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Deadly Flood Emergency in Boulder; Arming the Rebels; "A Plea for Caution"; "The Russians are Part of the Problem"; Newlywed Charged With Killing Husband; Girl Survives Brain-Eating Ameba

Aired September 12, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight: massive flash floods in -- flash flooding that is in Colorado right now. Homes are collapsing under water. At least one person had been killed. Indra Petersons is tracking the storm for us

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A war of words over Syria. Overnight, Russia's president blasting the White House, accusing President Obama of having his facts wrong and taking the world down a dangerous road.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have got to watch a miracle unfold right in front of my eyes. It's the greatest thing it could possibly be.


SAMBOLIN: The mother's happiness there. Miraculous homecoming for a 12-year-old girl who beat all of the odds, surviving an incredibly dangerous infection caused by brain-eating amoebas.

BERMAN: Amazing --

SAMBOLIN: Beyond -- yes, it is a miracle.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. Great to see you today. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Thursday, September 12th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's start here with breaking news in Colorado.

Very dangerous deadly flooding hitting the city of Boulder. This is happening right now. So, these pictures are from the University of Colorado at Boulder campus.

That city is getting slammed with heavy rain and is now under a flash flood emergency with evacuations also being ordered. Buildings have collapsed. Roads are not passable and at least one person we understand is dead.

Authorities saying a rock slide is stopping rescue crews from getting anywhere close to the building where that person was killed. Oh, my goodness.

Indra Petersons is tracking this weather for us.

What's happening there?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, unbelievable. That video is so hard to watch. It's the thing I say over and over again. You never want to try and walk or drive through these floodwaters. Six inches is all it takes to sweep you away.

I want to show you right now, we have these warnings in the area, flash flood warnings, due to heavy rain that continues to fall, really saw the heaviest between 4:00 and 8:00 yesterday evening. Notice as a line of thunderstorms trains over the area, what does that mean? Well, rain continues to pour right over the same area for a long period of time.

Also keep in mind, it is heavy rain. We are talking about 4 inches in four hours. About an inch per hour and it's not stopping. There's still more rain in the forecast.

What is going on? Well, we have an upper level low. So, keep in mind we see winds go counterclockwise around that low. You see them come in this direction.

Here is the high. We start to see the winds go clockwise around the high. You bring both of those winds together and it just enhances all of this moisture coming out of the South. So, all of that tropical moisture is fueling into the region, that upper level low just enough instability that we trigger these huge thunderstorms throughout the area.

And with that, this is the forecast. Keep in mind, they have already seen large amounts of rain and over the next several hours, we're still talking about another three to five inches of rain into the southwest. Of course, those higher mountains, just heavier thunderstorms, but more rain expected on the way is never a good thing, especially when you already have flooding in the area. Keep in mind, some places are expected to see from an inch of rain in half an hour.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!

PETERSONS: So, really the amount of rain in that period of time makes it so deadly.

BERMAN: You know, we're hearing from people in Boulder right now. The emergency officials are telling people, if you were at home, do not leave your home, don't go out on the streets because the roads are impassible and it's hard to get that and out of Boulder right now.

SAMBOLIN: That's the problem, right? Being able to rescue.

BERMAN: You can't get in.

PETERSONS: And they always underestimate the power of water, very strong.

SAMBOLIN: We know that you're tracking this. Thank you. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Right. We also have some new dramatic developments overnight that could change the situation on the ground in Syria.

First, CNN has learned that after months of delays, U.S.-funded weapons have now begun flowing to the Syrian rebels. This is an escalation of America's role in Syria's civil war. Included on the list of weapons ammunition and what's being called light weapons and also some communications equipment that is not made in the United States but it is paid for by the CIA.

Now, despite the war that the arms are now being delivered to rebel groups, the Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army, they both deny that they have received any weapons from the U.S. as of now.

The other major development: France now says that the United Nations will probably publish its report on the August chemical attack on Monday. This was the attack that the U.S. says killed 1,400 people and ignited this latest international crisis.

France says there will be indications in this report that the Assad regime was behind the attack. If that is the case, that also is a very big development.

SAMBOLIN: And four minutes past the hour.

This morning, we are hearing from Vladimir Putin in what can only be called a stinging rebuke of President Obama's call for international action on Syria. It's also very personal. Putin penned an open letter to the American people in "The New York Times", arguing any Western strike on Syria will simply lead to more civilian deaths, blaming the rebels for a chemical weapons attack that left more than 1,400 dead, and blasting the very idea that America's role in the world is special.

That on the same day Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Geneva to talk to his Russian counterpart about the way forward on the crisis in Syria.

Phil Black is live now in Moscow for us.

Phil, first of all, this is a remarkable that's coming from Russian's president. I cannot remember ever seeing anything like this. There is a very specific target. It is the American audience.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Zoraida.

This is an extraordinary for the Russian president to try to deliver his message directly to the American people. A lot of the points that he hit are the same things he is trying to hammer a couple of years now. Russia is not supporting the Syrian government directly, it's standing up for international law, Russia believes international military intervention will only help non-democratic forces like militant Islamists, and Russia doesn't believe military force works. Look at Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan. But there is some pretty tough stuff towards the end of this piece in which he directly criticizes the U.S. president for telling the American people they are exceptional during his recent television address. Here's the direct quote. Vladimir Putin says this.

He says, "It is extremely dangerous to see people as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy." He goes on to say, "We must not forget, God made us all equal."

That's really a sticking point for the Russia president, and many Russians, who believes the sense of American exceptionalism is really a sense of superiority. They often call it arrogance, which inspires the United States, they say, to interfere in the affairs of sovereign countries, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know how people are going to respond to that. But in the meantime, what can we expect from Secretary Kerry's meetings with Russian foreign ministers?

BLACK: Well, this is going to be the first big test really of whether or not this latest diplomatic initiative to get Syria to give up its chemical weapons can actually work. And there are a couple of key tests that will really determine this. First, can they agree on language for a U.N. Security Council resolution that will form the framework for this?

In particular, will they agree to language which blames the Syrian government for using chemical weapons? Will it authorize force against the government for not giving those weapons up? Russia, it's very likely, it's going to stand against those two points.

The other big test is the logistical one. Russia and Syria have apparently been working on a plan to how to go in, locate, identify, secure and possibly destroy the chemical weapon stockpiles. All in the middle of a civil war.


BLACK: We know it's a big ask. The United States is going to be looking at this very closely to determine if this plan is credible -- is it serious? -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, a very complicated situation. Phil Black, live in Moscow for us this morning, thank you very much.

BERMAN: You know, you're asking what the response would be to this. Well, the response from the White House came pretty swiftly. A little bit dismissive of what Vladimir Putin said.

A senior official telling CNN that Vladimir Putin's claims about who was responsible for the chemical attack are simply irrelevant. This official told CNN, Putin put forward this proposal and now, he has invested in it. He now owns it. He has fully asserted ownership of it and he needs to deliver. But as Brian Todd reports, very few in Washington trust Vladimir Putin to actually do this.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He says he hopes his friends in Syria bring their chemical weapons under control and also have them destroyed. But Vladimir Putin's role as the last best hope for diplomacy in this crisis isn't winning believers in Washington.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The Russians are part of the problem in Syria. They are not credibly part of the solution.

TODD: Senators John Cornyn, John McCain, and others have been ticking through laundry lists of why they believe Putin won't follow through on getting the Syrians to give up their alleged chemical weapons. Putin's government, they say, simply does too much business with the Syrians. They cite plane loads of Russian weapons sent to the Syrian regime for hefty profits, nearly a billion dollars worth in 2011 alone.

There's a Russian naval base in Syria, and Putin does business with another U.S. antagonist, Iran. A Russian newspaper reporting Putin is about to offer an advanced air defense missile system to the Iranians and help with a nuclear power plant.

Then, there's Putin's sense of personal rivalry.

JULIA IOFFE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Putin's view of his role in the world is to be a counter weight to America.

TODD: And obsession of Putin's according to Julia Ioffe who spent three years as a journalist in Russia.

Analysts say that's part of what fueled Putin's decision to grant asylum to NSA leaker, Edward Snowden. With the Syria crisis, they say, Putin could nix a U.N. deal at any time if there's a move to punish his ally, Bashar al-Assad, for not holding to it. Or --

ANDREW KUCHINS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL. STUDIES: Another deal breaker that could be -- that we would see at the outset even earlier on would be if there were insistence that the Assad government assumed guilt for the August 21st use of chemical weapons, that those in the government, the responsible for that, would be put to trial.

TODD: Still, Senator Diane Feinstein and others believe Putin does want to reach a deal to end this crisis, that he doesn't want Syria to have chemical weapons. Ioffe says Putin wants to show President Obama that he has the ability to end this peacefully if Mr. Obama can't.

And there's another motivation.

IOFFE: To be center stage, to be somebody that you reckon with, somebody that you have to come to and seek his approval and you have to come and kiss his ring. The world has to come and kiss his ring. I think that's part of it. TODD (on camera): What's frustrating for American leaders, Putin's ties to Syria could kill any effort to punish Bashar al-Assad, or they could be the only way to avoid a military strike. Vladimir Putin may be the only world leader who can actually get Assad to give up those chemical weapons.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Brian.

Also in Washington, the Senate for now is setting aside the resolution authorizing military force against Syria. It will not vote on it or try to amend the language as the administration works on a diplomatic solution on Russia.

BERMAN: The Obama administration and Iran are apparently communicating about Syria. "The Los Angeles Times" says the White House and Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, have been exchanging letters over the crisis and there is a possibility, the newspaper says, U.S. officials may actually try to meet with Rouhani when he comes to the United Nations later this month.

The Iranian president has indicated he wants more outreach to the West than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

SAMBOLIN: Satellite photos indicate North Korea has restarted a plutonium reaction. The pictures appear here appear to show steam rising from a newly reconstructed reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. It was shut down in 2007 under terms of a disarmament agreement. Pyongyang announced plans back in April to restart it. At that time, the State Department said that would be extremely alarming.

BERMAN: House Republicans have delayed a vote on their own stopgap spending bill designed to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month. Republican leaders yanked the bill Wednesday after initial vote counts revealed stiff opposition from some members of their own party. Tea Party conservatives say the GOP is not doing enough to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

We have a lot of unrest due in Congress right now. You have the debt ceiling, you have immigration, you have the budget. A lot going on.

SAMBOLIN: They've got a lot of work to do.

BERMAN: They do. They look like they're about to start doing it. That's the problem.

SAMBOLIN: That is correct.

Coming up --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people crying. There are people consoling each other and she was just holding a conversation as if nothing was going on around her.


SAMBOLIN: So she's admitted to pushing her newly wedded husband off a cliff. Why this accused killer now believes she should be let out of jail.

BERMAN: And heading home. The miraculous recovery for a 12-year-old who survived a brain-eating amoeba. This is a wonderful story, next.


SAMBOLIN: It is 15 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Lawyers for a newlywed wife charge with pushing her husband of eight days off a cliff to his death are asking a Montana judge to let her out of jail.

We get more from CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Graham's mother motionless as she left court with defense attorneys, testified in court that her daughter should get home confinement, not jail.

REPORTER: Tell me what her defense is?

LAH: While tight-lipped, the defense argues Graham is not a threat, has no criminal history and no prior record of any violence, except for admitting that she pushed Cody Johnson, her husband of just eight days, off this cliff face first in the Glacier National Park during a heated argument.

The victim's uncle says his side of the family wants her to stay behind bars.

RICHARD SOTO, CODY JOHNSON'S UNCLE: There is always an annulment, there is always divorce.

LAH: Prosecutors say Graham tried to cover-up the crime by creating a bogus e-mail account and writing fake emails from a made up friend, an account that traces back to Graham's home address.

The victim's friends say she seemed cold and calculating in the wake of her new husband's death.

(on camera): Was she texting during the funeral?

CAMERON FREDRICKSON, GROOMSMAN AT CODY JOHNSON'S WEDDING: She was on her phone. Whether it was texting or a mobile app, while Levi was up there speaking which I don't -- I can't get -- I don't understand. MAXIMINO ROCHA, CODY JOHNSONS'S CO-WORKER & FRIEND: I knew right then that something was not right.

LAH: What was in your gut?

ROCHA: My gut was that she had involvement with the process.

I know that there was a point in the situation where Jordan probably could have done the right thing, even if it was an accident. And the right thing wasn't done. So, now, we're trying to pursue what the right thing is.


BERMAN: So many questions. Why?

SAMBOLIN: No kidding.

BERMAN: That was Kyung Lah reporting there.

Other news now. The Ohio man who confessed online to a fatal drunk driving crash will have to wait until next week to plead guilty. Twenty-two-year-old Matthew Cordle formally entered a not guilty plea on Wednesday. This was procedural not guilty plea because he insisted in his online confession that he will take responsibility for what he did.

His lawyers right now are being accused of trying to gain the system using the not guilty plea to get another judge, perhaps one will give him a lighter sentence. That judge would then oversee the case.

A different judge has now been assigned and Cordle will be back in court on Wednesday.

SAMBOLIN: Which I guess is what they wanted.

BERMAN: Is what they wanted.

He still does plan to plea guilty though, confusing that is.


Seventeen minutes past the hour.

The investigation into George Zimmerman's domestic dispute is reportedly on hold. Why? There is not enough evidence and "The Associated Press" also says neither side wants to push this case forward.

Police say they have concluded their investigation based on what they have to work with. But that could change if they are able to obtain video of the dispute from Shellie Zimmerman's badly damaged iPad. They're on the process of working that out.

BERMAN: Other sort of related news. Florida officials are not saying why the medical examiner in the Trayvon Martin case was just fired. But attorneys for Shiping Bao vow to say the medical examiner plans to sue for wrongful termination.

Bao performed Trayvon Martin's autopsy and later offered really confusing testimony of George Zimmerman's murder trial after Martin could have been shot by Zimmerman. You remember that testimony, not regarded well by analysts and experts. And he was looking at his note. When that wasn't allowed, the whole thing was a hot mess when he was on the stand.


I'm going to switch gears here. Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in them?


SAMBOLIN: OK. So, watch this, because this is really a miracle. It is remarkable recovery. Twelve-year-old Kali Hardig from Arkansas is waking up at home this morning for the first time in months. This is the girl that was infected with the brain-eating amoeba. The odds that she should not have gotten better but quick action -- or the odds are that she should not have gotten better, she should have died, but some special medication actually saved her life.



TRACI HARDIG, KALI HARDIG'S MOTHER: Do you understand that?


TRACI HARDIG: You're told the worst news possible and then to go from that outcome to not having your child to this road we have been down and get to actually take her home -- I mean, I've got to watch a miracle in front of my eyes and it's been the greatest thing it could possibly be.


SAMBOLIN: You know what? It's been a great gift for us to watch this unfold also. Kali Hardig is just the third person known to have survived this kind of infection. Her doctor says she may be able to go back to school starting next week.

BERMAN: Seems like that treatment that they used really made a huge, huge difference.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it's great. It's great news.


SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Twenty minutes after the hour. And coming up: was it worth it? Facebook's founder talking about the big IPO that went bad before turning very, very good. "Money Time" and the "Money Time" dance, next.


SAMBOLIN: I need to getting started on this. I think I'm going to start rapping.

BERMAN: "Money Time".

SAMBOLIN: This is "Get Money". Do you know the song, Lil' Wayne? You don't know the song?


BERMAN: Christine Romans has the whole album, I'm sure, the whole Lil' Wayne obra (ph).

SAMBOLIN: But here is the deal. Get us some money.

ROMANS: Yes, get us some money, right? Save your money and protect your money and grow your money. That's --


BERMAN: Just what Lil' Wayne is singing about right there.

ROMANS: Exactly, exactly.

Look, worries about Syria and Apple strategy and what the Fed may do next week should be enough to keep stocks down, right? Wrong. The Dow rallied again yesterday. So far this week, the Dow is up 404 points. They're calling it the September surge.

The Dow has risen six of September seven trading sessions. One stock supercharging the Dow yesterday was IBM after it said it was selling its customer care outsourcing business over a cool half a billion dollars. So, IBM had a big pop yesterday, and that helped the market overall.

Buy on the rumor, sell on the news. That's old phrase on Wall Street and that was the mantra for Apple. After the fan fare over the new iPhone models that would have cheaper price but not that cheap, investors dumped the stock. Apple shares fell 5.5 percent, closing at $457. Apple stock has a habit of falling after big announcement. So, some on Wall Street weren't that surprised.

There was one bright spot, though, for you, Apple fans and Apple shareholders. Superstar investor Carl Icahn, he said in an interview yesterday on CNBC that he bought more Apple stock because it was so cheap. He said investing in Apple was a, quote, "no-brainer".

All right. One chart says it all for Facebook. I want you to look at this. Wow, the stock is up 70 percent since it reported second quarter earnings in late July. The stock hit a new all-time high on Wednesday.

SAMBOLIN: Ka-ching. ROMANS: The founder -- yes -- and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a conference yesterday the IPO process made Facebook stronger.

Remember that horrible IPO?


ROMANS: It has certainly made Mark Zuckerberg richer at $45 a share. Zuckerberg's stake is worth roughly $22 billion. Every dollar that Facebook shares rise is an increase in personal wealth from Mark Zuckerberg of $425 million.

BERMAN: That's going to be fairly nice, I imagine.

ROMANS: $425 million. Unbelievable.


ROMANS: Another famous tech CEO made an appearance at that TechCrunch conference yesterday. Yahoo's Marissa Mayer. Mayer said -- she said some pretty astounding things, really. She said that Yahoo gets 12,000 resumes a week because she says it's a place that people want to work. She also told attendees that Yahoo topped 800 million monthly active users. That's big news.

Mayer also said that she sees Yahoo as the world's largest start-up as she outlined her strategy to get the company back on the road to success.

I keep thinking about that. When I talk to CEOs and executives in tech, they keep telling me how there's just this quest for really good talent and they have a lot of interest in jobs, but sometimes they don't have people who have all of the skills to do those jobs.

So, think about it -- 12,000 resumes a week. It shows you a part of the economy that is really moving -- science, technology, engineering, math, STEM, programming, developers, all that kind of stuff. There's a real, real rush for talent, a war for talent really in those areas.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thanks so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to take a break. We'll be right back.