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California on Fire: Wildfires Raging in San Diego; The Donald Sterling Interview; Hope Fading for Survivors Turkey Mine Disaster; Nigeria: "No Prisoner Swap"; Heat Rally Late, Advance Past Nets

Aired May 15, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, California on fire, thousands of people evacuated, dozens of homes destroyed, flames burning this hour through San Diego County. We're going to show you the latest from the ground and track how hard firefighters are going to have to work today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a devastating mine disaster, hundreds of people killed, hundreds still missing. This morning, a frantic rescue effort to save any possible survivors. We are live with the latest.

ROMAN: More revelations from Donald Sterling, on the record in a CNN exclusive. The L.A. Clippers owner opening up about his marriage, his affairs and why he believes he may not be forced to sell his team.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Great to see you today. It is Thursday, May 15th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And up first, we have breaking news: Northern San Diego County on fire and no relief in sight, at least not soon. Nine separate wildfires torching 9,000 acres so far. Schools, businesses forced to evacuate. Homes have been torched.

One firefighter said it is like a scene from Armageddon. So, let's get the latest now from Paul Vercammen.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Christine, call it the "Devil's Pitch Fork", because we had humidity less than 10 percent, you had winds and you had hot temperatures.

The evacuations included Legoland, a nuclear power plant, parts of a military base and untold residences.

And behind me, the fire burning right above Cal State University-San Marcos. Not only have they canceled the rest of the week here, they had to postpone the graduation ceremonies.

And we've watched the firefighters doing the very best they could to stay in front of these flames. At one point, there was an inmate crew that was digging line, and it came so close to us that I had to race out during a live shot and grab my cameraman's battery bag and get it out of there.

It was surprising to me just how quickly it shifted. And, of course, multiple parts of San Diego County burning.

And the overarching theme, as I talked to a federal fire official, he says they are most concerned right now about almost all of California, almost all of Oregon and parts of Nevada. The drought, of course, is playing a big role in these multiple fires.

Back to you now, John and Christine.


BERMAN: All right, our thanks to Paul Vercammen on the scene there at fires.

Back here, we have Indra Petersons tracking the conditions those firefighters will be facing, really, over the next several hours.

ROMANS: Hi, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is the concern. We knew we had exceptional drought conditions all over California, the dry brush. Drought conditions are still there. Typically, we see the peak fire system towards fall, but unfortunately, notice what we're already seeing in the region.

We're talking about fires ravaging early in the season. Even today, they're still looking at a critical fire danger out there. There are red flag warnings throughout the San Diego region.

Take a look just the temperatures they saw yesterday, John Wayne Airport had the warmest temperature in the entire country yesterday at 106 degrees. If you're not familiar with this area, it is close to the coastline. Unbelievable. Look at Long Beach, 101 out towards San Diego, talking about those temperatures into the 90s today.

Definitely a difficult concept. A lot of people don't get it, but you have the cold air, remember the cool-down towards the Midwest? The cold air comes down the mountain passes and canyons, and by the time it gets to the coastline, you get the extreme heat and very dry conditions. Those humidities, they drop.

You're not even seeing the recovery this morning. Temperatures and humidities very low. Typically, you want to see the recovery at least up to 50 percent in the overnight hours. Still dry in the afternoon, expected to stay dry. Here's the one piece of good news we have. High pressure's currently in place. It's allowing all of the canyon winds to be out there.

Eventually as we get towards Friday we will start to see more of the onshore flow and that marine layer return, which will bring up the humidities and temperatures down, but unfortunately, today looks like it may be rougher than yesterday temperature-wise.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra -- Indra Petersons.

Now, more of CNN's exclusive interview with Donald Sterling, including parts of his conversation with Anderson you have not heard before. Sterling insisting he's a giver, not a hater, showing remorse for what he's done to his estranged wife, Shelly, and seemingly in complete denial about his chances of keeping his beloved Los Angeles Clippers.


ANDERSON COOPER, "AC360" HOST: You believe you will be able to keep the team, though?


COOPER: Because the advertisers certainly, you know --

STERLING: The advertisers are all coming back. Let's not be crazy.

The fans will all come if you have a good team. If you don't have a good team, the fans won't come.

COOPER: Even if you're owner?

STERLING: What am I, a Frankenstein? What am I, some kind of an ogre? I'm a good person. I'm a warm person. I say hello to everybody who comes to the team.

COOPER: There's some players, though, who have talked about a boycott of the season.

STERLING: Well, that's talk. The media pushes that. Why would they do that? If they get their salaries, they're going to play.

COOPER: Do you think your wife, Shelly, should also be removed as an owner?

STERLING: If for some reason I can't have the team, I think that she should have her interest. I mean, she didn't do anything. I brought all this on her, the poor girl. I don't know how she can live, and deal with this.

I guess I was bad committing all those terrible -- I don't even want to say it. But you know, people say, how do you commit adultery? You justify things. You say, well, every man in Paris or France has a mistress.

I mean, it may make you smile, but when you're so old, you don't think it's wrong anymore if you have a little bit of fun. You don't have much time, if you have a little bit of fun. You can't do what you did before and nobody expects -- but you want to be cared for. Everybody wants to be cared for. I made such a mistake.


BERMAN: Just add that to this mix already.

All right. Five minutes after the hour right now. Hope is fading that any more survivors will be found in the aftermath of the deadly mine explosion in Turkey, a grim scene in the city of Soma. Smoke, fumes still rising from that collapsed mine, hampering the rescue. There are 282 people now known dead, 120 others still trapped under ground, at this point believed likely gone.

I want to bring in Diana Magnay live from that scene in turkey this morning.

Diana, give us a sense of the latest.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is an incredibly sad place to be when you speak of the numbers and you know and talk to the people who are waiting and watching and find out from them that they really have no hope that any more will be pulled out alive.

The rescue workers are still continuing with their efforts, but the work has to be halted for periods of time because the fire deep under ground is still burning and because some of the chambers fill with carbon monoxide, which is what killed most of the miners who lost their lives, who have been brought out. People here are now waiting for the president to arrive.

Yesterday, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came and made a really surprising speech which has been widely criticized for its incredible lack of sensitivity. He said that we should just accept these kinds of accidents as par for the course in the mining industry, that this is what happens, and started reeling many, many examples, going as far back as 19th-century Britain as illustrations of how people can die in mining accidents. And there has been widespread anger across this country.

More demonstrations planned for today in response to what people see as the government's lack of regard for safety standards. This was, of course, a mine that was privatized, but people feel that the government, too, is to blame. And these protests in Istanbul yesterday, in Ankara yesterday, have been met with a very heavy-handed police response, John. And you can only expect this depth of anger as people's anguish turns to anger and a desire for answers to get stronger as the days go by, John.

BERMAN: You have family tragedy, personal tragedy that is going to turn to political turmoil, already has, as you say.

Diana Magnay in Soma for us this morning -- thanks so much.

ROMANS: In Nigeria, the president there declaring there will be no exchange of Boko Haram prisoners for hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls. Meanwhile, violence is erupting in northern Nigeria, where the terror organization operates. Villagers are reportedly ambushing the extremist group, killing and detaining dozens of them.

Let's get the latest from Vladimir Duthiers, live from Abuja, Nigeria.

Those attacks in the northern part of the country, those are sanctioned, really, by the government?

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. This comes under the aegis of the joint task force, rooting out Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. They've empowered a civilian task force. The group doesn't necessarily have authority, other than that provided by the police.

But this is how people in northeastern Nigeria have been living since 2009. They feel that the military themselves are unable to do the job that is required, and so, they themselves have been taken to protecting themselves and their loved ones.

The problem with that, obviously, Christine, is that the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, has already accused the Nigerian military of committing extrajudicial killings, forced and illegal detentions. It only gets worse when you have civilians undertaking the task of what should be the police and the military.

But there have been some inroads made with Boko Haram in the last couple of days, Christine. We know that the state security services have said that they have captured several people who were responsible for the bombings here in Abuja, one that left 71 people dead, another left dozens dead here. He and this man here, Rufi Abubakar (ph), considered to be the mastermind of the bombing.

So, some inroads with capturing Boko Haram terrorists. But, still a lot farther to go to find where the girls might be, Christine.

ROMANS: Vladimir Duthiers live in Abuja, Nigeria, thanks.

BERMAN: Ten minutes after the hour.

Murder charges filed against the captain and three officers of the South Korean ferry that capsized and sank last month, killing more than 280 people. The other 11 surviving crew members have been indicted on negligence charges. Prosecutors say many members of the crew scrambled to escape that sinking ship before the passengers had a chance. Twenty-three of those passengers are still listed as missing.

ROMANS: Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is set to testify before a senate committee this morning. He's under fire following a CNN report revealing dozens of patients died waiting to be treated at a V.A. hospital in phoenix. At least half a dozen V.A. hospitals are now being investigated for allegedly cooking the books to cover up similarly potential deadly treatment delays, including the one in Austin, Texas, where staffers acknowledged they're overwhelmed.


JACKIE SWOPE, VETERAN: Because of the, frankly, the over loading of the medical services and the other services that they can provide, they're not able to see them, I want to say in a timely manner. Symptoms could worsen. They could result to self-medication.

DAVID BONSALL, MARINE CORPS VETERAN: They've always come through with at least within 30 days of, you know, of receiving net notice.

REPORTER: And you're good with that 30 days?

BONSALL: Yes, I'm fine with it.


ROMANS: CNN has obtained a copy of the statement Secretary Shinseki has prepared for today's hearing. He's going to tell senators he is angered and saddened but won't say what his department is doing to fix the problems and won't acknowledge there is a problem.

BERMAN: President Obama will be on hand later this morning for the official dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero. This museum is filled with just remarkable remnants of the World Trade Center and objects from some of the nearly 3,000 people who died in this terror attack. The museum will be open 24/7 for the next week so families of 9/11 victims can visit it any time.

These are live pictures right now of the memorial and the museum. It looks beautiful any time of day. It officially opened to the public next Wednesday.

ROMANS: Right. An EARLY START on your money. Stocks in Europe are lower right now, but they are still hovering near the six-year highs. We just learned Germany's economy grew 0.8 percent in the first quarter. France didn't grow at all. Two very different stories.

The European Union, John, grew 0.2 percent. It's less than expected, but you know, it's recovering from its longest ever recession. You can see how uneven that recovery is.

Remember, in the U.S., bad winter weather kept economic growth stagnant at just 0.1 percent in the same period. Corporate earnings, though, telling a different story, 75 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings that were better than Wall Street expected.

Two more companies to watch on that front this morning, JCPenney and Walmart. Investors watching for news on health of the consumer.

I'm really looking forward to what Walmart has to say about its paycheck-to-paycheck consumer, how well they're weathering this and whether things are getting better in the second quarter.

BERMAN: If you're looking for it, then I'm looking forward to it.

All right. Thirteen minutes after the hour.

Happening today, Hillary Clinton officially on the campaign trail! Intrigued? You should be. This as her husband fights back against accusations that Mrs. Clinton could have suffered brain damage. What Bill Clinton had to say, just ahead.


BERMAN: Hillary Clinton hits the campaign trail today. She's highlighting a fund-raiser to an old friend and newish family member. Marjorie Margolies is Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law. She's fighting to win a Pennsylvania House seat. She lost one of those in 1994. At the time, it was largely credited with her support of Bill Clinton's budget, her vote for Bill Clinton's budget.

And the former president made news of his own Wednesday, firing back at Republican strategist Karl Rove, who suggested that Mrs. Clinton might be suffering from a brain injury after a 2012 incident.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: First, they said she faked her concussion. And now they say she's auditioning for a part on "The Walking Dead." Now, they say she's really got brain damage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think they're trying to --

CLINTON: If she does, then I must be in really tough shape because she's still quicker than I am.


BERMAN: All right, so, that response has many speculating that the Clinton machine is now in full swing. They're doing rapid response because perhaps they're gearing up for 2016. Not that there already wasn't rampant speculation that they were gearing up for 2016.

ROMANS: Is there a joke in here about how all politicians have some form of brain damage?

BERMAN: Or personality disorders or both.

ROMANS: That's a joke. That's a joke, everyone.

BERMAN: Sort of.

ROMANS: That's -- it's a joke. Same thing they say about news anchors. But we won't go there.

A disturbing development in the immigration debate. A new report says more than 36,000 convicted criminals were released by immigration officials last year. Among those released by the government, 193 killers and more than 400 sexual assault convicts. This comes as the White House conducts a review of deportation practices with the goal of making them more humane. Critics, including the group that conducted this report, say what the U.S. needs is tougher immigration enforcement.

BERMAN: In Arkansas, same-sex couples are in a kind of limbo this morning. Wednesday, the state Supreme Court upheld a ruling that overturned a voter-approved ban on gay marriage, but a separate law that bars county clerks from issuing these licenses, that still does seem to be in place. And justices offered little guidance on what should happen next. The licenses so far have been halted, but officials say the 450 couples who already have one, they're married. ROMANS: All right, deliberations expected to start today in the terror trial of Abu Hamza al Masri. In closing arguments, prosecutors told the Manhattan jury not to be fooled by the radical Muslim cleric who took the stand this week, saying he knows how to work a crowd. Al Masri is accused of inspiring terrorists, including 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, helping kidnap tourists in Yemen, trying to start a terror training camp in Oregon. He has pleaded not guilty.

BERMAN: Joran van der Sloot is a new man. That's according to a woman who is five months pregnant with his child. Also, she's planning to marry the convicted killer.

Van der Sloot is serving 28 years in a Peruvian prison for the 2010 murder of a local college student. After that, he faces extradition to the United States in connection with the 2005 disappearance of American Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

Van der Sloot is set to marry the Peruvian citizen next week. And I know you're wondering about this. In Peru, they apparently have different visitation rights in prison than they do here in the United States.

ROMANS: Oh, my.

BERMAN: You know what I'm saying?

ROMANS: Yes, I know exactly what you're saying.


ROMANS: Thanks, Berman.

Coming up, LeBron James and the defending champion Miami Heat trying to knock off the New Jersey Nets and advance to the next round of the playoffs! Brian McFayden has details, in case you were asleep, in "Bleacher Report," next.


BERMAN: It took a late rally against the Nets, but the Miami Heat are going back to the Eastern Conference finals.

ROMANS: Brian McFayden has more in the "Bleacher Report." Good morning.


Brooklyn gave Miami all they could handle last night and looked like they would keep the series going until the very end. Nope. About 30 seconds left, the ageless wonder, Ray Allen, wide open for three. You just don't leave him open from out there. Allen nails it, giving the heat the lead.

Last chance for the Nets. LeBron strips the ball away from Joe Johnson and the Heat are going to their sixth eastern conference final in the last ten years. The Spurs completely routed the Trailblazers last night. It got so bad for the Blazers. First, Leonard went all M.J., double-pump slam. Spurs win 104-82 and advance to the western conference finals. They'll play the winner of the Thunder/Clippers series.

Move over Lindsay Lohan. The Oprah Winfrey Network announced yesterday that it has purchased the rights of a docu-series that will follow the life of Michael Sam, NFL's first openly gay player. The series will be broken up into six to eight segments. In a statement, Oprah said, "We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever."

Sam took to Twitter, "Looking forward to sharing my life and journey at OWN TV with my friends, family and supporters."

Trending to, does it make you a bad person to laugh at this video? A Dodger fan going for a foul ball while holding up his child in the air and without thinking, he pushes her to the side and she falls back in the seat and she wasn't happy, either. She gave dad the business.

By the way, the father didn't even get the ball. That's horrible!

Back to you guys.

ROMANS: I have a question, are your sports instincts deeper than your parental instincts, John Berman?

BERMAN: No, I mean, he's in trouble. That dude is in serious trouble.

ROMANS: If it were the Red Sox, will you drop one of your twins?

BERMAN: He has two hands. That's what two hands are for, right?

MCFAYDEN: I think he's sleeping on the couch.

BERMAN: If he's allowed back in the house at all. That girl's never going to forget that. Good luck with the therapy.

ROMANS: Especially since it's on tape.


ROMANS: Thanks, Brian.

Breaking news this morning: California on fire, thousands forced to leave their homes. The flames are moving in. We've got the very latest on San Diego County on fire, after the break.