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After the Storms; Zimmerman Accused; Obama Fighting New Iran Sanctions; Deadly Blasts in Beirut

Aired November 19, 2013 - 05:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just scared to death. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm just going to take it day by day. I'm so thankful I have my boys.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Picking up the pieces, after that monster storm battered the Midwest. This morning, victims are sifting through all that rubble trying to salvage anything that wasn't destroyed. We're live on the ground.


CALLER: I'm doing this again? You just broke my glass table. You just broke my sun glasses and you put your gun in my freaking face.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: George Zimmerman arrested again. The man who killed Trayvon Martin behind bars this morning, accused of assaulting his girlfriend.

BERMAN: And breaking news, folks. This just happened moments ago. A massive explosion outside of Beirut, just outside the Iranian embassy.

SAMBOLIN: Look at that.

BERMAN: This is a combustible situation in every way. We're live.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. Glad you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: Great to see you. I'm John Berman. It is Tuesday, November 19th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, let's begin with the latest on the deadly tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest. This morning, those who had their lives simply shattered are trying to pick up the pieces as the death toll rises. The stories of survival, I have to tell you, are stunning.

Indra Petersons is in Washington, Illinois, this morning.

Indra, what's the situation there, this morning?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, it really is amazing, Zoraida. After we took a look around yesterday, I mean, this is the staging area we showed you guys yesterday. We have a residential community where we had lot of wood frame houses here, that you can't even recognize.

Yesterday, I was able to drive around into the region, in some of the communities nearby. We were talking about two-story homes, even some of them made of brick, literally completely leveled down to the ground. So, very easy to understand how powerful the storm was. We know now it was an EF-4 tornado and winds packing 100 to 90 miles per hour.


PETERSONS (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands are still without power this morning after Sunday's deadly tornado outbreak.

Illinois's governor declaring seven counties disaster areas in the wake of more than 70 reported twisters that tore across the Midwest from Missouri to Wisconsin, killing at least eight people.

GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: We were hard-hit. We never, ever, in the history of Illinois had so many tornadoes in the month of November.

PETERSONS: From above, you can see where this tornado touched down in an open field and then pummeled this community in Washington, Illinois.

At least half of the town of Brookport was destroyed and three people died when a tornado ripped apart two mobile home parks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just don't think that things like this will happen. You just don't think, you know?

PETERSONS: There are incredible stories of survival.


PETERSONS: Chris Landcaster kept filming while this tornado destroyed his house. Packing winds as high as 190 miles an hour.

CHRIS LANDCASTER, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I got hit by some debris or something and cut my eye in three places.

PETERSONS: This 78-year-old woman escaped the same tornado with a broken nose.

MARY KAIL, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Debris started flying.

PETERSONS: Her home reduced to rubble.

KAIL: Hot water heater. The copper pipes, they were all on me.

PETERSONS: Yesterday, we brought you the story of Steve Bucher. He and his wife survived in their basement hallway.

STEVE BUCHER, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I was kind of down and she was lowered like here.

PETERSONS: When they surfaced, their brick home was destroyed and his cars were thrown across the street.

BUCHER: The only important thing I had in this house walked out of it with me.

PETERSONS (on camera): And what was that?

BUCHER: My wife.

PETERSONS (voice-over): Thousands left combing through the piles of debris searching for whatever they can salvage.


LANDCASTER: The video of my wedding.


PETERSONS: You know, there really is nothing as impactful when you take a look at the map of all the storm reports out there. We have seen those filtered now to about 70 tornadoes.

But even more impressive is this one statistic of all the tornado warnings in the state of Illinois since the '80s. We're talking about of almost 200 reports of those, more than half of those reports all came in just on Sunday. That gives you an idea of how impressive this system was, especially late in the season.

We typically, of course, talk about tornadoes in the springtime and, unfortunately, it looked like this outbreak came late in November taking a lot of people by surprise.

We will talk about what is going on today. Now, we know that system that did produce all of the severe weather is now offshore and exited out of the region. So we are left with high pressure in the east coast today, with the mild conditions not actually as cool as we originally thought when this high pressure be in place. These temperatures just about five degrees below and they will be staying that way.

The next story, again, will continue to be the system in the Pacific Northwest dumping heavy amounts of snow. We're talking about Cascades in Washington, Montana and Idaho. This system again will make its way across the country.

So, by about Thursday or so, we're talking about into the Ohio Valley. In the Midwest, we're going to be talking about some heavy rain. But more importantly, right here, John and Zoraida, by tomorrow, we're going to start seeing some light rain and really lasting all the way through the weekend -- heavier amounts of rain and even snow as we go through this weekend. So, today really is that last day that they have to recover try and get what they can and salvage before the storm heads on in.

SAMBOLIN: We wish them a lot of luck with that. You know, all of their belongings gone.

Indra Petersons, nice to have you out there. Thank you.

BERMAN: It's about five minutes after the hour right now.

New, folks, legal drama involving George Zimmerman. The onetime neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted on murder charges of the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin has now been arrested again this time for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.

He is in jail this morning, folks, awaiting an appearance before a judge. This is not the first time he is accused of a crime in the months a jury set him free.

Here is Alina Machado.


911: What is going on?

CALLER: He's in my house breaking all of my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) because I asked him to leave. He has his freaking gun and breaking all of my stuff right now.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's the 911 call authorities say George Zimmerman's girlfriend made during a domestic dispute that allegedly turned violent inside the home they share.

CALLER: I'm doing this again? You just broke my glass table! You just bloke my glasses and put your gun in my freaking face and told me to get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out, this is not your house. No, get out of here.

MACHADO: The woman told the 911 operator she was pushed out of her house by Zimmerman and that he had a shotgun and AR-15 and two handguns inside. She also said the fight started after she had asked the 30-year-old to leave.

But Zimmerman tells a different story in his own 911 call.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: My girlfriend has -- for lack of a better word, gone crazy on me.

MACHADO: Police were already at Apopka, Florida house when Zimmerman made the call. He told the operator he wanted everyone to know the truth about what happened.

ZIMMERMAN: She just started smashing stuff, taking stuff that belonged to me, throwing it outside, throwing it out of her room and throwing it all over the house. She broke a glass table because she threw something on it. MACHADO: Zimmerman went on to explain how the fight started saying the woman told him she was pregnant and wanted to raise their child without him.

ZIMMERMAN: She got mad that I guess I told her that I would be willing to leave.

911: OK.

ZIMMERMAN: I guess she thought I was going to argue with her but she's pregnant. I'm not going to put her through that kind of stress.

MACHADO: Zimmerman denied using a weapon to threaten the woman. Responding officers say they used the alleged victim's key to get in and pushed their way through furniture Zimmerman had placed behind the door. They found Zimmerman inside unarmed. His demeanor described as passive.

DENNIS LEMMA, SEMINOLE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Clearly, he's had the opportunity to encounter situations similar to this in the past. Offered no resistance and cooperated the entire time.

MACHADO: It's not the first time Zimmerman has had a brush with the law since he was acquitted of murder in the shooting death of 17-year- old Trayvon Martin. In September, his estranged wife accused him of assault. Police investigated and no charges were filed.


MACHADO: He has also been stopped twice for speeding -- once in Texas where he got a warning, a second time in Florida where he was ticketed and fined $256.

Alina Machado, CNN, Atlanta.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Alina.

Eight minutes past the hour.

The Justice Department is reportedly close to a massive settlement with JPMorgan Chase over its role in the 2008 mortgage meltdown. That deal could be announced as soon as today and it would end the federal investigation into the selling of faulty mortgage bonds by the banks and its subsidiaries. The cost? Thirteen billion dollars, making it the largest settlement with the government ever.

Much more on that deal coming up in "Money Time" with Christine Romans.

BERMAN: It really is interesting the details.

The Supreme Court saying no, for now to a request to stop the NSA's electronic eavesdropping. The justices reject appear appeal from the Electronic Privacy Information Center which urged the high court to throw out a secret court's approval of the practice. This is the first challenge to the NSA's surveillance programs to reach Supreme Court but other are working their way through lower courts.

SAMBOLIN: President Obama will meet with Senate leaders from both parties today. He is trying to convince them not to ratchet up sanctions against Iran. Nuclear talks with the Iranians resume tomorrow in Geneva and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made it clear they are skeptical at best about where those talks are heading. The president argues if the U.S. is serious about diplomacy, then adding sanctions to the ones already working against Iran would be counterproductive.

BERMAN: Some big developments unfolding this morning in the fairly brutal rollout of Two House hearings get underway in a few hours on Capitol Hill. And Obamacare's top technology manager Henry Chao will testify at one of the hearings.

Just released documents revealed that he had deep concerns back in July that the site would malfunction. And we are now learning that a consulting firm warned the White House back in March that launching the site on October 1st would be risky. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attended a briefing session about that report back on April 4th. That's a long time ago, folks.

Also developing: The White House is considering a website work-around. This proposal would allow Americans to bypass the Web site and set up direct enrollment through insurance companies.

SAMBOLIN: Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife are weighing in on the anger between their daughters over gay marriage. The anger between Liz and Mary Cheney has been boiling over for days now, after Mary and her same sex spouse went public with their dislike of Liz Cheney's position opposing gay marriage. Now, their parents say the wish the debate had remained within the family and that Liz Cheney's position should not be distorted.

This is what they're writing. Quote, "Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She has also always treated her sister and her sister's family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done."

But Mary is not buying that, writing on her Facebook page that her sister's position treats her family as second-class citizens and she cannot be lovingly tolerant towards them.

BERMAN: Yes, she posted that overnight, clearly not accepting what her parents are trying to do to smooth --

SAMBOLIN: Well, that was in response to someone on Facebook asking her questions about this.

BERMAN: It was, but it was also in response to her parents' statement in support of Liz, I think, you know, not so indirectly there.

Caroline Kennedy already on the job as ambassador of Japan, but today, she got to fully experience one of the perks of Japanese hospitality, riding a horse-drawn carriage to the Imperial Palace to meet the emperor, a tradition dating back -- there it is. Nice way to ride.

This tradition dates back to 1854 when the U.S. and Japan formally begun their relationship. Kennedy presented her diplomatic credentials and a letter from President Obama to the emperor, who is that country's ceremonial leader.

SAMBOLIN: It could be actually a really implicated ride. It doesn't have shock absorbers. A little uncomfortable.

All right. So, Caroline is the daughter of John F. Kennedy. And as we approach the 50th anniversary of her father's assassination, the White X's and Dealey Plaza that marked the approximate spots where JFK was shot are being removed, or at least paved over. City officials telling CNN they are leveling streets in anticipation of thousands of visitors. The X's are not official markers.

Organizers at Friday's commemoration say they want to focus on Kennedy's life rather than on how he died.

BERMAN: Big discussion all week in so many places. You can see the specials, read the perspectives everywhere. Interesting.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people still interested, right? Twelve minutes past the hour here.

Coming up, breaking news from Lebanon. A deadly explosion killing at least 23 people. We are live in Beirut with the latest.

BERMAN: And was actress Brittany Murphy murdered? The new evidence she may have been poisoned, folks.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, on a much, much lighter note. It is time for your morning rhyme. Tweet us with your own original verse. It can be about anything your heart desires, #earlystart, #morningrhyme. We're going to read the best ones on the air on our next half hour.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. WE have breaking news from Beirut.

Take a look at this. At least 23 people are dead, dozens more injured. We understand maybe 146 people are injured after an explosion outside the Iranian embassy.

Nick Paton Walsh is live in Beirut this morning.

I say that it was one explosion, but there are conflicting reports there may be several explosions and maybe even more people injured.

What do you know?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, there's misinformation at the moment, but we are hearing multiple reports suggesting though there were two suicide bombers involved in this. That's a worrying escalation because we haven't seen that tactic inside of Lebanon which has been inflected by the spillover of Syria's civil war next door. We haven't seen that tactic before.

It's not clear exactly how they were deployed. They seem to have approached the front gate and perhaps a car was being used. You need a vehicle to get that much explosive near the front of the embassy.

Then, there's a suggestion from state media here that guards opened fire on these bombers who then detonated their devices. The key, though, the cultural attache of the Iranian embassy has, according to some media reports here, and the ambassador being killed in the blast, along with two other civilians as well, Iranians living nearby.

This is a residential area in many ways, quite calm, and the real fear when we see an escalation of these tactics and no one has claimed responsibility yet. But the thing that's going to point towards extremist aligned with rebels in Syria fighting next door.

When we see this escalating tactic does it bring Lebanon, which is being so massively imperiled by both the influx of refugees and the spillover of violence from inside Syria, does escalation like this brings Lebanon itself closer to more broader conflict internally, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, live for us, thank you for that. We will continue to follow this story and check back in with you. Thank you.

BERMAN: A very dangerous situation there to say the least.

Seventeen minutes after the hour.

Prosecutors in Colorado now seeking another psychiatric evaluation for accused movie theater shooter James Holmes. His attorneys have admitted Holmes opened fire at an Aurora theater last year, killing 12 people and wounding dozens of others. But they say he was insane at the time.

Holmes has already undergone one psychiatric exam after entering his insanity plea. Details of that exam had been released. His trial is set to begin in February.

SAMBOLIN: And a special invitation to take part in the Boston marathon. Organizers are inviting anyone personally impacted by the bombings to submit an essay making an argument why they should get a chance to run this coming April. There are only a few hundred slots available.

The field was expanded by 9,000 for the upcoming race to make room for those who could not finish after the bombings.

BERMAN: I thought about trying to get in to run that.

SAMBOLIN: That would be great.

BERMAN: I would like to do it. SAMBOLIN: That would be great.

Your essay would be good for you to write. You are a Boston strong kind of guy.

BERMAN: The essay would be good. I'm not sure the race itself would be great. That's the whole other thing.

SAMBOLIN: You can crawl to the finish line.

BERMAN: Authorities in Providence, Rhode Island, are trying to figure out what caused a series of scary explosions. Take a look at that. Wow. That was a manhole cover exploding in the city's district, one of eight blasts that happened in the city on Monday.

Fire crews and the power company believed may have been a result of an underground fire.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!

BERMAN: You know, that's a really terrifying to see when you're walking down the sidewalk.


BERMAN: Amazingly, only two people were hurt. That is lucky. Their injuries are said to be minor.

SAMBOLIN: So, there are new questions surrounding the death of actress Brittany Murphy. Reports suggest when she died in 2009 at the age of 32 may have been poisoned. Her official cause of death was pneumonia and anemia. But an independent toxicology report ordered by Murphy's family detected heavy metals and toxins commonly found in rat poison and insecticides.

The report also suggests a, quote, "perpetrator with criminal intent" maybe responsible.

BERMAN: So, this has been suspicious to a lot of people for a long time. Her husband died five months after Brittany Murphy also of pneumonia. So, these are two relatively young people dying of pneumonia with a relatively short time. So, a lot of people have asked questions for a while.

Now, there's this report. So, the mystery continues.


BERMAN: All right. Twenty minutes after the hour.

And coming up -- this was a penalty, folks. The Panthers topping the Patriots last night, but not without controversy and a serious miscall.

Andy Scholes explains the call, tries to some of us, next in "The Bleacher Report." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-three minutes past -- oh, 24 minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: Wow, breaking news, folks. Now, 24 minutes after the hour.

SAMBOLIN: All right. A controversial call dooms the New England Patriots on Monday night football as they lose to the Panthers on the final play of the game.

Andy Scholes, what happened?

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: I'm sure Berman can tell us what happened. It was a terrible call by the officials.

You know, Tom Brady, he was fuming after this one because he should have had one more chance to win this game.

Now, here is a controversial final play. There was three seconds left. Patriots down by four. Patriots going for Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. The ball was intercepted but a flag is thrown because, watch it, Gronk is clearly interfered with in the back of the end zone but then the referees get together and they pick up the flag because they say Gronk couldn't catch the ball.

Brady clearly not happy with that call. He has words with the officials as they walk off the field.

But the Panthers, they get the win 24-20.

All right. The fan who fell from the upper deck after trying to slide down the railing at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday has been banned for life from attending future Bills games. Amazingly, both he and the fan he fell on are okay after being treated at a local hospital.

It looks like one head-butt equals a one-game suspension. Yesterday, the NFL announced that the Colts Eric Walden has been suspended for one game for this helmet-to-face head-butt he delivered to the Titans Delanie Walker.

Now, what's worse than a helmet to face head butt? Well, how about getting kicked in the face? In the lineup section of, you can check out Grizzlies Tony Allen flat out kicked the Clippers' Chris Paul in the face. Check it out again.

Allen received a flagrant two and was ejected from the game. He tweeted after the game apologies to CP3 for the accidental kick.

All right. I never get tired of these videos. Check out the Thunder fan knocking down the half-court shot to win $20,000!

Now, if this looks familiar because it is, guys. Cameron Rodriguez, he's the third Oklahoma City fan to win big money this year with a shot from midcourt. Two fans did it at the end of last season and Cameron brought home the big money last night. Look! You never get tired of these celebrations. I love it! SAMBOLIN: Those scouts should be recruiting there, right, amongst the fans.

BERMAN: Is it easy at half-court in Oklahoma City or something?

SCHOLES: Maybe it's closer, I don't know. Maybe it's something in the air there in Oklahoma City.

SAMBOLIN: Maybe they are just good, right? No?

BERMAN: I think there's a conspiracy. There's got to be something else.

SCHOLES: All ringers.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

SAMBOLIN: And coming up, new video inside the storm as dozens ripped apart homes and communities and, of course, lives. Indra Petersons is live as victims continue to pick up the piece.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know where to go. I don't know what to do. All that I can do is sit here and look at it.


SAMBOLIN: All of the victims of the Midwest tornadoes are combing through all of the rubble. They are searching for any semblance of home. We are live with that.


ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: Mark my words, friends, this is going to be outright war.


BERMAN: Outright war! That, of course, folks outraged Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, promising more as his powers are stripped away and that, folks, only the beginning of his explosive remarks.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, boy. Oh, boy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never saw myself living in my car.