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Powerful Typhoon Threatens Okinawa; Israel Launches Mission Against Hamas; President Won't Visit Texas Border; Roller Coaster Jumps the Track; LeBron Going Home?

Aired July 8, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning: a powerful typhoon forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. A huge city in a large U.S. military base in its path. We are tracking this storm as it prepares to strike.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: rockets flying over Gaza. Israel launching new airstrikes overnight against Hamas, gathering hundreds of troops at its border. Is Israel ready to invade? We are live with the very latest.

BERMAN: And Magic Mountain disaster.

ROMANS: Oh, my.

BERMAN: A terrifying ride on a California roller coaster. Look at these pictures. Derailed after smashing into a tree.

ROMANS: One of my top 10 nightmares.

BERMAN: Yes, it's top five of top 10.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, it's July 8th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And we do have breaking news this morning. A super typhoon is threatening hundreds of thousands of people in Okinawa, in Japan. More than half a million people have been advised to evacuate. Why? Well, huge waves, storm surges, wind gusts as high as 150 miles per hour.

The typhoon is threatening coastal areas right now, including the U.S. Marine Corps base.

Will Ripley is in Tokyo with the very latest.

Will, this seems like a very big storm.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. The wind shear from this thing is enormous. And we know the winds are howling in Okinawa and the surrounding islands. You talk about the U.S. military presence on the island. Those servicemen and women are part of the 1.2 million people who are living there in the path of this monstrous storm right now, and we know that over the weekend, the commander of the Kadena Air Base sent out an alarm, warning everybody to take the storm very seriously, calling it the strongest predicted to hit the island in 15 years, and warned that anything not tied down could turn into a deadly projective.

We know that 70,000 people are without power on Okinawa right now, and 14,000 passengers have been grounded because of canceled flights at three different airports. And the worst isn't over because after this moves beyond the Okinawa area, John, the next destination is mainland Japan. Specifically, the southernmost island of Kyushu, home to 13 million people that has been inundated with heavy rain since last week.

It's rainy season here in Japan and we have a typhoon approaching an area already flooded, already rain soaked, the results could be catastrophic -- John.

BERMAN: And, Will, large concerns over the storm surge as well, I understand.

RIPLEY: Absolutely. Okinawa has some natural barriers to protect it from these waves, which can reach an excess of 40 feet. But when you're talking about a coastal areas, storm surge is a danger, along with mudslides, landslides and also again, that flooding. Something that we're going to be keeping a very close eye on.

BERMAN: All right. Will Ripley, the worse storm in 15 years, thanks for watching it for us. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, Israel stepping up efforts to defend itself against terrorism. The Israel defense forces have launched Operation Protective Edge, targeting Hamas after another 80 rockets were fired into Israel. Around 50 Israeli airstrikes have been launched overnight into Gaza.

And now, President Obama is trying to help restore calm. In an op-ed, the president pulls out familiar arguments to ease tensions writing, in part, "Peace is necessary, because it's the only way to ensure a secure and democratic future for the Jewish state of Israel. While walls and defense missile systems can help protect some threats, true safety will only come with a comprehensive negotiated settlement."

Let's go to Diana Magnay near the Gaza Strip with more this morning for us.

Now, you've got Hamas rockets, you've got Israeli airstrikes, you have troops at the border. You have an American president who's saying, we need to look beyond this toward comprehensive peace agreement. But no question, this is still a very smoldering situation.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. But overnight, it has got more serious. The Israeli's clearly stepping this up into a full scale operation, 50 airstrikes overnight. We have been here at this spot overlooking the Gaza Strip for the last a couple of hours. And just when we have been here, Christine, there are plenty of Israeli strikes behind us in the Beit Hanina, at the top, the northernmost tip of the Gaza Strip, huge plumes of black smoke rising up into the air.

You have a steady stream of rockets coming out of Gaza. People here in the town of Sderot have 15 seconds from the time they hear an air raid warning -- siren to seek shelter. Very, very short time. So, when you drive around this town, you'll see that the bus shelters, those were reinforced concrete shelters. There are half a million Israelis within radius of the rockets that have been coming out. You have just 60 seconds to find shelter.

But the question is, what is going on in the Gaza Strip now? One of our correspondents, Ben Wedeman, is on his way there. We know that overnight, 18 Palestinians have been wounded as a result of these Israeli airstrikes. You can be sure, Christine, that they don't have the same kind of reinforced concrete structures as the guys on this side of the border do.

Hamas has said if Israel continues with this operation, it's going up and expand the range of its rockets, because we know that it has around 100 long range missiles as far north as Tel-Aviv -- Christine.

ROMANS: The situation gets more dangerous and alarming quite frankly by the day.

Diana Magnay, thank you.

BERMAN: Happening today: President Obama said to ask Congress for $2 billion to extend the immigration crisis. But he will not be pushing for big policy changes just yet. He's splintering request for money and policy that may mean a better chance for Congress to green light the funding for immigration judges, detention facilities, legal aid.

Another plane of illegal immigrants arrived in California from Texas, where they were taken to a border patrol station. That's despite vocal protests.

The president heading to Texas tomorrow for fund-raisers in Dallas and Austin. As of now, no plans to head to the border. That decision being met with anger from both sides of the aisle. Texas governor and possible Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry has decided not to greet the president when he arrives. In a letter, the governor says a quick handshake will not allow for a thoughtful discussion.

ROMANS: Also happening today, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs will hold a hearing to examine how the V.A. handles whistleblower complaints. It stems from the revelations of secret waiting list went largely unchecked until CNN got involved. Now, lawmakers from both parties want to take back performance awards from V.A. executives who oversaw clinics that cooked the books. That would total about $380,000.

BERMAN: The suspect in the deadly assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi will be back in court today. A status hearing is set for Ahmed Abu Khattala. In the meantime, documents show Republicans are spending big in their ongoing investigation of the attack. A special committee is asking for $3 million this year, that's more than key committees including Veterans Affairs and Ethics.

ROMANS: Developing this morning, Germany may be preparing to spy on the U.S. for the first time since World War II. It comes in response to last week's bombshell arrest of a German intelligence official, an alleged double agent, accused of passing German documents to a U.S. contact. Washington's ties with Germany, have already been strained following revelations of NSA spying revealed by Edward Snowden.

BERMAN: "The New York Times" is reporting American authorities have begun settlement talks with Germany's second largest lender, that's Commerce Bank. At issue, dealings to its American operations with Iran and other countries blacklisted by the United States. A deal is expected to include half a billion dollars in penalties, but it would suspend criminal charges.

ROMANS: All right. Eight minutes past the hour. Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning.

European stocks down, Asian shares ended mixed. Futures lower right now in the U.S. The Dow still above 17,000, even if stocks pull back from record highs yesterday.

More companies than ever before are abandoning the U.S. for countries with lower taxes. A brand new report finds 47 countries have relocated to home bases overseas to take advantage of lower tax rates in the past 10 year. In the previous two decades, only 29 companies did so.

Companies are lowering their tax bill through a process called inversion, which involves merging with another country and doing more business abroad.

BERMAN: Accounting gimmicks.

Breaking overnight, a terrifying scare for 22 people on a roller coaster that jumped the tracks in California. Look at this. It happened on the Ninja Coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain Park. You can see the front car was partially dislodged there, hanging only by the back wheels. Riders were left hanging, some of them for three hours. Four people did suffer minor injuries.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were riding on the jet stream when we saw the ninja go into the trees. It was just a lot of leaf noise and then cracking noises and crashing noises and a lot of screaming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just got off the ride, right? Then we were just walking along the side and then it just fell. Like there was something, just a loud boom. We ran there. People just told us to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people that were on the ride, their family and friends were freaking out. That's why we were like what happened. Scary because it could have been anybody. It could have been us.


BERMAN: A spokesperson for the park says the incident was caused by a fallen tree branch. Think about that, a tree branch across the tracks or near the tracks. The Ninja Coaster is now closed while an inspection is performed.


All right. Happening now, a crime surge in Chicago. How the city -- how that city plans to fight back after a deadly weekend on the streets.

BERMAN: And then, a baby abandoned at a New York City subway station. Look at that adorable face. A woman caught on camera just walking away. We'll tell you the breaking developments on the story, next.


ROMANS: Developing this morning, could infighting be slowing the ISIS surge on Iraq. Reports out of the region suggests the extremist group is battling for authority with some of the Sunni groups that helped it take over parts of Iraq. The issue is opening the door to Iraqi forces to slow the aggression as officials try to take steps to form a new Iraqi government.

BERMAN: There could be a protracted battle over Afghanistan's presidential election. Contender Abdullah Abdullah is projecting preliminary run-off results that show rival Ashraf Ghani leading with 56 percent of the vote. Abdullah's camp is calling this a coup against the people. He's alleging fraudulent votes were not thrown out. It could lead to a wide stand off between ethnic groups in that country.

The final results due in two weeks. We'll see if that happens.

ROMANS: To Ukraine now, it appears Ukrainian forces have pro-Russian rebels on the ropes. Crews are planning on retaking rebel controlled areas in the east. Momentum has been with the Ukrainians since they drove separatists from their stronghold Saturday. What remains to be seen is whether Russian President Vladimir Putin helps the rebels or de-escalates the month's long conflict and avoid further sanctions and further isolation for Russia.

BERMAN: The shift of that momentum happening very, very quickly.


BERMAN: Officials in Chicago imploring residents to put their weapons away. That after a violent Fourth of July weekend. More than 70 people were shot, a dozen people fatally between Thursday afternoon and early Monday morning. The mayor there, Rahm Emanuel, decried the violence, calling it senseless and totally unacceptable. But he says police can't stop the violence by themselves.


MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: I believe everybody in Chicago is part of building what I call a partnership for peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going build on a strategy. We are taking it apart and trying to figure out what it is that happened this weekend.


BERMAN: The police superintendent also wants tougher penalties for gun grimes as a deterrent.

ROMANS: A friend of the accused Boston marathon bomber will be back in court today. Azamat Tazhayakov is accused of impeding the investigation in the days following the bombings. Prosecutors say he believed that Tsarnaev was involved and tried to get rid of incriminating evidence. Conversations about martyrdom and texts between the two are also part of the case.

BERMAN: Aaron Hernandez on the move. The former football player charged with multiple murders now is being transferred to another jail as soon as today. A Massachusetts judge granted a defense request to move Hernandez closer to their offices in Boston. They say the trip to the Bristol House of Corrections took up to two hours in traffic.

ROMANS: Investigators are focused on electronic devices in connection with the death of a death of a toddler in a hot car. A new series of search warrants shows an interest in a thumb drive, external hard drive, SD card and recordable DVD. They were all recovered from Justin Harris' Hyundai Tucson car. He's charged with felony murder and a child cruelty in the death of his son, Cooper. The boy's parents -- his mother, rather, hasn't been charged, but is under the eye of investigators.

BERMAN: This is a big story developing right here in New York. Breaking overnight: police here have arrested a 20-year-old woman they say left a baby abandoned on a busy subway platform. We have no word yet on the woman's identity. Police had released this surveillance video of the woman they say pushed the stroller off the train at Columbus Circle. That's right here where we are at CNN, and got back on the train without the child.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something really sad. I feel so sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can you do something to someone so innocent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's heart breaking. It makes you want to hold your baby and make sure nothing like that happens. I don't know why somebody would do that.


BERMAN: Look at that face. Luckily the baby is said to be doing fine at a local hospital.

ROMANS: And we don't know if the woman who pushed her off and left her there is a mother. We have no idea what the relationship is. But it's a reminder that there are safe haven laws in a lot of places, where if you are overwhelmed, if you cannot take care of your child, you are supposed to take them to a firehouse, to a hospital, someplace where you know it's not a 91 degree platform in Columbus Circle where you have no idea who is going to get that child. So, I mean, you know, you just don't know the circumstances behind it. But you just feel for that adorable child.

BERMAN: There are resources out there.

ROMANS: All right. Outrage from parents and supporters of a California teen shot and killed by a police officer after learning charges will not be filed in the case. Prosecutors say Deputy Eric Gillhouse (ph) had reason to believe he faced a do or die situation. He shot a 13-year-old who was carrying a pellet gun. The deputy told investigators he believed that pellet gun was real.

BERMAN: Investigators in Philadelphia trying to determine why a 911 call for a deadly fire over the weekend was initially classified as a lower level incident. Anger building among residents. Police arrested several people outside a firehouse. They say it took crews half an hour to respond to the fire that killed four kids. But dispatch records obtained by the "Philadelphia Inquirer" show the first firefighters arrived within five minutes.

ROMANS: Donald Sterling will make a last ditch effort to hang on to the Los Angeles Clippers today. Donald Sterling expected to testify in the trial over whether his has right to negotiate a sale of that team. It comes after a big legal setback for the long-time owner.

Sara Sidner has this story for us from Los Angeles this morning.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Sterling is expected to take the stand here today. After a plethora of legal maneuvering, the case between Donald Sterling and his wife Shelly is finally going to court.

Now, on Monday, the case started and it started with a lot of drama. The first witness that was called by Shelly Sterling's attorneys, Donald Sterling. But Donald Sterling wasn't there. The court went quiet. The judge decided he would wait for Donald to be called. Donald never showed.

Eventually, the attorneys agreed to go forward with opening statements and to bring in witnesses.

Now, this case ended up here in probate court yet again, because a federal court decided to deny an emergency motion by Donald Sterling's attorneys to have the case moved to federal court. The federal court said no and brought it back here to probate court. And that seemed to surprise Donald Sterling's attorneys.

BOBBY SAMINI, DONALD STERLING'S ATTORNEY: He was not here today because our expectation was it would take some time to get a decision from the federal court and, quite frankly, we didn't want to come down here and put him on in this environment.

SIDNER: Donald's attorneys tried to keep the doctors who testified about his mental capacity off the stand but the judge overruled. That pleased Shelly Sterling's attorneys.

PIERCE O'DONNELL, SHELLY STERLING'S ATTORNEY: We view this as a singular victory for Shelly, for Steve Ballmer and going forward, with the sale of the Clippers for the record price of $2 billion.

SIDNER: Neurologist Meril Platzer took the stand. She's one of two doctors who examined Donald Sterling and determined that he had Alzheimer's. She says he may have had it from three to five years.

Now, Donald Sterling's attorneys contend that Shelly actually was trying to trick Donald into seeing the doctors so that she could use that to remove him as trustee from the Sterling family trust. Shelly Sterling's attorneys say that is complete hogwash.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.


ROMANS: If he loses, Berman?

BERMAN: $2 billion, that's a quite way to lose. If you are going to lose, to go out with $2 billion --

ROMANS: If he loses, he gets even richer.

All right. More wild weather rolling through. Severe thunderstorms ripped through eastern Massachusetts.

BERMAN: That's my home county.

ROMANS: That's right. Is that your car?

BERMAN: That's not my car.

ROMANS: Well, however that is, call the insurance adjuster today. Fallen trees, some of them uprooted straight from the ground, power out in some areas, even a few small fires were ignited.

BERMAN: A tornado touched down in Michigan not far from Gerald Ford International Airport. Winds more than 80 miles an hour left damaged homes and caused some injuries there. The tornado measured 300 to 400 yards wide.

So, a lot of weather to tell you about. Indra Petersons is here to look at the forecast.

Hey, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are still talking about some thunderstorms we felt in the Northeast overnight. But again, the main area is definitely farther back to the west. That's we're again today, we are still talking about the same threat of severe weather. It's a good number here, about 40 million or so or a little bit above that are still under the gun here, going all the way back even through Arkansas, as we watch the cold front kind of take its time make its way across. Very easy to see the heavier showers will be right along that frontal boundary. But, of course, just like yesterday, make their way across. Like yesterday, we can see spotty showers ahead of that system before it makes its way in.

As far as we're looking at here, rain numbers, yes, under the thunderstorms, we are going to have those heavier numbers. The tail end of it, we see about two to three inches there, looks like north of Nashville, but into the Northeast, maybe only one to two inches as the system makes its way through.

So, that's one side of the equation. You have the cold front. But down to the Southeast, we're talking about a ridge of high pressure. So, temperatures above normal.

It is hot and steamy out there. You are going to notice the change here as the cold front sweeps through. So, you notice, most of us ten degrees above normal, closer to the East Coast. Once you see the front come through, you start the temperatures back off or go to below normal.

It will feel a lot better by the end of the week. Severe weather is still going story day after day.

ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: Hot and steamy out there. Hot and steamy in here, too.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: Apropos of nothing.

ROMANS: What are you talking about?

BERMAN: Twenty-two minutes after the hour.

They burned his jersey. They cursed his name. They booed him mercilessly when he returned. But, could a reunion be in the works between LeBron James and the city of Cleveland? This is a huge, huge story. Laura Rutledge has the details in the "Bleacher Report", next.


ROMANS: All right, everyone is talking about where LeBron James will land this off season. His old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers spurned by him, they did some call (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: That's right. Looks like it.

Laura Rutledge has more in the "Bleacher Report" -- Laura.

LAURA RUTLEDGE, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi. The LeBron James back to Cleveland rumors are picking up steam big time. But remember how ugly of a divorce it was for both sides? Now, the Cavs seem to be trying to right a wrong from the past.

James spent his first seven years with his home state team. And once LeBron made his, quote, "decision" on national TV to go to Miami, most of the city of Cleveland was livid, including majority owner Dan Gilbert. He wrote a letter criticizing James that included this statement.

He said, "I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled King wins one. You can take it to the bank."

Now, the Cavs have finally taken down the letter from their Web site, maybe an olive branch of some kind.

And trending on, some terrifying video of the Australian football league. You have to see this.

Brian Lake, well, he throws down his opponent during a play and gets a hold on the guy's neck, attempting to strangle him. Thankfully, some players intervened or the situation may have taken a more serious turn. Late punishment is expected to come down today. Wow.

And as we get ready for tonight's World Cup semifinal game between Brazil and Germany, it's odd to be talking about Brazil as an underdog. They have been a favorite to win this tournament on their home soil for -- well, it seems like years, but losing star striker Neymar to a back injury, the tides have turned. Brazil will have to take on Germany, a methodical side, who have hoisted the trophy three times. They have had weak moments in this tournament, but they seem to have this knack of coming through when it matters most.

So, will Brazil survive without Neymar? Or will Germany live up to the hype. The two face-off at 4:00 Eastern.

And, Christine and John, I'm really excited to see this one. I think it's going to be a game a lot of people will be talking about for many years to come, because whatever happens will be a big deal. Obviously, it's there in Brazil.

BERMAN: A huge deal. I'm going with Brazil and the home crowd there even without Neymar.

ROMANS: Me, too.

RUTLEDGE: I'm going Germany. I think I picked Germany with Neymar. They are just such a good team from top to bottom.

BERMAN: Brazil has hulk. Any team with a player named Hulk you have to go with there. That's just plain cool.

All right, Laura. Great to have you with us. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: New overnight, Israel launching dozens of air strikes, gathering hundreds of troops at its border. Is war breaking out over Gaza? An intense situation. We are live after the break.