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Monster Storm Targeting Northeast; Possible Sighting of Wanted Ex-Cop; No Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels; Brennan Confirmation Hearing; Asteroid Headed Towards Earth; Justin Timberlake's New Title

Aired February 8, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: New developments in the all-out manhunt for a suspected cop killer. Right now police blanketing a California Indian reservation after reported sighting a short time ago.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And bracing for a snow-making monster. A blizzard is taking aim right now at the entire Northeast. Major cities like Boston, right here in New York, smack-dab in its path. Thousands of flights have already been canceled.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START this Friday morning.

I'm Christine Romans. John Berman is off today. And he's got a shovel and snow boots.

SAMBOLIN: He's relaxing. He's probably relaxing. Getting ready.

ROMANS: For now.


Thanks for joining us, everyone. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, February 8th. It is 5:00 a.m. here in the East. So, let's get started for you.

Millions of people from New Jersey to Maine bracing for what could be a blizzard for the ages. Take a look at the monster storm that is about to bury Boston and bring misery to millions in the Northeast. Forecasters are using words like "epic", "historic" to describe this massive storm.

You're looking at live pictures from New York now. The Big Apple is also preparing for dangerous winds and up to a foot of snow, perhaps even more. A lot of schools are doing early dismissal today or cancelling altogether.

So, right now, 23 million people are under a blizzard warning. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers says he can't remember seeing a number that high. Air travel is already a mess. Nearly 3,000 flights scheduled for today and tomorrow have already been canceled.

In Boston, there are fears today's storm could be worse than these images. This, folk, the 1978 blizzard that killed 100 people and destroyed thousands of homes. The forecasts there are calling for up to 34 inches of snow today.

We have got you covered, though. Jennifer Delgado is tracking the storm from the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

But let's begin with Indra Petersons. She is live in Boston, where bottled water and shovels are really hard to come by. But you are smiling. Good morning to you.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm smiling because this is really kind of the calm before the storm right now. Just keep in mind -- this is an area that hasn't seen much snow yet this season. In fact, we're 15 inches below normal in Boston. So, generally, kind of a mild winter.

But as soon as word broke of this epic storm on the way, we saw the mad rush. I mean, the airports were packed. People are trying to get out of the city. Then we tried to make our way to the hotel and I'm telling you, it was gridlock. People were making a mad rush to get their supplies or, in fact, get out of the city.

Now, right now, taking a look around, very calm, as you can see. I'm not freezing just yet. Temperatures, yet, we're below freezing, just at 31 degrees. So, right at that mark there.

And, currently, we're seeing winds light, about 15 miles per hour. Not a big deal. And visibility, that's going to be the key factor. I can show you the customs tower here. You can see that very clear, I want to see that point of reference, because throughout the day, we are expecting to see this visibility drop.

We're talking about two to three inch her pour snowfall rates picking up today by about 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon and to the early evening. That snowfall is expected to continue all the way through Saturday evening.

Now, that's tough enough as it is. The strong winds expected to blow. With the blizzard warning in effect, we're talking about 35-mile-an- hour winds with gusts. It could even go as high as 60, but potentially as 70. We're not expected to see that tower today as we go through the late afternoon.

So, I love to keep that as a point of reference throughout today. But, overall, I want to tell you, people here don't seem to be that concerned. Let's take a listen to what the mayor had to say.


MAYOR THOMAS MENINO (D), BOSTON: It's a very serious storm. We have many staff who are going to be out there. Right behind, you see several departments will be called on to deal with the emergency.

We are hardy New Englanders, let me tell you and used to these types of storms. We also want to remind everyone to use common sense. Stay off the streets of our city. Basically, stay home.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PETERSONS: And this is what I love to hear. I mean, residents here are very confident. I've been talking to staff, residents, anyone I can find. And no one seems to be that concerned. They have a lot of confidence in the city and that things are going to be OK.

And, of course, the upside being that it's coming over to weekends. People will be able to stay home, and just kind of ride the storm out.

SAMBOLIN: No. And definitely you've done a really good job of warning everyone, so they have that as well.

Indra Petersons, we're going to continue to check in with you live in Boston for us.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get to meteorologist Jennifer Delgado. She's tracking the storm from CNN Center in Atlanta. Good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. You're right. And we are watching two storms because they're going to merge later today. And as it does, we're talking a whopper of a snowstorm. Potentially, it's going to be historic. Now, as we show you on the radar, notice what's happening, there's our one system come in from the Ohio Valley and the other one towards the South.

Notice a lot of lightning with that system off the coast of North Carolina. And you see the lightning there. That is showing you the instability, the convection. And once we get this going later today, of course, we're going to see those snowfall totals blowing up.

Right now we're mainly looking at rain. Even through parts of northern Virginia, we are looking at light snow as well as some snow flurries.

So what is going to happen throughout the day? As we time this for you, for New York throughout the morning, really through the afternoon, you're going to see some rain out there. As we go into late day, we will see that changing over to snow.

Now, for Boston, you're going to start your snow around 8:00 a.m. And, of course, it's going to increase, especially as we go late in the afternoon as well as into the overnight hours. We're talking in these locations, when you combine in the winds. Of course, we're going to be talking about a white-out, blizzard conditions. That's why everybody is saying, don't get on the roadways.

Now, as we track this for you at 10:00, notice, again, conditions really go downhill. For New York City, we're talking 12 to 18 inches of snowfall. And in some parts, we're talking even more, like Boston, potentially 2 1/2 to 3 feet of snowfall.

Here's a look at what's going to be happening today. Again, keep in mind for Boston, Portland, all these areas, we're looking at the heaviest snowfall totals, especially along the coastal regions. Right now, we have a blizzard warning that goes into effect at 6:00 a.m., anywhere you see it red, extending from New York City, Newark, all the way up towards Maine. So, it's definitely a serious and dangerous storm that we are tracking today.

Of course, we'll continue to follow that and have team coverage with Indra.

ROMANS: All right, Jennifer Delgado, thanks. You know, you have ski slopes up in Vermont. There are people who are happy about this.

DELGADO: If you can get out and get back in.

ROMANS: They want this snow.

All right. Thanks, Jennifer.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Six minutes past the hour here.

Now to the manhunt in southern California for a former cop who's declared war on the Los Angeles police department. We have a possible major development overnight. Word that the suspect may have been spotted near the Barona Indian Reservation. That's in lakeside, California. This man right here, 33-year-old Christopher Dorner, is suspected of killing three people, including a police officer and former police official's daughter.

In a rambling online manifesto, Dorner vowed to target other cops and their families. Authorities tracked him to an area around the Big Bear Lake ski resort in San Bernardino, California, where he burned out, or there was a burned out truck found that was his. After an all-night search, a possible big development.

CNN's Casey Wian is following all of the developments for us. What do you know?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, good morning.

Law enforcement throughout southern California on high alert. They are trying to both protect potential -- you hear this one police vehicle behind me. We don't know if it has anything to do with the search for this suspect, Christopher Dorner, but we are seeing a lot of activity right at this police station here in Hollywood just starting right now. Probably about eight vehicles leaving here in a very, very rapid manner over the last minute or so.

The manhunt for Christopher Dorner stretching across nine southern California counties, from the Mexican border to Big Bear Lake, a ski resort nearly 200 miles away.


WIAN (voice-over): A possible break in the hunt for Christopher Dorner as authorities find his truck burning on a remote road in Big Bear Lake, California. Police fanned out, rifles drawn, as they searched nearby woods and go door to door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we'll keep working on it until we're either able to locate the suspect or determine he's no longer in the Big Bear Valley. WIAN: Dorner, a former Los Angeles cop, has threatened to hurt L.A. police officers and their families, police say, in retribution for being fired in 2008. He allegedly laid out his plan in an online manifesto saying, quote, "I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I'm terminating yours."

Dorner also attempted to contact CNN, sending a parcel to our Anderson Cooper. In it, a hand-labeled DVD with a yellow post-it note that reads, "I never lied", an apparent reference to his firing when Dorner claims he was forced out after reporting alleged police brutality. Also, a coin wrapped in duct tape, which was inscribed with "Thanks but no thanks, Will Bratton," a former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chances are he would have received it from me. It would have the custom I have of when somebody was activated into the military heading overseas.

WIAN: CNN is cooperating with authorities. Police say it began Sunday in Irvine when Dorner killed two people, Monica Quan, the daughter of a former LAPD captain who represented Dorner in front of the police board that eventually fired him, and her fiance.

Three days later in San Diego, police say Dorner attempted to hijack a boat. Then, early Thursday, Dorner fired at police officers in Corona, who were assigned to protect someone connected to Dorner's threats. One officer was hurt.

Later in Riverside, two officers are fired upon in what police call a cowardly ambush. One seriously hurt, the other killed.

Dorner's manifesto states, "The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence publicly."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's told us what he intends to do. And so far, he's done it.

WIAN: Leaving the community on edge, wondering when the violence will stop.


WIAN: Now, several police departments have ordered their officers to travel in pairs in their patrol cars until Dorner is found -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It's such a scary situation. And also for the residents out there, they're on a virtual lockdown, aren't they?

WIAN: That's right.

Police are conducting a door-to-door search overnight throughout the community of Big Bear Lakes, trying to find Dorner. So far, no luck. But they have ordered residents to stay inside. They also closed for at least part of the day yesterday, the ski lifts at the Big Bear resort. We don't know if that's going to continue today or not, Zoraida. SAMBOLIN: And what about the schools? Were those on lockdown as well? Opening today? Do you know anything about that?

WIAN: I don't have any information on that. We'll try to get it for you and maybe have it next hour.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I would imagine a lot of parents are very worried this morning.

Casey Wian live for us, thank you. We'll check back in with you.

And as Casey mentioned, the suspect reached out personally to CNN's Anderson Cooper. Later this hour, Anderson takes a closer look at his rambling 11-page manifesto, which was posted on Facebook.

In our next hour at 6:40 Eastern, we'll talk with David Klinger. He's associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. He's also a former LAPD police officer. To see if he can shed light on the situation.

ROMANS: And the White House turned down a proposal from top security leaders to arm Syrian rebels. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and CIA Director David Petraeus were among those who weighed in last summer. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey testified about it at a Senate committee yesterday, saying they backed the plan but the White House would not budge, showing a clear rift in Washington in Syrian policy.

A U.S. official familiar with the deliberations said the issue is dead, at least for now.

SAMBOLIN: John Brennan, the president's pick to be the next CIA director, getting drilled at his confirmation hearing. Brennan directed the administration's drone strike program in his role as the presidents' counterterrorism adviser and was pressed on the targeted killing of terror suspects, including U.S. citizens.


JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I think there's a misimpression on the part of some American people who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there's no other alternative to taking an action that's going to mitigate that threat.


SAMBOLIN: The Brennan hearing was interrupted several times by protesters. At one point, Senator Dianne Feinstein stopped the proceedings and actually had the room cleared.

ROMANS: All right. Too close for comfort. Scientists at NASA say a giant asteroid, about half the size of a football field, is headed our way. They predict it will pass very close to Earth on February 15th. That's right, no closer than about 17,100 miles. It's one of many large space objects barreling toward us at the very moment.

Experts say all of them, including this one, 17,000 miles away, will have very limited, low-impact probability.

SAMBOLIN: It's good.

ROMANS: Fun to watch, probably won't hit.

SAMBOLIN: I bet a lot of people will weigh in on this next story. Should you get paid for all the extra time you spend checking work e- mails when you are outside of work?

A Chicago police officer has filed a lawsuit against the city asking them to pay up for all the extra hours he says he's frequently required to work when he's off-duty from -- this is actually happening from home on his department-issued Blackberry. That's what he wants to be reimbursed for.

Here's what the Officer Jeffrey Allen's attorney told our Chicago affiliate WLS.


PAUL GEIGER, ATTORNEY FOR SERGEANT JEFFREY ALLEN: If they have half- hour phone call outside of work hours to a superior about a search warrant they're going to work on the next day, that's something that needs to be paid for. The lawsuit is not silly. The lawsuit seeks to enforce the law.


SAMBOLIN: OK. So the city says that it has work policies and procedures in place allowing police officers to request overtime. They say, at best, this is a union grievance, not a federal lawsuit.

ROMANS: And this is something that unionized work forces, whether it's news rooms or police department, have really grappled with, because a lot of people are tied 24/7 on the phone, conference calls, meetings --

SAMBOLIN: Well, across the board it happens. Apparently they have a way to deal with it. It'll be interesting what the outcome is.

ROMANS: I know, especially since I was on this last night.


ROMANS: A Florida kid has three parents named on his birth certificate, three on a birth certificate. How that happened? Coming up.

SAMBOLIN: Interesting story.

Plus, a high-profile movie critic under fire this morning. Did he cross the line calling the star there, the woman, a hippo?


ROMANS: Good morning, New York City. Right now, it is 35 degrees.

So, when all the snow comes, if it stays 35 degrees, of course, it won't stick. But it's going to get a little colder, 37, I think, later. Tonight, we should have a lot of snow.

SAMBOLIN: I'm looking forward to it. I'm trying to find hills close to home so we can go tobogganing. Wouldn't it be fun?

ROMANS: Yes, last night, my kids have them lined up. They have them all lined up. They are ready.

SAMBOLIN: Let's hope everything goes well for us.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Nice to have you this morning. Eighteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date with this morning's top stories.

A winter storm of historic proportions is bearing down on the Northeast. Twenty-three million people from New Jersey to Maine are under blizzard warnings right now. Boston is the problem here. It could be buried under three feet of snow by tomorrow. New Yorkers are bracing for a foot or more with the entire northeast region facing dangerous winds that could top 70 miles an hour.

ROMANS: Yes, the winds are going to be a real problem.


ROMANS: A possible sighting overnight of an ex-cop who's declared war on the Los Angeles Police Department. Authorities say they got a call that 33-year-old Christopher Dorner was seen near the Barona Indian Reservation in Lakeside, California. He's suspected of killing three people, including an officer. He vowed to target other cops and their families in a long online letter.

A Duke University fraternity has been suspended after throwing an Asian-themed party. Many consider it racist and insensitive. Asian- American students at the university were outraged after pictures of the event posted on Facebook partygoers dressed in stereotypical Asian attire, some with chopsticks in their hair. The invitations for the party used language mocking many Asian accents.

SAMBOLIN: The veteran film critic Rex Reed go too far in his critique of the new comedy "Identity Thief"? In a "New York Observer", he referred to the film's star, Melissa McCarthy, you're talking a look at her there -- you may also remember her from "Bridesmaids" -- as "tractor-sized" and "a hippo". That's what he called her.

"The Observer" Web site exploded with fiery comments saying Reed crossed the line criticizing McCarthy's appearance instead of the movie. "Identify Thief" opens today.

ROMANS: All right. Nineteen minutes, almost 20 minutes in the morning after the hour. It's time for your "Early Reads", your local news making national headlines this morning.

In the "Miami Herald," a Miami-Dade circuit judge has approved a private adoption, allowing three people, a gay man and married lesbian couple, to be listed on the birth certificate of their 21-month-old daughter. The long-time female partners tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant through fertility clinics before asking their friend, a gay man, to father their child. Under this agreement, the mothers have sole parental responsibility, but the father is given certain rights as well.

So, three people -- three people on a birth certificate.

SAMBOLIN: You know what's interesting about that story? It took two years to settle that case, because this is a very contentious fight. So, when you look at that picture, they're all smiling with the judge. So, at the end of the day, they were able to figure it out before the courts had to get involved.

So, in "The New York Observer," "Anne of Green Gables" gets a makeover and die hard fans, they are really angry about this. On the cover of the reissued edition, the orphan 11-year-old red appears --


SAMBOLIN: Yes, as an attractive blond wearing a flannel shirt.

ROMANS: My Anne of Green Gables.

SAMBOLIN: This is how everybody feels. Readers have gone ballistic on Amazon. One fan says she was so disgusted she couldn't eat. Another reviewer could eat but said she's so upset she couldn't keep her food down.

Somebody said this is kind of like depicting Martin Luther King as a white man. They were outraged over this. Yes. They were outraged.

ROMANS: Well, red hair to blond, but still. Please. Ann of Green Gables, don't touch it.

SAMBOLIN: Apparently.

Justin Timberlake, singer, songwriter, actor, and now he adds another corporate-sounding title. We'll share that with you.


ROMANS: Minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures flat, basically, as the corporate earnings season winds down. Stocks hitting pause essentially on Thursday. The Dow and the S&P, though, still up about 6 percent this year. They're still within shouting distance of their all-time highs.

Boeing's Dreamliner will soon return to the skies, but only for test runs. The FAA on Thursday approved these flights to collect data on the plane's troubled batteries and the electrical system. Earlier in the day, the National Transportation Safety Board said Boeing and the FAA underestimated the risk of the kinds of smoke incidents that forced officials to ground this plane. The FAA declined to predict when the 787 will return to service.

OK. Justin Timberlake can now add beer salesman to his resume. Anheuser-Busch said the pop icon will serve as the creative director for its Bud Light --


ROMANS: Remember Alicia Keys with the BlackBerry? Now, he's the creative director for the Bud Light Platinum Brand.

Anheuser-Busch said Timberlake is, quote, "one of the greatest creative minds in the entertainment industry and his insights will help them further define Bud Light Platinum's identity."

It's unclear what Timberlake's new gig will entail but --

SAMBOLIN: Other than holding it.

ROMANS: I know. Remember, BlackBerry's announcement last week that Alicia Keys will assume the same title. So, there's something, there's some sort of cache. Creative cache I guess with these big stars.

We'll see if it works, right?


All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta answering questions about the attack in Benghazi that claimed the life of a U.S. ambassador. Watch as things get pretty testy in Congress. That's coming up.