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Silence Over Gaza; Crisis at the Border: Congress Gridlocked; Coast to Coast Extreme Weather

Aired July 17, 2014 - 05:00   ET


LARA BALDESARRA, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: silence over Gaza. A five-hour cease-fire over Israel and Hamas declared after a deadly day for Palestinians on the streets. As both sides press pause on the airstrikes, is a ground assault now imminent? We are live with the very latest.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The crisis at the border, it could last a long time. Congress gridlocked over what to do with thousands of children who have crossed into the country illegally. President Obama's $4 billion fix is not getting even support from some members of his own party. This morning, live, hang in the balance. Is there a solution in sight?

BALDESARRA: Raging wildfires out West and catastrophic flooding in the East, while a rare summer chill is bringing near record lows to millions. Indra Petersons is tracking extreme weather from coast-to- coast.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I am Lara Baldesarra, in for Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Great to have you with us here today.

BALDESARRA: Thank you.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, July 17th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

An up first, a humanitarian truce in bloodstained Gaza. Israel and Hamas agreeing to a request by the United Nations to stop the attacks for five hours. This, after an Israeli shelling tragically killed four Palestinian boys playing on a beach in Gaza.

Let's bring in our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman live from Gaza this morning.

And, Ben, the question is, is this truce holding up so far?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is holding up, John. We are two hours into it. There are only three hours left. But thousands of people came out. It's the first time banks have been open in more than 10 days. The first time people have been able to collect their salaries.

So, everyone is out buying things, stocking up because, of course, the fear is, when this U.N.-sponsored pause comes to an end, there may be a ground invasion. This is what Israeli officials are telling a variety of media, both international and Israeli. So, this may be just the calm before the storm here in Gaza where the situation is becoming increasingly difficult.

According to the United Nations, 900,000 people, that's more than 50 percent of the population has no running water because damage to the infrastructure. The death toll is more than 220. Almost 1,500 people wounded.

Increasingly desperate situation here, John, and unfortunately, this is only a pause, it's not a truce or a cease-fire. As I said, just three hours left.

BERMAN: An unusual pause or truce as you say, Ben, for five hours for the people there perhaps to get out and move around if they can. The ground invasion that, as you say, so many Israeli sources now say may be imminent, how fearful of such a thing are the people in Gaza or, at this point, is that just par for the course?

WEDEMAN: Well, on one hand, I mean, you get two different kinds of responses to that question. There are some who are defiant. They say, we are not afraid, we want the Israelis to come in and face them man-to-man rather than getting hit by air strikes, for instance.

But, on the other hand, there are others who are terrified. They have seen this happen before back in 2009 in January, there was an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

And I can tell you, I saw it firsthand, it was bloody and it was destructive. More than 1,000 people killed. There are some parts of Gaza, particularly in the north where house after house was destroyed. Many people, basically, had to live in makeshift accommodations for years afterward.

So, the prospect of an invasion has people worried. That's why you have at least 20,000 people who have fled those areas of north and northeastern Gaza. They are staying in U.N. schools because they simply don't want to be in the line of fire, if an invasion happens -- John.

BERMAN: Ben Wedeman for us in Gaza this morning, with a few hours to go with this very tenuous, tense pause in the attacks. Thanks, Ben.

BALDESARRA: Meanwhile, the Taliban is taking responsibility for a rocket attack of Afghanistan's Kabul International Airport. An Afghan army spokesman says several rockets hit the airport earlier this morning, but no planes were damaged, and all four of the attackers were killed. This comes at a very tense time in Afghanistan as a recount is under way to decide disputed presidential election.

BERMAN: President Obama imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine. These are the stiffest measures so far, restricting some of Moscow's biggest corporations from operating in American markets. Leaders of the European Union meeting in Brussels refusing to match the president's measures, deciding instead to adopt a moderate plan that blocks new lows to Russia.

BALDESARRA: Syrian President Bashar al Assad has been sworn in for a new seven-year term after an election victory. His opponents are calling it a sham. Assad vowed to recover all of Syria from Islamic insurgents. He also issued warnings to the West and all Arab nations who support the rebels, saying that they will pay a high price.

BERMAN: Now the latest on the immigration crisis at the border. More Democrats deciding to part with the president, opposing his request for $3.7 billion to deal with thousands of immigrants from Central America who keep pouring into the United States. More states meanwhile saying no to temporary housing for the immigrants -- a solution hard to come by it seems for just 10 days remaining before Congress goes away, takes its August recess.

Let's get more from CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Lara, this flare up inside the Democratic Party is a sign that the White House has had enough of Democrats breaking ranks with President Obama over the border crisis. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley knows that all too well.

But as a potential presidential contender told CNN, he is standing by his comments.

You feel like they threw you under the bus?

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: I really don't care. I'm far more concerned about children being penned up and cooped up than conditions that look more like kennels than they look like the way a humane country should be treating refugee kids. I will say it again and again and continue to call all of us to the most important work, which is doing right by these kids because it's not just about them, it's about the sort of country we want to give to our children. And we are not a country that should be returning refugee kids back to certain death or war-torn areas. These kids deserve their due process.

ACOSTA: O'Malley's take on the border crisis also sets him apart from Hillary Clinton who has said the young migrants should be sent back as soon as possible.

As for the president, he met with congressional Democrats here at the White House, many of them expressing the view that they don't want the president to rush these children out of the country -- John and Lara.


BALDESARRA: Happening today: the IRS targeting of conservative groups will be subject of a House committee hearing. The Justice Department is investigating missing e-mails, which the agency says were lost when former official Lois Lerner's hard drive crashed. Lerner is at the center of an e-mail controversy, which is part of a wider criminal probe into whether employees broke the law by targeting specific political groups for extra scrutiny.

BERMAN: General Motors CEO Mary Barra about to get yet another grilling on Capitol Hill. She will testify in a Senate committee hearing today. This is her fourth appearance before Congress on why General Motors waited a decade before recalling millions of vehicles with defective ignition switches now linked to at least 13 deaths. Lawmakers are expected to focus on how the automakers kept accident victims and government officials in the dark.

BALDESARRA: The director of the CDC is facing blistering questions from lawmakers and admitting to a pattern of dangerous mistakes and unsafe practices at the agency. Amongst those blunders, there's the scientist's mishandling of live anthrax and unknowingly contaminating specimens with bird flu. It was during a House hearing on Wednesday that Dr. Tom Frieden admitted there's an insufficient culture of safety at the agency but said he's personally overseeing corrective actions.

BERMAN: As if what's good for sandwiches not so much for dangerous substances.

President Obama taking his push for infrastructure funding to Delaware today. He will visit a damaged bridge in the port of Wilmington, to stress the needs to keep America's highways and bridges up-to-date. He is also expected to announce new executive actions to attract private sector investment into infrastructure projects. The House easily approved a short term fix for the nearly depleted federal Highway Trust Fund on Tuesday. The Senate, though, has yet to vote on that issue.

BALDESARRA: A state of emergency declared in 20 counties in eastern Washington state as multiple wildfires are threatening several hundred structures and forcing more than 800 evacuations. The biggest fire has torched more than 22,000 acres in the Mills Canyon area with 400 homes in harms way.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, eight fires have now consumed 150,000 acres, 45 miles northeast of burns, which is in the eastern part of the state. Air tankers and choppers, they have been called in to battle the flames. But high winds, they are certainly hampering their efforts.

BERMAN: Different story in North Texas -- they are bracing for more flooding right now, north Texas, heavy rain expected over the next couple of days. A flash flood watch in effect through tomorrow afternoon in the Dallas and Ft. Worth area.

BALDESARRA: Well, they certainly don't need more rain in Rhode Island, but it is coming. Well, flash flood warnings have been lifted in Newport County. The region has already seen two inches of rain this week. And now, a new round of thunderstorms could trigger more floods.

BERMAN: Boston and surrounding suburbs submerged this morning, flash flood reported in Waltham, Lexington, Medford and Arlington. Severe thunderstorms are also pounding southeast Massachusetts. BALDESARRA: And the 12-year-old Pennsylvania girl should really be

counting their lucky stars after flash floods sucked her into a storm drain.


BALDESARRA: Taylor Russell of Frackville was checking out the flooding with her friends on Monday. She ended up being pulled hundreds of feet underground.


TAYLOR RUSSELL: It was scary, dark scary. My mom helped me through, though. I was thinking of everybody -- my dad, my mom, my new mom, my sister, my brothers. I was just praying that I would make it through.


BALDESARRA: My God. Well, after Taylor emerged from the other end of the storm drain, she was swept another half mile down. She said she was able to grab on some tree limbs helping her to make it out safely with only some bumps and bruises.

John, this is why you look from afar. You do not approach these things.

BERMAN: I have to say, it's a brave girl, but also a very lucky little girl. Not a good idea to go outside and play and inspect that flooding --

BALDESARRA: Exactly. You stick to watching this thing right here, the news and finding out what is happening with all of the stormy weather.

Indra Petersons, what is going on?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Like a mixed bag. We have one storm moving out, but, of course, what does that mean? Another one is going to be heading in.

Let's start where it's actually kind of nice. Notice as that system is exited off into the Northeast, we're still going to be talking about that cool air moving in. So, there's the low that brought all the rain. We are left with mild conditions.

So, talk about these morning temperatures, look how beautiful it is, almost like fall for some people. I'm talking about 53 degrees for Cincinnati this morning. But, still, yes, about 70 degrees out towards New York City.

But this mild air is going to stay in place for a couple days. That's the good news especially as we go to the weekend. This is not cold, guys. This just feels good. We are talking about 70s and 80s for really the Midwest and into the Northeast.

Now, that's just one side of the equation. We're also talking humidity dropping. So, it's going to feel a lot better, a lot drier out there.

Now, we have to talk about the system that is bringing the heavy rain. You could easily all that rain pushing off the East Coast. But here's that system now developing again around Texas, pulling in all of this moisture around the Gulf, that kind of frontal boundary, stalling out a little bit. So, what does that mean?

Very heavy amounts of rain are going to be in the picture. We're talking about anyway upwards of five inches of rain out towards in Texas and Louisiana. This is a huge concern going forward from here.

BERMAN: A lot of rain.

All right, Indra. Let's keep our eye on that. Thanks so much.

Coming up for us, she's been called the black widow of Silicon Valley. A suspected call girl accused of killing her client, now explaining why there is no way she could have done it.

BALDESARRA: Plus, a Palestinian-American teen who was beaten by Israeli police on camera, he has returned home overnight. And he's sharing his story of survival. That's coming up next.


BERMAN: A not guilty plea from an alleged high-priced prostitute accused of administering a fatal dose of heroin to a top Google executive. Police say they have surveillance video of Alix Tichelman injecting the drug into the arm of 51-year-old Forrest Hayes. But the lawyers say she did not intend to kill him.

Let's get the latest now from Kyung Lah in Santa Cruz, California.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Alix Tichelman pled not guilty in court. She also asked that she'd be released on her own recognizance. The judge denied that.

She asked that her bail, which is currently $1.5 million, be lowered. That request was also denied.

She was serious and quiet as she was taken back into custody where she will remain.

What we also heard, for the very first time, is her defense team, her lawyers coming to her defense, saying that she's been unfairly vilified. What happened aboard the yacht between her and 51-year-old Forrest Hayes was a consensual affair and his death is a result of heroin use gone awry.

The police and prosecution though reject that characterization, saying that she is in indeed much more culpable. That she is the one who brought the heroin, injected him with the drug and then watched him suffer and die instead of calling for help.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Santa Cruz, California.


BALDESARRA: Court documents reveal Aaron Hernandez's lawyers are pushing for a January start date for his murder trial. But we are not expected to find out until the end of September if his attorneys will use a mental health defense for the former NFL star. Meantime, prosecutors say there is evidence that fiancee Shanna Jenkins (ph) lied more than a dozen times to the grand jury investigating the death of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in Lloyd's shooting and he is also charged separately in a 2012 double murder.

BERMAN: Another postponement in the trial of James Holmes, the accused gunman in the Colorado movie theater massacre. The judge overseeing this murder case has proposed jury selection begin in December, for a trial that has already been postponed three times. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for opening fire inside a movie theater in Aurora, killing 12 people.

BALDESARRA: The Palestinian-American teen who was beaten by Israeli authorities is back on U.S. soil. Fifteen-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir was greeted by supporters when he arrived home in Florida on Wednesday. The teen says it was their prayers that got him through a terrifying ordeal.


TARIQ ABU KHDEIR: I was in a new place and suddenly attacked by masked police. It was by far the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. The physician said -- the physician said the physical pain in those first hours was really rough. And I'm only 15, and I will never think about freedom in the same way as I did two months ago.


BALDESARRA: Israeli authorities have suspended a police officer who was involved in the teen's attack.

BERMAN: A federal judge ruling California's death penalty is unconstitutional. The judge in Los Angeles says the law has created long delays and few inmates are ever actually executed. In making the ruling, he cited the more than 900 people who have been sentenced to die in California since 1978, just 13 have been executed.

BALDESARRA: The FBI has serious concerns about driverless cars being used as deadly weapons. An internal report obtained by the Guardian reveals the bureau sees benefits for road safety, but fears the futuristic vehicles could enable criminals to multitask while driving. They say the worst case as suspects able to shoot at officers in pursuit with both hands free.

BERMAN: Coming up, Tiger Woods back in the spotlight and back several strokes already, appearing in his first major in a long, long time, the British Open. Andy Scholes gives us the highlights, maybe the low lights, and maybe why number 18 is weighing so heavily on Tiger's mind. That's the "Bleacher Report", next.


BALDESARRA: Well, Tiger Woods has just recently returned to competitive play after undergoing back surgery that kept him out for quite a while. He is now ready for his first major bid at the open championship. My favorite major of the year, he's back on the course where he last left to Claret jug.


Andy Scholes tells us how it's going so far this morning -- Andy.


Well, Tiger not off to a great start this morning at the British Open. He bogeyed the first two holes, and right now, he's two over through four. Now, amazingly, Tiger has been shut out of the 24 majors that have been played since he won the U.S. Open back in 2008. But despite playing two rounds of golf since undergoing back surgery in March, Tiger, one of the favorites this week, he is, of course, still chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major victories. And you can head over to for up-to-the second updates on Tiger's opening round.

Phil Mickelson will tee off later this morning as he looks to win back-to-back British Opens for the first time ever. Lefty, he struggled so far this year. He still hasn't had a top ten finish. Maybe this will finally be his week. But win or lose, Phil says he's had a great year with the Claret jug, adding he once drank a $40,000 bottle of wine. Whew!

All right. ESPN held their annual awards last night in Los Angeles. Michael Sam received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his groundbreaking decision to come out and become the first -- the NFL's first openly gay athlete. Sam, he gave an emotional speech closing with a message to young people who are feeling like they don't fit in and will never be accepted, saying great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.

The best moment of the night came from veteran ESPN anchor Stuart Scott. He was presented with the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award for his ongoing battle with cancer. In his speech, Scott revealed he just got out of the hospital after going through four surgeries in the past seven days. And he delivered a powerful message to all the cancer patients out there.


STUART SCOTT, ESPN ANCHOR: When you die, it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.


(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Scott also added he can't ever give up because he can't leave his daughters. He said he was standing on that stage because of him. His daughter Sydney came up on to the stage and gave him a hug.

Guys, Stuart Scott, such an inspirational person. Just very emotional moment, you know? When I think of something bad happening to me, I think of what Stuart Scott is going through.

BERMAN: That is one courageous man.

BALDESARRA: It's incredible people can stay so positive in the most difficult, difficult times.

BERMAN: I had never heard those words either. That is inspiring speech he gave.

All right. Andy, thanks so much.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: A brief silence over Gaza this morning. Israel and Hamas pressing pause on the air assault that has killed hundreds of Palestinians as aid workers survey destroyed Gaza neighborhoods. The question is, are Israeli troops ready to move in? We are live on the ground with the latest this morning after the break.