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World Tensions on the Rise; DiMaggio's Family on the Defense; Yosemite Fire Still Out of Control; Attacked by a Wolf; Inspirational Upset At U.S. Open

Aired August 28, 2013 - 05:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Battle lines drawn. World leaders choosing sides after the Syrian government is accused of a chemical weapons massacre.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, you need to watch out for that one, she's trouble.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, police say he killed his friend, her son, and kidnapped her daughter. But James DiMaggio's family has some questions for the 16-year-old girl who survived the bloodshed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could feel him ripping into my head.

PEREIRA: A teenager camping in Minnesota suddenly attacked by a wolf. His tremendous story of survival coming up.

BROWN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Rise and shine. I'm Pamela Brown.

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

BROWN: And we want to go to our top story this morning. The U.S. responds to a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria. The Obama administration insists the Assad regime is to blame for the attack, which rebels say left some 1,300 people dead near Damascus. And plans are apparently in the works for a U.S. response, but the White House says nothing has yet been decided.

Meantime, CNN has learned the National Security Council met Tuesday night at the White House to discuss Syria. The president did not take part in that meeting.

And there's late word that Britain has now drafted a U.N. resolution condemning the attack. It may be considered by the Security Council later today. So still, a very much developing story there. And among those defending the Syrian government, no surprise here, Russia, a longtime ally and benefactor for the Assad regime. And the potential for U.S. action against Syria is only provoking more attention between this country and the government of Vladimir Putin. Jill Dougherty has that.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no love affair between Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. But their countries have been in a tight embrace since soviet times.

WALID MOALLEM, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The Russian/Syrian relationship is a historical relationship that goes back decades and is still continuing in the same momentum until this day.

DOUGHERTY: Syria has been buying its military weapons from Russia since Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad ruled the country. And Moscow is still fulfilling some of those Soviet contracts (ph). Russia's naval facility in Syria's Port of Tartus is Moscow's only remaining Mediterranean repair spot for its ships. There are ties of blood. At least 25,000 Russian women are married to Syrians according to Russian media.

And ties of religion. The largest Christian denomination in Syria, as in Russia, is the Orthodox Church. And Moscow fears if Islamist rebels win, they will be decimated. But the deepest reason the Kremlin sticks with Assad is Russia's anger over any unilateral military action or regime change by the west. It started with NATO's 1999 air campaign against Russia's ally, Serbia. It got worse when the west launched air strikes against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

ANDREW KUCHINS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Mr. Putin basically came to the conclusion that never again. This will never happen again, that they will stick by Mr. Assad and Syria. Not because they particularly like Mr. Assad, but because they see him as the legitimate president or legitimate leader of Syria.

DOUGHERTY (on-camera): Russia now claims there's little difference between President Obama and President George W. Bush. And they predict that if Assad falls, what comes after him could be even worse.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.


PEREIRA: Startling comments from the sister of a man accused of killing a family friend and her son and kidnapping her daughter. Lora DiMaggio tells Piers Morgan in a CNN exclusive that her brother, James, was quiet and dependable and incapable of the crimes police think he committed, including the murders of Christina Anderson and eight-year-old Ethan Anderson whose bodies were found in his burned out home and the abduction of 16-year-oldf Hannah Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LORA DIMAGGIO, SISTER OF JAMES DIAMGGIO: I know that the Hannah Anderson that I saw a few nights ago on the TV certainly not the girl that stayed in my home three weeks prior to them disappearing.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: What do you mean? What do you mean?

DIMAGGIO: I remember very vividly telling my brother, she's trouble. She's going to -- she's -- I said, you need to watch out for that one, she's trouble.


PEREIRA: Lora DiMaggio says her brother was a father figure to the Anderson children, and that she believes that what happened simply does not add up.

BROWN: A former high school teacher in Billings, Montana will serve just 30 days for raping a 14-year-old female student who later committed suicide. Stacey Rambold was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all, but 31 days of that term suspended. The judge said the 14- year-old victim acted, quote, "older than her chronological age and was as much in control of the situation as the teacher." But you can imagine the girl's mother was in court and could not believe her ears.


AULIEA HANLON, VICTIM'S MOTHER: I was floored. I thought there was a minimum sentence. I don't know. I'm -- my faith in the justice system is gone.


BROWN: The teen took her own life back in 2010, while the case was pending in the courts.

PEREIRA: The family of an 18-year-old who died after piece tased is now suing the Miami Beach police. Israel Hernandez's family says police used unnecessary force and had no reason to shock the young man. He died August 6th after police say he ran from them after they caught him spray painting a wall. They insist that he was resisting arrest. State officials are now conducting an independent review of that incident.

BROWN: Former NBA all-star, Scotty Pippen, won't be charged in an incident in a Malibu restaurant earlier this summer. A man said Pippen pushed and spit on him after the former Chicago Bulls player refused to pose for a picture. The L.A. district attorney's office now says there isn't enough evidence to show Pippen committed a crime and wasn't just acting self-defense.

PEREIRA: Another accuser has come forward against soon to be former San Diego mayor, Bob Filner. This time, it is state employee and domestic violence advocate who claims Filner kissed and groped her at an elementary school while at least one child was watching. Her lawyer has asked the city for a quarter of a million dollars. She's now the 19th women to publicly accused Filner of sexual harassment. He plans to step down this Friday.

BROWN: Well, it was a joyous day for some same-sex New Mexico couples now legally wed just the day after a judge ruled the state's largest county could not deny the marriage licenses. Hundreds gathered in Albuquerque to witness the nuptials.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 20 year, it feels like we've been married, but this makes it feel real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After 40 years, we feel really good. Just to know that all these people around us are here for the same reason. And that love conquers all.


BROWN: Clerks in six New Mexico counties will now be giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And a group of state lawmakers plan to contest the move in court.

PEREIRA: Special morning for an 11-year-old Sarah Murnaghan because she is waking up at home this morning for the first time in months. The lung transplant patient whose case sparked a national debate over organ donations returned to her family home near Philadelphia Tuesday. You'll recall she was initially denied as part on the adult transplant list until her family filed a lawsuit.

Her mother says Sarah is now just looking forward to being a regular kid. I have to tell you, we heard some sound from her yesterday. She's an old soul. She has this very interesting perspective that belies her 11 years on earth.

BROWN: Unbelievable. And to think how much she had been through.

PEREIRA: Really has -- the whole family has been.

BROWN: Yes, absolutely. That's great news.

Meantime, we want to go over to California now near Yosemite National Park. A massive fire continues to grow this morning, but there's some progress being reported. Crews say spot fires are being put out and the main attraction in the park remain open. Right now, the fire has burned upwards of 180,000 acres. That's an area of more than 280 square miles.

And some 111 buildings have been destroyed including some homes. Another 4,600 are threatened. The fire is only 20 percent contained.

PEREIRA: This is an important thing to watch, 20 percent containment, while the numbers fluctuate a little bit. Indra Petersons is watching the forecast this morning. Firefighters really need some help. The wind, has it been an issue for them?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the biggest thing is just literally the terrain and the fire creek's own wind (ph). So, in a way, yes and no, right? But as far as outside of the fire zone, itself, we do not have red flag warnings. The temperature is pretty mild in fact. This is the good news. We're just seeing 70s. Winds again outside of the fire area itself only about 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Some of those gusts going about 20 to 25 miles per hour. But again, it is the terrain. It is the location of where this fire is. You can actually see how steep the terrain is within the area. When we feel this kind of white spot there, that's what you're looking out, the thunderstorms that are popping up in the afternoon.

Then that seems like it could be a good thing, however, you do have the threat of additional lightning sparking even more fires. So, that remains to be in the forecast. In fact, more rain will be headed their way towards the end of the week which could be good news as far as that moisture moving in.

You can actually see it's lot of that monsoonal moisture coming in from the south while you take a look farther down south to see what is there. And it's actually the remnants of Fernand that could start to move into the area. Now, again, still a mixed bag if you remember just a few days ago with the ground so dry in the four corner region, just a little bit of rain can produce flash flooding.

And you can see the forecast will bring all this right back into the same area towards the end of the week and as we go into the weekend. So, we'll be watching for that threat. Meanwhile, the other big story, this huge dome of high pressure, I mean, really taking a grip on to the Midwest. Temperatures 15 to 20 degrees above normal. Unfortunately, that's still going to be the case today. It looks like temperatures feeling like 100, even 110 and it's actually hotter tomorrow.

PEREIRA: Hot into Labor Day?

PETERSONS: Well, looks a little festive for Labor Day.


PEREIRA: All right, Indra.


BROWN: Thank you.

And coming up right here on EARLY START, an incredible story here.

PEREIRA: This is insane.

BROWN: Yes, it really is. A teen camping in the woods suddenly attacked by a wolf. We're going to hear this story of survival right after this break. You won't want to miss it.

PEREIRA: How you'd expect (ph). They generally leave us alone.


BROWN: The leak of toxic water at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant has now been classified as a level three serious incident. The plant's operator revealed earlier this month that some 80,000 gallons of radioactive liquid escaped from steel tanks around the damaged plant, and it's still not clear how it gone out or where it went.

Level three is the gravest warning about the plant since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused three reactors to melt down.

PEREIRA: A building collapse in Sao Paulo, Brazil has left at least six people dead and many more injured. We're seeing these pictures here. Officials say the building was under construction at the time, and those that were injured were workers at the site, however, several people still remain missing.

BROWN: And in Western India, at least seven people are dead and ten believed trap after two residential buildings collapsed there. No word yet on what caused the buildings to come down, but they had stood for about 13 years.

PEREIRA: Quite an amazing story of survival now out of Minnesota involving a young man who escaped mostly OK from an attack by a wolf. Noah Graham was sitting lake side Saturday with his girlfriend when it happened. He was attacked out of nowhere.


NOAH GRAHAM, ATTACKED BY A WOLF: I was leaning back, kind of on my elbows, and we were talking. I was looking her right in the eye, and then out of the blue it came and bit me crossways on the back of the head. And then, of course, I was immediately like jumpy and trying to get it off, but I couldn't get it off. I had to like go and jerk my head out.


PEREIRA: That is just incredible. It took 17 staples to close the gash in the back of the teen's head. He has a few puncture wounds behind his ear. But as you can tell, he is OK, and he is being treated protectively for rabies. The wolf was captured and killed. And authorities are trying to figure out why it went after a human. Most wolves, they say, are very afraid of people and would never do something like this unprovoked. They will test that animal for rabies and go from there.

BROWN: And he's just sitting there and the wolf just attacks him from behind.

PEREIRA: Something else I got to --

BROWN: I know. Exactly.


PEREIRA: Different kind of wolves here, right?



BROWN: I think so.


PEREIRA: We have Chris Cuomo to protect us from all of that.

BROWN: Yes. We do, right, Chris?


BROWN: And Kate, by the way.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": That's why I'm here.


PEREIRA: Great protector.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Good morning, guys.


CUOMO: All right, obviously, Syria's on everybody's mind. It's very interesting. You know, the U.S. administration has gone from not being sure what to say to now saying they know what they're going to do. The U.S., we're hearing out of the White House, narrowing down its options for possible retaliation against Assad's government over last week's suspected chemical attack which now is not so suspected anymore.

The U.S. and international actors saying that they know exactly what happened. They blame the Assad regime. So, we're going to have reporters covering this like no one else can, because we are the only ones broadcasting live from within Syria, and we'll take you through it.

BOLDUAN: And also here at home, today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech and the march on Washington. So, today, there's a major event will be held in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. to honor the momentous occasion and to take a look at the progress that has been made and the progress that is still needed.

And also, we'll be looking for a much anticipated speech by President Obama. So, we're marking that today in the show as well.

PEREIRA: Fifty years ago. Amazing.

BROWN: A lot on top of your show. Thank you so much, Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: We'll see you guys in a bit. BROWN: And coming up right here on EARLY START, an American teenager pulling off a huge upset at the U.S. Open. Did you see this?

PEREIRA: An incredible story this young lady has. Wow!

BROWN: Yes. And we're going to have her story coming up in this morning's "Bleacher Report" right after this break.


BROWN: Welcome back, everyone. Seventeen-year-old American, Victoria Duval, pulled off a shocking upset yesterday in the first round of the U.S. Open, beating a former champion to win her first ever grand slam match. She has an incredible story and Andy Scholes joins us now with this morning's "Bleacher Report" to tell us more about that. Just unbelievable, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes, sure is, Pamela. You know, Victoria Duval, she's been through quite a bit to get to where she is now. While growing up in Haiti, she was held at gunpoint for hours in an armed robbery, and then just three years ago, her father was nearly killed in a terrible earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation.

But last night, it was all-smile for Duval. She outlasted former U.S. Open champion, Sam Stosur, in three sets. Her family and friends went nuts in the stands when the match was over. And afterwards, Duval certainly sounded like a 17-year-old.


VICTORIA DUVAL, 17-YEAR-OLD TENNIS PRO: I'm very busy off the court. I'm very much of a child at heart. On the court, you have to be a warrior. You know, off the court, I think it's important to have fun and be a good role model for other people.


SCHOLES: Well, last night, it was scheduled to be Marlon Byrd T-shirt night at Citi Field, New York. Only one problem, though, the team traded Byrd earlier in the day. Fans were supposed to receive this shirt that read "let it fly." Ironically, the Mets let Byrd fly off to a playoff contender in the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Make up for the unfortunate timing, Mets gave fans in attendance last night an additional T-shirt of the player of their choice and tickets to a September game.

On the line up section on, today, you can check out one of the most impressive runs you'll ever see on a football field. Jabrill Peppers breaks out of Paramus High School in New Jersey breaks nine tackles on this touchdown run. Looks like something out of a video game. Peppers (INAUDIBLE) college ball at Michigan as a quarterback, but they might want to think about using him as a running back.

Well, fresh off the yields (ph) of making social media blowup during the MTV Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus has followed up that performance with this. That's right. Miley turned the most sacred jersey in all of basketball, the Michael Jordan jersey into what looks like something possibly as Chicago Bulls half-time dancer would wear. And true, Cyrus, she looks to be in midtwerk as the picture was taken.

Pamela, you can definitely say that the days of Hannah Montana are gone.

BROWN: I would say. She definitely knows how to stay in the spotlight. That's for sure. All right. Andy Scholes, thank you. And we'll be right back.


BROWN: And welcome back, everybody. Fifty-seven minutes after the hour on this Wednesday and taking a look at the top CNN Trends on the web this morning.

You may have heard her name this week, Miley Cyrus still making headlines, because she couldn't stop doing it at the VMAs. Twerking. Well, it's getting an entry in the dictionary, if you can believe it. The Oxford English dictionary is adding the word "twerk ""as a verb to its online repository.

Twerk is, apparently, not a recent creation but dates back decades. One lexicographer thinks the term might have gotten its start from dancers being told to work it. The official definition, to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance.

All right. Actor, Alec Baldwin, in the news once again this time for apparently shoving a photographer on the street in New York's Greenwich Village. These photos right here show what happened. Witnesses say Baldwin seemed to snap when he saw photographers were following him and wife, Hilaria. He went to confront one of them.

Hilaria just gave birth to the couple's daughter last week. Police were called to the scene, but it's not clear if Baldwin or the photographer may be charged. So, we'll have to wait and see for that.

That's it for EARLY START. Thank you so much for joining us this morning, and it is time now for "NEW DAY." Chris and Kate, take it away. Have a great show.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Pamela. We'll see you soon.

CUOMO: All right. Look at your clocks, everybody. Almost the top of the hour. That means here on "NEW DAY," time for your top news.