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EARLY START

International Anger Grows on Nigerian Kidnappings; Intense Fighting in Ukraine; Republican Infighting; Critical Meeting on Flight 370

Aired May 6, 2014 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a desperate search for hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Terrorists on tape threatening to sell them, sell them to the highest bidder. The U.S. is now offering to help, but can anyone find the girls, bring them home before it's too late? We're live in Nigeria with the latest developments.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: More deadly fights in the streets of Ukraine. This morning, soldiers battling pro-Russian separatists, pushing the country closer to an all out civil war. We're live on the ground with what's happening right now.

BERMAN: And we do have new information this morning on what caused this circus stunt to go so terribly wrong. What investigators are now revealing this morning.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Great to see you today. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

This morning, the calls are growing louder for action and quickly in Nigeria after a terrorist made clear his plans to sell, to sell more than 200 young girls who were kidnapped from their school.

In a video, a man claiming to be the leader of Boko Haram, he admits abducting the girls. He says he has been commanded by God to sell them. This nearly a month after the girls were taken at gunpoint. They were loaded into trucks. They were driven into the African bush.

Vladimir Duthiers is live in Lagos, Nigeria with the latest.

And the world every morning waking up more outraged that this happened and that we don't know where these girls are, and that now the leader of this group, which is against Western education, the leader of this group says he must sell these girls, they need to be sold off into marriage. That's what women are for.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. This is the parents' worst nightmare realized. When these girls were taken more than three weeks ago, April 14th, from their dormitory in the middle of the night, armed attackers storming into their campus, taking them, carting them away by trucks, by vans into the dead of night, they were worried that these children would be in this very dense forest area bordering Cameroon and Nigeria, the Sambisa Forest, it's a Boko Haram stronghold.

In fact the president of Nigeria last year said parts of Borno State, where this force is, were not under control of the federal government. That was something they were worried about. Now with the release of this video, their worst fears have been realized. The children, because of the time that it's taken to find them, may have been trafficked out of the country into neighboring Cameroon, or perhaps Niger and Chad.

And any time Boko Haram makes a threat, any time they release a video, the world takes it seriously, Nigeria takes it seriously. This is a group that has killed 1500 people this year alone in Boko Haram- related violence and violence with both the group and the military, and 1500 people. Anywhere in the world, that country would come to a standstill if 1500 citizens died in just the first three months of this year.

In Nigeria, this is something that they've been battling since 2009 -- Christine.

ROMANS: I'm wondering what kind of confidence do Nigerian people have that their government is going to be able to do something about this.

DUTHIERS: I have to tell you, Christine, we've talked to a lot of people on the ground here in Lagos, in the capital Abuja, and we talked to the families in Chibok, and they are not at all confident. They certainly want the return of these girls. They are hoping, they are praying. Nigerians are optimistic. They believe that things will get better, that things can get better, but they're not optimistic about their government.

They feel that the only reason that the government is even making any announcements, any statements about what they are doing with the search of these girls is because international outrage has forced them, has compelled them to. For the last three weeks, we've spoken to parents in Chibok, and they have told us that they have seen no significant military presence.

They have seen no significant search-and-rescue operations on the ground, and in fact, they've risked their own lives to try and go and rescue their daughters. Something that the military they say should be doing -- Christine.

ROMANS: Perhaps when there are internal political ramifications for not doing enough, it will get the attention of officials in the country.

Vladimir Duthiers, thank you so much.

BERMAN: The entire world needs to keep the pressure on there right now.

ROMANS: Yes. BERMAN: Bring our girls back home.

All right. Growing violence to tell you about this morning in Ukraine, where fierce fighting near Slavyansk has left at least four people dead, so many more injured. Militants downed a Ukrainian helicopter as government forces tried to retake that key city.

Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is near Slavyansk this morning.

And, Nick, as you've been saying, it appears the Ukrainian forces, not just losing the battle for territory, but also in some cases the battle for hearts and minds in that area.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's an extraordinarily tough battle. I mean, there's been weeks of building anger here, weeks of messaging, often based on Kremlin -- pro-Kremlin media here, reminding people that Kiev, telling people that Kiev run by extremists or have extremists carrying out their orders here. So for the Ukrainian military to move into these cities, obviously, they're going to face significant local hostility. Before they even have to fire shots to get in there.

Now we saw plenty of civilians caught in that crossfire yesterday. One woman killed, it seems by a touch of stray bullet by standing on her balcony. We saw a civilian car shot up. And that was simply the Ukrainian military trying to move down the main highway on the outskirts of Slavyansk, not moving into the city center proper.

So it's going to be an impossible, if not extremely bloody task to try to move further into the center of Slavyansk because those pro-Russian militants, too, are putting up an extremely fierce resistance. And the fear is now we've seen the Ukrainian military moving much more resources into this area.

Do they intend a larger operation? The suggestions are, yes, that may come in the days ahead, but we have another timetable working, too, working, John. The May 11th referendum that the pro-Russian protests and militants have called here. Effectively they'd ask the question, what sort of sovereignty do you want for this area called the Donetsk Republic and possibly the republic next door in Luhansk? And effectively, that means do you want to be part of Ukraine or Russia at the end of the day, most people tell us.

So there's that political process happening, divorced of any negotiation in which we're pretty unaware is happening at all, and this increased military build-up and bloodshed. Now it's a daily death toll, whereas before a few weeks ago, John, we were talking about how many buildings these protesters seized. Really troubling times here -- John.

BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh live for us outside Slavyansk.

He mentioned this referendum scheduled for less than a week now. Just simply a dangerous mystery on what will happen in the days leading up to that. ROMANS: All right. We'll continue to watch that.

Also this morning, reaction still pouring into a Supreme Court decision finding Christian prayers are OK at the start of public meetings. The high court ruling 5-4 that those prayers are ceremonial and they are permitted so long as they don't turn into preaching before public meetings. But the dissenters said the practice of only having Christian prayers excludes those of different faiths or no faith.

BERMAN: Happening today in New Jersey, a former aide to Governor Chris Christie set to testify before a legislative committee about the bridgegate scandal. Christina Renna was one of the -- was the governor's director of Government Affairs. She worked closely with Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who, of course, wrote that e-mail believed to have triggered the shutdown of lanes on the George Washington Bridge.

House Speaker John Boehner has named his pick to head up a select congressional committee investigating what happened in Benghazi and whether the White House tried to cover up what happened there.

South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy is a former prosecutor, he's a prominent critic of the Obama administration, and he has said he has evidence of a cover-up in the aftermath of the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other State Department employees.

Democrats say they have not received any of these details yet about the committee. They're pushing for a no vote on forming a committee and they're suggesting they may not join it, no matter what happens.

ROMANS: All right, to money now. Stocks mixed in Europe. The Nikkei and Hang Seng closed today for holidays. Dow futures are higher right now, and the last seven Tuesdays, stocks closed higher, so maybe we're going to go for eight today.

Corporate America, though, ramping up a fight against a higher minimum wage. Remember, President Obama has been pushing for a $10.10 minimum wage, up from $7.25? About 25 states have already raised their minimum wages higher than the federal average. Now the National Retail Federation ramping up lobbying efforts against the proposed increase. And a new commercial from the Employment Policies Institute shows a fortune-teller -- you can see her here -- predicting one million job losses if base pay is increased.

The Congressional Budget Office actually forecasted about 500,000 Americans would lose work, but 900,000 Americans would be lifted out of poverty if you raise the minimum wage. Still a very, very contentious debate and some big business against it.

BERMAN: It will be a debate all the way through the midterm elections in November.

ROMANS: Sure will.

BERMAN: A key report due out today is expected to lay out the impact of climate change on the United States. The White House report many years in the making will build on a draft first made public last year. It will argue that climate change is costing the United States billions and affecting everyone's lives. The authors say the weather extremes we have seen the last year or so are evidence that this country must take action before it's too late.

Our --

ROMANS: Indrison.

BERMAN: Our Indrison is here. Indra Petersons -- Indra, taking a look at our forecast for today.

Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I like my new nickname. We're going to go with that, yes. What are we talking about today? We're still talking about some mild regions in the Pacific Northwest and into the northeast, but it is right smack in the middle of the country where we're still talking about record-breaking heat, especially where we last need it, Oklahoma City still dealing with wildfires and today they're still talking about record heat expected as we go in through the afternoon. So that's going to be the big concern there.

Some showers, yes, they're out there. If you're in D.C. this morning, notice you're still seeing some scattered showers kind of cruising through the area. Look for them still through your morning commute today. But then again, it's still going to be about the middle of the country where it is so dry, where they need the rain, but unfortunately, we're talking about red flag conditions again.

Again, that fire danger is high. Temperatures 25 degrees above normal. And remember, the jet stream is only lifting to the north, so places like Chicago, enjoy your day today. By tomorrow you're going to be in on that heat as well.

So here we go. We talked about all that heat, right? We talked about the Pacific Northwest, how it's a little chilly there. Here's the problem, that cold air is going to clash with that heat by tomorrow, so right in the middle of the country again, when you put two air masses like that together, you have that threat for severe weather. We're going to see that as that low cruises across.

So Wednesday and Thursday, both looking for the potential for severe weather and eventually some of that showery kind of nature cruising into the northeast by the second half of the week. Middle of the country, all the focus is really there all week long.

ROMANS: All right, Indrison, thank you so much.

BERMAN: Indra.

(LAUGHTER)

PETERSONS: So smooth.

ROMANS: Someone call that --

BERMAN: It's early. It's early. This show goes on TV at 4:00 a.m.

ROMANS: It's Tuesday. Early was Monday morning.

BERMAN: I can't use actual words for two full hours. That's a lot to ask.

ROMANS: All right, we'll give you -- I'll get you a cup of coffee. That might help.

All right, Ringling Brothers Circus moving on with its next show now as investigators reveal what could have caused eight acrobats dangling by their hair to come crashing down to the ground.

BERMAN: And flames igniting when a plane crashes into a Denver home. Miraculously, no one was hurt. Question is, how is this even possible? Stunning pictures right after the break.

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BERMAN: We now know the cause of that terrifying accident at a circus in Rhode Island. Investigators say a single metal clamp broke during the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey show in Providence sending this aerial apparatus crashing to the ground and leaving nine acrobats hurt.

Today the circus heads to Hartford, Connecticut, to prepare for its next performances and Ringling Brothers promises it will replace all of those metal clamps before the next show which is on Thursday. Eight of the performers remained hospitalized this morning, two of them in critical condition, but the circus says luckily none of those injuries appears to be life-threatening.

ROMANS: Take a look at these incredible pictures from suburban Denver, that's where a single-engine plane crashed into a home, burst into flames. The plane was pulling an advertising banner and lost power just before it crashed. The pilot suffered minor injuries. No one was inside that house at the time of the crash.

BERMAN: Politicians, start your engines, and political reporters, the long national nightmare is over. We have an Election Day. Primary season revs up today with elections in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana. Thank goodness it's here at last.

The spotlight really on the Republican Senate primary in North Carolina. Why? Well, this really is the first real test we have of the establishment GOP against the Tea Party. There's a Tea Party challenge in this race. It has a lot of people talking. It has the establishment nervous.

Here to discuss this, CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser.

ROMANS: Hey, Paul.

BERMAN: Paul, what's going on down there? PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: You're right, game day in North Carolina, guys. This is a very important race for a lot of us who cover politics because as you mentioned this is a real first big test this year of the establishment versus the Tea Party. Remember, over the last two years, the last two election cycles, we've seen candidates backed by the right really effectively cost the Republicans five very winnable Senate seats.

This time the establishment is saying enough's enough. The guy they're backing, as you mentioned, Thom Tillis, he's the House speaker down in North Carolina, the state House speaker. He's got the backing just in the last couple of days of people like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, but more importantly, some of the big outside groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads. They've spent some big bucks to make sure Tillis wins the 40 percent he needs to avoid a runoff.

He's got a bunch of challengers, one of them a guy called Greg Brannon, he's the Tea Party guy here. He's backed by Rand Paul. As you mentioned, Rand Paul went down there yesterday. The senator from Kentucky. Very influential on the right. And also some other groups are backing him there. A lot of other showdowns over the next four to five weeks, every Tuesday. That will really give us a sense of whether the Tea Party or the establishment has the upper hand this time. Guys?

ROMANS: And speaking of the upper hand, we've got some polls. Walk us through these polls that show that maybe Democrats should be a little nervous heading into November.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, six months to Election Day. Take a look at our brand-new numbers from CNN/ORC. We asked Americans and registered voters across the country, in your congressional district, would you vote for the Democrat or the Republican, without naming names here, no candidate names. We call this generic ballot.

Look, OK, so the Republicans only have a one-point advantage, doesn't seem like a lot. Here's why it's important. Four years ago, at the same time before the 2010 midterms, Republicans also had the slight advantage. They went on to a very big victory.

Another indicator. Take a look at this. The president's approval rating 43 percent, nothing to brag about. Is the president going to be a drag on his party? Maybe. Is there a silver lining for the Democrats? Check this out, though. If the Republicans keep control of the House, do the Democrats -- do Americans want the Republicans to win the Senate? Looks like Americans are divided on this one. Six months to go, stay tuned, a lot of numbers to come.

BERMAN: You know, on the generic ballot test, though, I'm not sure think Democrats should be a little nervous, perhaps a lot nervous is more appropriate.

Finally, let's go back to North Carolina because I can't let you go, Paul. without talking about Clay Aiken running for Congress right there. And this time, Paul, second will not be good enough. STEINHAUSER: Yes, he was second place finish to Reuben Stoddard. We all remember that in "American Idol's" second season. He went on to a lot of fame. He's back home in the North Carolina 2nd District, he's battling for a House seat down there. Two other major Democrats running in the seat. He's talking a lot about his life story, he's openly gay. He's emphasizing that to a degree as well. Stay tuned. If he wins, this is going to be a race we're all going to be covering a lot.

BERMAN: And Carrie Underwood will probably run next.

Paul Steinhauser, great to have you with us. Thanks a lot.

ROMANS: All right. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Kate Bolduan joins us this Tuesday morning.

Good morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning, guys. We're following the same story you guys are, that horrifying story of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by a terror group in Nigeria. The group has not only kidnapped and held them, they are now threatening to sell the girls, as international frustration grows over the efforts to rescue them or lack thereof.

What can be done to find these girls? What more should be done? Christiane Amanpour is going to be joining us, as well as experts who know the country very well.

We're going to stay on top of that.

And we're also going to be continuing to cover the continuing violence in Ukraine. It's intensifying, the death toll rising in bloody clashes between pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian troops. Just look at the video. Is Ukraine on the verge of war? Will Russia use the bloodshed as an excuse to invade?

We're breaking down the conflict and what, if any, options leaders have to try and calm things down.

ROMANS: All right, Kate Bolduan. Thanks, Kate. Can't wait.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: A new phase about to begin in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Investigators set to re-examine the evidence, sort of a reboot in the investigation. So what comes next? We are live in Malaysia with the latest on that after the break.

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BERMAN: It's a crucial day in the search for Flight 370. In Australia this morning, preparations under way for a critical meeting over the next steps in the search. The hunt for the plane is entering, really, a new phase, and leaders from China, Malaysia and Australia, they now need to decide what to do to see if they can find this plane.

Will Ripley live in Kuala Lumpur with more on this meeting this morning.

Good morning, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Just hours from now in Canberra, Australia that team of experts that met here in Kuala Lumpur and decided where they think the plane went down will be going over the data all over again, taking a look at the satellite information, those possible pings under water and everything else that's been collected in the last two months of this investigation into the disappearance of Flight 370.

They just want to make sure that they're searching in the right place because there's a lot at stake here and a lot invested. It could cost up to $60 million, take up to 12 months. They're talking about a massive underwater search, 23,000 square miles needs to be covered. So far, the Bluefin-21 has covered fewer than 200 square miles -- John.

BERMAN: A lot more work to do, a lot more plans to be hashed over the next 24 hours.

Will Ripley, good to see you this morning. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Summer usually means paying more for gas, but this year may be the exception. That's right. What you need to know before you plan your summer road trip. That "money time" next.

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ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time."

OK, drivers, you may be in for a treat this summer. Experts are predicting lower gas prices. Prices jumped in April as refineries switched over to their summer blends and oil prices fluctuated on the situation in Ukraine. Average price per gallon hit $3.66 last month, but prices have already come down a few cents. Experts tell us we should expect another 5 or 10-cent drop in coming weeks.

Coke and Pepsi showing this morning that teenagers really can change the world. The two drink-makers announced Monday they will remove the controversial ingredient BVO from their products. BVO contains a flame retardant chemical also used in plastics and furniture. The shake-up comes after a Mississippi teenager noted the chemical in Gatorade -- look at her there. She launched a petition on change.org to get it removed. Pepsi complied and is following up with other products. Coke also going BVO-free by year end.

All right, more proof that the 1 percent is getting richer. A new report out this morning from "Alpha" magazine shows the country's richest hedge fund managers made more than $21 billion last year. That's more than the GDPs of Jamaica and Haiti combined. And what's more, pay is up 50 percent -- is up 50 percent from last year. Hedge fund managers make their income based on what their funds' return as well as their fees.

BERMAN: Yes, they can all make more money today because I'm just looking. The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq futures all up.

ROMANS: All higher.

BERMAN: About 0.25 percent.

ROMANS: Seven Tuesdays in a row stocks have finished higher. A lot of people this morning saying they're going to look for another terrific Tuesday.

BERMAN: Seven Tuesdays in a row? Voices carry until Tuesday. Way to go.

All right. Thanks for joining us. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't imagine any mother going through this. It's shocking.

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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Humanity on alert. Hundreds of girls are missing. Their kidnapper threatening them in this chilling video. Who's trying to save them? A movement is growing online around the world. The U.S. being pushed to help.

Our correspondents are on the ground talking to families pressing for answers.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Growing crisis. Deadly violence in Ukraine as soldiers face-off against pro-Russian militants. Diplomats at the same time meet this morning to try once again to resolve the conflict. We're live on the ground.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Race and basketball. The Clippers destroyed their opponents overnight as the league gets behind the effort to force Donald Sterling out. But is the outrage as universal as previously thought. We have some surprising new poll numbers.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.