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Storm Target: East Coast; Gun Debate in Newtown; Ethical Questions Surround NFL Injuries; Manti Te'o Hoaxer's Startling Confession; Pregaming for the Super Bowl

Aired January 31, 2013 - 05:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: One thousand miles of power. The huge storm system that ripped parts of the south now heads for the northeast.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Blame it on love. The man behind the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend hoax makes a startling TV confession.

SAMBOLIN: The story that keeps on giving.

Sink or swim. Beyonce said to talk about her Super Bowl halftime show today. Someone is bound to ask will it be live. This could be all the talk.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is January 31st. Thirty-one minutes past the hour right now, and we're talking about the weather right now because that massive 1,000-mile long line of violent and deadly storms is on the move, now targeting the East Coast. I got to say this morning, the wind coming in today was nutty and fierce.

Tornadoes, strong winds, flooding all threatening the south all the way up to New England. The front has already led to a staggering 400 reports of severe wind and 20 tornadoes over two days, stretching from Texas to Pennsylvania. The hardest hit area is probably in Adairsville, Georgia, about 60 miles north of Atlanta. One person was killed there.

The storm heavily damaged a motel and manufacturing plant. It was so violent that workers at the plant were forced to take cover in a kitchen and a bathroom. Miguel Marquez is surveying the damage and cleanup. Miguel, you know, we see all kinds of debris there behind you. Have they made progress in cleaning up?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have. There were a lot of cars as well flipped. You know, the I-75 is not too far from where we are all along here. This is Adairsville highway. There were cars everywhere along this area. And they were able to get all those cars off the road and get traffic up and going. That was the first thing that happened yesterday. But this place was just devastated. The person who died, died not too far from here when a tree fell on their mobile home. Same situation in Tennessee where somebody was inside a shed and the tree fell over and smashed into them and killed somebody there. At the moment, what seems to be happening here is the electricity.

They're trying to get that back on to drive up the freeway here. There's a lot of dark spots along the way because there is just no electricity through the entire area. Georgia power, the emergency management here in Bartow County, saying that about 1,000 people are out of electricity right now. And it's cold.

It was 65 degrees yesterday in Georgia where we were. Tonight, it's in the 30s. So, there was a huge temperature difference and that's what a lot of what got those storms going -- John and Zoraida.

BERMAN: Miguel, even on the ground working this story, talking to a lot of people who really witnessed the worst of it yesterday, what are they saying?

MARQUEZ: The most amazing stories that we heard were from Daiki Plant, which is just across the way from here. There were about 100 people at work there. They make parts for big tractors. A normal day. They were all getting to it when the storm sirens went off. They had to take refuge in the bathroom.

The folks we talked to -- one guy was a Baptist minister and he said he just prayed and it got louder and he prayed some more. He just kept praying. They were very, very lucky because the plant was just absolutely devastated, flattened by this storm as it came through.

BERMAN: Pray and pray some more. All right. Miguel Marquez in Georgia for us this morning. Great to see you. Thanks, Miguel.

SAMBOLIN: You know, when you look at those pictures, you're surprised that more people weren't killed in those deadly storms. So, this morning, the northeast is bearing the brunt of this storm system. Indra Petersons is tracking it now for us. What are you seeing?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, here's the good news, Zoriada. We're starting to see the tail end of the system finally exit out of the area. In fact, today, the bigger story is going to be the wind. Ahead of this line of storms, the winds are predominantly coming out of the south. Now, we're starting to see them come, yes, straight from Canada.

We're going to start to see them come out of the north. So, with that, we're going to be talking about flight delays. You guys already talked about those winds that you felt out there in New York today. Here's the problem. We're going to be talking about strong winds in a lot of our major hub. So, New York, Chicago, and yes, even Atlanta are expecting flight delays today.

So, we definitely you want to be watching and see if you can reroute, but it's going to be pretty tough with all of those hubs effected. The other story, when you have that cold air coming out of Canada, take a look at what happens. You combine that with the wind which we know had been pretty strong in many places.

Minneapolis, negative 14, that is the wind chill they are currently feeling. It gets cooler throughout the day. Now, of course, enjoy your current 55 degrees in New York. You know, those temperatures are going to be dropping to the 30s just by early evening. The other side of the wind, yes, we know we've been talking about lake effect snow.

Northwestly winds right over the warmer lakes means we're going to see some heavy snow out there today. We' re talking about anywhere from Cleveland to Erie, a good 10 to 12 inches of snow. And if you head up towards Syracuse, another eight to 10 inches of snow. So, really, all this cool air, that's going to be the big story.

The wind bringing in the cold air also to be the story as many of us are already feeling this morning. A lot of 55-mile-per-hour gusts, even some 65-mile-per-hour gusts in your area as you go towards the evening hours. Of course, that's a little further north than you, but still, strong wind.

SAMBOLIN: That's what we felt this morning with those gusts of wind. Indra Petersons live for us. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: I got people from Boston tweeting me 80-mile-an-hour wind gust up there.


BERMAN: So, some crazy stuff.

Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now. In just six weeks since a mass shooting killed 26 innocent people in Newtown, emotions ran high there last night at a six-hour hearing on gun violence at Newtown high school. Hundreds gathered, including local officials and police officers and victim parents to make their voices heard.


MICHAEL COLLINS, NEWTOWN VOLUNTEER AMBULANCE CORPS OFFICER: I don't want to be outgunned in a situation, but I cannot walk or run away from it.

SCARLET LEWIS, MOTHER OF VICTIM JESSE LEWIS: Together we can turn this tragedy into the event that turned the tide that empowered us as individuals, as society, and the world to choose love.


BERMAN: Though, both sides of the gun control issue were represented last night. Nearly all the Newtown residents who spoke called for tougher gun control laws. Obviously, there are lots of emotions surrounding this very complicated issue, but what can what should be done about America's gun violence? Anderson Cooper looks at both sides of the debate in "Guns Under Fire." This is an "AC 360" town hall special tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN. It's going to be very, very good. SAMBOLIN: Thirty-seven minutes past the hour. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is denying allegations that he traveled to the Dominican Republic on a friend's private plane to engage in sex with prostitutes.

Menendez's office issued the statement on Wednesday after FBI agents searched the West Palm Beach office of Dr. Salomon Melgen who has made political donations to Menendez. The statement confirms the senator has flown several times on Melgen's plane, but claims all the trips were paid for and reported appropriately and did not include any visits to prostitute.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appoint a close aide, William "Mo" Cowan, as a state's new intern U.S. senator taking over for John Kerry who was confirmed Tuesday as the next Secretary of State. Kerry gave quite the emotional goodbye in a speech on the Senate floor.


SEN. JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: The privilege of being here is in being able to listen to your constituents. It is the people and their voices, much more than the marble buildings and the inevitable institutions they house that determine whether or not our democracy works.


SAMBOLIN: So, later today, Hillary Clinton will deliver her final speech as secretary of state at around 2:00 p.m. That's Eastern Time. And she will talk about American leadership.

BERMAN: John Kerry's speech was emotional, also very long.



BERMAN: He went on for about 50 minutes yesterday in the Senate floor. A lot of people were talking about that. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour right now.

And maybe she's been too busy getting ready for her Super Bowl halftime show, but superstar Beyonce hasn't had time to speak much to the media since her inaugural lip synch controversy, until now, ramping a promotion for the big show at the big game. She's having a presser today at three o'clock eastern time in New Orleans. We can only assume it will be her real live voice at this press conference. Though, you can't be sure with that yet (ph).

SAMBOLIN: Terrible.

BERMAN: Just saying.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, playing when you're hurt has long been a part of the game in football, even at the risk of severe injury. So, coming up, a closer look at the gladiator mentality of the gridiron, and why players are willing to pay this incredibly steep price?

BERMAN: Plus, the man at the heart of the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend hoax, he's breaking his silence in a pretty big way.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-two minutes past the hour.

As researchers learn more about football-related brain injuries, there are new ethical questions surrounding the game. Former linebacker, CNN's Coy Wire, takes a look at the gladiator mentality that could come back to haunt pro football players later in life.


COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fast-paced action and bone- crushing hits. It's what makes football so appealing to fans but also harmful to the players.

(on-camera) Did you ever see or witness what you thought was a guy who clearly something wasn't right but he kept playing?

CHED GARTEN, FORMER NFL TEAM DOCTOR: I've seen that on occasion where players made a big hit, gets up, kind of stumbling, trying to find where to line up.

WIRE (voice-over): Dr. Ched Garten is a former NFL team doctor. He says most players perform at a heightened sense of arousal allowing them to play through pain but also face a number of other pressures.

GARTEN: Their income depends on it, how they perform plays a role on that. Not only that, it is scrutinized by the media, the fans, everyone that's watching their performance.

GARRISON HEARST, FORMER NFL RUNNING BACK: Go out with reckless abandon and you play the game.

WIRE: That's the gladiator mindset. Garrison Hearst (ph) was a running back with the San Francisco 49ers. Doctors said he would never play again after a debilitating ankle injury. He was back on the field after two years of rehab.

(on-camera) This gladiator mentality, is that just something that is within or is that something that you learn?

HEARST: I think it's within, but also I think is learned as you play. First thing you learn in football, if it's not broke, and you can still go.

WIRE (voice-over): Apply that mindset to head trauma, and there's a potential for life-altering injuries.

(on-camera) After seeing what some of these men have been through and their families have been through, does that scare you?

ALGE CRUMPLER, FORMER NFL TIGHT END: When they're taking their own life, it absolutely does scare me.

WIRE (voice-over): Alge Crumpler was a tight end in the NFL for 10 years. He's had a few concussions on record, but admits there were probably more.

CRUMPLER: I missed four games due to injury in my 10-year- career. I probably should have missed twice that, maybe even more.

HEARST: I'd do it all over again right now.

WIRE: Why?

HEARST: I love every minute of it.

WIRE: That same sentiment is echoed by most NFL players, yet, they admit change is needed.

CRUMPLER: You grow up, teaching kids to knock the crap out of each other. As they get older, that's all they're going to do. But if you teach them the proper way to tackle, the fundamentals, then they can be that change that the game needs.

WIRE: Coy Wire, CNN, Atlanta.


BERMAN: A lot of parents, a lot of kids having these discussions right now by football, all the way up to the president of the United States.

SAMBOLIN: I say no football. No football.

BERMAN: It's a great sport, though.

SAMBOLIN: It is a great sport, but it's -- you know, it could be deadly. So, it's like how do you weigh that as a parent? How do you weigh that?

BERMAN: Again, these are the discussions that people are having right now all the way up to the president.

Forty-five minutes after the hour right now. Other football news, sort of.


BERMAN: The man believed to be behind the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax said he did it because he fell in love --

SAMBOLIN: Can you believe this?

BERMAN: -- with the Notre Dame football star. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo appears in a two-part interview that airs today and tomorrow on "The Dr. Phil Show." Tuiasosopo says he was the voice, the voice of Te'o's fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, and texplains why he put an end to their telephone relationship. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONAIAH TUIASOSOPO, POSED AS "LENNAY KEKUA": I wanted to end it because after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life and had to get, you know, my -- me, Ronaiah, I had to start just living and let this go.


BERMAN: If it really was his voice, that's astounding. Tuiasosopo tells Dr. Phil that he is confused, his words, about his sexuality.

SAMBOLIN: I just --

BERMAN: You're speechless.

SAMBOLIN: I am. I really am. I was just shocked when I was, you know, reading everything that he said. And you know, the fact that this went on as long as it did. And you know, how do you do that to somebody and not feel an incredible amount of guilt?

BERMAN: How do you do it? How do you fall for it? How?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. That's a big one, right? How do you fall for it?

All right. Forty-six minutes past the hour. The U.S. navy resorting to drastic measures to recover a warship that is stuck at sea. We are going to explain this coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, the story of one lucky dog rescued from an ordeal near the ocean. You're going to want to see this.

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


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 50 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. Here's Christine Romans with top stories.



ROMANS (voice-over): That massive 1,000-mile long line of violent and deadly storm is moving now through the East Coast. Tornadoes, strong winds, and flooding all threatening the south all the way up to New England. One man was killed in Georgia. The storm heavily damaging a motel and a manufacturing plant in Adairsville north of Atlanta.

It was so violent workers in the plant were forced to take cover in a kitchen and a bathroom. The storm killed a second man in Tennessee.

And police say this man, right here, is behind a string of sexual assaults in Chico, California near a college campus. They say 40- year-old Lonnie Scott Keith (ph) worked as a physical assistant, allegedly used drugs, syringes, and zip ties during these attacks which date back to August 2011. He's a father of four.

He pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of rape, assault with intent to rape, and two counts of kidnapping. He was a physician's assistant. If found guilty on all counts, he faces 32 years to life in prison.

A federal immigration judge in Boston has scheduled a new deportation hearing granted last year to President Barack Obama's uncle, Onyango Obama. He came from the U.S. -- to the U.S. from Kenya when he was in high school. He was first ordered deported in 1992 after he failed to renew an application to stay in the United States.

And Patty Andrews, the last surviving member of the world famous Andrew Sisters has died. She was the youngest sister and the lead singer of the trio that was music to the ears of American GIs.


ROMANS: World War II, I mean, these were the sounds of World War II. The Andrews Sisters sold more than 80 million records with hits like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B." Patty Andrews was 94.

A U.S. navy minesweeper that ran aground on a reef in the Philippines two weeks ago will soon be cut into pieces, dismantling that 220-foot "USS Guardian" is the only way to free the ship without further damaging the reef. The reef is a Philippine national park and UNESCO world heritage site.

And emotions will be running high before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII Sunday. Twenty-six members of the chorus from Sandy Hook Elementary School will take part in the pregame show. The students will sing "America, the Beautiful" just before Alicia Keys sings the national anthem. The performance will be broadcast live on CBS.

A woman and her dog had to be rescued after they went over a cliff in San Francisco. The woman reportedly fell 50 feet down yesterday as she tried to save the pup from going over. She had to climb down to the beach below where she was picked up and taken to the hospital. We don't know if she's injured. As for her dog, firefighters used a special harness to bring up the pup.


BERMAN: All right. Nice of them to bring that dog up there. Thank you very much, Christine Romans --

ROMANS (on-camera): You're welcome.

BERMAN: Birthday girl.


BERMAN: Next for us, almost as much money riding on Alicia and Beyonce as there is on Harbaugh -- in Harbaugh brothers? We're going to rattle up some of the really crazy Super Bowl bets.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty-six minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Mr. John Berman. And we're taking a look at the top CNN Trends on the web this morning.

BERMAN: So, the only safe bet is that a Harbaugh is going to win. Our corporate cousin, "Bleacher Report," is taking a look at some of the wacky proposition bets that come up during the Super Bowl every year. Like this one. Which color will Beyonce's hair be? And will it be curly, crimped or straight?

What color will the Gatorade be that's dumped on the winning coach? Vegas actually says that red is a 13-2 favorite.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

BERMAN: That's a good bet there. And which Harbaugh will be shown first during the game? This is another good one. A lot to of people are actually betting it could be a split screen.


BERMAN: it's a good way to lose a lot of money, people. So, you know, jump in right now.

SAMBOLIN: I love that. All right. Little guy, huge voice, 4'9" Matias Fernandez (ph) who says he was bullied his whole life brought Mariah Carey to tears last night on "American Idol" with his story and his overpowering voice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First question, is there a height limit on the show?

RANDY JACKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: The only limit there is, there's got to be talent.


MARIAH CAREY, SINGER: You hit me in the heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you guys. This is crazy.

CAREY: And you brought me to tears, which I am holding back currently. And I want you to know that you can sing anything for me any day of the week.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Oh, look at you, you're getting emotional.

BERMAN (voice-over): The guy can sing. The guy can sing.

SAMBOLIN: Matias has already -- reality fame. He was also featured on "The Glee" project.

BERMAN: Good for him.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. That's exactly what I'm thinking.


BERMAN (on-camera): So, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon pre-gaming for the big game. This episode of your late night laughs.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": The head coach for the Super Bowl are two brothers, Jim and john Harbaugh. That's the big story, right? Their mom promises whatever the outcome, she plans on calling the loser after the game and telling him he's adopted.


O'BRIEN: That's a nice mom.


O'BRIEN: She's hedging her bets.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Check this out, advertising for this year's Super Bowl is more expensive than it's ever been. A 30-second spot, guess?


FALLON: $4 million. Exactly. $4 million. Some companies are trying to save money they're having commercials that aren't quite as long. Check out this one for Taco Bell.

Taco Bell!

FALLON: There you go.



FALLON: It's smart. It gets the point across. It gets the point across. 1.5 million for that. $1.5 million.



SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Can we see that again?


BERMAN: That was awesome. That was quick.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.