you've already had a very busy week, my dear.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Christine. And it's only going to get busier. Right now, we are watching for the potential for severe weather to pop up later into the day. Now, anywhere in gold, this is the area that we're under risk for tornadoes to pop up, but the area in the orange shading, that is our moderate route.

And this is the area that we're going to see the potential for some of those stronger storms from Eastern Texas into the southern part of Missouri into the Boot Hill. As I said to you, the real problem is going to come in the overnight hours. Now, right now, we are tracking storms out there. You can see a lot of lighting on moving through areas like eastern parts of Iowa, Iowa City.

You can see just to the north of Green Bay as well as moving through parts of Michigan like Grand Rapids as well as into Ann Arbor. Now, all of this is just kind of the predecessor of what's going to come later into the day. We're watching a system down in the South Plains. That is going to be our fuel for the severe weather as we get later into the afternoon as well as into the evening.

And the real problem is going to be when they move through the evening in the overnight hours. Look at this. This is going to be moving through the lower Mississippi Valley. Some of these storms, of course, are going to be moving very quickly, but with the storms coming in the overnight hours, with people sleeping, that is where we're going to see the greatest threat for the potential for really dangerous condition setting up across the south.

Of course, we'll continue to follow that, but you need to have a NOAA radio, and of course, we'll continue to track these storms for you.

CHO: Yes, particularly, if it's going to come overnight. All right. Jennifer, thank you very much.

DELGADO: You're welcome. CHO: Listen to this one. Casey Anthony, paralegal? Sounds like a new TV series, but Anthony's attorney says she has become so experienced with the legal system, including that acquittal on murder charges in her daughter's death. Casey Anthony is, indeed, considering, yes, I know, a career in the courtroom.

Still a long way off, though. The 26-year-old Anthony remains in hiding. Her attorney says, quote, "You don't go from being the most hated woman in the world to living a normal life." I know.

ROMANS: I'm speechless.

OK. Could Tiger Woods rule golf again in 2013? People debating that again this morning after he won the Farmers Insurance Open in dominating fashion yesterday. It was Tiger's 75th PGA tour career win, seven behind the record held by Sam Snead, and it was his eighth win at Torrey Pines in San Diego, including the 2008 U.S. open.

CHO: Yes. I watched part of that over the weekend shockingly right before "60 Minutes."


CHO: Remember the viral video that claimed to show an eagle swooping down to grab a baby? Well, the video hoax was created by three students at an animation and designs school in Montreal. The school says the money generated by the video will be used to pay for scholarships. The eagle video has almost 42 million hits on YouTube. Forty-two million.

No word yet from the school on what all those hits add up to in terms of dollars and cents, but we will work on finding that out. New scholarship program for 3D animation students will launch this spring. All right --

ROMANS: Forty-two million. Wow! All right. These are anxious hours in Egypt where violent protests threaten a new government. We're going to go live to Cairo coming up.

CHO: Plus, new hope for a soldier who lost four limbs fighting for his country. We'll bring you an update next.


CHO: Forty-two minutes after the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. A lot to cover for you this morning. Angry anti-government protests raged on through the night in Egypt despite President Mohamed Morsi's 30-day ordered curfew. Demonstrators took to the streets in cities like Alexandria where they clashed with police and disrupted rail service.

At least 38 people, including civilians and soldiers have been killed in Egypt over just the past two days. CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us live from Cairo. Ben, good morning to you. Just how widespread are these protests? BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, we had large protests in Cairo and the three cities along the Suez Canal, Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia, and in addition to Alexandria. Now, here in Cairo, it's actually quiet. It does appear that the protestors are at least taking a few hours off.

And in those cities along the Suez Canal where that 30-day 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew was imposed, we are getting reports that, in fact, in response to the curfew, thousands of people have gone out into the streets overnight, and in fact, in Port Said, there was a very large football game staged there where thousands of people attended.

So, there's a good deal of continuing resistance to the orders of the government of President Mohamed Morsi. People not happy with his handling of the situation at all. He's been harshly criticized by many people, even those close to him, over his handling of this crisis.

CHO: And, Ben, I think obviously -- and you know this all too well -- these pictures are so familiar. Two years ago, the Arab spring ousted Mubarak and brought Morsi into power. So, remind our viewers what sparked this latest round of protests.

WEDEMAN: A variety of things. In December, a constitution was pushed through by the government and was voted by more than 60 percent of the population and a referendum, but many people feel that constitution was not fair. It was sort of against the secular minority here in the country. It was really not favoring the Christian minority, for instance.

Therefore, that's one of the sources of unhappiness. There are many people, even within the army and police who feel that the government, the state apparatus has been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood of which, of course, Mohamed Morsi comes from. And, in addition to that, there was this ruling in the court sentencing 21 people to death in Port Said over the massacre at a football match that took place a year ago.

So, there are a lot of demonstrations along the Suez Canal and that area of protesting that verdict as well. So, it's little individual issues in addition to a general unhappiness with the way Egypt has been run since the election of Mohamed Morsi last summer.

CHO: Those little individual issues add up to a lot of big protests. CNN's Ben Wedeman live for us in Cairo, Egypt. Ben, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Four shootings in four years all connected by a single weapon. Coming up, an eye-opening look at the life of one gun and its travels.

CHO: Also next, a key sign already? Are we already talking about this? That the Hillary 2016 movement is in full swing.


CHO: We'll have details next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Forty-nine minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date on the top stories.

High hopes from the Hispanic community for President Obama's speech on immigration reform. We expect him to take up the issue in a speech at a Las Vegas high school today. Eight senators, four from each party, the Gang of Eight, unveiled their own first step toward an immigrant yesterday, and House lawmakers are said to be working on a bipartisan plan of their own.

If, if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president in 2016, guess what? She'll have ready-made fundraising. The Super PAC ready for Hillary, plans to launch its Web site in the next couple of weeks. The group, get this, already has 50,000 followers on Twitter, and it says "we haven't really done anything yet."

And before Hillary steps down officially as secretary of state, our Wolf Blitzer will conduct her exit interview. That's coming up today at 4:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

A wounded warrior who lost his legs and arms in 2009 while fighting in Iraq is now recovering from a double arm transplant. Doctors performed the surgery on Brendan Morocco (ph) last month at John's Hopkins in Baltimore.

He will talk to reporters later today at a press conference, but Morocco has made a few comments about it already on Twitter. He says his new arms "already move a little and that I feel like I finally get to start over."

ROMANS: A 40-caliber Glock gun ordered for a Palm Beach sheriffs deputy winds up in the hands of criminals again and again and again. The gun similar to this one, we're going to show you, move from place to place, from criminal to criminal, and crime reporter Ed Komenda set out to find out how and why.

He traced the history of this Glock over four years from when it was made. The gun traveled more than 5,000 miles and was involved in four shootings.

Ed is a reporter for the "South Florida Sun Sentinel," and he joins us now to talk about the story of a gun. Why, Ed, did you want to trace this gun?

ED KOMENDA, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL REPORTER: It was kind of a story of opportunity. Every day, I read police reports, and I'm looking for interesting charges. One morning, I got to the office, and I found a charge against a 25-year-old Marcus Jerry (ph). Police allege that he had stolen a police firearm.

The gift in that police report was the serial number and some ballistics information that actually say that this gun was fired in three separate shootings before that gun finally took the life of Marcus Jerry's (ph) girlfriend. ROMANS: So, MPX 753, that's the serial number.

KOMENDA: That right.

ROMANS: You trace that over the course of months -- course of different kinds of crimes and a suicide and the miles that it traveled.

KOMENDA: That right.

ROMANS: What were you hoping to show and what were you surprised that you showed?

KOMENDA: You know what, I don't know if I was very much surprised as much -- I just saw a story. It was much more dramatic than a typical gun story is. I write a lot about people who steal different things, and sometimes, they steal guns. I guess, what surprised me the most in this story was the lack of cooperation with victims.

A lot of them were fearing retaliation, things like this, and nobody has really been convicted in any case tied to this gun.

ROMANS: And that's what law enforcement, Ray Kelly, here in New York just last week telling us that these sort of guns are the scourge of his police force. It's not the kind of guns that, you know, the White House is considering putting restrictions on. It's these illegal handguns that are the real problem in urban areas.

Let's walk through the story of this gun. September 19, 2011, Boynton Beach, Florida, drive by shooting, no one was hit there. November 9, 2011, Boynton Beach, Florida, a woman hit in the leg. A bullet from the MPX 753 hits a woman in the leg. Look at August 4, 2012, a man hit in the back.

Then September 13, 2012, that's the suicide. A 22-year-old woman shoots herself in the head with this gun. What has the response been? Do you think that just tracing this gun, there've been people who've said that you're trying to somehow be political?

KOMENDA: Well, you know, the response of this story has been very mixed. One person sent me a message. He said that it was one of the best stories he's red. It's interesting to see, you know, the journey of a gun. Another guy says I have no business in the business. They didn't really like the story.

They claim that it's politically driven, but as I said before, when I wrote the story, I wasn't looking at either side. I just saw a story, and I wanted to pursue that story, and that's what I did.

ROMANS: All right. Ed Komenda, staff writer at the story of a gun, South Florida Sun Sentinel. Nice to see you.

KOMENDA: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Alina.

CHO: Thanks, Christine.

A spin through the drive through before a 21-gun salute. A World War II vet's tasty final wish is next.


ROMANS: And welcome back and about 57 minutes after the hour. I'm Christine Romans along with my friend, Alina Cho. And we're taking a look at the top CNN Trends on the web this morning.

CHO: That's right. And it was a whopper of a funeral or make that a Whopper Junior. An 88-year-old World War II veteran being laid to rest but not before the hearse and the rest of the funeral procession took one last spin through the Burger King drive through on the way to the cemetery.

David Kahn (ph) of West York, Pennsylvania just loved fast food, especially Whopper Juniors. So, after he died of a heart attack, the family arranged for the man's favorite Burger King to prepare 40 of them for the procession, even one for the dearly departed. One of Kahn's (ph) daughters told a local paper his idea of eating healthy was adding lettuce to the burger.

ROMANS: Oh, my.

CHO: It had to be an exciting day for President Obama at the White House yesterday. The huge NBA fan welcomed the world champion Miami Heat and Lebron James called the commander in chief "Coach". The heat star, all 6'8" of him, was as giddy as a school boy to be there. Watch.


LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT PLAYER: I mean, we kids from Chicago, Dallas, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio, and --


JAMES: -- South Dakota.


JAMES: Miami, I mean we -- we're in the White House right now. This is like, hey, Mom, I made it.




ROMANS: Mom, I made it. Next hour, we're going to talk to the guy who hit this amazing half-court shot --

CHO: Unbelievable.

ROMANS: -- and then got tackled by Lebron.


CHO: Check it out.

ROMANS: All 6'8" of him.

CHO: We're going to ask him whether he's recovered from that. Can you imagine? He practiced for two days. He only made it once and then -- when it counted, he made it. He's $75,000 richer. So, we'll ask him what he's going to do with that money.

ROMANS: Save it.


CHO: Yes. I knew you would say that.

ROMANS: Late night laughs now. Stephen Colbert looking for a new place to get a cheap thrill.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The president is dropping the ball on homeland security.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The TSA is removing the body scanners that produce a naked image of passengers' bodies. Remember those?


COLBERT: How can I legally show the TSA my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) now?


COLBERT: I used to write them little messages.


COLBERT: In lead-based paint like "good morning" --


COLBERT: -- or "all evidence to the contrary, I do not wish to have a kosher meal," --


COLBERT: Or "on a particular chilly day, hi."



CHO: He's crazy, that Stephen Colbert. EARLY START continues right now.