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Multiple Fire in Southern California; Desperate Search for Survivors in Turkey Mine Disaster; Thousands in the Dark in Ohio; New Twist in Donald Sterling Saga

Aired May 15, 2014 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning: wildfires raging through California. Thousands of acres just torched. Tens of thousands told to get out, leave their homes behind. Right now, firefighters battling these flames, trying to keep them from spreading. We will have the very latest, just ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a desperate search for survivors after a deadly mine collapse in Turkey. Hundreds of miners killed. Hundreds more still missing this morning. We're live with what's happening right now.

BERMAN: And new revelations from Donald Sterling this morning. The L.A. Clippers in his exclusive CNN interview, new words you have not heard, on the record about possibly being forced to sell his team and what his affairs have done to his marriage.

ROMANS: And what the French have to do with it.

BERMAN: Exactly. And now dragging the French into the whole thing.

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

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

Let's start, though, with California. It's like a scene from Armageddon, the words of a firefighter battling one of nine separate wildfires that have already scorched more than 9,000 acres of northern San Diego. Schools and businesses forced to evacuate, homes in ashes this morning. Residents are scrambling to get away from the danger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mandatory evacuation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the best thing, safest thing. I have kids. We have animals. We have birds, you know. We have to get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been going like crazy over here. The planes are around us now. They weren't earlier, but they are now. Nothing but black, and I saw the flames all the way up at the bottom of the hill here.


ROMANS: All right. Let's get the latest now from our Paul Vercammen -- Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Christine, call it the devil's pitch fork, because you had humidity that was less than 10 percent, you had these 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 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, playing a big role in these multiple fires.

Back to you now -- John and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Paul Vercammen for us this morning.

ROMANS: Yes. That's the scene on the ground. Let's get a sense of what those firefighters will face over the next few hours.

Indra Petersons tracking that for us.

ROMANS: Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. This is something we knew was coming. It was such a deficit as far as the amount of rain they had over the winter season and now we're talking about exceptional drought conditions across much of California. So what we're seeing, instead of seeing this typical peak for fire season into the fall, they have all that dry brush out there. And notice how far, how many wildfires they're already seeing this early into the season.

Today another critical day for fire danger. Many red flag warnings for fire danger are posted out there. John Wayne Airport, 106 degrees yesterday. That was the warmest temperature in the entire country yesterday, and it is along the coastline. That gives you a sense of what's going on there. San Diego looking at temperatures into the 90s yesterday. Today expected to be possibly even warmer some locations.

What is going on? Well, typically, you have these winds, and right through those passes and canyons, they really get a lot stronger. And as that happens, you see the temperatures really warm up, you see dry conditions, low humidities out there, and that's how you're able to get those warmer temperatures at the coastline.

Just take a look at the overnight hours. Typically when you see that marine layer, where you see the humidities rebound, unfortunately, they're only about 35 percent humidity in the overnight hours and it doesn't improve even through the afternoon. And of course, you get the heat in there and humidity values go down.

So very dry conditions still in the forecast today in addition to strong winds. They need the relief. When are they getting it? Well, right now we're still talking about high pressure in place, those canyon winds still expected, although not as strong as yesterday. You're still going to have that strong gusts out there, 35, 40 miles per hour, but by tomorrow, you'll start to see the onshore flow, the marine layer return.

By Saturday and Sunday you're going to start to see that relief. It's really all about the onshore and offshore flow in California.

BERMAN: But one more really bad day for firefighters ahead.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

About 33 minutes after the hour right now. We want to give you more now of CNN's exclusive interview with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, including parts of his conversation with Anderson Cooper I do not think you have heard before.

Sterling remorseful for what he's done to his estranged wife, Shelly. At least he claims to be. And seemingly in denial about keeping his NBA team.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, AC 360: You believe you will be able to keep the team, though?


COOPER: Because the advertisers certainly, you know, they're pulling --

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 are 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: There have been other leaked phone conversations involving Donald Sterling, and now a man who says he is behind one of them, at least, is speaking out to CNN. We will hear from him in 20 minutes. You will want to hear this tape.

ROMANS: All right, hope of finding more survivors quickly vanishing in the aftermath of that deadly mine explosion in Turkey. It's a gruesome scene in the city of Soma. Smoke and fumes still rising from the collapsed mine. That's hampering the rescue effort. There are now 282 known dead, 120 others still trapped under ground. They are likely gone, officials say.

Let's bring in Diana Magnay live from Soma, Turkey, this morning.

And it's almost hard to fathom the scope of this disaster, the families who are just struggling to find out if their loved ones were in that mine.

Diana, bring us up to speed on what they're doing now in the rescue.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the rescue effort is very difficult because the fire deep underground is still burning. So for five hours overnight, the rescue efforts were stopped altogether because of the fire, the intensity of the fire, and because in some other areas, carbon monoxide was building up, making chambers impossible to access. And most of these miners who died did die of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result, possibly of poor ventilation down in the mine shaft itself.

That is at least what one of the trade unions is saying, saying that this is akin to murder, and that is a sentiment that you will see across the streets of Turkey. Today there have been numerous demonstrations scheduled in many of the mining areas around this country. There were protests in Istanbul, in Ankara yesterday, which were met with a very heavy-handed police response, police attacking protesters with water cannons, using tear gas and pepper spray.

This while the prime minister of this country came here to the mine behind me and said that people should accept that mining is an industry where accidents happen. And he started to quote numerous examples, going back as far as Britain in the 19th century of coal mining disasters.

Now people here at the mine are waiting now for the visit of this country's president. He's more of a symbolic figure. Let's hope that his words bring slightly more comfort to a town and a nation that is grieving for this national tragedy now.

ROMANS: All right. Diana Magnay for us this morning in Soma, in Turkey. Thank you.

In South Korea, murder charges have been filed against the captain and three officers in charge 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 of the crew scrambled to escape the sinking ship before the passengers had a chance to escape. Twenty-three of those passengers are still listed as missing.

BERMAN: VA secretary Eric Shinseki set to testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this morning. He's been under fire following a CNN report revealing dozens of patients died waiting to be treated at a VA hospital in Phoenix.

At least half a dozen VA hospitals are now being investigated for allegedly cooking the books to cover up similar potentially deadly treatment delays, including the one in Austin, Texas, where staffers acknowledged they are overwhelmed.


JACKIE SWOPE, VETERAN: Because of the, frankly, the overloading 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 CORP VETERAN: They've always come through with at least within 30 days of, you know, of receiving net notice.

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

BONSALL: Yes. I'm fine with it.


BERMAN: CNN has obtained a copy of the statement Secretary Shinseki has prepared for today's hearing. He will tell senators that he is angered and saddened, but he does not say what his department is doing to fix the problems and he is not expected to acknowledge, really, that there is a problem. President Obama will attend a somber ceremony this morning at ground zero here in New York. This is the formal dedication of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Remnants of the World Trade Center and objects from some of the nearly 3,000 people who died will be on display at this museum.

It's a remarkable vision. You're looking at live pictures right there of the museum. It is a beautiful, beautiful, somber site, really, any time of day.

ROMANS: All right --

BERMAN: Opens next Wednesday, I should say.

ROMANS: Opens next Wednesday. Great.

EARLY START on your money this morning. Dow futures show the market opening about 100 points below the record set this week. Three companies to watch. JCPenney and Wal-Mart, two retail giants report earnings this morning. Also, "The New York Times." Executive Editor Jill Abramson is out, replaced by her deputy. "The New Yorker" reports Abramson was fired discovering she was being paid less than her male predecessor and she confronted her bosses.

On average, women make 77 cents for every dollar men make, but Abramson should know it might not get any better in retirement. New census data shows 65-year-old women make an average of $16,000 a year, $11,000 less than men, showing years of making less adds up to a smaller nest egg for women.

Really interesting change at the helm of the "The New York Times" and how it's stirring up discussion again about the pay gap among men and women. Some of the reporting this morning is that it was more about management style and differences of opinion in the newsroom, not about gender.

BERMAN: No, but it's controversial and you could feel the tremors in the media landscape the minute this happened. It is still shaking this morning.


BERMAN: All right, 41 minutes after the hour. Severe storms barreling across the country. This morning millions are in their path. Tornadoes touching down and the threat is not over. Indra Petersons tracking what you can expect this morning. That's right after the break.


BERMAN: Severe weather on tap today for the eastern third of the country. Flood watches are in effect from Florida to New York. Thunderstorms, heavy rain in the forecast.

ROMANS: Thousands of people are in the dark this morning in Ohio from a line of powerful storms, including a tornado that touched down in Cedarville, near Dayton. Several homes in the town were destroyed. Residents could see the frightening funnel cloud in the distance, and they took cover.


GREGORY RUSSELL, CEDARVILLE, OHIO, RESIDENT: I could see all the tar paper. There was stuff swirling everywhere.

SEAN EVANS, CEDARVILLE, OHIO, RESIDENT: I didn't hear it when I was in the house. And then as soon as I come out, I seen all of the metal everywhere and knew that the barn was tore up.


BERMAN: Let's get an early look at your weather and these severe storms that are in the forecast. Indra Petersons here again.

ROMANS: Good morning.

PETERSONS: Good morning. One of the biggest concerns we're going to have today is going to be flooding. Just take a look at the threat for flooding that's out there today, really stretching from New York all the way back down through Florida. Look at the position and where we do have these flood watches in effect. And now take a look at where this cold front is. This is the same system we've been tracking for days. It is so slow moving. That is the concern here.

Now again, notice the position where we're talking about the frontal system. And now look at all of the available moisture that is out there. This is the concern. That's the reason we had this high threat for flooding. Into the mid-Atlantic over the next several days, we could see anywhere from 3 to even 5 inches of rain. That's the high concern there, eventually spreading into the northeast where we could see about 2 to 3 inches of rain into the region.

So, with that, of course, the concern not only for flooding, but also we do have that severe weather threat out there today. Heavy thunderstorms, heavy amounts of rain in short periods of time could be out there. Roanoke back down through Charleston, that's where we have the threat for those most severe thunderstorms most likely especially if we go through the afternoon today. Then it's all about watching the same frontal system, slowly making its way to the east, still brings some more heavier showers to the northeast by tomorrow.

Finally clearing out by Saturday, which is good news. Of course, also bringing some milder temperatures into the northeast, bringing some of the cooler air farther to the northeast. But flooding potential incredibly high today with that system so slow moving.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Indra.

Breaking overnight, radio icon Casey Kasem found just hours after his daughters filed a missing person's report. He was located in Washington state, where he's reportedly with his wife on vacation. Now Kasem is suffering from a form of dementia that has left him barely able to speak. His daughters had accused their stepmother of kidnapping him.

BERMAN: The hotel employee who leaked video that appears to show Solange Knowles assaulting her brother-in-law, Jay-Z, in an elevator, well, that employee has now been fired. New York's Standard Hotel said it plans to hand over all available information to the criminal authorities. TMZ posted the video on its Web site. The incident took place following an after party for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, their gala last week. So far, there has been no comment on the video from Jay-Z or Solange or Beyonce. The video, however, speaks for itself.

ROMANS: And there's been plenty of comments from everyone else.

BERMAN: Exactly.


ROMANS: A new twist in the Donald Sterling saga. A man who secretly recorded and distributed phone conversations with the L.A. Clippers owner explains why he tricked his friend after the break.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. A man who claims to be Donald Sterling's friend and former escort provider says he is the one who taped some of those explosive phone conversations with the L.A. Clippers owner that we heard last week. Listen to part of one of them.


STERLING: You think I'm a racist? You think I have anything in the world but love for everybody? You don't think that. You know I'm not a racist.


BERMAN: Rapper Maserati Met says he was on the other end of that phone call with Sterling. Maserati Met, Mr. Met or Mr. Maserati, tells CNN he once ran an escort service in Las Vegas and Donald Sterling was a client. He says he felt compelled to tape their conversations after hearing Sterling in taped conversations with V. Stiviano.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hearing this tape with him and her on the phone. I'm like, that threw me off. And it's like, you know, I'm just, well, that threw me off, so I had to call him. It's like, you know, you always dated, I know you -- I've known him to always want a woman of color. And then to say what he said just, it just threw me off big time.

When I first called him, it wasn't recorded. And then he just -- when he started dwelling, just drilling me, I hit the record button. I don't know, I hit the record button, and I didn't care at the time. I mean, this guy, he said some stuff that I got offended to and then he's talking about Magic Johnson. I mean, I look up to Magic Johnson, so you know. Clearly, you know, it just really ticked me off, so that's what made me hit the record button.


BERMAN: Maserati Met claims he wasn't paid for releasing the tapes and says he no longer considers Donald Sterling to be a friend.

ROMANS: Should change your name to like John Bentley Berman. Makes you sound --

BERMAN: Bentley Met Berman is what I'm going to go by.

ROMANS: Some sort of cooler, hipper, less --

BERMAN: Couldn't possibly get more hip than this already.

ROMANS: So true. So true.

All right, coming up, are sanctions against Russia hurting U.S. companies? Why firms like John Deere, DuPont, even McDonald's say Russian sanctions, they're feeling the squeeze.


ROMANS: All right, welcome back. Let's get you an EARLY START on your money this morning. U.S. stock futures are down slightly, the Dow about 100 points below the record high it set this week. Two companies we'll be watching this morning, JCPenney and Wal-Mart. Did the bad weather keep the consumers at home for those two companies? And is JCPenney's turn-around working? Is it bringing back sales and getting customers back in stores? We'll watch both of those.

U.S. companies say they're feeling the pinch of sanctions on Russia. According to "USA Today," John Deere says it will sell less farming equipment to Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet bloc. Deere isn't the only company warning the situation there could hurt sales. Even McDonald's has warned it's having to close stores and shorten hours.

If you missed your chance to buy Google Glass next month, you're about to get another chance. Google says even though the glasses are still in development, they will be available to buy online while supplies last. A pair will run you about $1500.

So, John, you can wear that, put the Bluetooth in your ear, you can put a couple of BlackBerry things on your belt and you will look so cool.

BERMAN: Cooler.

ROMANS: Cooler.

BERMAN: But why do I want the Google Glass? I mean, what is it going to do for me?

ROMANS: You're going to have to try it and find out.

BERMAN: Can I get like digital readouts and look at people like Terminator things?

ROMANS: You can have a romantic dinner with your wife at the same while reading your e-mail.

BERMAN: Hmm, now I'm interested. All right.


ROMANS: Not something I recommend.

BERMAN: All right, "NEW DAY" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing but black. And I saw the flames all of the way up at the bottom of the hill here.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. Out of control wildfires tearing southern California. Thousands evacuated, homes destroyed, schools closed, even the Marines forced to flee. And this, a fire tornado in the middle of it all.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Not letting go. A CNN exclusive, Donald Sterling on what happens next. Is he going to give up the team? And what he now says about his wife and mistress.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Battle of the great lady, was the head of the "New York Times" forced out because she discovered she was paid less than her male predecessor and less than one of her male employees? The latest high-profile round in the battle for equal pay.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, May 15th, 6:00 in the East.