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Northern California Rocked By Storms; Chiefs Win After Belcher Suicide; 29 Days To The Fiscal Cliff; Collision Kills U.S. Coast Guardsman; Will Justices Tackle Same Sex Marriage?; Malala Says Thanks; SeaWorld Scare

Aired December 3, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Kansas City chiefs pull off a win the day after one of their own commits suicide. We have new details about his death, the murder of his girlfriend, and what happens now to their three-month-old baby.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Massive and widespread. Flooding hits California in a major way. We're going to have a live report straight ahead.

CHO: And an entire town is evacuated this morning, but why? We'll tell you in just two minutes.


CHO (on-camera): Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START for a Monday. I'm Alina Cho in for John Berman.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Today is December 3rd. It is just about 6:00 a.m. here in the East.

And another pacific storm soaking Northern California this weekend leaving thousands of weary homeowners without power, as well. It's the third storm to hit the region in less than a week, unleashing floodwaters and damaging homes in San Francisco, Sacramento, and several surrounding communities.

People who've lived in the areas for decades say they have never seen anything like this.


REGINA KORNBRUST, FLOOD VICTIM: I mean, this thing just went up fast, real fast. We have previously where it's gotten up real high, but wasn't gotten this bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You live right here?

KORNBURST: Right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here? KORNBURST: Yes, right there. I got my mom out. I took her down to a friend's house down the street. You never know water, at this point, what it's going to do.

TERRY POHRMAN, WITNESS: People are evacuating out of the park, and as you see in the front of the park you can't get out. I had to park up on the hill and walk down the side hill to get in here. So it's really, really, it's very bad in here.


SAMBOLIN: Rob Marciano's been tracking the storms from the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. Rob, somebody on Facebook was saying it feels like just 5 minutes of a reprieve and then here it comes again. Is there any end in sight for these folks?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they're getting a little bit more than 5 minutes today thankfully, but they are going to get another batch of rain tomorrow, but as you've seen and heard the damage for the most part already done.

We're seeing some infrastructure damage. Take a look at some of the stuff coming out of Oakland in and around this are, Lafayette, that neighbor inundated with rain fall and some of the hillsides there taking out not only homes, but the under structure of roadways there.

So you're talking about serious damage to the roads both primary and secondary and that's going to continue. Also, you know, you get this kind of water over top of roadways, people driving through it, rescues a problem.

This area saw a number of water rescues there with the fire department on hand to get their squad out there to rescue folks and Napa Valley also seeing it, north of San Francisco, tremendous amount of rainfall there.

Some of the rivers up and over the top of their flood banks, and that will continue today. Sacramento River is still under flood stage, and they're releasing some of the pressure from some of the dams across Northern California, as well, some dramatic stuff there.

All right, here's our next pulse of energy that's about to come through, but also look at how much rainfall, can actually fall in the bucket, 17.5 inches in (INAUDIBLE) Sterling City, California also seeing over a foot in a five-day period.

Raining right now in Seattle and Portland and some snow at the high elevations. But not raining right now across much of Northern California that's good news. Snow levels came down just a little bit to about 5,000 or 6,000 feet that helps with some of the moisture up in the mountains. It could have been worse.

Here what our next computer model shows the next batch of rain. Starts off in Seattle tonight and then drifts down towards San Francisco tomorrow. Probably not as much rain as what we've seen, but certainly enough to continue to do some damage, the other issue today, a lot of fog.

Across the Great Lakes, including Chicago, down across the Deep South, it is warm, but soupy up there. That will slow down your travel in the airwaves and on the roads. Guys, back up to you.

CHO: All right, Rob, thank you very much.

The Kansas City Chiefs managed to beat the Carolina Panthers 27-21, but it was a somber victory. They took to the field just a day after police say their teammate Jovan Belcher shot and killed his 22-year- old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins.

Belcher then turned the gun on himself just outside the Chief's practice facility, right in front of the general manager and coaches. He and Perkins leave behind a 3-month-old daughter.

Our Casey Wian has been talking to the Chiefs players and coaches, all trying to come to grips with this violent murder/suicide. Casey, good morning, what's the latest on the investigation?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. The investigation continues. Police know what happened that Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins multiple times at the home that they shared on Saturday morning.

And then drove here to the Chiefs' training facility and shot himself dead in front of his general manager, his coach, and other team personnel. They had tried to talk him out of doing that. Of course, what the investigation is now centered on is why this happened.

Everyone we've spoken with and everyone who's spoken out publicly about Jovan Belcher said this was something that was very out of character for him. He was not a violent person. He was someone who was a good character guy, according to his agent.

So police are trying to find out what drove him to commit this tragic act that has left a 3-month-old little girl without her parents -- Alina.

CHO: Yes, I think that is the big question, obviously, when you think about something so tragic, so terrible. Having said that, these same people who said it was out of character also alluded to the fact that there might have been some recent problems in the relationship between Belcher and Perkins, right?

WIAN: That's true. There were arguments between the two and there've been published reports saying that there've been weeks of arguments between the two. We did speak to a neighbor who said he hadn't heard anything like that.

But those who said that the two were arguing said it was nothing really out of the ordinary, sort of characterizing it as normal couples arguing. The Chiefs did, though, hold a moment of silence before yesterday's game.

It was apparently a pre-planned moment of silence, to honor the victims of domestic violence -- Alina.

CHO: Casey Wian live for us in Kansas City, Missouri. Casey, thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 5 minutes past the hour. Only 29 days to go until the nation risks going over that so-called fiscal cliff. Democrats and Republicans are unable, so far, to agree on how to raise revenue and cut spending to close the big budget gap.

On January 1st taxes go up, deep spending cuts kick in, if the two sides cannot reach an agreement. The Sunday talk shows offered an example of how far apart they are.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: What we're not going to do is extend those tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Remember those cost a trillion dollars over 10 years and there's no possibility that we're going to find a way to get our fiscal house in order without those tax rates going back up.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Nobody wants to go over the cliff. That's why the day after the election I tried to speed this process up by making the concession to put revenues on the table. And it's unfortunate that the White House has spent three weeks doing basically nothing.


SAMBOLIN: I know what you heard there, but Treasury Secretary Geithner said he does believe a deal can be reached by the end of the year.

CHO: Member of the U.S. Coast Guard is dead after a suspicious boat rammed his small boat off the coast of Southern California. Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horn was one of two Coast Guard members thrown off on impact. He suffered a traumatic head injury. The other Coast Guardsman was treated at a local hospital. Coast Guard says the suspicious vessel was intercepted, and the two people were detained.

SAMBOLIN: We could find out later this morning if the Supreme Court will wade into the controversial issue of same-sex marriage. The court releases its orders list at 9:30 Eastern Time. And there is a possibility justices will hear cases that challenge the federal defense of merge act or DOMA as it's known or California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.

CHO: Authorities have ordered folks in parts of Louisiana to get out of town as they work to secure more than 6 million pounds of gun powder, gun powder. Improperly stored M-6 powder was found at Camp Minden on property leased by Expo Systems. Workers are busy moving the powder into authorized facilities on the site. They have safely stored more than 1 million pounds. That is enough to fill 27 18- wheelers.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. Well, nine bodies have been recovered from three crushed, burned out cars in a highway tunnel 50 miles west of Tokyo. Officials still don't know what caused a 2000-foot section of eight inch thick concrete to cave in over the weekend. Take a look at these incredible pictures. And they're not saying whether there might be more victims in the rubble.

CHO: Malala Yousafzai, that Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban is saying thank you to all of her new friends all over the world. In a message read by Anderson Cooper last night's "CNN Heroes" ceremony in Los Angeles. Malala said, quote, "I thank the people that supported me without distinguishing religion and color." She is now recovering at a British hospital.

SAMBOLIN: Dozens of (INAUDIBLE) California residents demonstrating this weekend right outside the home that they say serves as a maternity center for Chinese mothers. Neighbors claim pregnant women in China pay thousands of dollars to come to the United States with legal tourist visas then stay in the maternity center until they give birth.

Their so-called anchor babies are then automatically U.S. citizens. In the 7:00 hour of "STARTING POINT," we'll talk about the Chinese maternity center with Rosanna Mitchell. She is the spokesperson for the group "Not In Chino Hills."

CHO: All right, so if you live around New York City you know that the traffic can be terrible around here around the holidays. Lots and lots of tourists, but nothing compared to this. Listen to this. How about that traffic jam that lasted an entire weekend? We're talking about 155 miles of traffic. We will tell you about it after a quick break.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. This morning there is a complete standstill in Washington over talks aimed at preventing the nation from falling over that so-called fiscal cliff.

Tax hikes and spending cuts kick in, in January, January 1st that is if no agreement is reached between the White House and Republicans on how to close the budget gap. It has been more than two weeks since President Obama invited the major players to the White House to discuss the situation.

And each side has staked out a position, and neither appears willing to budge at all. We are joined by White House correspondent Brianna Keilar. Good morning to you, Brianna.

So the White House is insisting income taxes for the wealthy increase, and they are not budging on that position. How do we ever get to a compromise here?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're not budging on that. The White House, Zoraida, after really not being happy with the pace of negotiations a week before last, sent Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to the Hill to talk to House Republicans and lay out what really has been public. What President Obama wants or at least his opening offer for deficit reduction, about $1.6 trillion in new taxes and significantly less in spending cuts. In entitlement reform, and now you have the White House really sensing that they have some leverage here, saying to House Republicans, you know what?

You go ahead and you put the meat on the bones when it comes to this really politically precarious part of entitlement, which is often construed as cutting entitlements like Medicare. Here's what Tim Geithner said.


GEITHNER: We laid out a very comprehensive detailed program of how we do it in what stages with $600 million of spending cuts in 10 years over entitlement programs. You know, I think right now the best thing to do is for them to come to us and say here's what we think makes sense. We've told them what we think makes sense. What we can't do is try to figure what's going to be good for them. They have to come tell us.


KEILAR: So he's drawing a line there in the sand. We also heard over the weekend from House Speaker John Boehner that he found Geithner's proposal flabbergasting. He said it wasn't serious.

But what you have, Zoraida, is the White House and Democrats sensing that they do have the leverage here, and if you look at it, they really do. Part of that because polls show that Americans may be more ready to blame Republicans for an impasse here and also because spending cuts and tax increases, that fiscal cliff set to kick in at the end of the year, that's going to happen if a deal isn't reached. So, they feel that that's boxing House Republicans in.

SAMBOLIN: Brianna, I'm going to preface this by saying that math is not my forte. However, we have 29 days to the fiscal cliff, right? They go on vacation. They break for the holidays on the 15th.

So, technically, we have 12 days to reach a deal. Is that enough time?

KEILAR: You know, there is still time. I think that's the important thing to know. It seems like one of the drops -- first off, Congress doesn't like to hang around for Christmas. We've learned that from past years. The payroll tax cut last year out of here before Christmas. So, they don't really like to do that.

So I think really it seems the drop is the end of the year. But December 17th, that week, the week before Christmas is really seen as a very important week. There's still time to figure this out. Anyone on both sides of this equation will tell you they know what the math is, Zoraida.

I mean, even if it's tough for us to understand, they understand what's at stake here. They understand how you have to move around some of these numbers. The question really is: this negative tone that we're hearing, much more negative than a couple weeks ago, how much of it is posturing, and how much of it is reality?

You know, some of it is definitely posturing. But it's really -- it's tricky to see at this point, and congress has such a habit in these deals that it brokers with the White House of taking this right up to the edge, that it certainly makes us very nervous.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it does, indeed. The clock is ticking. Brianna Keilar, live for us in Washington -- thank you very much.

KEILAR: You bet.

CHO: Sixteen minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date with this morning's top stories.

A stern warning today from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Syrian government over the potential use of chemical weapons. This as one official in the Obama administration tells CNN there are, quote, "worrying signs" that Syria may be considering the use of such weapons against rebels.

The partisan divide over Susan Rice's potential nomination to become secretary of state is intensifying now. Democrats are still defending the comments Rice made in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. But New Hampshire's Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte insists Rice knew more than she was letting on.


SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: She did. That information she had reviewed before going on the Sunday shows, went on the Sunday shows, went well beyond the talking points.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: What we should be focused on is not so much what was said about which talking points but how did the tragedy where four Americans were killed in Benghazi happen?


SAMBOLIN: Senator Mark Warner says Republicans and Democrats should stop fighting and focus on making sure State Department employees around the world are properly protected.

CHO: A high ranking leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has been arrested in northern Baghdad. Two senior security officials would only reveal it's a senior leader of the group, and are not revealing his name for security reasons.

SAMBOLIN: Do you think your morning commute is rough? Check this out.

CHO: Man.

SAMBOLIN: A hundred and twenty-five-mile-long traffic jam on the M10 Highway, this is between Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia this weekend, imagine this -- nothing like dense fog after days of heavy snow, to slow things down to a super crawl. In some places, three feet of snow has fallen since Friday.

CHO: Good times.

SAMBOLIN: Got to go to the bathroom. What do you do?


CHO: Persistent cough is keeping former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Texas this morning. The 88-year-old Bush has been in and out of the hospital for nearly a month after coming down with a case of bronchitis. No discharge date has been announced just yet.

SAMBOLIN: Thousands of schoolchildren in this country will spend a lot more time in the classroom. This is beginning next fall. School days and the overall school year will be lengthened in five states as a way to help underperforming students achieve better results in their studies.

CHO: Kids are going to love that.

Firefighters and family members are calling it a miracle. A couple from Canby, Oregon, survived after a 100 foot fir tree crushed their car. That's what their car looked like. Firefighters say the couple actually walked away from the wreckage.


DIVISION CHIEF TROY BUZALSKY, CANBY FIRE DEPARTMENT: They must have had a bright light shining down on them because if you look at the passenger compartment, especially the driver's compartment, there's about a space of two loaves of bread in there. How the husband survived is just remarkable.


CHO: Family members say the couple had just moved to the area and were out house hunting when the tree came crashing down. I wonder if they'll still live in the area. The man suffered a broken shoulder, his wife, amazingly wasn't hurt at all.

SAMBOLIN: When you look at that car, that's unimaginable.

CHO: Somebody was watching over them.

SAMBOLIN: That's right. They are blessed.

Coming up: a dolphin at SeaWorld bites a girl and the whole terrifying event was caught on camera by her own father if you can believe it. We have that tape for you, right after this quick break.


CHO: Twenty-three minutes after the hour. A fun family day turned violent in an instant. A dolphin at SeaWorld Orlando lunged and grabbed a girl's hand while she moved an empty fish tray. Mom and dad were there to see it all happen. They even had their camera rolling.

Here's Evan Lambert of Orlando affiliate WKMG.



EVAN LAMBERT, WKMG REPORTER (voice-over): Eight-year-old Jillian Thomas was living her dream, getting up close and personal with dolphins, her favorite animal, the day before Thanksgiving at SeaWorld. Mom and dad had their camera rolling as Jillian and her brother were feeding dolphins at the popular dolphin cove attraction.

But Jillian ran out of fish. In a split second, her treat to feed the dolphins became a terror.

JILLIAN THOMAS, 8-YEAR-OLD: I'm out of fish.


LAMBERT: One more time. The dolphin lunges out of the pool and goes straight for the tray of fish, taking with it Jillian's arm and dragging her toward the pool.

JAMIE THOMAS, JILLIAN'S FATHER (via telephone): We think that attraction at SeaWorld is dangerous. It was traumatic for us to go through that event.

LAMBERT: The Thomases: say the dolphin's bite punctured Jillian's skin in three places and caused minor bleeding, but now, she is doing OK. We asked SeaWorld about the incident and they told us in a statement, "Nothing is more important to us than the health, safety of our guests, employees and animals. Educators and animal care staff are always on-site at this area, monitoring all interactions and are committed to guest safety."

And the Thomases say they were told repeatedly not to pick up the trays. But the 8-year-old just made a mistake.

AMY THOMAS, JILLIAN'S MOTHER (via telephone): She said she just forgot. As you've seen in the video, moved the plate to say she was done.

LAMBERT: Of course, we know the dolphin wasn't. The Thomases say they won't be back at SeaWorld and they hope others will heed their warning.

AMY THOMAS: We're not banking on SeaWorld changing that attraction, you know? I'm sure that's not going to happen. But perhaps we can change the minds of another parent or even an adult.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHO: How scary for that little girl. I mean, an adult would be scared.

SAMBOLIN: And I would imagine that SeaWorld will make some changes.

CHO: I think they're going to take a good, hard look at this.


CHO: Minding your business this morning 25 minutes after the hour.

U.S. stock futures are up after some positive data on China's manufacturing sector. The end of the year is fast approaching. And take a look at this -- the S&P 500, the best indicator for the stocks in your 401(k), is up more than 12 percent since the start of the year.

SAMBOLIN: And there is a lot of key economic data on tap this week that could move the markets as well -- U.S. auto sales, manufacturing and construction spending numbers, out today, as well.

Plus, we'll get a crucial update on the health of the labor market on Friday with the big November jobs report.

And, of course, investors will be watching fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington. We'll be watching that all week long.

CHO: Sure will.

The, quote, "bible of psychiatry" is getting some upgrades. They involved autism, binge eating, mood disorders, even hoarding. We're going to dig into the details coming up.


SAMBOLIN: The football world is shaken by the murder/suicide case of Jovan Belcher. How did his team handle this tragedy? We're going to get reaction from Tiki Barber.

CHO: The hunt for the building blocks of life. Today, NASA is making a huge announcement about Mars.

SAMBOLIN: And call it a sign of the times, folks. The Pope has a Twitter account. We're going to share that handle with you. I got it wrong the first time. I think you did, too, right?

CHO: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: We have it now. We have it now for you.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.