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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Deadly Train Derailment; "Barrel Bombings" in Syria; Netanyahu Meets Pope at Vatican

Aired December 2, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly train derailment. Four people killed. Dozens more injured when a train flies off the track. What went wrong? We are live and the latest with the investigation and those who lost their lives.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New bloodshed in Syria. A dramatic bombing as the U.S. is expected to take a major role destroying that regime's chemical weapons. CNN is live in Damascus with the latest this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And breaking overnight: two of the world's most powerful leaders speaking face to face. The pope meeting with Israel's prime minister. What is he discussing and what could this visit mean?

We are live in Rome with the very latest this morning.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I felt like I haven't seen you in weeks.

BERMAN: It's been a long time. It's very difficult for me.

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back.

BERMAN: It's nice to see you this morning. I'm glad we made through this. We're together at last.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thanks for being with us. It's Monday, December 2nd. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And there are so many questions this morning about what caused that deadly train derailment right here in New York City. The pictures of this simply stunning, as four people were killed and 67 others injured, 11 critically, when this Metro North train went careening off the tracks Sunday morning.

The NTSB is investigating and will no doubt be looking at speed and brake failure as two possible causes.

This morning, Metro North has started the process of uprighting these train cars which you can see laying on their side right now.

CNN's Alexander Field is following all the developments. She is live at scene of the accident in the Bronx right here in New York. Alexandra, what's the latest?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, John, they are beginning that process of right-siding these train cars. They are starting in the back of the train where the locomotive was and then they lift up the other subsequent cars.

Overnight, we learned the names of the victims killed in this crash. They are 54-year-old Donna Smith, 35-year-old Ahn Kisook, 59-year-old James Ferrari, and 58-year-old James Lovell. We are also hearing from the survivors, the passengers who were on board that train and they are telling us about the terrifying moments of when the train stopped just short of the Harlem River.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought I'm going to die. To be honest, I thought I'm going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I broke my arm. It's really painful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a lot of crunching and grinding and I started seeing stars in front of my eyes and I thought, my goodness, is this the end?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a screeching noise, you know? I happen to be by the window. I'm on top of the hill but still heard a screeching noise. And within seconds, the ambulance and fire trucks coming past my window and I knew something big happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just sitting on the train, I wasn't anything in particular and all of a sudden, the train felt a little more sideways than it should be. And by the time I looked up, it was completely going off its track and there was like the rubble from under the tracks like flying.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

FIELD: The NTSB has been investigating through the night. They have covered the train's data recorders and will also look for any other recordings which could lead them to a cause of this crash.

Here is how the NTSB says the investigation will move forward from here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EARL WEENER, NTSB SPOKESMAN: There will be a track team which will look at the condition of the tracks leading to the point of derailment. Try to identify any anomalies. There will be a signals team looking at the condition of the signaling system and hopefully, looking for any possible data that might have been recorded by the signaling system. Human performance team will be looking at the performance of the train crew.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FIELD: Investigators will also be looking at the train speed. They expect to be out here for the next seven to 10 days. Obviously, service is disrupted on this part of Metro North's Hudson line this morning. Buses are being brought in to help with the commute -- John, Zoraida.

BERMAN: No doubt. Thousands and thousands of people will have their commute disrupted this morning. But, of course, the focus is on this accident and what caused it.

Alexandra, any history of other problems on tracks anywhere near this location?

FIELD: Well, we know, John, just 1,700 feet away in July, a freight train derailed 10 cars hauling garbage tipped over. That's something that's being razed out here right now. Investigators will look into that derailment and this derailment and try and see if there is any possible link here.

BERMAN: Alexandra Field in the Bronx for us, covering this awful train derailment. Appreciate you being there. Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Night and day, that is how the main Obamacare Web site fixer upper described the difference between Healthcare.gov now and when it launched back on October 1st. Jeff Zients telling reporters in a conference call on Sunday that the Web site now works smoothly for the vast majority of users.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JEFFREY ZIENTS, OBAMACARE WEB SITE REPAIR LEADER: After clearing through fewer than a hundred bucks across the entire month of October, the speed has more than tripled with more than 400 bugs fixed, eliminating critical glitches and making improvements to the consumer experience better throughout the site.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The administration says the Obamacare site can handle as many as 50,000 concurrent users and 800,000 consumer visits a day.

BERMAN: And unsettling warning from congressional leaders who say the terror threat in the United States is growing. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Congressman Mike Rogers share the respective intelligence committees, appearing on CNN "STATE OF THE UNION." Both said changing tactics and improved weapons make it harder right now to win the war on terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago, in general?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't think so. I think terror is up worldwide. The statistics indicate that. The fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks be reinforced for those bombs.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: I absolutely agree that we are not safer today for the same very reason. So, the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous and it's getting more difficult because we see the al Qaeda as we know it before, metastasizing to something more different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Rogers also said public scrutiny over American intelligence work including the NSA is hurting anti-terror efforts.

SAMBOLIN: And just days after striking a deal with the West to freeze part of its nuclear program, Iran's nuclear chief says his country needs more power plants. Iran official agency says Ali Akbar Salehi believes the nuclear power would help the country reduce its carbon emissions and consumption of oil and says Iran should produce 150 tons of nuclear fuel to supply five power plants.

BERMAN: And now to Syria and new bloodshed in the country's ongoing civil war. Reports say dozens of people were killed when Syrian aircraft barrel bombed a rebel-held town near Aleppo over the weekend.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following the developments for us. He is live in that nation's capital Damascus.

Fred, what's the latest this morning?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This apparently happened both on Saturday and on Sunday with these barrel bombs that can drop from helicopters and one incident apparently they hit a market in the second incident, they hit a bakery. In total, it appears more than 50 tied, all of this happened in the north of the country.

But this has generally been a very, very deadly weekend here in Syria. You have those attacks in the north of the country, which you also have fresh attacks here close to the Damascus area. There's a town called Malula (ph), which is very significant. It's one of the ancient Christian towns in the world and the last where the Aramaic that Jesus Christ spoke is actually spoken, that is invaded by rebels this weekend. Also, a lot of casualties there.

So, this civil war just keeps dragging on and really getting worse by the day.

BERMAN: In a word, Fred, of this escalation and the violence coming there as we are hearing the United States could play a crucial role now in destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

PLEITGEN: Yes. Absolutely. The United States has apparently agreed to destroy these chemical weapons at sea on an American ship that is being outfitted with special technology. The Syrians have agreed to this as well. I spoke to some very high level Syrian official and they say they are totally OK with that. The big question how are we going to get the chemical weapons through Syria with the violence going on to bring this to this American ship?

But, certainly, the Syrians are not going to let this U.S. ship dock in Syria. There are some other countries that have apparently agreed to use their own ships, to bring the chemicals there. It looks as though it seems to be shaping up, but there are still some big logistic concerns, especially with the violence going on here and a lot of the roads at this point closed due to fighting, John.

BERMAN: Every step of this will be complicated and dangerous in its own way.

Fred Pleitgen for us in Damascus, thanks so much, Fred.

SAMBOLIN: It is nine minutes past the hour.

Ice covered roads are being blamed for a series of highway crashes in central and western Massachusetts, including a massive, look at this, 65-car pileup. This is in Worcester. The crash sent dozens to area hospitals. Two people are said to be seriously injured and one family reported their dog was killed after their vehicle was rear-ended several times.

BERMAN: I drove through this area about two hours after the crash right there. Nothing was moving. I mean, I didn't drive through. I drove around it because it was absolutely gridlock.

Our sympathies to the families who were hurt there.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BERMAN: Let's get a check in what's going on today, with the weather.

Indra Petersons is here.

Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. It's nice. It's mild out today, which is huge. We are loving this, at least for a couple of days because we are in between systems.

A huge chunk of the country looking pretty mild, at least for a day, before some big changes start to move on in. Very easy to see. This is a water vapor satellite. You kind of see some waves moving through the Southeast. This one is pretty obvious in the Pacific Northwest.

Let's start with the Southeast. Yes, we're going to get some light rain but not a big deal but extra cloudy conditions. The upside of this, it's warm. We're talking about temperatures good above normal. Look at Memphis and seeing 70s by Wednesday.

I do want to point out look at the difference as you go backwards. Start to see the temperatures drop by the middle to the end of the week. Now, there is a reason for that. A big system out in the Pacific Northwest but first starting with the East Coast.

There's a low making up the East Coast and staying offshore this time. So, not really giving us any rain or snow. It just means the temperatures are kind of going up over the next several days.

We like this. Temperatures above normal but this is all going to change. A huge snow maker out in the Pacific Northwest which means temperatures going way down by the time --

SAMBOLIN: The good with the bad, right? She delivers is all with a smile.

Thank you so much, Indra.

BERMAN: Thanks so much.

All right. It is a good news/bad news deal on the holiday shopping report card. Here's the deal -- both sides of it. More people shopping either online or on in stores, but they are spending less. According to the National Retail Federation, more than 141 million people shops since Thanksgiving. That's about a 1 percent increase over last year.

But the bad news, the $57 million they spent is down almost 3 percent from 2012. Black Friday sales were also down. Industry experts say part of the drop is more stores than ever opened their doors on Thanksgiving Thursday. Much more -- we are going to have much more on these holiday shopping stats in our next hour on "Money Time."

SAMBOLIN: It was crazy. You could go shopping on Thanksgiving Day at 8:00 at night.

BERMAN: Did you shop?

SAMBOLIN: No, I did not. I was too full and wanted to sleep.

BERMAN: Shopping would involve moving, which could have been very difficult, correct?

SAMBOLIN: That is true.

Eleven minutes past the hour.

Coming up: the pope meeting this morning with Israel's prime minister. What this could mean for the Catholic Church and Israel? We are live Rome with the very latest there.

BERMAN: And deadly accident. Speed blamed for the crash that killed actor Paul Walker. We will have the latest on the clues at that crash site.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, drones at your doorstep. Amazon's new vision on bringing you your mail faster.

BERMAN: It's scary.

And it is time for your morning rhyme. Tweet us with your own original verse. It can be about anything. Post-Thanksgiving, comatoseness, #earlystart and #mornin rhyme.

SAMBOLIN: Comatoseness?

BERMAN: It's an official word. Look it up.

We will read the best rhymes on the air in our next half hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

After celebrating Hanukkah at Rome's great synagogue with his Italian counterpart, Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting Pope Francis. For the very first time, he is headed to the Vatican.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live in Rome and he has more details for us.

I was reading that, at first, they were scheduled to meet last month, except the Pope knew nothing about that meeting.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, Zoraida, what happened was in last October, Netanyahu's office announced that Netanyahu would be meeting with the pope when he came here to a trip back then, but red-faced the office of the prime minister had to retract that announcement because the Vatican said no such meeting had been scheduled.

This time there is indeed a meeting going ahead and it should have started at the top of this past hour and we are expecting they will talk about a variety of issues. Of course, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but also the recently signed agreement between Iran and world powers about its nuclear program and, of course, prime minister Netanyahu has not wasted a moment to object and not wasted an opportunity to object to that agreement, although it's difficult to say what the pope would like to contribute to that debate.

They are also going to be discussing the upcoming itinerary for the pope's upcoming trip to the Middle East. He has been invited to visit both Israeli and the Palestinian territories. It's expected that that visit will take place in May.

Now, what's interesting is the last time the Pope Jorge Bergoglio visited Israeli was back in 1973 at the beginning of the October War. So let's hope that his upcoming trip isn't quite as eventful -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Very good point. Thank you so much.

Ben Wedeman live for us.

BERMAN: Elsewhere, it is being called a revolution. Massive and violent demonstrations Sunday in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands took to the streets and demanding the resignation of the president there, Viktor Yanukovych. The anger growing for days after Yanukovych refused to sign political and trade accords with the European Union. The picture there is very dramatic. Many see the agreement as a step away from Russia and a step toward a brighter, economic political future and closer ties with the rest of Europe.

Elsewhere, Thailand's prime minister says the door is open for negotiations with demonstrators her resignation.

More violent protests all over the world. Protests in the streets of Bangkok turning violent over the weekend, with three people killed. Hundreds more wounded. Police used tear gas against protesters. They are trying to force their way into government offices. The demonstrations began in response to a government-backed amnesty bill to pardon the prime minister's brother who was ousted in a corruption scandal.

And still more protests, this time in Cairo. Police fired tear gas at hundreds of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy. Nearly daily protests there have demanded his reinstatement. Sunday, a panel met to revise the constitution, which was adopted before the 2012 revolt. The changes would include giving women and Christians great representation and it could scale back a proposal to allow military tribunals for civilians. Election for the president and prime minister, if everything goes forward -- and that's very much in question, could be held later this year.

SAMBOLIN: Authorities say speed was likely the factor in a fiery crash that killed "Fast and Furious" star Paul Walker in southern. This weekend happened over the weekend. It could be time before police know how fast the Porsche Walker was riding in was going when it crashed into a tree. Take a look at those temperatures. Just unbelievable.

Investigators say looping tire tracks were visible on the asphalt near that crash site. They are trying to determine if the tire tracks are related to the crash. The driver of the car who also died has been identified as by CNN affiliate KCAL as Roger Rodas. He was Walker's business partner.

BERMAN: It's sad.

This morning, Kansas City police are investigate ago death in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium. This happened as the chiefs were playing the Broncos. This is being treated as a homicide. But no arrests have been made.

Three people are in police custody. Police say the victim returned to his car to find a stranger inside it. There was a struggle that followed and that is when the victim, a man in his 20s, collapsed and died.

SAMBOLIN: And new details released this morning about the night a University of Michigan med student was murdered at a fraternity house. "The Detroit Free Press" obtained police statements from two men charged in the death of Paul DeWolf.

And according to the statements the suspects broke into the fraternity house startling DeWolf. When he got out of bed, one of the suspects said he tried to hit him with the gun but that it went off killing him. BERMAN: Twenty minutes after the hour right now.

And the shopping season, here is a question for you. Next day shipping not fast enough for you? How about delivery drones?

SAMBOLIN: Seriously?

BERMAN: Seriously. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he can get packages to you under 30 minutes using a fleet of electronic drones called optocopters, like the third installment of "The Transformers" movie.

The packages must be under five pounds and the delivery within ten miles of a distribution center. There are regulatory hurdles and technical details to iron out, but Bezos says they are coming, maybe within four to five years.

SAMBOLIN: That is kind of creepy, but cool at the same time.

BERMAN: I wonder if you get free shipping with drones sometimes.

SAMBOLIN: Look at that. Right at your door strep.

BERMAN: That's crazy.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up.

BERMAN: It's true. He said it on "60 Minutes". He claims it's going to happen. It must be true if it's on "60 Minutes."

SAMBOLIN: All right. Peyton Manning putting on quite a showing as the Broncos take on the Chiefs. Andy Scholes breaks it all down for us in "The Bleacher Report." That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: If you have Peyton Manning on your fantasy football team, you're having a very good morning. Manning carved up the Chiefs yesterday. Now, the Broncos are back on top in the AFC.

Andy Scholes has the highlights in "The Bleacher Report.:"]

Great to see you, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, THE BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good to see you too, guys. And good morning.

Peyton Manning, you know, he had another Peyton Manning kind of game. He threw five touchdowns in the win over the Chiefs and if you had Eric Decker on your fantasy team, I hope you started him. I didn't and every time he scored, this was me.

Anyway, Decker had a career game. He finished with 174 yards receiving and count them. Four touchdowns! The four touchdown receptions were a franchise record. The Broncos beat the Chiefs 35- 28. They are on top of the AFC with a record of 10-2. The Giants kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a win over the Washington Redskins. It was another rough night for RG3. In the fourth quarter, New York's Justin Tuck sacked him on a span of seven plays. Tuck had only 2 and a half sacks the entire season coming into this one. New York has now won five out of their last six.

Still trending on bleacherreport.com today is the incredible finish from the Auburn/Alabama game. One second left, the tide going for the winning field goal and came up short and Chris Davis catches it and he's going to go 129 yards the other way for the touchdown. And, guys, this isn't only the best finish to an iron ball ever. It may be the best finish ever to a college football game. And, of course, it shook up the BCS. Now we are going to have, if everything stays the same, Florida State and Ohio State going to the national championship game.

I don't know if you guys have checked out the YouTube reaction videos of fans watching this last touchdown but it's pretty incredible. You go check it out.

BERMAN: It was an amazing play. You can't even describe the play to somebody because it involves so many things that you never, ever see. And now, I'm kind of hoping something good happens for Auburn. I think they deserve something more.

SAMBOLIN: You're such a sweet guy.

BERMAN: He knows what I'm talking about.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

SCHOLES: Yes.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you so much, Andy Scholes. Appreciate it.

SCHOLES: Have a good one.

SAMBOLIN: How come you don't share?

BERMAN: I'm not I want them in the national championship game. I think Auburn is really good. I think they deserve a shot at the title. But right now, they are not going to get it unless something big happens next weekend. We'll talk much more about this.

The top headlines and everything you need to know for the day, that's all coming up right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)