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Deadly Winter Storm; Fast Food Strike; Celebrity Court Drama

Aired December 5, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Millions digging out this morning from a deadly winter storms. Snow, ice, arctic temperatures taking over parts of the country. It's not over yet.

Indra Petersons has a lot of work. She is tracking the dangerous conditions as the storm moves east.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Fast food freeze. Workers across the country hit the picket lines this morning. This as Mr. Obama says it's time to hike the minimum wage.

SAMBOLIN: And a celebrity chef coming clean about her drug use in court. But can Nigella Lawson prove two sisters stole more than a million dollars from her. We are live in London as all of the drama continues to unfold.

BERMAN: Oh, and it is drama.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is.

BERMAN: Aye yay yay!

SAMBOLIN: Good morning. Aye yay yay?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START.

BERMAN: It's a legal term for a very dramatic trial.

SAMBOLIN: I love it. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, December 5th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the east.

And up first, a deep, deadly freeze gripping half of the country, with millions more bracing from the onslaught from the serious weather system. From California to the Midwest, temperatures are falling a lot and snow totals are rising a lot. Six deaths already blamed on freezing conditions and haven't been seen in decades. Parts of Montana and Nebraska experiencing wind-chill temperatures as low as 40 below!

SAMBOLIN: Oh, man!

BERMAN: Aye yay yay as they say!

Let's get more now from CNN's Ana Cabrera. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Much of the snow is letting up, after piling up and now we are seeing huge chunks of ice form on top of these big piles as Colorado starts to experience what's to be a deep freeze. We saw temperatures near 10 degrees overnight to the Denver metro area. It's only expected to reach single digits for high temperatures today. And, at this point, there is no end in sight, with temperatures not getting above the teens until well into next week.

On top of the very cold temperatures that are dangerously cold to be out in, we are seeing extremely slick conditions now forming on some of the roadways. So it's treacherous driving conditions, ice underneath the piles of snow.

And, in addition, there is extreme avalanche danger. Now up in the high country after more than a foot of snow dumped in some of the Rocky Mountains. So concerning, in fact, that one of the ski resorts had to end world cup ski training that was happening just yesterday because the conditions just were that dangerous.

As this deep freeze really settles in here, of course, this storm is pushing across much of the country, down south, and up through the Midwest, so nobody is out of the woods yet -- John, Zoraida.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Ana.

And this storm is very dangerous. It is a quadruple threat. It has damaging wind, snow and ice and really bitter cold temperatures as well.

Indra Petersons, we want to know where it's headed next.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I want to start with the Northeast. I just want to give you a picture of what we're dealing with. You notice it is warm outside.

We do have a warm front in the area and you could see temperatures as well ahead of this system very mild today with light showers. All of that will change. Let's talk about these temperatures.

Look at this, with the wind chill added in right now, dangerous temperatures. Denver feels like almost negative 30 degrees right now and Minneapolis about negative eight. That is the cold arctic air we keep talking about that's combining with this front as it makes its way across.

The big threat we have been talking about this is whether or not we start to get that freezing rain, take a look especially when we talk about Illinois and back through Texas today, we're going to start to see that threat of that wintry mix only spreading as we even go in through tomorrow. And take a look at this. As we go through the weekend, we're still going to be dealing with this. Until about Saturday early morning as it kind of kicks offshore.

Let's talk about each section separately. We are talking about rain, snow, and ice. As far as rain, we will see heavier amounts around Nashville, maybe 2 inches of that rain. Of course, we have snow in the back side of it, and still anywhere from 6.8 inches of snow looks like out towards Springfield, but it's the ice that we continue to monitor.

Look at the area again that we are talking about pretty much Paducah, just almost east of Dallas. That's what we think we could have, half an inch or more of freezing rain. That is that critical threshold, we start talking about those power lines falling and the branches falling off the trees. Possibly power outages as we go through the weekend, what is so important, notice that was the first wave that gets through, there goes a second wave.

So, even though we get the first wave that kicks through today and through tomorrow, behind it comes almost an identical system for the second half of the weekend. That's going make it so dangerous.

SAMBOLOIN: That is very nasty.

BERMAN: That is a whole lot of weather affecting a big chunk of the country.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Indra.

BERMAN: Thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It is four minutes past the hour.

President Obama declaring an end to the war on budget deficits and pledging to fight the deficit of opportunity for the poor and the middle class. In a speech Wednesday on his economic priorities, the president said the federal deficit is under control and doesn't present a serious threat to the economy. He focused on the gap between the rich and the poor, making the case for raising the minimum wage to more than $10, while extending unemployment benefits.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that we're going to have greater and greater portion of our people in the service sector and we know that there are airport workers and fast food workers and nurse assistants and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty. And that's why it's well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms right now is below it was than when Harry Truman was in office.


(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: Republican leaders quickly took issue with the president's approach. House Speaker John Boehner suggesting the president's policies created the very problems that he described.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are trying to hammer out a budget deal to avoid another government shutdown next month. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray are heading up these talks. The two sides are said to be about $100 billion apart with the gap narrowing in these talks very much continuing.

SAMBOLIN: Your fast food order may not arrive so fast this morning. Restaurant workers in 100 major U.S. cities are threatening to walk off the job. They are demanding higher wages and they're also demanding the right to unionize. Fifty-three lawmakers have written letters to McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Domino's and Yum Brands. They are calling for $15 an hour pay scales so workers can make ends meet.

BERMAN: New revelations this morning about the NSA's surveillance operations. According to documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, the agency is gathering close to $5 billion records every day on the whereabouts of cell phones worldwide. That means the NSA can track the movements of individuals, map their relationships. The agency's database can reportedly store information on hundreds of millions of devices.

SAMBOLIN: And developing now, Secretary of State John Kerry is in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are discussing the recent nuclear deal struck with Iran.

Kerry then heads to Ramallah for a meeting with the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The secretary is trying to get to those peace talks kick-started between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have a live report for you from Jerusalem. That is in our next half hour.

BERMAN: Vice President Biden trying to ease tensions between Japan and China. He is in Beijing this morning, voicing U.S. concerns over China's newly declared defense zone over the East China Sea. Biden telling Chinese leader Xi Jinping that America will not recognize the zone. Both Japan and China claim to have sovereignty over the disputed region.

SAMBOLIN: Security concerns could delay the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. The head of the operations says preparations are on track to start moving the deadly chemical agents. But right now, a lack of security on the main road that is connecting Damascus and the city of Homs is causing a lot of concerns for them. If this all goes as planned, Syria's chemical arsenal could be destroyed by the middle of next year.

BERMAN: The White House is in full holiday mode. First Lady Michelle Obama showing off the decorations, more than 70,000 visitors are expected over the next few weeks will be treated to two life size replicas of first family's Portuguese waterdogs made out of black satin ribbons. They wag their tails and Bob even gives out a high five apparently.

However, one of the real first dogs Sunny got a little excited yesterday knocking down a 2-year-old girl visiting from Alabama! Can you believe it? This is like the biggest White House scandal? No, I --

SAMBOLIN: Oh, look at that!

BERMAN: Well, that's the one where it looks nice. The next one, she ends up on the ground.

SAMBOLIN: But she's got a lasting memory right there, doesn't she? They are all talking about it.

BERMAN: Being knocked over by the dog.

SAMBOLIN: Well, that dog is bigger than she is.

BERMAN: There she is on the ground! He decked her!

SAMBOLIN: He did not deck her. He's just a big dog.

BERMAN: Gorge W. Bush had Barney, who was a nasty little dog also.

SAMBOLIN: She gets a hug from the first lady.


SAMBOLIN: It's all better. All better.

BERMAN: I hope so. I hope that girl doesn't have bad dreams of that nasty dog.

Coming up, a celebrity chef airing her dirty laundry in court. Nigella Lawson opening up about her drug use and got to say a whole lot more as she tries to prove two sisters swindled her out of a million dollars. We are live in London as this drama unfolds.

SAMBOLIN: And rescuers trying to save dozens of whales that are trapped right near the everglades. This is so sad. The dramatic scene just ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, it is time for your morning rhyme.

SAMBOLIN: Already?

BERMAN: It is. It's time. It is.

Send us your own rhymes. It can be about anything. The hashtags are #earlystart and #morningrhyme. We will read the best ones on the air in the next half hour.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

The British tabloids are abuzzing this morning. This is practically why the tabloids exist there.

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson confessing in court to using cocaine. Lawson is testifying in the fraud trial of two former personal assistants accused of embezzling more than a million dollars from her. She insists she doesn't have a drug problem, just what she calls a life problem.

Erin McLaughlin now reporting live from London.

This is quite a show there, Erin?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is. John, just a short while ago, Nigella Lawson arrived here if a second day of testimony. As she entered the courthouse, she commented that she was feeling a bit of tired.

This trial has been full of very personal allegations against the celebrity chef and her former husband Charles Saatchi. Lawson has been accused of habitual drug use. Saatchi has been accused of, quote, "intimate terrorism." Neither of them are on trial but all of it coming out publicly in court.

Now, yesterday, Lawson addressing those drug allegations saying that she is not a habitual drug user, though she did admit to using the drug cocaine on two separate life occasions as well as the drug marijuana, though says she is currently drug-free.

She also talked about how she feels this trial has become a witch hunt. She says she feels that she is the one that is actually on trial without an attorney and, in her words, without rights when actuality, of course, the defendants in her case are her two former personal assistants Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, accused of having fraudulently stolen over a million dollars using Saatchi company credit card -- charges that the two sisters have denied, John.

BERMAN: What about that picture that got so much attention, the one that seemed to show her former husband? I guess with his hand around her neck?

LAWSON: Yes. For the first time yesterday, Nigella Lawson talking about that in public, that picture of her former husband Charles Saatchi with his hand around her neck. It was splashed across British tabloids earlier this year. It preceded the downfall to their marriage.

She talked about how it occurred outside a London cafe. She was sitting with Saatchi when she saw someone walking by with a stroller. She says she commented to Saatchi how she was looking forward to having grandchildren. He responded, she said, by grabbing her neck and telling her that he was the only one she should be concerned with.

Now, on Friday, Saatchi testified and he talked about that incident, saying that he was really trying to hold her attention. He did not say why, but it's just another example of the kind of very personal allegations that are coming out in this trial -- John.

BERMAN: One after the other. All right. Erin McLaughlin for us in London this morning, thanks so much, Erin.

SAMBOLIN: And now to the latest on that deadly train derailment here in New York. We are finding out the metro train was equipped with a warning device that could have awaken a dozing engineer, but it was located in the locomotive that was pushing the train and not in the car where the engineer was actually sitting.

And also new this morning, a passenger on the trial has filed a notice of claim against the railroad so this is the first step in a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for negligence.

BERMAN: A college in North Carolina on lockdown Wednesday after gunfire erupted near the campus. Two people were killed and one wounded on the street outside Wingate University. That's about 30 miles southeast of Charlotte. The identities of the victims have not been released. Officials say none were students or employees of the school. A search is under way for the suspect.

SAMBOLIN: A Massachusetts teenager pleading not guilty to charges that he raped and murdered his high school teacher. Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism was already indicted last month by a grand jury for the death of 24-year-old math teacher Colleen Ritzer.

Prosecutors say Chism sexual assaulted her. He stole her credit cards and an iPhone and then he killed her. In a school bathroom that was before dumping her body. He then allegedly went to see the Woody Allen movie "Blue Jazzman" at a nearby theater.

BERMAN: Accused LAX shooter Paul Ciancia is making his first court appearance Wednesday. The 23-year-old is charged with killing one TSA agent and wounding two more in an airport rampage last month. Ciancia was deemed a flight risk. The judge ordering him to remain behind bars. He does face a possible death sentence if convicted.

SAMBOLIN: "Fast and Furious" star Paul Walker may have survived that initial impact of the horrific crash this past weekend. Preliminary autopsy results suggest Walker denied just moments later from a combination of traumatic injuries and fire. A full report is expected in the coming weeks, along with toxicology results that could determine if the car's driver had any drugs or any alcohol in his system.

Meanwhile, an official tribute video was released on "The Fast and Furious" YouTube channel. Production on the seventh installment is now on hold.

BERMAN: A stolen truck carrying radioactive material has been recovered in Mexico. The radioactive element called Cobalt-60 is used for medical purposes, but experts worry it could also be used to make a dirty bomb. Authorities say it is likely that all of the material has been recovered, likely, they say. The suspected thieves still on the loose and authorities say they are on the lookout now for suspects possibly suffering from symptoms of radiation exposure.

SAMBOLIN: New developments in the massive Yarnell Hill Fire that left 19 elite Arizona firefighters dead last June. The Arizona Division of Forestry fined more than $500,000 for workplace violations during the tragedy. They are accused of failing to prioritize the firefighters' safety and failing to have a proper action plan to combat the wildfire. The state forestry has 15 days to appeal that.

BERMAN: All right. This is just a sad story. Frantic rescue effort under way in Florida to save dozens of pilot whales stranded in the shallow waters off the coast of the Everglades National Park. Officials say they have been there a few days. They're not sure why.

Rescuers have hoped to take advantage of Wednesday's high tide to herd the whales to deeper water.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the tides come up, that allow us to get in here with the boats and herd them off the beach but they are really distressed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The challenge is to get them to go out into deeper water. They are all freely swimming now, the 41 that are left.


BERMAN: Fishermen first spotted the pod on Tuesday night. Several were beached in a remote area only accessible by boat.


BERMAN: So far, at least 10 of the whales have died or euthanized. Time is running out for the rest. Wildlife officials say with every passing hour, the outlook does grow more grim. So sad.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's talk about something happy. It is a dazzling New York holiday tradition. The annual light of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Isn't it beautiful?

So, the switch flipped last night in a ceremony that was watched by millions. The 76-foot Norway spruce features 45,000 multicolored lights and it is topped with a 9 1/2-foot wide star.

BERMAN: Nine and a half feet?


BERMAN: My tree at home isn't 9 1/2 feet tall.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't it gorgeous?

BERMAN: And it is very pretty. Very, very pretty.

SAMBOLIN: It was a nice night for being out there.

BERMAN: Hard to carry that tree into the door. It's getting it in the door that's always hard.

SAMBOLIN: A challenge, a challenge. BERMAN: All right. Twenty minutes after the hour.

And coming up, the head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers forced to pay big bucks for interfering a play on the field. Really, an unbelievable play, folks.

Andy Scholes breaks it all down for us next in "The Bleacher Report."


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. The prosecutor overseeing the sexual assault investigation of Florida state quarterback Jameis Winston is going to announce his findings later today. This is big, folks.

Andy Scholes joins us now with more in "The Bleacher Report".

Hi, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, this is a big day for Florida state and all of college football. Jameis Winston is not only the leader of the top ranked Seminoles. He's also the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman trophy. Now, voters have until Monday to turn in their Heisman ballots and many are waiting to see if the allegations for Winston would play out before sending them in.

Now, Winston's lawyer claimed his client did have sex with the accuser, but it was consensual. And the fact that Florida state prosecutors office has scheduled a press conference as opposed to getting a warrant for Winston's arrest could be seen as a sign that they will not file charges. The press conference is scheduled for 2:00 Eastern this afternoon.

All right. You can bet Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin won't be stepping near the field during a play again. The NFL fined Tomlin $100,000 for getting into Jacoby Jones way during a kickoff a week ago. That fine is the second largest ever given to a coach behind the Patriots Bill Belichick after Spygate. The Steelers might have a draft pick taken away. That will be decided after the season.

Trending on, the Super Bowl may still be two months away, but FOX has announced that they are already sold out of all available Super Bowl commercial slots. And hey, they weren't cheap. The going rate for 30 seconds, a cool $4.5 million. That breaks last record for $4 million for a 30-second ad.

Chevrolet and Doritos and Go Daddy are a few who have purchased space this year.

All right. What do you when you're a star NFL linebacker and your name is Jerod Mayo? You come on with your gourmet mayonnaise. It comes out in three different flavors, kickin' buffalo, bruisin' bacon and crushin' chipotle. They will be available in Boston area stores and online.

Guys, you can sign me up for a bottle of each one of those. They sound delicious.

SAMBOLIN: What is the first one?

BERMAN: Looks good, though.

SAMBOLIN: Kickin' something? He is looking.


SCHOLES: Kickin' buffalo.

SAMBOLIN: Kickin' buffalo, I'll have one of those!

BERMAN: He is hurt this season. I wish he were playing, but I'm sure his mayonnaise is very good. I'm happy his last name is not mucus or something, it would have real problem.


SAMBOLIN: You're bad! That is disgusting.

BERMAN: Andy, thank you very much.

SAMBOLIN: I hope you're not in the middle of breakfast.

All right. So, the top headlines and what you need to know for the rest of the day right after the break. While I get him in line --


BERMAN: A deadly winter storm hitting a huge swathe of the country, with ice, snow and record-setting low temperatures. Indra Petersons tracking the area's hardest hit and where this storm will hit next.

SAMBOLIN: And breaking overnight. Secretary of State John Kerry in Israel trying to save Middle East peace talks and explain the White House's nuclear deal with Iran. We are live in Jerusalem with the very latest.

BERMAN: And brace yourself, folks. New accusations against Toronto's crack-smoking mayor. How police say Rob Ford tried to cover up his crimes.

SAMBOLIN: Must we call him the crack-smoking mayor?

BERMAN: I think it's a legal requirement now in some case.

Thirty minutes after the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: Up first, a bruising winter storm leaving half the nation in a deep freeze this morning.