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Debt Ceiling Standoff Solution?; Healthcare Website Glitches; Militia Take Libya's Prime Minister; New Details on Florida Teen's Death; Money Time

Aired October 10, 2013 - 04:00   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a real simple solution. The speaker of the House could solve this today.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our message in the House has been pretty clear. We want to reopen our government and provide fairness to all Americans under the president's health care law.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The government shutdown gridlock could soon be over. The president meeting today with White House Republicans. Can they compromise to get Washington back on track?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Optimistic view.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, no kidding.


ROBERT LASZEWSKI, HEALTHY POLICY AND STRATEGY ASSOCIATES: Insurance executives have been warning the administration bluntly that this whole system is not ready for prime time.


BERMAN: Obamacare's rocky rollout. But just how much did the White House know about the problems plaguing the sign-up process for the health care law?

SAMBOLIN: And breaking news over night. Libya's prime minister detained by gunmen. We are live with the very latest developments there.

BERMAN: Shaky situation there. We'll get to that in a minute.

A lot going on this morning --

SAMBOLIN: There is.

BERMAN: -- despite the fact it is wicked early.

(LAUGHTER) Good morning. Great to see you, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Thursday, October 10th. It is 4:01 in the East.

BERMAN: And we're going to begin with some news that really might shock you. Take a look at the capitol this morning. It is the dysfunction beneath that dome that gave us the partial government shutdown, we are now under and put us on the brink of not being able to pay our bills.

But this morning, there are small, tinny signs of progress, maybe, that might at least keep the country from defaulting on its debt. Eighteen top Republicans are said to visit the White House today to meet with the president. That as multiple Republican House members and sources close to House leaders tell CNN they are working on a proposal to raise the debt ceiling temporarily, perhaps four to six weeks.

That could open the door to negotiations on a longer term solution. However, it is not all happy music and unicorns yet. Apparently the House plan does not include measures to re-open the government. It just deals with the debt part. This will be unwelcomed news to hundreds of thousands of federal employees not being paid right now, not to mention a lot of Americans who depend on those services.

Let's get the latest now from senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Finally, they are talking. House Democrats met the president at the White House last night.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: We just had a very positive meeting with the president of the United States.

KEILAR: President Obama's message, he is open to a short-term deal to increase the debt ceiling for six weeks, according to a lawmaker in the meeting. Republicans are warming to the idea of a shorter deal, followed by negotiations with the president on reducing the debt and deficit.

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan penned an op-ed in "Wall Street Journal" that did not even mention GOP demands to delay or defund Obamacare but Tea Party-backed Republicans still want that fight after a brief debt ceiling increase and to arguing against ending the government shutdown.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: I would do a debt ceiling increase for six weeks so the president can actually negotiate with John Boehner and I would keep the fight on the continuing resolution and Obamacare.

KEILAR: In interviews with local news stations, President Obama was asked to explain his own vote against raising the debt ceiling in 2006.

OBAMA: I voted against a debt ceiling increase at the time because I had some concerns about what President Bush was doing.

KEILAR: Specifically the Bush tax cuts. And he argued it's OK for certain Republicans to protest policies with a no vote, but he said there must be a vote.

OBAMA: There should never be a proposition where the speaker of the House is not willing to put those votes to the floor right now.

KEILAR: Congress isn't faring well in this budget fight. A new Gallup poll shows Republicans with a 28 percent favorable rate, down 10 points since last month, the lowest for any party since 1992. Democrats slid four points to 43 percent.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Brianna for that.

Well, seven days to go before the U.S. hits that debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is headed to Capitol Hill this morning. He will testify before the Senate Finance Committee. That is in just a few hours. The secretary has already warned Congress that the U.S. will not have enough cash on hand to pay its bills if the debt ceiling is not raised before October 17th. That could send the nation into default for the very first time in history.

SAMBOLIN: And it's 10 days since they rolled out Obamacare and the online glitches, they are continuing this morning. Many have tried to log on to Only a fraction has set up accounts let along actually enrolled.

And we are hearing more this morning about just what the administration was told about potential problems with this site way in advance.

CNN's Brian Todd has that.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Luke Chung operates a database company in northern Virginia. He's an expert on heavily trafficked Web sites but even he is frustrated navigating

LUKE CHUNG, PRESIDENT, FMS INC.: This is interesting.

TODD (on camera): What do you got?

CHUNG: I don't know what I have. I just tried to log in to my account that I have already established.

TODD: And? CHUNG: And it says unexpected error.

TODD (voice-over): Since the Obamacare rollout last week Chung has been trying only to get quotes on prices, not even to enroll.

(On camera): Error messages, slow connections, getting booted out of the system, other problems have exasperated hundreds of thousands of uninsured who have tried to log on. And now we're hearing the Obama administration was warned well ahead of the rollout that the online exchange had big problems.

(Voice-over): One Democratic ally of the administration, Congressman Robert Andrews, says he spoke to the White House months before the unveiling.

REP. ROBERT ANDREWS (D), NEW JERSEY: I discussed with the White House people things they already knew which was -- undertaking of this size is going to be very complex.

TODD: Andrews believes the White House was on top of the situation. Robert Laszewski, a health care consultant, disagrees. He says many of his clients, major insurers, had contentious meetings with the administration ahead of the rollout.

LASZEWSKI: Insurance executives have been warning the administration bluntly that this whole system is not ready for prime time. It wasn't going to be ready on October 1 to appropriately enroll people.

TODD: But he says the White House ignored them.

LASZEWSKI: The administration didn't seem to understand the seriousness of it. They were blase about it. They continued to assure the industry that there weren't going to be any problems.

TODD: And Laszewski says that they were not about to delay the rollout. The White House insists it listened to insurers and knew about the problems.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Everyone was aware and we told you that there would be glitches.

TODD: What they're not telling us is exactly how many people have enrolled. They say they don't know the precise numbers. Luke Chung says.

CHUNG: The data exists. This system, I would hope, has a database inside it that would be able to tell you everybody who's enrolled, much less the number of people who are enrolled.

TODD: White House officials tell us it's more complicated than that. They say they have to collect those numbers from several different sources and they have to make sure the numbers are accurate so they are sticking to a plan to release the number of enrollments and other Web site data to once a month to ensure that accuracy.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. We do have breaking news now from Libya where CNN has learned that the prime minister was apparently taken, taken from a hotel in Tripoli by a large number of armed men. There is some confusion about what's going on here so let's go live to Tripoli where CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest developments.

Nic -- Nic, explain this for us.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it is a developing story. About 3:30 a.m. in the morning here, about five or so hours ago, six hours ago, about 100 or 150 gunmen, according to eyewitnesses, went into the Corinthia Hotel. They arrived at about -- in about 30 or 40 vehicles.

The prime minister lives there. They went to his rooms and took him at gunpoint. No shots were fired. A group called the Operations Room of the Libya Revolutionary has claimed responsibility. They are portraying this as a legal move, saying that they've detained the prime minister and placed him in a jail in Tripoli accusing him of crimes against the interest of the country.

We talked to the Justice minister this morning and he says absolutely no way, no arrest warrant has been issued for the prime minister. The government is calling this a kidnapping. They are meeting now to discuss what to do next.

I met with the prime minister last night four hours before this kidnapping. He was happy. He was relaxed. He gave no indication that this might be about to happen. Of course, many government officials, ministers, we have talked to have been concerned that the arrest of Abu Anas al-Libi, linked to that al Qaeda attack of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, his arrest over the weekend was going to trigger some instability.

This may be it, John.

BERMAN: Indeed. I mean, seizing him some 150 armed men is instability to say the least. Any sign, Nic, that there is a direct connection to that seizing of the Libya terror suspect?

You know, does the prime minister have a close relationship with the United States? Would be he an obvious target for retaliation?

ROBERTSON: The prime minister has said that Libya has a good relationship with the United States. I was meeting with people in his office yesterday and the Justice minister here who both said that Libya signed a short-range, long-range contracts with the United States to improve more enforcement here. These have been signed in the last few weeks.

The prime minister has (INAUDIBLE) been to say despite the fact they're outraged at the -- what they call the abduction of al-Libi, they say Libya has good relations with the United States. They want to maintain those good relations. The Justice minister told me last night that he was worried that perhaps he and the prime minister had not been outspoken enough, outraged enough about the situation of al- Libi.

What we have heard from this group that claims to have abducted the prime minister, the Operations Room of the Libya Revolutionists, they say no, there is no connection with the abduction of al-Libi. However, the reality is two days ago, they wrote -- they said on their Facebook page that they would go out and hunt down and punish anyone connected to the government who had been helping foreign intelligence services to capture al-Libi.

So the connection is certainly there and it's what everyone here believes to be behind all of this -- John.

BERMAN: And Nic, last question here. I mean, it's chaotic in Libya right now to begin with. Right now, the prime minister is in custody somewhere under armed guards. Who is in charge?

ROBERTSON: Well, right now that would be the council administrators who are in charge here right now. And right now they are meeting to determine what their next move should be. But essentially this is going to -- this is come -- going to come down to a standoff. This is a militia, the Operations Room for Libya Revolutionaries is a militia. It is indeed a militia that has been sanctioned by the government.

The government here doesn't have a national security force. Its police, weak. There is no national army here. And the country is essentially, to put it --to want of a better word -- a lawless place where large militias like this one has abducted the prime minister, have the writ to do what they will and what we have witnessed in the early hours of today is perhaps one of the worst examples of that so far, taking the prime minister -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Nic, like the Wild West there in Tripoli this morning. Nic Robertson for us in Libya, appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: So let's get an update on that al Qaeda terror suspect. Abu Anas al-Libi captured last week on the streets of Tripoli is still being held on a ship in the Mediterranean. He has not been read his Miranda rights yet.

U.S. officials say he is being interrogated by a special team of agents from the CIA, the FBI and the Pentagon. They are trying to find out what he knows about the terrorist network. Anything he tells them cannot be used in court. Once al-Libi is turned over to the Justice Department, he will be read his Miranda rights and evidence gathering will begin for a criminal prosecution.

Twelve minutes past the hour here. Coming up?


KENNETH JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S FATHER: Let down again. And when we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half a Kendrick.


SAMBOLIN: This is just an incredible and shocking twist in the mysterious death of a teenager found dead inside his high school.

BERMAN: And kidnapped by the mother who murdered her mother and brother, Hanna Anderson reveals how her life was threatened in a dangerous game. That is coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifteen minutes past the hour.

This mother -- this morning, that is, it's another shocking twist in the case of a Georgia teenager found dead in a high school gym. His family insists Kendrick Johnson was murdered and an independent autopsy has now agreed. But police in Georgia are refusing to reopen their investigation into what they call an accident.

Now as Victor Blackwell reports Johnson's family is dealing with the horror of what happened to their son's body before he was buried.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the second time Jacqueline Johnson cried next to her son Kendrick's grave. The first time he was being lowered into the ground. This time he's being pulled out of it.

(On camera): Did you ever expect to have to exhume his body?

JACQUELYN JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S MOTHER: No, I didn't expect to have to bury his body.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): In June, Kendrick's body was sent to Florida. The Johnsons hired Dr. Bill Anderson to conduct an independent second autopsy. In that autopsy Anderson told the Johnsons he found evidence that Kendrick died as the result of a blow to the neck and not accidental asphyxia after slipping into a rolled gym mat at school, as investigators in Georgia had said. But what Dr. Anderson did not find shocked them.

BILL ANDERSON, PATHOLOGIST: We got the body for the second autopsy, that organs, the heart, lungs, liver, et cetera, were not with the body.

BLACKWELL (on camera): The brain?

ANDERSON: The brain, they were all absent.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Every organ from the top of Kendrick's head to his pelvis, gone, and his family had no idea.

K. JOHNSON: We have been let down again and when we buried Kendrick, we thought we were burying Kendrick, not half a Kendrick.

ANDERSON: I'm not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body but I know when we got the body, the organs were not there.

BLACKWELL: So CNN contacted the two entities that had custody of Kendrick's body and access to his organs. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which conducted the first autopsy in January, and Harrington Funeral Home, which the Johnsons chose to embalm and prepare Kendrick's body for burial days later.

A spokeswoman for the state tells CNN after its autopsy the organs were placed in Johnson's body. The body was closed, then the body was released to the funeral home. State investigators say it's their normal practice, but what happened after his body arrived at the funeral home was anything but normal.

(On camera): What was in the place of the organs?

J. JOHNSON: Newspaper.

BLACKWELL: Newspaper?

(Voice-over): Dr. Anderson showed me the pictures of Kendrick's body he'd taken during the second autopsy.

(On camera): It's a Black Friday ad, JCPenney ad.


J. JOHNSON: They stuck newspaper in him like he was a garbage can inside his body. It's unbelievable.

K. JOHNSON: I'd imagine that that is a different kind of pain.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Why do you think that there would be newspapers stuffed in your child?

K. JOHNSON: I never heard of that before. Never.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Neither had the founder of a National Embalming Academy contacted by CNN who said it's not consistent with the standards of care in the industry. Nor had the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners who told CNN he's never heard of this practice.

(On camera): Why would the funeral home discard his organs and stuff them with newspaper?

K. JOHNSON: The question is, why didn't he tell us?

BLACKWELL (voice-over): So what exactly did the Harrington Funeral Home do with Kendrick's organs and why was he stuffed with old newspaper? We went to their office to find out but their response to us, "no comment." However, in a letter to the Johnsons' attorney, Harrington Funeral Home owner Antonio Harrington denies he received Kendrick's organs.

He writes in part, "His internal organs were destroyed through natural process and henceforth were discarded before the body was set back to Valdosta."

It's another disappointing answer for parents determined to know what happened to their son before and now after his death. And they admit they're struggling.

J. JOHNSON: Unbearable, just about. Only thing that wakes you up in the morning is just to keep pushing.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Valdosta, Georgia.


BERMAN: We are learning more and more about that story, more and more details and it gets more and more unbelievable every time we hear it.

SAMBOLIN: I feel awful for that family, what they're going through right now.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

All right. Twenty minutes after the hour right now. A kidnapped California teen is revealing frightening new details about her ordeal. Hannah Anderson says the family friend who abducted her tried to make her play Russian roulette. The 16-year-old also tells NBC that James DiMaggio handcuffed her and bound her feet. Authorities says DiMaggio killed Anderson's mother and brother before taking her to Idaho. A week later, you'll remember, the FBI tracked them down, shooting and killing DiMaggio.

SAMBOLIN: The former army private who leaked thousands of documents to WikiLeaks is reportedly not pleased with people's impression of him. Bradley Manning, who now goes by Chelsea, tells "The Guardian" newspaper the leak was motivated by a desire for more transparency, not an effort to influence the public's opinions of war. The comments are Manning's first since August when he was sentenced to 35 years in military custody.

BERMAN: Also unhappy, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He wrote a letter to actor Benedict Cumberbatch ahead of the release of the film "The Fifth Estate." It is about WikiLeaks and in his letter Assange calls the film distorted and wretched, and he begs the actor to reconsider his involvement. Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes, by the way, asked to meet with Assange before playing him in the film, an offer that Assange declined.

Cumberbatch also played Khan in the new "Star Trek" movie.


I really think he's a good actor. I know it doesn't relate to the story at all.

SAMBOLIN: No, that's OK.

BERMAN: But Benedict Cumberbatch, terrific actor. We like him. Come on EARLY START at 4:00 a.m. any time you want. SAMBOLIN: OK. Great idea.

BERMAN: Ain't be great?


BERMAN: He'd a great looking (INAUDIBLE).


BERMAN: All right.

SAMBOLIN: At 4:00 in the morning, I don't know.

BERMAN: Twenty-one minutes after 4:00 a.m. And coming up, leave your ATM card at home. How you will soon be able to dispense your cash with a phone.

Maribel Aber explains the future to us.

SAMBOLIN: I think I like that.

BERMAN: All of the future at "Money Time." It's coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is "Money Time." Maribel Aber is here with all the money news and more.

Great to see you this morning.

MARIBEL ABER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Great to see you this morning. Let's get started with some money and with the sign of the times. OK? It looks like personal computers continue. Their slow decline. The latest numbers from a market researcher Gartner shows that worldwide personal computer shipments fell in the third quarter to its lowest level since 2008.

Global unit sales were down 8.6 percent in the third quarter. A Gartner analyst saying more consumers are shifting from PCs to tablets. That's no surprise, right? There's also a lackluster demand from students returning to school.

Another sign of things to come and, believe it or not, not far off. Soon you'll be able to get cash out of an ATM without using a debit card. Financial services giant FIS announced the development at the Money 2020 conference in Las Vergas. FIS says it will essentially be like using a remote control for the ATM so you'll be able to log on to a mobile app, right?

SAMBOLIN: Look at that.

ABER: Select the amount of money that you want, receive it in seconds from an ATM. No debit card is necessary. All you need is your phone and, of course, you need some cash in the account.


SAMBOLIN: Worry if I lose my phone there.

BERMAN: There is the trick right there.

ABER: The trick. You need the money and forget about the fries. You know what? Let's talk about books. Would you like a book with that? Adage says starting November 1st, McDonald's Happy Meals will include books. There will be four original children's books carrying a nutritional message. Adage says it's the beginning of a massive children's book push expected to last for several years.

The chain said it expects to distribute -- get this -- 20 million books in the first two-week promotion window. Think about all those Happy Meals. One example is called "The Goat Who Ate Everything." It's about a goat who has a big appetite and struggles to eat well but eventually learns to eat smart.

BERMAN: You're not buying it?

SAMBOLIN: No, the kids are going to look at this and they're going to say, what's that? A book?

ABER: A book? I know.


BERMAN: I think it's terrific.

ABER: There's no e-Reader?

SAMBOLIN: Great idea.

BERMAN: I know. I think it's a great idea.

SAMBOLIN: I think it's an e-Reader. Yes. That's how most kids -- my daughter doesn't own any more books?

BERMAN: Really?


BERMAN: I mean, I -- I think -- I see kids --

SAMBOLIN: I think it's a great idea.


SAMBOLIN: Right? For parents to sit with their kids and read books but I just think, you know, that's kind of changing. The times have changed.

BERMAN: A lot of people get Happy Meals when they're on the road. They get the Happy Meals, the kids will open it, they'll see the book and they -- no matter what's in it, they'll play with it.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. No doubt. No doubt.


BERMAN: And they'll check it out.

ABER: Sure. It's only for two weeks, right, then the toys come back.


BERMAN: Even if they're reading by accident.

SAMBOLIN: There you go.

BERMAN: It's a good thing. I think it's a good thing.

SAMBOLIN: There you go. You're going to McDonald's, aren't you, with your kids?

BERMAN: Gives me another reason to go. Yes. It's for them. It's not for me and my Big Mac. Really.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Maribel.

All right, coming up the government shutdown furloughing thousands, closing parks, and gutting agencies designed to keep us safe. But what's still open for business may actually surprise you. Coming up next.