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Severe Cold Grips the Nation; GOP Budget Battle; Chaos in Ukraine

Aired December 12, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Cold, cold, and cold! Much of the country waking up to bitter freezing temperatures and that's not all, folks. A big snowstorm targeting the East Coast. Indra Petersons is out in the cold, tracking your winter forecast today!

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: She is sampling the elements for you this morning.

A budget battle waging in Washington but this time it's not between Republicans and Democrats. It's all within the Republican Party. The harsh words Speaker John Boehner had for some of his colleagues.

BERMAN: Chaos on the streets. The nation stands on the brink as protesters battle with police, demanding their president step down. We are live with the very latest this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. We're glad you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, December 12th. It's 5:00 in the East.

SAMBOLIN: You're giddy.

BERMAN: She had a ten-minute battle with her computer and swearing. The things that came out of that mouth --

SAMBOLIN: I did swear, but it's all resolved now. No thanks to you.

BERMAN: We'll see about that.

We are going to begin this morning with a public service announcement. Do not get out of bed. Hide under the blanket, revel in your Snuggie. It is freezing outside for most of the country, really, really cold out there.

And adding insult to injury for some areas, there is more snow on the way.

SAMBOLIN: That's not fair. So, take a look at the Buffalo suburbs blanketed by heavy lake-effect snow. Some areas on the Great Lakes are getting upwards of 30 inches, believe it or not. It even shut down the New York state freeway for some time. Cars completely buried.


MARY-LOU SMITH, LIVES IN NORTH CAROLINA: It was insane. Insane. The consistency was like insane. It went from big fluffy flakes down to the little ones, back to the big wins and then pounding, just insane.


BERMAN: Full range of flake size in Buffalo. And in Fargo, North Dakota --

SAMBOLIN: Look at that.

BERMAN: It looks nice, right? But the temperatures there, not nice at all. Eighteen below zero! That was on Wednesday morning. You factor in the wind and it felt even colder than that.

SAMBOLIN: Northern Wisconsin is also frigid. Temperatures were just under freezing in Wausau, but the wind was blowing and that made it feel even worse.

Try about 30 below. How does that feel?


For those who do not have homes, these kind of temperatures are not just annoying. Honestly, this is deadly, folks. So, volunteers are fanning out in many cities, including these people in St. Louis, to encourage the homeless to use shelters and get out of the cold.

SAMBOLIN: And so many don't want to. So, if you can do anything to encourage them, that would be great.

All right. So, Indra Petersons is outside on this very cold New York morning.

Indra, how does it feel? You look good.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Thank you. Can you see my breath?

Yes, talk about the temperature right now, 26 degrees. So we know we are below freezing this morning. No, we have not factored in the wind-chill. We know it's even cooler when you factor in that wind- chill.

Look at the map right now. Look at these temperatures. We're talking about it feeling like it is 18 degrees right now.

We are not the coolest spot. A lot of single digits out there and we have advisories, especially when you talk about Wisconsin. You talk about Illinois, Minnesota with the wind-chill this morning, you're talking about those deadly conditions that feels like negative 20 to negative 25 degrees this morning so definitely a dangerous situation.

With the biggest concern today, we are going to be talking about some lake-effect snow, especially off Ontario. We could see just about under two feet the next 24 hours or so. Also around Erie, just under a foot of snow, but I think we all know by now, that is not the story moving forward.

Here we go again, the next snow maker and next system dropping out of Montana. It's going all the way down to the South, into the Central Plains. So, we're going to be looking for a wintry mix, kind of really picking up around Kansas and Missouri for tomorrow and get into the weekend, why not, right?

Weekend, we're going to be talking about snow, anywhere from the Northeast, all the way back to Missouri. A wintry mix again. You're talking about New England really basically back down through West Virginia and into the Southeast. It is going to be more rain.

So, for any of you wondering, it's cold, why is it still cold? How long is it going to be cold? Get comfortable. It is going to be here for a couple of days, really looks like for the next week or so.

SAMBOLIN: Get comfortable.

BERMAN: Stop asking the questions. Just deal with it.

PETERSONS: I am right?

SAMBOLIN: You are, you are. And you look like you're enjoying it. Thank you, Indra.


SAMBOLIN: Four minutes past the hour.

So, the House is set to vote today on the compromise budget deal that would keep the government operating through 2015. Both Republicans and Democrats seem to be lining up behind the plan that would partially end the budget cuts known as a sequester and prevent another government. But conservative lobbying groups are blasting the trillion dollar deal saying it doesn't go or doesn't do enough to cut spending or the deficit. That drew a sharp review from House Speaker John Boehner who said fellow Republicans should not listen to them.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: They are using our members and they are using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous.

Listen. If you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement.


SAMBOLIN: The Senate is expected to vote on the budget compromise next week, and President Obama has indicated he will sign it.

BERMAN: As for what the Senate is up to right now, take a look this. It looks look little still in the chamber. But creatures are staring, even the mice I should say, it's a rare all night session taking place in the Senate. This is a result of the Democrats going nuclear, blowing up the filibuster rule, stopping Republicans from using procedural delays to block the president's nominees.

Republicans have turned instead to another delaying tactic, using all of their allotted debate time to keep on talking about the nominees as a protest.

SAMBOLIN: You're still looking for bodies?

BERMAN: I'm trying to see who's there. It looks like staffers are there. But I'm having a hard time seeing people actually speaking out loud.

But there is activity and it's 5:00 in the morning. So something is going on there.

SAMBOLIN: That's right.

All right. Five minutes past the hour.

More Americans are successfully signing up for health coverage under Obamacare. New government figures show nearly 365,000 people have now picked a policy through or the 14-state run agencies. Another nearly 1.9 million have registered, but have yet to actually pick a policy.

The numbers are better than during the Web site's first month of operation when over a hundred thousand signed up, but still a far cry from the 7 million projected to ultimately enroll by next year.

BERMAN: We're going to get more about the deadly crash of the Asiana Airlines in San Francisco earlier this year, and getting a frightening new look at what happened. Look at this surveillance video released by the NTSB at a hearing in Washington. It shows the jet landing and then careening down the runway after hitting that sea wall.

The NTSB revealed during the hearing that the pilot he was very concerned about landing the Boeing 777 without help from an out-of- order airport navigation. The agency says the hearing was productive and it now has a lot of information. But the investigation into what happened will still take some time.


DEBORAH HERSMAN, CHAIRMAN, NTSB: This is a very high profile accident. It is a priority investigation for the NTSB and our target would be to complete the investigation prior to the one-year anniversary of the event. However, we will take as long as we need to take to complete the investigation. It's more important for us to do a complete and thorough investigation than it is to produce it by a date certain.


BERMAN: Three passengers died in the crash at San Francisco International Airport last July.

SAMBOLIN: The head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, is again defending the agency's surveillance phone and Internet records, saying there is no better way to help protect this country from foreign threats. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Alexander said collecting the records is the only way to, quote, "connect the dots," and that the agency is careful to do it the right way.

BERMAN: The Obama administration is again sending key officials to Capitol Hill in hopes of holding off additional sanctions against Iran, that as they work through a temporary nuclear deal with Tehran.

Representatives from the State Department and Treasury will testify before the Senate Banking Committee today. The chairman of that committee has already said he will pause any efforts to levy sanctions but the House may take action as soon as today.

SAMBOLIN: A South African man who drawn attacks for his sign language interpretation during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela is now defending himself. Activists say the hand movement Thamsanqa Jantjie was making were gibberish and they don't know who he is. But he tells a South African radio station he is a fully qualified interpreter who has handled big events before. Reluctantly admitting he is suffering from schizophrenia, but is receiving treatment. Some had called his performance a mockery.

We're going to go live to South Africa and talk about this with Errol Barnett. That's in our next half hour.

BERMAN: Yes. We're going to get to the bottom of this. This is crazy.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up, riots in the street of Ukraine. Protesters demanding their president step down for favoring ties to Russia. We are live with the latest chaos in Kiev.

BERMAN: And more news this morning on that family rescued after spending days stranded in the arctic cold of the Nevada wilderness.

Plus, it is time for your morning rhyme. Tweet us with your own original verse. This is must be Zoraida's read. But she's not paying any attention.

SAMBOLIN: I'm still trying to log on, believe it or not. I'm still having difficulty.

BERMAN: The hash tags are #earlystart and #morningrhyme. We'll read the best ones on the air.

SAMBOLIN: By 6:00, I'm going to get on.

BERMAN: We'll read the best ones on the air in the next half hour.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. In Ukraine this morning, there is a tense standoff between the government and protesters who spent weeks camped out in Kiev's Independence Square. They want the president to resign and they're calling for new elections. On Wednesday, police tried to clear the demonstrators out. But now, the demonstrators have rebuilt their camps and authorities seem to be backing off right now. The president is calling for dialogue.

Diana Magnay is live in Kiev.

What's the latest there? Yesterday, violence. Today, what are we seeing?


Well, in fact, that violence has really just boosted the morale of the opposition and the protesters here in the square below me and they have rebuilt the barricades that were torn down by police with brute force, with chain saws and they've actually covered them in snow and ice. And I read a tweet just now say the place have to use hair dryers if they want to get through the blockades now.

And these people, it's now the fourth week of their protests. Really, they are trying to defend values that they associate with the European Union, values like a rule of law in this country, getting rid of corruption. They want the government to go. The government -- the president has said he is willing to negotiate but the opposition say not after what you did to us two weeks ago where they used real brutality on the streets and not what you did to us when you try to force down our barricades. We do not want to negotiate with you.

So, it's a stalemate now, John.

BERMAN: A stalemate and, again, with all of those people out there with the authorities standing by watching and the police there, a tense situation, perhaps combustible.

Diana Magnay in Kiev for us, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: We have and update on the family found after trapped for days in the frigid mountains of Nevada. Four of them remained in the hospital this morning. They are recovering from what they went through. But amazingly, their injuries are said to be not serious.

And two family members have actually been released. Here's Casey Wian.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christina McIntee and her young daughter Chloe were the first two family members released from the hospital on Wednesday. They appeared stunned by the media attention that their story has generated and Christina did not want to speak to reporters.

But we did speak with her aunt who traveled here from Utah when the family went missing. She gave us more details about their ordeal and how they survived subzero temperatures, temperatures dropping as low as 20 degrees at one point.

She said they lit fires. They burned sage brush, wood. They even burned the Jeep's spare tire to stay warm.

She also said that they were running out of patience staying put near their Jeep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they were getting ready to start walking, you know, they knew the general direction where they heard helicopters. And she said at that point in time, when their friends found, they were actually altogether in a group, to stay in the group, and they were going to start walking.

WIAN: Doctors kept some of the family members in the hospital a little bit longer, keeping them on I.V. fluids because they were slightly dehydrated after being out in the Nevada wilderness for two days.

Family hoping everyone will be home soon because it is young Chloe's fourth birthday today.

Back to you.



SAMBOLIN: Look at that! Isn't that sweet? Yes.

BERMAN: What a birthday present. Stay warm inside somewhere!

All right. Fifteen minutes after the hour.

And a Texas teenager who has admitted to drinking and driving in a crash that killed four people last June will not go to jail. A lot of people talking about this case. A judge sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to probation instead, saying he needs treatment to overcome what a psychologist for the defense called a case of, get this, affluenza, testifying the teenager's parents were partly to blame for not setting limits and raising him to believe that wealth meant privilege.


BERMAN: Couch apparently had been allowed to drive since he was 13. On the night of the accident, he was speeding in a pickup truck with his blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. Also he had valium in his system.

Prosecutors had asked for 20 years in prison. But for the families of the victims, the sentence, honestly, they say it was like a slap in the face.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 25 weeks, I've been going through a healing process and the trial itself was just another milestone in that process. And so when the verdict came out -- I mean, I -- my immediately reaction is I'm back to week one, OK? We have accomplished nothing here. This -- my healing process is out the window.

We understand he is a juvenile. We understand rehabilitation has to occur. But let's face it here -- I mean, there needs to be some justice here for the families.


BERMAN: A lot of pain, a lot of hurt.

SAMBOLIN: I can't imagine that.

BERMAN: Couch will not be allowed to return to his parents while undergoing treatment. The judge decided he will remain in juvenile detention until a suitable treatment facility can be found and only if he doesn't complete probation would couch then face possible jail time. The debate here is over whether wealth and privilege makes you treated differently in the judicial system here and it's got a lot of people up in arms.

SAMBOLIN: No, absolutely, and setting a precedent in a case like this. Unbelievable.

All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour. Let's move on here.

George Zimmerman will not be facing domestic violence charges. Prosecutors say they don't have enough evidence, nor the cooperation of Zimmerman's girlfriend now who made that initial complaint. In November if you recall, she accused him of pointing a gun at her. But in an affidavit this week, Samantha Scheibe recanted much of that and said she wants to now reconcile with Zimmerman.

BERMAN: Protesters lining the streets of Atlanta yesterday, demanding answers about the mysterious death of a Georgia teen. Kendrick Johnson was found rolled up inside a high school gym mat in January. Officials ruled the death an accident, but the family says Johnson was murdered.

On Tuesday, they filed a complaint over how the state handled his body. An autopsy revealed of Johnson's organs had been removed. The family says no one has explained how that happened or why.

SAMBOLIN: Witnesses at the trial of a Montana woman accused of pushing her new husband off a cliff say she told the man she had a surprise for him that day. Jordan Graham is accused of murdering her husband just eight days after they were married. Wednesday, a parade of family and friends took the stand along with a coroner who said her husband was not wearing his wedding ring when his body was found. Graham has pleaded not guilty.

BERMAN: A scare aboard the International Space Station after a pump on one of two external cooling units shut down. This forced NASA to scale back operations and to look into whether astronauts need to perform a space walk to fix the problem.

NASA says the station's life support system is up and running and that none of the crew were in any kind of danger.

SAMBOLIN: Thank goodness.

All right. Folks, are you feeling lucky? How about $400 million lucky? The mega millions jackpot has grown to the second largest amount in its history. It could grow more before the numbers are picked on Friday night.

Of course, the odds of winning are just one in 259 million, but anything is possible, right, Berman? Anything!

BERMAN: Anything is possible.

SAMBOLIN: If you choose the option right now, you'd get about --

BERMAN: If you dream, you can do it.

SAMBOLIN: -- $216 million.

You know, tomorrow is my last day. It would be fantastic for me, right?

BERMAN: No, no, you have it all wrong.

SAMBOLIN: Then I could retire on a remote island.

BERMAN: You're leaving me. You're abandoning, you have to give me the $216 million.

SAMBOLIN: I'll share.

BERMAN: OK, that's fair. Fair enough.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Big change coming to how the game of baseball is played. Andy Scholes explains in "The Bleacher Report". The smiling Andy Scholes explains.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

We won't be seeing Redskins quarterback RG3 again this NFL season. Not because he's hurt because Mike Shanahan thinks so.

Andy Scholes joins us now with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, the Redskins are having a miserable season. They are 3-10 and yesterday, Mike Shanahan made a controversial announcement saying RG3 was not playing the rest of the season in order to avoid injury. Many people are questioning Shanahan's motives. Some think he is benching his franchise quarterback because of their up and down relationship. Others think he is doing it to get fired!

Shanahan shot down both of those claims yesterday saying he got the owner's blessing for making the move.


MIKE SHANAHAN, REDSKINS: Somebody said, hey, the reason why you're going with Kirk is because you're trying to get fired to get a year left on your contract. I'm not trying to get fired. I'm not going to call up Dan Snyder and ask his opinion on a player I don't have to. And if he says, no, I'm not going to go that direction.


SCHOLES: All right. Doc Rivers made his return to Boston last night for the first time since leaving the Celtics. The crowd at the garden gave Rivers a very warm reception. Rivers got choked up during a video tribute, and he said he was worthless the first quarter and a half of the game.

Rivers coached the Celtics to nine seasons and leading them to a NBA title in 2008. His Clippers beat the Celtics last night 96-88.

All right. We are about to see a monumental change in Major League Baseball. The league is planning to eliminate home plate collisions possibly as soon as next season. The new rules being discussed include banning catchers from blocking the plate and not allowing runners to target catchers. Both the owners and players will have to approve the proposed changes.

On the top stories of the today, Alabama kicker Cade Foster had a bad week after missing three field goals against Auburn. So, to cheer him up, President George W. Bush sent him a letter.

Check it out. It reads, "Dear Cade, number 43, life has its setbacks, I know. However, you will be stronger human with time. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, another 43, George Bush."

What a cool deal, guys.

SAMBOLIN: Very nice.

BERMAN: That was very nice.

SAMBOLIN: And I bet it worked.

BERMAN: He is getting outpouring of support from all over the Alabama campus and everywhere. A bunch of people sticking up for that guy. But it was very nice. SAMBOLIN: When his head was hanging, I don't think it could have hung any lower than that. Poor guy.

All right. Thank you, Andy.

BERMAN: Thanks, Andy.

SAMBOLIN: So, the top headlines and everything you will need to know for today right after the break.


SAMBOLIN: A big freeze taking over parts of the country. Who is waking up to bitter, bitter, bitter cold temperatures and who is digging out from feet of fallen snow?

Plus, the snowstorm could be heading straight for the East Coast. Indra Petersons is tracking all of it for us outside this morning.

BERMAN: A big budget battle, big budget battle -- something big is happening in Washington! Republican versus Republican. The House speaker lashes out to groups within his own party.

SAMBOLIN: A budget battle.

BERMAN: There's a budget happening.

SAMBOLIN: It's epic.

Plus, the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's funeral is being called a fake. Some say actually signing gibberish! New in the morning, he is defending himself. . We are live with the latest on this signing scandal.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty minutes past the hour right now.

SAMBOLIN: So, you can call this the deep freeze, maybe, right?