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Reeva Steenkamp Remembered; Pistorius Charged with Premeditated Murder; Motive for Newtown Shooting?; Turkish Police Round Up Militants; Rare Quadruplets Born; Tensions Over Adopted Russian Boy's Death; Delta to Change Frequent Flyer Policy; CBO: 750,000 Jobs at Risk

Aired February 19, 2013 - 06:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Courtroom drama happening right now. A judge issues a key ruling as Olympic icon Oscar Pistorius stands accused of murdering his model girlfriend.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Copycat killer? A new report says Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, may have been trying to top another mass murderer.

SAMBOLIN: Shanghai's secret reveal. Chinese hackers reportedly targeting the U.S. out of this 12-storey office tower.

BERMAN: And two times two. Four babies beating long odds to be born as two sets -- two sets of identical twins.

SAMBOLIN: Best story ever.

BERMAN: You, my friends, are in for it.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Tuesday, February 19. It is just about 6:00 a.m. here in the East, so let's get started.

There's a major development in the case against Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius. A South African court has ruled that premeditation and planning cannot be ruled out in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. The Olympian now charged with premeditated murder. We're still waiting for a decision on bail.

But with this ruling, it is very unlikely that Pistorius will be granted bail. The hearing is going on right now. Our reporter is in that courtroom and says Pistorius was sobbing, breaking down while his defense angled for bail. Their case, denying that the killing was premeditated, and at one point, arguing Steenkamp's death was "not even murder". Those are their words, "not even murder."

All of this happening with an unprecedented crush of cameras at the courtroom and a huge crowds of people trying to get seats inside the courtroom. So coming up in our next half hour, more on the decision in Pistorius' bail hearing with CNN's legal contributor Paul Callan. BERMAN: A lot going on. Also happening right now, the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, Reeva Steenkamp, being laid to rest. Family and friends gathering to say goodbye along the southern coast of South Africa.

Nkepile Mabuse is in Port Elizabeth near the site of Steenkamp's funeral. Good morning, Nkepile.

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, John. It was really emotional morning here at Victoria Park Crematorium in the seaside town of Port Elizabeth. Of course, Reeva Steenkamp was cremated and then her friends and family gathered for a short ceremony.

It was about 45 minutes. Most describing her as a flawless character, more than one person said she was an angel. Let's take a listen to what her brother had to say. Her brother extremely emotional, so was Reeva Steenkamp's uncle who spoke to the media.

And really thanked South Africans, thanked for the support they received from the community and indeed the world. Because of the troubling times that they are going through right now. As you can imagine, no one in this town thought Reeva Steenkamp at 29 years of age would die this way -- John.

BERMAN: Nkepile Mabuse who is in Port Elizabeth looking at all those very, very sad pictures coming out of the funeral services for Reeve Steenkamp this morning. Our thanks to you, Nkepile.

We just got word from the courtroom in Pretoria, the hearing involving Oscar Pistorius, that hearing has broken for lunch right now. Still no word yet on the decision over bail. We'll be following this all morning. We will bring you the latest as it happens -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you very much, John. Also developing overnight, CBS News reporting the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School may have been motivated by Adam Lanza's desire to actually outdo another mass murderer, Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Norway a year before the Newtown shooting.

Another report points to a possible obsession with Breivik as well. CNN's Susan Candiotti is following all of these developments for us. This is very disturbing.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure is. This is yet another working theory that authorities are looking at. That Adam Lanza was trying to one up, actually outdo, mimic, another mass murderer by killing even more than the 77 people, the majority of them teenagers shot by Anders Breivik in Norway back in 2011.

CBS quotes law enforcement sources that Connecticut investigators briefed federal officials in Washington last week about that possible motive. That theory has to do with what was found in Lanza's home.

The "Hartford Current" report said several news articles were discovered in one of Lanza's two bedrooms in the house where he lived with his mother. She, of course, was his first victim then he went on to kill 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary before taking his own life when police arrived.

Now Lanza reportedly chose the school because of the number of potential targets in a closed-in setting. A spokesman for the Connecticut State Police called the CBS report speculation and that no motive has been confirmed.

However, the spokesman told me that as far as duplicating Breivik and the mass murder in Norway. That nothing is being ruled out. The theory is based in part on several news articles about Breivik that investigators, as I said, found in his home.

So this is one of the things that they are looking at. Certainly, it seems to be a good working theory for them.

SAMBOLIN: And there's also this connection to violent video games. Breivik supposedly or allegedly trained for his massacre on these. What about Lanza? Do we know anything about him training on these potential video games?

CANDIOTTI: Well, reportedly he was doing that too. Certainly we have reported at CNN from the very beginning that in fact violent videos were found in his home. That he had a room set in up in the basement where he liked to play these games and that this was part of what he was doing. That's what the theory is as well. That he was practicing on these games before he carried out the attacks.

SAMBOLIN: Certainly very disturbing. Mental health issues here as well.


SAMBOLIN: Susan Candiotti, thank you for that. John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Zoraida. You know, we're following new developments out of Turkey right now where police are making mass arrests in connection to the attack at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara earlier this month. There is a crackdown across the country against a radical militant group, "The Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front." They have claimed responsibility for that suicide attack at the U.S. Embassy.

Meanwhile, with the sequester looming, President Obama will make his latest pitch to Congress from the White House today. Officials say he will be joined by emergency responders to reinforce his message that millions of American jobs are on the line if there is no compromise and those automatic budget cuts kick in less than two weeks from now.

SAMBOLIN: A secret unit of the Chinese military is behind a massive computer hacking campaign against the United States. According to a report by the computer security firm, Mandiant, a cyber division of the People's Liberation Army is responsible for sustained hacking attacks against American interests. And maybe operating out of this white 12-storey tower, this is in Shanghai. China is blacking out CNN's broadcast signal when we are reporting on this story. BERMAN: A California man facing rape charges this morning for allegedly assaulting a woman he met on the popular dating web site, Police are investigating whether 37-year-old Sean Banks targeted other women on the site as well.

SAMBOLIN: Seven members of Congress led by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy are in Cuba this morning. It is the largest American delegation to that country in recent memory. They are trying to convince the Castro regime to release Alan Gross, an American contractor who was jailed in 2009 for bringing banned satellite equipment into Cuba as part of a State Department program to spread democracy.

BERMAN: Dequan Bowers of the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers could face more than three years in prison if convicted of illegal gun possession. Bowers was arrested last night at New York's LaGuardia Airport. Police say the 22-year-old tried to bring a .42-caliber handgun onto a flight to Raleigh, North Carolina, in a carry-on bag. He is now free on bond.

SAMBOLIN: This is a head scratcher. What was he thinking?

The U.S. Coast Guard says the engine fire that crippled the Carnival cruise ship "Triumph" was caused by a leak in a fuel oil return line. The leaking oil hit a hot surface and ignited the fire in one of the ship's two engine rooms. There is no indication the blaze was intentionally set.

BERMAN: So a Houston couple had something really big -- really big to celebrate this Valentine's Day. We're talking about quadruplets.

SAMBOLIN: Special, special quadruplets.

BERMAN: So 36-year-old Teresa Montalvo gave birth to the most rare form of quadruplets last Thursday. The four boys are actually two sets of identical twins. The chances of that happening are 1 in 17 million. Those are not big chances, folks. The births are even unusual because the Montalvos did not use fertility drugs or in-vitro fertilization and Teresa says it was not a difficult pregnancy.

Take my word for it. She says it was not a difficult pregnancy, which is hard enough to believe when you are dealing with four kids, two sets of identical twins. Teresa says no sweat. So it's a big addition to their family, which had been small. The Montalvos have another son, 2-year-old big brother.

SAMBOLIN: That's a lot of boys.

BERMAN: Can you imagine going from one boy to five in an instant?

SAMBOLIN: I hope she has a really big family that can help. She looks great.

BERMAN: Nothing better than identical twins. Coming up at 8:30 Eastern --

SAMBOLIN: We're so caught up in the pictures. BERMAN: I'm breathless. I can't even handle it.

We're going to have proud parents Tressa and Manuel Montalvo, and their newborn sons, all four of them. That is coming up on "STARTING POINT". You will not want to miss that.

SAMBOLIN: Hopefully all five of them, right? Wouldn't it be great if they had the 2-year-old also?

BERMAN: Bring them all in.

SAMBOLIN: All right, international attention this morning over the death of a little boy adopted from Russia. Look at that picture of that little boy right there. Why officials are calling it suspicious?


SAMBOLIN: A major dramatic development in the case against Oscar Pistorius. A court in South Africa says it will not rule out premeditation and planning in the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. The court is taking a break for lunch right now. Robyn Curnow was in the courthouse as all of this was unfolding. So Robyn, can you tell us what happened?

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I just read you something a direct quote from the magistrate. He says, he armed himself, the motive was he wanted to kill, that's the -- the state arguing that Oscar Pistorius in a planned and premeditated way shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Now quite dramatic testimony coming from the state, they kind of laid out a little bit of the evidence they had. Not all of it, and they said they didn't need to say very much because for them, the facts were facts. It was a very simple case.

They were quite confident, I must say, in court. They said that Oscar had picked up his gun. He had put on his prosthetic legs. He had walked about seven meters to a bathroom where his girlfriend was locked inside, and he had shot four bullets through there, as she was hit three times.

Now that they said basically constituted premeditated murder. The magistrate agreeing with him, saying that the defense really didn't disprove their argument, and he is saying Oscar Pistorius has really going to have to face these higher charges. Now has to be exceptional circumstances proved by the defense if he's even to get bail.

SAMBOLIN: So right now, the magistrate broke for lunch, and when you are back in court, should we know whether or not he has been granted bail. Is there any likelihood even that he would be granted bail?

CURNOW: Well, this makes it very hard for him now to get bail and this sort of legal pigeonhole that they have now ruled this under. Section 6 and I'm totally not going to bore you with all the legal jargon. But basically this makes it incredibly hard for Oscar Pistorius to get bail. Like I said, his defense team has to prove exceptional circumstances. So what are we going to expect to hear now after this lunch break is some sort of affidavit written by Oscar, spoken now by his legal team, which will defend himself, will explain what he thinks happened that night and that might provide those so-called exceptional circumstances that will get him bail. But this might take another day or two, that's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: All right, so we're looking forward to hearing more. Robyn Curnow, thank you so much for that.

BERMAN: Big developments going on right now, can't wait to hear more what's going on there.

All right, 14 minutes after the hour right now. Growing tension between U.S. and Russians officials this morning over the death of a West Texas boy that officials are calling suspicious. The 3-year-old Max Chateau was born in Russia and adopted by American parents. A Russian official blames Max's death on inhuman abuse.

David Mattingly has the latest on this investigation. Good morning, David.


Almost all of the information we're getting is coming from the special human rights representative of the Russian foreign ministry. Konstantin Dolgov says this child was a little over 3 years old when he died on January 21st of this year, a Russian-born boy adopted by American parents living in Texas.

In a statement, Dolgov said, "I would like to draw your attention to another case of inhuman abuse of a Russian child by U.S. adoptive parents." He claims the child suffered injuries to his head and legs, as well as to his abdomen and internal organs. The wounds he said could only be caused by strong blows.

There is an investigation under way. The Ector County medical examiner's office tells us they are looking into this because of, quote, "the suspicious nature of the child's death." Texas Child Protective Services also investigating. The allegations include physical abuse and neglect.

Also, the Ector sheriff's office is investigating. A spokesman for the department tell us no arrests have been made and they are waiting for the results of the autopsy. We tried to speak to the boy's adopted parents. But when we called, there was only this brief recorded message.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this is a reporter or news agency, we have no comment.

(END AUDIO CLIP) MATTINGLY: This case is inflaming an already sensitive issue between the U.S. and Russia. You might remember back in 2010, the outrage when an American woman actually put her adoptive 7-year-old son on a plane alone and sent him on a one-way flight back to Russia because of violent episodes the child had.

Russia recently imposed a ban on U.S. adoptions in Russia. This could affect hundreds of U.S. families. A situation here that is sure to get worse, John, if this child's death in Texas proves to be a case of abuse.

BERMAN: A tragedy for one kid, but also a serious case of international tension.

David Mattingly, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: And in just a few hours, jurors will begin deliberations in the corruption trail of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick, his father and a Detroit construction contractor are charged with what prosecutors call a breathtaking pattern of corruption through bribery and extortion.

BERMAN: Food giant Nestle suspending some of its deliveries after traces of horse DNA were found in the meat. The Swiss company stopped deliveries in Europe of all products that include beef from a German supplier. Nestle is also recalling its Buitoni brand beef ravioli and beef tortellini from store shelves in Italy and Spain, along with lasagna product that was sold to a French catering firm.

SAMBOLIN: Alex Baldwin and a "New York Post" photographer trading accusations following a weekend confrontation. The photographer who is black claims Baldwin used a racial slur when he and a reporter approached the actor. Baldwin's rep says the claim is absolutely false. Both Baldwin and "The Post" reporter fired complaints with police.

Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie and her husband, actor Josh Duhamel, are expecting their first baby. She took to Twitter and make the announcement, tweeting, "Josh, and me, and baby makes three." Followed by the very appropriate hashtag, #mylovelybabybump.

The tweet also came with this picture, a photo mashup of Fergie and Josh as kids. That is so cute.

SAMBOLIN: And kitty cat.

BERMAN: That's what's three right there.

It is about to get tougher to build up those frequent flier miles on a budget. This is big news. Delta has announced plans to make customers pay more for frequent flier status. They are not the only one.

SAMBOLIN: Delta, say it ain't so, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is so. If you are a business traveler and wracking up a lot of miles every year and you're paying for those miles, it's not going to really affect you.

If you are budget traveler, listen up, because starting next year, Delta will roll out a new program that adds spending requirement to elite frequent flier. The bottom rung of its medallion program, the bottom rung will now require $2,500 annually and ticket purchase on Delta, huh? Which means some flyers may find you have been bumped out of your frequent flier program. No, that's $2,500, excluding fees and taxes. So, it actually winds up being a lot more out of pocket and travel on Delta's partner airlines is not going to count toward your total.

That's right, John.

Delta may be the first legacy carrier to go for paying for points route, but it's not the first airline. Southwest, JetBlue, Virgin America also award points based on dollars you spend. And some are predicting American Airlines or merged American/U.S. Airways could follow the same miles model also.

Now, a revenue-based system would spell fewer miles and therefore fewer perks for flyer who choose budget ticket options when they travel. But flyers who tend to spend more on tickets, they're going to see an increase in rewards, such as early boarding and upgrades.

So, here's the thing -- the money for the airlines is for business travelers, the perks are going to go to the business travelers. The people who are spending more money for their ticket, they're not making as much money off of you if you are a budget traveler.

BERMAN: I anticipate incredibly incisive coverage on this because reporters really only care one thing in life and that's frequent flyer miles. But I listen to every word in that story very, very carefully.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Thank you, Christine.

All right. So, those massive government spending cuts known as the sequester, they are now just two weeks away. Two weeks away. Less than. How will it affect you? Exactly how will you feel it? We'll tell you, coming up.


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

Stock futures are up slight this will morning as markets reopen after a nice three-day weekend. This week, we will get some key reports on housing and manufacturing, which should provide insight to the strength of the mechanic recovery.

BERMAN: So, meanwhile, just two weeks until massive government spending cuts take effect. Christine, we've been hearing about the sequester for a long time. But refresh my memory, this was never supposed to happen, was it?

ROMANS: No, the sequester was something that was meant to be so stupid and bad that it would -- it would prod Congress into finding a -- a peaceful and logical way to cut our debt and deficits. It was created as a worse case scenario that lawmakers would be forced to make a deal.

And, now, here we are, a month and a half past its original deadline, and still, no deal to avoid. And you've heard the big numbers, $1.2 trillion over 10 years, $85 billion this year, 13 percent cuts to defense, 9 percent to everything else.

Our colleagues over at CNN Money came up with some specifics of what it could feel like. For example, what do budgets cuts feel like?

In education, more than 14,000 teachers and staff face layoffs, as school districts deal with these cuts.

Criminal justice, for example, all FBI workers could be forced to take 14 unpaid days off.

National parks, want to go for nice spring time hike, well, better call ahead. If the sequester goes through, there could be reduced hours and services.

And very likely last and most annoying, travel. Prepare for long every lines, maybe wait time. Slower security checks at the airport.

What you don't need to worry about Medicare and Social Security, largely protected. So, when safety net programs like Medicaid and food programs also exempt. Military personnel, Veterans Affairs. Although veterans could be hit in other ways, especially since they are a big part of the Defense Department's civilian workforce.

So, look, this was never supposed to happen. Here we are. It's irritating. The president is going to talk about it later this morning. He's going to try to prod them to move forward on this. He's surrounded by first responders, because presumably first responders budgets across the board would have to be cut and that will mean your services will be cut.

BERMAN: A little bit of political posturing today.

Besides this, what do we feed to know about our money?

ROMANS: Seven hundred fifty thousand jobs, that's how many jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will disappear if the sequester goes through and stays until the end of the year. So it's the one thing you need to know about your money today because it sounds like it's a Washington problem sequester, but you are the one who's going to feel the consequences.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

You can tell how I feel about this?


SAMBOLIN: Very passionate.

Snakes alive. Coming up, the results of Florida's great python hunt, shall we say, underwhelming.

BERMAN: Look at that make. Man!