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Syrians Slaughtered; Driver Saves Kids Before Bus Catches Fire; Sandusky: I Want More Freedom; Eye Problem For Astronauts

Aired February 10, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are very happy that you're with us. We are bringing you the news from A to Z.

It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started here.

Syrian troops, they're escalating their slaughter. It's a fifth day of shelling, women and children are among the dead. And according to a Syrian opposition group, there are 110 deaths in Homs, 10 were children.

BANFIELD: Also in this country, six children are alive after these pictures were recorded. A school bus bursting into flames.


BANFIELD: You are going to see the driver who got those kids out just in time.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to talk to her actually. Very excited.

All right. There's an Alzheimer's breakthrough, maybe. Scientists stumble on a very exciting discovery, a cancer drug that actually reverses Alzheimer's in mice. We're going to learn a little bit more about that.

BANFIELD: And we're going to put a little kick in your step as well with tunes and political players and play lists.

Have you ever thought about the music behind these fabulous productions, the speeches, the applause, the showmanship? There's a lot more to the music that you might not know about. But after today you will.

EARLY START starts now.

SAMBOLIN: So, we begin here with the slaughter in Syria. It is escalating by the hour. Government tanks now storming Homs, 137 more civilians have been killed. Among them, there are 10 children.

BANFIELD: This is the fifth straight day that images like these have been pouring into news organizations around the world. This government all-out assault doesn't seem to show any signs of abating. It actually seems as though it may be intensifying.

Our Anderson Cooper had the opportunity to speak to one of the opposition members who's inside Syria and recording horrible images of what's going on there. Have a look at this.


ABU ABDO, SYRIAN ACTIVIST (via telephone): He's killing entire cities. He's trying to damage these cities and to destroy into the ground. I mean, we don't know why, we're civilians here, civilians live here. He's not also only killing the people and shelling with all types of heavy weapons, he's also isolating the city -- isolating the city from al sides so people will not die from rocket shelling and machine guns, and snipers, they will die from hunger. Everybody is sitting at home waiting for their death.


BANFIELD: Activist Abu Abdo was speaking of course of Bashar al Assad, the president of Syria who seems to be intransigent of stopping this violence any time soon.

Our Ivan Watson is live in Istanbul, Turkey, certainly a safer place to report on this story. We can't get anybody into that country.

At the same time, we are hearing there may be more fronts now under attack, Ivan. What's the story?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, this has been going on for more than 10 months, this uprising and the violent crackdown, and Homs, while the situation there is horrific, other parts of the country have also seen their share of violence.

One place we haven't seen it very much in the past is the second largest city of Syria, Aleppo, in the north. And there this morning, there appear to have been at least two major explosions outside the headquarters of two Syrian security headquarters there. We still don't have details on how many people were killed and injured there, but Syrian state TV showing images of people, bodies mutilated in this explosion, in these blasts. One resident we talked to said there were a lot of ambulances rushing to the area.

The Syrian media, state media, is describing these as terrorist attacks. It does not bode well for a country where society does seem to be unraveling over the course of this uprising and this brutal crackdown.

BANFIELD: You know, Ivan, a lot of us who have worked war zones before have been talking about how much this reminds us of those harrowing scenes out of Bosnia, where women and children were dying, you know, in the dozens every day. But we saw some pictures on Anderson Cooper last night of an activist named Danny who talked at length about this and showed us direct evidence.

This isn't an unusual scene he was talking about, is it, Ivan?

WATSON: No. I mean, this is something we're seeing again and again day after day in this besieged city of Homs where the Syrian military isn't allowing food and medicine in to residents of a city that had a population of about a million before this began.

Danny has become very much a face of the opposition and the embattled residents there. Take a listen to one of his most recent amateur video dispatches, Ashleigh.


DANNY, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: This is one of the houses in Bab al Amr. Look at these children. This is how the Assad regime is supposed to treat our children. Now, you see the Assad regime is killing children.

What is the U.N. going to do about this? What is the U.N. going to do about this? Nothing.

They're going to sit and discuss and see if they want to do this peacefully. They want to solve it peacefully with this murder, after what he did to these children. They've been hitting on us from 6:00 a.m. until -- it's 2:00 p.m. now. We have over 100 bodies, over 200 underneath the destruction. We don't even know who they are.


WATSON: Ashleigh, those same notes of outrage and desperation we're hearing from our own conversations with Syrian activists all over the country, basically saying we've been abandoned while our own government kills its own citizens.

The activists are planning today to be another day of protests, Friday, the traditional day. The theme today is, quote, "Russia is killing our children." Many activists accusing Russia of providing diplomatic cover for the Syrian regime to intensify its attacks against its own citizens -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Ivan, thank you very much for that. It's just awful to see and awful to report on. Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is six minutes past the hour here. Every morning, we give you an EARLY START to your day alerting you to what will be the big stories tonight. So, here we go.

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is back in Washington. She's in the Oval Office to witness the president sign her final piece of legislation she sponsored it. It is the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act, and it gives law enforcement more authority to combat drug trafficking on borders.

BANFIELD: GOP candidates will take to the CPAC stage today, minus one Ron Paul, but the other three will be there.

Rick Santorum is hoping to really capitalize on that momentum from his recent big wins.

Mitt Romney also trying to woo conservatives and actually met with a small group of conservative leaders yesterday, kind of a mixed mingle and greet.

And Newt Gingrich is going to be speaking as well and his big introduction will come by way of his wife, Callista.

SAMBOLIN: And, Ashleigh, you know Texas loves football, right?

BANFIELD: It's a religion, at least in Dallas.

SAMBOLIN: And food.

First lady Michele Obama is in Dallas this morning with both of those. Mrs. Obama is teaming up with "Top Chef" contestants and players of the Dallas Cowboys for her "Let's Move" campaign. She's in fine form. She's promoting healthy eating in schools.

BANFIELD: Every time I see Michele Obama, she's either kickboxing or running or doing --

SAMBOLIN: Tough cookie there, huh?

BANFIELD: Amazing. No wonder she's got the pipes that she's got. She's earned them.

All right. We have incredible video to show. Before you get freaked out when you see it, yes, it is a school bus on fire. And yes, there were children on board. But this has a great ending, two- fold great ending.

The driver smelled something burning but just so quickly and so calmly got the kids off that school bus before this happened. But this was the scene that emerging.

SAMBOLIN: So, the bus driver, Lindora Richardson, says she is not a hero, but she is to be honored by the Charlotte Fire Department next week.

And guess what? Lindora joins us on the phone from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Good morning to you.

LINDORA RICHARDSON, BUS DRIVER (via telephone): Good morning. How are you guys this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, we are really well. The question is, how are you after a situation like that?

So, first I want to start with how did you know something was wrong?

RICHARDSON: I was taking my little ones home and I smelled something that really didn't smell right. So I stopped the bus to basically inspect what was going on. And upon inspecting, looking around for the smell, smoke came from under the steering column. And it's just got real great.

So, at that time, I decided to park and secure the bus and get me and the kids to safety.

SAMBOLIN: You said your little ones. These are not your children. These are the children that you transport to school every day?

RICHARDSON: Yes, ma'am. They are not mine. But looking at them, spending time with them every day, it's hard not to bond with them when you see them five days out of the week and sometimes you see them like during your own personal time shopping and they come running up to you, "Mom, this is my bus driver." So --

SAMBOLIN: These kids, I understand five to 10 years old. How did you shuttle them off the bus? Were they nervous? Were they smelling the smoke also?

RICHARDSON: Well, they saw the smoke and they were heroes as well because they did not panic and when I did see the smoke, I did ask them to go to the back of the bus, away from the smoke. And as I secured the bus, and made sure the bus wasn't going anywhere, I went to the back of the bus as well and used the emergency exit and got them all off.

SAMBOLIN: Lindora, do you have any special training for this? Because we're watching the images right now. This is unbelievable that you were able to get them off that quickly.

RICHARDSON: Yes, ma'am. It's part of our job to go through major training in case things like this happen.

SAMBOLIN: So, Lindora, they were watching this as you were far away from the bus. Did you know -- I was reading some of these reports that some of these busses have had the same types of problems in the past. Did you know anything about that?

RICHARDSON: No, ma'am, I didn't.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And I got to ask you, what's in store for you today? What are you doing?

RICHARDSON: Well, less than maybe like 10, 15 minutes I'm going to be reporting to my job.

SAMBOLIN: You're going to -- you're going to get back on a bus and drive the children around?

RICHARDSON: Yes, ma'am.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

RICHARDSON: Yes, ma'am. That same route.

SAMBOLIN: And don't you think maybe a day off, little mental health day is in order here?

RICHARDSON: No, not really, because I just feel like I was just doing my job. It's not being a hero. It's doing my job and this was -- this is what I was trained to do, and I love it so much. So, I don't feel like I'm a hero. I feel like I was just performing my job duties.

SAMBOLIN: Well, Lindora, I've got to tell you, you are a blessing for parents everywhere. We wish we had you as our bus driver. Congratulations to you.

You are a true hero. Those kids are so lucky to have you. Thank you for joining us this morning.

RICHARDSON: Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: I can't believe she's just going off to work.


BANFIELD: Same route.

SAMBOLIN: Well, actually, you know what she said, I can only talk to you guys from within this time to that time because I've got to report to work. An amazing woman.

BANFIELD: Go, Lindora. More people need to be like you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Eleven minutes past the hour here.

Minding your business this morning: U.S. markets closed higher yesterday. The Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500, which is the best indicator for stocks in your 401(k), all making gains on news of a debt deal in Greece.

But, that optimism quickly fading overnight as European Union finance ministers have yet to agree on their end.

BANFIELD: I'm getting tired of the "but" honestly on so many levels.


BANFIELD: Christine Romans joining us now, minding your business.


BANFIELD: Greece is always a top story.


BANFIELD: However, before you go to Greece, could you stay in the U.S. and tell us the news you have about who among us can qualify for the mortgage money?

ROMANS: Let's talk about that big mortgage deal, because it is a very big deal, and a lot of you are asking me this morning, how do I know if I qualify? A lot of you are also asking me, should I stop paying my mortgage if I've been holding on so that I can qualify for the biggest part of the pie?

So, let me tell you first who gets the money.

If you are under water on your loan, really under water, and you are already late in your payments, you qualify for this biggest pot of money, which is $20,000 in principal write-downs on average.

If you are really under water on your loan but you are current on your payments, there's another pot of money that's going to allow you to refinance at lower interest rates. That's going to put money in your pocket every single month.

If you lost your house to foreclosure, any time from September 2008 to December 2011, you are going to receive sometime within the next three years, a check, $1,500 to $2,000 payments going out to those people. You must have a loan that is owned by a private bank, the Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Ally, these five big banks this is all with. It's not a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backed loan.

So, we're talking about a million people who are under water. There are 11 million under water. It won't be for everyone.

SAMBOLIN: Are you putting this information everywhere? I'm confused. It goes so quickly.

ROMANS: I will put it on our blog so people can look at the EARLY START blog.

I also want to be clear on what you should do, because on the call yesterday with senior administration officials and housing officials about this, they told us very specifically that the banks know who in their books have the mortgages that absolutely meet all these criteria. So, the banks will be reaching out to people. They have to set up Web sites and the likes. I will say --

BANFIELD: We can trust that the banks will reach out to people?

ROMANS: Exactly. That's what I said. I think everyone who thinks you might qualify needs to call your bank and do it quickly. They have agreed with the government they have got to be better in dealing with servicing. They have got to be on top of this. They have to be staffed enough to handle this.

So, you reach out if you think you're due one of those payments, you were wrongly foreclosed on, you reach out right away. How do they have your address?

SAMBOLIN: Aggressively, right? Aggressively --

ROMANS: Right. If you're working with a housing counselor through HUD, maybe you are, you can go to Housing and Urban Development, you can find out housing counselors in your neighborhood.

If you're already very behind and going through foreclosure, hopefully you're working with someone. But this thing is well underway.

BANFIELD: That's great information this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Christine.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Winter in Kansas. Snow is falling on nighttime traffic in Wichita. The area hit with several inches of heavy, wet snow overnight.

BANFIELD: Looks pretty in the night sky, doesn't it?

SAMBOLIN: It does.

BANFIELD: Jacqui Jeras is doing the job today for Rob Marciano. She's live with us this morning.

Hi, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, ladies. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying that picture of snow there, because it's heading your way.


BANFIELD: Thanks a lot, Jacqui. That's Jacqui Jeras this morning.

SAMBOLIN: You don't have to do that.

BANFIELD: I can wrap you, too, my friend.

JERAS: All right. I'm just trying to warn you about it. Nothing I can do to change it.

But, yes, some big changes on the way, you know? The winter that never happened finally trying to make a little comeback here over the next couple days. So, we've got cold air that's coming in from Canada. Yes, blaming the Canadians there, Ashleigh.

And then we got moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico, and these two things are going to meet up, and so we'll watch for snow across parts of the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley today and then it moves into the Northeast as we head into tomorrow. So, keep that in mind as you make your weekend plans.

Now, the snowfall today generally is going to stay pretty light, only a couple inches, but it's enough for advisory criteria for places like Louisville, Kentucky, and into Cincinnati. Most of that snow is going to be falling say after the 3:00 hour. So, this will really affect the drive home. Chicago, also under the advisories. We'll get a little enhancement coming in off that lake.

So the big shock, though, out of all of this, despite some travel concerns with the rain and the snow, is going to be those temperatures coming in and believe it or not, yes, we're talking about 15 to 20 degrees below where you should be this time of the year. Today, in the Upper Midwest pushing across the East for tomorrow.

So, look for those changes, ladies, this weekend. You could see a good two to four inches in New York for you.

BANFIELD: Those Canadians, huh? Always the Canadians' fault.

JERAS: Those Canadians.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Jacqui Jeras. Happy Friday.

JERAS: Thanks.

BANFIELD: Nice to see.

SAMBOLIN: Sixteen minutes past the hour. Still to come we have early reads for you. Remember the man who adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend?

BANFIELD: Oh, yes?

SAMBOLIN: This is the story that never ends. His children are challenging that adoption. That woman stands to make a lot of money.

We're going to share so many details with you.

BANFIELD: It's been a big conversation all this week on the political campaigns. It's been the birth control battle. And now, a Catholic TV station is weighing in with a big old lawsuit for the Obama administration. We're going to talk about why, what the senators are doing to try to protect religious groups and why not everyone is on board with those plans.

SAMBOLIN: This is quite the buzz this morning. A cancer drug that could reverse Alzheimer's. It's already happening but it's in mice. Will it go to humans next? We're going to let you know.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Well, good morning to you.

Raleigh, North Carolina, 32 degrees right now. Later today, though, it will be nice and sunny and 58 degrees.

BANFIELD: It's now 20 minutes past 5:00 on the East. It's a good time to get you caught up on your top stories.

And this is what was happening overnight:

Violent clashes between the Syrian government and activists. And the activists say that another 137 people died yesterday. President Bashar al Assad denies attacking his own civilians in that country, saying that Syrian forces are targeting foreign terrorists he said, terrorists he says are bent on destabilizing his government.

Two senators are now introducing a bill that would ensure employers with ties to religious groups would not have to abide by the controversial new contraception rule. That rule requires religious schools, hospitals, organizations to provide insurance for free birth control.

And a witness in the UVA lacrosse murder trial says he saw George Huguely with his arm around the neck of Yeardley Love, the victim in this case, months before she was found beaten to death. Huguely's attorney is insisting that Love's death was an accident.

SAMBOLIN: A drug used to treat skin cancer is showing signs of reversing Alzheimer's disease in mice. Researchers remain skeptical about the ability of the drug to work on humans, however.

And an aide for Representative Gabrielle Giffords says he will return for the empty seat left vacant by her. Ron Barber, who was also wounded on last year's shooting, says Giffords personally asked him to run for her seat.

And a report on the digital blog "All Things D" says Apple will announce the next generation iPad some time next month. It's rumored to have a better display, a faster processor, and better graphics for all you geeks out there.

BANFIELD: Twenty-two minutes now past 5:00 on the East.

Getting a look at your stories in the local news but making national headlines. And this morning, we have papers from Atlanta and Houston.

Let's start with "The Atlanta Journal Constitution." This is a serious story, but we may be getting resolution here.

Police are saying that they've identified two of the assailants in this horrible beating video of Brandon White. You might remember he is a gay man who was beaten he says because he was gay. There were anti-gay slurs being leveled at him as this attack went on. And now, Atlanta police say, we've got warrants. We've identified and we've got warrants.

But they are still working to find these attackers and bring them to justice. In the meantime, the CIA is saying they want that store where this happened to be shut down because this has been a magnet for the community.


BANFIELD: But the police and the community or at least the community organizers and members of council say they can actually enact one of their laws to shut it down, a building ordinance law, which is kind of fascinating. So, I don't think that store is going to be open for much longer if the city gets its way.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure the people who live there are very happy about that.

All right. We're going to move on here to the "Houston Chronicle." If you remember this story, the millionaire who adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend is now being sued by his biological children, they are minors.

So, John Goodman set up the adoption to protect his assets worth over $300 million. Why? Because he is facing criminal and civil trials for a fatal car crash. His girlfriend is eligible for a portion of his teenage children's trust fund. They aren't old enough yet to manage the money or get the money.

The kids' lawsuit claims that the adoption is abuse of the law. And his girlfriend -- get this -- stands to make $5 million a year.

BANFIELD: That's just in the spinoff money that fund would generate.


BANFIELD: I think all three of them would probably get an equal portion, five, five, and five.

But you know what's amazing is not necessarily the kids, it's their guardian ad litem, the guy, the lawyer who is put in place to represent their interests and that guardian is the one launching this suit. But I wonder if we'll hear from the kids on it.

SAMBOLIN: I doubt it, right?

BANFIELD: It makes you wonder. It makes you wonder.

SAMBOLIN: Who's controlling this? Who's controlling?

BANFIELD: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-four minutes past the hour here.

BANFIELD: So much still to come on EARLY START. In fact, Rick Santorum, not so much on board with the idea of women in or close to combat roles. Quoting this, are you ready? "Other types of emotions that women have." So, what exactly does he mean by that and how are people reacting to that?

SAMBOLIN: Drunk drivers with kids in the car. What happens to them?

One state wants to make it a felony if they're caught driving drunk with children in the vehicle. We're going to tell you where.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 28 minutes now past 5:00 on the East. Time to check your top stories making news.

It was a horrible day in Syria yet again. The violence escalating out of control as the government forces pound repeatedly on the city of Homs.

This is the fifth straight day that images like this have been recorded. The dissidents in that neighborhood and those communities now reporting yet another 137 civilians killed in the last 24 hours, including 10 children.

In this country, Rick Santorum is raising some eyebrows. He's telling CNN's John King that he's got some concerns about the idea of more women in front line combat roles because of, quote, "other types of emotions," end quote, that are involved.

And Mississippi Supreme Court heard the arguments from both sides yesterday and now has to weigh in, write an opinion and decide if 200 or so pardons issued by former Governor Haley Barbour can be undone and overturned.

SAMBOLIN: Take a look at this. A photo of an elite unit of Marines posing with a flag featuring a Nazi-like logo surfaced on the Internet. The Marines Corps says it has investigated and will not take disciplinary action here.

And 10 states have been given waivers to opt-out of parts of the controversial No Child Left Behind education law. In exchange for that, however, President Obama says all of the states have set up higher benchmarks for student achievement and also for teacher evaluations.

And Georgia is considering a new law that would make it a felony for people convicted of drunk driving with a child in the car. That would mean a minimum jail sentence.

I was shocked about that. I thought that was already a law.

BANFIELD: I sort of feel like it would --

SAMBOLIN: Like it would be.

BANFIELD: -- intuitively obvious, right? I think they could find other reasons to find you guilty of endangering your kids. That's certainly not a specific word in felony.

Twenty-nine minutes past five o'clock. It's CPAC time. What did you get?


SAMBOLIN: That's what it feels like, right? BANFIELD: Christine Romans says it's like the Super Bowl for conservatives and it really is. It's a great time if you're a conservative. The big party gets together. Four years ago, think back, Mitt Romney announced at CPAC that he was dropping out of the 2008 presidential race, and it happened right here at this conference. Have a look.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I fight on in my campaign all the way to convention, I'd forestall the launch of a national campaign, and frankly, I'd be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.


BANFIELD: Well, what a difference four years can make, because, today, he's planning to address CPAC as the delegate leader in 2012 election and try to rally the Republican base around him. In the meantime, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are also going to be speaking at CPAC today, and so, that leaves us a lot to chew on.

Lenny McAllister is a senior contributor for Bernard Whitman is a Democratic strategist and the president of Whitman Inside Strategies, and Joe Williams is a White House reporter for Politico. All right.

Let's start with you, Lenny. Obviously, that 2008 concession speech is going to be sort of a bit of a bad memory today. But what do you expect Mitt Romney is going to be doing as he heads in and tries to sort of grab that base and pull them back on side?

LENNY MCALLISTER, RADIO HOST, "GET RIGHT WITH LENNY MCALLISTER": He's going to have to try to convince the folks at CPAC that not only is he a conservative, but he is the conservative to win in a general election. He's going to have to convince the folks there this weekend, particularly, with his speech today, that he can be an inspirational figure that can drive people to polls, particularly, independents and conservatives.

Drive them to not only contribute to his campaign, but to work for his campaign, get his messaging out there, and inspire people to get President Obama out of the White House. One of the things that he's had a gap with, he's had the money, he's had the structure, but the exact folks that are at CPAC, he has not inspired to get behind him.

That's why you always see him slipping on the campaign trail. He wins Florida and Nevada. He loses on Tuesday. He's going to have to convince these folks today that I can inspire you to get us into the White House in January 2013 and turn the country around with conservatives and Republicans leading the way.

BANFIELD: I'm sort of curious to note that he mentioned on the news yesterday that his tack is going to be start touting his Massachusetts record at CPAC today. And I think if he's trying to rally the conservative base, that's exactly what they haven't really appreciated.

So, Bernard Whitman, is its right thing to do? Is this an effort by him to sort of clear the air on just exactly what his record was as opposed to what the negative campaigning says about what it was?

BERNARD WHITMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I think the amazing thing about Mitt Romney is the fact he has effectively been running for president for eight years, and the Republican establishment and the political class and the primary voters, most particularly, have made it very clear that they're uncomfortable with him. They've been uncomfortable with him from the very beginning.

And the Santorum's victories in the last two caucuses, though, they did not amount yet to any delegates, show just how desperate the Republican primary voters are to see someone else besides Mitt Romney. I mean, the amazing thing is, Mitt Romney has yet to lay out a vision. He's yet to lay out an economic plan beyond 57 separate points.

BANFIELD: My question was, do you think if he's going to try to get the conservatives to rally around him, that the very thing they don't like about him, one of the big things they don't like about him is, what they perceive to be a liberal record and that's what Newt Gingrich has been capitalizing on that, Massachusetts moderate as he keeps calling him.

Joe Williams, weigh in on this. Is this the right thing for Mitt Romney to do to just take it straight on, head on, and say Massachusetts record, you want to know what my record was, I'll tell you what my record was. It seems that might be the way things are going. Is the right thing to do?



BANFIELD: Do you want a piece of me?

WILLIAMS: Well, as a -- as a former Massachusetts resident, and a guy who saw Mitt Romney's waterloo moment at CPAC four years ago, it seems like a very curious strategy, quite frankly, because in Massachusetts, he talked about and committed to healthcare. He has a very real record there of moderation, he had to.

He's a red guy governing a blue state. CPAC is all about the red meat. It's all about getting the cheers, the thumb's up from the crowd like the roman auditorium. So, it's a very serious, very curious strategy, unless, he is going to say, all right, I've done this, let's own up to it, let's get past that, and let's get something that we can all get behind now that this is out of the way.

Here's my plan. Here's where I should be. Here's why I should be the leader of the conservative wing of the Republican Party heading into 2012 and defeat President Obama. BANFIELD: And Joe, can I tell you, you do a great De Niro.


BANFIELD: I'm just saying.

WILLIAMS: Been working on it.


BANFIELD: Joe, Bernard and Lenny, thanks for weighing in. Have yourselves a lovely weekend.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

MCALLISTER: Thank you, Ashleigh.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-five minutes past the hour here. Ahead on EARLY START, Jerry Sandusky has a hearing today. Among the many things they're going to be discussing is neighbors complaining that he is staring at kids in the schoolyard from his porch. Can they actually confine him indoors? We're going to find out.

And there's a big concern at NASA. Astronauts returning from space with eye problems. I was reading a report on this, and they say, perhaps, even blindness in their future. No one knows why this is happening.

And do you like music?

BANFIELD: A little bit.

SAMBOLIN: How about campaign playlists?


SAMBOLIN: We're going to find out how candidates are targeting you with their music. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 5:38 on the east coast.

SAMBOLIN: And Ashleigh Banfield, Zoraida Sambolin, thank you for being with us this morning.

Alleged child sex offender and former Penn State football couch, Jerry Sandusky, is back in court in Pennsylvania. A number of crucial issues are before the court. Whether Sandusky should be confined inside his home after neighbors complained that he was watching kids in a nearby schoolyard is just one of those issues.

And joining me live from the courthouse is "Patriot News" crime reporter and CNN contributor, Sarah Ganim. Nice to see you, Sara. We know that you have been on top of this story. And since I mentioned that, let's start with this. I interviewed a gentleman yesterday.

Here's a father who is very concerned about the fact that Mr. Sandusky is allowed to sit on his porch and watch schoolchildren who are right, I guess, across from his porch. Let's listen in, and I want you to weigh in on what could potentially happen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen Jerry Sandusky on his back porch on several occasions, while children, my own children, other children of the Lemont Elementary School, have been outside, yes, several occasions.


SAMBOLIN: How are they addressing this issue in court today?

SARA GANIM, CRIME REPORTER, PATRIOT NEWS: Well, you know, this is expected to be one of about four major issues. And it's very interesting, Jerry Sandusky's attorney is actually asking for more lenient bail. He wants Jerry to be able to visit with his grandchildren.

He says that his grandchildren miss him, and I think he's going to hang his hat on this issue of -- that Jerry Sandusky was recently cleared of two of the most recent allegations that came forward against him, made by family members. Children (INAUDIBLE) that they are not -- they're not going to lead to charges.

However, prosecutors are going in the other direction. They're going to ask that his house arrest to be even more strict. At this point, this is house arrest for everyone. This isn't something special. In Center County, when you're on house arrest, you can be in an attached structure as long as it's attached to your house like a garage, for example, or in this case, also a back porch because it's flush up against his house.

Also very close to his house is an elementary school, and there is a playground that borders that backyard. Now, it's not really clear. We don't have any information that Jerry Sandusky was out there specifically looking at kids. What we have are complaints from neighbors to the attorney general's office that he's sitting out there. Is he allowed to really be out there? What if there are kids out there?

SAMBOLIN: Well, but he is innocent until proven guilty, right? So, it's normal for him to be able to sit out there. Yesterday, when I asked this particular dad, he said that he has never seen Jerry Sandusky approach a child.

GANIM: Right. And that's what we expect Joe Amendola to say, you know, there was one time where his dog ran out into the yard, he wanted to follow. There was another time where it snowed, and he wanted to help his wife shovel the driveway. But prosecutors say, you know, house arrest is not a house party. That's a direct quote from their motion, and they say -- they actually called him lucky in court documents to be able to be on house arrest considering the charges against him. They think he should be in jail. And they say if you're not going to be in jail, you're going to be in house. You should be confined to your house like it is a jail.

SAMBOLIN: Sara, here was another interesting one. Prosecutors say they want an out-of- country (sic) jury trial for him?

GANIM: Out of county. Yes. They want to bring in jurors from somewhere else in Pennsylvania to sit on this trial and decide Jerry Sandusky's fate. And that motion came just days after the memorial service for Joe Paterno.

They don't actually reference that service in the court document, but they basically say recent events have led us to believe that there is absolutely no way that anybody in Center County could separate themselves from the deep ties that Center County has to Penn State and be fair on this jury.

But they do want this trial to happen at the courthouse behind me in Center County, because they feel like this is the place where that verdict should come down. However, they want to bring 12 jurors in from somewhere else.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I misspoke there. I think I said country, I meant county. One last question for you.


SAMBOLIN: They're also asking for hundreds of pages of evidence. They haven't received that yet?

GANIM: Well, they have received hundreds of pages. What they want is hundreds more. And it seems like from reading Joe Amendola's motion, which was pretty large itself, is that they -- what they got had some holes in it. It was a lot of it was redacted probably to protect identities, who knows?

But Joe Amendola has referenced a lot of very interesting things he wants, like a possible taped interview with Joe Paterno before he testified, notes from the missing prosecutor who decided once not to prosecute Jerry Sandusky. Very interesting things in there.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Sara Ganim, crime reporter to "Patriot News" and a CNN contributor. Thank you for joining us this morning.

BANFIELD: It is 43 minutes past the hour, and still to come on EARLY START, one big clash over contraception is happening in Washington, but it affects people right across the country. Religion- based employers be forced to provide birth control that they don't agree with to their female workers. The vice president is saying hold on, everybody, before you get crazy about this, I think I can work this out or at least help to do so. We'll tell you how. And a hero bus driver, look at the pictures, get to your TV if you're anywhere far away, and look at these pictures. Yes, there were kids on board. Yes, there was a bus driver on board, and yes, she is a hero. Find out why, what she did, and how this started in the first place. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Oh, how I miss you, Chicago. Thirty-two degrees now. Snow, a little bit later. It's going to stay at 32 degrees. Good morning to you.

BANFIELD: It is 47 minutes past 5:00, and it is time to check your top stories making news this morning.


BANFIELD (voice-over): Overnight, just another terrible day. We've got more deaths to report, 175 additional civilians killed overnight reportedly slaughtered by government forces in Syria. Neighboring Turkey is asking for international support for deeper, quote, "political diplomatic and economic isolation of Syria to try to help end this violence."

And "The Washington Post" is reporting Alabama congressman, Spencer Baucus, is under investigation for possible violations of insider trading laws. Baucus, a Republican, is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): NASA is trying to figure out why ten astronauts who have returned from long space station missions have experiences changes to their eyesight. Some are permanent and most for the worse. I read that potential blindness as well.

And North Carolina bus driver, Lindora Richardson, says she's no hero. We say, she is. That is despite the fact that she pulled six children off of her bus, that bus, right there, right before it burst into flames Wednesday afternoon. Richardson spoke with us earlier this morning.

LINDORA RICHARDSON, BUS DRIVER: I just feel like I was doing my job. It's not being a hero. It's doing my job and this was -- this is what I was trained to do and I love it so much, so I don't feel like I'm a hero. I feel like I was just performing my job.

SAMBOLIN: Well, that bus that caught fire is the same make and model as several other busses that have gone up in flames in North Carolina in the past two years.


BANFIELD (on-camera): CPAC, apparently, snubbing one particular group, a group they had not snubbed before, and now, that group is firing back and saying, smell a rat. You'll find out what group it is and what they're doing about it. SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And don't you love the youth movement? CPAC's got one. What young people want to hear from the candidates? We're going to find out what they want from their Republican candidate. You are watching EARLY START."


BANFIELD: You are listening to Bruce Springsteen's 1984 hit "Born in the USA," and I can see head bobbing going on right here in the studio. It's one of the best. You got to admit it. It was used in President Reagan's re-election campaign, too, but when the boss found out about that, he wasn't too happy about it, and he criticized Reagan for using the song saying that he misunderstood its meaning.

Regardless, presidential candidates adding soundtrack to their campaigns has endured. Do you remember these?


(SINGING) I was born in a small town and I live in a small town.

Gonna rise come on up lay your hands on mine.

Here we go oley! Oley! Oley! Go! Go! Go! Oley! Oley! Oley!


BANFIELD: All good tunes, and all with some particular meaning to them as well. Joining us now is Christopher Farley who's a senior editor of "Speakeasy," the "Wall Street Journal's" culture website. Thanks for coming in.


BANFIELD: I love the notion of the science behind the music to these campaigns. It's not just stuff that revs you up. There's more to it, isn't there?

FARLEY: Yes. It goes over back to George Washington who had a song "Follow Washington," even though he ran relatively unopposed, but still he had themed music. Of course, JFK, he also had themed music that "High Hopes" by Frank Sinatra, that also revved people up for his campaign.

So, this is not a new phenomenon. Candidates using music to try to get their followers behind them. But it's something that spread, of course, through social media and other means.

BANFIELD: So, President Obama releases campaign playlist, and I was looking over it. I'm a little confused, and I thought maybe you could help me work through this.

FARLEY: Let me try.

BANFIELD: Here it is. At least some of them, anyway. Aretha Franklin's "The Wait."

FARLEY: Right.

BANFIELD: James Taylor's "Your Smiling Face."

FARLEY: He got the oldies in there.

BANFIELD: He got the oldies. Bruce Springsteen "We Take Care of Our Own."

FARLEY: Right.

BANFIELD: Darius Rucker "Learn To Live."

FARLEY: The two Darius Rucker's songs -- the two Darius Rucker's songs out there. Terrific pop artist who's remade himself as a country star, but there's not rap. He can keep going to that list. There's not a single rap song, which is interesting because President Obama, of course, has gotten support from the hip-hop community throughout the years from people like Jay-Z, people like Will.I.Am who actually wrote a song for him to help him win office.

BANFIELD: What do you make a Wilco? I've got you at the end there, too.

FARLEY: He has some alternative artists down there like Florence and the Machine is on there.


FARLEY: Wilco's on there. It shows, I think, he's trying to reach out to younger voters who have those songs on their iPods.

BANFIELD: But I've got to be honest with you, James Taylor, while I love him "Your Smiling Face" doesn't seem to rev me up for any kind of campaign event.

FARLEY: Well, you got to something for everybody. A song people that people will remember fondly. People love James Taylor. He still has his fans today. He's having a huge tour in Europe just recently. So, he's on the president's playlist.

BANFIELD: President Obama not the only one with playlists. Actually, Mitt Romney has been using something that surprised a lot of people Kid Rock's "Born Free," which is a great song, and it really revs you up, but there are particular lyrics in there. I want to throw them up on the screen, so everybody can see what I'm talking about.

The lyrics actually use profanity, and Christopher, this is a bit troublesome, at least, to a couple of people. "Daddy works his" -- I don't know if I can say this on CNN, so, I'm just going to say, "you know what off, paying for the good life. Hot dog, hot dam, I love this American ride." And I can tell you this, at least 72-year-old Mary Cronville (ph) of Grand Junction, Colorado too (INAUDIBLE) with this and said those are bad words, you can't do that. FARLEY: What you see there, it could be the reason why President Obama does not have any hip-hop on his playlist. Now, Kid Rock is not a hip-hop artist, sort of hip-hop rock artist, but he does go out there. He is edgy, but he did give Mitt Romney's blessing to use that song, "Born Free."

BANFIELD: And also, Newt Gingrich, using Brooks and Dunn "Only in America," and he's not the first one to use that. In fact, it was on Obama's playlist, too.

FARLEY: Everybody uses Brooks & Dunn, "Only in America." It's a very popular song. It has very popular message to it. Obama has used it. George Bush has used it. Other democrats have used it. So, it's a song that crosses party lines.

BANFIELD: And southerners love it.

FARLEY: Southerners love it. Yes. And you got to have a nod to country if you're going to be campaigning in country -- in country country, which is pretty much everywhere.

BANFIELD: You're going to have a nod to country no matter what.


BANFIELD: I'm a country fan. I'm on everything fan. So, that's why I love having you in here, especially since this whole -- this music list, I mean, for everybody just runs the gamut.

FARLEY: Well, people get in trouble with some songs. Look at Mitt Romney.


FARLEY: He used K'Naan who's a Somalian born rapper. He used his music, and K'Naan complained. So, you never know -- that's why you just have to check with the artist first to make sure they're on board with you using their music in your campaign.

BANFIELD: Very good advice. Christopher Farley, nice to meet you.

FARLEY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Thanks for coming in -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, in the next hour of EARLY START, Syria under siege. Turkey is pleading with the world to stop the slaughter, along with the civilians in that country also making pleas.

And the FBI releases a 191-page file on Steve Jobs. What's in it? It's a decade's old file. That's all I'm telling you. You're going to have to stay tuned. You're watching EARLY START.