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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

At Least Two Dead As Storms, Tornadoes Tear Across Heartland; Supreme Court Decision on Abortion Pill Postponed to Friday; Questions Raised by 3 Wrong-Place Shootings in Under a Week; Officials: 78+ Killed, Dozens Injured at Charity Event in Yemen; McCarthy Proposes $1.5 Trillion Debt Limit Increase. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, buildings flattened as more than a dozen reported tornadoes ripped through parts of the Plains.

Plus, at least 78 people killed in a crowd surge in Yemen's capital. What witnesses say caused that deadly crush.

And the Supreme Court buying time, moving the deadline to decide on abortion pills to tomorrow at the stroke of midnight.


ROMANS: Good morning. Good Thursday morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

At least two people are dead this morning after severe storms tore across three states overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh, this is incredible. Kyle, one back up a little bit more. We're fine. Where we're at, the tornado is getting stronger.


ROMANS: Wow, at least 14 tornadoes reported across the heartland Seven in Oklahoma, four in Iowa, three in Kansas with buildings ripped apart like this hardware store near Oklahoma City.

Officials say based on the level of damage you see here, it's possible more deaths and injuries will be reported. In McClain County, Oklahoma, officials say they have reports of people trapped inside shelters. They say first responders have been hampered by downed power lines and debris on those roads.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is in the CNN Weather Center. And when the sun comes up, we have a better idea of just how much damage is there.

In the meantime, what is the latest on watches and warnings and the day ahead, Derek?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we know that we've had the 15 tornadoes, which, by the way, some of the discussions I was reading before I went to bed. We're talking about winds and some of those thunderstorms and tornadoes, over 150 miles per hour.

So when we get first light, we'll get true indication of how powerful they were. But nonetheless, we knew they occurred. Several reports of large hail as well.

The immediate threat now is focusing in on Missouri into portions of Nebraska, as well as Kansas and southwestern Iowa.

Let's zoom right in. Kansas City getting hit hard with a severe thunderstorm, not a tornado warned storm but nonetheless strong, gusty winds in excess of 50 miles per hour, perhaps some of that large hail. That I mentioned just a moment ago.

Severe threats stretches from Chicago all the way to Houston. So we're talking about nearly 50 million Americans. Very large hail, that is a sincere threat or a significant threat, but also the potential of an isolated tornado as well. Storm Prediction Center kind of highlighting those areas you'll see in the next graphic, a 2 percent chance of a tornado.

That means anywhere around a given point, there is a 2 percent probability of a tornado. Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas to Houston, so that covers a large area. But the most focus here right now is that significant hail possibility where you see those hashed regions across Dallas-Fort Worth, stretching southward throughout central and eastern Texas.

By the way, there is a slight risk of flash flooding. So in it, in addition to the severe storms that we will see on going across the state of Texas, the potential for flash flooding across those areas.

I want to go back in time. This is Wednesday night, the storm that produced the powerful tornado near Cole, Oklahoma. There's Oklahoma City. There's Norman.

The national severe storms laboratory located within that area, and this is fascinating because this is a helicopter perspective of the actual tornado. But what I want you to see and what I believe is fascinating is that this tornado is likely rain wrapped. You can kind of see that almost like a shaft of rain, but embedded within that is what we call a wedge tornado.

So the wedge tornado, I was watching all the live feeds, is a tornado that is often wider than it is tall, and you can imagine that destructive tornado, that's a mile or greater in diameter is going to cause some serious, serious damage on the ground.

ROMANS: Yeah, very dangerous and just terrifying.

All right. Thank you so much, Derek Van Dam. Another extension from the Supreme Court that will keep an abortion

pill widely available for at least another couple of days. Justice Samuel Alito postponing the court's self imposed deadline on whether to uphold and appeals court ruling that would have temporarily restricted access to this medication. All this while the final decision works its way through the courts.

CNN's Paula Reid has more from Washington.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: As of now, this commonly used abortion medication will remain widely available. The Supreme Court is expected to issue another update on Friday. But the center of this case is mifepristone. It is one of two drugs used in a process called medication abortion, which accounts for over half of all abortions conducted in the United States.

Several weeks ago, a judge in Texas, though, revoked the FDA's approval of mifepristone.


And now, the Supreme Court is mulling what happens to that decision, while this case makes its way through the courts. Now, they have several options. One is the Supreme Court could decide that they're just going to take up this case, trying to decide it before the term ends in June. They could also allow the case to continue working its way through the appeal system, potentially eventually ending up at the Supreme Court.

But eventually, this issue does have to be decided on the merits. And right now, it is up to the justices on what will happen to this medication in the interim. Will it remain on the market? Or will they uphold that Texas decision while this case moves forward?

We expect at this point, the Supreme Court will have another update, though, it's unclear if it will be a final answer by midnight on Friday.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right. Three people now under arrest in the shooting rampage that killed four and injured dozens at a sweet 16 birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama, over the weekend. Four of the victims remain in critical condition. A 17-year-old Ty Reik McCullough, 16- year-old Travis McCullough and 20-year-old Wilson LaMar Hill, all charged with four counts of reckless murder. Prosecutors say the teens will be charged as adults. Their motive is part of the ongoing investigation that cannot yet be shared.

All right. Three shootings in the space of five days of people whose only apparent transgression was mistakenly entering the wrong place in Kansas City, Upstate New York, Austin, Texas. The victims rang the wrong doorbell, pulled up the wrong driveway, opened the wrong car door and were shot within seconds with barely a word exchanged.

It's raising questions about a uniquely American mix of guns, paranoia and racial tension.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eighty-four-year-old Kansas City home owner Andrew Lester arraigned after being charged in the shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl.

Lester pleaded not guilty to two felony counts, first degree assault and armed criminal action. Yarl, shot in the head last Thursday after going to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. As Yarl recovers from his wounds, the man who shot him is out on bail.

The probable cause statement said Andrew Lester believed someone was trying to break into his house. But the mayor of Kansas City says there's another component at play.

MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS (D), KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: I think that this has everything to do with race, the defendant's fear of Black people, Black men, Black boys.

TODD: But this was also part of a series of incidents over the past few days where young people were shot after making the simple mistake of going to the wrong place.

In Elgin Texas, about 30 minutes east of Austin, two teenage cheerleaders were shot and wounded in a parking lot on Monday night when one of them mistook the suspect's car for their own. An injured cheerleader described the exchange.

HEATHER ROTH, CHEERLEADER INJURED IN TEXAS SHOOTING: I was trying to apologize and then here. Just halfway my window is down, just threw his hands up and then he hold up a gun and just started shooting at all of us.

TODD: The suspect is now in custody, charged with deadly conduct.

And in Hebrew, New York, near the Vermont border, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis was shot and killed on Saturday when a car her boyfriend was driving accidentally turned into the wrong driveway. The sheriff says 65-year-old Kevin Monahan fired two shots from his porch. He's charged with second degree murder.

Monahan's lawyer says he was frightened from seeing multiple vehicles speeding up his driveway. But the sheriff says witnesses and neighbors have another version.

SHERIFF JEFFREY MURPHY, WASHINGTON COUNTY, NY: They weren't in the driveway for a very long time at all before they realized it was the wrong house. And they were in the process of leaving, which makes his case obviously a little different. And I don't know how you could medicine someone if you're leaving. TODD: At least 28 states have stand your ground laws, which allow people to respond to threats of force if they're in a place where they have a right to be.

Could stand your ground be cited in any of these cases?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: I don't see how it should come into play because there was no imminent threat by the individuals that were shot. There was no furtive movement by these people. They weren't armed.


TODD (on camera): Retired LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey says the actions of some lawmakers here in Washington, some who carry firearms, some who wear pins on their lapels shaped like AR-15 rifles aren't helping in this environment, she says. It seems like they're almost daring people to shoot in these situations.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: Uniquely American situation, isn't it?

All right. Now to Yemen's capital, where officials say at least 78 people have been killed and dozens injured in a crowd surge. We want to warn you. This video is disturbing.

So this happened during a charity event where local merchants were reportedly giving away cash to mark the end of Ramadan. Witnesses described what happened as a stampede.


CNN's Salma Abdelaziz tracking this from London.

Now, we're hearing some of that the hearing the event organizer has been arrested, handing out I guess the equivalent of 10 U.S. dollars. I mean, what -- what can you tell us?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is a truly heartbreaking tragedy in one of the most hard struck corners of the world. I know you just showed that video. I don't know if we can play a little bit more of it again.

But you can see in that video just a wall of humanity. Just this horde of people, some of them trapped in the middle of the crowd. You can hear people screaming for help. It's truly harrowing. Some people with their arms flailing, hoping for help to no avail.

As you mentioned those dozens of people were gathered to get just $10 of charity, just $10 to 78 people being killed. Local authorities say that two merchants were handing out Ramadan aid at sunset. This is a normal tradition during the holy month when people started rushing the doors of this school as soon as they were open. That resulted in the surge. The crush the stampede that killed those dozens of people. Those two merchants now arrested. Dozens more have been wounded and authorities say they will provide help. They will provide assistance to the victims of the families of those killed. They'll cover the hospital treatments for those wounded. But yet again, you are just looking at just a terrifying, terrible incident in a place that the U.N. says is home to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, at a very poignant time, just before Eid al-Fitr.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that. Just a tragedy there, Salma.

All right. Just ahead, Joe Biden, Kevin McCarthy, drawing battle lines with the U.S. at risk of defaulting on its debt and the American people, the losers.

Plus, China and India head to head in the race for population supremacy.

And UFO sightings in America, out of this world. New numbers that make you wonder maybe the truth really is out there.



ROMANS: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy proposing to raise the national debt limit by $1.5 trillion in exchange for federal spending cuts. But that move is only escalating the speaker's standoff with the White House, as lawmakers stare down a fast approaching summer deadline to lift the debt ceiling or risk crashing the American economy.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For several months here at the White House, down in the capital, there has been a simmering battle over raising the debt limit. There is no question it's kind of an anvil hanging over Washington's head, but the full engagement, the full escalation hadn't really taken place yet.

Not anymore. That is no longer the case. President Biden ramping up the political pressure on House Republicans on Speaker Kevin McCarthy, specifically. The speaker, laying out in detail his proposal that he says should launch negotiations with President Biden.

Here's the issue really the central issue right now, President Biden has made very clear and his top advisers there will be no negotiations over raising the debt limit, that it should be done in a clean manner -- no spending cuts, nothing attached to it. They can have negotiations over long term fiscal priorities, but not attached to the debt ceiling itself.

McCarthy, House Republicans, they hold the majority, they say that's an absolute nonstarter, and that leads to basically this split screen. Take a listen. JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, here's this really

dangerous, MAGA Republicans in Congress are threatening to default on the national debt, the debt that took 230 years to accumulate overall, overall, unless we do what they say. They say they're going to default unless I agree to all these wacko notions they have.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: President Biden has a choice, come to the table and stop playing partisan political games, or cover his ears, refused to negotiate, and risk bumbling his way into the first default in our nation's history.

MATTINGLY: Now, McCarthy detailed his proposal on the House floor just a few moments before President Biden spoke at a labor union office in Maryland.

The back and forth really showing a very clear contrast between the two -- between the two proposals and underscoring the fact that there is no clear road map out of this problem. These are two diametrically opposed positions. There is no effort underway, back channels or anything like that to try and find some pragmatic solution, to try and reconcile these differences, and that means the political pressure, the rhetoric, the attacks back and forth are only going to escalate. Both sides right now feeling like those are an absolute necessity to try and force the other, in the words of one White House official to crack.

In the meantime, McCarthy and House Republicans are trying to coalesce behind his proposal. Vote on it as soon as next week. They know it's dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. Obviously, the president would never sign it, but they believe that could force Biden into negotiations, negotiations he and his team say simply are not on the table at this point.

How does this end? Well, no one really knows at this point, but one thing is clear, that battle we all knew was coming, it is certainly underway now.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


ROMANS: A reminder, we've been here before. Congress raised the debt ceiling cleanly three times during the Trump administration, eight times during the Obama administration. This time, though, it feels a little -- a little too close for comfort.

Let's bring in chief global strategist at Principal Asset Management, Seema Shah.

So nice to see you this morning, Seema.

So how does the debt ceiling drama fold into the overall list of risks to the U.S. economy here that we face right now?

SEEMA SHAH, CHIEF GLOBAL STRATEGIST, PRINCIPAL ASSET MANAGEMENT: Well, thanks for having me on. It is unfortunately becoming more and more pertinent. You know, the chances are there is not going to be a debt default. It certainly is not in the interest of the government they would have I think fairly severe implications in terms of interest rates and then onto the economy.

But even if there is a risk and study, I would agree that it is a little bit elevated compared to previous times, given the makeup of the government, and I guess the atmosphere between the two sides.


But even the risk of having a debt default is very, very disruptive to markets at the time when they're still reeling from the banking crisis, when they're still facing the chances of recession. The market is extremely vulnerable right now, so any risks of debt default is unfortunately very, very disruptive to the outlook.

ROMANS: And outside of the debt trauma, you say that the risks of recession are rising right now. Why?

SHAH: Right. So, you know, we've had this banking crisis in March, and I do believe that the acute risks associated with that have passed. We're certainly not expecting any further banking failures, but unfortunately do need to deal with the after effects of that which is likely to be, regional banks having to spend several months repairing their balance sheets, and that implies pulling back and lending activity so that tightening and lending conditions that we're anticipating over the coming months, House unfortunately raised the risk of recession.

Now we're not anticipating imminent recession, certainly just have to look at the strength of the labor market to feel somewhat reassured by that. But unfortunately, it's probably does play out over a couple of months, with banks pulling back and activity weighing on consumer spending, and, unfortunately ultimately weighing on the labor market.

ROMANS: We heard Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, say you could have falling cooling inflation and a still strong labor market. Both of those things can happen at the same time. She sort of trying to downplay what many people say is this big trade off that you need to see a meaningful e weaker job market before you can really get inflation under control.

Where do you fall on that?

SHAH: Well, I mean, there is a certainly a path toward to a soft landing. It's a fairly narrow part, unfortunately, post-banking crisis that path is even narrower than it was. From our perspective. We think it's somewhat unlikely that you can get inflation down towards the Fed's 2 percent target without creating some economic damage.

As I said, it's possible, but it seems somewhat unlikely at this stage.

ROMANS: All right. We'll check in with you again and see how we're -- how we're all faring.

Seema Shah, principal asset management, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

SHAH: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Quick hits across America now.

Police in Maine say a man just released from prison has confessed to killing his parents and their two friends on Wednesday, then shooting three others on a highway before being arrested.

Florida has now banned teaching sexual orientation and gender identity all the way through 12th grade in public schools, the extension of what critics call the state's "don't say gay" laws comes as Governor Ron DeSantis eyes a 2024 presidential bid.

The pentagon says it is tracking more than 650 potential UFO sightings, almost the double the number from a report earlier this year. An official said some flight pattern suggests they could be from China or Russia.

Right now, SpaceX is counting down to a second launch attempt of most powerful rocket ever.

And castaways rescued after being stranded on an island with no food or water.



ROMANS: The State Department says Sudan is too volatile right now to get American diplomatic staff safely out of that country.

It's the sixth day of violent clashes as two rival generals fight for control. Their forces essentially acting like rival gangs, assaulting people and looting homes. The World Health Organization reports nearly 300 people are dead. Thousands are injured.

CNN's Larry Madowo live in Nairobi, Kenya.

Every day, it just seems this death toll rises and things get worse. This is now the second ceasefire broken in as many days. I mean, what happened?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, this is actually the third ceasefire. There was a temporary three-hour ceasefire they tried on Sunday, that fell apart. And then there was one that for 24 hours on Wednesday that didn't work and again on Tuesday.

So this is the third time it's falling apart, and there's no sign that these two warring generals are going to go back to the negotiating table, and especially the many people caught in the crossfire. Hospitals are running out of medicines. Sometimes power and water lines have been bombed. It's a really desperate situation.


MADOWO (voice-over): Smoke billows and plumes the Khartoum sky as residents woke up to another day of heavy artillery bombardment.

In the wake of the escalating conflict, RSF leader Hemitte is, according to multiple sources, commanding his forces from one of Khartoum's busiest residential areas, prompting the Sudanese army to accuse the RSF of using civilians as human shields. What were once bustling with cars and people, since Saturday, Khartoum streets have been left deserted, with some residents hiding their homes, fearing for their safety.

Just like Hadeel Mohamed who says since the fighting broke out, she's been housebound and thinks forces might break in to steal supplies.

HADEEL MOHAMED, SUDAN RESIDENT: Once they run out of food and equipment and what they have and what they need, they very easily will be able to walk into houses and say, give me what you have, because they've got a bigger agenda and a war to win.

MADOWO: Other residents took advantage of Tuesday's ceasefire announcement queuing outside shops, desperate not to be locked indoors with nothing to eat.

In the wake of a broken ceasefire, Kenya's President William Ruto warned that attacks against civilians are equal to crimes against humanity.

PRESIDENT WILLIAM RUTO, STATE HOUSE KENYA: Attacks on diplomatic installations and personnel as well as targeting of hospitals, hotels and other vital public and social spaces are deliberate, systematic and tantamount to atrocities.