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Boy Scouts Reconsider Ban on Gays; Bunker Rigged with Bombs; Earthquake Triggers Deadly Tsunami; Murdered Sniper 911 Call; Power Concerns Before Super Bowl; Vonn Suffers Horrible Accident; Dow Nears All Time High; Salaries for Liberal Arts Grads Up

Aired February 6, 2013 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A seismic shift for an American institution. The Boy Scouts of America could decide within hours to change its policy on gays.

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

BERMAN: And shedding some new light on the Super Bowl blackout. Documents uncover signs of trouble months before the big game.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us. It's Wednesday, February 6th. It is just about 6:00 a.m. in the East, so let's get started here.

The Boy Scouts of America could see a major shift in policy today. The executive board is expected to announce the result of a vote on whether to end the organization's long standing national ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.

CNN's Casey Wian is live in Irving, Texas where the scouts have their national headquarters. So, Casey, if the scouts do lift this ban, what will that mean?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it might lead to chaos, Zoraida, because what the Boy Scouts of America has decided to do is propose a sort of compromise plan that would lead the decision up to individual, local Boy Scout troops, and activists on both sides of this issue say they're going to be unhappy with that compromise.


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 scout masters 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 the decision it's going to be a catastrophe for the Boy Scouts. BRAD HANKINS, SCOUTS FOR EQUALITY: We don't want to see scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts. So the best solution would be 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 have said to us and to other religious leaders is we are doing this under pressure and we are 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 course will revisit this.

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

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

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


WIAN: Now the scout master of one local troop here in the Dallas area say parents of boys in his troop are talking about leaving scouting if the national organization opens up to homosexuals.

But activists who support a more inclusive policy say that because of the loss of corporate sponsorship and the declining membership in the Boy Scouts that they need to be more inclusive for this organization to survive long term -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Can't you just hear all the dialogues that are happening across the country about this very issue. There are concerns that the Boy Scouts could be opening the door for lawsuits from religious groups. To say a new policy would violate the 2000 Supreme Court ruling, which upheld that ban. Are there churches or groups that are actually threatening to sue?

WIAN: Not publicly, but there have been discussions going back and forth with the Boy Scout leadership and the leaders of several organizations. The Boy Scouts are remaining silent on this issue. But it's very clear that if they do change this policy that some religious groups are likely to take them to court over it -- Zoraida. SAMBOLIN: All right, Casey Wian live for us.

At the bottom of the hour, we will talk with Jim Dale, who sued the Boy Scouts after being expelled because he was gay. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

BERMAN: Brand new developments in the investigation of Jimmy Lee Dykes, the man who kidnapped the 5-year-old boy and held him for nearly a week in that underground bunker.

It turns out that Dykes rigged the bunker with two explosive devices and this morning, authorities are looking for more crude bombs. Victor Blackwell is live from Midland City, Alabama. Victor, what are the new details about this ordeal we have?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we're getting more details from the FBI and learning just how dangerous this bunker was and for the first time we're seeing photos of the crime scene from the FBI.


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 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 DIVISION: 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: I wish I've 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is the start of it. BLACKWELL: April McDaniel is a local police officer. She is also a mother. She started a Facebook campaign to collect birthday cards for Ethan. Thousands have responded.

APRIL MCDANIEL, POLICE OFFICER, MIDLAND CITY: I just wish that I could be there to see his little face light up to see the response. How many people really care and love about him.

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


BLACKWELL: And again, today is a big day for Ethan and his family. His 6th birthday and we're hearing from his mother. She's very grateful. She thanked in a statement, many of the officials here in her community.

Here's part of the statement. 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: Victor, we, of course, wish him and his whole family a very, very happy birthday today. The hero bus driver, a central figure in this whole saga, he's being honored.

BLACKWELL: We saw jut just how much this community appreciated him on Sunday when they went to his memorial service. Those yellow buses lined up with black ribbons, hundreds of people at a civic center nearby. So many people, they couldn't hold it at a church.

Well, now we've learned from the Dale County school superintendent that the bus he drove will be retired. That bus number will be never used in this county again and there is now a new bus driver on that route.

BERMAN: A tribute to a hero. Victor Blackwell for us this morning in Midland City, Alabama. Thanks, Victor.

SAMBOLIN: It is 6 minutes past the hour. A powerful quake triggers a deadly tsunami. The 8 magnitude quake hit the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. A local hospital says four elderly people and one child were killed by the tsunami by the wave that followed, which slammed into the eastern region of the islands.

Tsunami warnings in Papua, New Guinea and Fiji have been canceled now along with tsunami watches in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. So let's go right to meteorologist, Indra Petersons. You are covering this for us this morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Here is the good news. The tsunami warnings are now canceled. They are expired. I wanted to give you a locator here. There's Australia to the south and just to the north of that that is where the Solomon Islands are.

As you zoom in a little bit closer, you can see here's the epicenter. It was about 8.0 magnitude quake at 12:12 in the afternoon. You can see this is about 350 miles to 400 miles southeast of the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honara.

You can see here in the last hours, they continue to see some of these aftershocks. You can see the orange here. We're starting to see some these aftershocks, of course, the small range, but even as high as the 6.0 range.

A lot of activity is still present in the area. Now, keep in mind, this is well offshore. So the good news here they weren't seeing that threat necessarily for a lot of shake in the immediate areas, but there are some islands closer by that did see shaking.

Now the biggest wave we did see of the tsunami wave was about 3 feet. The reason for that, the depth was about 17.8 feet. So that's good news. Earlier though were that this wave could have a shallow. It's about 3.5 feet.

With that, you would have seen a higher tsunami wave. So that is a little bit of good news. We'll continue to monitor the situation for you, but again, all those warnings have expired and that's a good thing at this point in time.

SAMBOLIN: That is good news. Indra Petersons is live in Atlanta. Thank you.

BERMAN: It was a big quake, a shallow quake, a lot of concern this morning, but hopefully the worst of it has passed. It's 8 minutes after the hour now.

We're hearing a 911 call for the first time this morning in the case of the deadly shooting of a 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.

That prompted a terrified Linda Blevins to call 911. Here's just part of her call.


LAURA BLEVINS, SISTER OF EDDIE RAY ROUTH: Listen, my brother just came by here. I was -- he's now left. But he told me that he's committed a murder.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. Hold on.

BLEVINS: And I am terrified for my life. I don't know if he is going to come back here. They went to a shooting range -- he's all crazy he's -- I'm sorry for my language.


BERMAN: Frightening. According to court records, Routh told his brother-in-law he couldn't trust Kyle or anyone else anymore so he killed them before they could kill him. SAMBOLIN: A tortured soul there.

All right, new developments this morning into the power outage that delayed the Super Bowl by 34 minutes, the power company, the agency that owns the Superdome, and the company that manages the stadium are hiring an outside consultant to investigate what the actual cause of that blackout was.

Well, it turns out there were serious concerns about the Superdome's wiring months before the game, leading to hundreds of thousands in emergency repairs. So this engineering firm memo from October 10th of last year states the Superdome's main and only electrical feed is not sufficiently reliable to support the high-profile event schedule.

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

BERMAN: American skier Lindsey Vonn had a horrible, horrible crash yesterday. Her diagnosis is not great. Bleacher Report's Jared Greenberg is here with more. Hi, Jared.

JARED GREENBERG, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi, John. You know, time is not on Vonn's side. A year seems like a whole lot of time, but really not so much the case when you are a world class Olympic athlete.

February 7, 2014, will mark the start of the winter games in Russia may be a long shot at this point for American skier Lindsey Vonn who will be competing for a medal, poor visibility, never a good phrase when you are on an airplane or attempting to come down a mountain.

Vonn took a tumble yesterday at the Alpine Ski World Championship. A 2010 gold medalist, she had to be air lifted to a local hospital. She suffered what doctors are calling a complex knee injury, a torn ACL and MCL. Vonn is out of the remainder of this season. We'll see if she can make it back for the Olympics.

Christmas in February for college football programs across the country today. It marks the first day high school seniors who have been offered a scholarship to play on the next level, can officially put pen to paper, notifying colleges they are headed their way. Heading into the morning, fife of the top ten recruits in the nation are still uncommitted. It's certainly a very exciting day for high school and college football.

And nothing like going to see your favorite team play and having them win and getting a souvenir. In Denver, Danilo Gallinari with a spectacular shot, one that the Harlem Globetrotters could only think up.

SAMBOLIN: That's great.

GREENBERG: He gave the Nuggets their 109th and 110th points, and Nugget fans get four tacos for a dollar at a local fast food chain. SAMBOLIN: That's worth more than four tacos for a dollar.

GREENBERG: They got the win as well. That was just a small sample of a wild Tuesday night around the NBA. For much more of what happened from the floor, as well as everything else you need to know from the world of sports, be sure to check out

BERMAN: That was a serious shot from Gallinari. That was a circus shot.

GREENBERG: The nuggets are known for scoring a whole lot of points. The Denver has earned the hometown fans discounted tacos 12 times this season. So the lesson of the day, John, if you like tacos, become a Denver Nuggets fan.

BERMAN: If I could shoot like Gallinari.

SAMBOLIN: That is amazing. I can do that.

All right, it's 12 minutes past the hour. She bought a dress for the big night, but now there is a chance she will never get to wear it.

BERMAN: Saving the calories may not be worth it, the unseen danger of diet soda and booze.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

A Texas high school senior who has been battling cancer since age 10 is now fighting another battle. Eighteen-year-old Lizzie Grisham's (ph) cancer and diabetes has been forced into a home school program by teachers in her district. But when she tried to attend the winter formal, she was told she was not allowed. School says they consider her, quote, "a former student" and therefore she's not allowed to attend the dance.

SAMBOLIN: That's awful. I hope --

BERMAN: There has to be a solution.

SAMBOLIN: There has to be.

All right. Let me switch gears. Apparently he is showing off. It turns out Felix Baumgartner, that daredevil who took a leap from the edge of space, fell even faster than we first thought. There's new analysis of the record that shows that he nearly hit 844 miles per hour. So that's 10 miles per hour faster than first reported.

Baumgartner became the first person to break the speed of sound without a vehicle either way. But the height from which he jumped was corrected downward to 127,852 feet, so he lost 252 feet.


BERMAN: It's still crazy, at any height. SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: All right. Seventeen minutes after the hour right now.

I want to bring you up-to-speed on the top stories. Christine Romans is here with some of headlines.


The man who kidnapped a 5-year-old boy and held him nearly a week in an underground bunker had the bunker rigged with two bombs. And this morning, experts are looking for even more explosives.

Law enforcement official tells CNN they used drones and sophisticated surveillance equipment to monitor the suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes. They rushed the bunker and were shot at before he was shot and killed. And the boy was rescued. And today, that little boy turns 6.

The Arkansas governor says he plans to sign a concealed guns in church law once it hits his desk. The Arkansas statehouse overwhelmingly passed this measure in an 85-8 vote on Monday. The state Senate did the same last week. The law in Arkansas allows concealed weapons in houses of worship for personal security.

Mystery surrounding the sudden death of a well-known actor this morning. British actor Robin Sachs, famous for his work on the show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", he died unexpectedly at the age of 61. This is according to his official Web site. The Web site didn't say where, when, or how it happened. There were no reports of him being in poor health leading up to his death.

You might want to think twice about mixing alcohol and diet soda. A new study causes a higher blood alcohol concentration than cocktails mixed with regular soft drinks. In other words, it goes to your head faster. Researchers say because there's no sugar in a diet drink, it passes through the stomach a lot quicker, sending the alcohol into the blood streams faster.

SAMBOLIN: So, does it require a higher amount of alcohol then if you were pulled over, I wonder, right?

ROMANS: If it goes in the bloodstream faster --


SAMBOLIN: Yes, I'd say what this does is it lets you know, only have one drink if you are having it with diet soda instead of several, right?

BERMAN: Wise words.

SAMBOLIN: Nobody agrees with me.

Eighteen minutes past the hour. Usually, liberal arts majors usually have this problem when they graduate, low salaries. Christine is always talking about this. So, coming up, signs that the tide is finally turning.



BERMAN: I think that's New York you are looking at right now. The sun is coming up soon. It's 6:22 in New York. This Wollman Rink may be Central Park there. A beautiful morning hopefully here.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are up ahead of corporate earnings reports. Stocks again flirted with the 14,000 mark yesterday, but closed below that threshold.

Christine Romans is here with details. But also this big case against S&P.

ROMANS: Yes, let me start with S&P and the new information on that. You got Colorado now joining the lawsuit. Several states, more than a dozen states joining this lawsuit with the government against standard & poor's saying, hey, you shouldn't have called these things AAA real estate investments at the height of the bubble when you knew they weren't and that brought things down. Those are the states there.

And McGraw-Hill, the company, the parent company of S&P, down big yesterday. Down three days in a row, not moving in the pre-market. But we'll closely watch that.

What we'll be watching in the stock market. Futures are up. The Nikkei, that's Japanese stocks, closed at the highest since 2008. You got a lot of optimism about corporate earnings, the fed still pumping money into the system. Congress hasn't ruined the world just yet. And so, stocks keep going higher. You could see record highs in coming days for the Dow. The Dow 219 points away. And the S&P 500 from the bottom in 2009 has doubled. It has doubled. Four years old, this bull market is.

All of you asking me, am I too late to get in? Or you're asking me, oh my gosh, I got to get out. I can't tell you what to do. I can only say this has been a very big rally and we're at a really pretty interesting point here.

Also, an interesting point, gas prices up in 20 days in a row. Twenty days in a row for gas prices, maybe you're not feeling the stock rally. You sure feel this every week. This is your personal economic indicator, the thing you may feel more than anything else, $3.55 per gallon nationwide. I always say the nationwide number is a national temperature. It doesn't mean anything. It only matters where you are. Parts of California, it's about $5. So, watch that one very, very closely. And, finally, one thing you need to know about your money today. Liberal arts starting salaries are rising. I can't believe I'm saying it.

Look at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, this is what it found. Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, this is the starting salary, folks, $43,100. History, $41,900. English, $40,200. Most of those salaries rising between 3 percent and 4 percent. Visual and performing arts lowest paid of the liberal arts majors.

I want you to very carefully look at those numbers there, because the rule of thumb is, don't barrow more for college than you expect to earn in your first year out. That means liberal arts folks, you can borrow 43 grand for school. Don't overdo it.

BERMAN: For all these liberal arts majors, they can't to math.


BERMAN: So, I've been here going, I'm trying to figure out. I can't figure that out. That's a problem.

ROMANS: That's what we're here for.

SAMBOLIN: That's terrible.

ROMANS: Don't borrow too much more than you expect. But the good news here is in the NACE says, for two years, the trend is better. The last couple of years, more kids are getting jobs and they're getting slightly higher starting salaries. So, there you go.

SAMBOLIN: If you can't follow that math, I'm very worried about it.

Thank you, Christine.


ROMANS: What's your major? Tell me, tell me.

BERMAN: I'm social science. Come on, I'm doing the best I can.

Twenty-five minutes after the hour right now. And this is what I studied. The "Star Wars" galaxy about to get bigger. The spinoff movies now in the work. But here's the question: is expansion a good idea? Tweet us, let us know this is important.

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