Return to Transcripts main page


Michelle Obama Opting Out

Aired June 7, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Rain rampage. Tropical storm Andrea on the move this morning. Tornadoes, torrential downpours, and floods. We will tell you what is in its path.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, diplomatic snub. Did the first lady just offend more than a billion people? Why is Michelle Obama skipping out on China's summit?

BERMAN: And the top secret government man caves? Your tax dollars at work here. Employees at the EPA filling warehouses with big screen TVs, gym equipment and, of course, a piano. You have got to see this to believe it.



BERMAN (on-camera): You need a piano because you have to be able to sing show tunes after your workout.

ROMANS (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty minutes after the right now.

And as tropical storm Andrea chubs (ph) along the east coast, people in parts of Florida are cleaning up the mess that it left behind and quite a mess it was. Andrea spawned tornadoes, including one that flip a 20-foot boat. It swept cars off driveways, and as you can just see there, you know, snapped trees in half.

ROMANS: So, let's get an update now on tropical storm Andrea, where the storm is headed, where it's headed next, how much rain it's going to bring to our weekend in the northeast. Meteorologist, Alexandra Steele, is tracking it for us this morning. Good morning.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. You know, it is not shocking, it is zooming like a race (ph) train. So, watch, it can move it almost 30 miles-per-hour moving northeast, heading from now, the center of circulation about 30 miles from areas in Georgia. It is all pushing northeastward from Savannah onward, and it will get there.

All the damage we're going to see tonight through tomorrow, and the biggest threat with this, not so much tornadoes, though, there is a tornado threat in North Carolina and Virginia. It's the heavy rain, the inundation of rain. This is how much we've seen, so far, in South Florida already, three to five inches, four to six in Southeast Georgia. As we move north and east, on the whole, about two to four inches, really right along the coast.

Washington, to New York, even into Boston, believe it or not. But here's a look, we're also seeing some winds, winds not a huge factor, but, as we head through this afternoon, you can see Atlantic City, gusts to 20. So, between about 20 and 40-mile-per-hour gusts. Later this afternoon and tonight, again, that's predominantly just on the coast or even offshore. And that also will be where the heaviest of rain is.

So, you can see by tonight, here's where the center is. Here's where the bulk of the rain is. Through tomorrow morning, you can see in Maine and then pushes all the way out. So, it is a fast mover and flooding. Two to four inches will be the biggest threat with this for sure.

ROMANS: All right. Alexandra Steele.

BERMAN: The good news is she's bringing up some of our weekend there since it's been moving through more quickly than we thought it would.

ROMANS: I know. But it still means that the jobs report is going to be the most exciting that I'm going to do in the next three days. That's no lie.

All right. It may be a little too much exposure for first lady, Michelle Obama. First, she made news about her handling of a heckler. Now, there's lots of speculation about why Mrs. Obama won't be by the president's side when he meets his Chinese counterpart this weekend. CNNs Erin McPike is following the story.


ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Chinese state visit is usually filled with pomp and circumstance, but when President Obama travels all the way to California this weekend to meet with new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, the setting will be casual. It's being built as a sign of progress for American and Chinese diplomacy. The Chinese president will be bringing along his wife, Peng Liyuan.


MCPIKE: Like Michelle Obama, Peng Liyuan is considered a rock star in China, except Peng actually is a rock star.


MCPIKE: But she won't be serenading Michelle Obama. President Obama is going alone, meaning there will be no face time for the first ladies. There are mixed reactions on Chinese social media about Mrs. Obama's decision to stay home. One said, "Because our first lady is so pretty that she was scared to show up?" Another, "Why disappointed? It is for sure and understandable that she put family and her kids in the first place." Still, critics say that's a mistake for the White House as it tries to (INAUDIBLE) attentions with the Chinese.

CHENG LI, BOOKINGS INSTITUTION EXPERT ON US-CHINA RELATIONS: People in China will think, you know, this may not be just a family matter.

MCPIKE (on-camera): Now, I should point out, it's Sasha Obama's 12th birthday on Monday, and the White House says they haven't heard any complaints from their Chinese counterparts about the mom and cheese (ph) decision to stay home.

Erin McPike, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Erin for that story.

A major development in the extremely strain relations between North and South Korea. The two countries are now trying to agree on a date for talks that would result in the reopening of the jointly operated Kaesong Industrial Complex. The north proposed the talks on Thursday. South Korea responded today with the offer to begin talks next Wednesday in Seoul.

So, maybe some tolling (ph) out here. Pyongyang halted activity at the Kaesong office (ph) in April following months of tension in the region.

ROMANS: Turkey's embattled prime minister calling for an end to protest and saying claims of excessive use of police force will be looked into. Supporters cheered the president as he returned from a four-day visit to North Africa, but protesters want him gone. What started as a small sit-in to protect the last green space in the temple (ph) has much moved into widespread clashes with police over government policies.

Two people have been killed, 2,300 others injured. The protests have also rattled Turkey's economy. You know, it's benchmark stock index has dived 15 percent in a little over two weeks.

BERMAN: Oh, wow!

ROMANS: Yes. That's not good.

BERMAN: Now, to a developing story, at least three people are dead after a medical helicopter crashed into an elementary school parking lot in Kentucky. This happened south of Lexington. The officials say the chopper was on its way back to base after transporting a patient. Only the crew was on board. No word yet on a cause.

ROMANS: An amazing rescue saves the life of a six-year-old girl in Mississippi. The little girl was on a field trip to a farm in Green County, Mississippi, when she fell into an old abandoned well. It took emergency workers three hours to finally free her from the well, which was 35 feet deep, and just 14 to 16 inches wide. Incredibly, she suffered only a few cuts and bruises. Her parents, however, I'm sure -- oh, my gosh. BERMAN: So, we've been telling you about 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan's struggle against cystic fibrosis and against the system that she and her family say makes it harder for her to get a lung transplant. A judge has ordered Sarah be put on the adult lung transplant list so she has a better chance of finding a donor.

Now, word that that ruling can help a second child or at least put that child on the list. Eleven-year-old Javier Acosta is also in a Philadelphia hospital waiting for a new pair of lungs. Murnaghan's lawyers are trying to get him on the adult list, too. The organ transplant group that helped set national policy will meet Monday to review that situation.

ROMANS: And it's still a reminder there are too many people, children and adults, who on this transplant list, whether it's for lungs or heart or liver, and there are too few people who donate their organs or too few organs available.

BERMAN: Always an important message.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up --

BERMAN: Most guys like their own man cave. They definitely do. Well, wait until you see what some workers did with government property to change a warehouse into their own private play room.

ROMANS: And bravery on display, Anderson Cooper talks to the Navy SEAL who served for more than two decades and has now come out as transgender.


BERMAN: So, it was a private playground. We're finding out more this morning about just what a group of contractors did to turn an EPA warehouse into an elaborate man cave. CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How's this for a man cave? A private space with a couch, chairs, TV, a weight set. This isn't your cousin's basement, it's a U.S. government facility, a warehouse in Landover, Maryland, overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, leased and operated by a private contractor for $1.6 million of your tax dollars a year.

ROBERT ADACHI, EPA INSPECTOR GENERAL'S OFFICE: When the auditors first saw it, it was overwhelming.

TODD: Robert Adachi was the lead auditor for the EPA's inspector general who just issued a report on the facility. The document looks like a brochure with pictures of other man caves in the same warehouse. Here's a space with an even larger TV, a chair, artwork on the wall. Some had personal photos and pin-ups and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had put in a refrigerator, microwave ovens.

TODD: That black object bottom center, that's a hair trimmer. I spoke about all this with taxpayer advocate, Ryan Alexander.

RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYER FOR COMMON SENSE: We hired these people. We paid taxpayer money for these people to manage our inventory, take care of the warehouse. And as far as we can tell from what the inspector general found, they didn't do any of that.

TODD: And the report says these personal spaces were hidden from security cameras by partitions, curtains and piled up boxes.

(on-camera) The EPA said we couldn't get access inside this warehouse, but EPA officials say as soon as they learned what the inspector general found, they had the private contractors who operated this building escorted out. They prohibited them from coming back and they began taking inventory of everything inside

(voice-over) It's not just a little the getaway spaces that raised concern. Those little specks on the box, lower right --

ADACHI: We did take pictures of places where they had taken rat traps and where there were rat feces all throughout the building.

TODD: One place the contractors did keep immaculate, their 30 by 45 foot gym with updated equipment including --

ADACHI: Pictures show also a computer that was attached to some speakers. And, it appeared to be used for music.

TODD: There was a security breach, expired passports of EPA employees with all their identity information lying there in open boxes. Oh, and did we mention the seemingly inexplicable inventory?

(on-camera) Pardon my language, but what the hell do we need with pianos in an EPA warehouse?

ALEXANDER: it's a big question. Why the EPA has pianos and why they had all this other inventory in the warehouse? Why do they have all this stuff that we weren't using?

TODD: An EPA spokeswoman says the pianos have been at EPA headquarters for award ceremonies, receptions, and other functions there and then they were moved to the warehouse. The agency said in a statement that it moved quickly to address all these problems. And indeed, the inspector general gives the EPA high marks for its fast response. We called and e-mailed several times the private contractor that operated the warehouse, Apex Logistics of College Park Maryland. We never heard back.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: For a man cave.

ROMANS: Yes. Your government work, I guess. That's what that's all about. All right. This is National CPR Week. Any one of us, no matter how old, can save a life if we know what to do in an emergency. Eleven- year-old Dylan Stanley of Overland Park, Kansas is an excellent example. He saved the life of his 10-month-old brother who was choking on a piece of dog food that he found in the laundry room and he put it in his mouth.

You know, at 10-month-old, it's just -- they're danger, danger. Dylan instructed his father how to properly dislodge the item from the toddler's throat.


DYLAN STANLEY, SAVED BROTHER: I was telling dad to hit him on the back five times, turn him over, and then give him five chest compressions on his rib cage.


ROMANS: Right. So, the kid with the voice of reason, the one with the knowledge, right? Dylan said he knew what to do because he recently received CPR training at his mom's dental office.

BERMAN: Five chest compression. That kid knows exactly what to do.

ROMANS: And it worked. And his brother is too young to be, can he lowered over it?


ROMANS: I don't know.

BERMAN: Wow! Great job by that kid.

All right. So, get out the old eye patch and make room on your shoulder for the pirate. Fly up the Jolly Roger. One state is becoming more pirate friendly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we have passed "Speak Like A Pirate Day."


BERMAN: Right. This actually happened and someone actually voted for him. You can get in touch with your inner pirate in Michigan because this Republican state senator from Saginaw helped push "Speak Like A Pirate Day" in that state. It will be every September 19th.

He said it celebrates Michigan's maritime heritage. A democratic lawmaker says this makes a compelling argument for a part-time legislature.

ROMANS: When I think of the world's most famous rogue pirates, I think the U.P.


BERMAN: Yes. It's Michigan. It's the Great Lakes, those pirates. They own the Great Lakes, Lake Huron, ooh --


ROMANS: Coming up, a phone call. FedEx is (ph) looking for helping some of the country's biggest companies to crack the latest doping case. We're going to tell you what clues they are after.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Forty-nine minutes after the hour. Another twist in major league's baseball latest doping scandal. The Associated Press saying the league's lawyers have issued subpoenas to FedEx, AT&T and T-Mobile apparently looking for records associated with the biogenesis clinic and its leader, Tony Bosch.

The league wants to know if Bosch shipped performed-enhancing drugs to prominent major leaguers or had contact with them or their associated. Bosch is said to be cooperating with the investigation.

ROMANS: Justin Bieber's had a stratospheric rise to pop stardom. Now, the singer is getting his goals -- setting his goal higher. Outer space. The 19-year-old became the latest celeb to book a seat on Virgin Galactic. All it took was a deposit, small deposit of $250,000. Bieber tweeted, "Let's shoot a music video in space." Test runs of the Virgin space flights are expected later this year.

BERMAN: Yes. As long as they don't let him drive.


ROMANS: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: So, is it art or is this offensive? An Arizona man has been told to remove this nine-foot tall metal gargoyle from his property. It is, in fact, naked and apparently anatomically correct. An anatomically correct male gargoyle. County officials told David Smith (ph) the neighbors complained worried that children could see it.

He calls that nonsense. He lives on a five-acre plot on a rural road and insists he has the right to display anything he wants.

ROMANS: Gargoyle.

BERMAN: An anatomically correct gargoyle. A big metal gargoyle.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, what a way to mark your 102nd birthday? Jeanne Moos has the story of the base jumper, uh-huh, base jumper, who isn't letting her age slow her down.


ROMANS: Now, an exclusive interview with a retired NAVY SEAL once known as Christopher Beck. He served this nation for two decades, 20 years with distinction, honor, and courage. But what he did after he came home required a different kind of courage.

BERMAN: Chris is now Kristin. He is living the life of a woman he says was always trapped inside. Here's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Why did you want to be a SEAL?

KRISTIN BECK, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: That's a tough question. I wanted to be a SEAL because it was like the toughest of the tough.

COOPER: So, there was part of you that felt if you could become a SEAL and be in the toughest of the tough, that feminine side of you would disappear?

BECK: Yes. I could totally make it go away. If I could be at that top level and be -- maybe it would go away. Maybe I could cure myself, but then it does kind of like, it gnaws at you. So, it's always there.

COOPER: And so, how would you -- how would you let off steam? Let off pressure?

BECK: I would go to Victoria's Secrets and buy something, because it's easy. Close to Valentine's Day, it was the best day to buy stuff at Victoria's Secret because there were a lot of guys in there. They're buying stuff for their girlfriends. So, I would buy a couple things and then bring them home and wear it, but then you can't expose yourself or you can't take the chance that anybody else would ever see this or you can't let it be there too much because then you get too comfortable with it and then it spills out.

I don't want you to love me. I don't want you to like me. But I don't want you to beat me up and kill me. You don't have to like me. I don't care, but please don't kill me.

COOPER: Where are you on this journey?

BECK: The journey I'm on right now, I just recently came out. I'm starting to live my life as a full female. I live, this is my life.

COOPER: What do you hope happens?

BECK: I want to have my life. I want to live in peace and happiness. I fought for 20 years for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I want some happiness.


BERMAN: Such an interesting story here. He talked about the internal struggle has been going on for so, so long.

All right. Fifty-seven minutes after the hour. So, how does a 102- year-old celebrate a birthday? Well, some might say just by getting up in the morning, but not Dorothy Custer (ph). She's lived her life on the edge and for her 102nd birthday, the Idaho grandmother, she jumped off the edge. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If I make it to 102 years old, I'd be happy just to be able to drive across this bridge, but jump off it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to go?


MOOS: Dorothy Custer was ready all right to celebrate her 102nd by going airborne. Sorry, I had my eyes closed. Can we see that again?


MOOS: That's the Snake River almost 500 feet below the prime bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho. Dorothy's family gave her this jump as a gift. She was attached to a professional from an outfit called tandem base. At age 102, a soft landing is crucial.

CUSTER: Oh, boy, that was a thrill. Like it was so quick!

MOOS: A mere 30 seconds.

(on-camera) Before taking the leap off of the bridge, Dorothy had already taken the leap into late night comedy.

(voice-over) She'd been a guest on "Leno" twice talking about the past century.


CUSTER: The credit card.

LENO: The credit card?

MOOS: And joking about the time she was holding her hat in a gusty wind when a boy suggested she better hold her billowing skirt.

CUSTER: And I said, I don't care what they see down there, it's 100 years old. This is a brand new hat!


MOOS: They showed photos of Dorothy in the bloom of youth. She played the harmonica. On Valentine's Day, she sang to jay.

(SINGING) Let me call you sweetheart.

MOOS: And now, she's listening to the sweet sound of air in her chute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard you laughing after the parachute opened.

MOOS: Seems Dorothy's always laughing.


CUSTER: That's a good one.

MOOS: Her birthday jump was a good one except for that one thing.

CUSTER: It was too short.


MOOS: She may be so short her feet dangle, but she sure seems to like dangling in midair.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.



ROMANS: I can't get enough of her. She's awesome!

BERMAN: Happy birthday to her.

EARLY START continues right now.


BERMAN (voice-over): Heading up the coast, tropical storm Andrea delivering rain, rain, and more rain along with tornadoes and floods. We are tracking the storm.

ROMANS (voice-over): Scandal growing. New reports this morning that it's not just your phone calls the NSA is tracking.

BERMAN: And courtroom showdown. George Zimmerman's defense team accusing the prosecution of hiding evidence. What they say the jury needs to know about Trayvon Martin?


ROMANS (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome to Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN (on-camera): I'm John Berman. It is --

ROMANS: Friday.

BERMAN: June 7th, 6:00 a.m. on the east.

ROMANS: If you live on the east coast, prepare to keep getting wet.


ROMANS: Tropical storm Andrea is the kind of rainmaker the east coast hasn't seen since hurricane Sandy. In other words, you might want to rethink your weekend plans. Tropical storm Andrea has already walloped Florida, seriously injuring one woman. It made its way through Georgia overnight.