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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Countdown To Forced Spending Cuts; Detained Illegal Immigrants Released; Late Night Shows Lampoon Pope Emeritus

Aired March 1, 2013 - 05:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A life or death battle. Right now, rescuers trying to save a man trapped after a sink hole opened up right under his bedroom.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The clock ticking down to deep spending cuts. The deadline now just hours away, and there are a few left in Washington to try to stop it.

BERMAN: Dance fever at 30,000 feet. The sky high "Harlem Shake" goes viral and gets the attention of the FAA. Look at that

SAMBOLIN: What is the banana outfit all about? Is that the mascot for the team? We must find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (on-camera): It's all about the banana.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, march 1st. Can you believe it already? Thirty-one minutes past the hour. Thanks for being with us.

BERMAN: I want to update you now on a terrifying ordeal that is unfolding at this moment. A man disappears into a sink hole that opened up right under his bedroom. And rescue crews, they can't get in to look for him because the home is deemed to be unsafe. This happened at a house about 15 miles east of Tampa in Florida.

One brother frantically tried to save another but a first responder could only pull one of the brothers out because the sink hole kept growing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mattress, the bed, everything was actually going down in the hole where the first person had gone. Now, the second person is in the hole trying to save the first. And they're not being successful. So, he basically just reacted and did what he had to do to get that person out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he say the hole was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was deep enough that the person he pulled out to safety was not able to fully extend their arms and even reach the top.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: This hole is now estimated to be 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep. The missing man is 36 years old. Crews have tried to use cameras and audio gear to look and listen for him, but so far, they have not been able to make any kind of contact. We will update you on this developing story as we get more details.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we talked to the reporter earlier. He had said that they had just done an inspection on that House and not even cracks in the foundation. Can you imagine that? You're sleeping and you go into a sink hole.

Thirty-two minutes past the hour. You can call it a slow bleed or a downward tumble, but any way you slice this, $86 billion in forced spending cuts likely to be ordered by the president by the stroke of midnight tonight or any time before then. Most of us won't feel much pain at first. In the near term, we could see flight delays at airports.

We could see cuts in hours and services at national parks and forced time off without pay for nearly 800,000 civilian defense department employees. They would be furloughed. And while the president meets with leaders of both parties this morning, there doesn't seem to be any hope for an 11th hour deal. More from White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

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BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As President Obama meets at the White House today with Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders, the Capitol will sit empty. Congress, the very people who voted for the $85 billion in forced spending cuts said to kick in at midnight left town Thursday without finding a way to fix the problem. And now, the finger pointing.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Republican proposal is the worst of all worlds. It explicitly protects pork barrel projects and every single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy.

KEILAR: President Obama wants to avoid the forced budget cuts in part with tax increases. Republicans refuse.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: We've done our work. They've not done theirs. The House shouldn't have to pass a third bill to replace the sequester before the Senate passes one.

KEILAR: But the Senate failed to pass two bills Thursday, one Democratic and one Republican, both measures that were never expected to succeed, making it almost certain that President Obama will be forced to sign an executive order today that officially puts the cuts into effect. It will impact everything from our military, Medicare, and education to food inspection and homeland security.

President Obama in a written statement accused Senate Republicans of voting, quote, "to let the entire burden of deficit reduction fall squarely on the middle class."

Brianna Keilar, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Brianna there. And in the next hour of EARLY START, we'll talk about the forced spending cuts with Republican Congressman, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

BERMAN: New developments now in the search for the suspect in a deadly shooting and car crash that erupted into a fireball along the Vegas strip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): Las Vegas police saying they have their man. Lamar Harris (ph) was arrested in Los Angeles yesterday, and police say he was arrested peacefully and is awaiting extradition.

Investigators say last week, Harris targeted 27-year-old Kenneth Cherry also known as rapper, Kenny Clutch, while both were driving. Cherry's Maserati then hit a taxi. The crash and explosion killed the driver and a passenger as well.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Army private, Bradley Manning, pleading guilty to ten of the 22 charges that he's facing for leaking classified documents. But not to the most serious charge, that was aiding the enemy. He still faces a court-martial in June.

And yesterday, Manning told the court he turned over the documents to the whistleblowing website, WikiLeaks, in order to spark a national debate about what he described as the nation's obsession with killing and capturing people. He's going to face at least 20 years in prison now.

BERMAN: Happening right now, people forced out of their homes in Riverside County, California. Some 200 firefighters battling a blaze that has burned at least 75 acres, so far. Authorities say power lines are also down. What caused this wildfire, as of now, still unknown.

SAMBOLIN: Terrible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): The "Harlem Shake," the flash mob dance that's become an internet sensation, I love the way you do it, by the way. Now, he can (ph) share it with our viewers later. It's now reached new heights, and in the process, drawn the attention of the FAA. BERMAN (on-camera): That's because CNN's Tory Dunnan tells us the new dance craze apparently joined the mile high club.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You've heard of snakes on a plane, but how about shakes on a plane?

(MUSIC PLAYING)

DUNNAN: The "Harlem Shake" is the latest viral video dance craze giving "Gangnam Style" a run for its money. They usually start with one person dancing alone and then others jump in. Now, the FAA is looking into this video. It depicts a dance on a frontier airlines flight in mid air, from Denver to San Diego, organized by a group of students from Colorado college's ultimate Frisbee team.

MATT ZELIN, COLORADO COLLEGE STUDENT: It went from kind of this kind of joking around idea amongst the team to suddenly reality and then it was on YouTube and then there were hundreds of thousands of views, and now, we're talking to you guys.

DUNNAN: The FAA wants to know if the plane was on final approach, and if the passengers should have been buckled up. A frontier airlines spokeswoman says all safety measures were followed and the seat belt sign was off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worst case scenario is we hit a little clear air turbulence and bodies start flying all over the place.

DUNNAN: Former airline pilot, Jim Tillman (ph), says an airplane is not a place for fun and games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it fun? Maybe. Is it cute? Maybe. Is it good judgment? No.

DUNNAN: A YouTube search turns up plenty of other Harlem shakers on planes. This group of cheerleaders from Toronto was headed to a competition and says it did its shake during a layover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plane was moving a lot. It's not a big plane. So, that many people jumping around like crazy was definitely moving the plane.

DUNNAN (on-camera): But in the Colorado case, Tillman says he hopes the FAA gives frontier airlines a strong warning. He thinks the crew should never have let the dance go on.

Torry Dunnan, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Yes. That's something I'd say you do on the ground. It's a little safer.

BERMAN: You know, on frontier, they give you cookies. So, I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know. Let's look into that, Mr. Berman. if I gave you cookies, would you do the "Harlem Shake?"

BERMAN: Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. The forced federal spending cuts mean furloughs for a lot of people, freedom for others. Immigration detainees let go to save money. We are going to have all the details for you coming up next.

BERMAN: Plus, dog napped on camera. A camera captures a slick puppy thief in action.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: With forced spending cuts that will almost definitely take effect by the end of the day, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE, has decided to release several hundred immigration detainees as a means of saving money. Republicans say this puts the public at risk.

The White House says it had nothing to do with this decision, that it was all up to ICE, and an ICE spokeswoman said those who have been released are non-criminals or low risk offenders. CNNs Ed Lavandera spoke with one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Manuel Perez was asleep in this East Texas Immigration Detention Center last Saturday morning when he says guards woke him up at 5:00 a.m. and told him he was being let out.

Were you surprised they released you? (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

MANUEL PEREZ, RELEASED DETAINEE (through translator): I had no idea what was going on, he says. There were eight other people in my cell, and I was the only one they let go. I wasn't expecting at all.

LAVANDERA: Perez is one of several hundred undocumented immigrants quietly and unexpectedly released from immigration custody in the last week as looming budget cuts start to affect federal government agencies like immigration and customs enforcement or ICE.

They didn't give you an ankle bracelet --

Perez has been told to show up at an immigration court hearing in a few weeks.

(on-camera) The Obama administration says the illegal immigrants released from detention facilities like this one in East Texas are low risk, and ICE officials say it's more cost effective to let them out while they wait for their immigration cases to wind through the court system.

(voice-over) Perez came to the United States 11 years ago. He was arrested last month on a misdemeanor DWI charge, served the time in a county jail, then he sat in immigration custody for the past month. Immigrant advocates like Ralph Isenberg say detainees like Perez should never been rounded up because of a minor offense. He says this controversy is casting a light on a broken system.

RALPH ISENBERG, IMMIGRANT ADVOCATE: They got hundreds of people locked up that aren't supposed to be locked up. And they don't want to get the public scrutiny of it. So, how do you get rid of them? Well, let's let them out and call it a budget crunch.

LAVANDERA: Manuel Perez came back to his apartment to find that all of his belongings were stolen while he was locked up, including the tools he needs to work his construction jobs. He'll try to start over while he waits to hear if he'll be deported.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And it is 43 minutes after the hour right now. And police in Florida are on the hunt for a puppy snatcher this morning. Watch closely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (voice-over): Surveillance video from this Orlando pet shop shows a woman walking in with a young boy when she makes a beeline for the Bichon Frise bin and casually drops the pricey pooch into her purse and then takes off. We've caught this dog and (INAUDIBLE) theft charges because the dog is worth close to $900.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Not a good idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Co-founder and CEO of the online daily deals company, Groupon, Andrew Mason, is out of a job, but the 32-year-old seems to be taking it all in stride. In a letter to the company's staff, Mason wrote, quote, "After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding. I was fired today."

Changes were expected as the company has been poorly performing since going public last year.

BERMAN: He's known for his sense of humor. That was pretty funny, actually.

Forty-four minutes after the hour right now. And, keep your shirt on. Girls gone wild could be going under.

SAMBOLIN: Oh! Plus, swept to safety. Rescuers get creative to save an animal that is in distress. We're back with all the details. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 48 minutes after the hour. We want to bring you up to speed on all the top stories this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): $85 billion in forced spending cuts they will almost definitely take effect by midnight tonight. President Obama will meet with top Democrats and Republicans at the White House at 10 o'clock this morning, but you know what? Nothing's going to happen there. Not much will go on before the deadline. That's, again, midnight tonight.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Yes. So, we need backup and French fries, a whole lot of French fries. It was a sticky situation on a busy stretch of a Nevada highway. Take a look at this. This is Thursday. This truck carrying 42,000 pounds of ketchup lost control and crashed into the median spilling it all over the road.

Crews had to use snowplows to clean up that mess. Nevada Highway Patrol said no one was hurt there, thankfully.

BERMAN: All right. So, you've seen the infomercials at 3:00 a.m. I mean, you haven't. I haven't seen them, maybe you have. I definitely haven't seen them. But now, Girls Gone Wild has filed for bankruptcy. The soft core porn company filed for Chapter 11 yesterday claiming a little over $60 million in debts.

SAMBOLIN: Wow!

BERMAN: It's seen as a move by founder, Joe Francis (ph), to protect himself from a multimillion dollar debt owed to casino mogul, Steve Wynn, though, the company says the filing won't affect business, comparing itself to other titans of American business like General Motors.

SAMBOLIN: Amazing video here. Canadian officials had a unique situation when a doe and her fawn got stuck on the ice. This was last month in Nova Scotia. Ah! The ice was too thin for the rescuers to walk on so they brought a helicopter. The fawn ran to shore when the helicopter got close and the doe ended up sliding to safety, propelled by the down draft from the chopper blades.

BERMAN: It's pretty cool thinking.

SAMBOLIN: That is wonderful. Ah!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (on-camera): All right. So, brace yourselves, southeast. Some very cold temperatures are headed your way. Snow flurries are predicted as far as south as Alabama. Does that mean bad news for Florida's citrus crop? Jennifer Delgado is live at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Good morning, Jennifer. JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Zoraida. Good morning, John. No, it's not going to affect the citrus crop, because the good news is, yes, it is going to be cold out there. But, if you notice those temperatures are generally right now in the 40s. Now, as we go into the weekend, temperatures are going to be about 10 to 20 degrees below average across the east as well as parts of the Midwest.

You kind of see the forecast as we go through Friday as well as into Saturday and Sunday. Notice the temperatures running in these locations where they shouldn't be. Now, the winds are going to help provide the citrus crop from freezing and any type of burn. So, that is good news. Not like what we were expecting a couple of weeks ago, but this cold spell is all due to the jet stream.

And you're right. It is going to bring some snow flurries, a dusting for areas including the Southern Appalachians as well as parts of Alabama, even Atlanta, we could see a little bit of snow out there, but certainly, not going to amount to much. Now, here are the high temperatures for today. For today, 50 for a high in Atlanta, 42 in Denver, and across (ph) the northeast, we're talking 45.

Lots of sunshine out there. You don't have to worry about precipitation in the northeast. And then, out in California, high of 85 degrees, record warmth in that region. Now, I have some great video. John and Zoraida, you really need to pay attention to this video. You remember earlier this week when we had the strong winds. You're like what is that? Those are tumbleweeds. What is behind the tumbleweeds? A house that was basically surrounded.

SAMBOLIN: No way!

DELGADO: Look at that video. He opens up the gate to his backyard -- yes. Talk about a bad day. The owner of this home said the whole house was surrounded in tumbleweeds. His wife called and said you really need to come home and start working on the yard.

SAMBOLIN: I wonder who's responsible for removing those. The homeowner, I supposed --

DELGADO: He is.

SAMBOLIN: That's terrible.

DELGADO: Yes. It's from that same snowstorm that caused the strong winds across Texas earlier this week. Isn't that incredible?

SAMBOLIN: It's time to get the neighbors to pitch in, Jennifer.

DELGADO: I know. Literally.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you for that.

BERMAN: When tumbleweeds attack.

(LAUGHTER) SAMBOLIN: Fifty-two minutes past the hour. Joan Rivers being blasted over a joke about German born, Heidi Klum, and the holocaust? Did she apologize? We're going to hear from her next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is March 1st. Can you believe it? Fifty-five minutes past the hour. Your top CNN Trends online this morning.

BERMAN: So, Joan Rivers is getting some heat for cracking a joke about the holocaust, but she's old school. She's not backing down. She made the joke on E-News! when she was talking about the super low cut dress that Heidi Klum wore to an Oscar Party. Go online if you want to see the joke.

The anti-defamation league called the joke vulgar and hideous, but Rivers is not apologizing, and she told our A.J. Hammer why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: It's a joke, number one. Number two is about the holocaust. Swear (ph) I remind people by the holocaust. I do it through humor. My husband lost his entire family in the holocaust. So, let's just start with that. So people, your generation doesn't even know what I'm talking about. By my doing a joke gets some talking -- and didn't bother Heidi, doesn't bother me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: You know, i interviewed Joan not too long ago, and she said that this is a coping mechanism for her, a lot of her jokes are, and that's how she deals.

All right. Fifty-six minutes past the hour. She's an Oscar winner who keeps it real. That's why we love Jennifer Lawrence, and here's another fine example of that.

The actress (ph) not only admitted that recent ads for Dior were photo shopped, but she said I love photo shop more than anything in the world!" Of course, as photo shop, people don't look like that. As you can see, most of the photos like this one barely resemble her. I like that she keeps it real, right?

So, check out other CNN Trends at CNN.com/Trends.

BERMAN: All right. So, late night comedians are talking about Pope Benedict's final day and the government's spending cuts that take effect today. Here's what Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon had to say about all this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Today was Pope Benedict XVI's last day at work. Can you believe that? Don't be sad. Yes. Right now, all the other cardinals are buying him shots at the Vatican Appleby's. (LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I'm going to miss you. I'm going to miss you!

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: We'll stay in touch.

O'BRIEN: I won't miss the food in the commissary.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Your pope sounds like Dracula.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Now you know.

(LAUGHTER)

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": We're talking about Pope Benedict officially retired today. And I heard that people are actually placing bets on who the next pope will be. At least, that's what I heard during my fantasy pope draft.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: I do it every year. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Jack Lew to be President Obama's new treasury secretary. Unfortunately, if the sequester happens, he'll have to be let go due to budget cuts.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: Actually with automatic spending cuts scheduled for tomorrow, 300 illegal immigrants have been released from jail in Arizona or as officials put it, catch you later.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: EARLY START continues right now.

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SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Presumed dead, the developing news not good right now after a man was swallowed up by a sink hole that opened up right under his bedroom. We're going to be live at the scene for you.

BERMAN (voice-over): And happening right now, a wildfire raging out of control. These flames creeping dangerously close to homes.

SAMBOLIN: And steep and painful spending cuts. All signs say they'll take effect by the end of the day with Washington nearly powerless now to stop it.

BERMAN: And the odd couple in North Korea. East meets West with Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-Un together at last. Yes, they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, March 1st. It is just about 6:00 a.m. in the east. And we have brand new information about that sink hole that actually opened up underneath a man's bedroom and swallowed him into it. He is now presumed dead. This happened at a house about 15 miles east of Tampa. One man actually jumped into the hole to try to save his brother, but a first responder could only pull one of them out.

The missing man is 36 years old. The fire marshal at the scene says there's no evidence of him being alive and that engineers lost some of their equipment searching for signs of life. We're going to have a live report from the scene just moments from now.

BERMAN: Also happening right now, a ferocious wildfire is threatening homes in Southern California. Some 200 firefighters are battling this blaze that has now burned through about 150 acres in Riverside County, which is east of Los Angeles. Authorities say the smoke and flames have forced evacuations. No injuries have been reported and the cause of the fire right now is under investigation.