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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Alabama Hostage Crisis Ends; Senator Menendez Answers Prostitution Questions; Presidential Push on Immigration; Super Bowl Power Outage; Credit Agency Taking Heat for Financial Crisis

Aired February 5, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A dramatic rescue. FBI agents storm an armed kidnaper's bunker. His 5-year-old hostage is safe and sound this morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Great news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: All of those smears are absolutely false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: A CNN exclusive, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez fights back against allegations of partying with prostitutes.

ROMANS: And solving the Super Bowl blackout. This morning, at least we know who's not to blame.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START this Tuesday morning. I'm Christine Romans. John Berman joins us a little bit later on "STARTING POINT."

SAMBOLIN: Boy, the want to fingers on that one, don't they?

ROMANS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Tuesday, February 5th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started here.

A 5-year-old boy held captive for six days in an underground bunker in Alabama is back in the arms of his family this morning. We are so happy to report that. And we're told that he is thrilled to be reunited with his favorite toy which is a dinosaur.

Little Ethan's kidnaper is dead. Sixty-five-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes killed yesterday in the FBI raid that freed that little boy.

Victor Blackwell, live from Midland City, Alabama, this morning. I know you're very excited to be sharing this information, Victor. What do we know about the raid and why law enforcement actually decided to go in? VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Zoraida. Two reasons primarily. The first reason is because authorities say they observed Jimmy Lee Dykes with a gun. And the second reason is because in the day leading up to that raid, the communications with dykes had broken down. So, they realized they could not wait any longer to go in and rescue Ethan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Ethan is safe. This is a photograph of the 5-year-old being taken into a hospital after nearly a week being held in an underground bunker in Midland City, Alabama.

STEVE RICHARDSON, SPECIAL AGENT, FBI ALABAMA OFFICE: He's doing fine. He's laughing, playing, joking, eating, the things that you would expect a normal 5-year-old or 6-year-old young man to do. He's very brave, he's very lucky. The success story is that he is out safe and doing great.

BLACKWELL: The dramatic end came after officers saw 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes holding a weapon. They felt they could not hold off any longer.

RICHARDSON: At this point, FBI agents fearing the child was in imminent danger entered the bunker and rescued the child.

BLACKWELL: Dykes was killed during the operation. A witness in the area describes what he heard.

BRYON MARTIN, NEIGHBOR: I heard a big boom and then I heard, I believe I heard rifle shots.

REPORTER: How loud of a boom? I mean, very loud?

MARTIN: Oh, yes. It literally made me jump off the ground, it scared me that bad.

BLACKWELL: Authorities are still working on crime scene and the investigation is expected to continue for several days. According to a psychiatrist, the next few days will be critical for Ethan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tendency will be to swarm around him to get information both to help him and to understand what went down, down under that ground. But the bottom line is right now, these next few days are critical with this boy to bond with his family, to feel safe and feel protected.

BLACKWELL: But for now, authorities and a community are grateful to have Ethan safe.

SHERIFF WALLY OLSON, DALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: He's a special child. He's been through a lot, he's endured a lot. By the grace of God, he's OK. And that was the mission of every man and woman on this compound.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLACKWELL: A colleague of mine spoke with Ethan's uncle. We're told he was kept at the hospital overnight. Now, tomorrow, is Ethan's sixth birthday and he's home just in time to celebrate, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, a huge happy birthday to that entire family.

I have a question for you. We know that bunker was four feet below. So, how did authorities know that Dykes had a gun?

BLACKWELL: Well, interestingly enough, we've learned from the U.S. military, through a few sources confirmed to CNN, that the military loaned to the FBI some high-tech detection device typically used to find homemade bombs in war zones. We do not know if this specifically was used to find that gun. But it was on site. There were military members on site.

We know those military members would have only been in support roles and were not involved in the raid that went in to save Ethan.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Victor Blackwell, live for us this morning -- thank you very much.

ROMANS: And new developments this morning in the murders of well- known ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, at a Texas shooting range. Police say the suspect, 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, an Iraq war veteran, suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. He had been taken to a mental hospital twice over the past five months after threatening to kill his family and himself. The former marine is currently on suicide watch in a Texas jail.

Kyle is known for being the most deadliest sniper in American history, with 160 confirmed kills in Iraq.

SAMBOLIN: The owner of the tour bus involved in a deadly crash in southern California this weekend had a shoddy safety record. Federal records show buses operated by the company call Scapadas Magicas failed more than a third of its inspections. This is over the last two years.

Seven people died in the Sunday night crash and dozens more were injured. Investigators who are combing through the gruesome wreckage say a problem with the brakes may have led to the crash in the southern California mountains.

ROMANS: Mexican authorities say last week's explosion that jolted a Mexico City skyscraper was caused by a gas buildup. The building houses home offices for the oil giant Pemex. The explosion in the neighboring basement killed 35, injured more than 100. No trace of explosives were found at that blast site.

SAMBOLIN: Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez finally answers to shock allegations and that he tried to solicit prostitutes during trips to the Dominican Republic. He spoke exclusively with our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Menendez called the prostitute allegations smears.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you just answer the allegation that has been out there that you --

MENENDEZ: The smears --

BASH: -- that you were with prostitutes there?

MENENDEZ: -- the smears that right wing blogs have been pushing since the election. And that is totally unsubstantiated.

It's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a Web site can drive that type of story into the mainstream. But that's what they've done successfully. Now, nobody can find them, no one ever met them, no one ever talked to them, but that's where we're at.

So, the bottom line is all of those smears are absolutely false and, you know, that's the bottom line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Menendez also called the claims politically motivated.

ROMANS: A renewed presidential push for immigration reform. President Obama will meet with key immigration groups, progressive groups and labor groups today to follow that up with a meeting with a dozen leading CEOs. The goal: to discuss how to get a bipartisan immigration reform deal done and to see how it fits into his economic agenda.

SAMBOLIN: To England now --

ROMANS: I like this story.

SAMBOLIN: -- where a team of archaeologists say this 500-year-old skeleton found under a parking lot 90 miles northwest of London is indeed the remains of lost British King Richard III. Later this morning, we'll get the best guess from forensic scientists as to what King Richard III would have looked like.

The details are amazing, folks. They'll show off a full reconstruction of his head based on the bone structure of his skull. We have a live report from London. It's coming up in our next hour of EARLY START.

ROMANS: All right. The party is still on in Baltimore. The city will honor the Super Bowl champion Ravens today with a victory parade. The team returned home to Baltimore yesterday after beating the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, the second Super Bowl win for the Ravens franchise.

Festivities begin this morning at city hall. They'll end with a free celebration at the Ravens home base, M&T Bank Stadium.

SAMBOLIN: Seven minutes past the hour. You can say Beyonce was electrifying at the Super Bowl, right? But you cannot say she killed the lights. We're going to go live to New Orleans next for what could have caused the blackout if it wasn't the halftime show.

ROMANS: Plus, the American city with the worst traffic gridlock. Can you guess which one?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Don't blame Beyonce. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says her high-powered halftime show was not responsible for the power outage during the Super Bowl. The Superdome lights blew early in the third quarter, delaying the game for 34 agonizing minutes.

The league and the stadium investigators are trying to shed light on exactly why the stadium went dark.

CNN's John Zarrella is following that. He's live in New Orleans. John, what do we know so far?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, we know what it's not. It's not Beyonce. It's not upgrades, they don't believe, that they recently did to the electrical feeder system coming into the stadium. And they say it's not likely that there was too much power being pulled inside the stadium.

So, what we still have this morning is a power puzzle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The night the lights went out at the Super Bowl is a story about -- well, a few things: what went right, everyone remaining calm --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never met so many people that were so hospitable.

ZARRELLA: -- what happened. CBS video from inside the stadium control room shows the Superdome's uh-oh moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost lights. All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to a manual override.

ZARRELLA: And then there's that head-scratching, still unanswered question, what went wrong?

Here's what we know, kind of: SMG, the company that owns and operates the Superdome says the problem originated outside the stadium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth is the interruption in service didn't occur inside the building. We could not receive the power from the Entergy vault, the substation that supplies us.

ZARRELLA: Entergy, the utility company tweeted Sunday night that service to the stadium had not been interrupted. A spokesman said later --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system worked the way it was supposed to work.

ZARRELLA: But in a statement to CNN Monday, Entergy cautioned, "Until the investigation is complete, any statements on possible causes of the outage are just speculation."

There was speculation that Beyonce's power-packed halftime show pulled too much power. SMG says, no. Quote, "The halftime show was running on 100 percent generated power which means it was not on our power grid at all."

While we are still in the dark over what happened, pardon the pun, we do not this, the delay lasted 34 minutes, the lights came back on and the Baltimore Ravens won, and a record 164 million people had more to talk about than just the final score.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: And this morning, Superdome there behind me, power's on. It hasn't gone off since -- Christine.

ROMANS: Do you think it could have any effect on the city's chances of hosting future Super Bowls, John?

ZARRELLA: You know, my understanding is they want the 2018 Super Bowl here. Probably doesn't impact it to much. But it's certainly going to be in the back of everyone's mind.

You know, a few years ago when Miami had its last Super Bowl, it poured rain there, the entire game. So, now, they want the 50th anniversary Super Bowl in Miami, so they're trying to get people vote to put a lid over the top of the stadium so that they won't have that rain issue.

So, you know, there's always things they want to have to do. They have to do to try to lure the game back to their cities.

ROMANS: All right. John Zarrella -- thanks, John.

The puzzle -- the power puzzle he calls it.

ZARRELLA: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: You know, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came right out and said, we will have another Super Bowl there.

All right. Fourteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date on this morning's top stories.

After nearly a week in captivity in an underground bunker, a 5-year- old Alabama boy is reunited with his family this morning. Little Ethan spent the night in a hospital after an FBI raid freed him. The child's kidnaper, 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes was killed in that rescue operation. Ethan turns 6 tomorrow. ROMANS: Five Baltimore firefighters are injured but they're very lucky to be alive this morning. A local station says they were among 100 firefighters battling this four-alarm fire at lumber warehouse when several floors collapsed on top of them and trapped them in the blaze. They were rescued and taken to a trauma center. Fire crews are still on the scene to knock down hot spots.

SAMBOLIN: Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum says the Boy Scouts of America may not survive if gays are allowed in. In an online column, the former senator argues ending the ban on openly gay scouts is, quote, "another example of the left attempting to remove God from all areas of public life."

ROMANS: Tagg Romney won't be running for John Kerry's vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts. The son for former presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he did think about it but the timing wasn't right. So far, Republicans have failed to find a single candidate to run in a special election that's scheduled for June.

SAMBOLIN: Disappointing results for the first tests of a new tuberculosis vaccine. The study of 2,800 South African infants published on Lancet online found the vaccine provided no TB protection. But the vaccine developer says it might benefit adolescents or perhaps even adult.

ROMANS: Iran is marking its national day of space technology by releasing a photo of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a monkey that Iranians claim was launched into space. The government says the money rode an Iranian rocket into orbit last week. But conspiracy theories abound.

Iran for its part says this is any kind of a space monkey hoax.

SAMBOLIN: Cute monkey, though.

All right. A Washington, D.C. area school district is considering a proposal to copyright any work by staff and students. So, this could mean a lesson plan developed by a teacher or a doodle drawn by a second grader would automatically become property of the school system and not the individual's. Can't take it home to mommy and daddy.

ROMANS: It's interesting.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour. It's time for your "Early Read". This is your local news that is making national headlines.

So, first, we're going to go to "The Chicago Sun-Times." It is reporting Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife are the subjects of separate federal investigations into their finances. Sources say Sandy Jackson who resigned her alderman post last month is now being investigated independently for access and use of her husband's congressional campaign money, including credit card charges and moving money from one account to the other. Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from Congress in November after winning re- election. They actually say she was collecting $5,000 a month, even when her husband was hospitalized for bipolar disorder from the campaign.

ROMANS: Wow. That's a drama that's captivated Chicago. No question.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: In "The Washington Post" this morning, gridlock on Capitol Hill, gridlock outside Capitol Hill. A new study says D.C. has the worst traffic in the nation. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute says drivers in Washington burn 67 hours and 32 gallons of gas each year sitting in traffic.

SAMBOLIN: Really?

ROMANS: Yes. L.A., San Francisco, and New York, no question about that, and Boston are also in the top five.

SAMBOLIN: I'm kind of surprised that they were number one, though. I thought it would have been L.A.

ROMANS: Washington, D.C.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

All right. For an expanded an expanded look at our top stories, just head to our blog, go to CNN.com/EarlyStart. You can also follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. Just search for EarlyStartCNN.

ROMANS: Speaking about burning gas, Americans don't buy as much as they used to, yet gas somehow takes up a bigger chunk your family budget. How can that be? I'm going to explain why, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: And welcome back. Good morning.

This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Minding your business this morning.

Is that New York? Gosh --

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: It's really early. It's 5:22.

U.S. stock futures are up this morning. The Dow dropped from its 14,000-point milestone Monday on concerns about a banking scandal in Italy, corruption allegations against the Spanish prime minister and, of course, people just taking a little bit money off the table after topping the 14,000.

A massive lawsuit after the subprime mortgage mess after the fact. Standard & Poor's says the Justice Department may sue them over ratings it gave to subprime mortgage investment in 2007 leading up to the Housing bust.

S&P denies wrongdoing, saying, quote, "A DOJ lawsuit would be entirely without factual or legal merit. It would disregard the central facts that S&P reviewed the same subprime mortgage data as the rest of the market -- including U.S. government officials who in 2007 publicly stated that problems in the subprime market appeared to be contained."

Boeing hoping to get its Dreamliner off the ground again. The company has asked the FAA to allow test flights with its aircraft. Boeing says it wants to evaluate performance of the plane's lithium batteries, thought to be involved in two electrical fire incidents last month. All 50 Dreamliners have been grounded worldwide since those incidents.

And Americans are pumping more of their income into gas. The Energy Department said Monday that U.S. households spend an average of $2,912, about 4 percent of their income on fuel last year. That's the highest level in four years.

Even though gas costs are eating up a bigger chunk of your budget, Americans are buying less gas because their cars are becoming fuel efficient. The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.53. Gas prices have been rising.

There you go.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

Texas Governor Rick Perry launching a big radio ad push in major California cities. He is trying to woo businesses to the Lone Star State. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: This is Texas Governor Rick Perry and I have a message for California businesses. Come check out Texas. There are plenty of reasons --

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, Perry touts Texas' low taxes and easier legal business climate compared to California.

ROMANS: All right. Everybody wants jobs. They want people to move in. People have been moving into Texas.

SAMBOLIN: It's a nice place.

ROMANS: A place that we have seen an inflow of migration.

All right. The White House missing a key deadline this week and House Republicans are vowing to do something about that. Those details coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, instead of kids fly free, how about kid-free flights. We're going to explain how you can soon fly without crying babies within earshot.

And, folks, if you're living the house right now, you can watch us anytime right on your desktop or your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Safe and sound. A 5-year-old hostage back with his family this morning as we learn more about the FBI raid that rescued him.

SAMBOLIN: Courtroom confessions. See the dramatic moment when a murder suspect admits that she is indeed a killer.

ROMANS: And firing away. That's CNN's Piers Morgan doing the last thing you might expect, pulling a trigger on a powerful rifle.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. John Berman co- hosts "STARTING POINT" a little later on.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Tuesday morning. It is 28 minutes past the hour.

And our top story for you this among: a very brave and lucky boy is safe this morning. The hostage crisis in Alabama is over. A 6-year- old held captive in an underground bunker for nearly a week -- 5-year- old, actually -- spent last night in a hospital with his family and his favorite toy which happens to be a dinosaur.

The man who kidnapped him -- 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes -- was killed in the FBI raid that freed little Ethan.

Victor Blackwell is live from Midland City for us.

And, Victor, after six days of waiting, why did authorities decide finally to storm that bunker yesterday?

BLACKWELL: Good morning, Zoraida.

They say something changed in the 24 hours leading up to the raid. They say the line of communication, the negotiations that had been ongoing with Jimmy Lee Dykes had broken down, things had deteriorated. But, probably the primary reason, they say they observed him holding a weapon and said they could not wait to go in any longer.

So, they went in, shot and killed Dykes and took Ethan out. He was taken to a hospital. We're told that's where he was overnight with his family and, finally, out of that bunker after this all started on Tuesday when he was snatched off that school bus. The driver was shot and this ordeal began.

SAMBOLIN: Victor, we understand that authorities are still working on the crime scene, that they're searching for explosive devices.