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Bombings and Bloodshed Escalate in Gaza; Historic Trip to Myanmar

Aired November 19, 2012 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Mayhem in the Mideast. Day six of the fighting. Dozens are dead and there's no sign either side is backing down.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: History making in Myanmar. President Obama's six-hour visit marks the beginning of a new era. But not everyone is celebrating.

ROMANS: And Vice President Biden tours the battered New Jersey shore with a promise of unwavering federal support.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

CHO: Good morning, Christine. Good morning, everybody.

I'm Alina Cho. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. Thanks so much for being with us on this very, very early Monday morning.

ROMANS: It is early.

But up first, the bombings and the bloodshed on the rise in Gaza. The last day has been the deadliest. Eleven civilians, including four children, killed by an Israeli missile that leveled a two-story home in Gaza City. There's no letup in sight to the violence. The representatives of Israel and Hamas are in Egypt separately for peace talks.

Hamas issuing its demand for a cease-fire. They want Israel to end a long-running military blockade of Gaza immediately.

More on the carnage from the last 24 hours, Arwa Damon is in Gaza City.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The large slab of concrete and mangled metal finally gives way. Buried beneath it, another lifeless body. It's the second child we've seen. There was also a baby.

Others in the neighborhood say the blast killed all 10 people who lived here. Israel says it was targeting Yehiya Bia, who heads a Hamas rocket launch unit. People we spoke with said they never heard of him. This was a Al-Dalou family home. (on camera): People here are telling us that so far those who have been killed in this strike have been women and children. And they have not been able to find any survivors. Just moments ago, from that back corner, they did pull out the body of a tiny child. An over here, there's another frantic effort under way.

(voice-over): Tempers easily flare as frustration and anger mount.

"She's my uncle's wife," this young man shouts. Rage coupled with sorrow etched across his face.

This is where she lived. Her elderly body finally dug up and carried away.

There are no air raid sirens or bunkers in Gaza. This strike came with no warning.

The rescue efforts are not always so hopeless. Not far from here, just the day before, 11-month-old Ahmed and his 4-year-old sister Shehata (ph), both survived a multiple missile strike on their home.

"When the roof collapsed, it somehow formed a protective shelter over us," the children's mother Safa (ph) says. "For 45 minutes, I thought I would suffocate. My leg was stuck. People could hear us screaming but they couldn't do anything," she tells us. In between her cries, fears that her children were dead.

This is what the building looks like now. The rubble that was cleared to save the family of 10, piled back into the lot that was their home.

"I will never forget what happened," she says. "I will die imagining it."

"I can't believe it. I can't believe these are my children. I tell myself, they are not my children. I can't imagine how they survived. I feel like I'm not myself. I can't believe that I am alive, talking to you, breathing."

She tells us she wants revenge. But more than that, she wants peace. She says, there is no good that comes with war.


ROMANS: Arwa filed that up for us. She joins us live on the phone now from Gaza City.

Arwa, what's the latest on the conflict this morning?

DAMON (via telephone): Well, our Ben Wedeman went down to the funeral for the members of that family you just saw in that story, and while he was at the funeral, they heard two loud roars across the street, (INAUDIBLE) across the sky, a third outgoing rocket they saw going overhead, and mourners were chanting "revenge, revenge".

So far, the Israeli Defense Forces are saying that over 560 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since the conflict began and the Israelis have struck approximately 1,350 targets in Gaza.

So certainly at this point in time seems to be an escalating conflict and finding any sort of cease-fire will have all sorts of diplomatic efforts under way. But so far, none of them successful.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is in the Middle East to cover the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas. And during a live report from Gaza city last night, Anderson got to experience firsthand what the Palestinians have been coping with for the last six days.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm like -- also two media centers.


COOPER: Whoa. That was a rather large explosion. That occurred -- just look out here. I can't actually see where the impact of that was. It's actually set off a number of car alarms.

But that was probably the largest explosion that we've heard just in the past -- really in the past hour. There have been a number of explosions in the past hour or two. But that one -- that one was pretty loud.

We actually -- the rocket --


ROMANS: All right, CNN's Wolf Blitzer is also covering the conflict from Jerusalem. Stay with CNN throughout the day for the very latest breaking news from the region -- Alina.

CHO: Also this morning, President Obama in the midst of an historic three-nation tour of Southeast Asia. Overnight, he was in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. This is the first time that a sitting U.S. president has visited that country. Mr. Obama met democracy activist-turned-lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi and says the country's made great strides toward democracy in an incredibly short amount of time.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to make a pledge to the people of this country, that I am confident we can keep. And that is if we se continued progress towards reform, our bilateral ties will grow stronger and we will do everything we can to help ensure success.


CHO: He was on the ground there for six hours. Suu Kyi struck a note of caution, warning of the risks of a mirage of success in Myanmar.

CNN's Dan Lothian is traveling with the president. He will have a live report just ahead. Vice President Joe Biden gets a good look at what Superstorm Sandy left behind in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. He met with first responders who lost their homes. He also checked out the battered coastline by helicopter yesterday. Biden, like President Obama, vowed to help the area make a complete recovery.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But the president's made it clear that we're going to do everything we can to make sure that the corps is fully funded, that we have -- FEMA has what it needs, and that all the programs that exist under the auspices of the federal government are not only continue to exist, but are funded, so that we can make sure that -- that this area of the country is fully, fully, fully restored.


ROMANS: The damage on the ground is just shocking when you look at it from the air, Alina. It is just staggering. You can see just how fierce the storm was.

About 600 customers still have no electricity in New Jersey over the weekend, three weeks now after the storm hit.

CHO: I am alive. That's the message one of at least 11 men injured in that oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico wanted to send his family. We're also getting a look at the explosion the very moment it happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED) look at that. Something just blew up.



CHO: A TV crew was filming a sport fishing show off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, on Friday when that explosion happened way in the distance there. Divers scouring the sea floor found the body of one man who worked on the platform. Another worker is still unaccounted for. Four men suffered major burns, two others are in critical condition, another in serious condition. The cause of that explosion is still under investigation.

ROMANS: Now to the latest and former CIA Director David Petraeus' sex scandal. Mistress Paula Broadwell returning to her North Carolina home. Cameras were waiting as she and her husband pulled in yesterday. Her husband Scott told reporters he had no comment right now.

Meanwhile, after Petraeus' testimony before Congress, a big battle is brewing over U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's declassified talking points on the attack in Benghazi, specifically why the role of terrorism wasn't reflected in them. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says she'll investigate why the terrorist role wasn't included. Still in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press", Feinstein said she was sure the White House didn't change the language in those talking points.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: With the allegation that the White House changed those talking points, that is false. There's only one thing that was changed. And I checked into this. I believe it to be absolute fact. And that was the word consulate was changed to mission.

That's the only change that anyone in the White House made. And I have checked this out.


ROMANS: Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of a cover- up and want ambassador rice to testify before Congress.

CHO: It's going to be one tough confirmation hearing.

All right. Coming up, President Obama on his way to Cambodia right now, after an historic stop in Myanmar earlier today. So, did the president accomplish what he set out to do there? Our Dan Lothian is traveling with the president. We will check in with him live, next.


CHO: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 13 minutes after the hour.

President Obama making history in his first post-election trip overseas. He's the first sitting president ever to visit Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. Overnight, Mr. Obama met with pro- democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi at the same lakeside villa where she spent 15 years under house arrest.

The president also spoke at the University of Yangon, citing the country's remarkable journey toward democracy.

CNN's Dan Lothian is traveling with the president. He is live in Yangon, Myanmar, with more.

Dan, good morning.

It seemed in the president's speech that he said Myanmar is taking steps toward democracy -- but still a long way to go.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, what you saw from the president was really a careful balance here, a balancing act. This was not a time for the president to essentially celebrate all that's right, although he did talk about some big steps that have been taken over the last two years. Remember, this is a country that has been in the grip of military rule, but that has changed over the last two years. Some political prisoners have been released. There've been parliamentary elections. And so, the president wanted to highlight some of what has changed. Some of that progress that's taken place. But after meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi at the home where she was held under house arrest for some 15 years, and then also after meeting with the newly elected prime minister, the president came here speaking to a large audience of students, and some government workers, and others from the community, and he laid out what more needs to be done.


OBAMA: The right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected. Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. And as you take these steps, you can draw on your progress.


LOTHIAN: Now, as you know, there's been a lot of criticism about whether the presidential visit was too much to soon. Secretary Clinton came here late last year. U.S. ambassador was reinstated here, and some felt that that was enough, because there's still a lot of major issues that need to be addressed here.

But President Obama saying that if you wait for perfect democracy before you act, it will take an awful long time -- Alina.

CHO: The president, Dan, is headed to Cambodia, as we were saying. What's next for him in the next couple of days?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, this is sort of building on what the president has been talking about, this strategy over the last couple of years, and that's a rebalance, as they call it, focus more on Asia- Pacific region. The president sees a lot of opportunities here in business, trade, providing jobs back at home, also, military to military with these countries.

And so, it's an area of opportunity and growth not only for the United States, but also for this region, and we'll hear the president talk about that when he meets with other Asian leaders from the region in Cambodia tomorrow.

CHO: Dan, always great to see you. Dan Lothian traveling with the president -- Dan, thank you.

ROMANS: Senator John McCain says the U.S. must use its influence to try to bring an end to the violence along the border between Israel and Gaza, and he knows, John McCain says he knows just the man to do it. McCain says former President Bill Clinton should get involved. When he was president, Mr. Clinton held negotiations at Camp David between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Here's what McCain had to say about it on CBS' "Face the Nation." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Try to find someone, even as high- ranking, frankly, as former President Bill Clinton, to go and be the negotiator. I know he'd hate me for saying that but we need a person of enormous prestige and influence to have these parties sit down together as an honest broker.


CHO: All right. The latest recount in Florida shows Congressman Allen West trailing his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by nearly 2,000 votes. West, a Tea Party favorite, is trying to keep this seat representing Florida's 18th congressional district. Unofficial numbers posted on Sunday evening on the Florida Secretary of State's Web site give Murphy an edge, 166,257 to 164,353 for West.

ROMANS: All right. 2016 is a long way away, but Florida Senator Marco Rubio sure looked like a presidential candidate during a visit to Iowa. Rubio appeared Saturday night at a big fund-raiser for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. In his speech, Rubio discussed the future of the Republican Party and issued a host -- and addressed a host of issues including tax reform, the national debt, energy and immigration policy.

CHO: Christine, you were in Iowa giving a speech, as well, weren't you? Did you run into each other?

ROMANS: No, but they were all buzzing about how he was going to be there and Democrats are saying look, here we go again. Republicans are saying Marco Rubio. So, already in Iowa they were talking about the precursor to 2016.

CHO: Would have been a good sighting for you.


CHO: Meanwhile, how about this for a sighting? Justin Bieber took top honors Sunday night at the American Music Awards, winning the Artist of the Year award, along with two other trophies, even brought his mom onstage to celebrate. I got to love someone who does that.

Nicki Minaj won for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album and Favorite Rap/Hip- Hop Artist. Check out the hair.

Taylor Swift kept up her streak, winning her fifth consecutive award for Favorite Country Artist.

And you can definitely call Carly Rae Jepsen New Artist of the Year.

ROMANS: All right. It's about 19 minutes past the hour this morning. We're getting an early read on your local news making national headlines.

From the "Odessa American" in Texas where federal investigators say there's no sign of any mechanical malfunction in last week's deadly train wreck that killed four veterans on a float. The National Transportation Safety Board says the alarm system, the gates were working properly when a train pulling a trailer full of -- a truck, rather, pulling a trailer full of veterans and their waves entered the crossing eight seconds after the lights and bells activated, the 84- car train rammed into the trailer at 62 miles an hour. Investigators will be on the scene tomorrow crying to recreate the deadly collision.

CHO: How about this? From "The San Francisco Examiner", reporting on a movement to ban public nudity in the city by the bay. It seems like a lot of men there are going bare these days and the city's Castro District and that has some locals very upset.

The city's board of supervisors will meet tomorrow. If it passes the ban would find a first offender up to $100. Second violation comes with a $200 fine. For a third offense, it would be $500 and up to a year in jail. The measure being debated includes exceptions for women to take off their tops.

ROMANS: Think of the chilly temps, you know? I'm just saying.

CHO: I can only imagine.

All right. So, for an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog

ROMANS: All right, you ready for it everybody? Are you ready for it? Black Friday is almost here, the biggest shopping day of the year. Bah, humbug.

CHO: I know what you're saying. You say this every year.

ROMANS: I say this every year. This is when I start to get real grumpy.

But if some Wal-Mart workers have their way, it's going to be one of the messiest, too. We're going to tell you why, next.


ROMANS: Good morning. Twenty-four minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START this morning.

Minding your business, U.S. stock futures are higher right now. Congressional leaders came out of their fiscal cliff meeting with President Obama Friday, sounding pretty encouraged the deal could be reached. That optimism is helping push markets up today. But the Dow and NASDAQ, S&P 500, in case you're watching, are down about 5 percent since Election Day because of concerns about that fiscal cliff and just how and when it will get fixed.

Added pressure on energy prices also this morning because of unrest in the Middle East. Oil prices are higher because concerns the fighting between Israel and Gaza may expand and disrupt oil supplies in the region. Light sweet crude oil prices up about 1 percent.

And Wal-Mart -- Wal-Mart on the offensive against a workers walkout planned for Black Friday. Wal-Mart filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that says the union-backed OUR Wal-Mart group didn't file the right paperwork to picket during past demonstrations.

OUR Wal-Mart says it has 1,000 protests planned across the country later this week. Wal-Mart plans to open stores for Black Friday at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.

And, Alina, I'm telling you, all these retailers are calling it Black Friday creep. Black Friday is now Black Thursday and they're hoping that -- I mean, maybe you have two cups of coffee after you have your turkey and you run out and spend money.

CHO: Two cups -- and forget -- there are people in line already in Florida. They're having Thanksgiving dinner online outside in tents.

ROMANS: You know, I think it's crazy. I think it's crazy.

CHO: I know you do. I actually think it's a little crazy, too. But, you know, some of those deals are pretty alluring.

ROMANS: They want you to buy other stuff that they're going to make money on, you know. If you have to be a super, super human shopper to be able to not get taken advantage of on Black Friday.

CHO: All right. Coming up, Israel's calling it a game changer in warfare. The new Iron Dome that's literally shooting down incoming rockets midair, with 90 percent accuracy. The amazing technology behind it, coming up next.


CHO: Day six of the strikes, and still no letup in the violence. Israel broadens its assault. Gaza refusing to give in.

ROMANS: Plus, a game-changer. Israel's new missile defense system being put to the test. We'll show it to you coming up.

CHO: And Sandy scams. Just wait till you hear how some tow truck drivers are doing to victims of the superstorm.

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans bright and early this Monday morning for you.