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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Today: Significant Tornado Threat Across Southern U.S.; Biden Urges Congress to Pass Legislation to Avert Rail Shutdown; China Cracks Down on Anti-Government Protests in Beijing; Today: U.S. Versus Iran in Winner-Take-All Match. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, on early start, 40 million Americans wake up under the threat of severe storms today, from Texas to Georgia, and then north to Illinois.

Just hours from now, a historic vote on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate decides that protecting same-sex marriage in America.

Plus, President Biden in a race against time. Can he stave off a crippling railroad strike, just days before the deadline?


ROMANS: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans. Let's get started.

We begin with a rare November threat of severe weather across the south and parts of the Midwest. A storm system predicted to produce tornadoes, hail, damaging winds this afternoon and into tonight. The severe storm threat extending overnight, it could now affect over 40 million people. The National Weather Service says nighttime tornadoes could be especially dangerous and deadly.

I want to bring in meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

Beyond the tornadoes, Pedram, hurricane forced wind gusts, hail, a whole lot of pain coming for a big part of the country!

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's a multi-faceted storm, and it was on November 4th, Christine, when we had a moderate, a level four on a scale of 1 to 5 severe weather threat, precisely the same scenario across playing out across this region again, as we go into the afternoon and this evening.

Keep in mind, back on the 4th of November, 62 tornadoes were reported as a result of a similar setup. So, we will carefully watch, as we go through the afternoon hours. We will watch this quickly, because it does develop rather quickly. By the time we get to 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the afternoon. Watch areas of eastern Texas, portions of Louisiana, the storm will begin to develop over here.

When we get to overnight hours, late evening, the early morning hours, the storms really flourished across portions of Mississippi, to Louisiana, certainly to Alabama as well. So, that's the area of concern. We're going to break it down, hour by hour. You notice the thunderstorms developing here, early, just before sunset, and the concern is you know what time of the sun sets this time of year? Generally across this region, between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.

So, anytime you get these overnight storms, these tornadoes developing, it's the overnight hours, the dark hours. Historically speaking, they are twice as likely to be more fatal than ones in the daytime hours. So, we watch these storms develop in the afternoon, evening hours, flourishing in the overnight hours, four span and 5 to 7 hours, before conditions improve.

But the threat level here, damaging winds could possibly get up to 70- plus miles per hour, large hail could possibly get as large as two inches or greater in diameter. We are talking golf ball sized hail, possible with these storms. And tornadoes could be long track. So, EF2 or greater, could stay on the ground for an extended period of time. All of these making significant damage, the threat level increases as a result of this.

You notice, 15 percent area, a 15 percent chance within 25 miles attached in this region, where tornadoes are possible. Some of these tornadoes again will happen when it is dark, they could be on the ground for many, many hours. If that plays out, it could be a very dangerous scenario, make sure you are tuned in, you have your weather apps going. Stay alert throughout the entire night.

ROMANS: Yeah. All right. Thank you for keeping us on top for us. Pedram, thanks.


ROMANS: All right. Today on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on final passage of the same sex marriage bill. The bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act includes religious liberty protections, those sought by Republicans. The household will need to approve it before this can be signed into law by the president.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House vote this week to avert a potentially crippling national railroad shutdown. President Biden is urging Congress to step in to prevent a strike by railroad workers before a deadline, about ten days from now. A possible strike is a wildcard in an already fragile economy. It could cause shortages of everyday products, spiked prices even higher and halt factory production in some places.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in Washington.

Jasmine, the president thought he headed off of this strike back in September, a proud, pro-labor president. What happened here?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the White House have been urging both parties, railroad unions and rail companies, to come to a resolution for the last few weeks. But as of early this month, four out of the 12 labor unions have voted down the tentative agreement that President Biden worked so hard to broker in September. So it put the president in a precarious position.

Now he is choosing to essentially override the state of negotiations to get Congress involved, in order to, in his own words, to protect the economy.


As groups say that the U.S. economy could lose as much as one billion dollars in the first week alone, as you can see on your screen here. So, I want to read you a part of the president's very lengthy statement yesterday, really trying to make his case as to why it's necessary.

The president said, as a proud, pro labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures in the views of those who voted against the ingredient. But in this case, where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families, I believe Congress must use these powers to adopt this deal.

So, Christine, in terms of the next steps forward, first, Congress can intervene because of the Railway Labor Act of 1986. So, of course, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her final weeks in leadership is saying that they will bring a bill on to the House floor, and they will pass it without any changes, but when it gets to the Senate, that is when it gets tricky, Christine, because we know that any individual senator can delay the process of when the vote could actually happen on the floor, there.

But sources tell CNN, that once that bill is on the floor, it should be able to break the filibuster with 60 votes. But I just want to note one last thing. The president, intervening in this way is notable because, for the last few weeks, even as late as Monday, the White House argued to reporters that the best way to resolve this was for labor unions and railway companies to come to a resolution on their own.

And there have been some contrast to get comments about how involved the president really was in this last stage of negotiations. So the question going forward for the White House, not only was, can it pass, but two, was whether this could pick Democratic allies, and pro union Democrats against their self described pro-union president, President Biden -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yeah. Eight of the 12 of those unions have accepted this deal for resisting. They are still talking about quality of life issues, scheduling, staffing leaves, sick pay, some of those things they thought they worked out.

All right, thank you so much, Jasmine. Nice to see you.

All right. President Biden set to welcome President Emmanuel Macron to the White House for a state visit this week. President Macron arrives today, the two leaders plan to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the European Union. Of course, China is also on the agenda. Both its trade practices and Beijing's violent crackdown on protesters, that up with COVID lockdowns, demanding President Xi's resignation.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: This is a moment for, you know, for the Chinese people and Chinese government to speak. We have been nothing but clear and consistent. People should be allowed the right to assemble, and to peacefully protest policies, laws, or dictates that they take issue with.


ROMANS: Macron plans to visit China in the coming months. The Biden administration wants a united front among the G7 nations.

All right, the streets of Beijing, eagerly quiet on Monday night. A heavy security presence -- police cars with lights flashing, keeping protesters off of the streets.

Kristie Lu Stout has the latest, live from Hong Kong for us.

It's been fascinating to watch the past few days of what's happening there. Is there any possibility President Xi Jinping could ease COVID restrictions to calm things down?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, you're right. The pressure certainly on Xi Jinping to fight his way out of the zero COVID policy. Experts say a full reopening for China would require a boost in medical capacity, a change in messaging about the pandemic and also higher vaccination rates.

In the last few hours, you've been watching a national health commission briefing in Beijing, they announced plans to boost vaccination rates for the elderly in China. Not only, that a spokesperson of the commission also said this. That lockdowns should be lifted, quote, as quickly as possible, to reduce inconvenience among the people.

We have also been watching very closely, the security clampdown in the wake of those massive protests across China in response to the zero COVID policy. In Beijing, in Shanghai, police are out on patrol. In Shanghai, barriers are being erected at sites where protests were taking place over the weekend.

We've also learned that protesters are being rounded up. In fact, one protester spoke to CNN, saying that around 80 to 110 protesters were detained by Shanghai police after a Saturday night protest. The protester also added that the police took their biometric data, including their fingerprints and retinol scans. On Monday, there were no new signs of protests in Beijing or Shanghai, protests did continue in places like Hangzhou.

And let's look at that map one more time, because this is an important map. It shows you the reach, the scale and scope of these anti-zero COVID protests across China. You can see them taking place, these have been verified by CNN, in 15 different cities across China, from Beijing, to Shanghai, to Guangzhou, to Urumqi, and Xinjiang, to Wuhan, Nanjing, and elsewhere.


There were even protests last night, very rare protests here in Hong Kong, where protesters turned up in the central business district, holding this deeply symbolic blank sheets of white paper, symbolic of censorship across China, and symbolic of this protest movement.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: Interesting. The Chinese censors were told, even censoring how people can see the World Cup, because indeed, the World Cup is showing a world coming together, playing a sport without masks. That is something that if to any people see, that's not what's happening in China at all.

So nice to see you, Kristie Lu Stout. Thank you.

STOUT: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The Supreme Court hears a critical immigration case today. It will be a test to President Biden's authority, on which immigrants to deport. The administration wants to focus on those who pose a threat to national security or public safety. Two conservative states, Texas and Louisiana, sued over the strategy.

The case is one of several challenging president Biden's authority to make immigration a policy, without authorization from Congress.

All right. We are just hours away from the winner take all World Cup match between the U.S. and Iran. The victory will announce to the tournament knockout stage. Political tensions, though, have overshadowed this key matchup.

CNN's Amanda Davies is live for us this morning in Doha, Qatar.

Amanda, there's a lot going on here than just a soccer match.


The U.S. team and their coach are experiencing a press conference with questions like they have never faced before, confronted head on by politics and international relations. We knew, if you remember, when this draw was made back in April, that this would be the case. Given events in Iran over recent months, that refusal from the Iranian team to sing the national anthem ahead of their opening game here in Qatar, and then that U.S. soccer stance, changing the Iranian flag on social media, this has become a sporting match up that is just impossible, really, to extricate, from the international diplomatic relations.

But, if keen for all observers, they carve their mind back 24 years, it was the same situation the last time these two sides met at the World Cup. That was France, 1998.

Iran won that match 2 to 1. But the players have been told Iranian players, they should not shake hands with their American counterparts. There was increased security around the event. Interestingly, but now U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter was a TV pundit at that game. And he says he remembered not the politics, but Iran's passion on the pitch.


GREGG BERHALTER, U.S. SOCCER HEAD COACH: That game sticks in my mind, burns in my mind. What I saw from the opening whistle is one team that really wanted to win the game, one team that really did not want to win the game. And Iran wanted to win the game with everything, and they played really committed, really focused. And for us to have a chance to advance tomorrow, that's going to be the mindset of our group because we know exactly what Iran is going to bring.


DAVIES: Berhalter, urging his side very much not to say, make the same mistakes of the past. Meanwhile, a source involved with the security around the team has told CNN of threats to the families of the Iranian players, really requesting, ordering the players to quote, behave threats of imprisonment, and even torture if they do not in the run up to this match.

But the Iran coach, Carlos Queiroz, has called for the politics to be put to one side, at least for the 90 minutes on the pitch. He knows his side is within touching distance of history, a point, and they will qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time, ever. From a U.S. perspective, it's pretty simple: win, or they're out.

ROMANS: Yes. Amanda, thank you so much. Keep us posted.

All right, ahead, the cost of fill up falling, as U.S. oil levels fall the lowest prices in nearly a year.

Plus, the desperate attempt to save over 100 stranded sea turtles on Cape Cod.

And next, the world's largest active volcano, erupting for the first time in nearly 40 years.



ROMANS: The world's largest active volcano, Hawaii's Mauna Loa, is erupting right now after 38 years slumber. Officials say there's no immediate threat to communities, but residents on the big island have been told to be on alert. Health officials warn both locals and tourists of poor air quality as a result.

I want to bring in Benjamin Andrews. He is the director of the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian.

Good morning.


ROMANS: It's so nice to have you on and your expertise this morning because the pictures are just, you know, riveting. Wondering, why is this volcano erupting now for the first time in nearly 40 years?

ANDREWS: Sure. So as your intro said, Mauna Loa is the largest volcano in the world, it has magma coming into it from depth, in a distance for maybe the last six weeks or so, probably off and on again prior to that as well.


And so, the magma has been coming up. It was sitting at about three or six kilometers below the surface, 2 to 5 miles down. And it is eventually, it started to erupt, I guess almost 48 hours ago.

ROMANS: So you guys have been watching this, the scientists have been using their instruments to try to predict, right, when this was going to happen. Tell me about that process, and when you start to get excited that something is going to happen here, and you have to let people know, hey, this one is going to go.

ANDREWS: Sure, so the United States Geological Survey are the folks that monitor the big island, and all the volcanoes in the United States. They have a network of seismometers listen for earthquakes, on the volcano. They also have very sensitive instruments that measure deformations.

So, as magma comes in, it inflates the mountain. Just like having -- it's not a balloon under there, but imagine a big balloon underground. If you fill that balloon up, it will push the surface up. And for about the last six weeks or so, six or eight weeks, there have been increased numbers of very small earthquakes, and then also, deformation being measured.

So the surface of the mountain was growing just a little bit. And as I said, 48 hours ago, the first magma reached the surface. Also, there were gas sensors which have been able to measure gas coming out. These are all things the USGS scientists can monitor and watch, and as it gets, this is such a well-monitored volcano, as the scientists get closer and closer to the eruption, there's a better indication that yes, something is likely to happen. At that point, USGS tells the civil authority. So, the Hawaii county civil defense. It looks like an eruption might happen, or an eruption is now happening.

Fortunately in this case, the eruption is up near the summit of Mauna Loa, not threatening houses or any communities. So, it's -- all told right now, it is not. That if there will be an eruption, this is a not bad place for there to be one.

ROMANS: Yeah. I know they are expecting tourists to try to come and take a look in a safe way if they can. But what happens for residents and tourists alike with air quality, lava flows, how long they expect this eruption can go on?

ANDREWS: Sure. So the lava flows we often think about as the general public, we think of lava flows as a big hazard with volcanoes. Lava flows can certainly pose a problem. Lava flows, or a long way from where people are.

I think right now, the flow, the biggest flow is about ten miles from a road that crosses the big island of Hawaii. So, it's not threatening any communities. Air quality can be an issue, both for particulates, so volcanic ash, not like fireplace ash, volcanic ash 20 bits of rock and glass, it's essentially frozen magma. So, that's nasty stuff and you don't want to breathe that in.

We have the part that comes out, our volcanic gases. So you might see them mentioning fog, so volcanic fog. It is sort of like smog from a volcano. And that could be pretty nasty. And so, there are some reports of fog happening and volcanic gases.

If the eruption stays of high, hopefully that won't threaten communities, but as the eruption goes on for a while, it could threaten some communities. Now, when asked about how long an eruption might last, and that is a big question, one that scientists and those monitoring agencies, we would like to know.

And the previous eruption lasted about three or four weeks from Mauna Loa. This is back in March and April of 1984. The past is a good indication of what is likely to happen, but at this point, there's no real telling if this eruption will go for a few days, for a few weeks, months or even longer. So that is one of the big challenges that USGS has as they are monitoring this developing eruption.

ROMANS: All right. Benjamin Andrews, thanks for bringing us the science this morning. Nice to see you. Have a great day.

ANDREWS: Thank you. You too.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America right now.

A former Virginia police officer, accused of catfishing a teenager online, before allegedly driving a cross country and murdering her family. He was killed in a shootout trying to escape police in Riverside, California.

The gunman charged with killing ten people at the Top Supermarket in Buffalo, pleading guilty Monday to state charges of murder, attempted murder and domestic terrorism, motivated by hate.

More than 150 sea turtles that were stranded on Cape Cod have been rescued. They are now being treated at a Boston aquarium for dehydration and pneumonia.

All right. A warning from scientists about the Great Barrier Reef. Why they say it is in danger.

And CNN on the ground in Kherson to see first and what the Russians left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the only way -- and you can hear the artillery shells going off in the background -- this is the only way she can get water for her house.




ROMANS: In the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, Russian forces are still attacking that city, despite retreating two weeks ago. Residents who remain there are desperate, but defiant.

CNN's Matthew Chance is on the ground there for us in Kherson.


CHANCE (voice-over): The devastation Russia's retreating forces left behind. A village in southern Ukraine torn to shreds, and until now abandoned to this war.

Valery (ph) told me he has lived here 51 years. And after evacuating for eight months, he's home to stay, even amid --