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Twin Tornadoes into Nebraska; Militants Nearing Baghdad; Team USA beats Ghana.

Aired June 17, 2014 - 05:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Killer tornadoes barreling through the Midwest. Destroying everything in their path. This morning, communities devastated, piles of rubble left where houses once stood. We are live with the storm's aftermath and the danger that's still playing out right now for millions of you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Iraq in crisis. The terrorists taking over towns. They are bringing the bloody battles to the streets. This morning, the U.S. is sending in more troops and exploring now an unlikely alliance to try to keep that country together. We have live team coverage from Iraq and Iran as only CNN can.

ROMANS: What a night. What a game. Team USA defying the critics, beating Ghana at the World Cup. We've got all the highlights on what is just a good news story.

BERMAN: I can't wipe the smile off my face about this game.

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty-two minutes after the hour right now.

We do have breaking news this morning from Wisconsin where there are reports of severe storms that caused major damage in Platteville, that's not far from Lacrosse. The National Weather Service says cars have been overturned, homes flattened. The University of Wisconsin campus there has been closed because of major damage. Police right now are searching for people who might be trapped.

We do not have any word on injuries yet. Again this just happening. We're following this, this morning. We'll bring you the latest when we have it. This is coming just hours after twin tornadoes. These amazing pictures of them right now. The tornadoes tearing through several towns in Nebraska, destroying so much in their path. At least two people were killed. Another 16 critically injured.

These pictures, as I said, are stunning. You can see the debris there flying around as the storms raced through the farm fields. Now take a look at the scene in Pilger. That's about 90 miles from Omaha. Officials there say it feels like a war zone this morning with homes and businesses were picked up and ripped apart.

Right now only emergency personnel are allowed inside the town limits off of this town of just a few hundred people. Much of their lives now have been reduced to rubble.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whole blocks of houses are destroyed. All of the business district, our co-op is gone, all of the grain bins are gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three houses, which are gone. There were three houses on the opposite side of the block that are gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about your sister's house?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's gone. It was on the corner and it's gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sick. I mean we lost everything.


ROMANS: Meteorologist Indra Petersons is live for this morning in Pilger, Nebraska, with (INAUDIBLE) and the damage.

And Indra, you know, this is a story that is still unfolding. Millions more people are in the path of these dangerous storms today.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we still have that severe weather risk out there. But, you know, this was a really incredible sight. Something even meteorologists don't see that often. You talk about two twin tornadoes that moved through the area. Not only are both same size but what you're also looking at were two long-lived tornadoes. They were on the grounds for about an hour, guys.

And I want to set the scene here right now near about Highway 15. Now you talk about these two massive tornadoes coming through about 4:00 in the afternoon yesterday, really demolishing this town. We're talking about a town about 350 people. We're talking 50 percent if not 75 percent of this town completely leveled this morning. This is a look now, kind of looking in the northeasterly direction here. About six or seven blocks of this town this morning completely leveled.

Directly here behind me. This used to be a two-story wooden structure. Now this morning barely visible what was even here, you can see in the distance, a stripped tree there. Also maybe a refrigerator. It looks like it was flown. Hard to see that on my left. You actually see a propane tank that is now sitting here on the ground.

So some of these structures we're even hearing are made of cinder block and even those have really seen a lot of destruction this morning so they're going to have evaluate. The National Weather Service will be going out later today to evaluate what the intensity was of these two systems that went through this town.

As far as you mentioned the severe weather threat not even over. We're actually already looking at a tornado watch for Chicago, up to about 9:00 Central Time. You see the thunderstorms heading toward Chicago and even Detroit this morning. Yesterday, put in perspective, about 14 million, 17 million of you looking at that severe weather risk. Today, that is up to 44 million people.

Chicago, Detroit, even spreading all the way in through Cleveland, you do have that severe weather risk. And it only spreads as we go in through Wednesday. By Wednesday, we 're going to add in places like Philadelphia and New York City. Seventy-seven million of us will have that threat for severe -- or from severe weather from the exact same system that we saw move through this town just yesterday.

The other story is going to be some heavy rain, two to five inches of rain. Of course where the heavier thunderstorms are. Scattered showers in the northeast. Of course some thunderstorms will be seen there as well. But also some extreme heat. We're going to be talking temperatures there into the mid and upper 90s.

Now, of course, Christine and John, very hard to see, of course it's still dark out this morning but I am told in the distance here, you are going to be able to see some structures here made of cinder block two levels high completely leveled to the ground. Unfortunately it looks like we have to wait until daybreak to see those. But really scary to think what we could still be seeing in the morning especially when you look at the site like this right here behind me this morning.

ROMANS: Yes. And for a lot of people, I mean, the danger comes as they start trying to pick through their homes and -- you know, there's just all kind of debris. And it's so dangerous.

Indra, thank you so much. And be careful out there.

Now to Iraq. And this morning, more U.S. forces are headed to Baghdad to protect the U.S. embassy. President Obama met with his National Security team last night and has now told Congress he is sending some 275 combat troops to the region, 175 of them are in Baghdad right now.

That even though the president hasn't yet made any decision on whether the U.S. will get involved with this fight against ISIS. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that's marched quickly from the north taking over towns and cities, executing people who get in the way.

This morning militants are in control of a big part of that country and working their way closer and closer to Baghdad.

Arwa Damon is live for us this morning.

Arwa, tell us what's the latest on the march of ISIS and just the concern about how close we're getting to Baghdad.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this stage, the Iraqi Security Forces along with various other Shia volunteers and Shia militias have been reactivated are seemingly managing to hold ISIS and its Sunni allies at various different front lines, all of which are about an hour to the north-northeast of the capital. But you do also have ISIS with the capacity to move into Baghdad from the west, from Al Anbar Province, that has been as historic, strong ground Iraq Sunni heartland. This is not necessarily an entity that is a massive military on the

move throughout the entire country. They do have allies and cells within every single province, every single city especially the capital Baghdad that has seen its fair share of sectarian violence much of which has been attributed to ISIS or other extremist organizations ever since the U.S. military withdrew.

When we're talking about U.S. airstrikes at this stage understandably a very difficult decision in the sense that nothing really here is simple because ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, may be the organization that is in the spotlight at this stage. But it is, at this stage, also garnering the support of the Sunni tribes, of insurgent groups that were very active here during the U.S. occupation.

And that is because they believe that even though they don't subscribe to ISIS' ideology, that is the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, they do believe that they have no choice other than to use military action and violence to try to bring down the predominantly Shia government of Nouri al Maliki.

However, these are still entities that are going to have to somehow be brought into the political fold. So simply bombing the Sunni advance at this stage is not going to work. Likely one of the many reasons why the U.S. is carefully at this stage weighing what other options there may be -- Christine.

ROMANS: Very carefully.

All right, Arwa Damon for us this morning in Erbil, thank you.

BERMAN: We're talking about options right there, the threat from ISIS is drawing the U.S. and Iran closer together this morning. While the Obama administration insists it will not work with Iran on any sort of military action, diplomats from both nations did hold brief discussions on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna.

Our Reza Sayah is live in Tehran this morning. Again, CNN covering this like -- covering this like only we can.

Reza, in Tehran, what is the government there saying about talks with the U.S.?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, what we're hearing in Tehran is very similar to what we're hearing from U.S. officials in Washington. American officials, Iranian officials are saying we are willing to cooperate with Washington but not in a military capacity. Not when it comes to military action. In other words, it's very unlikely, maybe impossible, for -- to see a scenario where you have Iranian body forces on the ground in Iraq with U.S. drones and U.S. jet fighters up above.

That's not going to happen. And that's really no surprise for several reasons. First off, I don't think, you know, Washington and Tehran have decided exactly what type of military aid is appropriate for the current situation and if they do consider military action, military cooperation together, you have to remember, these are two countries that have been bitter rivals for much of 35 years, no diplomatic relations. There's still lingering mistrust.

If they want to get back on the battlefield together, it's obviously going to take some time. And finally, you have to consider Iran's military doctrine. It's strictly a defensive strategy. In modern history, Iran has never deployed its troops in another sovereign country and President Rouhani here has pretty said that that's out of the question at this point.

But the most likely scenario is Iran sharing intelligence with Washington. Sharing intelligence with U.S. officials just like it did back in 2001 when it helped the U.S. beat the Taliban in Afghanistan. You recall after that, many alliance, then President George W. Bush probably discarded Iran when it made Iran a member of the Axis of Evil but 13 years later, John, it seems the stage is set for another potential alliance.

BERMAN: Fascinating, accommodating, contemplative tone between the two nations right now. We will see how that unfolds.

Our Reza Sayah for us in Tehran. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. Time for an EARLY START on your money. Risk on. Markets poised for gain this morning. European stocks higher so our futures is building from some small gains yesterday. All three major averages ended the day slightly higher. There are concerns of course about the worsening situation in Iraq. That's still the backdrop but oil prices have backed down from $107 a barrel, that's giving stocks a lift.

Another blow to struggling JCPenny. A judge has finally ruled on this Martha Stewart/Macy's/JCPenny love triangle and they found that JCPenny interfered in a deal between rival Macy's and Martha Stewart Living. Martha Stewart's company has been selling products at Macy's since 2006. But in 2011, JCPenney reached a deal to sell Martha Stewart products at its store as well. So Macy's took both companies to court. No ruling yet on how much JCPenney will have to pay Macy's.

That has a been really interesting. You don't see a love triangle very often when you're talking about businesses.

BERMAN: Not at all.

ROMANS: All right. Historic win for Team USA. A stunning long time rival in this World Cup opener. What a night. Probably defied the odds and the challenges.

Taking you to Brazil, next.


ROMANS: Go, go, go.

BERMAN: Go, go, go. It was stunning from start to finish. The U.S. getting off on the right foot, actually it was the left foot. Clint Dempsey's left. But beating Ghana 2-1 in a thrilling opening match.

CNN's Lara Baldesarra has more now from Brazil.

LARA BALDESARRA, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Good morning, Christine. I don't know about you, but the shock, it has not worn off yet. What a remarkable game we saw from the USA last night against Ghana. This was a game where the USA, they were out for a little revenge.

You know, in the past, two World Cups, the USA has lost to Ghana, getting knocked out of the World Cup in 2010 at the hands of Ghana. So here they met again on the very first game that the USA was going to be playing in this World Cup. And they did it. They got their revenge. 2-1 was the final score.

It was incredible. John Brooks, this last gap winner. Remarkable. He was a second half sub because of an injury to another player. And he's a defender. We don't know that defenders are going to score goals, but in the end, that was the winning goal. And this from a very young, 21-year-old German born American playing in his first ever World Cup.

And it's actually pretty interesting. If you take a look at his arms, which I'm sure you've seen, he has one big tattoo of Germany which is where he was born and another big tattoo on his other elbow showing the state of Illinois which is where his dad is from. So he is a proud German-American.

Now that being said, there were a lot of American fans in this stadium. They were just overwhelming with their chants, with their colors, really spurring this team on. Afterwards, I spokes to Kyle Beckerman. He said that really right from the get-go, those fans certainly helped the American side.


KYLE BECKERMAN, TEAM USA SOCCER PLAYER: I think they pushed us on from the get-go. I mean I got goose bumps when they were singing the national anthem and just hearing how loud they were and chanting. And the whole game, it was just really pushing us on and helped us, you know, whether the storm that Ghana was giving us.


BALDESARRA: So that was game one for the USA. Game two will be against Portugal. Of course there'll be even more American fans out there. Helping to spur on this American side and like Jurgen Klinsmann said in his press conference just a few days ago, USA is taking it one game at a time. So now to pull three points from Ghana, a huge, huge win. Next up, Portugal. And that's where we're focusing.

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Lara Baldesarra in Brazil.

They will take every minute between now and Sunday night when U.S. plays Portugal to recover. Not just for me, but for the team more importantly.

ROMANS: I know.

BERMAN: You know.

ROMANS: That was some quality family time. I love it on this side of the world, too.


We can all watch it together.

All right. Happening now, homes destroyed. Thousands of acres charred. We've got wildfires tearing through California. We'll tell you what firefighters are facing this morning.

BERMAN: Plus Tracy Morgan still in the hospital 10 days after the deadly car crash. And new update on how he's doing, some developments right after the break.


BERMAN: Some encouraging news for Tracy Morgan this morning. His condition has been upgraded from critical to fair. And his publicist says he's even starting to show signs of his old personality.

The comedian broke his leg and several ribs in a highway crash earlier this month. This crash that killed fellow comedian James McNair. Prosecutors have charged a truck driver with vehicular homicide and assault by auto, saying he was awake for 24 hours before he slammed in the mortgaged limo bus the truck driver has pleaded not guilty.

ROMANS: I wish him well.

Evacuation orders now lifted for hundreds of people near Bakersville, California. They have been forced out by this raging fire. It was growing closer to home. Now Fire crews have said they've beaten it back and it's now safe for residents to return. That blaze have destroyed at least three homes burning through 2600 acres in and around Sequoia National Forest.

All right. New questions this morning about Starbucks' plan to help its workers get an education. Some criticism bubbling up for the coffee giant. We're going to get an check of your money, next.


ROMANS: On your money this Tuesday morning, markets are poised for gains. Right now European stocks are up, so are futures building on some small gains. And yesterday all of the three major averages closed up yesterday.

Concerns about the worsening situation in Iraq it's still a backdrop to the market here, but oil prices have come down from $107 a barrel giving stocks a bit of a lift. Watching Starbucks this morning, it's getting a little bit of blowback

for its new tuition reimbursement program. Starbucks is going to offer employees two years of free online classes at Arizona State University. It's going to reimburse them for those classes but there could be some drawbacks from the fine print.

Critics this morning are pointing out that students will have to pay thousands of dollars first out of pocket taking loan or painful are out of pocket and then wait months or even years to be at reimburse. Some education experts saying wait a minute, you could be actually trapping people in more student debt if they actually don't finish.

BERMAN: And Christine Romans, you said, we need to take a look at that fine print. Just to be --

ROMANS: You got to be -- you know, yes. All right. So let's talk about Twitter. Did you see this Twitter fail from Delta?

BERMAN: I did.

ROMANS: This is unbelievable. The airline tweeted this image celebrating Team USA's 2-1. There you go. World Cup victory over Ghana. You can see here Ghana is represented by a giraffe. The problem with that giraffe you're not living on them.


ROMANS: No, they don't.

BERMAN: No, they don't.

ROMANS: And the critics say Delta was sort of reducing the country to a stereotype.


ROMANS: Delta took the image down which actually then makes it worse because everyone sees you'll take it down and then tweet and apology.

BERMAN: I will say, when you're wrong, you're wrong. I mean, you know.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: It should be left up there. But no, Ghana is a West African. No Jurassic.

ROMANS: Well, what is the image for the U.S. is the Statue of Liberty?

BERMAN: It was Statue of Liberty, which is in fact in the United States.

ROMANS: It is.

CUOMO: Unlike giraffes which are not in Ghana. Now our World Cup victories. Because the U.S. won last night 2-1.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is violent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're both violent,.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight twin tornadoes. Much of a Nebraska town wiped out a deadly situation on the ground, injury reports coming in from this tiny town. Look at that. Even the most hardened storm chasers were shot.

We're live on the ground.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What a win. Team USA comes out of the gate on fire. Beating Ghana in their first game of the World Cup. Fans celebrating into the night and who is that 21-year-old who scored the winning goal?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The options. President Obama in a late night meeting with his national security team as the situation in Iraq gets even worse. American troops now headed to the region. What were they'll orders be?

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 is June 17th, 6:00 clock in the east and right now we are wishing good luck to our friends in the upper Midwest. Severe storms barreling into the area.