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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

World Leaders Negotiating for Truce; Explosion on Bus in Tel Aviv; Church of England Says No to Women Bishops; CIA Closes Climate Center; Hostess Bankruptcy Hearing Scheduled

Aired November 21, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: No cease-fire yet. Both sides step up attack as Hillary Clinton crisscrosses the Middle East on an emergency peace mission.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, we're talking about this boxing legend in a fight for his life. Hector Macho Camacho left in critical condition after a shooting.

ROMANS: And great American brand on the brink. We could learn today what's next for Hostess after talks to try to end a crippling labor dispute came up short.

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

BALDWIN: Good morning. Good to see you.

Good to see you. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Zoraida and Berman both off today here. You're stuck with us here. Five in the morning here on the East Coast.

We want to begin, obviously, with our big story here. Coming up, first, hope for a cease-fire in Gaza as the attacks keep coming, the blood keeps spilling.

Here's what we know this morning: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just wrapped up this meeting in the West Bank in Ramallah with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. She will reportedly meet again today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before jetting to Cairo for talks with the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi.

The urgency underscored by yet another night of carnage in Gaza. You can see the bright lines over the sky, rockets lobbing back and forth. Israeli air attacks killing 27 more Palestinians, bringing the death toll to 137 just in the last week.

ROMANS: Now, a spokesman for Hamas sounded cautiously optimistic that a cease-fire could be at hand, telling CNN, quote, "We are close. We are on the edge."

CNN has reporters blanketing the region to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of this crisis in Gaza. Ben Wedeman is in Gaza City. Fred Pleitgen is in Ashkelon, Israel. And Reza Sayah reporting live from Cairo, Egypt, this morning.

I want to begin our coverage in the conflict this morning in the heart really of the battle zone, with Ben Wedeman, our senior international correspondent, reporting there from Gaza City.

Ben, good morning. Set the scene for me.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke.

Well, it was a noisy night and we saw some intense bombardment just actually behind where I'm standing. That was proceeded by increasing sort of mounting reports that a cease-fire was about to be announced or a period of calm. But it appears that there were problems within the Israeli government that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, didn't see eye to eye with Ehud Barak, the defense minister, who was leaning towards accepting this draft proposal sent by Hamas via the Egyptian government.

So once it was clear that those efforts had sort of run into a brick wall, we saw an intensification of Israeli air strikes and of course rocket fire out of Gaza as well. One of the rockets, rather, one of those air strikes hit very close to the hotel where many journalists are staying right on the coast, right next to the Gaza City beach. Now, most recently, within the last hour, the house of a senior adviser to Hamas, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was hit and killed.

As you mentioned, the death toll has now reached 139 according to Palestinian medical sources. At the moment, it's relatively quiet, but unless there's real progress, Brooke, towards a cease-fire, we may just slip back into this exchange of fire that we have been seeing now for eight days.

BALDWIN: At the moment it's quiet.

Let me ask you, though, about the leaflets, Ben, that are dropped from the sky from Israel to basically warn civilians in Gaza as a heads-up. Look, we are sending a missile you're way. Here's where you need to go to stay safe.

WEDEMAN: Well, we have seen two different kinds of leaflets. One is sort of a generic stay away from anything affiliated or connected with Hamas. And it's a message from the Israeli Defense Forces. And it also says we are trying to only go after Hamas and not the people of Gaza.

What we saw yesterday, however, were leaflets being dropped on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, with very specific instructions for people to leave those areas, how to get out of those areas and take cover in areas of Gaza City which are safer.

So that -- those leaflets really did spark something of a panic exodus by people from the northern areas of the Gaza Strip. They flocked on donkey carts, pickup trucks, whatever kind of transportation they could find to this area. And they were put up in schools, but the schools weren't ready. There was no preparations for them to come.

So they have left their homes and they have come here with a situation that isn't dramatically better -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Waiting as the world is for a cease-fire. Ben Wedeman in Gaza -- Ben, thank you.

ROMANS: Next up, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi who may just be the best hope for brokering a peace deal between Hamas and Israel.

CNN's Reza Sayah is live in Cairo for us this morning.

Good morning, Reza. Set the scene for us this morning there, I guess, and how important Mr. Morsi is in the solution we see here.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, this is another critical day in this conflict. A lot of people anxious to see what happens in the coming hours. It's a little after 12:00 noon Cairo time. And in a couple of hours, Secretary Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Cairo. She's going to be meeting with the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, other Egyptian officials, as well as the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby.

Whenever big conflicts happen in the Middle East, Washington wants to be seen as playing a major role as peacemaker. That is clearly why Mrs. Clinton is in the region today. But it is also clear that throughout the past few days it's been Egypt that's taking the lead as peacemaker. Obviously, they have strong links to Hamas and they also have links with Israel with that peace treaty they have promised to abide by.

So they seem to be logical peacemaker. Yesterday, Egyptian officials were optimistic that a cease-fire would be established on Tuesday. The president, Mr. Morsi, came out and he says he expects the, quote, "aggression" to stop.

Obviously, Christine, that didn't happen. Heavy fighting throughout the night and the early morning hours. Not exactly boding well for Egypt's status as peacemaker, but they seem to be remaining optimistic. They are hopeful something can get done today.

ROMANS: You know, Reza, have Egyptian officials told you why they just couldn't get the two sides to agree to a cease-fire when they claimed they were so close? It looked as though, at least from signs on the ground that they were so close and the heavy fighting continued all night.

SAYAH: Yes, well, we have not been able to get a response from Egyptian officials but we spoke with a deputy head of Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouk and he -- and this is no surprise-- points the finger at Israel. He says their talks stopped. Initially, Hamas made an offer, Israel rejected the first offer. According to Hamas they made a revised offer and they never heard back according to Hamas officials.

But what's good news in all of this, even Hamas officials seem to be optimistic that today and in the coming hours something could happen.

ROMANS: All right. Reza Sayah, thank you.

At the bottom of the hour, we'll talk to Dan Arbel (ph), a former Israel foreign officer, now a guest scholar at Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Next hour at 6:30 eastern, Stuart Holliday joins us. He's head of the Meridian International Center, a public policy group that works with the State Department.

BALDWIN: In other news here -- eight minutes past the hour -- sorry Twinkie fans, it appears Hostess is almost history. The company that makes Twinkies and Wonder Bread is headed back to bankruptcy court in New York today after this last-ditched mediation effort with the bakers union failed. The bankruptcy judge has ordered the talks to try to save more than 18,000 jobs at this company. Several companies have expressed an interest in buying the brands and the recipes.

ROMANS: Former boxing champ Hector "Macho" Camacho hospitalized this morning, in serious condition after being shot in Puerto Rico. Police say the shooter fired at Camacho and another man as they sat in a car outside a bar near San Juan. The other man was killed. The 50-year- old Camacho was shot in the face, in the neck. The doctors say the bullet fractured two vertebrae in Camacho's neck and he may have trouble walking.

BALDWIN: Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who brought Elmo to life on "Sesame Street", has quit. In the wake of this widening sex scandal, so there's the lawsuit and it accuses Clash of a sexual relationship with an underage male. This comes a week after another accuser made a claim before he recanted.

Sesame Street Workshop issued a statement. Let me read it for you here, quote, "Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want. This is a sad day for Sesame Street," end quote.

BERMAN: The calendar says Wednesday, but for millions of Americans, it's getaway day for the Thanksgiving holiday. We're going to show you some live pictures. Yes, Miami's airport, New York City, Atlanta, we're going to check in. We're going to check on all of these airports coming up to let you know what your getaway is going to look like.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Thirteen minutes past the hour here on this morning before turkey day. Let's check out some "Early Reads" here, a look at local news making national headlines here.

First this morning, from "The New York Times". They're reporting the CIA is permanently closing the doors on its Center for Climate Change and National Security. The controversial department was set up just three years ago. Republicans blasting the unit as wasteful and a distraction to the agency's mission. The CIA is not saying whether the closing was closed by budget constraints or political pressure. The agency will continue to monitor climate change and its impact to our national security but not in a stand-alone department.

ROMANS: In "The San Francisco Chronicle", clothing optional is not about to be an option in San Francisco. Nudists are losing the right to bear it all. This happened yesterday with the city's board of supervisors passed a measure banning public nudity. When it passed, people protested by, what else, getting naked.

BALDWIN: There they go. Whoa!

ROMANS: The federal judge steps in. A final vote considered a formality is set for early next month. Nudists have already filed a lawsuit saying the ban violates their free expression rights.

BALDWIN: I wasn't aware that you can walk around in the Castro sans clothes.

ROMANS: It's true, but I keep saying, it's a little chilly by the bay.

BALDWIN: You got to layer. In some cases, maybe not.

OK here, 14 minutes past the hour.

The big story we're covering for you today. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapping up her meeting this morning with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. The Secretary of State is trying to broker a cease-fire in Gaza. A little later on, she will meet again with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a couple hours, she will also be in Cairo meeting with the newly elected president there, Mohamed Morsi.

You know the deal -- take a look at pictures. The fighting in Gaza intense overnight, 27 more Palestinians killed by Israeli air strikes, bringing the death toll to 137.

ROMANS: Meantime, police in Arizona have no idea why a pickup truck driver was driving the wrong way on the highway when he collided head- on with a tour bus. The 78-year-old man was killed instantly when his vehicle burst into flames near I-10 near Casa Grande. A tractor trailer that tried to stop also sideswiped the bus. Nine people on the bus were treated for minor injuries.

BALDWIN: The Church of England is saying no to women bishops. The church's governing body didn't get the two-thirds majority it needed to pass the measure. It did have enough in the house of bishops and clergy but did not get enough votes from lay members to pass, falling short by just four votes.

ROMANS: A new heart pump for patients who are waiting for heart transplant has just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The hardware's ventricular system is a battery-powered device that's planted in the chest. It's smaller than previously-approved heart pumps. It might be easier for patients to tolerate.

BALDWIN: Here we are on this holiday week. We have to talk holiday travel. I'm hopping on a plane tomorrow. Kind of curious how it's going to be myself.

Let's go to Rob Marciano to see how things are looking on this day before Thanksgiving.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BALDWIN: Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Where are you going, Brooke?

BALDWIN: Back home to Atlanta where you are, friend.

MARCIANO: All right. Open arms, no problem, you're smooth sailing.

But if you are going to Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit today, we've got some issues, St. Louis as well. Fog is happening now and it will continue to happen the next several hours. Dense fog advisories out for the lower half of Michigan, northern parts of Illinois and certainly much of Wisconsin. A quarter mile, half mile visibilities. That will be enough certainly to probably cause some ground stops later on in the day in Chicago and St. Louis.

Right now we don't have any but I expect in the next hour or two they will start to rack up. San Francisco, low clouds and rain with a storm out there. We have been talking about the storm in Seattle and Portland that continues to hammer the area.

Here's the radar. Starting to turn a little bit cooler, so snow levels are dropping a little bit. But even some flashes of lightning and some rumbles of thunder, certainly a rare event for the I-5 corridor. But they are getting everything with more flash flood watches in effect with the rivers continuing to rise, although the rain will start to diminish with the colder air begins to roll in, big old mess. And again, that stretches down to San Francisco. So this storm is lowering and intensifying as it pushes inland.

Across the midsection of the country, other than the fog, by the way, they got some across a little bit across the Gulf Coast and the upper coastline of Texas and through Houston this morning. We are looking OK -- a little breezy across parts of the East Coast for today. As we head towards turkey day there, you go. Gobble, gobble. Nice work there, sir.

We are looking at sunshine for much of the East Coast, including the Thanksgiving Day parade.

So, for your flight tomorrow, Brooke, or today, back home to Atlanta, you should be OK.

BALDWIN: Excellent.

ROMANS: It will be a nice drive if you want to go that route, save the company some money.

BALDWIN: Yes, I think I'll be hopping on a flight, Rob Marciano. Thank you very much.

On a much more serious note --

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We want to get you to this breaking news as we're covering this conflict between Israel and Gaza for basically the past week. You're looking at live pictures. These are live, live pictures.

This is a bus. We have learned according to Israeli police spokesperson that there were people injured. There was some sort of explosion here on this bus.

Take a look at the front of the bus that appears from my vantage that the front windows are shattered. Again, this is Tel Aviv. This is one of the huge, huge cities in Israel.

As we are watching the last couple of days from rockets from Hamas lobbing into Israel, they have reached places, they have reached neighborhoods in and around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and the rest of the country.

So again, we don't know what caused this explosion. This is all very fresh. You see people racing about. We don't know injuries, presumably there are injuries based upon these pictures and the bus there.

ROMANS: You can see the pictures on the left side of the screen. That's coverage from a television station in Tel Aviv.

You know, the fighting raged overnight. They were not able to secure a cease-fire. The fighting raged overnight into the morning.

And now you've got Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her way to a meeting later today with Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, trying to broker some sort of a near-term cease-fire piece. But again, just showing you that the violence continues with this explosion on a bus in Tel Aviv. We know there are injuries and we'll be updating you with details as we get them.

BALDWIN: We have reporters on the ground there in Israel and in Gaza and in Egypt. We are all over this breaking news here on CNN.

Stay with us. Be back in just a short moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: As tensions continue to be ratcheted up in the Middle East and as hopes for a cease-fire so far have not yet happened, we want to let you know we are just learning this morning from Israeli police that there has been a bus explosion in Tel Aviv. You can see where Tel Aviv is there in Israel on the map.

We understand there are people injured. We don't know how many. We don't know what caused this bus explosion. But the fact of the matter is, this is clearly going a step further from now not just rockets but some sort of explosion on the ground in this major city of Tel Aviv.

ROMANS: Right, adding to a very tense and dangerous night. A cease- fire wasn't achieved. You saw more violence and escalating tensions and fighting overnight and into the morning. And now, this bus explosion in Tel Aviv. We'll get you more details when we have that.

In the meantime, oil prices is what we watch very closely when you have unrest and tension in the Middle East. Oil prices have been up overnight and U.S. stock futures are trading slightly lower right now, almost flat.

The big focus there, though, the European finance ministers failing to meet an agreement on the next bailout for Greece. After meeting for 12 hours in Brussels late into the night, they could not finalize the terms for the next $38 billion bailout package. Greece needs this money to stay in the European Union and to avoid bankruptcy of the country. And this is just adding to the uncertainty in the markets.

Also adding to all the uncertainty, the U.S. fiscal cliff, of course. No talks this week in Washington with Congress on a recess and the President traveling and the conflicts in the Middle East also helping fuel volatility in stocks and the oil market. As I said, oil prices up, Brooke, about three quarters a percent in electronic trading.

And it is looking more likely that Hostess will shut down after mediation talks with union members -- union workers failed yesterday. There's a bankruptcy hearing scheduled for later today. We'll find out the fate of Hostess today.

Eighteen thousand people and their jobs are at risk if the company liquidates and, of course, Hostess could sell its iconic brands and recipes to pay off its creditors. Wonder Bread, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, all of these are Hostess Brands. If the company is liquidated, it looks very likely, quite frankly, it would close 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers and 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores in the U.S.

And what does it take to be in the top 1 percent? What do you make to be a 1 percenter? New analysis from the IRS shows it's a little less than $370,000 in gross income in 2010. The average 1 percenter earns $1.12 million a year. There you go.

BALDWIN: There you go.

ROMANS: It's at the heart of the fight of the taxes and all that, that's what it takes to be at the very top 1 percent.

BALDWIN: The 1 percenters.

They are pilots who never leave the ground. Coming up, CNN is on the ground in Israel. An up-close look at the people behind the country's drones.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Emergency mission. America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton trying to broker an end all this fighting in the Middle East.

ROMANS: Three men in the middle, Netanyahu, Abbas and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi all sitting down with the Secretary of State as she tries to forge a cease-fire.

BALDWIN: And the breaking news this morning here. Violence raging, we are just learning of a bus blast in Tel Aviv, multiple casualties.

Welcome back to EARLY START here on this Wednesday, bottom of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin, sitting in for Zoraida.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans, sitting in for John Berman this morning. It's exactly half past the hour.