Return to Transcripts main page


Weekend Wintry Storm; Compromise in Congress; Kim Jong-un Executes Uncle

Aired December 13, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Another massive winter storm. Can you believe it? It is set to parts of the country, sleet and snow and ice, expected to wreak havoc on so many communities. Indra Petersons is tracking it all for us.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, it actually passed -- in the House at least. What is next for the budget plan that has rocked Washington?

SAMBOLIN: And from trusted advisor to traitor. North Korea's leader accusing his uncle of treachery and having him executed. Executed. We are live with the latest this morning.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to see you this morning.

It is Friday, December 13. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And the top story this morning, there are actually a number of ways to put it. It's freakin' cold, it's wicked cold, too cold, holy blank, it's cold. That works, too, right?

SAMBOLIN: I like it, I like it. Anymore?

BERMAN: Yes. You have one. What was yesterday said how cold it was, the brr thing?


BERMAN: Yes, you can say that too.

Frigid temperatures across so much of the country, and now, a snowstorm is bearing down just in time for the weekend.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, some parts of the country are already feeling it. You know where you are. The area around Buffalo, New York, you're getting a foot of snow on top of the several feet that were already piled up and they could receive a little bit more today.

For drivers, it cannot be fun trying to get around, but for ski resorts? This could not have come at a better time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a while since we have been blessed with such great snow. We really hope to have an early snow like this because it gets in some people's mind, you know, to come out and enjoy it. We haven't had this snow in a couple of years. So, we are very grateful.


BERMAN: All right. Snow and ice leading to a massive 40-car accident.

SAMBOLIN: Wow, another one?

BERMAN: Look at this. This happened not far from Grand Rapids. Cars and trucks smashing into each other, when visibility suddenly dropped, even police cars got into the mix. They were there to warn drivers about the danger and they were hit.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was inside of probably 10 minutes that it went from being able to see what was going on ahead of you to not seeing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually lost control. I hit a car in front of me. I was thrown off and I hit the police officer who was in the ditch. Nothing that we could do to stop.


SAMBOLIN: Take a look at this. This is a Milwaukee river. Part of it is frozen. Temperatures have been below freezing for days now. The river's current is not strong enough to overcome the really cold weather.

BERMAN: All right. Yes, so much for neither snow nor rain, mail delivery for some, in Corvallis, Oregon, near Eugene, it's been suspended more than a week.

The problem is the snow and icy hills. The trucks can't get to the homes safely. The postmaster is hopeful full delivery will resume soon.

SAMBOLIN: Safety first, that is most important.

Indra Petersons is tracking the forecast and the big storm that is headed our way. I am so tired of saying that it.


BERMAN: We like you inside today, at least, though, right?

PETERSONS: I like it inside. You did let me in. Thank you very much for opening the doors today.

Yes, temperatures are cold! Below freezing again this morning. New York City right now, 24 degrees. Right at the freezing mark in D.C.

But, you know, that isn't nothing compared to Bismarck for a whopping 3 degrees currently as they are stepping outside. One of the stories we are watching the last several days, of course, has been that lake- effect snow. Still looking for a little bit more out there today but we're going to shift our focus to the next system diving down. Yes, down from Montana yesterday, now, making its way around Missouri and Kansas overnight tonight. You'll start to see that wintry mix.

But notice, not the only low on the map. There's another low that going to start developing here. So, we are going to be looking at these two combing their impact and start to bring rain into the southeast and also more snow into the Ohio Valley especially as you go through tomorrow. And notice into the Northeast, we are going to start to see some rain and snow. A little bit of that wintry mix.

By Sunday, we're still looking at the low producing more of that moisture offshore, snow really kind of starting to make its way out toward the Maine, giving those conditions really towards the end of the weekend. But we're talking about a good amount, depending on where you are.

I mean, notice, D.C., just about under an inch, but New York City could get about two to four inches. Boston now just up their totals, possibly as much as a foot of snow possible in your area, Cleveland, four to six inches, and it goes on and on.

The question everyone is asking how long does it stay this way? Look at these temperatures so far below normal. Today, we're looking for a high of 33 and tomorrow, we go to 27.

BERMAN: What's the temperature in the Caribbean right now? Just a reference.

PETERSONS: I'll tell you what? I know someone who does know.

SAMBOLIN: I am headed there. It is 84 degree in St. Martin and sunny. So, that's where I'm headed. Although I'm happy for the snow, because I love sledding!

PETERSONS: Not around here.

BERMAN: Yes, keep it to yourself is what we have to say about that.

SAMBOLIN: All right, all right. Stop hating.

All right. Let's move on, shall we?

BERMAN: Go for it.

SAMBOLIN: Four minutes past the hour.

Now to Washington, and what a difference a few months makes, right? The bipartisan federal budget just announced days ago has been approved in the House by an overwhelming margin. Get this, 332 to 94. Democrats and Republicans both joined together to vote for it. It's a big change from the sniping that led to the government shutdown.

Of course, there is still some nastiness in all of this and it is being directed from the speaker of the House to critics allied with his own party. The conservative lobbying groups who said GOP members shouldn't vote for it. John Boehner snapped at them on Wednesday, again yesterday.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When groups come out and criticize an agreement that they have never seen, you begin to wonder just how credible those actions are. It's not everything we wanted, but our job is to find enough common ground to move the ball down the field on behalf of the American people who sent us here to do their work.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Their party is dominated by people who do not believe in government and that they don't believe in government, they don't believe in science and they don't believe in the presidency of Barack Obama. So it's a trifecta. Those people have hijacked the name Republican, which was made such a valuable contribution to our country, the Republican Party.


SAMBOLIN: Some of those conservative groups say if they're going to make sure the votes know who said yes to this deal. It next moves to the Senate where a vote is expected next week.

BERMAN: The House also is giving its OK to a bill changing some policies and continuing funding for the military, under a plan approved by an overwhelming 350-69 vote. Military personnel will get 1 percent pay raise. The bill will also change how sexual assaults are handled stripping military commanders of their power to overturn jury convictions.

This bill now goes to the Senate where it does face an uncertain future.

SAMBOLIN: And new revelation about a retired FBI agent missing for years now in Iran. "The Associated Press" and "The Washington Post" say Robert Levinson was working for the CIA when he disappeared back in 2007, and that the agency paid his family millions to prevent a lawsuit. Officials have for years insisted Levinson was in Iran as a private citizen. His whereabouts remain unknowns.

BERMAN: Do yourself a favor. Read this story in "The A.P." or "The Washington Post." It is stunning.

Other news in Yemen, 15 people on their way to a wedding had been killed after their group was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy. That's according to Yemeni officials who say a U.S. drone was responsible for the airstrike. The U.S. stepped up drone operations in that country and considered a stronghold for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

SAMBOLIN: U.N. inspectors have confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Syria civil war. A new report identifies four likely incidents in addition to a deadly attack outside Damascus in August. Syria agreed to dismantle its chemical weapons program after the threat of a U.S. military strike. The inspectors are barred from saying the rebels or the regime is responsible for the attack.

BERMAN: Kenyan insists all of the terrorists who attacked the mall in Nairobi are dead, that despite suggestions from the New York Police Department that some may have escaped. Attackers killed 67 people at the Westgate mall last September, and the military insists they found the bodies of all four of the gunmen and dismissed this report from the NYPD which did its own study. They say that report is based on secondary information.

SAMBOLIN: Secretary of State John Kerry is in the Middle East today. He's talking about security with the Israelis and the Palestinians. He met morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after talking with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday. So, he wants both sides to accept a security deal leave some Israeli troops inside the future Palestinian state, but neither seem happy with that particular arrangement.

So, coming up at our next half hour, we'll talk with Karl Penhall. He's in Jerusalem about Secretary Kerry's visit.

BERMAN: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius goes to Miami today as part of what some critics are calling the Obamacare apology tour. Sebelius is set to take part in a discussion about the Affordable Care Act and encourage people to sign up for coverage on This is her visit to Florida in four months to talk about the law.

SAMBOLIN: Meanwhile, John, it's a dubious honor for the White House. Remember this phrase uttered early and often by President Obama?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.


SAMBOLIN: Well, that is now being called the lie of the year by the fact checking group "PolitiFact". Its editor writes, quote, "Boiling down the complicated health care law to a sound bite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief. Obama and his team made matters, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along."

No response from the White House yet.

BERMAN: It isn't one of those awards you want to win so don't expect a big victory speech there.

All right. Not so fast, that has been the reaction to the FCC decision to consider lifting a ban on using cell phones on airplanes. The Department of Transportation is now talking about putting its own restrictions in place and several lawmakers are introducing federal legislation to address the issue. Hooray!

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told a House committee the agency has to base its decision on technical factors not public or personal opinions.


TOM WHEELER, FCC CHAIRMAN: I'm the last person in the world who wants to listen to somebody talking to me while I fly across the country. But we are the technical agency and we will make the technical rules that reflect the way the new technology works.


BERMAN: The FCC is now formally collecting information on whether cell phone use should be allowed on jets.

SAMBOLIN: Can we chime in?

BERMAN: I can answer that. The answer is no.

At least one airline, Delta, has said even if the ban is lifted, it will not allow calls in flight.

You know what I would like? I would like you to call me when you're on your way to Caribbean.

SAMBOLIN: Would you really?

You know, they do allow small devices now, Delta does, to keep them on during flights, which I thought was interesting, yet, they're going to ban the cellphones.

BERMAN: It's the yapping, it's the yapping.

SAMBOLIN: I suspect there will be a lot of fights.

All right. Coming up, a shocking power play, this is in North Korea. The country's leader having his own uncle executed, alleging a treacherous plot. We are live as all of this drama unfolds.

BERMAN: And a fraternity ritual goes tragically wrong. A college student losing his life. The question is was this hazing? That's coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 14 minutes past the hour.

There are many questions this morning about the latest news out of North Korea where Kim Jong-un's uncle has been executed. He had been one of the most powerful officials there but has now been labeled by state media as a traitor.

Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul for us this morning. There is speculation what is behind this actually. What are you hearing?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, what we are hearing is from many experts that this message could not be clearer. Kim Jong-un is basically the elite in Pyongyang, if you're disloyal to me you will be executed. You will be hold to account. Now, we are hearing basically from state-run media KCNA, this is our only form of information for North Korea, so it has to be taken at face value.

But basically, they are saying that Jang Song Thaek, the uncle, what he had done was he tried to build his own power base, he had to take those in power from Kim Jong-un. He's been blamed for womanizing. He's been blamed for gambling, for using drugs and extremely colorful language when he's calling him a dog and despicable human scum.

So, it really is a very animated article accusing Jang Song Thaek of pretty much everything that's gone wrong in the country for the past couple of years. It's also blamed him for the economic crisis that the country is in.

But, of course, it's impossible to know if this was, in fact, his fault. But he is, obviously, being blamed. He was tried. He said he admitted to his crimes and then he was executed.

And it really shows that no one is safe in North Korea. He was family of the leader Kim Jong-un by marriage and the second most powerful man in the country, but he has been executed. So, a very clear message saying you must stay loyal to Kim Jong-un, otherwise, this could happen to you as well.

We are also hearing from South Korean intelligence services. They say they even believe the way he was executed was by machine gun. They say two of his allies, they confirmed, were killed by machine. They believe the same might have been the case for Jang Song Thaek, a very interesting and unprecedented event this Friday morning.

It's very rare for North Korea airing its dirty laundry in this regard and interesting day here in Korea.

SAMBOLIN: I might add brutal to that as well. Paula Hancocks, live in Seoul for us, thank you.

BERMAN: Talk about reign of terror.


BERMAN: Sixteen minutes after the hour.

Family and friends of a Texas college student killed by police are remembering him as caring and compassionate. Cameron Redus was shot near the University of Incarnate Word campus in San Antonio early Friday. Police insist he attacked an officer who pulled him over for driving erratically, but the people who attended his memorial service in Baytown, Texas, say what happened still doesn't make sense to them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know the type of person he is. He knows how to make the right decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was always just been a good friend and the nicest guy like I've ever known.


BERMAN: The officer who shot Redus remains on administrative leave as the investigation continues.

SAMBOLIN: Charges could come as early as today in the death of a college student injured and what is called a fraternity ritual. Police aren't saying it was hazing, but do say 19-year-old Chun Michael Deng died after he fell and struck his head while taking part in an outdoor event for a new pledge for a fraternity. The ritual is called glass ceiling.

Deng was apparently blindfolded, wearing a weighted backpack and told to move around as frat brothers tried to block him. He was apparently pushed and that is when he fell. Students at the college attended, New York's Baruch College, are heart broken.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see him around the hallways and he had a big goofy grin on his face. And he was -- I never saw him sad or anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are understandably really broken up about it. I mean, even people -- I don't know him personally and still shocks me to the core.

CHIEF HARRY LEWIS, POCONO MOUNTAIN REGIONAL POLICE: I know a lot of people pledge fraternities, but I don't think any tradition or ritual is worth someone's life.


SAMBOLIN: That was the Pi Delta Psi fraternity and it is Baruch College. Police say the fraternity members did not immediately get help, waiting at least two hours before taking him to the hospital. The fraternity's national board has suspended all pledge events nationwide as this investigation continues.

BERMAN: Whatever they find, whether it's hazing or not, whatever you called it, the outcome is tragic.

A Montana newlywed accused of pushing her husband off a cliff pleaded guilty to his murder. Just as closing arguments were set to begin in her trial, Jordan Graham reached a deal with prosecutors accepting a second-degree murder plea -- everyone was watching this trial -- in exchange for avoiding a mandatory life sentence.

Graham told the judge that she and her husband -- again, they've only been married for eight days. They talked about how unhappy they were during a hike in Glacier National Park. When he grabbed her and she said she pushed back admitting she knew he had fallen off the cliff.

SAMBOLIN: That was shocking that she changed her plea at the last minute.

New details in the case of an actress sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Prosecutors say Shannon Richardson's goal wasn't to kill politicians but rather to frame her husband. She had originally told police her husband was to blame for sending all of those letters. She will spend at least 18 years in prison and that's part of a plea deal.

BERMAN: More trouble for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. The admitted crack- smoking mayor, we have to say that again. We are illegally obligated to call him that. He is sued by a newspaper reporter.

In a television interview early this week, Ford suggested, hinted, that the reporter who works for the "Toronto Star" could be a pedophile. Daniel Dale (ph), the reporter, said he didn't want to sue but he was driven to act after Ford repeated this implication in an interview with a Washington, D.C. radio station. Now, Ford is standing by what he said.

SAMBOLIN: Unlikely feat from Beyonce. She stunned the music world. She stunned her fans by announcing and dropping her new album at the same time.

Her self-titled "Visual" album, a collection of 14 songs, 17 videos, is now available for you on iTunes. She amazingly kept all of this under wrap seemingly for on months. Queen Bee announced the album's release on the Instagram Thursday night.

BERMAN: You know, we wake up in the middle of the night. So this is the biggest thing going on in the middle of the night! Exploding overnight! Big deal. So, congratulations to Beyonce.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And coming up, the Chargers taking on the Broncos on their home turf. Andy Scholes giving us the play-by-play. That is next in the "Bleacher Report".


BERMAN: The San Diego Chargers went into Denver last night and they shocked Peyton Manning!


BERMAN: And the Broncos. They shocked them!

Andy Scholes joins us with the "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Andy.

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

And, you know, Peyton Manning and the Broncos videogame offense really never had a chance to get going last night. The Chargers were able to keep Manning on the sidelines the majority of the game with super long drives.

The play of the game came on this touchdown from Keenan Allen. Check it out. He is going to leap the defender and then he is going to barrel through another for the score! Broncos did have one last chance to tie this game late but Manning throws an interception. Chargers win it 27-20 and handing Denver just their first home loss of the season.

In a surprising move yesterday, the Texas Rangers selected Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson in the rule 5 draft. Wilson played Minor League Baseball for Colorado Rockies before deciding to play football full-time. The Rockies still own his rights. The Rangers decided he was worth taking a gamble on and invited him to come to spring training next year. The Rangers are known going after football stars. In case, their careers don't work out, they even Florida State quarterback and Heisman favorite Jameis Winston just last year.

Trending right now on Today is the race of the century. The inside the NBA crew laced up their track shoes and squared off against one another in a hundred-yard dash. This goes as you probably expect.

Charles Barkley falls way behind. Shaq pulled his hammy and Kenny Smith looks like he had it one but at the last second, Chris Webber won in 6.1 seconds and Smith cried foul saying he actually won. He wouldn't even participate in the medal ceremony.

Barkley who never finished the race is on "UNGUARDED" with Rachel Nichols tonight. He's going to explain why he thinks the NBA is an embarrassment and why his friend Michael Jordan is struggling as a team owner. Again, that's tonight at 10:30 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Guys, I don't know about you, but whenever Charles Barkley speaks, I listen.

BERMAN: Better speaking than in a race apparently -- a race running. He's better at speaking.

SCHOLES: He had no chance.

SAMBOLIN: Well, he has his moments.

Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

SAMBOLIN: The top headlines and everything you need to know for the day, right after the break.


BERMAN: A giant storm just in time for the weekend!

SAMBOLIN: Why do you keep on doing this? BERMAN: Snow, sleet, ice, freezing temperatures and everything you never wanted!


BERMAN: Indra Petersons is smiling. We will tell you where it's going to hit next.

SAMBOLIN: And listen to this. Compromise in Congress. The House passing a big budget deal. Why top Republicans and Democrats say it was time to work together!

BERMAN: And hangover too. Actually.

Developing overnight, Secretary of State John Kerry in Israel, the latest on his pitch for progress in Mideast peace. We're live.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's 30 minutes past the hour right now.

SAMBOLIN: So, I'm the bearer of bad news this morning. This is not the kind of forecast that will make you want to get out of bed. It is cold again today for actually much of the country. Snow, ice, it's hitting all over the place.

The worst part? Your Saturday may be snow covered.

BERMAN: Today's bad. Tomorrow is even worse, folks.