Return to Transcripts main page


Bae Speaks About Imprisonment; Olympic Terror Concerns; Gay NFL Draft Prospect

Aired February 10, 2014 - 05:00   ET


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight: an American held prisoner on North Korea, on camera with a message for his family as he heads to a hard labor camp.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to know what's going on in Sochi right now, before the tape delay? The latest results and new reports about security concerns. We're live.

FEYERICK: The NFL could soon have its first openly gay player. A top draft prospect explaining why he had to come out.

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

FEYERICK: And I'm Deborah Feyerick, in for Christine Romans. It is Monday, February 10th, and it is 5:00 a.m. in the east.

Well, we begin with breaking news this morning from North Korea, where we're hearing now from Kenneth Bae, the American missionary held there for more than a year. In a conversation with a Swedish diplomat believed to have been recorded last week, Bae says he has not lost hope that he will be set free. He worries about his physical condition.


KENNETH BAE, KOREAN-AMERICAN BEING HELD IN NORTH KOREA: To my family, just let them know that, you know, that even though I'm here, but I still continue on with myself and I have not lost hope or I have not given up anything.


FEYERICK: A U.S. envoy was set to visit North Korea today to discuss Bae's release, but the government there rescinded the invitation. Former U.S. Ambassador Donald Greg is now on the ground, the purpose of his visit unclear. Bae's family says Jesse Jackson has offered to go to North Korea to try and bring Bae home.

Coming up in our next half hour, we'll speak with Paula Hancocks in Seoul about the diplomatic fight over Bae.

BERMAN: Other news overseas -- in Sochi today, the fears of terror are giving way to Russian pride, as the Olympics entered day four of competition with more medals, more bragging rights on the line.

Our Ivan Watson live in Sochi this morning.

And, Ivan, you know, we spoke a lot about all the problems there in the run-up to the Olympics, and there are problems. I mean, bobsledders having to break down doors. But aside from that, with the sports now in full play, the Olympics seem to be sort of coming off as planned, right?

WATSON: That's right. I mean, the crowds certainly don't look very big, John, but yes, we're in the third day of the sports, of the competitions. We're seeing the medal lists coming out.

And what's remarkable is that after a lot of this controversy, after a lot of misgivings that I was hearing from Russians, this seems to have evaporated with the opening ceremony. I mean, I personally witnessed how Russians, you know, the moment the first bars of the Russian national anthem began, suddenly there was this explosion of pride, just like you probably have in any country.

And it's funny, you walk around Sochi, and it looks like the Russians collectively are on happy pills. They're all, like, walking around smiling, asking you, hey, what do you think of our Olympics, what do you think of our opening ceremony? There is kind of real, unfettered joy coming, especially from the Russians here and from American tourists that I've met as well.

There are still security concerns. Yesterday, I was talking to the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, and he said, you know, our security people are working around the clock, not only in Russia but around the world, monitoring a lot, tracking a lot of different things right now, and we will all breathe a big sigh of relief at the end of the Olympics if nothing terrible happens.

So, there is a backdrop to this, but for the time being, you can see it's 59 degrees out here, sunny, warm, and people do seem to be enjoying themselves -- John.

BERMAN: Ivan, smuggle back some of those happy pills for us here. We'd really appreciate it, my friend.

Ivan Watson for us in Sochi this morning. Coming up in a few minutes, we're going to break down the highlights from Sochi so far. The live, latest reports, no tape delay, in "Bleacher Report."

We've got another major story developing this morning, extreme weather. It's happening right now for a huge part of the country, from the southeast to the northwest. There's snow, there's ice, there's rain. It's set to fall and it could keep on coming all week.

FEYERICK: Yes, that's right. While schools are closed this morning in Portland, Oregon, as that city and the entire region continued to be hammered by heavy snow and ice. Another tenth of an inch of ice could fall this morning. That's going to make driving extremely tricky. Officials there urging residents, just stay home. BERMAN: In northern California, the problem, heavy rain leading to flooding and some awfully scary landslides, like this one in Sonoma County. As much as 13 inches of rain have fallen there in just the last four days. That's more than all of last year, all of 2013.

FEYERICK: Yes, and this morning, more than two dozen people are recovering after their tour bus crashed in western Pennsylvania. The roads were snow covered. Police say the driver was going simply too fast and lost control. Near Philadelphia, more than 20,000 customers waking up still without power this morning amid a fresh coating of snow. They have been in the dark since an ice storm hit last Wednesday.

BERMAN: And another ice storm could be bearing down on the south right now, this coming two weeks after Atlanta was frozen, literally, by a few millimeters of ice. This time, the governor's office is promising it is prepared with crews ready to go and to make sure that thousands do not get stuck on the highways if this bad weather does hit.


BRIAN ROBINSON: We're getting ready, and trucks are coming here right now, workers are coming here right now. There is a major concern about the amount of ice that we are expecting. We certainly learned a lot from a few weeks ago. We are going to make sure that the trucks can get on the roads to deliver salt, the sand and the brine used for pretreatment. That is critical.


BERMAN: They say they're ready this time. The storm could also bring snow and ice from Oklahoma all the way to North Carolina.

FEYERICK: Indra Petersons is watching the forecast.

And, you know, how worried should we be about this storm?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, once again, here we go. Let's take a look at the alerts here into the Southeast. You cannot question it, definitely, once again, Atlanta and Birmingham, they are in these advisory areas. So, definitely pay attention. We're going to be talking about that cold air right now again that's hanging out in the Midwest.

It's expected to drop down to the South, and once that happens, what are we talking about? Well, it's going to intersect with that moisture along the Gulf. It will be a repeat event of what we saw just a few weeks ago.

Now, take a look again to what we're talking about, just some moisture along the gulf here. What we're going to be looking at here is the potential overnight tonight as that cold air makes its way in farther to the south for some icing tonight in through tomorrow, but there are two waves of energy. Watch as we go in tomorrow night in through, again, Wednesday morning. That's when we start to see some icing potential and even some snow with this system.

But here's where you really notice that second wave is strong as we go Wednesday night in through Thursday. We are still talking about the threat for this winter storm, and that's not where it ends. A low could develop off of this system and make its way into the Northeast. Quarter inch of ice, that's what we have the potential here for. The first wave could bring about an inch of snow into the Atlanta area. The second one could bring two inches of snow.

This is all, of course, speculation. We'll have to watch as it gets closer, but remember, this means big business for us by the time it gets to Wednesday and Thursday as it makes its way into the Northeast. We'll be monitoring all of that.

BERMAN: Look at that, it says heavy snow coming our way. No one told me that.

PETERSONS: Question mark, possible.

FEYERICK: This is like the best year for kids right now, you know? I may be in the minority, but I have to say, I'm actually happy that it's winter.

PETERSONS: Somebody's got to be, right?

FEYERICK: It's got to be winter somewhere. It's been so mild.

PETERSONS: You may be the only one, but I'll give you that.

BERMAN: I was happy for two and three snow days. Now we're into four and five.

PETERSONS: Yes, I'm with you, John.

FEYERICK: All right. There we go, in the minority.

Well, this morning in Washington, a major milestone for gay rights. With respect to federal matters, Attorney General Eric Holder is set to formally give legally married same-sex couples the same status as other married couples. Federal matters would include such things as bankruptcy, prisoner visitation and also death benefits. As it stands now, the federal government bases the benefits on whether each individual state recognizes the marriage.

Well, in a speech over the weekend, Holder compared what's happening today to the government's role during the civil rights movement.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Just as was true during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the stakes involved in this generation's struggle for LGBT equality could not be higher. Then as now, nothing less than our country's founding commitment to the notion of equal protection under the law is at stake. And so, the Justice Department's role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy's time. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Well, same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia, but this decision will apply to legally married couples in all 50 states.

BERMAN: It is easier this morning for some foreigners to get permission to come to the United States, even if they gave support to terror groups. The Obama administration announcing those who gave, quote, "limited material support to terrorists" are no longer automatically prohibited from coming here. Critics say the move could put more Americans at risk, but Homeland Security says it only gives the administration more discretion in choosing who can move to the United States.

FEYERICK: And happening today in Virginia, a visit by President Obama and French President Francois Hollande to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was one of his country's earliest envoys to France, and the White House says that this is a chance for the two presidents to reflect on the nations' shared values. Hollande is traveling alone amid a scandal back home involving his affair with a French actress and the ensuing breakup with his longtime girlfriend, who had been the unofficial first lady of France.

BERMAN: Protocol eggshells during this trip.

FEYERICK: He's now the first bachelor of France, correct.

BERMAN: This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry's preparing for yet another important overseas trip, this time to Asia. The secretary will visit South Korea, China and Indonesia. This all coming at a time of increased tension throughout the region.

But the secretary will not visit Japan. He did meet with that nation's foreign minister in Washington last week.

FEYERICK: Well, let's get a check of what the markets are doing this morning. Alison Kosik is here.

Good morning, Alison.

They're up, they're down, they're where?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Overseas, they happen to be up right now, so Japan continuing to recover from its recent brutal sell-off. Stocks in China, though, are lower. European stock markets, they are heading for a fourth day in a row of gains.

Now, early indications for the U.S. stock market, the bears still hanging out, looking lower in the premarket, following a turbulent week here where the Dow had both its worst and best days of the year. Kind of a schizophrenic week for the markets here in the U.S. expect investors cautious ahead of testimony from new Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, following some weak economic data that came out last week. Yellen's going to be appearing on Capitol Hill tomorrow and Thursday. It's going to be the first time that we get to hear from the new Fed chief since she took control of the central bank last month. Investors, they're going to hang on every darn word that she says. That could give a clue as to how she feels about how the economy's doing. Also, you're going to see investors really watch to see if the Fed may decide to slow down the taper that's been going on, and that's been part of the reason you've been seeing the markets kind of go whoo all over the place.

BERMAN: That's a clinical term? That's a business school term?

KOSIK: At this hour of the morning, it is.


FEYERICK: Alison, thanks.

Well, one of the country's best college football players is acknowledging publicly this morning that he is gay. Michael Sam just graduated from the University of Missouri. He's an all American defensive back and was his team's MVP. He's on many NFL draft lists, and now he says he's felt he had to tell his story.

He wants pro football teams to think of him as just another talented athlete.


MICHAEL SAM, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI DEFENSIVE BACK: Told my teammates this past August that I came out to my teammates, and they took it great. They rallied around me, they supported me, and I couldn't have asked for better teammates.

This is something that I've known for a while. But you know, this is, to me, it's just telling them something, another person that, hey, I'm gay, and then it shouldn't be a big problem.


FEYERICK: Well, on Twitter, the NFL said it admires Sam's honesty and courage and looks forward to welcoming him in 2014. The question will be whether this affects his draft pick, actually.

BERMAN: You know, it's an interesting question. He's ranked right now from the third to the fifth round, which in the NFL means they think you are good enough to play in the NFL and play very well. He's been playing in the SEC, which if you're not a college football fan, you need to know it's basically pro football already.


BERMAN: It's the best football conference. He dominated there, so there's every reason to believe he can play. It will be interesting to see what happens to him in the draft. Such a strong, strong guy. Listening to him talk, there was so much confidence.

FEYERICK: Absolutely, and that's a game-changer, probably, for everything that's going on.

BERMAN: Let's hope.


BERMAN: All right. Coming up for us next, crisis in Syria. Hundreds rescued from a war-torn city. Their home now the focal point of this bloody civil war. We are live with the stunning tale of how they finally got out and what comes next.


FEYERICK: This morning, some 600 people are out of the Syrian city of Homs for the first time in a year. The dramatic rescue came amid shooting and mortar shells that left some of the women, children and elderly injured. The humanitarian truce seemingly violated.

Mohammed Jamjoom is monitoring developments from Beirut.

And, Mohammed, we're talking about snipers and also mortar fire. What's going on there?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Deborah, this is being called an evacuation, but you look at the amateur videos posted, it really looks more like an escape. Absolutely harrowing details that we've been receiving from people on the ground in Homs. A part of that city has been under siege for 600 days. They are finally able to leave, at least women and children and the elderly.

The pictures, though, so dramatic. You see dozens of mothers and their babies, carrying all their belongings, running for their lives, running towards just a few U.N. vehicles that were able to enter the old city yesterday. And then, even though this is progress, it seems to get worse.

You know, these people are used to being stuck between the regime and the rebels fighting, but you see videos of them wedged between these very few U.N. trucks, and they're shuffling out of the old city in that way. That for them is a humanitarian corridor. That's the only cover they have as shooting goes on and bombings go on all around them.

It is really tragic. It is a humanitarian crisis. It is great that at least 700 people, we're told, have been evacuated in the last few days, but at last count, according to the U.N., there's well over 1,000 people still stuck inside the old city -- Deborah.

FEYERICK: Mohammed Jamjoom for us. The second round of peace talks expected to begin this week. Thank you so much.

Well, prosecutors and lawyers for the surviving Boston bombing suspect are due in court this week for the first time since the government announced that it is seeking the death penalty in the case. Twenty- year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is facing 30 counts in the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 last spring. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty. BERMAN: Mourning today at the University of South Florida after four students were killed when their car was hit by a driver going the wrong way down an interstate in Tampa. The four students were fraternity brothers. The driver of the other car was also killed.

FEYERICK: And in southern California, an alleged wrong-way driver is facing charges this morning after police say she slammed her car head on into an SUV, also killing six people. The driver was allegedly drunk and reportedly was going more than 100 miles per hour.

BERMAN: In West Virginia this morning, more questions set to be asked of state officials and the water company over the chemical leak that left hundreds of thousands unable to use the water there. The House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing in Charleston. Notable, though, who will not be there, representatives from the CDC or Freedom Industries -- the company whose tank leaked.

All right, coming up for us next, a dangerous crash on the slopes of the Olympics. A competitor lucky to be alive this morning. Our Andy Scholes breaking down all the big Olympic moments, the ones that have been happening overnight. No tape delay! The "Bleacher Report," next.

FEYERICK: Hold your breath.


BERMAN: We are now just a few days into the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and one of the most talked about events, and one of the coolest, I have to say --

FEYERICK: Absolutely.

BERMAN: -- so far, is the slopestyle competition. Not exactly safe, though.

FEYERICK: Not quite. Well, Andy Scholes joins us now with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

And, boy, Sage Kotsenburg performed a move that was completely indicative of what this sport is all about.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes, that's right. That move was pretty awesome. For people that don't know, slopestyle is that new snowboarding competition where competitors do tricks in the air after making insanely high jumps. Now, snowboarder extraordinaire Shaun White actually pulled out of the men's competition, because he says the course was too dangerous. We got to see exactly how dangerous this course was yesterday.

Check snowboarder Sarka Pancochova crashed so hard that her helmet split wide open. She lay on the ground motionless for several moments, but she amazingly got up and completed the race. She ended up finishing fifth overall. You see there, that's her helmet that was split wide open after the crash. American Jamie Anderson, meanwhile, was able to navigate the difficult course crash-free. Anderson is the fifth of eight children, comes from a big snowboarding family. She had won plenty of other snowboarding medals, but this gold by far is the biggest. Her win completed the sweep for the United States in the slopestyle. Sage Kotsenburg, he won gold in the men's competition on Saturday.

American bode miller had a day to forget yesterday during the men's Olympic downhill. He finished a disappointing eighth. Miller was one of the favorites going into the event. He has another shot at a medal on Thursday in the super combine. He's trying to become the oldest competitor to win an alpine event.

All right, trending on, today is probably one of the images we're going to remember from these Olympic Games. American Ashley Wagner completed what she thought was a great performance in the team skate competition, but when her score came out, she was shocked and disappointed. And as you can see, she didn't hide it with a fake smile.

Wagner taking a page out of gymnast McKayla Maroney's book when it comes to expressions. She did help bring USA the bronze in the competition.

Here's a look at the current medal count. Norway still leading the way with seven medals. Team USA tied for second with four.

Oklahoma State basketball star Marcus Smart has been suspended for three games for shoving a Texas Tech fan Saturday night. It happened after Smart went flying into the stands trying to make a play. In a statement, the fan apologized for starting the confrontation by calling Smart, quote, "a piece of crap."

Smart has also apologized for his actions in the incident.


MARCUS SMART, OKLAHOMA STATE: This is not how this program is ran, this is not how I was raised. You know, I let my emotions get the best of me, you know. Just can't let that happen again. It's something I have to learn from, a lesson I have to learn from.


SCHOLES: And, guys, the incident very unfortunate on both sides, both for the fan who actually started it, and Marcus Smart. Marcus Smart is a very good kid, very well spoken. I've spoken to him many times, and it's hard. Where do we draw the line in this type of thing, where a fan can say something to him and Marcus Smart's now going to miss three games for retaliating? It's just a shame.

BERMAN: It is a shame. Hopefully, he can turn his season around and get Oklahoma State into the tournament.

Andy Scholes, thank you very much. We have breaking sports news. Julia Mancuso, the American downhill skier, is in the lead in the super-g combined. That is going on right now.

FEYERICK: So fascinating. Two words when you look at these athletes: no fear. Unbelievable.

BERMAN: Also, way cooler than me. That's four words. Watching snowboarding, like, I will never be as cool as these people.

FEYERICK: Exactly, exactly. If I get downhill, I'll be happy.

All right. Well, breaking this morning, we're hearing from an American held prisoner in North Korea. A live report and that's coming up after the break.