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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

"Mother Nature is Not Cooperating'; Chemical Weapons Deal; Japan Closes Last Nuke Plant; Bombing Kills Top Pakistani General; House GOP Focus Back to Benghazi; Summers Says No to Fed

Aired September 16, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Death toll rising as rain continues to fall in Colorado, the state devastated by all this massive flooding. Residents evacuated, as rescuers continue to search by land and air for hundreds of people, maybe thousands, no one has been able to reach.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New concerns over the deal to remove chemical weapons from Syria just hours before a crucial report from the United Nations that could change this whole discussion.

SAMBOLIN: And a new beauty queen has been crowned. Introducing the new Miss America.

BERMAN: We hardly got to know the old one, you know?

SAMBOLIN: Do you know her name?

BERMAN: I couldn't name the last 50 Miss Americas.

SAMBOLIN: I couldn't either. Too bad.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Monday, September 16th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

So, let's get started here.

We're going to begin in Colorado, where there are new warnings this morning that severe flooding promises to only get worse before hopefully it gets better. Days of intense pounding rain have left 15 counties drenched and led to images like this from Westminster. That's about 20 miles northwest of Denver.

Listen to this, more than 11,000 people are out of their homes and the floodwaters have washed away so many roads and bridges, many communities are simply cut off. Officials are learning those who don't leave when they can should be prepare to be stuck in their homes for weeks.

So, right now, authorities fear as many as six people may be dead. More than 1,200 people are still unaccounted for. And upwards of 19,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed by all of the flooding. BERMAN: This is what it looks like in boulder. That's a street or what used to be a street. Look at the water there. It's torn out in Estes Park. This used to be a bridge a here. There was a bridge somewhere in that, the water ripping that structure down.

Some 50 bridges are said to be damaged or destroyed so far. That means the only way in or out in many areas is by helicopter but that requires good weather. They have not had that. They did not have it on Sunday.

Officials hoping the choppers back in the air today, but despite all this, there is the hope and the determination that the state will bounce back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF JUSTIN SMITH, LARIMER COUNTY, COLORADO: The question I had is how can we ever recover from this? And I know exactly inch-by-inch, mile-by-mile, community-by-community, they are taking this stuff back, they are doing it. People are getting those things done out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

Indra Petersons is tracking the weather for us.

And, Indra, I was just telling you, I was reading earlier that this isn't the first time this happened here. Back in the 1940s, they lost over 140 people I believe it was. A lot of folks are missing here. They're hoping they finally be able to get to them.

Will they get break?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I mean, one of the biggest concerns is the location. Once you get those winds coming out of the east, you get all that moisture, it's the mountains. That's the key. You get this enhanced amount of rainfall and what we saw last week.

But keep in mind, when they saw 15 to 20 inches of rain last week. Yesterday saw each more rain, in addition to what they really couldn't handle. So Colorado Springs area about 3 inches of rain in the region.

But let's remind you what we saw last week was all of the southerly moisture that went into the area. I was talking about those easterly winds. Once you have that eye east of the area, you combine it right up against the mountains and you get that never ending amount of rain that seems to never leave the region. That's what we saw last week. Still, a chance for thunderstorms in the area today. Nothing major.

But, again, more rain where they do not need any more rain but here is the good news. Finally, they are getting the relief they are expecting.

As we go through the week, notice the water vapor satellite. Where you see the brown, that is dry air, that is what they need and that is pushing into the region. So things will slowly start to improve and take until mid-week or so when we finally see the better conditions. The seven-day, temperatures are warming up and, most importantly, drying out.

BERMAN: So, dry by Tuesday or Wednesday at this point?

PETERSONS: Yes, it looks like by Tuesday and Wednesday --

BERMAN: And until then, it's heavy rain they've been having or just wet?

PETERSONS: It's been scattered showers. Some of them can be heavy, you know, it depends which tropical storm is right above you.

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

SAMBOLIN: Let's hope that that really does happen, right --

PETERSONS: Yes, absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Indra.

All right. Four minutes past the hour.

And to Syria now, and a new report that could change what the world thinks about a deadly chemical attack near Damascus. The U.N. Security Council is expected today to get its first look at what weapons inspectors found when they visited the site where more 1,400 people died. That just days after the U.S. and Russia reached a deal to take chemical weapons away from the Assad regime, and talks are under way this morning to craft a resolution to push that plan forward.

Chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is in Paris this morning.

What's the very latest?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Secretary Kerry is meeting this morning with the French President Hollande. Now, he's meeting with the British and French foreign ministers here at right behind me. Later today meet with the Turkish and Saudi foreign ministers.

Why this is important is Secretary Kerry is building confidence in this deal with U.S. allies to favor a more aggressive stance regarding Syria. These are the allies that have been arming the rebels. So, in effect, he's got his work cut out for him to convince them that this deal has teeth, that it's going to work, that it's verifiable, and that the Syrians won't game the system to string this out. And that's really why he's here and it was similar to what he was doing in Israel yesterday with the Israeli prime minister.

SAMBOLIN: And, Jim, privately, what are U.S. officials saying about this deal? SCIUTTO: Well, they are saying the same thing now that they have been saying to me all week, as I've been traveling with Secretary Kerry. And that is that they go into this with a healthy dose of skepticism. They believe that they left Geneva with a very good deal, that they have the Russians on board, that they have a verifiable plan.

But now, it's all in -- do the Syrians deliver? And, crucially, do the Russians in effect deliver the Syrians to the table to meet these commitments. We have the very first test later this week. In five days, Syria has to turn over a full accounting of its entire chemical weapons stockpile.

So, every early on, you're going to get a sense of how quickly and how faithfully the Syrians are going to abide by this plan.

SAMBOLIN: And, Jim, as we expect this U.N. report, how will it affect the administration's case?

SCIUTTO: Well, the administration thinks this U.N. report will give them more ammunition in effect for this deal. But in some ways, the ship has already sailed. Because the administration's ally's position, its ally's position, is that the Syrian government is behind this attack. And even though you have the Russians still saying that, well, the Syrian rebels might have done this, as far as the U.S. is concerned and they believe the international community, Assad was behind this attack.

If there are people to convince, it would be the Russians. So, if there is evidence in this plan that further removes any doubt that Assad ordered this attack, that will help the U.S. case with partners like the Russians but as far as its allies are concerned, they have all the proof they need.

SAMBOLIN: All right. John Sciutto live for us in Paris this morning, thank you very much.

BERMAN: Seven minutes after the hour right now.

And Japan is a nation without nuclear power this morning. The Japanese government shutting down last operating radioactive reactor with no timetable for a restart. Anti-nuclear sentiment fierce among the Japanese people, ever since the meltdown of the Fukushima plant. Before that accident, 30 percent of the country's power was supplied by nuclear facilities.

SAMBOLIN: Taliban is claiming responsibility for a roadside bombing in Pakistan that killed a top general. It came in volatile a day after Pakistani officials announced plans to start withdrawing troops from that region. The area is just to the west of where Taliban militants shot teenager Malala Yousufzai last year because she went to school.

BERMAN: House Republicans ready to turn their focus back to Benghazi again. They're releasing a report this morning updating their investigation into Obama administration's handling of last year's terror attack on the U.S. compound. Four Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in that attack.

A hearing set for Wednesday with a State Department official scheduled to testify.

SAMBOLIN: It is eight minutes past the hour.

A defense of the NSA surveillance programs from the former head of that agency. Michael Hayden, who is a CNN contributor, told an audience in Washington that since the U.S. built the Internet, it is partly justified in closely watching what actually happens online. And he also said Gmail is a preferred e-mail provider of terrorists. Hayden ran the NSA from 1999 to 2005.

BERMAN: And there are new revelations this morning that the NSA surveillance programs are apparently spying on international credit card and banking activities. Documents obtained from leaker Edward Snowden by the German newspaper "Des Spiegel" show the agency runs a program called "follow the money." The newspaper says the NSA now has collected more than 180 million financial records.

SAMBOLIN: So, it's hard to believe, but it has been five years since the start of the financial meltdown.

BERMAN: Happy anniversary.

SAMBOLIN: Gosh, not a happy anniversary.

And today, President Obama will talk about it at the White House, joined by people, the administration says, benefited from his academic policies. His remarks will kick off a week of White House events focused on the economy and focused on the budget.

BERMAN: Do you remember how crazy that was? It was bonkers.

SAMBOLIN: It doesn't seem like five years ago, though.

BERMAN: I know. But what a period that was. Interesting to remember that.

There is other big financial news this morning. Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary, telling President Obama he is no longer interested in succeeding Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Summers said he feared an ugly confirmation battle in the Senate many asking him his role in the financial meltdown and recovery. Christine Romans is going to have much more on this and Larry Summers' decision coming up later this half hour in "Money Time."

You know, the votes were not there and melting away as of last Friday and whether he pulled out or the White House asked him to leave. One thing was clear, it didn't look like this was going to happen as this weekend progressed.

SAMBOLIN: No, absolutely. It seemed like it would have been too much of a battle, right? It would be interesting to know who pulled the plug, right? BERMAN: Always interesting.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ten minutes past the hour.

As the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, rolls on, the law remains unpopular one with many Americans. And many more say they just don't really understand how the law works.

A new Pew Research Center/"USA Today" poll finds that 53 percent of Americans oppose Obamacare, 42 percent approve of the law. But when you look at those numbers, keep this in mind: only 25 percent of Americans say they have a good understanding of how the law will impact their lives.

BERMAN: This morning, we can proudly say, there she is! Nina Davuluri. She is Miss New York. Now, Miss America 2013. There she is wearing the crown.

Is it more of a tiara? A crown or tiara, or both?

She is Indian American, the first Miss America of Indian descent. That's interesting. In a talent competition, she performed a Bollywood fusion dance, almost as well as I can. She hopes to go to medical school and become a doctor. The competition was back in Atlantic City for the first time in six years.

Wow, that really is very --

SAMBOLIN: I would pay to see you don an outfit like that.

BERMAN: She is actually much better -- much, much better. I could watch this for hours.

SAMBOLIN: She looks very talented.

BERMAN: Today, the tradition for Miss America in Atlantic City, you take a dip in the ocean there. I just want to watch more of that. She is very talented. No wonder she won! She is doing very well. Congratulations.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Eleven minutes past the hour.

Coming up, a police shoot-out in one of New York's busiest intersections. Bullet hitting bystanders. What triggered that chaotic scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: Hi. I'm back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Not poltergeist, folks. Paula Deen in the spotlight. Could this be the beginning of a career comeback? What she had to say after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Many questions remain this morning about what New York police did to try and stop a seemingly emotional disturbed man near Times Square. Was it appropriate or a dangerous misuse of force?

Margaret Conley has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police opened fire right here near the heart of Times Square. All the action took place on the corner behind me. Police were trying to subdue an agitated man who was darting through traffic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God! Go, go, go! Get down! Get down!

CONLEY (voice-over): Crowds panic as New York police officers fired three shots, missing their target and hitting two bystanders instead. Both were women. One took a bullet in the right leg and the other was grazed in her backside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't shoot no more!

CONLEY: Witnesses say police were chasing a man who looked confused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy was like wandering in the street like he was lost and he's a pretty big guy. There was one officer that was trying to get him to come out of the middle of traffic and he -- I don't know. It looked like he was on something.

CONLEY: Police say it looked like the man wanted to be struck by traffic, but then they say he intended to point a weapon at officers.

RAY KELLY, COMMISSIONER, NYPD: He continued to elude the officers and then, at some time, he reached into his pocket and took out his hand and simulated as if he was shooting at them.

CONLEY: After firing bullets, police finally subdued the man with a taser and he was admitted to a hospital as emotionally disturbed.

(on camera): The man in question? Police say he's a 35-year-old man and he is facing a string of charges, including drug possession and disorderly conduct.

Margaret Conley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour.

A man suing former NFL star Aaron Hernandez wants his case to go forward despite the pending murder charges against the one time Patriots tight end. Alexander Bradley wants money from Hernandez for allegedly shooting him in the face outside a Miami strip club. Attorneys to Hernandez say the ex-NFLer can't adequately defend himself against the civil charges at the same time that he is contesting murder charges in Massachusetts.

BERMAN: So, all those messages aimed at changing eating habits and exercises may be paying off for children. New study in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at 11 to 16-year-olds between 2001 and 2009 and found the number days they got physical activity increased over the years, as did the number of fruits and vegetables they were eating. Researchers say it's not a major improvement but it's a trend in the right direction. Look, that's terrific news.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, baby steps, really good.

All right. A return to the spotlight for celebrity chef Paula Deen taking the stage this weekend for the first time since a racial discrimination lawsuit against her was dismissed. At a cooking show in Houston, Deen thanked her fans for standing by her and marked what could be the start of a comeback.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEEN: Hi. I'm back.

It was an opportunity to learn. I learned a lot about myself and I've certainly learned a lot about my business. And I just want to thank y'all from the bottom of my heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Deen, you will recall, lost her Food Network show and many of her endorsement deals after she admitted in a deposition to using racially and sensitive language in the past. No word yet on whether she might return to television, but she does have another cooking show appearance scheduled. That's this weekend. She will be in Dallas.

Looking much slimmer, I should add as well.

BERMAN: All right. Eighteen minutes after the hour.

Coming up, he was this close, this close to being the next leader of the Federal Reserve, but now, Larry Summers is saying no, or is being told no -- one way or another or both. Christine Romans gives us her take on why he is taking himself out of the running. A big time "Money Time" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Help me! Welcome back.

BERMAN: A very subdued "Money Time" dance today.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Christine Romans is here.

Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

I know, happy crash-aversary.

Five years ago, the world was falling apart and it is today. Stocks around the world are rallying because former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has taken himself out of the race to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. It is the biggest news happening every world newspaper this morning, because it's really important.

The Dow last week jumped by 435 points, more than 3 percent. That was the second best week of the year, and rallying this morning because Summers withdrawing from consideration for this Fed chairmanship late yesterday.

Here is what he wrote in his letter to the president. "I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of he Federal Reserve, the administration, or ultimately, the interest of the nation's ongoing economic recovery."

Now, Summers was reportedly President Obama's number one choice to fill Ben Bernanke's seat when he leaves in January. But, you know, four Democrats in the Senate Banking Committee were expected to vote against his nomination and Summers was really a lightning rod with his close association with deregulation.

Now, why are stocks rallying? Because the move brings Janet Yellen, this woman here, to the forefront again, as a strong contender to run the Fed. She would be the first woman to hold that job in the Fed's history. But it's not certain. It's not certain at all and there are some tongues wagging in Washington.

The president has really been pushing against his top choice which was Summers. And that maybe that means there could be other people he is looking at like Donald Kohn, a former Fed vice chairman. The president has mentioned him.

Other names, Tim Geithner, the former treasury secretary. Those sources close to him tell CNN he doesn't want that job.

Roger Ferguson, another former vice chairman of the Fed.

And the latest name whispered to me, Stanley Fisher, someone who knows all of the players. Stanley Fisher is now on this list. He was the governor of the Bank of Israel, and an American citizen. He could be somewhat world renowned economist. All of these people have impeccable resumes, so now we'll see who could be.

But the idea here, all of these people seem to be people who continued Ben Bernanke's, you know, pushing money into the system, would be very careful about the taper, and that's why the stock market is rallying this morning. On Wednesday, we're going to hear more about that taper, what the Fed is going to do, how is going to start to pull back the $85 billion a month that it's putting into the bond market.

One theory, something called taper light, maybe $10 billion per month coming out, bringing the total to $75 billion. All of this really matters.

I mean, I think the Fed chairman is probably the most important job in the world right now, who -- you know, economists last week told me this, the kindling is just starting to burn in the American economy. If you do taper wrong, you're going to blow it out, and we're going to have a real crisis in terms of the economy.

Quickly about the crash-aversary. Too-big-to-fail banks are now 20 percent to 40 percent bigger than they were before the crisis, consider that. Stock market has doubled. Housing market has come back, but it's still 24 percent below the peak. It is an amazing, amazing five years.

I'm just so happy I'm not standing in front of that camera telling the stock market down --

BERMAN: I can't believe it was five years.

The politics on Larry Summers, though, is simply fascinating, with four Democrats in the banking committee saying, no, essentially, he had a situation very similar to Syria where he was losing members of his own party and facing potential opposition from the opposing party and shaping out to be a mess for the president.

ROMANS: Hundreds of economists writing their public support for Janet Yellen. Do you think advisers in the White House are irritated with Democrats pushing their candidate so hard?

BERMAN: Yes, definitely. The big question now will be the president be less likely to pick her because he was forced to back off the man who was his top pick?

ROMANS: Yes, markets and economists want Janet Yellen. We will see who it actually is because in January, we will have a new Fed chief.

BERMAN: One way or another.

ROMANS: The hardest job in the world, figuring out how to take away the punch bowl.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom line is they can't get out, we can't get in. Basically, there's really no choice but to hunker down and be patient, know that help is coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Colorado under water. Look at that.

Thousands stranded this morning waiting to be rescued as the death toll there rises.

SAMBOLIN: Did the Syrian government use chemical weapons to slaughter its own people?