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Embassies, Consulates Closed; Pakistan on Red Alert; "It was Absolute Mayhem"; A-Rod Could be Suspended Today; Obama Administration Stops iPhone Ban

Aired August 5, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: American embassies closed. An al Qaeda threat shutting down 19 U.S. embassies and posts for the entire week. So, what do we know about this terror plot? We're live.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly boardwalk rampage. One woman killed and 11 others injured when a driver barrels through a crowd of people.

BERMAN: Game over for A-Rod today. One of baseball's biggest stars could be banned for hundreds of games. But if Alex Rodriguez goes down for using performance enhancing drugs, it looks he's going to go down swinging.

SAMBOLIN: It's not just him either, right?

BERMAN: Same guys.

SAMBOLIN: Nice little list.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: Yes, you are.

SAMBOLIN: Yay! I'm so happy to be back. Folks, thank you so much.

BERMAN: I'm the other guy. It is Monday, August 5th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

SAMBOLIN: So, we begin this morning with an al Qaeda message that has left two dozen U.S. embassies and consulates closed for a second day. And they will be closed this entire week. The State Department says it's just being cautious after intelligence officials intercepted an apparent al Qaeda communique.

Barbara Starr has the very latest for us. And she is live at the Pentagon.

Good morning to you, Barbara.


Well, it did all begin with those 22 embassies and consulates being closed over the weekend. The details now emerging behind it all are chilling.


STARR (voice-over): The CIA and the National Security Agency had been secretly monitoring intelligence tips for weeks. There were indications of a possible terrorist attack in Yemen, the stronghold of one of al Qaeda's deadliest affiliates. Alarm bells went off across Washington when a crucial message was intercepted, involving communications in the last several days among senior al Qaeda operatives.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is their wakeup call. Al Qaeda is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11.

STARR: Final planning for an attack may be complete. Dozens of intelligence analysts are urgently scouring data bases, telephone intercepts and Web sites for clues.

The U.S. response going beyond worldwide travel warning and closing embassies across the Middle East and North Africa. After meeting with defense commanders, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered U.S. forces in Spain and Italy onto a higher state of alert, 1,300 Marines on board Navy warships in the Red Sea will now remain off the coast of Yemen ready to react.

CNN has agreed to an administration official's request to withhold details that helped trigger the response because the information is so sensitive.

But the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee confirms it's the NSA surveillance program that picked up the alarming terrorist chatter.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What we have heard are specifics on what's intended to be done and some individuals who are making plans such as we saw before 9/11.


STARR: And in the latest, we now know that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Secretary of State John Kerry late last night to discuss the threat further -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbara Starr, live in the Pentagon for us -- thank you.

BERMAN: And a threat in Pakistan has its capital Islamabad on red alert this morning. Intelligence officials there say they received information about a likely attack on a high value target. And now, the search is on for the people who could be behind it.

Saima Mohsin is in Islamabad this morning.


SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Commanders and police officers are right now scattering Islamabad, keeping an eye on the situation, namely, they are in the Margalla Hills. That is the hills right behind me there you see in the distance. They act as a barrier between the capital and the north of Pakistan, Kashmir to the northeast, the Swat Valley to the northwest.

Crucially, they overlook key military and government buildings. The naval and air force headquarters. Behind me, the buildings in the distance, prime minister's secretariat, prime minister's house, the presidency and parliament, too.

But CNN has learned through a source involved in the operation, the Faisal mosque, the central mosque in Islamabad, may well be a target. Of course, mosques are very busy with this time of year with the months of Ramadan and the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid.

Another target may well be a former president, General Musharraf's residence. He's being held on house arrest facing several charges since his return to Pakistan.

Saima Mohsin, CNN, Islamabad, Pakistan.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Saima for that report.

Tensions high in Cairo this morning. The Egyptian military are threatening to end two large sit ins by any means necessary. These protesters vowing not to move until deposed President Mohamed Morsy is reinstated. That's not looking likely at all. The interim government announcing three of Morsy's top aides in the Muslim Brotherhood party are going on trial to face inciting murder charges.

SAMBOLIN: It is five minutes after the hour.

Iran is reportedly seeking a new path to a nuclear bomb. "The Wall Street Journal" says the Iranians could begin producing weapons grade plutonium by next summer. And until now, the White House has been focused primarily on Tehran's uranium enrichment program. Plutonium is produced in heavy water reactors that are much easier targets in Iran's underground uranium facilities.

BERMAN: Meantime, Iran's new president is beginning his first full day in office amid many questions about how he might interact with the West. Hassan Rouhani is considered a moderate. He's vowed to reduce tensions between his country and the rest of the world. But he did meet with Syria's prime minister in Tehran and Syrian media says he pledged their alliance would not be shaken.

SAMBOLIN: And back in this country, officials are still asking why. After a beautiful Saturday night in California was shattered by a car careening into a crowd of people. And as Paul Vercammen reports, the question this morning is: was it an accident or something far more sinister?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Surveillance video taken from a nearby restaurant shows the suspect's car plowing into people on the crowded Venice board walk and squirming around barriers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just drove and took the left turn down the center of the board walk and just started driving and bodies were scattering and bodies were flying in the air. People were screaming. It was absolute mayhem.

VERCAMMEN: A second camera angle shows the driver getting out of his car, apparently casing the popular boardwalk. He gets back into the sedan and floors it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had to press his foot to the gas, pedal to the medal, because the tires were screeching. He was looking for blood. That guy's intention was to kill people.

VERCAMMEN: An Italian tourist on her honeymoon was killed and 11 others injured in a scene a quarter mile long. The suspect is 38- year-old Nathan Campbell of Los Angeles.

Just two hours after this horrifying hit and run, Campbell surrendered to police in neighboring Santa Monica. Authorities say he told authorities, "I think you are looking for me."

The woman killed is Alice Gruppioni, 32 years from Bologna, Italy. The Italian consulate says Gruppioni and her husband Christian Cassidy (ph) were married July 20th. And the new groom was by her side at the time of the accident and tried to pull his wife away from the speeding car.

If there is a motive in this carnage, police aren't saying right now. But they did say that Campbell was bent on evil.

Paul Vercammen, CNN, Los Angeles.


BERMAN: What a story that is.

Seven minutes after the hour here.

And this could be the day that we find out the fate of Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez, also about ten other players. Two sources tell CNN that Major League Baseball today will probably suspend Rodriguez for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policies. The suspension could reportedly last all the way through the 2014 season. That's next season we're talking about here.

But Rodriguez plans to rejoin his teammates in the city of Chicago after months on the disabled list. And if he appeals, he could be playing for the Yankees tonight in Chicago. Talk about circus.

SAMBOLIN: Kind of crazy.

All right. Look at this scene. It's kind of crazy, too. Pebble Beach, Florida. It's called a gustnado. Have you heard of this? A short-lived vortex created by wind gust. It picked up beach umbrellas, sent them flying through the air. You see there. There were no injuries reported.

We are not sure how many people got their umbrellas back, either.

BERMAN: There are umbrellas on the lam, as you say.

Indra Petersons keeping an eye on all the gustnado plaguing the nation right now.

SAMBOLIN: Like it's a real term, a gustnado.

BERMAN: While you were gone, there's this movie called "Sharknado" which took the nation by storm. So, I think our writers are --

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I bet you love "Sharknado".

BERMAN: "Sharknado" is fantastic. But gustnado is a little play on words.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: By storm. But no, they actually are gustnados. It's real.

SAMBOLIN: There you go.

PETERSON: Yes, John, I know. You know new things every day.

Strong downdraft. That's all you need. You can almost see the backward's V-shape. And that's you can tell, a strong thunderstorm can produce those strong winds just like that. It's kind of a leading edge of the straight line winds.

So, yes, powerful storms kicked through the area.

Speaking of severe weather. Where is gill? What is going on with gill?

Well, gill is actually depression now, just being 30 mile per hour winds. It is expected to dwindle. But notice what's behind it. We have another storm. This time, it is Henriette. And Henriette currently is a tropical storm, at 50 miles per hour steady winds.

It is expected to strengthen, moving pretty slowly, just at the west at seven miles per hour. First, it's going to enter the warmer waters. So, we will see it develop. Right now, the forecast says into a hurricane. But once it gets in the cooler waters, it is expected obviously to go back down to a tropical storm.

What we are going to have to watch, though, is this path. Once again, pretty close to Hawaii here. It's something we'll be monitoring. A lot of the models are varying how high or south it will go. So, we'll be watching that. Otherwise, as far as the weather across the country, we're still talking about rain in a lot of places. The below back here we could be talking about rain and even some severe weather from Montana, all the way down through Nebraska. Southeast does not stop. You are looking for rain as well.

Really, the rainmaker over the weekend was around Kansas, anywhere from five to seven inches of rain. It looks like we're seeing more rain in that area as well. A couple inches right on the southern Mississippi Valley today.

Out in the Northeast, that is our beautiful spot. We're talking about temperatures below normal. Enjoy it. We're saying below normal, but, of course, more rain in the forecast by the end of the week.

SAMBOLIN: We need you to settle something for us.

BERMAN: So, is gustnado a real thing?

PETERSONS: Yes. Real thing, we're not making it up.

BERMAN: They don't have to involve sharks?

PETERSONS: Always sharks.

BERMAN: Always sharks.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Indra.

BERMAN: Thanks so much.

Scary moments for fire crews in Boise, Idaho running away from a house on fire. Look at this just before the collapse. There were 55 firefighters on the scene battling a three-alarm blaze. But a fire captain realized something was wrong. He radioed his colleagues to get back. Luckily, they did.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. Look at that collapse. Terrible.

BERMAN: Minor injuries.

Before we move on, can I just say how great it is to have you back? It's very nice.

SAMBOLIN: You miss me hitting you, right?

BERMAN: Exactly. My arm is --

SAMBOLIN: Beating on you.

BERMAN: I fully recovered.

SAMBOLIN: I love being back. I love being back.

I showed some pictures on Twitter because I had this really fabulous surprise when I walked in this morning. So, go check it out. It's really amazing.

BERMAN: Don't go away, ever again.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I don't have intent on it. It's so sweet. He has a big heart.

All right. Eleven minutes past the hour.

Coming up, a student viciously attacked onboard a school bus. The driver, watching the brawl from the front of the bus. Should he have stopped this fight? You are going to hear why he didn't, coming up next.

BERMAN: An inmate on the run after a bold prison break. But this morning, his mother is behind bars. Wait until you hear this. What landed her in jail --

SAMBOLIN: It looks like she's smiling to me.

BERMAN: She's happy about something. We'll find out why after the break.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifteen minutes past the hour.

We are hearing this morning from a Florida school bus driver under fire after witnessing a severe beating on his bus.

So, this all happened last month. This is Gulfport, Florida. That's near Tampa.

Three 15-year-olds were seen beating a 13-year-old -- you are taking a look at the video -- after he apparently told school officials about their offer to sell him drugs. Where was the bus driver? John Moody is heard yelling for them to stop. But he did not physically intervene.


JOHN MOODY, BUS DRIVER: Three boys jumped on him and started pounding on him. And I did all I can. I was looking. It was like I was in shock. I was petrified. I wanted to help him so bad. I wanted to help him so bad, I wanted to help him.


SAMBOLIN: Moody insists he followed policy, radios for help and did what he could. He won't face charges in this incident, but he did have to retire of his job. That's a tough one, right? You're wondering, why don't you -- why don't you help? If you leave the post, you leave the school bus unattended, right? Wow.

BERMAN: All right. Sixteen minutes after the hour now.

Closing arguments begin today in the murder and racketeering trial of repeated mob boss James Whitey Bulger. Prisoners are trying to pin 32 counts on the 83-year-old, including money laundering, extortion and playing a role in 16 killings. Bulger e did not take the stand in his own defense, that was a surprise, telling the judge on Friday, he thought the trial was a sham.

SAMBOLIN: And sentencing today for a former Kansas sheriff's deputy. He's convicted of shooting his wife and setting fire to their home to cover up the crime. Brett Seacat faces at least life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Seacat killed his wife days after she filed for divorce. Their young sons were inside the home when it went up in flames. Luckily, they escaped unharmed.

BERMAN: It was a shocking jailbreak in Arkansas, now it's a shocking twist. Derrick Estell sliding out through a window opening. Now authorities have arrested his mother. That's her right there, saying that she helped him plan this escape and was even on the phone with him just before he made a run for it. She is now in jail and her son is still on the run, considered armed and dangerous.

SAMBOLIN: There are some things you don't do for your kids, right?

BERMAN: Mother love only so far.

SAMBOLIN: Only so far.


SAMBOLIN: He will never go to jail.

Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Millions of Time Warner Cable customers are waking up with no indication of when they might get CBS and Showtime programming back. The cable giant pulled the plug on CBS local stations and Showtime in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas and other cities as the two sides continued to fight over fees. It may be time before the costs outweigh the benefits of the blackouts.


BRIAN STELTER, NEW YORK TIMES MEDIA REPORTER: Time Warner Cable risks losing subscribers having this blackout go on days and days.

All weekend, Time Warner Cable call centers were overwhelmed. In some cases, Time Warner Cable will probably give some angry customers discounts. It doesn't hurt to call.


SAMBOLIN: Time Warner calls the demands outrageous. CBS is willing to put the signals back on while the negotiation continues.

It's important to note: Time Warner Cable is not a part of Time Warner, the owner of CNN.

BERMAN: Federal health officials closer to finding out if bagged salad was to blame for that parasite outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people. The FBI now says the Cyclospora infections in Nebraska and Iowa were caused by prepackaged salad from a Mexican farm. That salad was served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. Officials are trying to determine if the same salad was responsible for sickening hundreds of more people in 14 other states.

SAMBOLIN: Feeling lucky Mr. Berman? It is shaping up to be one of the biggest jackpots in U.S. history. Don't we say that every time?

BERMAN: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: So, get your tickets. Powerball now soaring to $400 million for Wednesday's drawing. No one matched all the numbers on Saturday. So, the multistate game is now offering the fourth largest price ever for a lottery in this country.

But Saturday wasn't a total bust. Nine people did match the first five numbers. So, they'll walk away with 1 million bucks a piece, before taxes, of course. I'll take it.

BERMAN: I'm going to keep my streak alive of not winning the lottery ever.

SAMBOLIN: Gosh, I hope I win. I'll share a little bit with you.

BERMAN: Good luck to you.


All right. Still coming up, Samsung versus Apple. Why the White House is getting in the middle of their vicious legal battle.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Twenty-three minutes past the hour. It is money time.

And Alison Kosik is here with apparently everything we need to know this morning, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Stop what you're doing. This is everything you need to know. You know, this is time of becoming old hat. It's never old to hear that -- we're getting record highs on Wall Street yet again. The Dow and S&P 500 closed at all- time highs on Friday. Stock futures were up a couple points this morning. But any gain that happens today is going to mean yet another record.

And what an amazing run it's been for stocks. The S&P 500 up almost 20 percent just this year. The NASDAQ, of course, not to be outdone is at its highest level in 13 years. And this all comes as we're getting some signs that the economy is improving.

We're seeing the companies hiring, car sales are strong. Housing is improving. But economic growth is slow. The unemployment is still high. But analysts say the march upward on Wall Street is likely to continue at least for now.

Let me ask you this: could this woman be the first female to lead the Federal Reserve? She could be if female economists have their way. A new CNN Money survey of 38 of 45 female economists support Janet Yellen, the Fed's current vice chairman. No one picked up the other front runner, Larry Summers.

But the same female economists aren't sure Yellen will be appointed. Some are worried she won't be seen as aggressive because of her gender. Others say she doesn't have as many White House connections as Summers, who was treasury secretary.

And some iPhones and iPads were set to be banned. Now they are staying on store shelves. The unlikely hero? The Obama administration.

In a rare move, the U.S. trade representatives overturned the decision that would have led to some Apple devices being pulled from the market. A court rules back in June that Apple infringed on Samsung patents. But Obama administration jumped in, in the nick of time, before the deadline. Samsung says it's disappointed with the move and that rivalry between Apple and Samsung I'm sure will continue.

SAMBOLIN: I love that. Samsung device.

KOSIK: So do a lot of people.

SAMBOLIN: For the record, I have an iPhone, but I love the Samsung. That may be my next one.

Thank you so much, Alison.

Do you have more for us?

KOSIK: I do. I have one more, of course, with everything you need to know. Got so excited with Samsung and Apple.

So, this is sold. Talk about "The Boston Globe", it has a buyer. "The New York Times" is selling "The Globe" to John W. Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox. "The Globe" was quite a deal. It sold for $70 million. "The New York Times" paid more than $1 billion when it bought "The Globe" 20 years ago.

Newspapers across the country are being hit hard by a drop in ad revenue, as more people read the paper online. I know I read my newspaper online. So, this is a trend.

BERMAN: "The Globe" is still a phenomenal paper. They were huge in the Boston marathon bombings. They have been huge for the last 20 years. Big controversy up there, and that the local paper is owned by the biggest sports team up there.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely. I guess it will be on the front and back now, right?

BERMAN: But a lot of sports writers and columnists want to know if they can be as objective as they want to be about the Red Sox.

SAMBOLIN: Right. That's a good point, I think.

BERMAN: Even though the Red Sox are always awesome.

KOSIK: Of course, yes.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Alison. Thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour. Coming up, a terror threat from al Qaeda shutting down U.S. embassies in one of the world's most dangerous region.

CNN's John Defterios is live with what we know about the threat. That is right after this break.