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Debt Ceiling Deadline Nears; American Found Dead in an Egyptian Police Station; Baby Hope's Killer Found after 20 Years; Syrian Violence Impacting Aid Work

Aired October 15, 2013 - 04:00   ET



SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: It's the height of hypocrisy to not pay our bills. Height of irresponsibility.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R) KENTUCKY: I think it's not a good idea to go through the debt ceiling deadline. I think we should go ahead and have an agreement in advance.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, days away from a dangerous debt ceiling deadline, the D.C. debate shifts to a whole new battlefield. This morning, is time running out to avoid the disaster?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A U.S. citizen found hanged inside an Egyptian jail cell. We are live with that story.


HOLLY WHITMORE, PREGNANT WOMAN RESCUED IN FLOOD: I tried to get out of my car. My door wouldn't open.


SAMBOLIN: Imagine that. A pregnant woman rescued from the rising water as Texas gets pounded by all the rain.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. A special Columbus Day edition of EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy you're with us this morning. It is Monday, October 24th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: Indeed it is. And, you know, this morning, we would like to tell you that Washington worked all weekend and came to a deal and the economy will be saved and everything will be all right. We like to tell you but we can't because with three days left until the U.S. can no longer pay its bills, there is no deal, no deal to raise the debt ceiling or open the government.

And this morning, there really is new confusion over just where talks stand. What is clear this morning and what is new this morning is that all the focus in almost all the hope for a solution rests with these two men. Two men who honestly hardly seem to agree on anything almost ever.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has the story.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the clock ticking down to debt ceiling day it's come down to Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell, who have started horsetrading over a deal to reopen the government and avoid default.

REID: I've had a productive conversation with Republican leader this afternoon. Our discussions were substantive and we'll continue those discussions.

ACOSTA: The question is whether they can get there in time.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Both leaders realize how difficult default would be, the devastation it would cause to America.

ACOSTA: But talks over the weekend appear to stumble again as Republicans accused Reid of overreaching by seeking additional concessions from Republicans over those forced budget cuts in the sequester.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: Now is the time to be magnanimous, and sit down and get this thing done.

ACOSTA: The White House said President Obama was standing firm, in a phone call with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, that there must be clean bills to extend the debt ceiling and end the shutdown with no strings attached. Tensions are boiling over.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R) TEXAS: This is the people's memorial.

ACOSTA: Texas Senator Ted Cruz led a protest over the closing of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall that drew this verbal attack on the president.

LARRY KLAYMAN, FOUNDER, FREEDOM WATCH: I call upon all of you to wage a second American non-violent revolution, to use civil disobedience and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the -- to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees and to figuratively come up with his hands out.

ACOSTA: Veterans and Tea Party activists grabbed monument security barricades and dumped them in front of the White House. Before a rowdy face-off with park police in riot gear, one man waved the confederate flag. Others called for impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gave them back to President Obama by piling them up in front of his house, our house, I'm sorry, in front of our house.

ACOSTA: While another Tea Party-backed senator was calling for compromise. PAUL: I think it's not a good idea to go through the debt ceiling deadline. I think we should go ahead and have an agreement in advance.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Jim. Three minutes past the hour.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have reached a preliminary agreement on a deal to allow American troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014. So the only sticking point, Karzai's opposition to giving the United States jurisdiction over its troops allowing immunity from Afghan law.

So now it's up to political and tribal leaders and the Afghan parliament to give their approval.

BERMAN: In Iraq the number of suicide bombings blamed and al Qaeda is surging. Just this weekend at least 42 people were killed in a new wave of attacks there, mostly in Shiite majority cities. The terror group has come back full force since U.S. troops left in 2011. The death toll from these bombings is said to be at its highest level in five years.

SAMBOLIN: Iran's nuclear program will be the focus of talks set to begin tomorrow in Geneva. And now Iran's deputy foreign minister says negotiators will offer a three-step plan into showing the world that his country's nuclear program has only peaceful goals. He didn't release any details of the plan but says it will give assurances that Iran is not trying to build atomic weapons.

BERMAN: In Israel, check this out. Another tunnel has been found that the Israeli military says could allow residents of Gaza to sneak past the border for potential terror attacks. This one was about a mile long, 60 feet deep, and probably about a year old, they say. It is the third such tunnel to be discovered this past year. Israel has now suspended its shipment of building materials to the private sector in Gaza saying that construction materials -- those that they were shipping over there are being used for purposes like this.

SAMBOLIN: In Egypt this morning, there are many questions after an American arrested weeks ago after a car bombing was found dead in a police station hanging from a bathroom door. But was it suicide or was this something sinister?

Ben Wedeman is live in Cairo this morning.

Ben, what do we know about this man and about the investigation into his death this morning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this man, James Lunn, Zoraida, is something of a mystery. We know that he was picked up in late August in the northern Sinai after a car bomb went off and Egyptian security services were sweeping the area. Now according to Egyptian officials, they found in his possession a computer, nothing odd about that, but what they called maps of vital installations and given the charged atmosphere in Egypt in -- at the moment the anti-American atmosphere here, it appears that he was suspected of being a spy.

Now he was held in a prison cell for about six weeks until yesterday when a guard at this prison in the town of Ismailia on the Suez Canal found him hanging from his black leather belt and his shoelaces. Now the U.S. embassy is saying that they believe it is an apparent suicide. The Egyptian public prosecutor in the town of Ismailia has ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Ben, have we heard from his family at all?

WEDEMAN: Well, we understand that the American authorities, consular authorities, have been in touch with his family but they apparently had some difficulty contacting the family in the hours after they found out about his apparent suicide.

So we don't know much about this man. There are some reports that he is a retired military officer, that he was -- he came to Egypt from Bahrain and that he was on his way to the Gaza Strip. For what purpose, we simply don't know. So it's a mystery. Lots of questions and not a lot of answers.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ben Wedeman live for us this morning, thank you very much.

BERMAN: Seven minutes after the hour right now.

Pounding rains leading to a dramatic rescue in central Texas. The flash floods there proved too fast for one young woman, turning the road where she was driving into this instant river.

Holly Whitmore, she's six months pregnant. Her car was nearly submerge. Look at that. The floodwaters getting too high. When that happened she had to get creative.


WHITMORE: I tried to get out of my car. My door wouldn't open. So my window rolled down and he came over to help me and I just crawled out my window and walked out.


BERMAN: I'm glad she is OK. If Indra Petersons were here, she would tell you there's no way anyone should have been out on the roads.

SAMBOLIN: Nowhere near that water, right?

BERMAN: Firefighters were in the Austin area helping with evacuations. Honestly, this was just one of the many high water rescues they made Sunday. A flash flood warning remains in effect until after midnight tonight. SAMBOLIN: All right. So let's get an early look at our weather for today. Karen Maginnis is joining us with that.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. It does look like we'll see some problems as far as the airport delays are concerned, primarily in Texas. That looks to be where you might expect some lengthy delays when these thunderstorms start kicking up once again. Dallas and Houston, the rainfall could be heavy at times.

Minneapolis, low clouds and rain first. Denver, windy weather conditions and low clouds because the area of low pressure that's moving across the interior west will move into the northern tier on the back side of this enough cold air that all the way from the Sawtooth to the Wind River Mountains into the front rain and Gunnison and into Wasatch, look for some snowfall. Higher elevations expecting maybe 10 inches.

Rainfall, thunderstorms, across Texas, Dallas expecting a high of 75. In the I-95 corridor, New York City, 69 degrees expected, Washington, D.C. 27, and in Atlanta is cooler with 76.

Back to you.

BERMAN: I'd be remiss if I did not mention that the biggest news of the 4:00 hour right now which is the two giant epic comebacks by the two biggest teams in professional sports. The Patriots --


BERMAN: No. The Big Papi man -- it's not over until Big Papi says it is. Like an eighth inning grand slam, saving the Red Sox from oblivion. And that came like pretty close --

SAMBOLIN: I was waiting. I was waiting. I thought that his -- you know.

BERMAN: Look at my -- I'm like, I can't even complete a sentence.


BERMAN: I'm so tired. And Tom Brady was -- like last-second touchdown drive to win for the Patriots. This is a very good day, folks. Glad you're sharing it bus.

SAMBOLIN: Where is your little figurine?


BERMAN: I'm lucky I'm wearing pants. Let alone have action figures out here. I don't know what's going on.

SAMBOLIN: We're lucky he's wearing pants this morning. That is the big news of the day.

BERMAN: We're all lucky.

All right. Ten minutes after the hour right now. And coming up.


ASST. CHIEF JOE REZNICK, NEW YORK POLICE: Justice is going to be when some judge lowers his gavel and says, "You're going to jail for the rest of your life."


BERMAN: A child murdered and dumped on the side of the road more than 20 years ago. Now a chilling confession in a cold case that baffled detectives for decades.

Plus --


THADDEUS KIDD, NEIGHBOR: It sounded like a bomb went off.


SAMBOLIN: A home suddenly exploding inside a Pennsylvania neighborhood. You will not believe what police found nearby.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 13 minutes past the hour.

A stunning arrest in a 22-year-old cold case. She was known only as Baby Hope. A 4-year-old New York girl found abused and murdered by the side of a Manhattan highway. Now after two decades, she finally has a name and police say it was a family member who killed that little girl.

Here is Margaret Conley.


MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a break that caught an alleged killer and revealed Baby Hope's real name.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: Detectives from the Bronx Violent Felony Squad apprehended Conrado Juarez, age 52 from the Bronx, also known as Anadino (ph) Juarez, in connection with the murder of 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo, a child victim known for the last 22 years as Baby Hope.

CONLEY: Retired detective Jerry Giorgio had heard from colleagues they were close to solving the case.

JERRY GIORGIO, RETIRED DETECTIVE, NYPD: When I got the phone call, I got the news, I was elated. Just -- I was up on cloud nine.

CONLEY: He was the lead detective in 1991. The decomposed body of a 4-year-old girl was found stuffed in this cooler, discarded by a highway. Her body was folded in half and bound. She had been sexually abused. No one ever claimed the body. Days turned to months turned to years.

By 1993, the 34th Precinct Squad had given the little girl the name Baby Hope and a face recreated by computer rendering. The squad also paid for her funeral.

GIORGIO: There wasn't a dry eye in the bunch including me. And the church was full. About 500 people in the church. She truly became a member of the community.

CONLEY: Anniversaries passed but police persisted and finally a break. Police recently got a call on their hotline. The caller said she'd been told several years ago by a young woman that her parents had killed her sister. That tip and advances in DNA testing led cold case detectives to find the mother of Baby Hope and eventually arrest a cousin who police say murdered her. At her funeral over two decades ago, Assistant Chief Joe Reznik delivered her eulogy.

REZNICK: The justice is going to be when some judge lowers his gavel and says, "You're going to jail for the rest of your life."

CONLEY: In this final chapter for these detectives, they'll soon replace this plaque at Baby Hope's grave. And set in stone her name, Anjelica Castillo.

Margaret Conley, CNN, New York.


BERMAN: What a story that is.

For the first time Scotland Yard is releasing a computer-generated sketch of a person of interest in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. She is the 3-year-old who went missing while on a family vacation in Portugal in 2007. The images were digitally made with the help of statements from witnesses who say they saw the man on the night that Madeleine vanishes. He's described as a white male, 20 to 40 years old.


ANDY REDWOOD, CHIEF INSPECTOR, METROPOLITAN POLICE: The e-fits are clear and I'd ask the public to look very carefully at them and if they know who this person is, please come forward.

GERRY MCCANN, FATHER OF MADELEINE MCCANN: And there's been a number of cases over the last few years of children and young women being phoned after having been taken and held for very long periods of time, so (INAUDIBLE), we wouldn't accept Madeleine is dead until we see evidence clear that is the case.


BERMAN: Scotland Yard detectives have interviewed hundreds of people in this case and have identified 41 persons of interesting. SAMBOLIN: Investigators near Pittsburgh are still trying to figure out what was behind a frightening home explosion. Look at this. The blast injuring two people. One at the house, one next door. This was Saturday night. Residents say it sounded like a plane crash and the house, as you saw there, is gone.


KIDD: It's so loud that I let go of the lawn mower and jumped, it was that loud. Never seen anything or heard anything like that before. Sounded like a bomb went off.


SAMBOLIN: The injured are recovering and police say they made another discovery nearby. Investigators checking neighboring homes for damage say they found a huge trove of marijuana plants and guns at another nearby.


SAMBOLIN: Plants so big they had to stack them up on a tarp. That homeowner is facing charges.

BERMAN: My goodness, this is an out of control college party turned into a riot in Bellingham, Washington. Hundreds of partygoers fueled by alcohol clashed with police. They were hurling bottles and other things, damaging cars and got to ripping street signs down. That is crazy. A SWAT team was called in and they had to use tear gas and flash grenades to control the crowd. At least three people were arrested here.

SAMBOLIN: And two men are now in custody after a frightening shooting at a cultural festival in Tulsa. At least five people injured when gunfire rang out at a Hmong New Year's celebration. Witnesses say hundreds were lining up to get dinner when that shooting began. The alleged gunmen are said to likely have some relationship with some of the victims. The Tulsa area has one of this country's largest population of Hmong people, a South Asian ethnic group.

BERMAN: One of the country's most prominent chroniclers of Cuban- American culture has died. Oscar Hijuelos wrote the Pulitzer Prize- winning "The Mambo King's Place: Songs of Love," which was of course later turned into a famous movie and musical. He was the first Hispanic to win the award, the Pulitzer Award for Fiction. Oscar Hijuelos was 62 years old.

SAMBOLIN: Very young, very young.

BERMAN: Yes, very young.

SAMBOLIN: So first there was Hands Across America, now Bras Across the River. The third annual event held in Moss Point, Mississippi, this weekend, to raise awareness about breast cancer. More than 3,000 bras spanned the Moss Point Bridge. Hundreds of men and women turned out for that walk to remember those who have lost the battle and those who have won and those who are still in the midst of a fight. And also to promote early detection.


TRUDI MULLINS, ORGANIZER, "BRAS ACROSS THE RIVER": Research says that early detection saves lives. The only way you get early detection is by creating awareness and starting a conversation, and to be honest with you, nothing starts a conversation kind of like a mile worth of bras.



SAMBOLIN: That is so true.

BERMAN: No. Indeed. Very true.

SAMBOLIN: So the event also included a bra decorating competition with dozens of colorful entries. Organizers say this is the largest turnout yet, raising more than 7,000 for the American Cancer Society. And all those bras they will go to a local women's shelter and some charities as well.

Those are some blinged out bras there. That's great to see, right?

BERMAN: Fantastic to see.

SAMBOLIN: And here's something else to see. I don't know if you can actually take a look here at our desk. But we have wonderful merchandise from the NFL. Same concept here is to raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And what they would like, they call it a crucial catch, "Annual Screening Saves Lives."

So, ladies, this is your opportunity to remember. As you're seeing all of this pink is to go get your annual mammogram. Very important. They partner with the American Cancer Society as well. This is lots of merchandise. It's available for sale and the proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society, as well as the players. A lot of them who are wearing the cleats are going to autograph it and they're going to auction it off as well.

BERMAN: That's fantastic. You know, it was all over the games this weekend.


BERMAN: And it was a treat to see. I think it was a wonderful, wonderful effort by everyone involved.

SAMBOLIN: It's wonderful. And I've got some stuff for you to wear. Here you go.

BERMAN: The wristbands?

SAMBOLIN: For you. Yes.

BERMAN: These are just like the wristbands I normally wear.

SAMBOLIN: I'm taking this one. I like the glove. Isn't this cool? Look at that.

BERMAN: All right. We're ready.

SAMBOLIN: You too can have this merchandise and it goes for a really great cause.

BERMAN: So pitch in, man. Everyone is doing it, including the NFL.

Twenty-one minutes after the hour. And coming up next for us, seven Red Cross workers kidnapped by gunmen inside Syria.

Our Mohammed Jamjoom is live with the latest on the investigation and the escalating violence inside that country. That's after the break.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

Urgent calls this morning for whoever kidnapped seven Red Cross aide workers in Syria. Those calls are to set these workers free immediately. The team was in Idlib Province near Aleppo when armed gunmen apparently opened fire and abducted them. The group was there to deliver medical supplies.

Mohammed Jamjoom is monitoring this from Beirut.

Mohammed, what is the latest?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is a very, very worrying development now. We heard from the Red Cross. They have stated that they are not going to release the nationalities of these workers yet, but we're told that they had been in Idlib Province since October 10th. They were out in the field trying to deliver medical supplies.

They were actually coming back to Damascus, that's when they were besieged by armed gunmen. And that's when they were kidnapped. So the U.N. and Red Cross are saying that they want these people relieved as quickly as possible.

These are six members of the aide organization, ICRC, International Community of the Red Cross. As well as one volunteer for the Syrian Red Crescent. This took place in an area of Syria that has really been controlled mostly by rebels for the past year, and it's an area where kidnappings and killings have become quite common.

Right now the Syrian government has stated they believe that armed terrorists are responsible for the kidnapping. Armed terrorists, of course, is sort of catch-all terminology that the Syrian government uses when they're referring to Syrian rebels -- John.

BERMAN: Indeed. You know, in some countries around there like Iraq where I spent a lot of time, there was always a debate on whether these were armed bandits, thieves who are doing the kidnapping or whether it was the rebel or terrorist groups or there were organizations behind it.

There have been warnings that Syria is getting very dangerous for aid workers. What is the situation like and what are the chances that groups like the Red Cross will just pull up stakes and get out?

JAMJOOM: Hey, Don. That's a very good question and a very good point that you're making. There has been this debate going on for months now by several aid organizations in Syria that are stating, look, we are trying to open humanitarian corridors, we are doing our best to deliver aid in a country where a civil war is raging out of control. They do not have the guarantees from the Syrian government, nor will they get them, that their workers can be protected, so there are agencies that have questioned whether or not they should close up shop.

They don't want to. They want to continue to get aid to this population that has really been devastated by the civil war but if this continues and if aid workers continue to be killed and continue to be kidnapped at this rate, you might see very prominent aid organizations shutting down their operations or at least limiting their operations.

Nobody wants to see that happen but, again, if this continues like it's continuing and if you have developments like what happened yesterday, with seven aid workers being kidnapped, that is going to be very dangerous and very worrying for these organizations that are continuing to operate in Syria -- John.

BERMAN: It is worrying, indeed. Because these organizations are crucial to moving forward whatever peace chances there are in Syria between the weapons inspectors and everyone else and it's always an awful thing to see when aid workers come under fire or get in harm's way.

Mohammed Jamjoom, thank you for that report this morning. Appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: And the strongest tropical storm to strike India in a decade killed at least 17 people over the weekend. But the death toll could have been a lot higher. More than 800,000 people were evacuated before cyclone Phailin came barreling through. The storm did a lot of damage, however. One hundred million dollars worth of crops were destroyed. Tens of thousands of homes were flattened. Much of the region is without power this morning as well.

BERMAN: Coming up, the government just days away from defaulting on its debts. Can Congress reach an agreement to prevent this economic free for all? That is coming up next.