Return to Transcripts main page


San Diego Under Siege; Flight 370 Controversy; Report: Donald Sterling is Going to Fight; Terror in Nigeria: Delayed Reaction?; Thunder Rally, Clippers Season Over

Aired May 16, 2014 - 05:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: California wildfires turning deadly. Right now, ten fires destroying more than 10,000 acres. Tens of thousands evacuated as homes go up in flames. Look at these pictures. We'll have the very latest ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Families demanding answers in the search for Flight 370. Who has the raw satellite data used to shape this investigation and why isn't that data being released to the public?

BERMAN: Breaking news overnight: Donald Sterling now on the offensive against the NBA. The Clippers owner banned for life because of racist remarks. He is now refusing to pay his multimillion dollar fine. We will explore this new twist, just ahead.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, May 16th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

But, boy, out West, look at this. Up first, two suspected arsonists in custody as these ferocious fires flare up all over San Diego County. One person is now dead, dozens of hotspots erupting without warning overnight. Homes left in ashes, thousands forced to flee, whipping winds keeping these exhausted firefighters scrambling.

Listen to the terror in the voices of these men, these men who are driving through a neighborhood surrounded by flames.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!



ROMANS: Fires have now scorched more than 10,000 acres.

I want to get the latest now from Ted Rowlands. He is in fire-ravaged Carlsbad. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, as firefighters wake up in the next few hours here in San Diego County, they are hoping to have a little bit easier day than they did yesterday. The flames yesterday were just simply incredible. Some of the footage from San Marcos, a fire that really broke out late in the day yesterday, were just absolutely incredible with flames shooting high up into the air with that tornado fire effect.

Incredibly, when you look at that footage, you think to yourself, there had to have been dozens and dozens of homes lost. Incredibly, only two houses right in that area where you see that neighborhood, looks like the fire's just on top of it, only two homes were lost there. A handful of structures in total have been lost.

This home, obviously, is a complete loss. The homeowners were here yesterday. It's just heartbreaking to watch. They came in, and as you can see, there is not much left. They looked around, tried to find mementos, things that were left, and quite frankly, there just isn't much here.

But firefighters have done a fantastic job of mobilizing, working together. You think back to 2003, the San Diego devastating fires there. After that happened, they re-jiggered the entire plan, and this was really a test, and so far, so good. Firefighters have literally saved thousands and thousands of homes.

That said, this firefight continues. Eight total fires, one fatality, which was reported late in the day yesterday, a homeless person who was caught in the fire here in the Carlsbad area. Other than that, no other significant injuries, a handful of structures down, fire still burning, but firefighters hoping to get the upper hand as the sun comes up -- guys.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Ted for that. So, it's been triple-digit temperatures and fierce winds that have been fueling these fires.

Indra Petersons tracking the forecast.

Are they going to stick today?

INDRA PETERSON, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately, we still have another bad day. Today's another day of elevated risk for fire danger, but things will slowly start to improve today. They'll still have to get through another day filled with heat.

And I want to give you perspective on how unusually hot it is in the region. Take a look at Santa Ana near those fires, literally shattering the previous record for how hot it has been, 77 degrees the previous record. It was 102 degrees yesterday.

This is the concern. You have this record-breaking heat, low humidity, and of course, the drought conditions. Look at the area. You're talking about most of California under extreme drought conditions. The entire state of California under severe drought conditions. Why? They have this huge deficit of rain. We know it was such a shortcoming in rain this year, only about 5 inches below.

But think about what it would take to get rid of that drought. You would actually need, guys, 12 inches of rain in one month to get rid of those drought conditions. That is how dry it is, and we're not even in the peak season, which is typically the fall.

We do need good news. There is a little bit of it. Notice this hint of green along the coastline, the marine layer slowly getting back. Overnight getting close to the 50 percent mark for humidity. That's what will help the firefighters the most.

Of course, you get daytime heating, the humidity values go down, but down only about 29 percent by the afternoon. Biggest thing, again, the high pressure is leaving, starting to see the onshore flow. That brings in the marine layer and humidity and tomorrow will be a big day for firefighters.

Those temperatures are really going to start coming down. Instead of the record-breaking heat, they'll go below normal, 70s in the area.

BERMAN: Good. So, we'll get some relief in the next few hours.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: Growing mystery this morning over who has the raw satellite data that was used to determine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, where they believe may have ended in the southern Indian Ocean. The families of the 239 people on board have been demanding to see it for weeks. But now, Malaysian officials claim that they don't have it. What's going on here?

Let's get more from CNN's Jim Clancy.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mystery of what happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 remains unanswered 70 days after it vanished, but a new controversy may have been discovered. Who has the raw satellite data and why that might or might not matter?

Some family members want to see the raw satellite data in order to check whether the search operation is even in the right place as it tries to find that Boeing 777. Some aviation analysts agree. But the man in charge of the investigation insists he doesn't have it.

HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER: The raw data is with Inmarsat, not with Malaysia, not with Australia, not with MAS. So, if there is any request for this raw data to be made available to the public, it must be made to Inmarsat.

CLANCY: Now, Inmarsat, the company that owns those satellites, insists it's already shared what it has. That information was first shown to the Malaysians in a presentation from a laptop computer, and to this day, as we heard, the Malaysians say they don't have any raw data.

Angus Houston, head of the search operation, says it may be a matter of proprietary information, and the satellite company isn't required to divulge its trade secrets.

Inmarsat shared the conclusions that were reached by a panel of experts who analyzed that raw data. That's not the same as making the raw data public. Family members in China have been the most vocal in their demands for complete transparency. They fear facts are being hidden from them. Would it make any difference?

Australian search coordinator Angus Houston, again, told CNN this, "No, I don't think so. There's been a lot of expertise surrounding their analysis, some of the world's best experts in this field and they're all pretty satisfied the analysis withstands close scrutiny."

That's reassuring, but it's not going to make the controversy go away.

Jim Clancy, CNN.


ROMANS: All right, V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki says he is mad as hell and he's not stepping down. The retired army general taking a beating from members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. They are demanding answers following a CNN report detailing dozens of patient deaths at the V.A. hospital in Phoenix because of long treatment delays. Shinseki insisting it's too early to be casting blame.


ERIC SHINSEKI, V.A. SECRETARY: If any of the allegations are true, they're completely unacceptable to me, to veterans, and I will tell you, the vast majority of dedicated VHA employees who come to work every day to do their best by those veterans. If any are substantiated by the inspector general, we will act.

REPORTER: Have you fired any administrators who were responsible for veterans dying due to delayed care?

SHINSEKI: We have taken action against senior leaders.


SHINSEKI: I would include -- yes, them being removed from V.A.


ROMANS: Since November, CNN has uncovered long treatment delays at V.A. facilities across the country and attempts by staffers to cover them up. BERMAN: The Pentagon releasing its first formal report on sexual harassment in the ranks. It shows the military fired or disciplined nearly 500 people over a recent 12-month period. And some 13 percent of the complaints involved repeat offenders. In the vast majority of cases, the victim was a young, lower-ranking woman and the offender was a senior enlisted male service member. The report comes after months of criticism from Congress and elsewhere over the military's handling of sex assaults and related crimes.

ROMANS: All right, partisan gridlock rearing its head again on Capitol Hill with Senate Republicans blocking progress on an $85 million tax package that would have renewed a slew of expired tax breaks. The vote on advancing the bill was 53-40, short of the 60 votes needed. The GOP move reflects growing anger with Majority Leader Harry Reid. Republicans say he's prevented them from offering amendments to the bill.

BERMAN: Full disclosure. The Obamas were pretty flush in 2013. The White House releasing a financial disclosure form that shows the president and first lady had assets valued as high as $7 million last year. Most of the president's income came from royalties on his three books and investments from the proceeds. Jointly held treasury notes are the first couple's most valuable assets, worth between $1 million and $5 million.

But there is one investment fact, one accounting fact that will shock you, Christine Romans!

ROMANS: He's paying more than 5 percent on his home loan.


ROMANS: Five percent interest on his home loan. He should refinance that. And if you have a morning rate in the 5 percent range, you should try to refinance it, too.

You know, morning rates have been fallen, so have treasury rates, so you could have a better rate, Mr. President. I'm pretty sure.

BERMAN: You're welcome, President Obama.

ROMANS: I'm pretty sure he has a good credit score, don't you think? Maybe he doesn't, that's why his rate is higher, but I doubt he has a bad credit score.

All right. An EARLY START of your money news this morning -- speaking of money, European stocks have been open for a couple hours now. You can see U.S. futures up just a couple of points, basically stalling after those record highs hit earlier this week.

But listen to this, one big hedge fund manager says be nervous. Who? David Tepper. Tepper is a super successful hedge fund manager, making something like $3.5 billion last year.


ROMANS: Equal to the GDP of, say, Barbados. Very successful year for him last year. He says he's worried.

Speaking at an investment conference in Las Vegas, Tepper said, quote, "There are times to make money. This is a time to not lose money. I think it's a nervous time." Interesting.

And you know what's very interesting is that yesterday stocks had their worst day in five weeks. Why? Because investors and traders on Wall Street were like, oh, David Tepper says it's nervous time? I'm nervous.

So, when he talks, people listen.

BERMAN: Amazing to have that power.

Ten minutes after the hour. Donald Sterling not going away quietly. According to "Sports Illustrated," the banned clippers owner has told the NBA he will not pay a $2.5 million fine and that he plans to sue the league because he says he did nothing wrong.

The news was reportedly delivered in a letter from Sterling's new attorney, prominent antitrust litigator Maxwell Blecher. CNN has reached out to the NBA and Sterling and has not been able to independently confirm this report -- but if true, fasten your seatbelts, folks.

ROMANS: I'll say.

BERMAN: This is going to be interesting.

ROMANS: All right. The U.S. admitting it didn't act fast enough against a terror group responsible for the kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria. We're breaking down the very latest developments, live after the break.


ROMANS: Now the latest on the search for hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Officials in Washington painting a grim picture of their prospects for being rescued, telling the Senate Foreign Relations committee the Nigerian military is too afraid to engage members of the Boko Haram terror group.

I want to bring in Vladimir Duthiers, tracking these developments live from Abuja, Nigeria.

I mean, it just shows you how difficult this search is. The girls could have been separated, they could be across international borders, and the military itself is afraid of Boko Haram.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. In fact, the governor of Borno State, where this incident took place, has told us that he believes that the military on the ground is outmanned and outgunned when it comes to taking on Boko Haram.

Boko Haram, typically when they arrive to raze a village or a town, they come armed to the teeth. They usually are coming in armored personnel vehicles. They are carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers. They even have antiaircraft weapons at their disposal.

And you're talking about a military that typically will be armed -- the soldiers, perhaps, not more than half a dozen or a dozen soldiers on the ground to protect the town, carrying an AK-47 and one magazine clip, Christine. So, clearly not able to meet the challenge of Boko Haram.

This is a military that across Africa has engaged in many peacekeeping efforts, but when it comes to fighting this very specific terrorist threat, when it comes to trying to engage an enemy in a very remote forest like the Sambisa forest, supposedly where these girls are being kept, very challenging, Christine.

ROMANS: Very challenging, indeed. So, what happens next here? I mean, we know that there are international groups, including the United States, who are helping in the search for these girls. Any progress at all?

DUTHIERS: We know that the Nigerian military, Christine, visited the town of Chibok, where this incident took place now over a month ago, and this is, according to residents there, the very first time that the military has come in such large numbers to sort of begin, I guess, their rescue operation.

Now, any kind of search-and-rescue, as I said, is going to be extremely difficult, because to launch an offensive operation in a well-fortified, where we know that Boko Haram has fortified their defensive position in this forest -- if you're talking about the girls still being there, they could potentially be killed. Any kind of aerial attack is impossible, because again, the girls can be killed.

And U.S. intel reports now saying that the girls may have been split up. We do have video for the first time showing the escaped girls pointing out their classmates in this video that was released by, supposedly by Boko Haram, but that's only half of them, Christine. So, there are at least 100 more and nobody seems to know where they are.

ROMANS: All right, Vladimir Duthiers for us this morning. Thank you, Vlad.

BERMAN: Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez indicted on two new counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he ambushed and shot to death two men in 2012 after an encounter at a Boston nightclub. The two men were shot inside their car as they waited at a red light. Hernandez already faces murder charges for the 2013 killing of a semi-pro football player in a different incident. He's expected to be arraigned on the new counts next week.

ROMANS: Today in California, another ex-NFL star is due in court. Former New Orleans Saint Darren Sharper is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting up to nine women in five states. He is formally charged in both Arizona and California, where he's been held without the possibility of bail since February. Sharper who once spoke out about making the world safer for women, he could face up to 30 years in prison. BERMAN: Today in Arkansas, marriage licenses are once again being issued to same-sex couples, this after a circuit court judge struck down a rule barring county clerks from issuing these licenses. Last week, the same judge invalidated a state ban on gay marriage, which was upheld by the state Supreme Court. Follow the bouncing ball of legalistic terms here. The new ruling paves the way for gay couples to get married. That's the upshot here. The state attorney general says he plans to appeal.

ROMANS: Medical marijuana could soon come to Minnesota. State lawmakers have struck a compromise deal. They're going to legalize the drug in oil, pill and vapor form, but it explicitly bans smoking it. Eight medical conditions would qualify for treatment, including cancer, glaucoma and AIDS. Opponents fear it's a step toward legalizing recreational use. Governor Mark Dayton says he plans to sign the legislation.

BERMAN: More trouble in recalls for General Motors. The automaker announcing the recall of another 2.7 million cars and trucks. That brings the total to 11 million recalled vehicles this year. The latest batch includes the Corvette, the Silverado, Malibu and some Cadillac models. G.M. waited more than a decade to issue an earlier recall over faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths and it is now the target of regulatory and criminal investigations.

ROMANS: Express lanes could soon be opening up, coming to the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission voting to advance rules to let Internet providers charge companies for faster web traffic. The proposal would ban providers from blocking or slowing down Websites.

Critics call it an affront to net neutrality, the idea that the Internet is free and equal for everyone. The proposal is now open to 120 days of public comment. A final vote is expected later this year.

That's a really big deal.

BERMAN: It's a very big deal.

ROMANS: I mean, how it works out, it's going to be weird to see if they can compromise on it or if you're going to just have to keep it open. No fast lanes, no slow lanes, just the same for everyone.

BERMAN: Could mean people like Netflix charge more for faster service to bring you your video at home, which means you could be paying a little more.

All right, news now that affects all of us. Jay-Z, Beyonce and Solange Knowles breaking their silence on the hotel elevator fight video. They released a statement to "The Associated Press" concerning the leaked security footage that shows Beyonce's sister really just going after Jay-Z in the elevator. The trio says, "Families have problems and we are no different." The statement says Jay-Z and Solange have apologized to each other. They're moving forward as a united family.

It's still not known what triggered that international incident.

ROMANS: But they did find the person who leaked it and there's a big investigation into that.

BERMAN: He's been fired.

ROMANS: Yes, he lost his job.

All right. Coming up, the L.A. Clippers come to the end of their playoff road. Brian McFayden has the details in the "Bleacher Report."

BERMAN: Looks a lot like Jack Nicholson --


ROMANS: All right. According to "Sports Illustrated," Clippers owner Donald Sterling says he won't pay, he's not going to pay the $2.5 million fine handed down by the NBA, and he plans to sue the league! But did you know the Clippers actually had a game to play last night?

BERMAN: Yes, they played basketball, or they did.

Brian McFayden has more on the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Brian.

BRIAN MCFAYDEN, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

The Staples Center was buzzing last night. You had the likes of Rihanna, the Hoff, all of the A-listers there. But you never expected to see the Lakers number one fan, Jack Nicholson, sitting courtside at the Clippers game, would you? Absolutely not.

He had amazing seats to see Kevin Durant take over in the fourth like the MVP is supposed to. Durant had 39 points, 16 rebounds.

Late in the game, calls weren't going the Clippers way either, Blake Griffin called with the charge. Doc Rivers can't believe it.

Thunder advance to play the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.


KEVIN DURANT, NBA PLAYER: This is definitely the series that pushed us to the brink, and you know, we were in some tough spots and we stayed together and we persevered, and that shows character.

DOC RIVERS, CLIPPERS COACH: We've gone through a lot of stuff over the last three or four weeks, and I don't think that was why we didn't win. I don't think we should use that as an excuse. We're a team in process. I believe we were good enough to win it this year. You know, Oklahoma City told us we were not.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MCFAYDEN: Pacers and Wizards, game six. Check out Paul George and a Wizards fan exchanging heated words. Luckily for Indy, West stayed focused for the Pacers, he helped squashed a Wizards rally, scoring 29 points in the 93-80 win. The Pacers on to a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals to play the Miami Heat, where it took the heat all seven games last year to get to the NBA finals.

Thunder and Spurs, game one is Monday.

In the lineup section of the earlier this week, Rays manager Joe Maddon gave his team cologne because he said they stink. Now they smell like fish, Trout, that is. Mike Trout hits his first career walk-off home run to give the angels a comeback win over Tampa Bay. Back to you guys.

ROMANS: I don't know, that's a pretty -- I could bring you some cologne, maybe.

BERMAN: Are you saying I stink?

ROMANS: No, I just think that's funny. That's a funny joke.

MCFAYDEN: I didn't write it. My producer wrote it.

BERMAN: Thank you for giving her ideas, Brian. Very, very nice.

MCFAYDEN: I'm sure you don't smell like fish.

BERMAN: Smell like roses every morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: Thank you so much.

All right, California wildfires spreading, turning deadly this morning. Thousands of people told to get out and to leave everything behind. We are breaking down this very deadly situation right after the break.