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Boy Scouts Could Allow Gays; North Korean Propaganda Video; "Star Wars" Spinoffs; Alabama Bunker Rigged with Bombs; Hagel Likely to be Confirmed; Brutally Attacked in a Beachside Bungalow; Chris Brown Faked Community Service

Aired February 6, 2013 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Counting down to a landmark decision by the Boy Scouts of America today. Will it vote to lift its ban on gays? We are talking to a former scoutmaster who was forced out by that ban.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A doomsday scenario dreamed up by the North Koreans. A video showing the U.S. targeted in a mock attack.

SAMBOLIN: Trouble in the deep blue sea. Watch what happens when a small canoe encounters a giant whale.


SAMBOLIN: Not good, folks. Not good.

All right. Welcome back to -- we're going to show you more of that. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday morning right now. Thirty minutes after the hour.

SAMBOLIN: And the search for more bombs is going on this morning, after a pair of explosive devices were found in the underground bunker in Alabama where a 5-year-old boy was held captive for six days. You really know this story.

Law enforcement officials tells CNN one of the bombs was discovered in the bunker and the other was positioned inside a PVC pipe. Officials also confirmed they used drones and sophisticated surveillance equipment to monitor suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes at all times during that standoff.

So, right now, little Ethan is preparing for an incredibly big day. Happy birthday, Ethan. It is his sixth birthday. The principal of his school says everyone is anxious to see him back at class.


PHILLIP PARKER, PRINCIPAL, MIDLAND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Everybody pretty much knows Ethan. We are just looking forward to the time he can come back in and we can wrap our arms around him, tell him we love him.


SAMBOLIN: Law enforcement officials say they stormed the bunker and freed Ethan after they observed his kidnapper holding a gun -- John.

BERMAN: The Boy Scouts considering a major shift in its policies toward gay Americans today. This morning, the board could vote to lift their national ban on gay scout leaders and gay members. If that happens, local troops will decide on their own whether to accept gays.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts do have the right for a ban. This was a result of a case brought by James Dale. He was dismissed as an assistant scoutmaster in 1990 after Boy Scout leadership learned that he was gay.

James, thank you for joining this morning.


BERMAN: Let me ask you first off, what do you think will happen today? This is a momentous day. People are expecting a big change. What do you think the outcome will be?

DALE: I think it's inevitable that the Boy Scouts have to do something. They have to stop the kind of losses that they're seeing. Since that Supreme Court victory that they had, their membership dropped by 21 percent. So I think that's pretty catastrophic.

Equally, they've also lost a tremendous amount of funders and people supporting the organization.

Unfortunately, I think what they're going to do today, and they're going to compromise, and they're going to go halfway. They're going to tell local scout troops, one troop can say to a young kid, it's OK if you're gay. And the other troop will say, you're immoral, you can't be gay. I don't think that's not the right message we want to be sending to young people.

The Boy Scouts need to do it once and do it the right way.

BERMAN: I take it from your comments then that you don't believe that a halfway measure is any kind of vindication for you?

DALE: I think it's great that they are having a conversation about this, but I think it would be more important if they did the right thing, you know, once and for all. What they're going to do now is they're just going to kick the can down the road. They're going to delay the inevitable.

They can't continue to discriminate. They thought they could. They thought for 23 years excluding gay people.

What happened, it wasn't a legal jurisdiction that told them they have to accept gay people. It's basically American people saying we don't accept discrimination. It's their members saying we don't want to tolerate this type of discrimination. Their heads are in the '70s or the '50s.

Times have changed. The Boy Scouts need to keep up with that. In order for them to remain relevant, they need to stop discriminating.

If you look to segregated scout troops, into the 1970s, the Boy Scouts of America allowed racially segregated scout troops. That's unbelievable when you look at it. They shouldn't be doing the same things now.

We can look back and say they did the wrong thing then, and they couldn't -- someday we might look back and say, you did the wrong thing in 2013 by having divided scout troops. The scouts are going to say, discrimination is not what we stand for. Do it once and they do it right.

BERMAN: The American people are sending mixed signals on this. And recent Gallup polls asked if they supported gay scout leaders, more than half, 52 percent said they do not support gay scout leaders.

So, you know, is the public ready for this?

DALE: Sure. I think the way you ask the question, is the important thing here. I think there are Americans in favor of discrimination. Are they in favor of forcing the Boy Scouts to change their policies that they put forward? No.

Are they in favor of telling a 13-year-old kid that he's immoral because he thinks he is gay? I don't think any American believes that a 13-year-old-year-old should be kicked out and thrown in the door, thrown out of the step because he's trying to find out who he is.

That's what this is about. It's not about gay scout leaders. It's about doing the right thing for gay youth and young kids and not teaching any child, gay or straight, that discrimination is an American value.

BERMAN: One of the things that people on both sides of this argument seem to agree on is that if the Scouts halfway on this, it could invalidate the Supreme Court from 2000. It would be the Scout saying that the issue of sexuality is not part of their core purpose. Do you think this opens them up for further lawsuits?

DALE: I mean, I'm not a legal scholar of any stretch of the imagination. But I know when they sued -- when they kind of challenged New Jersey's unanimous decision in my case and they said to the Supreme Court, we need a First Amendment shield to protect us from New Jersey's law against discrimination, because members joined the Boy Scouts because they think gays are immoral and unclean.

When they went to the United States Supreme Court in that instance, they said this is what we're all about. You need to help us, Supreme Court. You need to help us keep out gay members and gay leaders.

So 13 years later, they are saying, wait, no individual troops can decide if gays are moral or immoral, if they're clean or unclean, I think it throws it all into question. Which why they said before, I think this is delaying the inevitable. I think the Boy Scouts need to stop this nonsense about discrimination and the lawsuits and about sexuality and get back to scouting.

The only way to do that isn't to pretend that this is the 1950s. The only way to do that is to stop discriminating. I mean, they'll be leaders.


DALE: The president of the United States is a great leader on Sunday. I'm sorry.

BERMAN: I was going to say --

DALE: The president of the United States --

BERMAN: You go ahead.

DALE: I was going to say that the president of the United States even got it right on Super Bowl Sunday when he said the Boy Scouts need to stop discriminating. I think it's pretty simple. You ask the president or you ask an 11-year-old boy, get it just the same.


BERMAN: But there are some religious groups who don't agree. And about 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are affiliated with religious groups.

Just yesterday, Richard Land, who's with the Southern Baptist Convention, he was on "STARTING POINT" with us. And he said if this change is made, that Boy Scouts will simply flee. That people will flee.

Listen to what he said.


RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Yes, we live in a democracy and people can make this choice, but if we do, it's going to be a catastrophe because Baptist Scouts, and Catholic Scouts, and Mormon Scouts, Methodist Scouts, many of them are going to vote with their feet and they're going to leave the Scouts.


BERMAN: Do you think this decision will cause more Scouts to leave?

DALE: I'm not going to comment on what a small-minded hatemonger has to say about sort of discrimination issues like that. If you want to look who's voted with their feet. Since the decision in 2003, excuse me, since the Supreme Court decision in 2000, 21 percent of Boy Scouts' membership has voted with their feet and left scouting because they find it irrelevant because they're discriminating. I think that's going to continue. That won't stop just because small-minded people think gays aren't equal or immoral. This is about fairness, this is about equality and this is what you want to teach your children. Would you allow your child to be in a segregated summer camp? Would you allow your child to be in a segregated country club? That's what this about is.

BERMAN: Jim Dale, thank you. I know you have been dealing with this issue for a long, long time. We appreciate you coming in.

DALE: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: Great interview, John.

Thirty-seven minutes past the hour. More than a year after the military's repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the Pentagon is poised to extend some benefits to same-sex partners of service personnel. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hasn't finalized which benefits will be provided. But officials say they are likely to include military ID cards for access to on-base stores, as well as some health and welfare programs as well.

BERMAN: Spelling out the rules for the targeted killing of Americans. According to a newly leaked Justice Department memo the United States can use lethal force against American citizens 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 U.S. is not required to carry out the targeted killing.

SAMBOLIN: Charlottesville, Virginia, is the first U.S. city to finally pass an anti-drone resolution. They called on Congress and Virginia's general assembly to forbid information obtained by domestic drones to be used in state or federal courts.

BERMAN: All right. Just into CNN, I want to show you some live pictures of a truck dangling off of I-95, an overpass in Ft. Lauderdale in Florida. One person is reported to be trapped inside the truck, rescuers trying to figure out how to get him out. We're going to have more information on this as it comes in. But again, that is a scary, scary picture, as that truck is just dangling off the overpass.

SAMBOLIN: Look at all of the emergency personnel on site, trying to figure out how to solve that crisis or potentially crisis that's happening there.

BERMAN: Obviously very delicate

SAMBOLIN: All right. We'll continue to monitor that for you. And we'll bring you developments as warranted.

And taking a look now at the top trends on

The State Department refusing to discuss a propaganda video uploaded to YouTube by the North Korean government. So, it shows a man dreaming of a rocket attack on a city that looks an awful lot like New York. The dream sequence eventually shows the city in ruins with "We are the World" playing on the background. A State Department official says she won't dignify the video by speaking about it.

BERMAN: "We are the World".

All right. Now, take a look at this amazing video, an uncomfortably close encounter with a humpback whale. So, a couple vacationing in Hawaii, they were enjoying a canoe trip when the whale surfaced for a breath of air right beneath their canoe.

Despite the violent collusion, luckily, no one was injured, and the whale just swam apparently unharmed. He probably didn't notice it.

SAMBOLIN: No. There's nothing to the whale, right?

All right. And "Star Wars" fanatics -- Berman, listen up -- in addition to the new trilogy, episodes VII, VIII, IX, Disney has announced plans for two standalone spinoff movies. Each of the "Star Wars" spinoff will be written around a specific character. At this point, scheduled to be released after Episode VII, and that's due out in the summer of 2015 with J.J. Abrams directing.

BERMAN: I support the trilogy, I'm nervous about the spinoffs.

SAMBOLIN: Which characters would you want them to build it around?

BERMAN: I'm very interested in the Wookiees. I would like to see more information about you which Chewbacca, perhaps Tarfful, who also lives in the Wookiee planet.

However, I'm worried about diluting the brand. We want to know what you think. So, you know, tweet me back JohnSBerman, I'm @JohnSBerman. Who do you want them to explore more deeply the "Star Wars" saga.

SAMBOLIN: I think you are looking for a consulting job.


BERMAN: It should be nice.

All right. Forty-one minutes past the hour. So, America watched as President Obama's nominee for Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, got roughed up his former colleagues in the Senate. Coming up, CNN with the inside scoop on how confirmation vote could go down.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, singer Chris Brown reportedly accused of faking it. You are not going to believe what he tried to fake. We'll explain it.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back, folks. Soledad O'Brien is joining us now with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT".

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": Ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT", the Boy Scouts expected to make a controversial policy decision today. If in fact they do lift the national ban on openly gay members, what exactly will happen to the future of the organization? We'll talk with both sides on this issue.

Tony Perkins will join us. He's the president of the Family Research Council. He's very much against changing the policy. Jennifer Tyrell, she's a former Cub Scout den mother. She was dismissed because she's a lesbian. We'll talk to both of them this morning.

Plus, his weight is becoming a national discussion. Governor Chris Christie's acknowledges he's got to shed some weight, but is it going to prevent him from being (ph) even higher office. We'll talk about the dangers of his weight.

Plus, inside into the male mind.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, really?

O'BRIEN: Yes, really. Tyrese Gibson and Reverend Run. Two more unlikely people to get together to write a book for women about the male mind? It's called "Manology."


O'BRIEN: And we talk to them about what women need to know about men.


BERMAN: We're very complicated. OK?

SAMBOLIN: Actually, you're very simple.


BERMAN: All right. Forty-six minutes after the hour right now.

Two bombs have been found in the Alabama bunker where a five-year-old kidnapped boy was held for nearly a week. And this morning, law enforcement officials are looking for more explosives at the scene.

They tell CNN they used drones and sophisticated surveillance equipment to monitor suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes during the entire six-day standoff. They rushed the bunker, rescued the boy, and killed Dykes after he began shooting at them.

SAMBOLIN: Right. Despite a very uncomfortable hearing, former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel will almost certainly be confirmed to become the next U.S. Secretary of Defense. CNN has learned at least five Republican senators would oppose a possible filibuster of Hagel's nomination with no Democratic defectors that looks like clear sailing for the embattled nominee.

BERMAN: President Obama plans to visit Israel this spring. It will be his first trip there since taking office four years ago. The White House says the president will also make stops in the West Bank and Jordan while he visits the Middle East.

BERMAN: Is Hollywood big enough to Jon Favreau? President Obama is losing his head speechwriter, Massachusetts' own Jon Favreau. He'll leave at the end of the month to try his hands at a different type of drama, screenwriting. Favreau's been Obama's lead speechwriter for the past seven years.

Now, he is not to be confused with this Jon Favreau, who you remember from "Swingers", Rudy (ph), the director of the "Iron Man" movies. Two completely different people, both extremely talented, however.

SAMBOLIN: Indeed. Forty-seven minutes after the hour. It was just one finger, but it costs a Florida women 30 days in the slammer. So, it costs her her freedom, actually. See why. The story behind this video, coming up.

BERMAN: Just one finger, but the wrong one.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, definitely.

BERMAN: But first, a carefree vacation takes a terrifying, terrifying turn. Tourists brutally attacked in a beachside bungalow.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty-one minutes past the hour.

We have a disturbing story to tell you about this morning. Six female Spanish tourists raped while vacationing in Acapulco. The mayor now apologizing this morning for downplaying the gang rape. Assaults like this are not new in Mexico, but it is shocking where it happened, near a luxurious enclave known as Acapulco's Diamond Zone. Police have stepped up security now.

CNN's Miguel Marquez breaks down how the attack happened.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mask gunmen entered the seafront vacation bungalow from the beach around 2:00 a.m. What happened next, horrific. Six women in their 20s and their male companions tied up with their own cell phone cords and bikinis. The women raped, the men helpless to stop it from happening.

"It's a delicate situation," he says, "but we will apply the full weight of the law against those responsible."

All the victims, tourists from Spain. One woman from Mexico was left unharmed. Some neighbors say they heard music coming from the beach house late that night, suggesting there may have been a party. With no gate, fence or security, the house easily entered, invaded from the beach. The shocking crime has struck worry and fear in those who know and love this popular vacation destination.

KATHY CHARELTON, VACATIONING IN ACAPULCO: I'm excited to be here, but at the same time, a little nervous.

MARQUEZ: The attack comes as tens of thousands of teens and 20 something American spring breakers prepare to descend on Acapulco for the annual rite (ph) of sun, beaches and parties. The city of Acapulco has been an oasis of relative calm in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

A place hard hit by drug related violence, the U.S. State Department recommends deferring nonessential travel to the northwestern and southern portions of the state, and even in Acapulco itself, the best advice, exercise caution and stay within tourist areas.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Acapulco, Mexico.


BERMAN: Such a terrifying story.

It is 53 minutes after the hour right now. And more P.R. for singer, Chris Brown --


BERMAN: -- yes, indeed -- another court date today. According to "Los Angeles Times," the L.A. County district attorney says the performer likely faked the community service hours he was ordered to perform. Brown could not produce any credible evidence that he completed any service at all. And the community service part of Brown's sentence for assaulting his girlfriend, singer Rihanna, the night before the 2009 Grammy Awards.

SAMBOLIN: How do you try to fake that? Kind of crazy.

All right. Talk about flipping out. I don't recommend this if you ever find yourself in front of a judge, folks. Watch what happens when this teenage girl in a Miami-Dade courthouse charged with drug possession doesn't agree with her sentence.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come back again. Come back again.


SAMBOLIN: Did she really think she was going to get away with that? Penelope Soto (ph) was hauled back in front of that judge after her offensive finger gesture and she was slapped with 30 days in jail for contempt of court.

BERMAN: All right. So, looking for a revealing Valentine's Day gift idea. How about this? An intimacy dress. It becomes transparent when you get excited. Designer Dan Roseguard (ph) --


BERMAN: -- told "The Huffington Post" he wanted to explore the dynamic between intimacy and technology in fashion.

SAMBOLIN: How does this happen?

BERMAN: I just think we're not going to get the prototype here. "The Daily Mail" says the prototype has ribbons of leather and opaque e- foils that respond to a woman's heartbeat. That's fascinating technology.

SAMBOLIN: I bet it is, Berman. I bet it is.

All right. Today's "Best Advice" from this unlikely sex symbol and Super Bowl commercial star. There she is. Coming up.


BERMAN: So, just a minute left now. As always, we wrap it up with "Best Advice.

SAMBOLIN: Here's Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right. You don't know his name, but you can't forget this face. Jesse Heiman starts at the now famous Super Bowl commercial. Here's his "Best Advice."


JESSE HEIMAN, ACTOR, GODADDY AD: The best advice I ever received is just be yourself and don't think too much and have fun.


BERMAN: So, also breath mints.


ROMANS: Have fun when you're kissing a super model in front of a 164 million people.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we changed that as a sex symbol, and I thought it was Danica Patrick or the supermodel. Silly me.


BERMAN: Congratulations to him. That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.