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Powerful Storm Moves East; Dow Opening At All Time High; Venezuela's Future After Chavez; Russian Ballet Acid Attack; Oregon Crane Collapse; Knives On Planes; "Nightmare Bacteria" On the Rise; Oil is Big Business in Venezuela

Aired March 6, 2013 - 06:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: That should happen just hours from now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a new low for high culture. A star ballet dancer confesses his role in a vicious acid attack on his director and we just learned that he confessed on camera.

SAMBOLIN: Look out below, the dramatic collapse of a construction crane. It was all caught on camera. Everyone there a-OK, but still, very cool pictures.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm glad you're with us also. I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, March 6. It's 6:00 a.m. in the east. There is just a big storm on the move at this hour. Much of the Midwest a mess this morning after the storm blanketed the region with heavy ice and snow.

Crews at the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport, they worked around the clock to clear the snow the runaways. Look at those plows go. This powerful storm broke a snowfall record for a March day in Chicago, grounding more than 1,000 flights at Midway and O'Hare where 10 inches fell.

As this storm moves east, coastal flood warnings and advisories are now in effect for portions of the mid-Atlantic coastline from Maryland to Long Island and Connecticut.

Right now, it is snowing in the Washington, D.C., area and they are expecting the most snow there in years especially in high elevations of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

We have meteorologist Karen Maginnis tracking the system for us. She is standing by. Joe Johns is live holding snow in Winchester, Virginia. Joe, let's start with you. How's the storm look right now?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been quite a morning here, quite frankly. I tell you, as we turn toward the rush hour or what would be the rush hour in the Washington, D.C., area, not much sign of trouble on the roads.

You're not hearing me right now, john? 1, 2, 3, test, test, test. OK, good enough. Checking the roads, the Virginia Department of Transportation web site, it's very clear that across the area here, certainly in the Shenandoah, icy conditions, a lot of snow, but so far no accidents.

So that means that a lot of people have used common sense and decided not to try to drive anywhere. This gives you a little bit of an idea. We made a little tiny snowman just to show the quality of the snow. It packs and it's wet and great for making snowmen or snowwomen as the case may be, but not necessarily good to drive on.

It's also a real potential for problems as the snow appears on the power lines and such here in the Washington, D.C. area. You could have a problem, of course, with power outages. So we're checking for all of that, John, and we'll be getting back to you as the situation develops. My snowman is falling apart.

BERMAN: Joe Johns decapitating the official snow person of EARLY START. Still out thanks to you, Joe.

SAMBOLIN: It would be fun to go play around in the snow, right and build a snowman?

BERMAN: Joe had a lot of fun.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Karen Maginnis has got her eye on the storm for you. She is in the Severe Weather Center with a look at where this storm is headed. I think earlier you said it will be sticking around until Friday?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It moves on from Washington, D.C. The lingering effects will be felt there with some gusty winds and cold air still in place, but for New York and for Boston, this is a Thursday-Friday event so this storm system wreaking quite a bit of havoc all the way from the Great Lakes to the Midwest, Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic, the northeast and New England.

Here's what we expect as we go towards later in the week, New York, 2 inches to 4 inches. On top of that, some of these bay areas could see significant wave heights with some coastal flooding that tops the February 9th storm that we saw.

We've got some pictures coming out of Columbus, Ohio. This is from CNN affiliate WSYX. They are clearing up the airport there. They have seen about 4 inches of snow. But as I mentioned, the storm system has legs.

For Washington, D.C., if you're watching us, you're expecting between 5 and 10, 8 inches to 12 inches of snow. The computer models are all over the place, but there's a winter storm warning in effect and the winds could be gusting up to 50 miles an hour. Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Karen Maginnis, thank you.

BERMAN: Watching the power outages all around the east coast. All right, so can this last investors feeling giddy this morning.

SAMBOLIN: After the Dow closed at 14,253 yesterday, that is an all- time high and it could be onward and upward from here, because happening right now, Dow futures are up. So are the bulls about to rule the day on Wall Street again -- Miss Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, the bulls have been ruling the last couple of years. This is a 4-year-old bull market now. So if you're just tuning in at this moment to find out that stocks are moving higher, you've missed a humongous move.

The Dow is just 30 stocks, 30 big household names. Take a look at how some of them have fared since the low after the financial crisis from 2009. I mean, some of these stocks are up 200 percent, 300 percent, some are up 400 percent. American Express up 491 percent. Home Depot up 286 percent.

So you've seen huge moves overall here for some of these stocks. One of the reasons that you've seen so much activity in the market is because we're recovering from the worst recession and financial crisis of our lifetimes, but we've also seen the fed putting amazing amounts of money to work in the American economy, $85 billion every single month, putting it into the economy. That's cash.

We talk about "The Sequester," forced spending cuts, $85 billion coming out of spending over the next seven months. It matters, it really matters, but for stock investors it tells us corporations are sitting on a ton of cash.

They're managing to make profits without having to hire a bunch of people and that things are good for corporate America. Unemployment is still too high, but corporate America. That's what the stock market measures, the health of corporate America.

BERMAN: A lot of investors are saying the evaluations are incredibly out of wrap right now there is more room to grow.

ROMANS: They aren't out of whack right now. That's what so interesting and interest rates are so low, there's no other alternative for so many people. They're putting their money to work in the stock market. So we'll look to see if there are highs this morning if these early indications persist.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thanks to you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: He revolutionized and polarized politics in Venezuela. Later this morning, thousands of Venezuelans are expected to line the streets to see Hugo Chavez's body as it's taken from the hospital where he died to a military academy in Caracas. The country has declared seven days of mourning. It closed schools for the rest of the week and deployed armed forces in order to keep the peace.

Shasta Darlington is following the developments for us from Caracas. And Shasta, the big question is how people there are reacting. I have some friends who are trying to get a hold of their family members yesterday worried about looting on the street and the military presence. How is it there? SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, there are a lot of mixed emotions. It's because you have so many people who fervently loved Chavez, followed him almost like a saint. There is going to be resentment there. There's concern that could turn into violence and that's a good reason we have the military out on the streets.

A lot of people who are maybe opposed to Chavez who wanted to see an end to this period, a lot of them went home early and are staying out of the streets. But no matter where -- how you look at it, the whole nation is going to have to come to terms with the fact the man they had for president for 14 years is no longer there.


DARLINGTON (voice-over): A tempestuous era in Venezuela's modern history. To his supporters a golden ear and they took to the streets of Caracas to proclaim the revolution will continue, many in tears.

His mantle has been passed to Vice President Nicholas Maduro who told the Venezuelan people, "We civilians and military assume his legacy, his challenges, his project." Maduro, a former foreign minister and union leader and the speaker of the parliament will try to carry the torch of the revolution.

But neither has Chavez wit and populist charm. A presidential election has to be held within 30 days and most analysts expect Maduro to ride a wave of sympathy to victory. The revolution is embedded in the military, the courts, and the bureaucracy.

Chavez had 14 years to see to that. The main opposition candidate is likely to be Enrique Capriles who cut the margin of victory to 11 points in the last October's election. Whoever becomes the next leader of Venezuela has a host of problems to deal with.

An economy battered by inefficient management and mercurial socialism, a huge public payroll, rampant inflation, astronomical levels of violent crime and then the question of how to continue leading a leftist front across Latin America.

Through generous shipment of subsidized oil to allies like Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua. For now, the anti-U.S. rhetoric has fluid as ever. Our enemies have damaged our commander's health, with Maduro even accusing others of causing Chavez' cancer.

In a statement the White House set the benchmark for warmer ties. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights it said.

Any fresh start won't be helped by the expulsion of two U.S. diplomats in the hours before Chavez died, accused of plotting against the government, a charge immediately rejected by the United States.


DARLINGTON: Now, President Barack Obama didn't respond to that provocation. He offered his condolences like so many leaders across Latin America and the world and said that he would like to build a more constructive relationship with Venezuela -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Shasta Darlington live in Caracas, thank you.

BERMAN: It's 10 minutes after the hour right now. Also developing right now, Russian police say a star dancer with the famed Bolshoi Ballet, Pavel Dmitrichenko, has confessed to planning an acid attack that nearly blinded the company's director.

This dancer is now in custody along with the person who actually threw the acid as well as the driver of a getaway car. Authorities say all three men confessed on camera. The victim suffered third-degree burns in the attack, which happened back in January.

This is such a fascinating story. We will have a live report from Moscow at the bottom of the hour.

SAMBOLIN: An amazing video to show you. Look at this. A floating crane collapses. This is Oregon. Utility workers were lifting up a new support structure to hold up high-voltage power lines when one of the supports got caught up in the power line. When the crane operator tried to free it up, the support leaned back. It caused the crane to give way and luckily the power lines were not live at the time so there are no injuries here.

BERMAN: Cool picture, though.

So you still have to take your shoes off at security, but for the first time since 9/11, travelers will be allowed to carry pocket knives and sporting equipment like ski poles and those small souvenir baseball bats onto airplanes.

The union representing 90,000 flight attendants is not happy to hear this news. It's calling the move a poor and short-sighted decision by the TSA. Starting April 25th, knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or shorter and less than a half inch wide will be permitted on flights as long as the blade is not fixed or lock into place.

It's 11 minutes after the hour right now. It is spreading through our nation's hospitals as we speak. Coming up, the potentially deadly bacteria that doctors say cannot be stopped by most antibiotics.

SAMBOLIN: Plus the FBI on the hunt for the mystery drone spotted in the sky above New York and they are now asking for your help.


SAMBOLIN: Fifteen minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

The CDC is warning that an often deadly superbug is becoming even more lethal now and the nightmare bacteria, that's what they call it, "nightmare", is on the rise in the United States hospitals.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now. And, Elizabeth, I was reading that this bacteria is impervious to antibiotics. Is that true?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not impervious to all antibiotics, but impervious to a lot of antibiotics and the ones that do work, they either don't work very well or they can cause kidney damage, they can be toxic. That is the bacteria. It's called CRE and it is on the rise.

So, this report from the CDC, it says that in 2012, 200 hospitals and long-term care facilities had at least one incidence of this bacteria. So that's a lot of hospitals that are seeing this and there's probably even more that aren't getting reported.

It is spread, basically, by the hands of people who work in hospitals. So again, this is hospitals. This is not so much outside of hospitals -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So what are they doing in order to make sure that everybody is safe?

COHEN: Hospitals are being told to be extremely careful about cleaning and about keeping every -- they should be doing it anyhow, but they're being told when you have one of these patients, you need to be really, really careful about keeping these patients away from other people and cleaning up.

But, you know, I always want to tell people what they can do because you can't control a hospital but you can be an empowered patient --


COHEN: -- and control what happens in your room.

So, ask doctors and nurses to wash their hands before they touch you. You shouldn't have to ask. But the reality is, it doesn't always happen. Of course, hand sanitizer works as well.

Clean your own hands. If you have a catheter in you, get it out as soon as possible. Ask them every day, can this catheter be removed? They are often left in there far too long and bacteria can grow.

SAMBOLIN: I love that. I love the fact that you're empowering patients so that they can take control. Good gracious.

COHEN: You have to.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Elizabeth Cohen --

COHEN: Thanks, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: -- senior medical correspondent. You can read more about avoiding hospital inspections on our Website, go to

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Seventeen minutes after the hour right now. A lot going on. Here's Christine Romans with the headlines.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you guys. Snowed out. No rest for the weary. A relentless winter storm causes travel nightmares on its way to the nation's capital. Airports around the country feeling the pain with more than 1,000 flights canceled due to this storm, 650 of them were United flights. U.S. Airways had to ground 350 flights and 20 American Airlines flights nixed due to this storm.

We're following new developments in a drone sighting near New York's Kennedy Airport. The FAA and FBI are now investigating. They say this unmanned drone came within 200 feet of a passenger plane on its final approach to Kennedy. Authorities are now asking for the public's help in finding the aircraft and its operator.


MARTIN FEELY, FBI SPOKESMAN: We know it's the kind of thing that could be a threat to an aircraft in the future, similar to a lot of the laser-pointing incidents we've heard about. I mean, these things haven't yet caused harm, but we don't want to wait until they get to the point where they do cause harm.


ROMANS: Investigators say the drone is about three feet wide and had four propellers.

More fallout from the forced spending cuts. The federal government announcing it's closing 173 air traffic control towers at small and medium sized beginning April 7th. Another 16 small and mid size airports scheduled to close by the end of September.

And forget about a tour of the White House on your next visit to Washington, D.C. Those tours have been cancelled starting this weekend. The White House says that's another casualty of the so- called sequester.

Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" scored seven nominations at the MTV Movie Awards, including a nomination for favorite film of the year. Seth MacFarlane's film "Ted" tied for the most nominations, seven. It's also up for the golden popcorn best film and the star teddy bear will compete in a new category, best shirtless performance.

The MTV Movie Awards are on April 14th.

BERMAN: The White House tour being canceled part of the partisan bickering. You know, the White House canceled its tours but Congress saying the Capitol tours will still go on, their way of one-upping the White House there.

SAMBOLIN: There you go.

Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour.

The death of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez could leave the U.S. with a big opportunity and help keep your gas tank full as well. Christine is back to break it all down.


BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning. The United States imports nearly 480 million gallons of oil each day. That is more than enough to fill 700 Olympic-size swimming pools and some of that, actually a lot of it, comes from Venezuela.

SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans is going to chat a little bit about that right now.

The impact, right?

ROMANS: When you talk about Hugo Chavez and how he was a socialist revolutionary who, you know, pursued leftist policies all over our backyard and really liked to needle the U.S. -- I remember in 2006 he was in Harlem, he called President Bush "El Diablo" and he said that America was trying to kill him and we were trying to take over the world and were fearless devils.

And, you know, people kind of laughed and rolled their eyes here. But the fact is it's a huge oil producer and you're filling up your tank with gas many times from this country. Look, 40 percent of oil imports go to the United States. It is -- it is the fourth largest supplier of U.S. energy after -- you've got Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and then Venezuela.

This is a big financial partner of the United States. CITGO is where you get Venezuelan gas, although Venezuela's gas is also blended with other kinds of gas and it could be in any kind of branded gas station you go to. CITGO was acquired by the Venezuelan oil company in 1990 and Hugo Chavez himself really tightened control, state control of the energy infrastructure inside Venezuela.

So he was really a sworn enemy of the United States and then all of a sudden a major business partner of the United States and this really gives the U.S. and its Latin American policy a great, unbelievable opening. And the reason is because he has really blunted American efforts in many places across Latin America for years now, for years, by giving subsidized oil to people who agreed with him and disagreed with the United States.

So, how the U.S. treads here is really important diplomatically but also right down to what goes into your gas tank.

BERMAN: That's why you saw a very carefully worded statement from the White House, really not talking at all about the past but looking very much towards the future, trying to start a new relationship.

SAMBOLIN: And it also depends on who wins the presidential election as well, what will happen next.

ROMANS: And what kind of policies they're going to pursue and how the U.S. is going to respond to those policies and try to have more of an influence in the region.

SAMBOLIN: All right. What is the one thing that we need to know about our money today?

ROMANS: Speaking of gasoline, gas prices fell a penny overnight. National average for a gallon of regular, $3.73, 6 cents lower than this time last year. And there could be more release on the way. Gas Buddy telling us prices will keep falling for the rest of the week.

BERMAN: You know, you rule. We never hear when they're going down, usually when they're going up. So thank you for telling us, seven-day in the row.

ROMANS: You're welcome. You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Twenty-five minutes after the hour right now.

Florida's Jeb Bush not shying away from the hot button issue of immigration reform. CNN's Jake Tapper one on one with the Florida governor, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Snowed out in the nation's capital. No school and no work in federal offices with a major winter storm hitting right now.

BERMAN: A leading ballet dancer arrested in a bizarre acid attack that nearly blinded a famous director. This morning, we have a confession.

SAMBOLIN: And stock futures soaring even higher overnight. Wall Street is opening this morning at an all-time high. Big, big question, will it last?

BERMAN: And enjoy it while it lasts. Another big company goings Yahoo!'s way saying, no more working from home.


BERMAN: We don't get to work from home.

SAMBOLIN: That's true.