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AT&T Buys DirecTV; MERS Spreading in the U.S.; South Korean Coast Guard Dismantled

Aired May 19, 2014 - 04:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A mega media merger that could change the way you use your laptop, your smartphone, your television. What this all mean for you, ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly virus scare. MERS now spreading in the United States. A third case -- a third case reported. The very latest on what health officials are doing now.

BERMAN: Breaking news overnight, South Korea's president furious over the ferry disaster that killed hundreds of students. She dismantles the country's coast guard. We're live in Seoul with the latest.

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

ROMANS: Happy Monday. I'm Christine Romans. It's May 19th. It is 4:00 in the East.

And let's get started with this big, big deal. If you're watching on AT&T maybe or DirecTV, listen up -- AT&T is buying DirecTV in a deal worth nearly $50 billion, affecting 25 million television subscribers. That will ultimately make it the second largest provider in the country behind Comcast.

Now, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says a merged company will, quote, "offer new bundles and deliver contact to consumers across multiple screens, multiple devices, TVs, laptops, cars even airplanes. Not everyone is as excited. Remember, this deal comes just months after Comcast announced it would buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion. That deal is waiting on regulatory approval. But if regulators sign off, it gives Comcast a title of top cable provider with 30 million customers.

Meantime, the top company Sprint is trying to buy T-Mobile. All of this big consolidation has some industry watchers worried.


MICHAEL WEINBERG, VICE PRESIDENT PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE: I think buyers should be very aware when it comes to sort of merger because not only could it affect their current plans and their current offerings, but it means it's one last place for new offerings and new kinds of models to come from.


ROMANS: Regulators are aware of that issue. They have yet to approve Comcast purchase of Time Warner Cable.

Language in this AT&T deal seems to court regulators, pointing out that a combined company Internet access to areas that don't current have it, something the Obama administration has made a priority.

BERMAN: I just want to be able to watch my shows. That's all. I just want to be able to watch my shows.

ROMANS: You know, how we watch our shows and where we watch our shows is changing very quickly. And so, these big media companies know they have to the scope and they have to have the ability to bring -- I mean, the way we watch TV in five years can be very different than the way we watch it today.

BERMAN: I'm not going to watch it necessarily in the middle of the night. I might have different hours at that point.

ROMANS: Why? Are you leaving?

BERMAN: No, no, no.

Two minutes after the hour right now.

Some big medical news to tell you about. A third case of MERS has been confirmed in the United States. A man in Illinois testing positive becoming the first person to contract the potentially deadly virus while here on U.S. soil.

Let's get more from senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is now the third person in the United States who's been found to have MERS or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Now, this third person, it's a little bit different than the first two and I'll tell you why. The first two people, they were infected. They got infected in Saudi Arabia, then they got on a plane and came here. This third one, this third one, became infected in the United States. So, this is now the first case of someone becoming infected on U.S. soil.

And here's what happened. This third case, he had a meeting with one of the first two cases, a gentleman in Indiana.

So this new case, a man from Illinois and the man from Indiana had a meeting late in April. For 40 minutes, they sat and they talked. They were within six feet of each other. They shook hands and that was their only physical contact that we know about. Then, the next day, they had another meeting even shorter.

So, just two meetings. One 40 minutes, one shorter. The only physical contact was a handshake. That apparently is enough to share MERS from one person to another. This is a little different I think in many people's minds than what was said before. Before, doctors referring to MERS is something that in order to get it, you had to have the close contact. You know, someone who lived in your household, or the kind of contact that a doctor and patient would have repeatedly over time.

This is a little bit different. I think it will definitely raise concerns for some people, can I get MERS just from having a business meeting with someone?


BERMAN: Raising concerns to be sure. Our thanks to Elizabeth Cohen for that.

Now, MERS is not always fatal. We are told that the Illinois man who tested positive is not showing symptoms and he is said to be in good health right now.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, the president of South Korea dismantling her nation's coast guard and promising to reorganize her government over last month's tragic ferry disaster. She says South Korea owes it to the hundreds of students who died and she's apologizing for the coast guard's bungling of the rescue operation as a growing number of South Koreans call on her to step down.

Let's bring in Paula Hancocks live from Seoul this morning.

A big sweeping move for the coast guard, but this is a country, Paula, that is angry and grieving over what they think is one necessary loss of life.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. It's more than a month since this ferry disaster, but emotions are still fairly raw here. And it was a much more emotional president that we saw speaking to her people this Monday afternoon.

President Park Geun-hye actually cried as she was speaking to the nation, apologizing for what had happened, taking responsibility, she said, for the pain people were going through. And she did cry when she spoke of the people she called the heroes. Not just crew members, also passengers who gave up their lives to try and save others.

This is what she said.


PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE, SOUTH KOREA (through translator): I believe people are the real people in that generation. I propose a monument for respect for victims and the importance of safety and to set April 16th as a day for people's safety. I again pray for those who passed away during the incident and express my deep condolence to the families. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HANCOCKS: Now, this is not the side of the president that the South Korean people usually see. She's also been praying at church on Sunday. A couple of weeks ago, she went to a temple for the Buddhist birthday. She's been meeting with families apologizing face-to-face and also going to the site of that sunken ferry.

In addition, she has, as you say, dismantled the Coast Guard. She said they have bungled the operation. Critics say they were unable to save more passengers in the minutes and the hours after that tragedy as the ferry was sinking into the frigid waters of the Yellow Sea. Critics are asking why they managed to rescue the crew and the captain, but not more passengers. And she said also that she believes that the government did not respond correctly and she's trying to make many changes there as well.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Paula, thank you for that this morning.

BERMAN: Six minutes after the hour right now.

And there was a new kidnapping threat against school children in Nigeria. The Boko Haram terror organization targeting now an all-boys secondary school. And the threat made in writing. Nigeria police ordered to beef up security at all boarding schools now in the area.

Meanwhile, the search for 200 schoolgirls abducted in last month is coming up empty.

Let's bring in Vladimir Duthiers, who's live from Nigeria's capital in Abuja.

Vlad, what can you tell us about this latest threat?

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this latest threat is just the long line of threats that people in northeastern Nigeria have received from Boko Haram. Now, the world's attention is focused on Nigeria because of these missing school girls. But this is what these people in that part of Nigeria live under every single day. I mean, we get reports of these threats coming in almost on a weekly basis.

A lot of people say to me, why can't people move, why can't people leave that area when they hear of the threat of Boko Haram. They simply just can't pack up the suburban and get out and dodge, John. This is where they've lived. This is where they've lived for many, many years. And it's absolutely terrifying to know that you receive a letter, and that means in the next day or two, you could be wiped out, your entire family wiped out, your family and friends.

And with school boys, typically, Boko Haram does not take them prisoners. They do not abduct boys. They kill them. The last time this happened, John, was in February, they wiped 43 boys in a school. They told the girls to go home and get married. In that case, those girls were spared, John.

BERMAN: A brutal, terrifying history, Vlad. But as you say, this is their home, this is where they live, they shouldn't have to pick up and leave just because of threats. They should be protected somehow.

So, the government, how are they reacting?

DUTHIERS: Look, the police have said they are putting a cordon around the school, that they're beefing up security. But in reality, when we talked to people on the ground in northeastern Nigeria, we just spoke to a family yesterday. They tell us they have seen no discernible activity as far as security forces are concerned. And typically, the Nigerian military is outmanned and outgunned when it comes to fighting Boko Haram.

So, even if they have a credible threat of an attack on a village or school, they are unable to defend themselves. And it's not to impugn the courage of the Nigerian military. You're usually talking about a half dozen guys, a dozen guys armed with an AK-47 and a magazine clip against 200, 300 fighters armed to the teeth with rocket propelled grenades, coming in armored personnel vehicles -- many of those vehicles and weapons that they've actually stolen from the Nigerian military themselves, John.

So, it's a real challenge for them to try to face down that threat.

BERMAN: A challenge to be sure, but for the sake of these children, boys and girls in that region, let's hope they get the protection they need.

Vladimir Duthiers in Abuja, thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: All right. Happening now, thousands of California residents returning home after wildfires took over the streets. And while the firefighters managed to put out these flames, the fire threat only beginning. We're going to explain.

BERMAN: And Republicans not backing down from recent broadsides on Hillary Clinton. So, should the country be concerned about her health, her age? What the Republican Party leader is now saying. That's next.


ROMANS: Twelve minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

Firefighters in San Diego finally getting the upper hand on a string of fires that left dozens of homes in ashes and forced thousands of people to evacuates. Temperatures cooled, the winds died down this weekend, but not before 26,000 acres have burned.

California Governor Jerry Brown fearing the state's drought means a long and dangerous fire season ahead.


GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: We're ahead of the curve. But is that curve of dryness and fires and disasters continues to escalate? We're going to have to deploy more resources.


ROMANS: So far in 2014, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to more than 1,500 fires. Usually, you've got about 800 fires in an entire year.

BERMAN: It's a long summer.

ROMANS: Sure will.

BERMAN: We're hearing now from the whistle-blower who triggered a federal investigation into the V.A. clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado. Lisa Lee, a former Navy reservist, says she was suspended without pay for two weeks for refusing to cook the books to cover up long treatment delays of patients.

Meanwhile, a top aide says President Obama is madder than hell about this scandal. Treatment delays may have caused dozens of deaths at V.A. hospital in Phoenix. The widespread cover-ups are being alleged at V.A. facilities around the country.

ROMANS: Republicans doubling down on Hillary Clinton's health. Karl Rove standing by his comments Sunday using Bill Clinton's words to back himself up. The former president said it took his wife six months to get over a 2012 concussion at the time the former secretary of state was out of work for about 30 days.

Sunday, RNC director Reince Priebus said it's all fair game.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC DIRECTOR: Health and age is fair game. It was fair game for Ronald Reagan. It's fair game for John McCain.

I think the more important issue for me as a leader of this part is what's the record for Hillary Clinton? What was her record as a secretary of state, Benghazi, Boko Haram, you know, Syria, Russia? Those are going to be the issues.


ROMANS: Democrats have been defending Clinton, saying she's in the prime of her life and the GOP is scared to run against her.

BERMAN: You know, as Reince Priebus -- you hear Reince Priebus saying what's interesting is a record, what should be issues of record, not her age. But while they're talking about her age, they're not talking about her record. So, there are some people say this is counterproductive for Republicans right now.

Hearing a schedule today for a Mississippi man charged with exploiting the wife of Senator Thad Cochran. This is really sad. Police say Clayton Kelly, a conservative blogger and supporter of Cochran's primary opponent, posted a video online that included images of Senator Cochran's bed-ridden wife who suffers from dementia. Police are investigating whether anyone else was involved. Cochran's opponent, State Senator Chris McDaniel denies any ties to Kelly. ROMANS: Mitt Romney says the New Hampshire town official who called President Obama the N-word has to go. The 82-year-old Robert Copland won't even apologize. The Wolfeboro police commissioner sending a defiant e-mail, writing, "The current occupant of the White House meets and exceeds the criteria, my criteria, for using that word."

The police commission is independently elected. Some town officials say they have no power to remove this man, despite the public outcry.

BERMAN: The reason that Mitt Romney is weighing besides the fact it's irreprehensible, the comments, is because Romney has a house in Wolfeboro there. So, I think he's been asked what his opinion is about that police commissioner.

Sixteen minutes after the hour.

New calls to screen trained engineers for sleep apnea after officials revealed that the engineer in last year's deadly metro north derailment in New York suffers from this condition. Victims of sleep apnea are repeatedly awakened when their airways closed during sleep. No cause has been established in the accident that left four dead and dozens hurt. There are no national screening requirements and metro north says a final decision has yet to be made.

ROMANS: All right. A bizarre scene in southern California, thousands of foul smelling fish washing up dead in a boat basin in Marina Del Rey. Cleanup crews still trying to contain this mess. Officials say they don't know what caused the fish to die but a similar incident in 2011 was blamed on a lack of oxygen.

BERMAN: Enjoy your breakfast, everyone.

General Motors investigating its own legal department this morning over the handling of emissions defect now linked to 13 deaths. This is according to a report in "The New York Times."

General Motors learned of the defect over a decade ago but issued the first recalls in just February of this year. Last week, the company was hit with a $35 million fines. Regulators says G.M. concealed the problem. More severe punishments could be on the way.

ROMANS: "Godzilla" proving to be a monster at the box office.

BERMAN: Yes, you just said that.

ROMANS: I did.

The 3D reboot of the 1954 Japanese classic opened at number one in domestic theaters this weekend. Gobbling up --

BERMAN: You did it again.

ROMANS: -- some $93 million. That was good for the second largest debut of the year behind "Captain America." In a very distant second place, the comedy "Neighbors" pulled in $26 million.

All right. Let's get a look at your Monday morning forecast with meteorologist Alexandra Steele.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine and John.

Well, you know, there's one trend happening around the predominance of the country and that's a warming trend for the next couple days.

So, here's the big picture: once again, more showers moving into the Pacific Northwest unfortunately not making its way as far south as southern California just to help fight the fires. Also, though, high pressure in the mid-Atlantic a shower in the Northeast and also more clouds and sun in the Southeast. But what we'll notice is temperatures really will start to warm. Certainly, warmer than they were over the weekend.

So, today's highs in Atlanta, 76. Both in the clouds and showers of yesterday. Warmer, too, in Washington, 73, 73 in New York, and the 60s in Boston.

But watch this little finger of heat, you know, this darkest maroon color. The axis of that heat pushes eastward as we head toward this week. So, from Tuesday into Wednesday, it moves eastward. Tuesday's forecast partly cloudy skies in Northeast. Against, still hanging on to a few showers, but temperatures certainly warming up as we head to Wednesday and Thursday.

Have a great day.

BERMAN: Thanks, Alexandra, for that forecast.

All right. Take a look at this. Justin Timberlake taking on top honors, but Jennifer Lopez and Michael Jackson stole the show at last night's Billboards Awards in Las Vegas. Timberlake won seven awards and more than any other artists for a seven-year hiatus. His album "20/20 Experience" beat up Beyonce and Drake for top album. Timberlake saying he was stunned, stunned by this announcement, causing him to shake and gyrate in rhythm there.

Take a look at Jennifer Lopez. This performance simply blew away the audience. This was a song, "First Love". She's honored with Billboard's Icon Awards.

And everyone is just talking about this. This is a Michael Jackson hologram that rocks the house. So, realistic, the King of Pop performing the song "Slave to Rhythm" with a five-piece band and 16 live dancers. The hologram took half a year to plan, choreograph.


BERMAN: Where are you on the controversial issue of holograms, where do you stand?

ROMANS: I don't know. I mean that really is Michael Jackson.

BERMAN: I think producers are sitting in the room, what should we do, let's try holograms. It's one of these ideas that comes up when you run out of other ideas. But, you know, congratulations to them.

ROMANS: The crowd liked it.

BERMAN: They did.

ROMANS: All right. A growing controversy over who has the raw data used to launch the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Family members of those on board demanding answers. We're live with what the leader of that search is now saying about that information, after the break.


ROMANS: Welcome back.

The Balkans battered by epic flooding. Tense of thousands of people forced to evacuate their homes and find higher ground. Dozens are dead in the flooding in Serbia, is the worst they've seen in 120 years. Thousands of landslides raising fears buried land mines from the Bosnia war could be unearth and detonated in the faces of rescuers -- rescuers who are trying to save buried citizens.

BERMAN: Stunning pictures.


BERMAN: All right. A growing controversy this morning over who has the raw satellite data that was used to determine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 most likely came to an end. The Malaysian government insists that they don't have it, claiming that the data is in the possession of the British satellite firm Inmarsat. But the British company says this data was turned over to the international investigation team that is overseen by Malaysia. And it was turned over early in the investigation.

So, what we have right now, a lot of finger-pointing that's only starting to infuriate the Flight 370 families.

Our Saima Mohsin is live from Kuala Lumpur this morning.

And, Saima, this controversy just seems so inane to so many of us. Someone's got to know where this data is?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it really. It's the minutia of this detail, where is this data, who has it and how exactly was it shared? All of these, we're getting a lot of mixed messages. It is very frustrating as you say. Now, as you say, the last they say, they handed it over to the investigation team.

Now, let me make one thing clear. They are not allowed to release it itself anyway under international aviation civilian rules and regulations. Now, that means that the investigation team has it which is headed by the Malaysian government.

Now, under international regulations any state or country that is leading the investigation is in charge to release it. But as you say, the defense minister last week when questioned directly both by international and local media said, we don't have it. Inmarsat has to hand it over. A lot of confusion and clearly, not a lot of research being done, and a lot of this leads to a lot of suspicion, of course. Why are they unable to share it? Why are they not sharing it with us?

And the Malaysian government has repeatedly said they want to be transparent. But they're not really helping their cause here by not releasing and sharing it ASAP with the families. And as this goes, it is simply torturous for them -- John.

BERMAN: What are they telling you, Saima?

MOHSIN: Now, I spent the last few days talking to a couple of family members, Sarah Bajc, the American woman based in Beijing is spearheading this campaign. She wrote a letter last week demanding the release of this data, saying, look, all you have to do is share this with us. We want every shred of evidence possible to be shared with us so that we can also get to the bottom of what happened to that plane and our loved ones.

This morning, I spoke to Omer Salama (ph), he's the father of the 29- year-old, the aviation engineer on board that plane heading to Beijing on business. He said, of course, I want to see the data. Of course, I want to know what this is all about. But he also said, John, I am sick and tired of this. Every time we think we're going to get somewhere, every time we're think we're going to be told something or they're going to share some data with us, we are let down.

And this kind of frustration really echoes most of the family members and their sentiments. They simply want to get to the bottom of what happened. And let's not forget why this data -- it may only be 14 numbers. It may only be seven handshakes, but this is the only thing, all of us, including us covering the story have to work with.

Everyone is relying on this data to locate the plane. It's what led the search to the Indian Ocean. It's what's leading us to believe that's where the plane is. And people want to know whether that data is correct and they want some more transparency -- John.

BERMAN: A lot of the is experts that I've been speaking to, Saima, suggests that Malaysia has the data, they don't understand that they have it, which is really an allegation of sheer incompetence, which only goes to show the state of this investigation right now.

Our Saima Mohsin in Kuala Lumpur -- thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: All right. Next, a nearly $50 billion media merger, a merger that could drastically change the way you surf the web and watch TV. That's after the break.