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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

North Korea Nuclear Test; State of the Union Address Tonight; Arrests in Chicago Teen Murder; Who'll Lead the Catholic Church?; State of the Union: All About Jobs

Aired February 12, 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: Breaking new this morning, North Korea has said it's successfully set off another nuclear explosion. Is Kim Jong-un closer to getting the bomb?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Balancing act. With the State of the Union now just hours away, how will President Obama challenge Republicans and seek common ground all at the same time?

SAMBOLIN: And replacing the Pope. With the Holy Father's sudden resignation, what is the Vatican's plan for picking a new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics?

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman in Washington this morning.

More from here on tonight's State of the Union address, just ahead.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: But, first, we begin with breaking news. North Korea sending shock waves through the ground and around the world with its third test of an atomic bomb. And this morning, the White House is responding and allies in Asia are calling emergency meetings as well.

North Korea's state-run news agency announcing they have, quote, "successfully" conducted a third underground nuclear test at a northern test site within that country. So, this after New York seismologists picked up a 5.1 earthquake in North Korea, about a mile underground. It is centered in the same area where they conducted two previous tests.

So, the big question this morning: how strong was the blast? And how close is North Korea to making a bomb that it can sell or perhaps launch?

So, let's go to Elise Labott in Washington. So, Elise, what does this mean for North Korea's nuclear program? There are a lot of skeptics who say they do not have the capability to make a bomb.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Zoraida, it will be days before the U.S. has a very good handle on the size of the explosion, the size of the payload. But at first glance, what U.S. officials are very concerned about are North Korea's claims that it testified a miniaturized nuclear weapon.

And why is that so concerning? Because that means that North Korea is further along in developing the technology to fit a nuclear warhead on a long range missile that could feasibly reach the United States. The U.S. isn't convinced that North Korea has perfected this technology. But his type of test, this nuclear test, moves them closer to mastering that technology, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Elise, what's the reaction from the United States?

LABOTT: Well, the social was bracing for this test. It was expected. Officials tell me that North Korea warned the U.S. and China yesterday that a test was eminent.

After the test, President Obama issued a statement. What he said was, "North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. We will strengthen close coordination with allies and partners and work with our six-party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other U.N. member states to pursue firm action."

He also said, Zoraida, that the U.S. would be coordinating its defense with its allies, maybe have a more defense posture with South Korea and then Japan. The U.N. Security Council will be meeting this morning in an emergency session.

My source is telling me U.S. is going to push for tough condemnation, possibly sanctions. It depends what China will do at the U.N., but the U.S. also has the option of going to other sanctions such as what they did with Iran, really squeezing North Korea from the international financial system, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Elise Labott, we know that you are following all the developments for us. We'll check back in with you a little later.

And coming up, we'll have a live report from CNN International's Anna Coren. She's in Seoul, South Korea, with reaction to North Korea's nuclear blast.

John?

BERMAN: And, of course, as this is all happening, President Obama delivers his fourth State of the Union address tonight and there is plenty of ground to cover. Immigration is on the agenda, so is climate change, and, of course, gun control.

And if you want an example of how divided we are as a nation right now, specifically on the issue of gun control, a survivor of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre will be in attendance, along with other victims of gun violence. At the same time, rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent will be with the audience with them as a guest of a Texas lawmaker.

But as Brianna Keilar reports, the main focus tonight is expected to be the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How times have changed. When he addressed Congress one year ago, President Obama faced sagging poll numbers and a tough road to re-election. The result: a State of the Union address that contained few new proposals and largely fell flat, not likely this year.

WILLIAM GALSTON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: His party gained seats in both the Senate and the House, the American people broadly speaking are with him, and so he can deliver a speech without the kinds of political constraints that he faced just 12 months ago.

KEILAR: White House officials tell CNN that tonight's address will bookend the president's inaugural speech last month when he laid out aggressive themes on issues of gun control and immigration, and mentioned some unexpected subjects.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

KEILAR: While President Obama is expected to offer more specifics on some of these issues, White House officials say the overall focus of tonight's speech will be the economy and adding jobs for the middle class. That topic got surprisingly little attention in the inaugural address.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He hasn't given us an idea whether there is a significant agenda that he wants to pursue/design to try to accelerate economic growth and economic recovery. That's been the big missing piece all the way through last year and we'll see whether it's filled in the State of the Union.

KEILAR: To that end President Obama will frame much of his agenda under the umbrella of economic growth, as he talks about tax reform and government spending and his proposals on education, climate change, and immigration.

But while the wind is at his back, observers say President Obama can't appear too bullheaded at the start of his second term.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So in the next hour of EARLY START, we will look ahead to tonight's State of the Union address with freshman Democratic Congressman Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

And, of course, you can watch the president's State of the Union address, tonight live on CNN. Our coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and if you miss it tonight, you can't catch all the highlights and analysis tomorrow morning on EARLY START, live again from Washington, beginning at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Looking forward to that, John. Thank you.

And developments this morning in the murder of Chicago honor student Hadiya Pendleton. Two suspected gang members, 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams will be in court this morning. There are their mug shots right there. And police say Ward confessed and said she was not the intended target.

Just days before, Pendleton had performed at the president's inauguration. Michelle Obama attended Hadiya's funeral over the weekend and her parents will be first lady's guests at tonight's State of the Union address.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Chicago. And, Ted, what more do we know about the suspects and how police found them?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, how police found them unfortunately wasn't from a tip within the community.

Garry McCarthy, the superintendent of police here in Chicago, said they were very disappointed in the fact that despite the fact that this case was on the airwaves every single day for almost two weeks and there was a $40,000 reward, they did not get that tip from a witness. What happened was they just canvassed the neighborhood and picked up little tidbits and were able to narrow down these two and as you said, they got a partial confession from the 18-year-old.

SAMBOLIN: And, Ted, we heard reports that the shooter mistook one of Hadiya's friends for a rival gang member. Have police said whether or not Hadiya or any of her friends that were there that day were connected to any gangs?

ROWLANDS: Absolutely not. In fact, the 18-year-old Michael Ward said he believed the one male underneath this canopy in this park was a member of a rival gang that. That was a case of mistaken identity. None of those kids, who had just finished taking a final exam at high school, had anything to do with this. They were all innocent victims.

SAMBOLIN: And we also know her parents will be attending the State of the Union address. They were invited by Mrs. Obama.

Have they had any public reaction at all to the arrests?

ROWLANDS: Garry McCarthy said in the press conference last night that he talked to the parents who were in Washington, as you mentioned. And today, they were very grateful for all of the outpouring of support, but as you can imagine, heartbroken still at the loss of their daughter. But this was good news that at least they made an arrest. SAMBOLIN: And, Ted, I want to ask one final question. You touched on something that I think is unique to Chicago, maybe not with gangs -- and that is that there were no tips that came in to the police department. Is that because the gang members actually have a silence policy on talking about what happened if they did witness anything?

ROWLANDS: Absolutely. No snitching. It is a huge problem.

It is a problem in other urban areas as well. It's gotten to the point -- we were talking with the states attorney, the lead prosecutor in Cook County last week, and she said it has gotten to the point now, people won't even tell police what they saw at a scene of a crime. It used to be when major witness was intimidated. Now, everybody in the community is intimidated. It's a huge problem trying to put people behind bars.

Of the murders last year, 546, less than 40 percent of those resulted in an arrest.

SAMBOLIN: That's really careful and I think that just kind of compounds the problem of gun violence in Chicago.

Ted Rowlands, thank you very much for that update.

It is now 10 minutes past the hour. Now to Pope Benedict XVI's stunning, historic announcement that he is stepping down. We broke this news yesterday for you and today, we have an idea of a timeline when a new Pope will take the reins with a monumental task of guiding the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

Senior European correspondent Jim Bittermann explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since no Pope has resigned in six centuries, there's very little precedent for what will happen next at the Vatican. But there are a few hints.

The papal spokesman promised, as he announced Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, that there'll be a new Pope by Easter. Easter is the 31st of March, so the 118 members of the College of Cardinals will have to gather in Rome and get through the business of electing a new Pope before that.

The spokesman also said that the College of Cardinals will not convene while the Pope is still in office. So, that means the cardinals will not go into conclave before March 1st since the Pope is officially stepping down February 28th.

The election process itself could be quite short. With jet travel, it no longer takes weeks for cardinals to gather. In fact, they could arrive very early in March. What will be missing with this Pope's resignation is the period of mourning and reflection that takes place when a Pope dies. It is still an open question whether the cardinals will immediately gather and go into the conclave or take a few days to get into the mood for electing a Pope.

Also, unclear is whether without a mourning period, there will be time in the schedule for the quiet and formal gathers of cardinals which have in the past have been a time when the men who will elect the next Pope size up the measure of their fellow cardinals, perhaps coming to some early conclusions about the one among them who could make the best leader of the church.

The conclave begins when the cardinals file into the Sistine Chapel and the doors are locked behind them so they can conduct their vote in secret. In ancient times, the conclave sometimes went very long. It took nearly three years in the 13th century to elect Pope Gregory X. But some have gone less than 24 hours. And in more recent times, the conclaves have lasted just a few days.

Cardinal Ratzinger was elected with only four rounds of voting in just 24 hours.

Also shortening the process, with modern communications, the cardinals know far more about each other and their qualities than they have in the past.

And as well, since 67 of the 118 cardinals were personally selected by Benedict over the past seven of years, it seems very likely that they'll enter the conclave with some like-mindedness about who would be the next successor.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, the Vatican.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Fascinating process there.

So, in our next hour, a look at the possible successors. Who's on the short list to succeed Pope Benedict XVI? We'll talk with Raymond Arroyo. He's a news director at EWTN, the Eternal World Television Network.

We got lot of insight and perspective from that man yesterday. Looking forward to talking to him today, John.

BERMAN: He was terrific. I can't wait to hear what he has to say.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: Meanwhile in Washington, the first lady will watch her husband's State of the Union address tonight in a company of some special invited guests. One of them is a hardened American battle hero, a real hero. His story, as told by the president himself, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to a special State of the Union edition on EARLY START from Washington this morning.

Tonight, a true American hero, Clint Romesha, will be one of Michelle Obama's guests for the president's address. The former Army staff sergeant was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House ceremony yesterday. This, of course, is the nation's highest military honor.

In conferring the medal, President Obama described how Romesha went beyond the call of duty during a Taliban attack in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: More American, their bodies were still out there. And Clint Romesha lives the Soldier's Creed -- "I will never leave a fallen comrade." So, he and his team started charging as enemy poured down and they kept charging, 50 meters, 80 meters, ultimately a 100-meter run through a hail of bullets. They reached their fallen friends and they brought them home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Romesha's story is truly harrowing and inspiring. He's the fourth living veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor.

Also on the Obama's guest list for tonight, Apple's CEO Tim Cook. He will be sitting in the first lady's box to watch the president delivers his address to the nation. This is the second straight year that Mrs. Obama has invited Apple royalty. Last year, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, sat with her.

After the speech, there will be two responses to the State of the Union address once the president is done, of course -- Senator Marco Rubio for the Republicans and Senator Rand Paul for the Tea Party. In the next hour, our Jim Acosta will explain why one response is not enough.

Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much.

We are following breaking new this morning. North Korea conducting its third test of a nuclear weapon, raising fears now that the nation is closer to having a bomb that it can actually deploy. The Obama administration condemned the test, saying North Korea's threatening activities warrant further swift, incredible action by the international community.

And later this morning a vote on a proposed law to allow same-sex couples to marry and to adopt. This is in France. Parliament will vote on the highly charged, highly emotional issue after weeks of intense debate and massive protests on both sides.

And Fat Tuesday celebrations in the Big Easy will probably be soggy. The National Weather Service says morning parade goers in New Orleans should expect light rain. So, we have a live look for you. Bourbon Street, where -- at least it's dry right now. Lots of folks out there.

Stronger thunderstorms should hold off at least until the afternoon. All of the southeast in Louisiana is still under a flood watch as well. That is not going to stop those folks from partying, I suspect.

So one word that you will hear a lot out of the president's mouth tonight, jobs. Christine Romans' fact-checking what the president's been saying about the economy is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Twenty-three minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are set for a slightly lower open after North Korea's latest nuclear test. And so far, world market reaction has been muted.

The big speech tonight -- the State of the Union, as you very well know. And with the unemployment rate at 7.9 percent, we're expecting to hear a lot about jobs, job, and more jobs.

But it's a theme we've heard the president talked about before.

Christine Romans is here doing a little fact-checking for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I can, because, you know, during the State of the Union address last year, he mentioned "job or jobs" 42 times. I ran the text of that speech through this word cloud. And I want to show what it looks like. It shows the weight that jobs had in that speech, more weight than anything else except the word "America," which I pulled out, so you could see how jobs is so important here.

So, how has he done over the past year? Two million jobs, 2 million have been added to the U.S. economy since his last State of the Union address. And the unemployment rate has drifted down to 7.9 percent, down from that horrible peak of 10 percent.

Will the president focus on the past year or is he going to look back even farther?

The White House spokesman Jay Carney at the press briefing yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The economy is continuing to grow, to continue to build on the progress we've made, to continue to build o the job creation we've achieved, over 6.1 million jobs created by our business over the past 35, or 36 months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So 2 million jobs created over the past year. Fact check on that comment? True. The private sector has been creating jobs for 35 months, 6.1 million jobs, 6.1 million created in that time. But here's the reality check to that fact check. We're still down more than 3 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007 and the jobs we're adding, Zoraida, are not the same quality as the jobs we lost.

A study by Rutgers University found this -- 54 percent of people who found work settled for lower pay. How much lower? Look at this -- 34 percent took up to a 10 percent pay cut, 26 percent took up to a 50 percent pay cut.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

ROMANS: Zoraida, the president needs to assure Americans that the recovery can strengthen and that we can add more jobs, but good paying jobs. Every single thing he talks about tonight, whether it's immigration reform, whether it's tax policy, whether it's the sequester, whatever messages he's sending to Congress has to be in the context of how are you going to create good jobs?

And quickly, we've just learned from AAA that gas prices have risen for the 26th day in a row.

SAMBOLIN: Not good news.

ROMANS: That's a bit hard job scenario. Yes, we've added jobs, but every week, people feel that higher gas price in the tank. So, you know, that's -- we'll see what he says about energy and energy policy tonight.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure you'll be fact checking again for us.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, John, back to you.

BERMAN: So, the president will make pledges about a lot of things tonight. He's going to suggest solutions to a lot of things tonight. The question is: will he follow through?

We're going to go live here to Washington -- back here to Washington with a scorecard of last year's State of the Union address. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)