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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Alabama Bunker Rigged with Bombs; Earthquake Triggers Deadly Tsunami; Milwaukee Brewers Slugger Linked to Miami Clinic; Vote on Gay Scouts Expected Today; Justice Department Sues S&P

Aired February 6, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Rigged to blow. The FBI finds bombs inside a bunker where a 5-year-old had been held hostage. And now, they're looking for even more explosives this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A star slugger under scrutiny again. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun reportedly linked to that clinic at the center of a baseball drug probe.

SAMBOLIN: And a seismic shift for an American institution. The Boy Scouts of America could decide within hours to change its policy on gays. Lots of discussion surrounding this.

Good morning to you. Happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday. We're halfway there, February 6th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. Let's get started.

I sounded like the Black Eyed Peas here.

We are learning a lot more this morning about the FBI raid that saved a kidnapped boy in Alabama. It turns out the raid that freed Ethan from an underground bunker came just in the nick of time because Jimmy Lee Dykes, the man who snatched the child off a school bus and held him captive for close to a week, had his bunker rigged with a pair of bombs.

This morning bomb technicians are still looking for even more explosives at the scene.

Victor Blackwell is live from Midland City, Alabama.

And Victor, Ethan turns 6 today. It's his birthday and this morning, we have new details about his rescue.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, we do. We also have new details about the seemingly premeditated method of this operation to kidnap Ethan and for the first time, we are seeing the crime scene, thanks to new photos from the FBI.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Four feet below this spot is the bunker where Jimmy Lee Dykes held 5-year-old Ethan hostage for a week. This is the pipe the FBI says Dykes told agents to use to communicate and we now know why he made that request.

A day after the raid, bomb technicians found an explosive inside that pipe and a second explosive inside the bunker.

Jimmy Davis Jr. is a neighbor. He saw the setup in its early stages.

JIMMY DAVIS, JR., NEIGHBOR: It was covered up with two sheets of plywood and nailed together with hinges and stuff as a door to open to it.

BLACKWELL: Authorities say Dykes had reinforced the bunker to keep them out, but they were inside watching. Sources tell CNN the hostage rescue team snuck in a tiny camera.

STEVE RICHARDSON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, MOBILE DIVION: Mr. Dykes was observed holding a gun. At this point FBI agents fearing the child was in imminent danger entered the bunker and rescued the child.

BRIAN MARTIN, LIVES NEAR HOSTAGE SCENE: I heard a big boom and then I heard -- I believe I heard rifle shots.

BLACKWELL: Sources tell CNN what Brian Martin heard was a diversion. Agents rushed in, Dykes shot at them, but in the end, he was killed. Ethan was rescued.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He answered -- which I never doubted my God and he answered our prayer.

BLACKWELL: A nightly prayer vigil became a celebration of Ethan's rescue and his 6th birthday.

APRIL MCDANIEL, POLICE OFFICER, MIDLAND CITY: Well, this is just the start of it.

BLACKWELL: April McDaniel is a local police officer. She's also a mother. She started a Facebook campaign to collect birthday cards for Ethan. Thousands have responded.

MCDANIEL: I just wish I could be there to see little his face when he sees all the response. And I haven't -- how many people really care and love about him.

BLACKWELL: After a tumultuous week, Ethan's home from the hospital to celebrate and heal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: This is also a time to heal for the family of Charles Poland, the bus driver who was killed a little more than a week ago. That route he drove now has a new bus, a new driver. The superintendent tells us that a pastor spoke with the students at the start of the brand new back to school and we're told the number of the bus he drove will be retired. They're also planning a birthday party for Ethan when he returns to Midland City Elementary -- John.

BERMAN: And we all wish him a happy birthday today. Victor, any more news or any more details about how Ethan's family is coping today?

BLACKWELL: Yes. Obviously, they are excited. This is the big day. This celebration will probably be more exciting for them than others.

But we're also hearing from Ethan's mother. She released a statement. I'm going to read part of it.

She says, "Ethan is safe and back in my arms -- and I owe it all to some of the most compassionate people on Earth. I will never be able to repay those who helped bring Ethan home" -- John.

BERMAN: She was so grateful, naming all the law enforcement officials down there who did help so much.

Victor Blackwell in Midland City, Alabama -- nice to see you this morning. Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: It is four minutes past the hour.

While you were sleeping, a powerful 8 magnitude quake hit the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. It actually triggered a deadly tsunami. A local hospital says four elderly people and one child were killed by the wave which slammed into the eastern region of the islands. Tsunami warnings in Papua New Guinea and Fiji were canceled as were tsunami watches in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

BERMAN: We're hearing a 911 call for the first time this morning in the case of that deadly shooting at the Navy SEAL and his friend. Moments after Iraq war vet Eddie Routh allegedly killed former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, he drove to his sister's house and told her what he had done. It that prompted a terrifying call from Linda Blevins, she called 911.

And here's part of the call.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LAURA BLEVINS, SISTER OF EDDIE RAY ROUTH: Listen, my brother just came by here. I was (EXPLETIVE DELETED). He's now left. He's told me that he's committed a murder. And I'm terrified for my life because I don't know if he's going to come back here.

They went out to a shooting range, like he's all crazy. He's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) psychotic. I'm sorry for my language.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: According to court records, Routh told his brother in law he couldn't trust Kyle or anyone else, and so he killed them before he could kill him. And the name of Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun appears in the records of a Miami area clinic that allegedly distributed performance enhancing drugs to major league ballplayers. Braun who flunked a drug test back in 2011 but had the findings overturned on appeal says he has nothing to hide. The former MVP claims his attorneys hired the owner of the Biogenesis clinic as a consultant during his appeals process. He says that is why his name is in their books.

Major League Baseball is investigating.

BERMAN: The story gets being bigger and bigger by the day.

Meanwhile new developments in the investigation of the blackout at the Super Bowl. It turns out there were concerns about the Superdome's wiring months before the game, triggering hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency repairs. This engineering firm memo from October 10th from last year states the Superdome's main and only electrical feed is, quote, "not sufficiently reliable to support the high profile events scheduled."

Five days later, this memo from the state agency that oversees the Superdome says tests on electrical feeders determined they had some decay and had a chance of failure. Meanwhile, the NFL confirms there were fluctuations in the frequency of the power supply during Beyonce's rehearsal for her half time show.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow.

BERMAN: No one has been able to provide an official cause of the power outage so far. The investigations continue.

SAMBOLIN: The plot thickens on that.

And a lot of controversy this morning over a leaked Justice Department memo that states the rules for the targeted killing of Americans. That memo says the U.S. can use lethal force against an American citizen overseas if that person happens to be a senior leader with al Qaeda. The 16-page policy paper also states clear evidence of an imminent attack against the United States that it is not required to carry out a targeted killing.

BERMAN: The State Department is refusing to discuss a 3 1/2 minute propaganda video that was uploaded to YouTube by the North Korean government. It shows a young man dreaming of a rocket attack on a city that sure looks a lot like New York. The dream eventually shows the city in ruins with "We are the World" playing in the background. The State Department says it won't dignify the video by speaking about it.

SAMBOLIN: All right. This is Berman's favorite story of the day. Disney is expanding the galaxy far, far away. First, they announced a new "Star Wars" trilogy which had you just over the moon.

BERMAN: Every excited about that.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, now, they've unveiled plans for two stand alone spinoff movies. Each of "Star Wars" spinoff will be written around a specific character. So, at this point, they're scheduled to be released after Episode VII. That is due out in the summer of 2015 with J.J. Abrams, the man behind the new "Star Trek" movies, directing.

BERMAN: So I'm very excited about the new trilogy, but I want to be honest with you, because I'm always honest with you. I'm concerned about the spinoffs. I'm worried they may be diluting the brand and I'm very curious which characters they'll choose to build around in these new films. I have concerns.

SAMBOLIN: Maybe they'll hire you as a consultant, John Berman.

BERMAN: It would be nice.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Eight minutes past the hour.

We're counting down to what could be a landmark decision by the Boy Scouts of America on gays in the ranks. That's expected today. We have a live report coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, how a 7-year-old's imagination got him suspended from school.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

It is decision day for the Boy Scouts of America. They're expected to announce the results of a landmark vote today that could see the national organization drop its longstanding national ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. Leaders on both sides weighing in, including President Obama and Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Scouting is about teaching kids substantial amount of life lessons. Sexuality is not one of them, never has been, doesn't need to be.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. And I think that nobody should be barred from that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: CNN's Casey Wian is live in this morning in Irving, Texas, where that Scout meeting is being held.

So, Casey, if this ban is being lifted, what will that mean?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, what it's likely to mean is activists on both sides of the issue are going to be upset. What the Boy Scouts are proposing is leaving the issue of homosexuals in the Scouts in both troops and among scout masters up to local troops. It's a compromise that both sides are dissatisfied with.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (voice-over): Leaders of religious organizations that sponsor about a million boy scouts and activists pressuring the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on openly gay scouts and scoutmasters can agree on one thing -- they're not satisfied with the Boy Scouts proposal to leave the issue up to local troops.

RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: We believe that this is going to be -- if they make this decision, it's going to be a catastrophe for the Boy Scouts.

BRAD HANKINS, SCOUTS FOR EQUALITY: We don't want to see the scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts. So, the best solution would be to end discrimination outright.

WIAN: The Boy Scouts won't discuss their policy proposal, but the organization has told leaders of religious groups that the change is motivated by pressure from corporate donors. More than a dozen, including IBM, Merck, and American Airlines have pulled funding from the Boy Scouts, according to "Scouting for All," a group pushing for an end to the Scouts' gay ban.

LAND: What they've said to us and other religious leaders is we're doing this under pressure and we're going to give people basically what amounts to a local option. You can't have a local option of a core conviction.

In 2000, the Supreme Court said that the Boy Scouts did not have to have homosexual scout masters because their belief about sexual morality was a core value. If you make it a local option, it's no longer a core value and the courts will revisit this.

WIAN: Jennifer Tyrell was a scout den mother who was ousted for being gay.

JENNIFER TYRELL, OUSTED DEN MOTHER: If the policy passes and individual troops and councils can decide, it's of course a great first step and we would be appreciative of that step and acknowledgment. However, it will mean that there is more work to be done.

WIAN: Even before the controversy over admitting gays, the Boy Scouts were seeing a decline in membership, which dropped by about a third since 1999.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Now, one local scout master here in the Dallas area tells CNN, he didn't want to appear on camera, but he tells us that parents in his troop are already talking about leaving scouting if the Scouts do open up to gays.

But activists who support the inclusion of homosexuals say that's the only way that this organization is going to survive long term, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: We have three parents at the desk and we're having quite a dialogue about this, this morning. So, there are some concerns the Boy Scouts could be opening the door for lawsuits from religious groups who say a new policy would violate the 2000 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the ban.

Are there any churches or groups right now that are threatening to sue?

WIAN: We're not aware of any that have publicly threatened to sue. But there have been discussions behind the scenes with the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America and several religious groups which sponsor many of the Boy Scout troops.

One thing that is probably going to happen is lawsuits will happen if the Boy Scouts decide to open up to homosexuals, lawsuits could happen if they decide not to, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You're right. You're absolutely right. This could go both ways.

Casey Wian, live in Irving, Texas, this morning -- thank you very much.

In the next hour on EARLY START, we'll talk with Jim Dale. He sued the scouts after being expelled because he was gay, a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

BERMAN: Sixteen minutes after the hour right now.

I want to bring you up to speed on all the big news of the day. And so, we have big reporter Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A lot going on, you guys.

The search for more explosives this morning in an underground bunker where a 5-year-old boy was held hostage. The feds say the man who kidnapped the boy had the bunker rigged with at least two bombs. Law enforcement officials tell CNN they used drones and sophisticated surveillance equipment to monitor the suspect, Jimmy Lee Dykes, and that Dykes fired at SWAT teams that stormed the bunker before they fired back, killing him, and rescuing that boy.

Eighteen people have been charged in a massive $200 million credit card fraud ring. The Justice Department says it was an epic scheme spanning 28 states and eight countries and creating more than 7,000 fake IDs to get more than 25,000 credit cards.

According to a new study, 40 percent of NFL retired players have some form of cognitive impairment, many of them are depressed and don't even know it. Out of 34 former players studied, 20 were found to be completely normal. The other 14 were diagnosed with cognitive deficits, dementia or depression. The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology. Take a look at these amazing shots, you guys.

COSTELLO: That's a cool story.

ROMANS: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield -- right -- snapped these breath taking pictures of Earth from the International Space Station. That is 250 miles above the planet's surface. Since Hadfield had no direct Internet connection way up there, he's been sending the images through NASA to his son and Evan then posts themselves online for his dad's Twitter followers and space fans.

BERMAN: That's awesome. You just don't get enough bars on the space station for the Internet.

SAMBOLIN: I love the collaboration with his son. Very cool. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Eighteen minutes after the hour right now. We're getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines.

And we're going to start with this from Colorado's "Reporter Herald." Seven-year-old Alex Evan (ph) says he can't believe he was dispended. Mandy Walken (ph) says the hospital told her that Alex threw a fake grenade during recess. She says he didn't have anything in his hands. He made no threats. He was simply using his imagination. The school says the boy violated one of the school's absolutes, which is no fighting or weapons real or imaginary.

SAMBOLIN: Here's a deal. If you dig a little big deeper into the story, apparently, they handed out these rules to the parents at the beginning of the school year and I suspect that the parents didn't read it because this is elementary school. This is what kids do. It's pretend play. It is imaginary.

I'm shocked by this story. I don't know what you would do with your little boys. But --

BERMAN: They'd be in permanent suspension.

SAMBOLIN: Right. That's how I feel. My kids would be suspended every single week.

All right. From the "Orlando Sentinel," after the fat lady sings, now, she will have a seat to sit down comfortably as well. The Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando is adding two rows of wider seats for its patrons. About 50 of the 2700 seats will be 24 inches wide, that's three ionches wider than the average seat.

But that's not all. The first two orchestra rows will have more leg room so particularly tall theatergoers will noting cramped either.

BERMAN: I just want extra cushioning.

SAMBOLIN: I want the big seats. Get all cozy in them. BERMAN: For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to CNN.com/EarlyStart. Also, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Just search for EarlyStartCNN.

SAMBOLIN: And up next, Standard & Poor's under the microscope. How the government says it inflated ratings, download risks, and fooled investors, leaving us all on a financial crisis.

BERMAN: Uh-oh!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are up ahead of some corporate earnings reports. Stocks flirted with the 14,000 mark yesterday but closed below that threshold. And very own Christine Romans is here. She's breaking down the case against S&P.

ROMANS: This is a really big case against S&P.

OK. Standard & Poor's, one of the credit rating agencies that rated all of those what we now know were horrible, horrible, horrible investments. They were based on subprime mortgages. This is what brought us to the brink around the world.

Now, the government coming out today with a huge, huge case against them, a billion dollar case against them, we're told. I mean, this is a very big case.

This is how it works, right? Subprime mortgages were packaged together in investments and then they got a rating. In the case of Standard & Poor's gave a AAA rating to these collateralized debt obligations and that meant Wall Street banks could sell them to investors and investors could say, S&P says they're the gold standard, these were great investments.

They were not great investments and the government yesterday unveiled a bunch of e-mails that showed analyst inside S&P knew they weren't such great investments and, in fact, according to the government, for their own business purposes were keeping these AAA rated.

Here's one of the quotes of an e-mail that Eric Holder, the attorney general, unveiled. "I mean come on, we pay to you rate our deals and the better the rating the more money we make. What's up with that? How are you possibly supposed to be impartial?"

Those are analysts talking to each other about how they weren't impartial about some of these investments. Actually, almost all of these investments, because that's how they made money.

So, this is -- this is a pretty staggering deal. And I'll tell you that the attorney general was asked about whether S&P was being retaliated against for downgrading America's credit rating and this is what the attorney general said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: They did what they did assessing what the creditworthiness was of this nation. We looked at the facts, the law, the investigation of these great prosecutors and civil lawyers put together and made a determination that the filing of these lawsuits was appropriate. But they are not in any way connected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I'll show you the McGraw Hill stock, that's the owner of S&P, for the past three days, down 21 percent, getting a big hit there. And also, Moody's down almost 18 percent, another rating agency who is not named in this particular suit down about 18 percent in the last three days, as well.

And quickly to stocks, because the only question anybody is asking about stocks is, is it too late to get in or is this the perfect time to get out. Look, if I knew the answer to that, I'd own an island in the Caribbean. And I don't.

But what I can tell you is this is an old bull now. Four years. Look at the past five years in the S&P 500, S&P 500 has doubled. The Dow is now within 219 points of a record high. Many think we will hit a record high, but no one knows how much farther this thing can go.

Fed is pumping money into the system. Corporate profits have been good. Congress hasn't completely ruined the world just yet and that's why stocks are up.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you.

BERMAN: And you like to say, an old bull can still run.

ROMANS: An old bull can still run.

BERMAN: One of my favorite phrase, which means many, many things.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: All right. Twenty-seven minutes after the hour right now. A homeless hitchhiker with a hatchet.

SAMBOLIN: So insane, you're going to have to watch.

BERMAN: This person somehow becomes a hero. Really, like words can do this no justice. You have to hear this guy tell the story. We'll have this, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)