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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

North Korea Confirms Nuclear Test; $1 Million Reward Prompts Hundreds of Tips; Promises Kept from Last SOTU; Shark Attacks on the Rise

Aired February 12, 2013 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news this morning.

The blast heard around the world. North Korea claiming another nuclear test.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Dueling addresses after the State of the Union. A closer look at the two rising Republican stars ready to respond to the president's speech tonight.

SAMBOLIN: And the big dig out. It's day three now. Believe it or not, some are still stuck at home after that Northeast blizzard.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman, in Washington this morning for the State of the Union address. And we will have that speech, just moments away.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SAMBOLIN: We begin with breaking news. North Korea has done it again. The nation's state-run news agency reporting that it has successfully conducted a third underground nuclear test and reaction is pouring in from around the world this morning. In just a few hours, the U.N. Security Council is going to hold an emergency meeting.

The Obama administration has condemned the test, and Japan's prime minister is calling North Korea's actions regrettable.

So, let's bring in CNN's Anna Coren. She's in Seoul. And Anna, this is the third successful nuclear test, plus the recent long-range rocket launches. What is North Korea planning?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are planning on developing a nuclear arsenal and becoming a nuclear state and you would have to think, Zoraida, that they are one step closer after conducting this third nuclear test.

Now, they say that they let off an atomic bomb, which was more powerful, that it was smaller and lighter, which would suggest that they are getting very close to developing a miniaturized nuclear warhead that they can then fit on top of a ballistic missile.

Now, we know they have the technology to launch a rocket. They did that back in December. A long-range rocket was sent a satellite into orbit now. This rocket has a potential to travel more than 10,000 kilometer. Now, that would be from North Korea to the United States. So, North Korea wants to develop a deterrent against its sworn enemy, the United States, that is the ultimate aim.

SAMBOLIN: And, Anna, South Korea has called on the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting and that is actually happening this morning. It is scheduled at 9:00 a.m. So what kind of action could we see coming from the United Nations? We've heard about the condemnation, but what will the action be?

COREN: Yes. It's a very good question. We just don't know. You know, it would appear that North Korea is immune to sanction. They tightened the sanction last month, and you would assume that's exactly what they're going to do with the backing of China. This is something that really irked the North Koreans because China is the close ally, the only ally, if you like, of North Korea.

So, what do they do going forward? Well, that is up to the international community. As to whether it works, only time will tell.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I know we're going to be watching that very closely and you will as well at 9:00 this morning. Anna Coren in Seoul for us. Thank you very much.

And, John, the timing of this is interesting, right?

BERMAN: Oh, yes, on the very day --

SAMBOLIN: State of the Union, yes.

BERMAN: -- on the very day the president delivers the State of the Union address. And even without the incident in Korea, there is a lot on the line tonight when President Barack Obama stands before Congress and the nation and delivers his fourth State of the Union address. Jobs and the economy will probably be issue number one, but the president is also expected to make his case for immigration reform as well as climate change and, of course, gun control.

CNN's live coverage of the address begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Now, once the president is done, there will be two State of the Union responses, Senators Marco Rubio for the Republicans and Senator Rand Paul for the Tea Party. According to both Republicans and the Tea Party, there's no divide of any kind. In fact, one Tea party official insists the dueling speeches represent a victory for the conservative movement.

CNN's Jim Acosta explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: They talk about the cost of social programs. JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In one corner, Florida senator, Marco Rubio, dubbed the Republican savior on the cover of "Time" magazine, giving the GOP response to President Obama.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Had someone been aware of these things --

ACOSTA: In the other corner, Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, with the reaction from the Tea Party movement. For both men, the dueling speeches are another sign of their sudden star power.

(APPLAUSE)

ACOSTA: Just three years ago, Rubio was a Tea Party favorite but a long shot for the Senate when he sat down with CNN for one of his first interviews.

Would you be the first Tea Party senator if elected?

RUBIO: Well, I'm running as a Republican.

ACOSTA: Little more than two years later, he had a prime speaking slot at the Republican convention, and now, he's a leading voice on immigration reform.

RUBIO: He did absolutely nothing on immigration.

PAUL: We're coming to take our government back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ACOSTA: Paul, who also rode the Tea Party wave into the Senate in 2010, says his response to the president will be different.

PAUL: I think, really, there are some things that I will emphasize that maybe Marco doesn't.

ACOSTA: And a reminder the conservative movement hasn't gone anywhere.

PAUL: I don't always agree, but the thing is, this isn't about he and I. This is about the Tea Party.

ACOSTA: The chair of the Tea Party Express, which is hosting Paul speech, tells CNN, "Tuesday night, we have two Tea Party senators responding to the president's State of the Union address. That is historic." But GOP strategist, Ana Navarro, says make no mistake, Rubio is a Republican first.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He's always run for office in Florida as a Republican. At the same time, he's very receptive, embraces a lot of the concepts that the Tea Party stands for.

ACOSTA: And it's Rubio's rise that has caught the attention of top Democrats who brushed off his upcoming, high-profile address in this conference call with reporters.

VOICE OF DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: They don't think there's anything wrong with their policies. They think they just need to package them better. You can't put lipstick on a pig.

ACOSTA (on-camera): As for those dueling speeches, The Tea Party Express says it will be careful not to step on the official Republican response. Noting Paul's remarks will come a few minutes after Rubio is finished speaking, and a top Rubio aide says the senator welcomes the Tea Party reaction to the president.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And we will, of course, cover all of those speeches tonight.

And in just a few minutes, our Dan Lothian takes a look at the president's promises from his 2012 State of the Union address to see how many of them were kept.

And in our next hour of EARLY START, we are going to look ahead at tonight's big speech with freshmen Democratic Congressman Matt Cartwright at Pennsylvania and Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

And for the best political reporting on television, keep it right here. Our live coverage of the State of the Union address begins tonight at 7:0 p.m. Eastern, and we will bring you the expert analysis you have come to expect from CNN tomorrow on EARLY START. We're doing it all, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And we are -- and you know, Marco Rubio in a first is actually going to deliver that response in English and in Spanish. So, that will be very interesting to watch as well. Thank you. We'll check back in with you.

BERMAN: Great.

SAMBOLIN: Well, hundreds of tips have poured in to the Los Angeles Police Department since the $1 million reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of accused cop killer, Christopher Dorner.

The renegade ex-police officer is accused of killing three people in a revenge plot, targeting the Los Angeles Police Department. The search considered one of the largest in Southern California history has entered its second week now.

And three long days have passed since an epic blizzard bombarded the northeast, and while some cities are beginning to return to normal, others are still struggling to dig out for more than three feet of snow, one of them, Hamden, Connecticut.

They're the folks that got 40 inches of snow and that is where we find George Howell this morning. Are you playing in the snow still? GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, look, if you can't see it behind me, let me show you, there's still a lot of snow out here --

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh.

HOWELL: -- in Hamden, Connecticut. There are still -- yes, a lot of roads that are still unplowed, believe it or not. But here's what we found. Residents here, they are very patient about all of this like Peter Curtis. This is a guy that I found the other day who has been stuck in his home now, Zoraida, since Friday, but rather than complain about it all, he seems content just to wait it out. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL (voice-over): Peter Curtis waited at the front door.

(on-camera): I'm going to come over and see if I can talk to you.

(LAUGHTER)

HOWELL: It's not the easiest walk as you can imagine.

(voice-over): Watching curiously to see how deep the snow is that's kept him trapped in his home for days.

So, how long have you been stuck in here?

PETER CURTIS, HAMDEN RESIDENT: I went to the store Friday morning, you know, and got all the stuff I needed. So, I've been here since Friday.

HOWELL: I guess, I'm your first visitor if I can make it.

(LAUGHTER)

CURTIS: Yes. Good.

HOWELL: A Vietnam veteran living here alone, Curtis says he isn't able to dig himself out of the snow like a lot of his friends, but he takes it all in stride.

CURTIS: Well, you know, what you want me to say is, you know, -- it's terrible. I've got books. I'm reading.

(LAUGHTER)

HOWELL: You're catching up on your reading.

CURTIS: Yes, of course. I've got, you know, book here, book there.

HOWELL: And patience is important according to Hamden's mayor, Scott Jackson. He says digging out from 40 inches of snow will take weeks.

MAYOR SCOTT JACKSON, HAMDEN, CONNECTICUT: We have about 245 miles worth of road, and as of right now, about 50 percent of them are impassable. HOWELL: The city has called in extra cruise to operate hay loaders that scoop up the snow. Snowplows have worked round the clock to clear most major highways. And you find people in neighborhoods doing their part.

JAVIER RODRIGUEZ, HAMDEN RESIDENT: I've got my friend. He lives down the street, and his street isn't plowed. So, I owe him a couple, but that's about it.

HOWELL: And that's what Peter Curtis is counting on.

CURTIS: As far as I'm concerned, OK, I hope to get plowed out or, you know, get some Boy Scouts coming and shove me out today.

HOWELL: Neighbors helping neighbors to get life in Hamden back to normal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL (on-camera): So, Zoraida, the good news, it is above freezing this morning. So, you know, not nearly as block ice on the roads, though, you still find those slippery spots. The bad news is there is more snow in the forecast, only to add to the snow that we already have that they're trying to get rid of -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Well, at least, you know, you're finding folks that have a really good attitude about it. And you moonwalking is always fun. So, you could continue sharing with us.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: George Howell live for us in Connecticut. Thank you so much.

HOWELL: Thanks. Of course.

SAMBOLIN: John, we're going to head over to you.

BERMAN: Very well. I would like to see more of George moonwalking. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: I agree with you. He makes it fun to cover that story.

BERMAN: Absolutely. All right. So, back to the State of the Union. Saying is one thing, doing it is another. Coming up from Washington, a closer look at what the president promised in the last State of the Union address. Did he follow through?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Promises, promises. Tonight, we will know what President Obama intends to do in 2013. He made a lot of promises during last year's State of the Union address. So what difference has a year made? Dan Lothian takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With confidence and conviction, President Obama paved the road through 2012 with his "state of the Union" address.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can do this.

LOTHIAN: Offering solutions and making promises.

OBAMA: I will go anywhere in the world.

I want --

Let's offer --

And we know how to fix it.

LOTHIAN: How far did he go? Did he get what he wanted? On immigration, he offered a break for some young students in this country illegally.

OBAMA: Let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our lands, start new businesses, defend this country.

LOTHIAN: He later signed an executive order similar to the D.R.E.A.M. Act to do just that with certain requirements. Many in the Hispanic community criticized him for not acting sooner. And on education for all college students, a promise to keep costs down while putting administrators on notice.

OBAMA: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.

LOTHIAN: The president extended a $2,500 a year tax credit for eligible students and public pressure caused some private universities to freeze tuition and cut cost. But some promises ran into stiff Congressional opposition, a move to halt outsourcing was rejected in the Senate as was an end to oil subsidies. Other pledges were watered down or pushed aside like taxes on the rich. This was the president's line in the sand.

OBAMA: If you make under $250,000 a year like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn't go up.

LOTHIAN: But the political winds blew that line up to $450,000 for couples as part of a dragged out 11th hour fiscal cliff deal, the same deal that swallowed a payroll tax cut pledge.

OBAMA: Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.

LOTHIAN (on-camera): Some of the president's promises were viewed as pandering for votes in an election year, something the White House flatly rejected. But it has addressed the president did acknowledge the politics of campaigns could prevent Congress from acting.

Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So, from the economy, gun violence, immigration reform, President Obama lays out his agenda for 2013 in his first State of the Union address of his second term, and we will be all over it live. You can watch CNN's comprehensive coverage tonight starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Hey John, this next story is for you, so standby for it. I know you have a little anxiety about sharks. So --

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: So, listen up. Shark attacks are on the rise. A University of Florida study shows shark attacks went up last year, but when the stats are put in prospective, John, the odds that you will be attacked are still extremely rare. Worldwide, there were 80 unprovoked attacks last year. That's a slight uptick from 2011. Fifty-three of them in the U.S., which is the most in the United States since 2000. So, good news/bad news for you this morning. And look at your face.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: I don't like the odds. I don't like them.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, anyway. But it is a little bit of good news.

Anyway, it is a test of patience for thousands of cruise ship passengers, another story you were very interested in yesterday. They are drifting at sea aboard a disabled cruise ship. So, today, a glimmer of hope that the whole ordeal is finally coming to an end. That is headed your way next.

And, folks, if you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time. We are on your desktop or on your mobile phone, just go to CNN.com /TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: A beautiful predawn shot of Washington, D.C. You're looking at the Washington Monument right there. It's 48 degrees here right now. We'll get up to 53 degrees later. And, of course, tonight, President Obama delivers his State of the Union address.

For now though, President Obama doing an about-face on raising the eligibility age for Medicare. The White House says he now opposes a plan to raise the age from 65 to 67. The president has said he was willing to consider such a move in December of 2011, but a spokesman said now it is not the right direction to go in, although the president is still willing to consider lowering the Medicare cost of living adjustments if Republicans will compromise on new tax revenues.

So, after honoring the 200-year tradition of State of the Union message, President Obama will take part in a far more modern tradition, a Google+ chat. The president will answer questions about his State of the Union address in a Google+ hangout Thursday at 4:50 p.m. Eastern Time. We will have a full preview of tonight's address at the top of the hour -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, John.

An update now on our breaking news. North Korea's state-run news agency has confirmed. They have, quote, "successfully conducted a third underground nuclear test." The U.N. Security Council will have an emergency meeting in a few hours from now. That's scheduled at 9:00 a.m.

And more internal reaction, including the Australian government which has condemned the nuclear test in the quote, "strongest possible terms." The question is what action, if any, will be taken.

So, the first of two tugboats reached the Carnival cruise ship drifting in the Gulf of Mexico Monday night. It will begin towing the ship and the more than 4,200 people aboard to a port in Alabama. It's expected to arrive sometime Thursday. A spokesperson for Carnival cruise line said it was an engine fire that has left the ship stranded since Sunday.

And if you are traveling today, keep an eye on the weather. Just as the northeast is getting back to normal, we're looking at another round of storms in the northeast. Indra Petersons is live with -- or you're back in Atlanta from Boston.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm home.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Great job. Great job.

PETERSONS: Thank you so much. Well, things are finally actually calming down in New England. (INAUDIBLE) are building in, but of course, temperatures in the 40s today. They're going to be dealing with snowmelt especially in the overnight hours. We're worrying about that freezing on to the roads again. In fact, by tomorrow, another chance for even more snow on the way for them.

So, they're going to enjoy that while they can. But this is what you're talking about. Yes, we're starting to see more the stream drop down again, but we're starting to see more chances for showers again, yes, in the south-southeast. We're going to watch a low start develop in Texas today. We're going to see that line of storms still stalled out in the southeast.

So, they've already seen three to five inches of rain. More rains still in the forecast, we all know, yes, Mardi Gras. It looks like more showers for them. There you go in Texas. Look at all that instability. That's what's building is that low starts to form, and I want to take you a little bit wider here.

You'll be able to see all the showers that still remain in the south- southeast. The big question, though, as we know, we're talking about Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday tonight, we have potential here for some severe storms right ahead of that. I don't know what you think, John, but I don't think this is going to keep anyone away from partying from fat Tuesday tonight.

BERMAN: State of the Union, Fat Tuesday all on the same date. What a party it will be all over the country. Indra Petersons, thanks so much.

Up next, a television station broadcasts a warning that zombies are coming. Uh-oh, a hacker plays a prank that sends some daytime TV viewers into a mild panic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START, taking a look at the top CNN Trends on the web this morning.

The zombies have officially taken over. Incredible ratings for the return of "The Walking Dead." The show came back from its third season break with 12.3 million viewers. That is a new high for the zombie apocalypse drama. It also pulled in close to eight million viewers among adults 18 to 49.

How good is that? Well, it beat the Wednesday and Thursday editions of "American Idol" in that all-important adult demo, and this was up against the Grammys, John.

BERMAN: Yes. Zombies are huge in the demo.

SAMBOLIN: Apparently.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Who knew?

BERMAN: And in related news, you know, we interrupt this program for the zombie apocalypse. A Montana TV station says hackers broke into their emergency alert system and aired a warning that the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sooner, authorities in more area (ph) have reported that the bodies of the dead arising from their graves and attacking the living. Follow the messages on screen that will be updated as information becomes available.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, local paper, yes, "The Great Falls Tribune", says, believe it or not, a handful of people actually called the police to see whether this was true. The emergency alert was issued during an afternoon programming on KRTV. The station, as you can imagine, is says it's trying to find out how this happens.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I can't wait to see as this story continues to develop, John. How crazy is that? I think I will call, too. All right. (LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Late-night laughs. Jon Stewart, like all of us, wondering what retired Popes do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": A Pope hasn't resigned like this in 600 years. They don't usually retire until they are called back to the home office.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: So, I guess, the obvious question, "B" --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does a Pope who's retired do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's a retired Pope to do? What do retired Popes do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: Now, I'm not a religious scholar, but if I know anything about retired people, it's probably the same as what they all do.

(SINGING)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART: Live -- (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: I said heading into this it has to be sacrilegious. There you have it. EARLY START continues right now.