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EARLY START

Rodman in North Korea; More Wintry Weather in Store; Fed to Cut Stimulus

Aired December 20, 2013 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: If you are planning to hit the road today or this weekend, listen up. We have very important information --

BERMAN: Yes. Don't. Stop. Stop now.

ROMANS: I've got smile on my face but that's because it's --

BERMAN: It's masking the evil underneath.

ROMANS: It's the weather you may not expect -- evil. It's not going to cooperate with your Christmas plans, I'm afraid.

More than a hundred million people across 30 states could be affected.

BERMAN: Man.

ROMANS: We're talking rain, snow, and storms making their way across the country. And that could mean a very bad trip to your Christmas destination.

BERMAN: A menu of whoa, folks. Utah already feeling it. Heavy snow and ice made it a mess for drivers near Salt Lake City, some areas got up to eight inches of snow. It even shut down the Salt Lake City airport for a few hours. That's an airport that does not shut down often.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And look at that. The snow blamed for that scary explosion of a power line that's also near Salt Lake City, knocking out electricity to many residence and businesses.

At the height of the storm some 13,000 customers lost power in Utah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET OLER, ROCKY MOUNTAIN POWER: As this storm front moved across, it began to blow contaminants into the system, into facilities.

BRAD BARBER, OWNER, FREESTYLE SUSHI: Got to work this morning and the telephone pole out in front of the store was on fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And the weather could also be to blame for a series of deadly bus crashes in Southern California. Authorities say the separate incidents happened on highways soaked by rain showers. One person was killed, dozens more hurt. One fatality a passenger partially thrown through a tour bus window. The driver says the bus suddenly spun out of control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He felt the bus start to fishtail or veer to the left a little bit. He tried to overcorrect back to the right. That caused the bus to kind of spin around in the lanes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: At least one other person was seriously injured in one of the other crashes.

ROMANS: All right. Indra Petersons is here to tell us just how bad things are going to get.

I mean, you know, I mean, it's that time of year when the weather is bad but when you're talking about the Christmas travel week, that starts to get rough.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's already pretty much the same picture you talk about Thanksgiving. It's not necessarily this is a huge storm, it's just the timing on top of it.

ROMANS: Yes.

PETERSONS: A lot of different elements kind of combining here together. Currently you can actually see the first system, the lighter one making its way through. Even some freezing rain around Grand Rapids and even Milwaukee right now. But the bigger story really is just the light rain pushing off and continuing into the northeast today.

We already talked about the icing. You're really looking for again -- excuse me, Wisconsin kind of back through Missouri and then as the storm kind of continues off to the northeast it dissipates with some light rain.

Let's take you into the second system. That's the bigger one. The first thing you need to notice all these moistures coming in from the southeast. That is key. That's going to be that fuel to really get a lot of rain and a lot of snow out of it. That low sets up and brings in all of that rain so heavy rain and flooding concerns on Saturday. Three to five inches potentially here from the Ohio Valley back to the Mississippi Valley. The low makes its way farther north. Now it has some cold air on it, so you're talking about potentially some heavy snow here across the lakes. And then as we go through Sunday it makes its way farther east, you have all that warm air and we're talking about a potentially record-breaking heat here on the East Coast.

You have the snow behind it. You have this icing mix here. That's going to be New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, really potentially an ice storm here. That's what we're going to be watching. Definitely some delays in that region. Temperature-wise, this is what I was talking about. Very warm, potentially some record-breaking heat in the southeast, so with that.

ROMANS: Look at that.

PETERSONS: I'm not even done. We have tornado threats and isolated severe thunderstorms really as we go through Saturday and Sunday. So people just need to be aware pretty much no matter where you are this weekend.

ROMANS: Look at those high temperatures. There'll be a muddy mess in parts of the northeast. No question.

PETERSONS: Absolutely.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, Indra.

For some 40 million Target customers, it's time for watching and waiting as we find out more about a massive credit card data breach and just how much it's going to cost Target. Experts say the price tag for dealing with all of this could be more than $600 million. That includes the price of credit monitoring, replacing stolen cards, reimbursing customers for fraudulent charges.

And for those who've recently seen their accounts hacked many are asking, you know, was this all because of where I shopped?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: $2319.51 that they tried to get out of our account. I toured the United States and a little bit of the country.

GINA SEKULA, SHOPPED AT TARGET: You think you have money in your account and then you have nothing. You have beyond nothing. All because I went shopping at Target.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now Target believes the hacking took place between Thanksgiving and last Sunday. If you shopped at a Target store, not online but at a Target store, sometime during those three weeks, keep a close eye on your account statements report. Any charges you don't recognize immediately to your card company and you might even hear from your card company. All of the major card companies working with Target and the Secret Service, which monitors these kind of crimes, to try to let them know if you see some fraudulent activity. But we know that in the -- in the hacker, you know, chat rooms there is already conversation and chatting about how to get this information and what to do. They're already selling these information so.

BERMAN: A lot of people affected, too.

ROMANS: I'm also very concerned about -- very expensive credit card monitoring and that kind of stuff that people are going to try to sell you. Don't reach into your own pocket because of Target's problem.

BERMAN: No, no, no.

ROMANS: Check your statement every day. You're going to hear experts say every week. I say every day. Every day check it for the next three months if you shopped at Target.

BERMAN: What she said, a good idea.

Thirty-five minutes after the hour now. To London in a scary night at the theater for hundreds there just to see a play. They were inside the Apollo Theater on Thursday night when chunks of the plaster and dust rained down. Part of the ceiling collapsed leaving dozens hurt. Some people seriously. Some people in there say they thought it was part of the play until they realized they were in danger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ceiling came down. A lot of dust, chandelier, wood, and all that sort of stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just looked up and the whole ceiling was like slow motion, it kind of came down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were watching the show and about a third in, people stopped moving and I couldn't understand why until black smoke came up and I realized the ceiling had just fallen in but people clamoring over us and I couldn't understand why and I said, we got to get out, now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You see the dust and the dirt and grime on their faces? So dramatic. The theater is more than 100 years old. Officials say the roof is secure and this looks like an isolated incident. They certainly hope. An investigation is now under way into just what caused that ceiling to come down.

ROMANS: As 2013 winds to a close, the Senate is finishing up its work, giving its OK to a new defense -- policy bill that will increase troop pay and change the way the military handles sexual assault. The vote 84-15 and since it had already been approved in the house this bill is now on its way to the president for his signature.

BERMAN: One thing the Senate will not be doing yet is confirming Janet Yellen as the next Fed chair. Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Thursday. The Republicans and Democrats worked out an agreement on votes for several of President Obama's nominees but the Senate does plan a test vote to move ahead on Yellen's nomination.

That test vote will be today. The actual confirmation vote will be on January 6th. And that's the deal they reached.

ROMANS: Hundreds of thousands of Americans who've been dropped by their insurance companies because of Obamacare, they could be getting a big break. The White House is granting a special hardship exemption allowing them to enroll in less expensive catastrophic coverage plans.

This exemption applies to any who's been notified that your policy won't be renewed in 2014 as long as you've made no other arrangements for coverage.

BERMAN: President Obama has commuted the sentences of eight convicted crack cocaine offenders. Each of them has already served at least 15 years behind bars.

The president says their sentences were unduly harsh. Among those being released is Reynolds Allen Wintersmith, the 39-year-old Illinois man is serving a life sentence for dealing crack. He will now be freed in April.

Wintersmith is the first cousin of the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, who is one of President Obama's biggest supporters, but Governor Patrick says he doesn't think he's ever met his younger cousin. There is a big age difference there. Representatives for the governor say they had nothing to do with the release of Wintersmith.

And this really is all about the issue of mandatory sentencing.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: The rules have changed over the last few years on this. And President Obama has been outspoken, saying some of these rules were just bad.

ROMANS: Right. And many -- all of the judges in each of these cases said, they regret at having to sentence these men to -- I think they're all men. Sentencing them to these very steep sentences. So -- and if these crimes happened today and they were convicted of this crime today they wouldn't have these sentences.

BERMAN: No, no. Thirty-eight minutes after the hour right now.

The firing of a high ranking air force officer in charge of the nation's nuclear weapons was apparently because of drinking and co- rousing. Major General Michael Carey was removed as head of the 20th Air Force in October.

In an Inspector General's report now made public shows he was caught acting unprofessionally during a trip to Russia last summer. He was there for a nuclear security training exercise and others traveling with him say he spent much of the trip drinking and spending time with women that he met in Moscow.

With south Sudan on the brink of civil war, the U.S. is getting involved now. President Obama deploying 45 American military personnel to protect the U.S. embassy and Americans in that fledgling nation. Violence erupted there after an apparent coup on Sunday. So far 500 people have been killed and the fighting is spreading and intensifying.

ROMANS: A trip west today for President Obama and the first family. They are heading to Hawaii as they have in the past to celebrate Christmas. The first family is expected to stay in the same neighborhood where they've gone since 2008 when he was president- elect. He has no public events scheduled. He is expected to arrive early Saturday morning.

Aloha to the first family.

BERMAN: Aloha.

ROMANS: Aloha.

BERMAN: Christmas in Hawaii. Like an Elvis --

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Please. Sing us the whole thing. We have time. Go ahead. No, never mind.

ROMANS: No, thanks.

BERMAN: Coming up, it looks just like your high school gym except but this isn't, folks. This is in North Korea and the man choosing the players is Dennis Rodman. The latest on his bizarre, bizarre trip coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Dennis Rodman, also known as the worm, says he is in North Korea to open doors for America. But many in this country are just scratching their heads. It was just last week that the North Korean leader executed his uncle. This week Dennis Rodman stops by for a game of pick up hoops. Rodman insists this is just about basketball.

Our Anna Coren is watching this trip from Seoul in South Korea.

What is Rodman up to today, Anna?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we've got pictures of Rodman training what we believe is the North Korean basketball team.

It's interesting, John, we are very limited as to the details we get. The state-run KCNA have released no information today. They may do in the coming hours. It's approaching 8:00 p.m. here. So maybe we'll get a little bit more, you know, coming up. But at the moment, those pictures is all that we have. But we know that Rodman is in North Korea for four day. He's there to train these players, to prepare for an exhibition match next month which will celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un who, as we know, is a very good friend of Dennis Rodman.

Rodman will be returning to Pyongyang in two weeks time for that match and he'll also be bringing a team of American former NBA stars. Those names yet to be announced.

As you say, it comes at a very interesting time. Political upheaval in North Korea following last week's execution of Kim Jong-Un's uncle. So Rodman says that he is not interested in the political issues. He is not interested in raising, you know, human rights. He is merely there to play basketball and catch up with his friend -- John.

BERMAN: Obviously, the United States has to be keenly interested as to what's happening inside North Korea in the wake of this high profile execution last week in the -- you know, with security concerns all around that peninsula. So the question is how closely is the United States government monitoring Dennis Rodman's trip?

COREN: You'd have to think, John, that they are looking very closely. You know, we sort of write off Dennis Rodman as a, you know, bit crazy and very bizarre, you know, he's a bit of a washed up celebrity but at the end of the day, he is the most high-profile American, probably the only Westerner to actually have met Kim Jong-Un since he took over the reins of that country following his father's death two years ago.

So, you know, the U.S. government has come out and said that there will be no message delivered through Rodman to Kim Jong-Un on behalf of the government, you know, they say that, you know, there's conversations to be had whatsoever and certainly Rodman is not the mediator by any means.

But, you know, these two countries have not communicated or spoken for almost two years, and that is due to North Korea wanting to develop its nuclear weapons program. But certainly the analysts we've spoken to, they say that the U.S. as well as people here in South Korea will be closely monitoring Rodman's every move.

BERMAN: And we look forward to hearing from Dennis Rodman, no doubt, when he returns.

Anna Coren, for us, thanks so much.

ROMANS: Florida Congress Trey Radel plans to return to work. He's now out of rehab a month after he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession charges. And the 37-year-old Republican is insisting he will not resign despite some in his own party calling for Radel to give up that seat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY RADEL (D), FLORIDA: I have a new focus and I'm making sure that the important things come first because what I have to account for my life is the accomplishments that will matter. I'm proud of what I've done here in southwest Florida, both professionally and personally. With the grace of God, I am going to continue doing what I love to do, what I have been elected to do, with a clearer focus, more focus than ever before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The House Ethics Committee is looking into his conduct. He's promising to cooperate with that investigation as he works to rebuild the trust of voters.

BERMAN: The motive is now becoming clear in a deadly shooting at a Reno Medical Office. Police have now identified the gunman as 51- year-old Alan Oliver Frasier who lived in California and say he left a suicide note in his home indicating he was angry over surgery he had had in that office.

Frasier killed a doctor and wounded another doctor and a visitor before turning the gun on himself. It is not clear if the doctors he shot had treated him.

ROMANS: Dramatic pictures from Durham, North Carolina, where -- wow, there was supposed to be a peaceful vigil that turned violent last night. Protesters were marching in memory of a 17-year-old who died in police custody but police say they had to use tear gas to disperse this crowd after rocks and bottles were thrown at them. Several people were arrested.

All right. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY" this morning.

BERMAN: Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, here on this Friday.

ROMANS: Hey, guys.

BERMAN: Good morning, guys.

KATE BOLDUAN, ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning. Happy Friday, you guys.

CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Where is the line? That's going to be the main question as we discuss this "Duck Dynasty" controversy. And that's what it is because there is a certain split going on here about whether what Phil Robertson said was offensive, or the truth, should be allowed or disallowed, indecent or indecent. Conservatives and liberals are split on it and so are many others. So we're going to have all sides represented here. A discussion that's needed to be had.

BOLDUAN: And also on the show, the question, no such thing as a free lunch? We are going to hear from Congressman Jack Kingston. He suggests that students, kids, they should maybe have to work for the meals that they receive in federal school lunch programs. He is going to be talking -- he's going to be talking about it because he's taking a lot of heat, maybe not surprising but he is not the first person to suggest this. We're going to talk with him live about it.

BERMAN: Interesting to hear from him, no doubt.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: OK, guys. We'll see you in a little bit.

Coming up for us, for stores, the holiday season hasn't been the best but for you, that could be a good thing, folks. Especially this weekend.

ROMANS: Super Saturday.

BERMAN: We will explain in "Money Time" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It's "Money Time," Berman.

BERMAN: It is.

ROMANS: It is "Money Time," a Friday "Money Time." And you know, things have been going better. The economy getting strong --

BERMAN: It's funny time.

ROMANS: Yes. There you go. The taper seemingly well played, well played, Ben Bernanke, and the markets making new highs but of course it's back again to cause a potential disaster.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

BERMAN: Yes.

ROMANS: The dreaded debt ceiling doomsday scenario. If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and the government ends up defaulting, that's the -- that's the worst case scenario. Believe it or not the next deadline is February 7th we now know.

BERMAN: Didn't we just go through this?

ROMANS: Yes, we did. February 7th. Put on your calendar only weeks away and the Treasury Secretary Jack Lew fired the first shot late yesterday. In a letter to Congress, he said by using extraordinary measures to stretch our finances, he could wiggle the books a little bit. We currently estimate that through the use of these measures we would be able to extend the nation's borrowing authority until late February or early March 2014.

Just in time for spring break, folks. So here you have it. The clock is ticking again on a time bomb that could very erase any progress the economy has made unless Congress gets a debt ceiling done in time. February 7th and then into March.

Now the Dow Industrial eked out a record Thursday. The 46th of the year, Closing up 11 points. But what is really impressive is where we stand for the year the Dow is up 23 percent. The Nasdaq up is 34 percent, and the S&P -- I had five very bad years of covering market news so I really enjoy saying those numbers.

Let me show you another number that is really big. Just a -- look at that number, Berman. That's $4 Trillion and change and I'm pointing it out because of this --

BERMAN: Thank you for telling me because I couldn't actually tell you what that means.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: It's mind boggling size. When we talk about how many bonds the Fed has bought up several years several years actually. Just gives you an idea of the mount. This is bigger than the GDP of German, the world's third largest economy.

That's the Fed's balance sheet come out. That shows you the unbelievable efforts the fed has done to pop -- prop up the U.S. economy. And now what it has to undo.

I'm going to give you a few shopping tips before we head into what is known as Super Saturday. First up, best deals tomorrow will be found on toys, video games and weirdly enough, space heaters, air purifies and humidifies.

BERMAN: That's a great stocking stuffer.

ROMANS: There you go. Tomorrow you won't find the best deals on clothing but if you feel you must buy a clothing-related gift, Deal News says buy a gift card at an apparel store and let the gift card receiver shop the huge clothing sale after Christmas. The best clothing sales will be after Christmas.

BERMAN: What did you get me?

ROMANS: Well, I --

BERMAN: You didn't get me anything.

ROMANS: Our -- my gift for you is the fact you don't have to give me a gift. Please.

BERMAN: What's on your show?

ROMANS: Please.

BERMAN: What's on your show this weekend?

ROMANS: We're going to talk about the Fed. We're going to be talking about all of these retail hacks. We're going to be talking about the Fed, the economy isn't really getting better, one America, two economy.

BERMAN: This show should be on your weekend plans. It's CNN's "YOUR MONEY" at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. Don't miss it.

Coming up a Methodist pastor losing permission to preach, defrocked for officiating at his son's gay wedding, but he won't stay silent. We'll tell you about this next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START this Friday morning. A Methodist minister is now a man without a flock. Now that the United Methodist Church has officially stripped him of his clerical credentials.

Frank Schafer officiated as his son's same-sex wedding in violation of church rules and he refused to promise or refused to promise to never officiate a gay wedding again. He says the church is discriminating against gay people and -- and he is promising to keep fighting.

You're going to hear from Pastor Rick Schafer coming up on "New Day." He's going sit with Chris and Kate in an 8:00 am eastern hour.

BERMAN: And this programming note. Stay with CNN all day, all night, all weekend. Romans has "YOUR MONEY" airing tomorrow, I'm doing "AC 360" tonight. Trying to book Brad Pitt, Michael Jordan, yesterday a few people --

ROMANS: What about Kobe? Let's get Kobe. These are early pursuits. You know, earlier kobe. You try to book everybody early in the day so stay with us all day.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Holiday havoc. It was the weekend before Christmas and all across the east came a storm that's shaping up to be a beast. The latest storm track ahead.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All for one. Could "Ducky Dynasty" be ending? The family now saying they may do that show if their patriarch isn't brought back as his suspension becomes a conservative cause.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Escaped by South America. How does this American slipped custody in Bolivia after two years in jail? The key, Sean Penn may have helped. The bizarre international being jailbreak.

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's Friday, December 20th, 6:00 in the east. Are we heading toward the nightmare before Christmas? The big story comes from above. Another round of wild weather that could impact much of the country. Possible tornadoes in the south, severe storms and snow in the Midwest. Freezing rain in New England and more.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons is as busy as Santa. Keeping track of all of it for us.

What do you see out there? INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Feels like Groundhog today, I have to tell you that thanksgiving holiday travel plans, now we're going into holiday travel season for the next holiday. We're once again talking about major systems making their way across the country. And it's a case of here we go again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS (voice-over): As holiday travelers bombard the airports and roadways this weekend, a wicked weather system could derail travel plans with snow, freezing rain and severe thunderstorms across the country.

According to AAA, the wide-ranging storm potentially threatening the travel plans of 94 million Americans.

From the South to the Midwest, The Risk of severe thunderstorms include damaging winds and even isolated tornadoes. Up north, freezing rain will be the problem from Chicago to Wichita. Holiday commuters will have to watch for icing on Bridges and over passes.

Snow's already caused issues for air travelers this holiday season. In Wisconsin this week, a plane slid off the snow slicked runways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you know what's happening and then they said that airport were shutdown.

PETERSONS: Further east up to 10 inches of rain could dampen the holiday travel plans and once millions finally arrived to their destination, who will have a white Christmas? Right now it's looking like Colorado and parts of the great lakes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS: Just want to give you a quick picture of what it is we're expecting.