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Democrats Question Obamacare; Aid Trickles into the Philippines; Kerry to Testify; Cholesterol Treatment Changes

Aired November 13, 2013 - 05:00   ET



WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: The president should honor the commitment the federal government made those people and let them keep what they've got.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama hitting a new low. His popularity is plummeting, as he faces tough criticism from top leaders of his own party as well. Could the White House do anything to turn this mess around?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything's gone. Our houses. Everything. There's nothing to eat. There's nothing to drink.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The devastation is growing in the Philippines this morning. The relief moving in so slowly to the typhoon survivors who so badly need it. We're live with the latest developments on the ground there.

SAMBOLIN: And a major health alert impacting millions of Americans. Why if you're not already on cholesterol medication you may soon be.

BERMAN: It's kind of medical news for everybody.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is. Pay attention, folks.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Wednesday, November 13th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And it is another problematic for the White House. We are going to begin with the fallout, the new latest fallout over the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's declining popularity. It has now been more than a month since launched. And almost immediately, it failed to do what it was designed to do.

Many Americans could not get on to sign up for coverage. The White House has pledged to have it fixed, this Web site, by the end of this month.

But now, this morning, "The Washington Post" says this may not happen. They may not be able to meet that date. The contractors trying to repair the site are apparently running into so many bugs. They're having such a tough time remedying these problems, they say they may miss the deadline.

And now, the administration is hearing from members of his own party who say that one Obamacare promise should have been be kept.

Here's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to Obamacare, it's not just the president versus Republicans anymore. Even the most loyal Democrats in Congress say it's time to fix it.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I think we need to look at political reality. We need to be open to constructive changes to make this law work better.

ACOSTA: One leading proposal from Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu would make the president keep his promise, if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it. Four fellow Democrats, including vulnerable incumbents up for re-election next year, have signed on.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: It is very upsetting to someone who supported this bill to have this gummed up, but I think it can be fixed.

ACOSTA: Democratic defections picked up steam. Former President Bill Clinton urged President Obama to stick to his pledge.

CLINTON: So, I personally believe, even if it takes changing the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they've got.

ACOSTA: White House officials say President Obama agrees, but they won't say what changes he will support.

So, the president agrees even if it takes a change in the law?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What I just said, Jim, is that the president has instructed his team to look at a range of options.

ACOSTA: The Obamacare fiasco has damaged the president's image. A new Quinnipiac Poll finds just 39 percent approve of the job he's doing. What's worse, 52 percent say they don't think the president is honest and trustworthy, his lowest numbers ever in that poll in both categories.

LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: He is angry. He is right to be angry. He was not well-served by his colleagues in the administration.

ACOSTA: Former administration official, Larry Summers, told CNN's Erin Burnett the president and White House have learned some important Obamacare lessons the hard way.

SUMMERS: You need experts, you need to trust, but even more, you need to verify, you can't go rushing the schedule when you get behind. Or you end up making more errors.

ACOSTA: Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Jim.

And now to the situation in the Philippines. Nearly a week after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit, food, water and medical supplies continue to trickle into the country, as residents desperately search for their loved ones that were lost in the storm. There are reports now of looting. Reports of dentals, as victims try to find what they need to survivor.

The death toll now stands at more than 1,800. Two of them are Americans. But the president of the Philippines tells CNN, the earlier estimates of 10,000 dead are likely too high. That's what he was saying yesterday.

So, let's go live now to CNN's Andrew Stevens. He's in Tacloban.

Andrew, let's talk about the situation here today. We've been seeing these reports that Anderson Cooper has been sharing with us. And there are people who are living in makeshift areas surrounded by their dead loved ones.

So, we're trying to understand -- what is the most immediate need right now for the people there?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, there are so many immediate needs. And this is the problem. The authorities here, the relief by local institutions are just not getting a grip on many of the issues. And there are so many.

As I said, (INAUDIBLE) living next to dead relatives. Body bags have gone missing, 700 body bags have disappeared. That's according to the mayor of this city. I was speaking to him this morning. He said they can due in. They never turned up, and nobody knows where they are.

That's the sort of things we're dealing with. There are body bags here. Bodies are now being taken from the streets.

But just walking around, you see a lot of bodies in various piles and part of the city. But to give you an idea, the stench is now covering just about the entire city, the stench of death.

Apart from that, people still don't have enough food to eat. They still don't have access to clean water. Medical supplies are still very much in short supply. Add that all together, and the crisis is still a very, very intense here.

I can say, at the airport where I am, there has been a definite increase in the level of activity, emboldening relief. The World Food Programme, three trucks of theirs have joined operation with the local government, got out of the airport today and got into the city.

And our reporter Paula Hancocks is on one of those trucks and she said she saw six or seven coming back the other way. Another 21 coming in over land from the World Food Program.

So, yes, relief is on the way. But it's desperately slow. It is desperately sad to seeing the people living hands and mouth surviving. I was at an orphanage today. They will run out of water in 24 hours. That is the sort of scale of the crisis, of the humanitarian crisis that's going on right here at the moment.

SAMBOLIN: We know there were lines of people, miles long, actually, waiting to be airlifted out of that area. How is that situation going?

STEVENS: I wouldn't say those lines were miles long. I saw the line this morning, it was probably about 300 or 400 yards long.

But the airport is basically home now to hundreds and hundreds of people. Remember, there's no electricity here. There's no running water here. And hundreds of people are having to find wherever they can to go to the lavatory.

So, there's -- you can imagine what it's like here. People are getting out. People are getting on to military aircraft. There had been some commercial flights.

There's a battle now to get those limited slots working to the best and most efficient use which is relief. So people have been getting out. But the number of people getting out, compared with the number of people arriving to get out is still -- more and more people are stocking up here.

I would have to say it is not -- it's chaotic, but there's no hint of panic here yet. But people are waiting and waiting and waiting to get out. It's almost like a lottery. Cues are formed and another people pushing somewhere else. So, there is a bit of tension here. Basically, that the flights out can't deal with the number of people hoping to escape.

SAMBOLIN: Well, that's completely understandable. Andrew Stevens live for us, thank you so much.

BERMAN: It is a difficult, difficult process.

SAMBOLIN: It's so sad to watch, the mothers holding their babies over their head so they can be the first ones in the plane to get airlifted out. And then you see the elderly that, you know, also need medical attention quickly. It's a devastating situation.

BERMAN: Eight minutes after the hour right now. We're going to move on.

Today, a House Intelligence Committee kicks off two days of closed- door hearings as Republicans really dig for new details about last year's terror attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Security officers who are on the ground that day, they are the ones who will be testifying, we're told they're former Navy SEALs, Marines, and members of the Army Special Forces all under contract to guard CIA agents at that mission.

SAMBOLIN: Secretary of State John Kerry will also be testifying behind closed doors this morning. He'll be urging members of the Senate Banking Committee not to impose tough new sanctions on Iran while nuclear talks are ongoing. The U.S. and its allies are set to resume negotiations with the Iranians later this month.

BERMAN: Some confusion this morning in Egypt over the status of the state of emergency there. A court has ordered the rule lifted two days before it was set to expire. But security forces say they will continue to enforce it because they have not yet received the ruling. The state of emergency, this has been in effect since July, when President Mohamed Morsy was ousted from power.

SAMBOLIN: Now released. The two Americans kidnapped from their ship off the coast of Nigeria last month. The captain and chief engineer were taken from a U.S. flagged oil supply vessel. That was back on October 23rd.

The State Department is not releasing any other details of how they were released or their names or even their conditions. There are reports, however, the ship's owner did pay a ransom and that the men are on their way back to the United States.

BERMAN: Senate Republicans have blocked one of President Obama's appointees to a key federal court. Cornelia Pillard, she was nominated for D.C. court of appeals, but Democrats fell four votes short of ending Republican procedural delays. The Republican Party calling the nomination an effort to gain an ideological edge on that court which hears many appeals against the government. It's often called the second most important court of the land. Right now, the court's eight judges are divided evenly between Democratic and Republican appointees.

SAMBOLIN: Caroline Kennedy has officially become the U.S. ambassador to Japan. She was sworn in Tuesday afternoon by Secretary of State John Kerry. Kennedy is a lawyer, an author and was a key backer of President Obama during both of his presidential campaigns. She's the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy.

So, on that note, we invite you to tune to CNN Thursday night, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for CNN films "The '60s: The Assassination of JFK", which will look at the death of the president and its impact on the nation. That is Thursday, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

BERMAN: So interesting to see that.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. BERMAN: All right. Ten minutes after the hour. If you can hear the sound of whining across the nation, it's because --

SAMBOLIN: It begins with me.

BERMAN: -- it begins right here.

People are cold this morning. Temperatures plummeting in the entire eastern half of the country. The coldest temperatures of the season. We're talking about the Great Lakes all the way down to the Deep South in North Carolina. Tuesday started in the 60s but then turned to flurries as the temperature dropped over the course of the day.

SAMBOLIN: I walked out this morning, Indra, I thought, oh, my goodness, let me go back inside. I need gloves, I need hat, or maybe I'm overstating it.


SAMBOLIN: It's cold out there.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I'm the one who tried to wear a dress and walk out the door quickly. It never works, you know, like you pull up the socks as high as you can go.

It's bad enough, right, it's cold. But then you add in the wind and it's a whole other level. Let's play a little game here.

What are the current temperatures this morning? Notice Chicago at 21, Kansas City, 18, New York, 29.

Now, let's add in the wind. This is what it feels like -- oh, yes. Kind of feels like 12. We're talking single digits now in Kansas City. So that is the story that we're dealing with today.

Thanks to, yes, that dome of high pressure that has now just parked itself really over the region, bringing that cold air all the way into the South. That's what we're going to be talking about, temperatures dropping below normal with highs today in New York City in the 30s. Boston, your highs in the 30s, and down in the South, also looking at just 20s.

Remember, this is not that feels like. Those temperatures dropped even further once you add in some of those gusty conditions. Into the South, we're talking about freeze warnings in effect and even a hard freeze around Oklahoma.

So, yes, we're definitely dealing with the tough conditions. Here's the good news, high pressure will build in bit end of the week, and temperatures will go up as early as tomorrow. So, just hang in there 24 hours, right?

BERMAN: You can do it, you can make it.

PETERSONS: We can make it.

BERMAN: Together, you guys are working this together.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Chicago hardy, I can handle it.

BERMAN: That sounds really hardy. It's very impressive. We built a snowman yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: No way. Really?

BERMAN: There was that much snow.

SAMBOLIN: Nice, nice. Pictures, pictures.

All right. Coming up, a woman's desperate plea for freedom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my life I'm fighting for. This is my life.


SAMBOLIN: Imprisoned for protecting herself, she says, against an abusive husband. How a controversial law invoked in the Trayvon Martin murder case could help set her free.

BERMAN: And a major health alert this morning -- why doctors want tens of millions more Americans put on cholesterol medication. This is news that really affects everybody.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, it is time for your morning rhyme. Tweet us with your own original verse, it could be anything you so desire. Make sure it's #earlystart, #morningrhyme. We're going to read the best ones on the air in our next half hour.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Another controversial stand your ground case from Florida, this time involving a woman convicted of firing what she called a warning shot at her husband.

As Alina Machado reports, Marissa Alexander's case is drawing comparison to George Zimmerman, except she's in jail.


MARISSA ALEXANDER, GRANTED NEW TRIAL: This is my life I'm fighting for. This is my life.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But Marissa Alexander's immediate fight now is for her temporary freedom while she waits for a new trial. Alexander has been behind bars for more than 1,000 days on aggravated assault charges after firing a single bullet into the wall she says to scare off her abusive husband. She was found guilty, but the conviction was reversed in September and she has since been granted a new trial.

In this motion, Alexander's attorneys call her pretrial release on bond urgent. In part, because the 33-year-old woman has not had regular access to her 3 1/2-year-old daughter since she was 6 months old. Lawyers for Alexander's estranged husband Rico Gray have concerns.

RICHARD KURITZ, ATTORNEY FOR RICO GRAY: She had bond once on this case and she went over to my client's house, she gave him a black eye and got arrested, though she was told to stay away from my client. So, I don't think he necessarily wants her to have a bond again.

MACHADO: Alexander's attorney says the couple is finalizing their divorce and not in contact. Even if Alexander set free, she still faces three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors say Alexander is a criminal, a woman who driven by anger, shot at her husband Gray in front of his two sons in a fit of rage.

Alexander maintains she is the victim, and her decision to fire one shot, a warning shot in the middle of an altercation was the only choice she had to save her life.

ALEXANDER: I believe when he made the threat to kill me, that's what he was going to do, that's exactly what he had intended to do. And had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.

MACHADO: An appellate court reversed the jury's guilty verdict earlier this year, citing an error with the jury instructions on self- defense.

Alina Machado, CNN, Jacksonville, Florida.


SAMBOLIN: Thanks to Alina.

Eighteen minutes past the hour.

Clear for takeoff. A major airline merger is now one step closer to reality. U.S. Airways and American Airlines have reached a preliminary deal with the Justice Department to end an antitrust suit blocking their joining forces. As part of the agreement, the airlines will give competitors greater access to some key airports. In exchange, they'll get to create the world's largest airline.

BERMAN: Controversial new guidelines likely to change the number of Americans taking cholesterol lowering drugs. The new criteria developed by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, they urged doctors to prescribe statin drugs based on overall risk, not just on cholesterol levels. Even in some cases, giving statins to people with normal cholesterol numbers if their risk is being high enough. Researchers now estimate up to 31 percent of all Americans may be eligible under these rules for statin treatment. Again, this is a big, big change. People have looked at the levels and said, you know, to be given drugs but under those levels could be a much broader swath of people.

SAMBOLIN: I know. But you have normal cholesterol level, and to think that you will be on that drug. Head to your doctor to get more information on that.

BERMAN: I they understand it already, because a lot of doctors are actually confused by it.

SAMBOLIN: A little confused also.

All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour.

A new report for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. This painting, Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud, went on the block at Christy's in New York sold, listen to this, more than $142 million. That's almost double the original $85 million estimate. And is obliterated the $120 million record set last year.

All told, the auction of works by Warhol, Rasko (ph), De Kooning and Jackson Pollock among others took in nearly $700 million.

BERMAN: Yes, that's a lot of money.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of dough.

BERMAN: Which means an awfully nice painting, pretty nice stuff --


BERMAN: That's a little nicer.

SAMBOLIN: A bit, a bit.

All right, coming up: the Miami Dolphins owner appalled over team hazing. But he's now postponing the meeting with the player who says he was bullied. Andy Scholes explains why this meeting is now on hold. That's next in the "Bleacher Report."


SAMBOLIN: Are you a college basketball fan? Well, you were treated to 24 hours of non-stop action yesterday. And all eyes were on the top players in the country, that is Andrew Wiggins and my favorite, Jabari Parker.

BERMAN: I'm going Wiggins.

SAMBOLIN: Are you really?

Andy Scholes joins us with this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Who's your favorite? Can you have favorite, or you can't say? ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: I'd probably go with Wiggins, you know, because him -- he's the most hyped 18-year-old since LeBron James. And everyone also wants to see what he's going to do next.

Guys, he's so hype, shoe companies are already talking about throwing $180 million his way when he finally goes pro next year. Of course, Wiggins/Parker, they're expected to be number one and number two in next year's NBA draft. They were squaring off against each other last night, 68 NBA scouts were in attendance for this game to watch Wiggins and Parker go at it.

Parker led all scores with 27 points in the game. But Wiggins outplayed him down the stretch as Kansas beat Duke 94-83.

Now, we rarely see the number one team taking on the number two team this early in the season, but Kentucky taking on Michigan State. Wildcats stuffed full of NBA talent. But it was the second-ranked Spartans winning this early season battle, 78-74, Michigan State taking this one.

Well, the Miami Dolphins announced yesterday that they're going to delay today's meeting with Jonathan Martin so NFL investigators can meet with him first. According to the report, the NFL will meet with Martin on New York City on Friday. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross promised on Monday to get to the bottom of claims Martin was bullied and harassed by teammate Richie Incognito.

Trending on, today is Mike Tyson's shocking revelations in this newly released autobiography. In his new book, Iron Mike said he was a full-blown coke head when he was a fighter and used cocaine before he would enter the ring. Tyson says he would fool drug testers with the help of a device in his entourage.

Now, there are also some funny stories in his book, like the time Tyson lost a suitcase that had $1 million cash in it before he found it a week later. I don't know if I ever lose that suit case.

All right. Lakers-Pelicans last night, Xavier Henry driving to the lane, he throws down a ridiculous dunk on Jeff Withey. These guys were teammates at Kansas, but Henry with no love for Withey last night. Now, this could be the dunk of the year.

All right. Who's the one guy you don't want to see on the other side of the table when you're playing beer bong? Got to be Michael Jordan, right? Well, partygoers Ritz-Carlton in Miami snapped these pics of MJ mid shot.

Check them out guys. Gets Air Jordan, rocking the classic Jordan shoes. You need one guy to knock down that last cup, who you're going to pick? It's got to be --

SAMBOLIN: Number 23.

BERMAN: It's crazy. He's probably good at that, too.

Byron Russell, by the way, I think Jordan fouled him. Offensive foul in making that shot right there.

SCHOLES: Save the 1998 NBA Finals there, him holding the ball.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be right back.