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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Bombings And Bloodshed Escalate In Gaza; Deadly Airstrikes In Gaza; Peace Talks Underway In Egypt; Biden Sees What Sandy Left Behind; Cameras Catch Paula Broadwell At Home; Battle Over Benghazi Intelligence; Burned Rig Worker To Family: "I Am Alive"; Historic Trip To Myanmar; Obama Trip To South East Asia

Aired November 19, 2012 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Mayhem in the Mideast, day six of the fighting. Dozens are dead, and no sign either side is backing down.

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

CHO: And securing the skies. Meet the men making sure your plane gets where it needs to go this Thanksgiving week.

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans this morning in for John Berman.

CHO: Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. Zoraida Sambolin has the day off. It's 6 a.m. in the East and let's get started.

Up first the deadliest day of violence yet in Gaza, an Israeli missile killing 11 civilians, four of them children, their two-story home in Gaza City leveled.

The conflict between Hamas and Israel is threatening to escalate out of control. Representatives of the two sides are in Egypt for ceasefire talks, but they are not talking directly to each other.

Hamas is making a public demand for a truce. They want Israel to bring an immediate end to its long running military blockage of Gaza. Frederick Pleitgen live from Israel this morning.

Frederick, good morning, Israel doesn't seem to be giving in on its side either saying that Gaza needs to stop the attacks first as a negotiating starting point. What's the latest?

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the attacks don't seem to be stopping from the Gaza side. I'm actually in the town Bersheda, which is quite close to the Gaza Strip and just in the past couple of hours, we've had two rocket siren alarms go off here in the city.

That of course, is a signal for us to then take cover and go to some hardened area or if you're not in the vicinity of any buildings to hit the deck and hope that nothing explodes where you are. That's been going on today. Also in other Israeli towns around the area, there have been rocket alarms. There were some rockets that have actually been picked off by missile interceptor systems. So it does not look as though the violence is abating.

One thing I will say though is that throughout the night it seems as though it was a little more quiet than in the past nights. However, this morning again, there have been more rocket attacks.

That of course, of is something that continues to take its toll on Israeli civilians, as well. One of the things that the Israelis have said they're not going to stop this campaign until they've stopped rockets being launched from Gaza onto Israeli territory -- Alina.

CHO: Frederick, and on the negotiating front, as we've been reporting both Hamas and Israel are meeting separately with Egyptian officials. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is headed to the region, as well. At this point, from where you sit, what do you think the chances are of a ceasefire?

PLEITGEN: Well, that's really anybody's guess at this point in time. The Israeli government has not commented on whether or not it's actually even involved in any negotiations and whether or not those negotiations would be moving forward.

They are still taking a very strong stance and they are saying that they are continuing to continue this military operation until they've shut down those rockets being launched from Gaza. They're also saying that they're even willing to expand those operations if they feel that needs to be the case.

One of the things that's been looming over the past couple of days, is an acceleration of the army campaign going on. That could involve a ground offensive in Gaza. From having been in that area this whole weekend there is a massive military build-up going on around the borders with Gaza with tens of thousands of troops coming in there, tanks, armored personnel carriers, everything that you would need for such defenses.

That's still on the table. Public opinion here in Israel is still very much in favor of a military campaign. However, both sides are saying quite publicly that they also want the violence to end on both sides, as fast as possible.

Certainly people want this to end. However it's not clear whether or not the political will is there at this point in time just yet -- Alina.

CHO: Well, with tens of thousands of Israeli troops on reserve and being called up, I think a ground offensive is something that nobody wants to see. Frederick live for us in Israel this morning. Frederick, thank you.

ROMANS: CNN's Anderson Cooper experiencing firsthand what the Palestinians have been coping with for the last six days. Some frightening moments last night during this live report from Anderson. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC 360": Also two media centers -- 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 is 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Wow. Anderson joins us live from Gaza City in the next hour. CNN's Wolf Blitzer is also covering the Israel/Hamas conflict from Jerusalem. Stay with CNN throughout the day for the very latest breaking news from the region.

CHO: Vice President Joe Biden getting a firsthand look at what Superstorm Sandy left behind, in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. He met with first responders who lost their homes and he also checked out the battered coastline by helicopter yesterday. Biden, like President Obama, vowed to help the area make a complete recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 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 -- that this area of the country is fully, fully, fully restored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: It's going to take some time. About 600 customers still have no power in New Jersey over the weekend. Three weeks after the storm hit.

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

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 those talking points.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, well, she 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Some influential Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of a cover-up and they want Ambassador Susan Rice to testify before Congress.

CHO: I am alive. That's the very simple 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 seeing the moment that explosion happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy -- look at that! Something just blew up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: TV crew was filming a sport fishing show off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, Friday when that explosion happened way in the distance. Divers scouring the sea floor found the body of one man who worked on the platform.

Another worker still unaccounted for. Four men suffered major burns. Two others are in critical condition and another is in serious condition. The cause of the blast is still under investigation.

Six days of fighting, two enemies and one deadly showdown. Is either side willing to listen to the other? Up next, the negotiations happening right now in Cairo, negotiations to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It's 11 minutes past the hour. President Obama is just now arriving in Cambodia, the first sitting U.S. president to travel there. He is also the first to visit Myanmar, where he was overnight. The president promising American support for Myanmar as the once repressive regime travels the road slowly to democracy.

Mr. Obama met with Aung San Suu Kyi. Once a political prisoner in Myanmar, now a member of parliament and later spoke at the University of Yangon. CNN's Jessica Yellin traveling with the president in Myanmar, the country previously called Burma. Jessica, how was the president's speech received there?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. The president and the White House say the president was deeply moved, first of all, by the several thousand people who gathered along the streets here to greet him on his arrival for what you described as an historic first trip by a sitting president.

And the reception here was, as you might expect, a very warm one, about 1500 people in this auditorium for the people who did turn up to see him. They were very smiling and pleased to see him.

The president's message to this crowd and the leaders was to continue their move toward liberalization, an open society, toward democracy here in Myanmar. He used his own history as an example, he said that sometimes democracy takes time, and nations have to evolve to achieve full freedom.

Listen to what some of the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We amended our constitution to extend the democratic principles that we hold dear. And I stand before you as president of the most powerful nation on earth, but, recognizing that once the color of my skin would have denied me the right to vote. And so that should give you some sense that, if our country can transcend its differences, then yours can, too. Every human being within these borders --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: A very personal note from the president on a trip that's been marked by several. He has noted a number of times that this is also the last time he will be traveling overseas with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an official capacity. As everybody knows, she is not going to stay on as Secretary of State.

She said that she needs some time off, and so he thanked her personally for some of the work she's done and they've been flying together on Air Force One for some of his trips. And this is part of what they are calling an Asia pivot, the president's effort to refocus and rebalance the U.S. relationship and alliances in this region, in part to offset the growing influence of China -- Christine.

ROMANS: Right, re-engaging in the region just as China's announcing its new leadership. What does the president have planned for the rest of the day -- Jessica?

YELLIN: So, as you pointed out, he is already in Cambodia and he'll be attending two summits there. Two East Asia Summits so tonight, and this afternoon, he'll be attending a meeting with the prime minister of Cambodia, and then a summit dinner there. And then tomorrow he has a full day of meetings for both the ASEAN Summit and another East Asia Summit, lots of alliances, and trade partnerships that they're working out trying to develop especially a Pacific trade alliance.

I should also point out, Christine, that Secretary Clinton and the president's top national security adviser, we're told, are in constant contact with some of the U.S. allies working on the conflict in Gaza and Israel to try to deescalate those tensions, briefing the president on that as well during this trip. Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jessica Yellin -- thanks, Jessica.

CHO: Six days of Israeli air strikes and Hamas rocket attacks, 30,000 Israeli troops perched along the Gaza border as we speak. The situation could tip at any moment as much of the world watches and hopes that a ceasefire can be reached.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is visiting the region today. He's one of a number of diplomats scrambling to broker a ceasefire.

Hamas is demanding an end to Israel's blockade on Gaza. And it wants raids in the territory to end permanently. Israel says it's not letting up until the rocket attacks from Hamas stop.

I want to bring in Jane Harman. She's the former ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and she's the current director of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. She joins us live from Cairo. Representative Harman, thank you so much for joining us.

Israel and Hamas, as you know, are meeting separately with Egyptian officials. But I think it's important to point out that Egypt is not a neutral negotiating partner in this. They have long been an ally of Hamas.

I ask you -- during your trip there, are you hopeful that you can reach any sort of agreement to a ceasefire?

FMR. REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, actually, I am. I mean I'm not the one negotiating it, but this is my third visit to this marvelous country, the largest in the Arab world, in a year. And at this time, even with Gaza going on, there is reason for optimism about the Egyptian economy, and future of an IMF loan, and a constitution about to be drafted, hopefully that will include full, equal rights for women.

But, Gaza is on the minds of everybody here, and I have heard in the last hour or so, there is reason for optimism that a cease-fire could be announced as early as this afternoon and the role Egyptians have played in helping broker that is viewed as very positive. They could only do that if they had a special relationship both with Hamas, and with Israel.

CHO: But I have to ask you --

HARMAN: I have to disagree with you -- CHO: OK. But I have to ask you --

HARMAN: -- that Egypt is only operating on behalf of Hamas.

CHO: Well, I think that -- as you say, you're hopeful, and as you say, which is the first time we're hearing this, that you believe a ceasefire can be reached by this afternoon, the rockets and the missiles continue to fly, we continue to hear explosions.

HARMAN: I know. CHO: And they're pulling women and children from the rubble, including 10 members of one family. So I ask you, what is it that would give you this type of hope?

HARMAN: Well, there have been negotiations here, they've been widely reported in the press with the leader of Egypt, President Morsi, and Erdogan of Turkey and other countries participating with others from the area in conflict, trying to work out a cease-fire. And I have no personal information because I wasn't in the room but I'm just saying, I understand the rumors are floating now here that there's reason for optimism that a ceasefire could be announced as early as this afternoon.

CHO: Well, that would be very, very good news as tens of thousands of Israeli troops amass and are called up and ready to launch a ground offensive.

HARMAN: It would be very good. And there have been casualties on both sides, and certainly, my heart goes out to those innocents who were hurt. And as has been said by President Obama, Israel has a right to defend herself and hopefully this -- these rockets will stop, and a ceasefire will be negotiated.

And what I would urge or hope is that a next step could be taken, which is Egypt using its influence with Hamas to get Hamas to adopt the precepts of the peace process, so that hopefully a two-state -- a negotiation for two states could go forward which I think is in the interest of, certainly U.S. policy, but it's strongly in the interests of the parties to the two states.

CHO: Representative Harman, before I let you go -- I must ask you, I've been reading your name a lot lately in the news, as you well know. Your name has been floated as a potential replacement for David Petraeus as CIA director. I'm wondering if you're willing to go on the record here to say that you would take the job if you were offered it.

HARMAN: I have a great job at the Wilson Center. I left Congress after nine terms, to succeed (INAUDIBLE) and it's an enormous honor and sure it's flattering to be --

CHO: Would you take the job?

HARMAN: -- to be considered. The CIA is a wonderful agency. That's completely speculative. I serve on the what's called the external board there, as well as the advisory board to the director of national intelligence, to the defense policy board and Hillary Clinton's foreign policy board, and those are wonderful opportunities that fully engage me and I have the opportunity to be in Egypt at a time of -- where great history is being made. So I -- I'll take the future when the future comes.

CHO: I'm going to take that as a yes.

All right. Former Congresswoman Jane Harman, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center, I wish you the best of luck as you continue those negotiations in Cairo. HARMAN: Thank you.

CHO: Thank you.

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

2016 a long way away, but Florida Senator Marco Rubio sure looks 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, addressed a host of issues, including tax reform, the national debt, energy and immigration policy.

CHO: I know when we hit this time of year, you always like to say, if you don't have it, don't buy it, right?

ROMANS: If you don't have the money, don't buy it.

CHO: Don't buy it.

ROMANS: If you haven't invested in your kid's college, why are you buying a door buster? That's all I got to say.

CHO: Some of the analogy, you know? It can be alluring.

Anyway, you know, Black Friday almost here, end of the week, biggest shopping day of the year. But if some Walmart workers have their way, it's going to be one of the messiest, too. We're going to tell you why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Minding your business, U.S. stock futures are higher. Congressional leaders came out of their fiscal cliff meeting with President Obama Friday and they sounded encouraged that a deal could be reached. That optimism helping push markets up today.

But remember the Dow, the NASDAQ, the S&P 500, they're all down about 5 percent since the election because of concerns about that fiscal cliff, added pressure on energy prices because of unrest in the Middle East today. Oil prices are higher because of the fighting between Israel and Gaza, and concerns that could disrupt -- disrupt oil supplies in the region if it expands or continues. Light sweet crude oil is up about 1 percent.

And Walmart, on the offensive against a workers walkout planned for Black Friday. Walmart filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. It says the union-backed OUR Walmart group didn't file the right paperwork to picket during past demonstrations. OUR Walmart says it has 1,000 protests planned across the country later this week. Walmart plans to open its doors for Black Friday at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night -- which is what we call mission creep. That makes it Black Thursday.

Which brings me to the one thing you need to know about your money today. You've heard me say it before. Black Friday shoppers, are you saving for your kids' college? It's a better present than any door buster. Don't buy all the retail hype. People say oh, bah, humbug. It's that time of the year when I start saying I don't get the retail hype.

CHO: Just one pair of shoes, Christine. Come on.

ROMANS: Sure if you put money in the 529 this month, go for it.

CHO: All right. Good advice. Thank you.

Still ahead a story, that gives new meaning to all in the family. You won't believe what police in Texas say this man and his two children pulled off. Not once, but seven times.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)