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Gathering at the G20; Cleveland Captor Death; Greek Yogurt Warning; Obama and Putin to Meet Regarding Syria

Aired September 5, 2013 - 05:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: World leaders set to collide over Syria in just hours. President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin come face-to-face. But can the president sell strikes on Syria to his political adversary, as well as the rest of the world?


JUAN ALICEA, CASTRO BROTHER-IN-LAW: It doesn't feel right. There's no note.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Found hanging from a bed sheet in his prison cell this morning. New questions raised about the suicide of a Cleveland kidnapper, Ariel Castro.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a split second and it just happened.


PEREIRA: Lucky to be alive, the only way to describe this guy. An SUV smash into a gas station. How this customer's apparent forgetfulness saved his life.

So, it just pays off, John.

BERMAN: Exactly. I knew forgetting was going to pay off for me.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. Happy New Year. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It is Thursday, September 5, and it is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: We are going to begin with the very latest on Syria. The pressure mounts day by day on whether to support military strikes. While that's going on, this morning, the epidemic of the crisis is in St. Petersburg, Russia, a summit of world leaders, the meeting of the G-20, with Russia dead set with military action. This could be a gathering to say the least.

In just a few hours, we're expecting a moment that could be remarkable for stage craft, let alone it's friction. President Obama scheduled to shake hands with Russian Vladimir Putin. Will it be more than an icy stare?

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is in St. Petersburg.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to come face-to-face at the meeting of G-20 leaders as issues bloom over Syria. Obama defending his position to launch strikes.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent.

KEILAR: Putin remains vehemently opposed, casting doubt over the evidence the U.S. government says it has against the Syrian regime.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If we have objective, precise data of who is responsible for these crimes, and we will react.

KEILAR: Russia is not alone. Britain and Germany are refusing to endorse military action.

This is the highest tensions have been between the two world powers since the Cold War.

JAMES F. COLLINS: We will have a bad patch if there is a military attack on Syria. I think we can expect some pretty frosty time.

KEILAR: Russia and Syria have been strong allies for decades.

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Russia is very close to Syria. They provide and buy weapons from each other. They are kind of a client state.

KEILAR: The conflict over Syria, just the tip of the iceberg in the rift between the world leaders. Obama canceled his private meeting with Putin several weeks ago after the Russian leader refused to extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

While in St. Petersburg, Obama plans to meet with gay rights activists on Putin's turf, as outrage spreads over Russia's new law banning any promoting of gay relationships between minors. Relations between Putin and Obama increasingly rocky.

OBAMA: We kind of hit a wall in terms of additional progress.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, St. Petersburg, Russia.


PEREIRA: Meanwhile, top administration officials are expected back from Capitol Hill today for closed door briefings in the House and Senate, detailing what the U.S. knows about the chemical weapons attack in Syria and what the administration wants to do to send a message to the Assad regime.

But despite a Senate committee voting to authorize the use of force, a House panel was less than hospitable to Secretary of State John Kerry. In fact, he was peppered with questions Thursday from skeptical members.


REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating you abandon pulling a trigger on military response so quickly.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I volunteered to fight for my country. That wasn't a cautious thing to do when I did it. We are talking about people being killed by gas and you want to talk about Benghazi, and Fast and Furious.


PEREIRA: Many on the committee asking Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey what happens next, if the U.S. does get involved and could it lead to another long war? Those are among the questions that Chris Cuomo and his guests will discuss tonight as he hosts, "The Crisis in Syria", a CNN town hall. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

BERMAN: To come up in that House hearing, as for the deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, an independent panel now says the State Department did not pay enough attention to security embassies and consulates overseas. The report described to CNN by several sources does not specifically address the Benghazi attack, but does recommend the State Department make security more of a priority.

Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, died in the attack, September 11th of 2012.

PEREIRA: Instability in Egypt leading President Obama's top national security advisers to suggest suspending hundreds of millions of dollars in economic aid to that country. Egypt receives $1.5 billion in U.S. aid each year. The president is expected to wait until Congress votes on a Syria strike before making a decision on providing less aid to Egypt.

BERMAN: Army Private Bradley Manning convicted of giving reams of classified information to WikiLeaks is now seeking a presidential pardon. Documents reveal that Manning says he did it, quote, "out of love for my country and sense of duty to others." He's now serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth prison.

Now, after being convicted, Manning reveals he wants to live his life as a woman. He wants to be called Chelsea, now. The White House says Manning's pardon request will be considered like any other.

PEREIRA: To the investigation into the death of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who admitted to holding three women captive for years, torturing them. He was supposed to spend the rest of his life in jail, but as Martin Savidge reports, many are now asking how exactly did Castro wound up hanging with the bed sheet inside a state prison.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At one point, prosecutors had threatened the death penalty against Castro. In the end, authorities say he delivered it to himself. Ohio corrections officials report Castro committed suicide, hanging himself in his prison cell. They found him at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday.

The question for many is, how could it happen? Castro was separated from the prison population and supposedly under protective custody, checked every half hour.

Castro's family is shocked. They don't have suspicions but do have questions.

JUAN ALICEA, CASTRO BROTHER-IN-LAW: The family has raised that question. It doesn't feel right. There's no note. We don't know, did he write a suicide note?

SAVIDGE: Authorities aren't giving details. An investigation is under way.

Castro's mother and sister last visited him 10 days ago and noticed a change, the clear signs of depression.

ALICEA: His body language, tone of voice, his conversation, he wasn't as conversational.

SAVIDGE: A missed warning? Perhaps.

Good riddance, say most in the street and online. Their thoughts best some up in the words of the prosecutor, "This man couldn't take for even a month a small portion of what he dished out for more than a decade."

Castro's family gets it. Listen to his brother-in-law as he verbally walks a painful tight rope between justice and the family's love for the man they knew long ago.

ALICEA: The world, in general, feel they are rid of a monster. But to the family, the family has lost a son, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, a brother-in-law. And even though he did all these bad things and the family does not condone that, you cannot change human behavior. They will and they must grieve the loss of their loved one.

SAVIDGE: But, they will do it privately, no funeral, no wake, no service. Not wanting in any way to revive the suffering of his victims, Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry, and Michelle Knight.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Cleveland.


BERMAN: Our thoughts always with the survivors of that horror. Still so many questions. PEREIRA: So many questions and having to relive that pain, again. They are just beginning the healing process, which is set to be a long one.

BERMAN: Nine minutes after the hour now.

So, don't blame pot growers for starting that really, really big fire near Yosemite National Park. It's not their fault. Despite what the local fire official said, federal authorities insist in illegal marijuana growing operation was not the cause, and they say lightning wasn't behind the blaze, either. It could take months to figure out the real reason of that fire started. It remains about 80 percent contained. It's burned about 237,000 acres.

PEREIRA: It's always amazing to me how they're able to look at the signs of fire and find out the exact ignition point.

Indra Petersons is tracking the forecast this morning.

Let's talk about the weather out west. Things are changing a little bit out there.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And the fact is a big storm, pretty early for the season that's going to be in the Pacific Northwest. We are talking heavy rain in places like Washington. They could see three to five inches of rain, even one to three inches as you move in towards Idaho, which could be a concern for those burned areas that they could see some flash flooding.

This could also affect the Yosemite fire. The reason is they are watching a cold front. Notice how far south that. So, with that, we are talking about the potential for stronger winds in the area. We are also watching is for severe weather through Washington and even through Idaho -- most likely against strong winds, big thunderstorms, but also a chance for an isolated tornado not out of the forecast today.

But, again, here is the cold front. The reason I brought that up, of course, is I want to talk about the wind chances right around Yosemite City are going to be higher, about 15 to 20 miles per hour. Some gusts about 30 miles per hour. It's a little bit tricky for the firefighters in the region today.

Otherwise, big news everyone is talking about, tropical storm Gabrielle. I do want to point out right now, seeing heavy rains right over Puerto Rico, we are looking at it over the Dominican Republic, a weak tropical storm especially when it goes over land. It's going to be a hard time holding together.

Most important thing to notice is it will be moving out to sea. So, it is curving away from us. Big Bermuda high far east.

So, typically this time of year, it's closer to the U.S., but not a threat for us.

BERMAN: I was looking at that and how weak the hurricane season has been. There's still time left.

PETERSONS: There is time. But wow, it's in September, we are still not seeing a hurricane.

PEREIRA: I'm grateful for that, because it's been a bad fire season. We don't need a bad hurricane season on top of that.

PETERSONS: No one is objecting to that.

PEREIRA: No, absolutely.

BERMAN: Thank you, Indra.

PEREIRA: Well, our next story comes to us from Australia where a Sydney area man very, very lucky to be alive this morning. Stopped at a gas station, convenient store to buy a magazine, didn't have the cash, so used his credit card. That few second-delay saved his life. Look at that.

An SUV barreled through the front of a store.



CARLO SPINA, CRASH SURVIVOR: I see this car come through. The corner of my eye, a big bang. So, it was like a split second and it just happened.


PEREIRA: If you believe in miracles, this might be one of them. That SUV came only inches from striking him. If he paid and left a few seconds earlier, he would have faced that roaming SUV straight on. He obviously says he feels very lucky, as does his fiancee. They are set to be married in a couple weeks.

BERMAN: Changes the whole complexion of the wedding then.

PEREIRA: Right. As for the driver, she says she was trying to stop at a gas pump outside when the car suddenly accelerated.

BERMAN: Do you believe in miracles and (INAUDIBLE).

I'm serious, that's crazy.

PEREIRA: It's crazy.

BERMAN: It's so close to where he was standing.

PEREIRA: Don't you find, though, that sometimes when you forget something and have to go back, you wonder -- I wonder if I was -- I wonder if that was a plan. He knows now. There was a plan.


BERMAN: -- for the rest of the day. I'm not going to put anything on my schedule.

All right. Twelve minutes after the hour.

Coming up, a popular brand of yogurt issuing a warning to its customers and pulling the product from the shelves.

PEREIRA: And several people killed by rare, mad cow disease. How one hospital could be responsible for half of those deaths? We'll have more on that when we come back.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Great to see you.

There's a warning about a popular brand of yogurt. Unless you'll say the issue with the product, it is not at all pleasant to think about.

Here is Elizabeth Cohen.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Busy, old -- not the appetizing yogurt aficionados for in their breakfast. On Twitter this week, several consumers voicing complaints, opening worrying about eating Chobani Greek style yogurt.

The strawberry tasted old.

My vanilla tastes like wine. Is this bad?

If the foil top is puffed up and the yogurt tastes fizzy, does that mean it's spoiled?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stir it up and raise the cup --

COHEN: So, what was causing certain cups of yogurt to swell and bloat and taste so bad? After an investigation, the Chobani Company says it was mold and is pulling potentially affected cups from store shelves. Chobani hasn't said exactly how it happened, but they do say the questionable yogurt accounts for less than 5 percent of its total production.

The Food and Drug Administration says there have been no reports of illnesses.

SARAH KLEIN, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: It's certainly unsavory. But it's more of a quality than a safety issue. It's unlikely you will become ill from eating this mold.

COHEN: This isn't the first time. Recently, there have been concerns raised about what is in your yogurt. In July, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned to get the Dannon yogurt company to stop using a vibrant red food dye carmine derive from these insects. But Dannon says the dye is safe, approved by the FDA and delivers superior color to its product.

KLEIN: It's always unnerving when something is in our food that is not supposed to be there.

COHEN: Chobani says consumers who may have bought the questionable yogurt can avoid eating it by looking at the cups. They'll have these codes and these expiration dates. And they won't say mold.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN reporting.


PEREIRA: And patient who had brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in Concord, New Hampshire, may have been exposed to a rare and deadly disorder through contaminated medical equipment. Heath officials confirmed five additional patients in other states may also have been exposed to (INAUDIBLE) disease. That's a rare condition that is similar to mad cow disease.

BERMAN: Less undressing coming to an airport security check point near you. Less required undressing. The TSA is expanding its expedited screening program to 16 new locations by the end of the year. That means if you qualify for the program, you will not have to take off your shoes, belts and light jackets. You'll also be able to leave your laptop and liquids in your carry on luggage. Much more convenient.

PEREIRA: Much more.

All right. In today's "Road Warriors", when it comes to traveling, certainly a lot of grumbling these days about added fees. You're not getting what you paid for, he's grumbling right now.

There is one place where travelers are getting what they want, hotels. JD Power and Associates says hotels satisfaction is up, after two-year decline, to its highest level since 2006. We are happier now with how hotels are handling reservations, the check-in/check-out process.

Why -- well, it seems with the economy being stronger, hotels are starting to hire more employees and actually make improvements. There's more staff to help guests with whatever we need.

JD Power says the more times you interact with staff, the most satisfied you'll will be with your stay. It makes sense.

Another interesting finding. Price matters. But not the way you think it winds up. Choosing a hotel solely on price leaves us less satisfied than when we do our research, and let other factors guide our selection, the quality of beds. I'm thinking probably the mini bar.

The amenities in the hotel.


BERMAN: I have noticed hotels --

PEREIRA: They are stepping it up. Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up, do you Yahoo?

PEREIRA: You bet I do.

BERMAN: Changes are coming. Gosh, I want to hear more about that.

The search engine is rebranding. We will tell you why, next.


BERMAN: Got to love that. It is, in fact, all about the Benjamins. That's the motto of "Money Time".

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Zain Asher.


PEREIRA: Good morning.

ASHER: OK. On Wall Street, it was the best day in a month thanks to a strong batch of earnings. The Dow closed higher with other markets following suit.

The big news yesterday for investors was Ford reporting its best retail sales in seven years. In fact, car sales in general are back to prerecession levels during August. Walmart workers are expected to strike for higher wages. Walk-outs on Black Friday last year seeking better pay and better schedules.

Today, they are processing what they call illegally fired and disciplined workers. It is the largest single employer with 1.3 million workers and been the target of union backed groups. Wal-Mart made $17 billion in profits last year.

After months of testing, Yahoo has a new logo. There it is there. It has the dot and exclamation point. They flipped the switch on the new signature. It's the latest on updating Yahoo's core business.

Mayer has redesigned the Yahoo's weather, sports, news and such pages over the last several months and it also gone on a bit of a buying spree that's netted 20 companies. It remains to be seen if Mayer can jump-start Yahoo's advertising.

Another product was unveiled yesterday. Samsung introduced its Galaxy Gear smartwatch to the public. It can snap photographs, track workouts, answer calls and receive text messages. The timing was critical, because Samsung to beat Apple to the punch. Apple is expected to announce its long awaited iWatch in the near future. It's estimated the smartwatch category might be a $50 billion market in the next five years.

BERMAN: Back to junior high when everyone had the calculator.

PEREIRA: Yes, you had one.

BERMAN: I didn't. My parents didn't love me enough.

ASHER: But I will say, guys, it costs $300.


ASHER: You can't use it on the phone. It's going to be interesting to see if it catches up.

BECKEL: If you can get two, you can be live Wonder Woman with dueling --

PEREIRA: You can be like Wonder Woman.

BERMAN: Is there truth to the rumor you are going to have one to play with on "NEW DAY" today?

ASHER: I know. On "NEW DAY", 8:30, I will have one --

PEREIRA: Excellent. Looking forward to that.

ASHER: Borrowing --

PEREIRA: Borrowing, OK. Thanks, Zain.

Coming up, President Obama face-to-face with Vladimir Putin in just hours from now. The political adversaries expected to go head-to-head on a conflict in Syria. Jill Dougherty is live in St. Petersburg where the world leaders are set to collide. We'll have that for you coming up after the break.


BERMAN: A chilly political face-to-face reminiscent of the Cold War. In just hours, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to go toe-to-toe over whether the U.S. should strike Syria. We are live as the drama unfolds.


ANTHONY WEINER (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I don't take my judgments for you and I don't judge you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a bad example for the people.

WEINER: That's your judgment?


PEREIRA: A campaign stop turns into quite shouting match. What got New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner so riled up.

BERMAN: And a husband with a sign on a mission to save his wife's life.

PEREIRA: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Michaela Pereira. So glad you could join us this morning.