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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

NSA Leaker on the Run; Mandela's Health; Walking on Air

Aired June 24, 2013 - 04:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The international game of cat and mouse. The man who told the world about the government's secret spy program on the run this morning and may be on the move within hours. Where he's going and is there anything the U.S. can do to catch him?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Nelson Mandela in critical condition this morning. His health taking a turn for the worst. A live update ahead.

BERMAN: And did you see this? Were you watching or were too scared? That was me. No harness, no safety net. Daredevil Nik Wallenda and his tightrope walk across the Grand Candyon. The amazing feat and the amazing survival coming up.

ROMANS: You thought your job was hard.

Good morning. Welcome to this special early edition of EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday, June 24th, and it is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's begin this morning with Edward Snowden. On the move. The Defense contractor who admits he leaked information about the NSA's spying programs is in Moscow expected to board a plane in just a few hours for Cuba, and then South America. His destination perhaps Ecuador. He has asked that country for asylum.

The Obama administration has registered objections to Hong Kong for letting Snowden leave there and wants Russia to return him to this country saying, quote, "We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crime for which he is charged."

CNN's Phil Black in Moscow begins our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Moscow's (INAUDIBLE) Airport, there were early signs the government of Ecuador was playing a role in the face of Edward Snowden. The flag was the giveaway. This was the Ecuadorian ambassador's car parked outside. And this official from the embassy somehow got lost inside the terminal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not taking any comments. BLACK (on camera): Are you here in relation to Mr. Snowden at all?

(Voice-over): The world learned of Snowden's sudden departure from Hong Kong when he was already in the air. Bound for Moscow on a commercial flight. A big group of Russian and international journalists went to meet him. But Snowden stayed inside the terminal.

Soon after the government of Ecuador confirmed he had formerly asked for asylum. Ecuador is already protecting one other man, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Assange has been living in Ecuador's London embassy for the last year. In a statement WikiLeaks said Snowden had asked the organization to help find a country that will protect him.

It said, "He is bound by a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks. Amid furious and changing speculation about where Snowden planned to go after Russia, the U.S. government asked Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba to refuse him entry, and his American passport was canceled.

(On camera): One important voice here hasn't been heard. The Russian government hasn't declared its response to Snowden's arrival. So it's not known if it will let him leave, if it will try to extract further intelligence or insight or if it will help the United States reclaim one of its most wanted citizens.

Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So next stop on this odyssey for Snowden may be Havana, Cuba. He's expected to fly there in just a few hours en route ultimately to South America, maybe Ecuador.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana for us this morning.

Good morning, Pat. What's the latest there?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. We know that Edward Snowden is in Moscow. We know he's trying to get to Ecuador. Of course the question is how did -- does he do that? It's a huge logistical challenge when you start to look at all the countries he might have to pass through. And as he begins his journey, if he does in fact leave Russia, he has to find countries that won't turn him over to the United States, that won't bend to U.S. pressure.

And one of those countries is the country where I'm standing right now. It's a country that's already the United States embargo. But officials here haven't weighed in what would they do if Edward Snowden were to show up. But we know, of course, is a very close ally with Ecuador. Ecuador is a country that all of those -- and wants better relations with the United States.

You know, Edward Snowden has been getting something of a hero treatment here. Officials here are privately very happy with the secrets that he's divulged. It's an intelligence bonanza for countries like Cuba that still engaged in sort of Cold War spying tactics with the United States. So officials here haven't weighed in. It will be very surprising if they answer the U.S. call and turn over Edward Snowden should he appear here today -- John.

BERMAN: And I don't know if you can answer this, Patrick. But why Ecuador? It's not a country that many Americans know about. What makes this a good situation for the government there?

OPPMANN: You know, it's such an interesting question. You have to go back to the former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, to departed leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. And these were world leaders that had a vastly different view of the world of the United States of political power and it really over the years acted to counter the power. Well, Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's successor, Raul Castro here certainly, they've continued with those efforts.

So these are country that look at U.S. power very differently. Are all too happy to embarrass the United States and learn lots of valuable intelligence in the process.

BERMAN: Looking to make a -- looking to make a statement. Patrick Oppmann, in Cuba for us, this morning, in Havana, where within the next 12 to 14 hours, Mr. Snowden may be landing.

Thanks, Patrick. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. To our other big story this morning. To South Africa now in the health of Nelson Mandela. The 94-year-old former president and anti-apartheid leader took a turn for the worst this weekend. Officials there saying his condition has been now downgraded from serious to critical.

Robyn Curnow is in Pretoria this morning for us.

Robyn, good morning.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. As you can see, there's tight security outside Nelson Mandela's hospital. That news that he is now in a critical condition. The president coming out late Sunday saying that doctors are doing everything they can for him and that he's in good hands. His family telling me, though, he's still fighting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW (voice-over): On a cold winter's night, they came to sing for Nelson Mandela. Behind one of these hospital windows, the 94-year-old Mandela battles a lung infection in the intensive care unit. His wife Gretz sleeps here every the night and the rest of his family visit during the day.

MAKI MANDELA, NELSON MANDELA'S DAUGHTER: I want him to be comfortable.

CURNOW (on camera): Comfortable. Is that all you can really do for him now?

MANDELA: When you see all that can be done now, no. They haven't stopped treating him with all the best medication there is in the world.

CURNOW: Do you think he's at peace?

MANDELA: Yes. I believe he's at peace. I think he's at peace with himself. He has given so much to the world.

CURNOW (voice-over): While he is at peace, they say they are angry and comfortable with the intense media interest.

MANDELA: It is our dad. It is our dad. Nelson Mandela's blood runs through the veins. Give us the space to be with our father. Whether these are the last moments for us to be with my dad, or there's still longer, but there must be a (INAUDIBLE).

CURNOW: For them, Mandela is not the global icon. He's a father, a grandfather, a husband, who they don't want to share with the world at this critical time.

NDILEKA MANDELA, NELSON MANDELA'S GRANDDAUGHTER: We are claiming him. He's -- we are his prodigy.

CURNOW: And so they wait and hope.

N. MANDELA: I strongly feel that whatever covenant he's made with his own (INAUDIBLE) and god has not been fulfilled. When that is fulfilled, he will bow out in a way that he chooses.

CURNOW: Flames flicker, hymns are sung, a family asks for space and the great man fights.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Now unsurprisingly the media contingent outside this hospital has grown on the news that his condition had worsened. That, of course, is not going to be happy news either for the family who really seemed to be struggling with the spotlight and of course, Nelson Mandela still in this hospital behind me battling it out.

ROMANS: All right, Robyn Curnow this morning from Pretoria. Thank you.

BERMAN: You know, the president, President Obama, headed to Africa later this week. And that'll be interesting.

Eight minutes after the hour right now. A deadly shooting in Pakistan. And an American is said to be among the victims. This happened in a remote village in the northern part of the country at the base of Pakistan's second highest peak. Authorities say gunmen burst through a hotel, they opened fire there. Nine people were killed. The Associated Press does say that one was an American.

A Taliban affiliated group claimed responsibility saying it went after foreign tourists in a revenge for a drone strike that killed a Taliban leader.

ROMANS: Immigration on the president's agenda today. He meets with CEOs and business owners as he pushed for a plan that could lead to the reform of the nation's immigration system.

Meantime, the Senate expected today to take a procedural vote on a compromised deal that would beef up border security. That in exchange for allowing millions, millions of undocumented workers to eventually become legal.

BERMAN: So much news today, then this. The Supreme Court today could issue rulings in major, major cases that is impact millions of Americans. With the clock ticking in its session, the court still has 11 decisions pending including hot-button topic of same-sex marriage, of voting rights, affirmative action, really some of the biggest issues facing our country.

But observers do not expect all of the opinions today, but easily we could get one. The court is likely to add at least one more decision day later this week when it could issue some of the other rulings.

ROMANS: All right. People in western Canada bracing for even more flooding today. Southern Alberta has been deluged by floodwaters. Some 10,000 people have been evacuated now in the town of Medicine Hat because of a threat from the rising Saskatchewan River. Meantime, 65,000 Calgary residents are returning home after evacuation orders were lifted. A state of emergency enacted. It remains in effect. The flooding is blamed now for three deaths.

BERMAN: Indra Petersons tracking this all for us.

Any relief from the flooding in sight?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, it actually look a little bit better. I can show you the current conditions right now. And we are seeing some scattered showers across the area, but generally light. Nothing like what they saw last week. There is some rain in the forecast that's overnight and into tomorrow. But as you can see as we go through the beginning of the week, conditions improving. And less chances, a very minimal chances even by Wednesday. It looks like just partly cloudy conditions.

Speaking of the rain, though, especially out towards the West Coast, I want to show you something kind of unusual for this time of year. This huge moisture barreling into northern California and the pacific northwest. This is something typically we don't see this time of year. And it's good news. It actually means more rainfall after the rainy season. It's not that impressive for a wintertime storm where typically you see a system like this, you can start to get eight, even 10 inches of rainfall.

But we are talking about one to three inches. And was good news for northern California where they're currently seeing drought conditions. I mean, two to four inches this time of year is extremely rare. So that's the good. The plus side of this. Unfortunately, the bad side of this, you have that cold air making up toward the warm air. And once again that means these really strong winds over the Rockies. So good for them. Bad news already on the Rockies, really seeing higher winds and lower humidities as a result.

As far as we're going to see the heaviest rain today, well, thunderstorm chances again looks like really from the Dakotas and all the way into Iowa today. And what does that mean? We'll be doing the college world series. So they're not going to liking that so much. Gusty winds and rain for them.

BERMAN: Rain delay.

PETERSONS: Just a tad.

BERMAN: All right, Indra. Thank you so much.

All right. This is sort of a weather issue. An atmospheric story. Did you see the super moon? These pictures coming in from around the world. Really just stunning. No, the moon did not suddenly get bigger Sunday morning, but it did get closer to earth. Its closest point of the year, in fact.

ROMANS: Beautiful.

BERMAN: At the same time that it was a full moon so it did looks about 14 percent wider, 13 percent brighter. As you can see by the stunning pictures, it really lit up the sky.

ROMANS: Gorgeous.

BERMAN: In Twitter. It's all over Twitter. Just one more example of how the sharing is just so phenomenal.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Coming up, police back at the home of an NFL star. A star caught up in a murder mystery this morning. New developments.

BERMAN: And incredible. The stunt man Nik Wallenda completing his Grand Canyon tight rope walk. No harness, no safety net. No good sense in that man. The death defying feat after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It was a breathtaking challenge to walk across the Grand Canyon on a two-inch tight rope. Daredevil Nik Wallenda did that last and our Miguel Marquez was watching.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIKOLAS WALLENDA, HIGH-WIRE WALKER: Shoes feel slippery. There's dust on his cable.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It didn't start well.

WALLENDA: Need to relax more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

WALLENDA: It's kind of hard to relax when you're 1500 feet above a canyon.

MARQUEZ: Twenty-two minutes and 54 seconds of death-defying, vertigo inducing thrill.

WALLENDA: Well, that's a view there, buddy.

MARQUEZ: A two-inch thick cable stretching a quarter mile across the little Colorado River.

WALLENDA: I'm not liking it.

MARQUEZ: The most hair-raising part of the Discovery Channel sponsored feat.

WALLENDA: Lord, help this cable to calm down.

MARQUEZ: When the seventh generation daredevil's balance pole began swinging, jittering higher and higher.

WALLENDA: Winds are way worse than I expected.

MARQUEZ: Was he losing control?

WALLENDA: You'll have to tell me how long I'm on the wire.

MARQUEZ: Twice he stopped, kneeling to regain his composure and stead the wire quivering under his feet.

WALLENDA: That's the long way to end.

MARQUEZ: Over at Hell-Hole Bend and without a tether or a safety harness, this 34-year-old thrill-seeker sounding more like a preacher.

WALLENDA: Thank you, lord.

MARQUEZ: High wires and high tension a Wallenda family trait. Our own Kate Bolduan recently had a lesson with him.

KATE BOLDUAN, CO-ACHOR, CNN'S NEW DAY: You make nervous into focus? Is that how you --

WALLENDA: Yes. I mean, once it's time to go, it's time to go. After the first step, there's no turning back.

MARQUEZ: No turning back, another family trait. Nik's great grandfather, Carl Wallenda, put the Flying Wallenda's together in 1922. In 1978, in Puerto Rico, he fell 10 stories to his death.

That was 10 months before Nik Was born.

WALLENDA: My great grandfather Carl Wallenda said life is on the wire, and everything else is just waiting. This is life.

MARQUEZ: Life on a wire, cheating death, one more day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a scale, from one to 10, what he did tonight was unbelievable. I mean, I'd give it a 10.

MARQUEZ: For the finale, Wallenda ran to the finish.

Miguel Marquez, Cameron, CNN, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Wow.

BERMAN: Yes, so I had to sleep so I didn't see that live.

ROMANS: Wow.

BERMAN: But that shaking in the middle and kneeling, that is crazy.

ROMANS: Wow. Wow.

BERMAN: That's all Romans can say the whole time. Wow. Wow.

ROMANS: There's just no way -- I don't -- there are things I don't understand and that's one of them. Climbing also, you know, people who, like, kill themselves to, like, summit a huge mountain or something.

BERMAN: Yes.

ROMANS: Dangerous. They feel terrible. Their head is going to explode. They trained. They spend all this money. I mean I -- I just don't get it.

BERMAN: He sounded nervous, too. He sounded like when the wind was blowing there, and he was steadying himself, I have never heard him quite so unnerved before.

All right. It's 19 minutes after the hour.

For Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez, the weekend brought another search of his Massachusetts home. Police are trying to figure out his connection if there is one with the death of a semipro football player whose body was found nearby that house.

Saturday, authorities went through his home again. Removing bags presumed to contain evidence. Hernandez has not been charged with a crime, nor has police said what they are looking for.

ROMANS: All right. Mark your calendars for July 15th. It is now not the Supreme Court, it is Twinkies. Twinkies and other Hostess snack cakes will be back on store shelves. That's right. I said July 15th. The new owners of Hostess brand say they've tweaked a few of the recipes, changed how they deliver products.

BERMAN: What? ROMANS: And they've reduced the number of bakeries making Twinkies, cupcakes and ding dongs. They're promising to explore alternative versions. Would you eat a gluten free Twinkie? Hostess filed for bankruptcy last year, laying off thousands of workers. Selling many of its iconic products. Snack cakes have been in short supply ever since. And Berman, I will get to the bottom of tweaking recipes. What that means.

BERMAN: How do you tweak the Twinkie?

ROMANS: I don't know. I don't know if they tweak the Twinkie or they tweak from of the other ones but we'll see.

BERMAN: I'm not happy about that either.

ROMANS: Coming up. July 15th, you've got to reserve judgment until --

BERMAN: And we'll do a countdown on the screen.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Get ready to pay a little more for your double mocha latte. Starbucks prices on the rise. We're going to show why we're shelling out more for your morning jolt.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Money time. Stock futures weaker this morning after last week's selloff. The Dow and the Nasdaq fell 2 percent last week. The S&P 500 fell more than 2 percent. China's main stock index plunging 5 percent today. That's not good. A 5 percent move not good. China stocks closed at the lowest level since 2009. This on worries about a credit squeeze there.

Stocks fell across Asia as well. So that's to tell you that things are still pretty nervous this morning.

Most Americans living paycheck to paycheck with little to no emergency savings. This is the new bank rate study, says 50 percent of Americans have less than a three-month cushion, 27 percent have no savings at all, only 24 percent have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses. That's your goal and only one in four of you are doing that.

The savings rate have barely changed over the past three years because people say that after paying debt, housing and child care, they don't have much money left over. The fact that this has been persistent over the last three years when stocks are up that's a little worrisome.

Also fewer Americans will be traveling this Fourth of July. According to AAA the shorter holiday weekend will keep more people close to home because of the way the Fourth falls. Americans have a four-day holiday weekend instead of a five days like last week. AAA also says that weaker economic conditions will help more Americans stay home. They call this staycation.

BERMAN: Like a calendar sequester. A cutback on the Fourth of July weekend.

ROMANS: That's right. Stay home. I think it's fine.

Starting tomorrow, you're going to pay a little more for your Starbucks latte. It's true. The coffee chain said it's set to raise prices on some of its drink by an average of 1 percent. The price hike will affect brewed coffee, tea, latte, and espresso drinks.

BERMAN: That pretty much covers everything in Starbucks, right?

ROMANS: Yes. Pretty much.

BERMAN: The water, though, stays the same.

ROMANS: I don't know if the cake pops fall underneath this. Starbucks says rising labor, material costs, rising rents also triggering that move.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty-five minutes after the hour.

Coming up --

ROMANS: It's not a reason for you to be grumpy this morning.

BERMAN: I know. It's horrible. It's 4:25, I don't need a reason to be grumpy.

(LAUGHTER)

4:25. The trial begins for the neighborhood watchman commander accused of killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. What the jury will not hear in court, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)