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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Deadly Mall Attack in Kenya; Syria's Assad Pledges Cooperation; Egyptian Court Bans Muslim Brotherhood; Shutdown Showdown; Obama: "I'm Scared of My Wife"; Door to Diplomacy?

Aired September 24, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got shot here. I had so much blood everywhere. I thought she was dead and I was holding a dead baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A deadly standoff at a Kenya shopping mall enters its fourth day now. Dozens of people have been killed, nearly 200 injured. The gunman is still inside.

New reports that some of the terrorists are Americans. We are with live with the report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Nothing is hurting the American people more. Nothing is hurting the economy more. Nothing is damaging jobs more than Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The ploy to shut down Obamacare at any cost with a possible government shutdown just days away. This morning, all of the progress to solve the stalemate.

OK, there is none.

SAMBOLIN: I was about to ask, what progress?

BERMAN: No, zero.

SAMBOLIN: All right. President Obama caught candidly on open mike about the real reason he quit smoking.

BERMAN: It's a good one.

SAMBOLIN: It is a good one.

BERMAN: A big good one.

Good morning, everyone.

SAMBOLIN: You can probably guess, right? BERMAN: Exactly.

Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Tuesday, September 24th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: We're trying to get a handle this morning on the deadly standoff at a shopping mall in Nairobi. This is a crisis now in its fourth day.

Kenyan officials say the situation is under control. That's what they say, but they believe gunmen are still holed up inside. At least 62 killed by al Shabaab terrorists who stormed the Westgate Mall this past weekend. Authorities say three of the attackers were killed, 10 arrested.

Meanwhile, Kenya's foreign minister is telling PBS that two or three Americans took part in this attack.

CNN's Arwa Damon is live in Nairobi this morning.

Arwa, give us a sense of the very latest.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL.CORRESPONDENT: Well, when it comes to those Americans who may have been involved in this attack, the Kenyan government is also saying they appear to have been of Somali or Arab origin. The State Department is investigating that report.

Westgate Mall is right behind me, right around the corner. And while the Kenyan government is saying they do have the situation under control, that is all pretty relative. We heard an explosion earlier. We've been hearing sporadic bursts of gunfire. It seems they are going through to carry out the final sweep.

There are an unknown number of gunmen possibly inside there. There are a lot concerns, various reports that parts of the building might be booby-trapped and that there are snipers inside as well. The Red Cross is saying that 65 people at this stage are either missing or unaccounted for.

Various volunteers that we have been talking to have been trying to also gain access into the buildings to try to clear out some of those bodies that may still be inside.

And we've also met a number of individuals, including one woman who was still searching for any information about her husband.

A lot of the people we're talking to really just want to see the situation resolved as quickly as possible at this stage, John.

BERMAN: Arwa, you're saying more than 60 people still missing you're saying. Is it still possible at this point that there are hostages alive inside that mall? DAMON: Well, we are not really clear on what the possible fate of the hostages might be or how many could possibly, in fact, still be in captivity. The Kenyan authorities, pretty much the last 36 to 48 hours, have been fairly quiet about the fate of the hostages themselves. The last we heard, some two days ago, there was maybe 10 that were still being held.

But given the number of missing people, a lot of those who are looking for their missing loved ones are hoping that maybe somehow they have managed to shelter themselves, keep themselves safe while all of this was going on, really hoping that their loved ones are still alive inside. But there's still a lot of unanswered questions at this stage.

BERMAN: The siege to take back this mall still ongoing.

Arwa Damon in Nairobi for us this morning -- thanks so much, Arwa.

SAMBOLIN: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promising to cooperate with international efforts to remove his government's chemical weapons stockpiles. In an interview with Chinese state television, Assad also warned United Nations inspectors that rebel forces in his country might attempt to disrupt their work. And he is, again, blasting the United States and other Western nation for proposing a U.N. resolution that calls for the use of force against Syria if the government fails to turn over its chemical weapons.

BERMAN: An Egyptian court has moved to ban all activities of Muslim Brotherhood and the group's funds have been ordered seized. This is part of a widening military effort to wipe out the Islamic movement backing deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy. Security forces have killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members since toppling Morsy back in June.

SAMBOLIN: And there's new concern about North Korea's nuclear program. The two American experts believe North Korean scientists are now able to build key parts for uranium based nuclear bombs on their own. That would eliminate the need for imports, which had been one of the ways outsiders could monitor the country's super secretive atomic work.

BERMAN: And now to Washington and the shutdown showdown playing out in Congress, the gamesmanship or brinksmanship that could topple the economic recovery. Lawmakers must agree on a new spending plan in the next six days to keep the federal government up and running. And they do not agree right now and they don't agree in a major, major way.

There is one Republican senator who has almost singlehandedly ignited this most recent standoff, Ted Cruz of Texas, and his white hot politics have some Republicans now angry.

Our Dana Bash spoke to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The way Ted Cruz sees it.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Obamacare is a disaster.

BASH: He is simply keeping a campaign promise -- do whatever it takes to destroy Obamacare.

CRUZ: That should be our priorities. Not simply continuing business as usual in Washington.

BASH: Cruz's scorched earth strategy, tying defunding Obamacare to a must pass bill is enflaming many fellow Republicans, who think if this causes a federal shutdown, they're going to get burned.

Republican Peter King called him a fraud.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The issues are too important. They're too serious, they require real conservative solutions, not cheap headline-hunting schemes.

BASH: In the Democratic-led Senate, the votes are not there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cruz, no.

BASH: Some of Cruz's Republican colleagues are so miffed it has gotten personal.

Bob Corker tweeted, "I didn't go to Harvard or Princeton," the schools Cruz graduated from, "But I can count."

(on camera): They don't like what you're doing. They don't like what you're putting them through. These are fellow Republicans.

CRUZ: Well, you know, individual politicians can choose to say whatever they want. They can launch whatever personal insults they want. I would note in the House, that the Republicans, including those who have criticized me, voted to defund Obamacare. And in the Senate, I think the votes are very fluid.

BASH (voice-over): To be sure, among many grassroots conservatives, Cruz is a hero. But in the Senate, when on relationships, he has rubbed GOP veterans the wrong way. McCain called him a whacko bird and Cruz is now embracing that.

CRUZ: If they want to insult me, they can knock themselves out. My focus is on the substance of stopping Obamacare. Why? Because it's hurting the American people.

BASH: Now, he's warning Senate Republicans, support his filibuster.

CRUZ: Any senator who votes for closure on this bill is voting to give Harry Reid the authority to fund Obamacare with just 51 votes.

BASH: Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAMBOLIN: And a former FBI agent has agreed to plead guilty to leaking information about a foiled 2012 bomb plot in Yemen to "The Associated Press". Investigators linked former FBI bomb technician Donald Sachtleben to the leak after obtaining the phone logs of "Associated Press" report. He is expected to be sentenced to 43 months in prison for that leak.

In a separate case, Sachtleben will plead guilty to federal child pornography charges that will bring him an additional eight years behind bars.

BERMAN: Some other news now.

Lois Lerner is retiring. She is the first woman who revealed the IRS' targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups. Lerner was the agency's person-in-charge of reviewing applications for tax exempt status. She's been on administrative leave with pay since refusing to answer questions from Congress back in May.

At that hearing, Lerner defended her work with the government saying, quote, "I have not broken any laws."

SAMBOLIN: It is eight minutes past the hour. It's time to get a quick check of the weather.

Indra Petersons is here with that.

And freeze threat behind your head right there.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. OK, 50 degrees, that's the current conditions in New York. I say freezing. What do you say?

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to say that is freezing too.

PETERSONS: John?

BERMAN: Eh!

PETERSONS: I had a feeling. How did I know this one? So obvious!

SAMBOLIN: Although, officially that would be 30-something, right?

PETERSONS: Yes, 32. But, you know, shenanigans. Freezing is what we are concerned with.

Frost and freeze warnings out there again this morning. Definitely starting fall off with a bang.

Here are the temperatures. Maybe a few 30s. Not actual freezing temperatures out there but it feels like it, especially when you have a little bit of wind out there. Scranton got 38 out there, and D.C. about 51 degrees this morning. I say wow too.

But here is the good news today. Temperatures are going to be warmer in the afternoon in comparison to yesterday. So, yes, we are going to see average temperatures more this time of the year. Some 70s, they're coming back so not too bad. D.C. ought to see about 75 in the afternoon. So, a pretty, pretty day will be out there.

Now, that's the Northeast. Down to the Southeast, we are still dealing with the same front that we saw in the Northeast over the weekend. It is just stalled out. More rain is expected and another front is actually behind it, so it looks like in the gulf, we will be expecting more rain than we have been seeing already.

So, add to the total here -- another two to four inches possible in Florida, so we are concerned with flooding now at this point.

BERMAN: So, I just want to tell people about you and the cold here. What you guys don't see before Indra comes on, is she sits in this corner with a giant blanket wrapped around her.

SAMBOLIN: You know what, you are always calling people out. That is just not right.

BERMAN: Well, no, but I think people need to know that our meteorologist wraps herself in a blanket before she comes on.

PETERSONS: It's a necessity. Necessities, OK? Wait until December, I don't know what I --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: You look like an igloo there with a fire burning there in the corner.

SAMBOLIN: She is from California. It's OK. It's OK.

All right. Thank you, Indra.

Ten minutes past the hour.

President Obama stopped smoking years ago. Now, we know why he did that. While talking with a U.N. official on the sidelines of the general assembly Monday, an open mic caught the president joking about the reason that he quit. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope you've quit smoking.

MAINA KIAI, OFFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Sometimes.

(INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA: No, no, I haven't had a cigarette in probably six years. That's because I'm scared of my wife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Did you get that? That is because I'm scared of my wife.

BERMAN: Marked man.

SAMBOLIN: That's right. First Lady Michelle Obama said in an interview last year, however, that it was daughters Sasha and Malia, the reasons, the real motivation for the president kicking the habit. Not that he's scared of her.

BERMAN: Look, whatever it takes, right?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, good for the president.

BERMAN: Whatever -- you know, I gave up flannel shirts. My wife didn't like me wearing those so I stopped wearing flannel shirts.

SAMBOLIN: Good for you. Anything --

BERMAN: But that's not going to save my life. That could save the president's life.

SAMBOLIN: That's true. Well, I don't know.

BERMAN: People look good in flannel.

All right. Coming up, controversy following President Obama at the United Nations today. Will he meet face-to-face with Iran's new leader?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy cow!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: "Holy cow" is right. A powerful explosion levels a home in New Hampshire. What the homeowner noticed just seconds before the home blew up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fourteen minutes past the hour.

President Obama is in New York for the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly. The question hanging over the meeting is whether the president will meet face-to-face with Iran's new leader. One thing is for sure -- high stakes diplomacy will be at work.

Here is Jim Sciutto.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For years, it was a U.N. General Assembly annual ritual. Iran's president shouts at the U.S. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, FORMER IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Continual threats by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality.

SCIUTTO: The American president fires back.

OBAMA: In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads.

SCIUTTO: This year, New York is brimming with talk of new diplomacy. Today, U.S. officials repeated no meeting between the presidents is on the schedule, though they remain open to engagement.

One direct contact confirmed, however, Secretary Kerry with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Zarif. They will meet Thursday with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany. The topic: restarting talks on Iran's nuclear program.

CATHERINE ASHTON, FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF, EUROPEAN UNION: In terms of whether we're on the verge of a breakthrough, I would put it like this. I was struck, as I said, by the energy and determination that the foreign minister demonstrated to me.

SCIUTTO: So what are the chances of concrete progress here?

KARIM SADJADPOUR, ASSOCIATE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: There's a lot of signs to suggest that Iran is preparing for a nuclear compromise, but there are few signs to suggest that Iran is preparing to cut loose Bashar al-Assad.

SCIUTTO: And Syria's President Assad grabbed some of the spotlight back today, saying inspectors trying to access Syria's chemical weapons could face security threats.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA (through translator): If some countries give orders to those terrorists to stop experts' arrival and accuse the Syrian government of doing it, this remains a possibility.

SCIUTTO (on camera): There were some positive developments on Syria over the weekend. U.S. officials saying they were, quote, "pleasantly surprised" by the counting of its chemical weapons stockpile that the Syrian government submitted. But the focus here in New York is on developing a U.N. Security Council resolution to back up the U.S./Russian deal signed in Geneva and that still faces several hurdles.

John Sciutto, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Jim.

It is 17 minutes past the hour.

A propane gas explosion leveling a two-story home in Conway, New Hampshire. Take a look at that house. It knocked it right down to the foundation.

Neighbors cannot believe the owner who was home at the time managed to survive this!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank God he's alive. Holy cow!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It shook everything on my shelves because my house is actually, I can probably throw a rock if these trees weren't right here.

I've never seen anything like that and I can't feel very bad for the person who was inside. I wish them the best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Wow. So, the owner did suffer serious injuries and is now hospitalized. Fire investigators say the explosion occurred in the basement, but they are not exactly sure what caused it.

BERMAN: Crazy.

All right. A single winner has come forward to claim last week's $400 billion Powerball jackpot. The brand new millionaire wants to remain anonymous, probably smart.

Here's what we do know about him. He is from Columbia, South Carolina. It was just his second time ever playing Powerball. That should be a warning to all of you.

SAMBOLIN: He is married, right?

BERMAN: His wife sent him to the store to buy hot dog buns and when the store didn't have any, he used the money on lottery tickets!

SAMBOLIN: If he wouldn't have won, I would love to hear what she said about him spending the money on lottery tickets, right? But now that he's won!

BERMAN: He can go out and buy roughly like --

SAMBOLIN: It's all good, honey. It's all good.

BERMAN: -- you know, 1.5 million hot dog buns.

SAMBOLIN: It's fantastic.

BERMAN: Buy the hot dog company, if he wants.

SAMBOLIN: Eighteen minutes past the hour.

Could marriage be the key to surviving cancer? Listen to this. It is a study and it finds that married cancer patients are 20 percent less likely to die from the disease compared to those who are single, separated, divorced or widowed. Researchers say married people tend to be diagnosed earlier and as a result, have less advanced tumors. Spouses can also help patients for severe, to really difficult treatment, and also, increasing their odds of survival.

I say, if you're not married, be very vigilant about your health care.

BERMAN: Be vigilant no matter what.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, right. OK.

BERMAN: All right. Nineteen minutes after the hour.

Coming up, BlackBerry -- is it dead or just on life support? The smartphone maker going private in a multibillion dollar bailout. We need someone to explain this to us -- who better than Christine Romans?

SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans!

BERMAN: "Money Time" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: That's serious "Money Time" dance this morning!

SAMBOLIN: Happy news! Get up and join us. Welcome back to EARLY START. It is "Money Time" -- Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, you guys. Happy Tuesday.

All right. First off, let's talk about this September rally. Is it over? Weeks ago this month, it looks like the rally's best days might be behind us. The Dow Industrials closed at about 55 points yesterday. The NASDAQ and S&P also lower.

You know, the Dow has been down the last three sessions. The lose is 276 points in three days.

One stop going in the opposite direction -- Apple, guys. Apple share gains 5 percent Monday after news it sold a record 9 million of those iPhones in the first three days that they hit the stores. One of them was John Berman.

BERMAN: Exactly.

ROMANS: The rest of them were other people.

BERMAN: I'm doing what I can.

SAMBOLIN: At 3:00 in the morning.

ROMANS: Wall Street says September rally, the problem seems to be, (INAUDIBLE) is worried about the budget battle in Washington. We got a week. The government is poised to begin shutting down unless Congress passes a funding bill.

Now, one critical area filling the brunt of the Washington wrangling is education. I sat down with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yesterday. I asked him how he was dealing with the politics that some considers simply slash and burn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNE DUNCAN, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Bad for children. Bad for education. Bad for the country. Way beyond this, Washington is obviously very dysfunctional these days. I hope there's enough common sense there that it won't come to a short down. But we are preparing if we need to -- for that to happen.

ROMANS: So, there would be furloughs then?

DUNCAN: It would be bad at many, many levels and furloughs one piece of it. But there is no upside to the government shutting down, way beyond education. No upside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He sort of spits the word dysfunction out when he talks about Washington. He says he loves to go to places that aren't Washington, because that's where people actually are solving problems. He says the rest of the world is spending a ton of money on education to get their kids in a work force ready and we are not. We are educating, doing education policy via sequester and it's just ridiculous and it's bad for America. I will have a whole interview with Secretary Duncan coming up this Saturday on "YOUR MONEY."

BERMAN: It sounds awesome.

ROMANS: I mean, really, guys --

SAMBOLIN: But we spend a lot of money on education more than other countries, and yet, we have nothing really to show for it when you look at the results.

ROMANS: They are doing a lot of early childhood ed, in some of these other countries, because they look for workers, they realize people need to send their children to learn more. By age of 5, a child could be behind at the age of 5 when they're starting in kindergarten.

You know, I know you've done so much work on this, too. But what he is concerned about right now is Washington. Like they can't -- we need a longer school day, we need to make 100,000 schools, he says, we make them like learning centers all year-round for all different ages of children.

SAMBOLIN: I agree with that. Year-round is a good solution. When you look at what that would mean for a child and how much more they could learn and what they don't lose. I think it would be fantastic but not a lot of parents agree.

BERMAN: Not a lot of kids agree either. SAMBOLIN: They don't have a say, right?

ROMANS: I know.

I want to give you a little bit of fact about Apple. Apple sold more phones last week than Blackberry did in the last quarter.

SAMBOLIN: Ouch!

ROMANS: News wasn't shocked that the handheld will be taken private, BlackBerry, by the largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial, $4.7 billion. It's not a done deal yet. Some shareholders are skeptical that Fairfax can even pull this off.

Last Friday, BlackBerry announced a brutal preliminary report for the last quarter that included a billion dollar loss and a plan to lay off about 45,000 staffers. They have until November 4th to find a better offer before proposing the Fairfax plan to shareholders.

Can I just tell you? This is a company that had like 40 percent of the handheld market just a few years ago and now has less than 2 percent. I mean, it's a textbook study in --

BERMAN: For what not to do --

ROMANS: For what not to do.

BERMAN: -- when you were dominant.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thank you for that.

ROMANS: There is no BlackBerrys on this table.

BERMAN: I know, no BlackBerry left. They're all gone.

SAMBOLIN: Mine is actually there sitting on my desk.

ROMANS: A year ago, we would all have BlackBerrys here.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we said, get down, get down, get down on the floor. And just as we did that, the gunman tossed a grenade to where we were.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!

BERMAN: The mall massacre in Kenya. This morning, could this be the last stand for the terrorists inside? Are some of the killers actually Americans?