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Gunman Opens Fire at Oregon Mall; North Korea Launches Long Range Rocket; Fiscal Cliff-Hanger: 20 Days

Aired December 12, 2012 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The search for answers in Portland, Oregon. What made a gunman snap and open fire into a crowded mall?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea fools the world. A successful long-range rocket launch when everyone thought there would be technical delays.

SAMBOLIN: And a first for the Vatican. The pope's sent his first- ever tweet. So he has 700,000 some followers. And just one -- I think two tweets go out, right?

BERMAN: He's got two tweets now. He's going crazy, two tweets like in the last hour. Time to follow him now, you don't want to miss that third.

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 31 minutes after the hour right now.

One of the top stories we're following this morning -- three people are dead and a young woman is fighting for her life. Following an afternoon of horror for holiday shoppers at a packed mall in suburban Portland, in Oregon. Police say 10,000 people were inside the Clackamas Town Center yesterday when a gunman opened fire. He killed two, critically wounded a third and then took his own life.


CRAIG ROBERTS, CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFF: The mall is supposed to be a place that we can all take our families, feel comfortable that this is a great place, especially at the holiday season like this, and these things aren't supposed to happen.


BERMAN: I want to go to the scene of the shooting right now. Dan Simon is live from suburban Portland this morning. And, Dan, what's the latest?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're told that the two people that died, one adult female, one adult male. Their names are not being released yet until their extended families can be notified.

We're told that the shooter, in his early 20s. They're not releasing his name until they are 100 percent sure that they know who he is. They have tentatively identified him at this point, but they are withholding his name.

We can tell you that the mall is going to be closed today, which is obviously not great for all of these local merchants during the middle of the holiday shopping season, but something that has to be done.

In terms of what happened here, we know that the shots rang out at 3:30 in the afternoon. The gunman was seen jogging through the Macy's store and then the actually shots rang out in the food court area of the mall. It's actually where the mall Santa was taking photos with children. He ducked for cover. Obviously, it was pandemonium inside, 10,000 people inside the mall as you said.

We talked to or local affiliates spoke to a mall employee. Here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I work at a kiosk right in the middle of the mall, right below the food court. We heard about six shots at first, and then people scattered like crazy. Everyone left. We waited around for a second and people at the stores were opening doors for us to get in, they're ushering everybody in there.


SIMON: Well, the central question today, and it's always the question, anytime one of these shootings is: who was the shooter? What was the motive? And were the victims targeted or was it random?

At this point, we don't know. We know there's going to be a news conference. The sheriff department is holding a news conference at 10:00 a.m. local time.

One thing I do want to point out is you can see all of these cars here. Obviously, there's nobody here, because it's 3:30 in the morning, but we know that when this happened, people just kind of dropped their belongings. So, there's some car keys inside, wallets inside, people's belongings. At some point, the mall is going to develop a system for people to come back and retrieve their belongings, maybe sometime today perhaps tomorrow as well.

We'll wait to hear the information and pass it along to our viewers as soon as we get it -- John.

BERMAN: It's an amazing picture behind you right now, those empty cars there. Imagine being in a mall, 10,000 people, in the middle of the holiday shopping season, when the shots rang out.

You also mentioned the unanswered questions. Another question we don't have an answer to yet is the weapon that was used. It was clear he got off a lot of rounds. SIMON: Early reports suggested that 60 rounds were fired. At this point, it's unconfirmed.

Sometimes, you know, the early information can be incorrect. But, obviously, he was holding some kind of high capacity rifle. We don't know if other firearms were used. At this point, they're just talking about this one rifle, of course, authorities probably recovered it. So, perhaps we'll get more information about that today as well -- John.

All right. Thank you. Dan Simon on the ground there, at that mall, outside Portland, Oregon -- thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: You know, the undersheriff earlier have said that they have recovered one weapon. So, we did know that. And the reason that they have not told us the identity of the shooter is because they're talking to the family first. So, I'm sure we'll get many more details. So sad, right? Terrible.

Thirty-five minutes past the hour.

North Korea angered its neighbors in East Asia this morning with the launch of a long-range rocket, in the process that hoisted what it claims is a satellite into orbit. The United States immediately condemned the action, calling it a highly provocative act, and South Korea considers the launch a threat to the Korean Peninsula.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul with reaction. What is the very latest, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, within the last hour, we actually heard once again from North Korea, this time from the foreign ministry in North Korea, quoted by the state-run news agency, KCNA. And it's basically a rebuttal of the international condemnation that's come Pyongyang's way.

We have heard that they are calling, quote, "hostile forces showing signs of sinister bid to take issue with the launch, which was for peaceful purposes," unquote. So, this is the rebuttal from what we've heard from Washington, from Seoul, from Tokyo, from Beijing, and also from Russia. All of the condemnation being laid on North Korea for carrying out this rocket launch.

And also, North Korea is insisting that the right to use outer space for peaceful purposes is universally recognized by international law. And they're rejecting, they're actually going counter to the United Nations resolutions that have been passed against them.

But, of course, we do note that the United Nations has banned the use of this long-range missile technology by North Korea and that the sanctions came into place, and a resolution came into place, after the failed attempt back in April. So, certainly the international condemnation will keep coming.

A very interesting thing to point out, though -- we have seen some celebrations on the streets of Pyongyang. We've seen some dancing on the streets. We've been also been hearing from some of the residents, saying they are delighted this has been a success.

Of course, we have to take this with a pinch of salt, because this kind of regime is not one that you would cross. This is the reaction that would be expected in this kind of regime. A very isolated, a very dictatorial regime and certainly no one on the streets of Pyongyang would be saying anything, but the utmost confidence towards Kim Jung-un and this attempts at a rocket launch at this point -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And, Paula, the timing here is very significant. Can you talk to us about that?

HANCOCKS: That's right. It was incredibly for North Korea to get this done before the end of the year.

Coming up, we have a significant anniversary. December 17th is the year anniversary of Kim Jong-il, the father of Kim Jong-un, the leader now, his death. So certainly that is one for Kim Jung-un wanted to commemorate.

And also 2012 is a very significant year because it's the centenary of the birth of the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung. And for years, Kim Jong-il has been saying that he was working towards this year being very significant.

So, for North Korea, it'd have to be this year, which is why we saw this attempt in the winter months, which we haven't seen from North Korea before -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Paula Hancocks live in Seoul for us -- thank you.

BERMAN: It is 38 minutes after the hour right now. Time to look at some of the top CNN news stories trending on the web this morning.

SAMBOLIN: So, who saw this coming? Answer: No one on earth. Two asteroids buzzed earth, one of them passing inside the moon's orbit yesterday. NASA says the 120-foot wide rock came about 140,000 miles within our planet. It caused an eclipse only visible to astronomers.

And here's the scary part, it was only discovered a couple of days ago.

You know way too much about this. So, want to share a little bit more? Should we be worried?

BERMAN: Not really. There are thousands of asteroids that do come fairly close to earth. Usually, though, we see the coming. By the way, if this did hit -- and it wasn't that close, 140,000 miles -- if it did hit, it would have caused 800 square miles of damage.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I called you a geek for a long time, but I had no idea you were a science geek as well.

BERMAN: I am a many faceted geek.

All right. Thirty-nine minutes after the hour right now. And fans around the world are mourning the death of master sitar player Ravi Shankar. The 90-year-old Shankar passed near his home in southern California Tuesday, after undergoing heart valve replacement surgery last week. He was a huge figure in music and culture for 50 years. He brought Indian classical music to the West. He helped in part by his close friend, Beatle George Harrison. They were very good friends.

In 1971, Harrison and Shankar teamed up to present the concert for Bangladesh. Ravi Shankar also performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock. I mean, he was everywhere.


All right. A former "Storage Wars" star is suing the A&E Network, claiming the show is fake. According to "Radar Online", Dave Hester claims the network fired him in retaliation after he complained about the network stuffing lockers with valuable things to make the show more exciting. I believe they called assisted reality in the biz. He also claimed the show rigged the bidding and even pay for a female cast member's plastic surgery in order to add a little sex appeal to the show.

An A&E spokesperson had no comment.

BERMAN: There's nothing sexier than storage, right?

SAMBOLIN: I've never watched. Have you watched it?

BERMAN: But now I will. Now that I know it's fake. I mean, come on.

All right. Coming up, a world leader recovering from major surgery this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, the Pope speaks to the faithful in a very 21st century way.


BERMAN: All right. Soledad O'Brien here with a look ahead what's on "STARTING POINT." Good morning, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lots going on this morning. We're going to talk about what happened at that mall -- terror for thousands of people who are holiday shoppers. A mass gunman starts firing bullets through the packed mall. Three people now are dead, including the shooter himself. We're going to talk with eyewitnesses who lived through it, saw the attacker.

And this story, it's going kind of wild on Twitter. A TV meteorologist, see her right there, she said she was fired because someone had written a post on Facebook about her short hair. Her station says, no, they fired her because she did not conform to policy about not responding to comments on Facebook. Her name is Rhonda Lee, and we'll chat with her about what happened. This is an unbelievable story. Plus, liar, liar, pants on fire. There were so many liars in this election season. How, in fact, could Politifact pick the biggest liar? They've done it. We're going to talk to them this morning about what was the biggest lie of the election season.



SAMBOLIN: The biggest lie?

O'BRIEN: The biggest lie. There are so many, and yet, there's only that one can be the winner. And we'll tell you what it is ahead this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Tune in for that. Yes. Thank you, Soledad.

Forty-five minutes past the hour. People in the southeast simply cannot catch a break. More rough weather on the way today. Meteorologist, Alexandra Steele, in for Rob Marciano. Good morning.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to you, guys. You're right. Another day. Florida getting socked with rain. Yesterday, places like Jupiter and Juno, locally three to five inches of rain. So, incredible rain there. More rain coming in today. You can see showers and thunderstorms, again, potentially, some damaging winds and hail even.

To the West we go, hey, it's a boon for skiers, telluride, bull's eye for you, Jackson Hole, bull's-eye for you. So, some (INAUDIBLE) official snow coming to the west. Rain, though, just immediately along the coast, but a few storms kind of working their way in and will cross the country.

All right. Big picture today. Of course, there's the southeast. That stalled front holding on to Southeast Georgia. So, wet there. Wet in Florida. The northeast, cloudy skies for the most part. Kind of seasonably cool temperatures where you should be for this time of year. Balance of the country is dry.

There's that next system coming in in the West with the mountain snow and making it all the way from the Rockies to the Wasatch. So, good news out there for Christmas skiing anyway.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, that's nice. See you.


SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Alexandra.

STEELE: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. It's 46 minutes after the hour right now. Let's bring you up to speed on the morning's top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN (voice-over): The United States is officially recognizing Syria's opposition coalition. President Obama telling ABCs Barbara Walters the rebel forces are now inclusive enough to be reflective of the Syrian people.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is recovering in Cuba this morning following his fourth cancer-related surgery in 18 months. The vice president of Venezuela telling his country the operation was complex. It lasted more than six hours and was completed correctly and successfully.

BERMAN: Off it goes. Where it's heading, what it's doing, what it's carrying? Nobody knows. The air force sending its super secret mini- shuttle back to space yesterday with a really spectacular launch from Cape Canaveral. The military, though, is keeping quiet about what it was carrying. In fact, launch commentary was cut off 17 minutes into the flight so you couldn't hear what they're talking about.

SAMBOLIN: That's something. Adding fuel to the fire there. What is it carrying?

Pope Benedict XVI is tweeting. Can you believe it? He sent his first tweet a short time ago. Here it is, "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart"

His Twitter handle @Pontifex means "bridge builder" in Latin. And he just, in the last five minutes, the Pope hits 700,000 followers. Can you believe that?

BERMAN: Share the love, man.

SAMBOLIN: So, tweet him. Maybe he will. Maybe somebody will see your Twitter handle and then will tweet you back. So, his message has been re-tweeted 21 -- no, wasn't it 30,000 times?

BERMAN: He had his first tweet a little more than an hour ago. He's now already tweeted three times. So, he is a really avid Twitter, going crazy this morning.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): It is 21,000 times that it's been re-tweeted. I was getting ahead of myself there, but in the next five minutes, it will be 30,000.


BERMAN: All right. Forty-eight minutes after the hour. The phone lines are open. More fiscal cliff talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. What could this mean for the deadline as it approaches? We'll have the story for you coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty-one minutes past the hour.

President Obama picking up the phone to give House Speaker John Boehner a call after both trade fiscal cliff proposals. Neither seal the deal. So, we're now 20 days away from almost $500 billion and automatic tax hikes and spending cuts along with the potential for a new recession.

Time really becoming a critical issue now with how long it takes to hammer things out in Washington and with Congress going on Christmas break two days from now.

Shannon Travis is following the snipping and all of a deal making in Washington. So, Shannon, what's in the proposals? Do you know?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: OK. So, Zoraida, this is going to be a confusing for our viewers. Let's try and break this down as simply as possible. As you mentioned, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner spoke yesterday evening. This is after an offer from the White House and a counteroffer from Republicans.

The White House offer, basically, the White House originally wanted $1.6 trillion in new revenue, right, in terms of increased tax reducing -- excuse me, increasing the rates on the wealthiest Americans. Now, they're down to a number of $1.4 trillion, that in the latest offer that was delivered on Monday.

On Tuesday, the Republicans responded. We don't have a whole lot of details on that, but Boehner's office is basically saying, you know what, White House, show us the cuts, the cuts to entitlement spending before we even talk about entitlement reform.

Now, amid that backdrop, since nothing is firm just yet, Republicans and Democrats are obviously still, as you mentioned, sniping back and forth. Take a listen at the latest from yesterday.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE SPEAKER: The president doesn't agree with our approach, he's got an obligation to put forward a plan that can pass both chambers of the Congress, because right now, the American people have to be scratching their heads and wondering when is the president going to get serious?

SEN. TOM HARKIN, (D) IOWA: Why is it that now somehow we have to couple cuts to the poor and the disabled and the elderly and those out of work with raising taxes on the super wealthy in our country? Why is it that Republicans are saying that if you're going to make the wealthy pay more in taxes, we got to take it somewhere out of the hides of the poor in our country?


TRAVIS: And obviously, there's the impasse. Republicans want deep cuts to entitlements. Democrats want higher rates on the wealthy -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, but that's been the impasse for a very long time now.

TRAVIS: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Shannon Travis live in Washington for us. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Some are really worried about the timing here. Two days before everybody leaves, and so, how do we reach a conclusion, and actually, not go over the fiscal cliff?

BERMAN: They can go home. The Congress can go home for a vacation, but they will be sitting by the phones. We were talking to Congresswoman Nan Hayworth yesterday who told us she can come back. I mean, they'll go home, but they will come back at a moment's notice if they need to vote a deal. , So, there's still time to make this happen, 20 days. I suggest they get working, though.

All right. Fifty-four minutes after the hour. Today's "Best Advice" from filmmaker and actor, Ed Burns, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: And ahead on "STARTING POINT", the launch that surprised the world. Reaction to North Korea's brazen rocket move.


BERMAN: It's late. Fifteen minutes after the hour.


BERMAN: And as always, we wrap it up with "Best Advice." Here's Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: No, it's early. You have all day to take this "Best Advice" if you want. It comes from director and actor Ed Burns.


ED BURNS, ACTOR: The best advice I ever got was from my dad when I was in film school. A lot of kids talking about all of the things they were going to do. And he said, you want to be one of the kids that actually goes and does something. So, sit down and write that screenplay.


ROMANS: That's cool. Do something.

BERMAN: He was in here yesterday, and this place like shut down. Everyone essentially just staring at the dreamy Ed Burns. So, take his advice. Trust me, whatever he's doing, it's working for him.


SAMBOLIN: Apparently, I wasn't paying attention, because I didn't stick around. (CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Next time.

BERMAN: That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.