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MLB Doping Scandal; IRS Under Fire; Safety Concerns South of the Border

Aired June 5, 2013 - 06:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. About 30 minutes past the hour right now.

ROMANS: Let's start with our top story this morning.

A major league bombshell. Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and Milwaukee Bruin star Ryan -- Brewer star Ryan Braun are among 20 players, according to ESPN, facing suspension for their alleged connection to a Miami clinic, said to have dispensed performance enhancing drugs. The report says the clinic's founder Tony Bosch has agreed to share his information with investigators for Major League Baseball.

CNN's Pamela Brown live at Yankee Stadium for us this morning.

Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Christine. That's right. ESPN reporting today that Major League Baseball is preparing an unprecedented wave of player suspensions that would include, as you mentioned there, Yankees star Alex Rodriguez. The highest-paid player in baseball, by the way. As well as Brewers player Ryan Braun. Rodriguez, Braun and some 18 other players are allegedly linked to a Miami area clinic at the center of an ongoing performance enhancing drug scandal.

Now the owner of that clinic, Tony Bosch, says he will talk with investigators after a deal was reached. That's according to ESPN. What he says, his verification of documents MLB obtained back in January from the clinic, could help determine whether players at the center of the widening steroid scandal will be suspended for 100 games. The largest in American sports history. Braun reacted to the latest report from ESPN by denying the allegations once again. Let's take a listen.


RYAN BRAUN, MILWAUKEE BREWER: I addressed this in spring training. I will not make any further statements about it. The truth has not changed. I don't know the specifics of the story that came out today. But I've already addressed it, I've already commented on it. And I'll say nothing further about it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And last night Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he's focused on A-Rod recovering from his injuries and he wouldn't discuss the allegations.


JOE GIRARDI, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER: MLB is handling it. And I will let them handle it. And, you know, I'll see how -- you know, I check to see how he's doing all the time physically. And -- but as far as talking about that, no.


BROWN: Now A-Rod has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs when he played for the Texas Rangers. But he has denied using drugs since he's played for the Yankees. Now as mentioned he's out right now recovering from an injury. If these suspensions are upheld, he would be out for the rest of the season, no matter what. But of course we don't know what's going to happen until Bosch sits down and talks with investigators.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Pamela.

BERMAN: The IRS under intense pressure this morning for spending $50 million taxpayer dollars from 2010 to 2012. Those figures just released by the Treasury Department's inspector general. Three congressional committees and the Justice Department have now launched investigations into the troubled agency.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Paintings of Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, and even Bono from U2, all made on site at an IRS conference by an artist hired to perform "Leadership Through Art" and paid $17,000. Taxpayer dollars.

It's just one example of IRS excess detailed in this new inspector general report, which zeros in on a 2010 IRS conference in Anaheim, California, which cost taxpayers a whopping $4 million. Nearly 2700 IRS employees stayed at three hotels with no attempt to negotiate lower rates. Why? The IRS hired outside organizers with no incentive to bargain because they got a 5 percent commission from the hotels. In fact, two event organizers got paid $66,500 by Uncle Sam from this one conference.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: They didn't negotiate. They didn't bid it. And this was 2700 folks. So they could have gotten a considerable reduction. Instead what they said is we'll pay full boat but we want some perks. BASH: Those perks included 24 tickets to Los Angeles Angels games, free drinks, and upgrades like this lavish presidential suite. An IRS division head stayed here.

(On camera): The IRS even made swag for its employees to take home like this tote bag with a special logo made just for the conference. This bag was made in China, by the way. So was this leather folio. They also got notebooks like this, even bottle openers. All of these gifts and trinkets added up to 64,000 taxpayer dollars.

But what may be just as outrageous as wasting this money is the fact that the IRS did not appear to follow the very rules it requires each and every taxpayer to follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attempting to modulate the frequency now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry about the uniforms, Captain. The dry cleaner gave me the wrong order.

BASH (voice-over): For example, this "Star Trek" spoof. The inspector general said this and other videos made for the conference cost $50,187. But the I.G. says no one knows if that cost is accurate because the IRS, the agency that requires taxpayers to keep receipts, did not save its own documents to show what it spent.

The new acting IRS commissioner, Danny Werfel, calls this wasteful spending inappropriate and stresses they have already reduced the cost and size of IRS conferences. One conference workshop should have helped. It was entitled "Political Savvy: How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot."

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


BERMAN: Indeed that might have helped. Our thanks to Dana for that report.

Lawyers for an ex-State Department contractor accused of leaking national secrets to a reporter doubt authorities got their search warrants properly. Today they might ask a judge to throw them out. One warrant suggested that James Rosen from FOX News could be a co- conspirator in a crime. Rosen has not been charged.

Some critics claim that the attorney general lied when he testified that he was never involved in actions against the press. Republican lawmakers want a response from Eric Holder to their questions today.

ROMANS: All kinds of extreme weather related events happening around the country this morning. Let's get you up to date.

Authorities now believe a tree that fell on to power lines may have sparked the wildfire now burning in north central New Mexico. The Trace Lagunas Fire was -- has scorched now more than 8600 acres. It's only 7 percent contained. The Mississippi River is more than 10 feet above flood stage. In St. Louis, Missouri, a levee breached in West Alton just north of the city forced authorities to evacuate more than 40 homes yesterday.

And the National Weather Service confirms that an EF-1 tornado touched down Tuesday in South Carolina damaging a chicken farm in Orangeburg County.

BERMAN: Let's get to meteorologist Indra Peterson. She is tracking all this wild weather for us and the beginning of hurricane season.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You're right. Like it's not enough. We've got tornado season. Now in the first week of the Atlantic hurricane season where a Pacific storm, it was Barbara that actually went across now into the Gulf. She's got a lot of residual moisture out there. It's trying to develop. Yesterday we had a 20 percent chance that it would develop the circulation. Today we have about a 40 percent chance.

Either way, whether this develops or not, this is going to be pooled up right in through Florida. All that tropical moisture enhancing rainfall where portions of Florida see anywhere from six inches to even a foot of rain in just the last week. They don't need any more but unfortunately look at this forecast. Look how much more is still going to be building over the next five days. And eventually that low will actually track right up the eastern seaboard meaning, yes, prom weekend will mean a lot of rain for anyone on the eastern seaboard to actually makes its way all the way up to the mid-Atlantic.

And of course we still have all that flooding going on out toward St. Louis, Missouri. So a lot going on. And even some flight risks over Oklahoma City again today.

BERMAN: Too much.

ROMANS: Get an umbrella to match your corsage. That's what you'll --

PETERSONS: No one looks good frizzy.


ROMANS: Thank you, Indra.

All right. Another court appearance today for the army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Ft. Hood. Major Nidal Hasan is serving as his own lawyer. He told a judge on Tuesday he was acting in defense of the Taliban when he allegedly opened fire back in 2009. His defense strategy and his actions were meant to save lives of Taliban commanders in Afghanistan.

The judge has asked him and prosecutors to submit written arguments and scheduled a further hearing on this matter for later today.

BERMAN: Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is expected to plead guilty today to murdering 16 civilians in Afghanistan. Bales will enter the plea at a military court hearing in Tacoma, Washington. In exchange the government is not expected to pursue the death penalty.

A full sentencing hearing in September will determine whether Bales will ever be eligible for parole. He's charged with shooting 16 civilians to death in their homes 15 months ago.

ROMANS: Randy Phillips, the head of concert promoter AEG Live, says the lawsuit brought by Michael Jackson's mother against his company is a baseless attempt at extortion. Phillips is testifying at the wrongful death civil trial. The Jackson family accuses AEG Live of negligently hiring Dr. Conrad Murray who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the singer's drug overdose death.

BERMAN: A study due out this week reportedly finds little evidence that the TSA's controversial passenger screening system even works. "The New York Times" sites a Homeland Security analysis of the TSA's behavior detection program. Officers are supposed to pull aside passengers who exhibit what are considered telltale signs of terrorists. But the officers are often accused of racial profiling instead.

The report says the TSA cannot verify the program's effectiveness or justify its expansion.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, it used to be a tourist haven. Now with violence in the headlines, is Mexico safe for Americans? We're going to take a close look.

BERMAN: And a major charity has to cancel some events. Why the Komen Foundation is cutting back, next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Recent high-profile kidnappings and other crimes may have many wondering whether it's safe for Americans to head south of the border. And the false arrest of an Arizona mother on drug charges in Mexico only adding to the confusion and concern.

CNN Pentagon reporter Chris Lawrence looks into the problem.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans flock to Mexico for its beaches and bars. But bloody murders have stained the image of all that sun and sand. And some Americans have seen their trips turn terrifying.

This Arizona mom was recently released after a week in jail. After Mexican authorities accused her of smuggling drugs.


LAWRENCE: For weeks, authorities have been searching for this young Marine, kidnapped while visiting his father. And so-called express kidnappings are on the rise.

DUNCAN WOOD, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, you'd be picked up in maybe a pirate taxi, taken off to an ATM. They would drain your account as best they could. And then at midnight they'd go back to the same ATM using your card and take more money out. And then they'd let you go.

LAWRENCE: Take away terrorist attacks and trips at war. In the last decade, more Americans have been murdered in Mexico than any other country in the world. And that number jumped from 35 in 2007 to 113 two years ago.

DUNCAN WOOD, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: There are certain places in Mexico that you would not want to go on vacation.

LAWRENCE: The state department warns against just about anywhere in these red zones, including Tijuana and Acapulco. The areas in green like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are considered safe spots.

ROBERT REID, TRAVEL WRITER: We're not seeing these things happen in Cabo San Lucas or in Cancun which has a safer record than (INAUDIBLE) actually.

LAWRENCE: Travel writer, Robert Reid, says, "you heard right." As recently as a year ago, the murder rate was actually higher in the city considered Disney world's front door.

REID: So, it doesn't necessarily mean that anyone should consider canceling their trips because of this.

LAWRENCE (on-camera): And American tourists show no signs of doing that. In fact, part of the reason so many U.S. citizens are killed in Mexico is that so many of us go there. This year, 20 million Americans will go to Mexico. That's the entire population of New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's an interesting perspective.


All right. Forty-six minutes after the hour right now. Los Angeles police officials reportedly concluding that the 2009 firing of officer Christopher Dorner was appropriate and that his claims of racism and corruption in the department were unfounded. That according to an Associated Press report. Dorner, a former L.A. cop, died in a shootout with police in February after allegedly killing four people, including two officers.

ROMANS: Day three of Bradley Manning's court martial getting under way today. Manning is the former army intelligence analyst accused of giving thousands of classified documents to the WikiLeaks website. Prosecutors trying to prove Manning aided enemies of the U.S. That's the most serious count against him.

It could send him to prison for life. Yesterday, the man who turned him in said Manning never suggested that he wanted to help the enemy. BERMAN: Major charity is canceling some of its signature races. The Susan G. Komen Foundation says a lack of donation means it will not be running three day races in seven cities next year. This year's races are not affected, and seven other cities will continue to hold the events. Some supporters pulled their money from the group after it tried to cut its funding for Planned Parenthood in 2012.

ROMANS: Legendary Hoboken New Jersey nightclub, Maxwell, shutting its doors this summer.




ROMANS: Bruce Springsteen shot his "Glory Days" video in the club's intimate performance base (ph). It only holds about 200 fans. Maxwell's has been a mainstay of the New York area music scene since it first opened its doors in 1978. Most of the Indy rock and punk bands you have ever heard of have performed there including Nirvana who played Maxwell back in 1989. The club will end its long run on July 31st.

BERMAN: -- people love punk like Christine Romans.


BERMAN: Real milestone. Forty-eight minutes after the hour. A high school senior in Alabama denied her diploma and fined over a feather.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my feather. They told me that if I wore it, then they would pull me off the field.


BERMAN: But Chelsey Ramer (ph) wore the feather anyway. Now, she can't get her diploma or transcripts until she pays a $1,000 fine. That's the penalty for wearing her eagle feather and breaking the graduation dress code. Ramer says the feather shows pride in her Native American heritage. So far, the school has not commented on the situation.

ROMANS: Wow. If i had a dime or a feather for every time we did a zero tolerance story, you know, that just sounded kind of unreasonable.

BERMAN: Something going on there.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up --

BERMAN: How many times have you said, those two, they really belong together. Well, our Jeanne Moos tells the tale of a moose and its true love. But, there's a catch that brings a new meaning to unrequited. The story coming up.


BERMAN: So, an adventure in a "Star Wars" fan has come up with the ultimate collector's item. This is a real life light saber. Finally. Drake Anthony (ph) who goes by the DIY laser guy on YouTube posted a video of the powerful laser burning through paper, flash paper, and electrical tape.

A second video shows it burning through steel wool, wood, and lighting entire book of matches. Clearly, the force is with him.

ROMANS: Luke, I am your father.

All right. An eighth grade science class --


BERMAN: Darth Romans over here.

ROMANS: No. I mean, that's really cool.

OK. I want to tell you about this eighth grade class. This is very cool. Science class eight graders, middle school, Lake Bay, Washington. They placed the egg on a high altitude balloon. The egg went up more than 109,000 feet, just over 20 miles high. It also came down landing some 217 miles away in Pasco, Washington. Do you see the egg? It is intact. A parent and a student were actually able to retrieve it. That is cool.

BERMAN: I think it's even cooler than the light saber. I think the force is with the egg people.

ROMANS: I think so, too.

BERMAN: So, what happens when an amorous moose --


BERMAN: -- meets an immovable object? The possibilities, no doubt, are endless. Not altogether legal in some states.

ROMANS: Is this safe for the breakfast table.


BERMAN: CNN's Jeanne Moos with a tale of inanimate love.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Northern Colorado can be a lonely place for a moose. Nothing to do but eat and -- whoa! Who's that hot number?

BOB BALINK, LIVES NEXT DOOR TO STATUE: This has only been up since last Monday. MOOS: No surprise that a young moose would be curious about a bronze statue that looks like a moose.

BALINK: The strange thing is he's trying to mate with a statue.


BALINK: They're both male.


MOOS: Bob Baalink's neighbors placed the statue on their property here in Grand Lake, then left town. Ever since, an amorous bull moose has been courting the statue. And by courting, we mean the full court press that we can't quite show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's in love. He's nuzzling. And he kisses. And he licks him. And he walks around. And then he -- you know, he gets on top of him.

MOOS: How many times has Bob seen them moosing around?

BALINK: Myself personally, four times.

MOOS (on-camera): Wow. This is no one night stand.

(voice-over) Who knew a statue bought for a couple of thousand dollars? Sixty percent off at a going out of business sale would be so irresistible.

(on-camera) The owners of the statue are thinking of anchoring it down. They're worried the real moose will get carried away and knock it over. After all, the actual moose is probably twice the statue's weight. But moose aren't the only ones making amorous miscalculations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a deer.

MOOS (voice-over): It's not always easy giving a deer the cold shoulder. No more awkward than this. No privacy. Unrequited love. It's enough to make a moose say bull. Maybe a little Berry White (ph) would help. Statue or not, can't get enough of your love, babe.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep it up, moosey.

MOOS: New York.


BERMAN: Our lawyers advise us that we should not comment on that past story.


ROMANS: That's it for EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "Starting Point" back after the break.



BERMAN (voice-over): Our "starting point" this morning, major league scandal purportedly involves baseball's biggest stars. And really, this one might just be the biggest one ever.

ROMANS (voice-over): And why is Chrysler telling the government it will not recall 2.7 million jeeps that are currently on the road, and they're believed to be dangerously faulty. We're going to tell you why the company is saying absolutely not.

BERMAN: And remember this? An artist drop kicks a woman in the audience while performing at the Billboard Music Awards, lands awkwardly, to say the least. It seems she may not be doing so well. Her attorney reporting she could have a neurological head injury.