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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Living On The Edge; Landslide Threatens Homes; Colorado Woman Arrested In Clements Murder; Keeping North Korea In Check; New Sandy Hook Information; Pistorius Challenges Bail; Nelson Mandela Hospitalized; Jared Loughner's Deadly Tucson Shooting; George Zimmerman's Brother Apologizes; Heroic Rescue; Heat Stopped Cold!; Same Sex Marriage Day Two; Same-Sex Marriage Day 2; Cyprus Banks Reopen

Aired March 28, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: -- more are threatened now. Some residents have been forced to evacuate by boat. No doubt it is a nail-biting time on Whidbey Island, that is 50 miles northwest of Seattle. That's where we find Dan Simon this morning. Dan, tell us what happened here.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Zoraida. First of all, let me tell you where we are. As you can imagine, a lot of this neighbor has been sealed off, given the danger. We are basically standing in someone's driveway and a couple of hundred yards behind me is where part of this landslide occurred obviously devastating for a lot of these people.

Initially you had 35 homes or so that were under an evacuation order or you had them at an area where part of the road actually crumbled away. You had some really dramatic pictures there, as well. Here's how a couple of neighbors describe the situation as it was unfolding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT HOLMES, WHIDBEY ISLAND RESIDENT: It was pretty scary. I got out there with a flashlight and kept hearing a rumbling and watching more and more of it falling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A portion of it was always eroding, but that much of it? No, no. I mean, I lost over 50 percent of my yard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Well, this situation is still unsafe. The concern is that part of this, you know, landslide could continue to occur. This hillside is still unstable and crews are monitoring it very closely -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I was reading this morning that a lot of folks who live in this area say that, you know, they know that landslides are possible, but this is really huge. How come there are landslides in that area?

SIMON: Well, they are common, although nobody can remember seeing anything like this. You know, I've been living on the west coast for a long time and have covered a lot of these landslides and have never seen one this large.

You know, in terms of why this happened, it's really going to be up to the engineers to come in and take a look. But you know, curiously, you didn't have a lot of rain in the days leading up to this event, if you will.

But sometimes when you have, you know, a bad winter and you get a lot of moisture in the ground, it can accumulate over time and that can cause things. Until the structural engineers come and take a look and the geologists, we're not going to know what caused this -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Crazy. You can see so many homes right along the edge there as well. Dan Simon, thank you very much. We appreciate the information this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have some new information this morning about the murder of Colorado's prison chief. Investigators have arrested 22-year-old Stevie Marie Vigil. She is accused of buying the gun that was used to kill Tom Clements who was shot to death in his home last week.

Investigators say that after Vigil bought the weapon, she gave it to Evan Ebel who is believed to have pulled the trigger. Ebel was killed in a shootout with Texas sheriffs last week.

SAMBOLIN: And also new this morning, a show of support for South Korea. In an effort to keep North Korea in check, the U.S. military is sending two B-2 bombers to South Korea to take part in annual military exercises.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with top Korea's defense minister about boosting the anti-missile defense. This move comes after North Korea cut off a military hot line with the South, but its artillery forces are on high alert, an intensified threat to attack the U.S. and South Korea.

BERMAN: A few hours from now prosecutors in Connecticut will have an update with some new information in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre investigation. State police say much of what is contained in the documents being made public this morning is already known, but state police say there may be some new details. The families of victims were briefed on the new released last night.

SAMBOLIN: And happening right now, attorneys for blade runner, Oscar Pistorius, are challenging conditions for his bail. A judge has heard arguments and said that he will deliver a decision in half an hour. Pistorius' attorney say the track star should be allowed to go back home and he should be allowed to travel.

Not only that, they also want an end to a probation officer supervision and required drug and alcohol testing. Pistorius denies that he planned the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his home. He said he shot her after confusing her for an intruder. BERMAN: A developing story this morning, former South African President Nelson Mandela rushed to the hospital just a few hours ago. The South African governor released a statement saying the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader is battling a lung infection again.

Errol Barnett is following developments. He is live in Johannesburg this morning. Errol, Mandela was just in the hospital not too long ago for a lung infection. What is different this time?

ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's one of the reasons that this news is being met with an additional layer of concern. I can also tell you that we've just received some new information in to CNN.

We've made contact with the spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma and the spokesperson says when Mandela was admitted to the hospital at midnight here in South African between Wednesday and Thursday. He was, in fact, conscious.

So that little bit of extra information is just in to CNN and lets us know that he was conscious when he was admitted to hospital. As you say, he was also admitted to hospital last December, airlifted from his rural home in the south of the country to be treated for lung infection and eventually for gallstones as well, which were removed.

He spent 18 days in hospital. The government was very tight lipped about why he was there and the exact status of his condition. He was eventually released. Just earlier this month, in fact, he had a follow-up, a scheduled follow-up. The government tells us, at the hospital and was released without incident.

So it's quite concerning that he's had this previous bout with a lung infection, not just in December of last year, but back in 2011, as well, and he seems to be taking the turn for the worse. Another reason for concern is that Nelson Mandela enjoys the care of a medical staff 24/7, around the clock with him, even with his home, his rural home in the south.

One interesting note to put it in context is that while Nelson Mandela was struggling for democracy and struggling against se segregation he was imprisoned and also suffered from tuberculosis at that time. In a way, nelson Mandela is a man who struggled through so much and brought social change but he personally seems to be suffering with this recurring lung infection.

And we also have to consider that he is 94 years old. Lung infection in the small hiccups along the road can be quite serious for a man his age. People close to Nelson Mandela tell us that he is mentally slipping away.

He is forgetting some of the people who struggled with him for freedom are no longer with us and he forgets people's names. So he is certainly an old man surrounded by friends and family and all of South Africa affectionately calls him diva.

BERMAN: All right, Errol Barnett is in Johannesburg. Thanks to you. Of course, the president of South Africa currently is asking the entire world to pray for Mandela. I think it's safe to say the entire world is praying for Nelson Mandela right now.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed. It's 6 minutes past the hour.

New developments this morning about Jared Loughner, he is the man who opened fire in Tucson, Arizona in 2011, killing six people and seriously wounding Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. The trove of investigative documents released yesterday shows a pattern of increasingly erratic behavior right before the shooting.

Loughner's parents even took away his shotgun. They disabled his car and they asked him to get some help but nothing worked. And he is now serving a life sentence without parole.

BERMAN: Now to a new controversy in the Trayvon Martin case stemming from tweets by the brother of his alleged killer George Zimmerman. Robert Zimmerman Jr. is now apologizing for his tweets. In one of them, he compares Trayvon Martin to one of the two suspects in the shooting of a Georgia baby.

He wrote, quote, "Facebook pics of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago's alleged killer and Trayvon Martin side by side. The hash tag, uncanny. Both teens are making on scene gestures in the photos. The caption says, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Another tweet, liberal media should ask if what these two black teens did to a woman and baby is the reason why people think blacks might be risky. Robert Zimmerman now admits it's probably not the best forum to express himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN JR., GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S BROTHER: I don't think Twitter is the place to make points about what you recall a year ago because the recollections that I have or that we have as a family specifically are very different from what can be portrayed in 140 characters. Now I realize we're controversial in a sense and I publicly apologized for them. I don't think it was the right thing to do that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Thing to do that way, those comments, of course, at CNN's "PIERS MORGAN."

SAMBOLIN: What does that mean?

BERMAN: That's a great question. He says, Zimmerman does, he was trying to make the point that he thinks the media has been dishonest in its portrayal of Trayvon Martin. A lot of questions here obviously.

Coming up at 7:30 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Soledad will talk with George Zimmerman's attorney, Mark Omara and Benjamin Crump who is the attorney for Trayvon Martin.

SAMBOLIN: Three police officers spring into action to save a driver who was seconds away from a fiery death.

You're taking a look at that. The man's truck had burst into flames after crashing into a building. The cops used batons to smash open the windows. One officer used the knife to cut the driver's seat belt out and to pull him out to safety. That man was treated for smoke inhalation -- burned to death.

BERMAN: Lucky man.

SAMBOLIN: Incredible.

BERMAN: All right, 9 minutes after the hour. All things must pass including really long annoying things. The Miami Heat entered last night's game against the Chicago Bulls with a 27-game winning streak, six short of the all-time record, but it was stopped there.

Chicago refused to back down in a rough physical game. They held on for 101-97 victory. The win clinched a playoff spot for the Bulls while the Heat lost for the first time since February 1st. I can't even remember February 1st. Listen to Lebron James, philosophical in defeat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, SCORED 32 POINTS IN LOSS TO BULLS: You know, this is a special team. You know how we are on and off the floor it is going to be hard to remember everything. But, you know, ultimately, like you said, we want to win an NBA championship. Along the season, along those rides you have moments along the rides you want to reflect on and this is one of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The Heat now on a different kind of streak, one-game losing streak. We'll see if that gets extended over the next few days.

SAMBOLIN: And who were the Bulls missing last night? Derrick Rose.

BERMAN: They did not have their best players.

SAMBOLIN: And yet they still beat them.

BERMAN: They still beat the Heat.

SAMBOLIN: Why can't the Bulls play like that all the time?

All right, it's 10 minutes past the hour. Both sides have spoken. Now it's up to the justices of the Supreme Court. Will they issue a landmark ruling on same-sex marriage? We'll look for clues from the bench.

BERMAN: Plus, Justin Bieber strikes back. His response to critics who say he is headed for a breakdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is all up to the justices now after two days of arguments on same sex marriage before the Supreme Court. Yesterday, they dealt with the defense of marriage act or DOMA, which was passed by Congress in 1996.

At issue, whether legally married same-sex couples can enjoy the same federal benefit enjoyed by straight married couples. The high court appears to be leaning towards, yes. CNN's Joe Johns has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Same-sex marriage day two at the Supreme Court. Edie Windsor of New York who got hit with a tax bill of $330,000 when her wife died was on hand to hear what the justices had to say about her case. She's cautious but optimistic.

EDITH WINDSOR, PLAINTIFF OPPOSING FEDERAL RESTRICTIONS: Felt we were very respected and I think -- I think it will be good.

JOHNS: Questions from five justices made it plain that the defense of marriage act, which denies federal benefits from legally married same- sex couples, has its critics on the court because it treats gays and lesbians differently.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: Two kinds of marriages. The full marriage and then this sort of skin milk marriage.

JOHNS: Justice Elena Kagan tore into former solicitor general and DOMA defender, Paul Clement, about what Congress was thinking when it passed the law 17 years ago.

ELENA KAGAN, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: And I'm going to quote from the House Report here. It's that Congress decided to reflect and honor a collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.

JOHNS: But perhaps an even larger problem for the Defense of Marriage Act was that the federal government has started regulating as many as 1,100 spousal benefits in an area of the law that has traditionally been left to the states. Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen by many as the potential swing vote.

ANTHONY KENNEDY, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: You are at real risk of running in conflict with what has always been thought to be the essence of the state police power, which is to regulate marriage, divorce, custody.

JOHNS (on camera): The court is likely to meet later this week in chambers to take a first vote and provided they don't decide to rehear the case, they would likely begin the process of crafting a decision. We're not likely to hear anything from the court on this until late June.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So, later this morning, we're going to talk to a lawyer representing Edith Windsor who argued against the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court yesterday. Robert Kaplan joins Soledad on "STARTING POINT". That is on the 7:00 hour.

SAMBOLIN: Sixteen minutes past the hour.

Heartthrob Justin Bieber fighting back? It's written there. I don't necessarily agree with that. But he's fighting back against a laundry list of bad publicity.

He's thrown up on stage, he lashed out at paparazzi, ran around London shirtless and now he reportedly spit at his neighbor. His mother must be very upset with him. Could these be signs that 19-year-old is cracking under pressure? The Biebs says, no way, defends himself in an interview with "Us Weekly," saying, quote, "I'm young and I make mistakes. That's part of growing up. This business can break you down but I have a strong team around me and my family and all the fans. The love overcomes the negativity."

BERMAN: This business can break you down, man, which is why I run around shirtless so much, just like Justin Bieber.

SAMBOLIN: He does actually in the morning in his office. But whatever.

BERMAN: Seventeen minutes after the hour right now.

Think about the money you have in your bank account at this minute. Imagine being told by the government you can't take all of it out. This is serious, serious issue. We'll take you to a country where it is happening, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: New this morning, banks in financial troubled Cyprus have finally reopened. They've been shut down to European Union bailout plan was announced nearly two weeks ago. The rescue package taxed bank deposits and caused a run on ATMs as people scrambled to get their money before the government takes it from them. They adjusted that plan after, but still it is pretty draconian.

CNN's Ivan Watson is monitoring the situation live in Cyprus this morning.

And, Ivan, any sign of run on the banks this time.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, the situation is pretty calm, John. I mean, if you consider the banks have been close for more than 12 days and the entire banking sector in this country is really in trouble, you know, there are a handful of pensioners here, far more journalists gathered around this bank of Cyprus.

But as you mentioned, it's draconian. People can't pull out more than 300 euros from their bank accounts, maybe $400 approximately. And they're limited to the amount of money they can use with their credit cards outside of the country, so they can't take more than 1,000 euros of cash outside the country.

These are all really strict measures that the government just imposed last night to try to keep the banking sector in this country from going down the toilet -- John.

BERMAN: What's the level of frustration like there, Ivan? They've been dealing with the specter of this happening for two weeks. Has it boiled over yet?

WATSON: I mean, we're not seeing by any means riots in the streets. This is a relaxed and mellow Mediterranean culture and country. So, a lot of Cypriots are telling me, we're going to get through this. This is a crisis, it's terrible. It's the worst thing we've seen since the Turkish army invaded this island in 1974, but we can get through this.

But everybody knows that life is going to change pretty dramatically here. People have to tighten their belts. The good times that people enjoyed here when this was a tax haven for everybody from Russian billionaires to British pensioners, those days are pretty much over. A lot of people saying they're concerned they can't send their kids to study at universities overseas anymore, for example -- John.

BERMAN: It will have to be counting their cash almost every day.

Ivan Watson in Cyprus this morning -- thanks for being with us.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

Christine Romans is minding your business this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Market finished mixed yesterday. Still looking mixed because we're watching what Ivan is watching there, the line to get money out in Cyprus. What that's going to mean for Europe and it's deepening recession, and what kind of risk that is for the U.S. here.

So, ahead of a three-day weekend, I'm not expecting fireworks at the opening bell by any stretch of the imagination. But there's some fascinating economic research I want to bring to you. New this morning, do you think your college degree was worth what you paid for it? Have you looked around you and realized it takes a B.A. to sell jeans at the Gap?

Well, you're right. Research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows skilled workers are taking lower paid jobs, college grads are taking jobs that don't require a college we degree. The whole ladder of occupation is moving down.

What these economists found is the average cognitive task, basically the level of skill thought work that college grads are doing is plummeting, plummeting.

Check out this huge increase in the mid 1990s to 2000. That's dotcom boom, right? And then, since then, boom. What it takes, the amount of knowledge and education it takes to do your job is declining.

And then the recession hit. You can see it wipes out most of the highly skilled, innovative college educated work. They call it -- these researchers call it you guys the deskilling of the labor market.

The report says that high skilled workers have moved down the occupational ladder and it began to perform jobs traditionally performed by lower skilled workers. Those lower skilled workers, with less education, they're being pushed out of the workforce all together.

It's so interesting hire -- what I think is so interesting here is you've got all of these STEM jobs, technology jobs. They're small. It's a small piece of the pie. And then there's everyone else rushing to get a college degree, paying a lot of money, in some cases for a degree that may not be very specific in the workforce and those folks are finding it takes a B.A. to sell coffee.

And for the people who used to sell coffee and didn't have an education, they're being pushed out of the workforce.

Now, this is just one report by three authors. There's a lot of other data out there. But economists are really trying to study what's happening here.

How are we hollowing out the middle and what are we doing? We're spending all of this money on college education and people are finding their way.

I want to be very clear about something. I think you need a college degree. You absolutely need a college degree. This report finds if you don't have a college degree, you're being bumped out. The question is, how much are we borrowing for it, how much are we spending for it, and are we being very strategic in the degrees that we're getting and finds our place in the workforce. It's interesting.

BERMAN: So, besides this, which is dramatic, what is the one thing we need to know about our money?

ROMANS: A really interesting foreclosure numbers. New foreclosure numbers, you guys, 414 days from the first missed payment to finally getting a foreclosure taken back by the bank, and new numbers from RealtyTrac showing that the foreclosure process is actually speeding up a little bit. Foreclosure backlog is getting cleared up.

That's actually a good thing. You want to wipe some of these foreclosures where no one has been living in the house, it's been just --

SAMBOLIN: An eyesore.

ROMANS: An eyesore. You want to get through those. So, the foreclosure process speeding up a little bit.

I thought it was interesting, 414 days. Can you imagine, from the first missed payment to the bank putting the lock on the front door. BERMAN: Christine Romans, our thanks to you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Twenty-six minutes after the hour right now.

Salad and fruit on the drive-thru menu. Coming up, the truth about so-called healthy fast food meals. Are they OK for your children?

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