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Engineer "Nodded Off"; Biden In Beijing; Poster Boy For Corporate Greed Get Out Of Jail

Aired December 4, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A deadly winter storm plaguing a lot of this country with ice, snow, and arctic temperatures. Indra Petersons tracking the storm's damage to tell you how big it is and where it will hit next.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And developing overnight, Vice President Biden In China, trying to stop a war from breaking out. We are live in Beijing with the very latest.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. Glad to have you with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman. Thirty-one minutes after the hour right now. We're going to start with some big news this morning. The latest on the train derailment in the Bronx. Investigators seeming to put all the responsibility on the train's engineer. Officials now saying no mechanical problems were found with the train. And a union representative says that Engineer William Rockefeller told investigators he nodded off and caught himself too late.

Rockefeller's lawyer calls the event highway hypnosis saying he did get a good full night of sleep before the fateful trip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that he was on the second day of a five- day shift that he had started at 5:00 a.m. in the morning. What time did he finish the shift prior to starting at 5:00 a.m. in the morning.

EARL WEENER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEMBER: I don't know the specific time he finished the shift, but the day was a typical nine-hour day. And these days were routine days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that he would have had sufficient time to get a full night's sleep?

WEENER There's every indication that he would have had time to get full restorative sleep, that's correct.

ANTHONY BOTTALICO, ASSOCIATION OF COMMUTER RAIL EMPLOYEES: He's extremely distraught over it, and he feels for the families. I don't believe that, in my opinion, that anybody could ever make Billy feel worse than he's making himself feel today. Billy feels terrible. Whether it was his fault or not his fault, it was his train.


BERMAN: Rockefeller initially said the brakes failed in Sunday's crash that killed four people. The train was going 82 miles an hour, heading into a 30-mile-an-hour curve.

SAMBOLIN: So, we have wild swings in the weather picture. Forty to 70-degree temperature drops in major cities like Denver and Littlerock. And a deep freeze now gripping much of the country.

BERMAN: In Utah, authorities telling people to stay off the roads. Record-breaking snow making travel dangerous.

SAMBOLIN: That was nasty.

BERMAN: Hundreds of wrecks reported there on highways and surface streets. Eighty-nine-year-old snowfall records have been shattered in the northern part of that state.

SAMBOLIN: In Colorado, also being blasted by snow and really strong winds as well. Up to three feet of snow in some areas. The fierce conditions have led to an avalanche watch for northern and central mountains.

BERMAN: Are you following along on your mental map here? Parts of Montana bracing for subzero wind chills that could feel like 20 to 30 below in some spot today. Montana saw some of the coldest temperatures Tuesday with single digits registering in Yellowstone National Park.

SAMBOLIN: Snow already making for very rough conditions in Minnesota. Two feet already on the ground. As much as another foot headed your way. I'm so sorry. A winter storm warning around lake superior runs through tonight. And several deadly accidents as well have already been reported in that state.

So, who gets the snow next? You don't have to make a mental note of this or try to follow because Indra Petersons is tracking all of it for us this morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Because I'll do it for you, right?

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

PETERSONS: I mean, I think you guys already said it, right there in Minnesota, we are still seeing snow even at this hour, even taking you in through Colorado. You can actually see the radar showing, yes, snow is still falling. So, how much more of it are we expected to get? A lot. It looks like especially over a foot again even in through Colorado today and still, even in Minnesota, more snow ahead in your direction and heavy amounts of it as well. Let's take a look at what's actually happening out there. You see the system continue to make its way farther to south and east today. But here's the thing we're really concerned with, especially as we go in through tomorrow. Notice as Thursday around noon, notice the wintry mix where you see the pink. What we're concerned with is farther down in the south, will we see the icing, especially when you're talking about southern portion of Missouri back in through Texas.

The concern here is once you get over about a half inch of freezing rain, that's when you talk about trees coming down and power lines coming down. As we go into Thursday evening, we're still talking about that wintry mix, even spreading farther. But keep in mind, farther up north, most likely sleet. It's back in this section we're really concerned about that freezing rain.

And still, even as we go through Friday, we still have this threat, the system pushing east with some heavy snow. And again, still looking at that wintery mix in the middle. Let's talk about that. We talked about the power lines. And just want to keep in mind, there's a lot of variance. A lot of the weather -- they're putting in different amounts of what they think will be out there. We're still not there yet.

As we get closer, we'll get a better idea of how much damage potentially this ice storm could bring. The other story again, look at these temperatures. Just look at Dallas, today 80, by Thursday, 39 degrees. Look at Littlerock, same thing, 70. By Friday, down to the freezing mark at 32. So, kind of two sides of the story.

SAMBOLIN: Wow! That's really dramatic in Dallas.

PETERSONS: I mean, some places 30 to 40 below average.

BERMAN: Those ice storms can be so disruptive.

PETERSONS: Very dangerous. Yes.

BERMAN: Such a mess to clean up from that. All right. Indra, thank you so much.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: President Obama embarking on a new health care push. He says despite the trouble launch of, Americans stand to benefit a great deal from Obamacare.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is, this law is working and will work into the future. People want the financial stability of health insurance. And we're going to keep on working to fix whatever problems come up in any start up, any launch of a project this big that has an impact on one-sixth of our economy, whatever comes up, we're going to just fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton clarifying that recent comment he made when he suggested that President Obama stick to his word and allow people to keep their current health insurance plans. Bill Clinton says it was not designed to distance himself from the president's health care law which many speculated was an effort to help his wife, Hillary's possible 2016 presidential ambitions.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said nothing about this, not one word, until the president himself spoke. I don't think you can find anybody in America whose worked harder for his re- election or supported his bill or went out of his way to explain the bill to the American people more than I did.


BERMAN: Intrigue, still.


BERMAN: Bill Clinton says he does not know whether his wife will run for president and adds that he would support Joe Biden as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee if Biden were to get the nomination.

SAMBOLIN: All right. The University of Notre Dame has filed another lawsuit. They are opposing a mandate in Obamacare that requires birth control coverage for students and for employees. They say that this goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Affordable Care Act does make an exception for religious institutions. So, this new lawsuit seeks an expanded exception. They want it for schools and universities as well.

We have a developing story out of Beijing right now. Vice President Joe Biden meeting today with Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. The two men, they have a personal connection already, and this connection could be sorely tested with tensions running so high now between the two nations. David McKenzie is monitoring developments live from Beijing. David, what's the latest?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you're right. The two men certainly do have a personal connection that's gone way back, but the vice president in town to pressure the Chinese president to defuse tensions between Japan, the U.S. and China. It's all around this air defense identification zone which the Chinese announced two weeks ago, unilaterally, many people saying that this is a dangerous situation because it could lead to some accidental flare-up.

So, the vice president is there to try and defuse that tension and ask China to back down from some of its more strident threats.

BERMAN: Yes. The vice president was just in Japan using incredibly careful diplomatic language, in some cases, walking on eggshells. You have to be so careful and specific here. Any sign yet that China is backing off at least a little bit on what some saw as their aggressive posture? MCKENZIE: I think there is a sign of them backing off. The defense ministry saying that they don't necessarily have to scramble their jets for any plane, military or otherwise that comes into that area. As you said, Joe Biden really walking on the tight rope here, trying to push China but not trying to anger the Chinese too much.

He did say that China needs to defuse tension, but he didn't say that China needs to scrap this zone altogether. What everybody wants in this situation, I think, is for tensions to defuse, for everybody to calm down a little bit, and maybe, at some point, to get to the negotiating table.

BERMAN: A very, very big trip for the vice president both overseas and domestically as well. David McKenzie in Beijing, thank you so much.

Coming up for us next, a deadly midair sky diving collision. What went so wrong? We'll tell you all about it when we come back.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Today, 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting will be made public.


BERMAN (voice-over): The Connecticut State attorney fought for months to keep these calls private saying they would cause too much anguish. Of course, last December, a gunman took the lives of 20 first graders children and six staffers. The first anniversary of the tragedy is next week. The tapes will be released at 2:00 p.m. in response to a freedom of information request.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Cleveland kidnapper, Ariel Castro, committed suicide. Those are the findings in the official report. He was found hanging in his prison cell in September. Now, an independent review has concluded Castro took his own life. He was facing life plus 1,000 years for imprisoning three women in his home for a decade.

BERMAN: The movie studio behind "Fast & Furious7" says it is suspending production of the film. Star, Paul Walker, and a friend died at a fiery crash this weekend. Police say speed was a factor in the crash. Autopsy results were completed Tuesday. They are not being made public as of yet. The latest "Fast & Furious" film was scheduled for release in July. No word yet on how producers will handle Walker's death.

SAMBOLIN: Such a young life. Tragedy in the skies over Arizona. Two sky divers died after colliding in midair. This is near Eloy, Arizona. Witnesses say their canopies collapsed when they collided. It's about 250 feet in the air, sending them plunging to the ground. A third skydiver was injured in that collision.

BERMAN: The largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history will move forward. A judge cleared the way Tuesday for the city of Detroit to get a handle on an estimated $18 billion in debt. The judge also saying that could include pension cuts. It's a controversial decision that brought city workers out in protest on Tuesday.

The landmark ruling could have a wide-ranging impact all around the country as other troubled cities, they're all looking to cut costs.

SAMBOLIN: Speaking of that, lawmakers in Illinois have approved a plan to eliminate the state's $1 billion pension shortfall. And Governor Pat Quinn says that he is going to sign it. Of course, Public Employee Unions oppose the bill and they promise to take legal action now. Their argument is that the legislation is unfair to workers and retirees who contributed to retirement plans. They will now see their benefits cut because of government mismanagement.

BERMAN: -- health care (ph), I guess to say, it's concerning (ph), the fourth confirmed case of meningitis at the University of California Santa Barbara. The first victim, an 18-year-old freshman on the men's lacrosse team has already had both legs amputated.


BERMAN: Eight cases of meningitis have also surfaced at Princeton University. Federal officials are allowing that school to vaccinate thousands of students next week using a drug that has not been approved by the United States.

SAMBOLIN: A couple weeks ago, I talked to a doctor who says that you absolutely should use the vaccine because he feels it's safer to use it than not to use it.

All right. "Newsweek" is returning to its roots. The "New York Times" reports the magazine will resume publishing a weekly print version. This is beginning next January, maybe February. The new print version will reportedly depend more on subscribers and less on advertisers. And readers would pay more than in the past.

BERMAN: A woman who was thought to be the first (INAUDIBLE) to get a ticket for wearing Google glass has pleaded not guilty. Cecilia Abadie of San Diego is charged with speeding and distracted driving. Her defense, she says there's nothing illegal about simply wearing Google glass while it is not turned on. But, when she looked up at the officer who pulled her over, it turns out her glasses were activated.


CECILIA ABADIE, TICKETED FOR WEARING GOOGLE GLASS: It's on like the device is physically on, but it's not active in the screen, itself. If I do either this or this, then you can see the screen light up a little bit.


BERMAN: Google glass is not yet on the market. Abadie is about one of 10,000 people apparently who have been asked to try out and test the product. Apparently, the test she was taking part in did not include taking the glasses off.


BERMAN (on-camera): You can test taking them off before you drive.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): I know.

BERMAN: Let's take a look -- check at what's coming up on "New Day." Chris Cuomo and Bolduan here. Hey, guys.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, how are you? So, we're going to follow up with what's going on in the train derailment. Of course, this assumed admission from the engineer that nodded off or whatever vernacular you want to use and that's why this was caused. If that's what it turns out to be, what will the consequences be?

And, we're going to industry experts about how this could have been prevented. Simple measures that could be put in place going forward. Will they be? We'll take the questions on.

BOLDUAN: We also have new video from that car accident that killed actor, Paul Walker, showing it took one minute for the car to erupt in flames. So, what does this mean for the investigation? We're going to be looking at all the latest details on that.

CUOMO: Also, we have this man, a rabbi. He says all he does is do what you're supposed to do when you're asked to give customer feedback. He did it. The airline says you did it too much. They took away his miles. He said that's wrong, sued them in state court. They said we don't like that. They wound up going to federal court.

Now, it's at the Supreme Court. We're going take you all the way through what is really a bizarre case, but it could have real impact for the rest of us. So, we'll tell you about it.

BERMAN: Take anything but my miles. Miles are way too important.


CUOMO: Took his status, took everything.

BERMAN: Even the status. My goodness!


BERMAN: Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan (INAUDIBLE). Appreciate it.

It is time now for the "Morning Rhyme," these are the best tweets of the day. Today comes from --

SAMBOLIN: You challenged. You challenged our viewers, right?

BERMAN: And she writes," I used to think Jacoby was a handsome man. Too bad. Now, I won't be a fan." Marlena, you're exactly right. That is the exact right attitude to take and to million (ph) maybe. We can no longer root for him in any way. You can come up with your own tweet. Send them our way, the hash tags are morning rhyme and EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: What about all the Yankees fans out there that are terribly excited about this? Whatever.


BERMAN: I mean, it lets you watch. Please, watch more. I like you in some ways but not that bad.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Coming up, a three-day losing streak for the red hot Dow. Is the bull run losing steam?


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 51 minutes past the hour. Christine is here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, everybody. Well, you know, the air officially coming out of the rally this year. The Dow falling 94 points on Tuesday. The Nasdaq, S&P, look, this is the three days in a row down for the Dow. Index fell about 182 points over the past three days. Futures, though, are up this morning. So, we'll see if it will rest -- we haven't had a big correction. You know, we haven't had a big correction.

So, three days off here, big run this year. I wouldn't worry too much about it quite yet. Attention focus on the Federal Reserve and gradual maybe pairing away its stimulus. That's at least what they're blaming this on. We might get a signal this morning if that could be sooner rather than later. We're going to get this ADP jobs report.

Some people say it's a pretty good indicator of how this Friday's November jobs report may be. So, this ADP private sector gauge is coming out in about a few hours. Now, one part of the economy firing at all cylinders in November. Car sales - I know. These numbers were really good. Look at that GM, up 14 percent from a year ago, Ford seven percent, Chrysler, 16 percent.


ROMANS: You know, incentive spending was the lowest since January. It's about $2,500 on average per vehicle. So, it wasn't basically a big deal. It's because people want to buy cars and they're feeling more confident. The strong showing in November powered by big black Friday sales promotions. People got into the showroom, traffic surged on Black Friday.

Overall, cars sold at the briskest pace in more than six years. And the GM chief economists on a conference call with auto writers said that a stable oil prices, stable jobs market, record net worth, probably because the stock market, you're going to see good sales maybe into next year.

SAMBOLIN: You know what I was surprised about is that I was seeing commercials for Black Friday on vehicles. How weird is that?

ROMANS: That was the big deal. I mean -- and you know, a lot of people stayed away from the mall and went to the showrooms. We've got people that have been holding on to their own clunkers for a long time since the recession. Now, they're ready to go and buy a car. So, we'll see if that's a good signal for the overall economy.

Now this is such an interesting story. The poster boy for corporate greed is getting out of jail. Remember this guy, Dennis Kozlowski, convicted in 2005 for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Tyco when he was the CEO? Remember the story of that $6,000 shower curtain. It doesn't look like that should be worth $6,000, but it became sort of the emblem of his corporate greed.

BERMAN: -- shower curtain.

ROMANS: He bought it with company funds. There was also the private $2 million Roman toga party his wife threw for -- or he threw for his wife that featured an ice sculpture of Michel Angelo's David, remember that? I won't tell what you the David was depicted doing, but Tyco paid for that, too.

Kozlowski entered jail in 2006. He had one year shaved off for good behavior. He'll be released from prison as soon as January 17th and will serve parole. And you know what's so interesting about this story. It's so pre-crash. Remember in the mid-2000s, we were so worried about this corporate greed and using company funds and then the whole world fell apart. That scandal, you have people go to jail. Financial crisis (INAUDIBLE) people going to jail.

BERMAN: No $6,000 shower curtains in the slammer, though. Christine Romans, thank you so much. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. A Brooklyn-born rabbi is taking his case to a higher authority. Rabbi, Binyomin Ginsberg getting a hearing before the Supreme Court yesterday. He's challenging a decision by the now merged into Delta Northwest Airlines to drop him from their frequent flier program because he complained too much.


RABBI BINYOMIN GINSBERG, LOST FREQUENT FLIER PRIVILEGES: It wasn't the nature that the peanuts were too salty or they served Pepsi products versus Coke products. You know, they were legitimate concerns and they were expressed in a very, very polite and cordial way.


BERMAN: Rabbi Ginsburg sued for $5 million to defend the rights of all frequent fliers to complain. We will ask him about this case. He joins us on "New Day" live at 7:00 a.m. eastern time. SAMBOLIN: "New Day" starts right now.


BOTTALICO: Billy feels terrible. Whether it was his fault or not his fault, it was his train.

CUOMO: Asleep at the controls? New details this morning. The lawyer for the train engineer reveals what he says happened just before that deadly derailment as we hear the 911 calls from moments right after the accident.

BOLDUAN: The hunt is on. A rare bear attack in Florida sets off a massive search to capture the animal. Residents are waking up frightened as we now hear the desperate calls just after the attack.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The real top gun. She is now the highest ranking woman at the Pentagon ever, but get this, she's also the inspiration for Tom Cruise's girlfriend in "Top Gun." So, what's real and what's fiction?

CUOMO: Your "New Day" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is "New Day" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to "New Day. It is Wednesday, December 4th, six o'clock in the east. We have some breakthroughs in the New York train derailment investigation. Officials say no brake problems were found. And, we've learned the engineer admitted to nodding off moments before the accident.

Also, an unusual twist. The way that admission came out has now become part of the investigation. CNN's Nic Robertson is in the Bronx this morning. Let's start there, Nic. The union released this information. Now, the NTSB is coming after it. Why?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The union, the Association of Commuter Rail employees turned up representative showed up after the NTSB press conference, discussed the details about what the train driver, train engineer had said. And the NTSB says that this is breaking the confidentiality agreement.

This is one of the unions that's working with them on this investigation and that breaking this confidentiality means that they will have to be excluded from this investigation. We heard from the lawyer as well who says that his -- says that the engineer had a good night's sleep before the accident.