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Dangerous Deep Freeze; Tough Travel in Cold; "The Path is Becoming Clearer"; Liz Cheney Drops Senate Bid; McMath Released to Family

Aired January 6, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A dangerous deep freeze across the country. This morning, people waking up to record-breaking temperatures. Right now, cities taking historic actions to stay safe. This bitter cold shutting down schools, roads, creating chaos at airports. We're live with just how long these arctic temperatures will last as thousands of travelers wait for relief.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday, a very cold Monday for a lot of people.


BERMAN: January 6th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. And the big story this morning is very much the cold. We hope you have a blanket or sweater or something to stay warm. People, it is cold, very cold, really cold, dangerously cold. The deep purple you see there are the high temperatures in much of the Midwest, although there's really nothing actually high about them. They are so low and these brutal temperatures are heading east as we speak.

ROMANS: An about-face by Chicago public school officials. They're canceling classes today after first announcing, though, the schools would be open. They reversed their decision because it's going to be, get this, minus 15 today with wind-chills in the Windy City potentially making it feel like 50 below. Overall, nearly two dozen school districts across the country will be closed today because of the bitter cold.

BERMAN: Get this, driving now illegal in Indianapolis. That city is outlawing travel, except in emergencies, because of this deep freeze. This is the first time the government there has done that in 35 years. As we said, this is historic. It could feel as cold as 45 below zero in Indianapolis.


BERMAN: Forty-five below. The mayor says it's just too dangerous to be out on the roads.


MAYOR GREG BALLARD, INDIANAPOLIS: The temperatures that we're talking about are deadly. This is a combination that is unlike anything we've seen in a long, long time.


ROMANS: Deadly conditions in Minnesota, where it hit 20 below this morning. Two bodies have been recovered from a car that plunged through the ice in the Mississippi river in Wynona. Recovery teams had to break through ice and use an underwater camera to find the vehicle. That vehicle ran off a road and through a guardrail early Sunday morning.

BERMAN: Dangerous driving conditions in St. Louis as well, so bad that drivers are being warned there not to get behind the wheel. Officials fear snow coupled with wind could mean almost zero visibility. Add in plunging temperatures and the likelihood for ice, they're simply calling the roads a disaster waiting to happen.


BERMAN: Look at that.

ROMANS: The cold even plunging down not the south, Atlanta. If you're waking up in Atlanta this morning, you are set to see the coldest temperatures in more than 30 years. It's going to be colder in Atlanta today than in Anchorage, Alaska.

BERMAN: That's not right!

ROMANS: That's actually going to happen.

That after a wet, slippery morning today and something Georgia doesn't see a lot of, snow and ice. Be careful out there.

BERMAN: Wonder if they've got moose like Alaska.

ROMANS: No, no moose.

BERMAN: Indra Petersons is tracking this deep freeze. You know, Andrew Kaczynski on Twitter called this weather drunk weather. It doesn't make any sense.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's kind of a good nice explanation when you take a look at the map and how many people are looking at advisories this morning for extremely cold temperatures, very atypical. Many places seeing temperatures 30, if not 40 degrees below normal. Of course, you're seeing the most dangerous portion, that's where all that arctic air is farther to the north. And to the south, we're even seeing these cool temperatures spreading into the Southeast.

Let's talk about the worst of the worst, where that arctic air mass is combined with higher winds out there. So, even any snow on the ground is blowing around. We talked about those visibility issues. But it is the temperatures, that is the biggest concern.

Look at this. Right now, Duluth waking up to what it feels like is negative 55 degrees. You can't even comprehend how cold that is. Just five minutes outside and you have the threat for frostbite out there.

Minneapolis, a negative 44, Milwaukee negative 36, and these are what the current temperatures feel like, but even as we go through the afternoon today, notice their highs. Their highs are staying in the negatives. That's a good almost 40 degrees below normal, and this is not staying just in that part of the country. Notice in Nashville, almost 40 degrees below normal, Cincinnati today high of just 3 degrees. That's almost 45 degrees below average.

And again, that is spreading all the way down to the South, where Atlanta is a good 29 degrees below normal. Their high expected today below freezing at 23 degrees. That is what we're dealing with. You may notice it is warm in the Northeast currently, but that cold front is making its way through, so we are not an exception. This means the cold air is on its way. It's actually going to get colder by the hour today, the other way around.

BERMAN: Can't believe the drop, from 53 to 10 or something like that.

PETERSONS: Wind-chill of negative 10 by tomorrow.

ROMANS: Cold is a four-letter word. Thank you, Indra.

All right. The weather made it very tough to get around this weekend in some of the nation's biggest cities. Ice and snow grounding planes, thousands of flights canceled Sunday, thousands more cancelled today.

Alexandra Field is live at New York's JFK airport, where one jet loaded with passengers actually skidded off the runway, Alexandra?


A delta flight had landed here at JFK. The pilot said he was turning from the runway to the taxiway when the plane skidded right into a snow bank, 32 people were on board. No one was hurt, but the plane had to be towed from the runway. After that, JFK shut down for a couple of hours, so those runways could be deiced.

In Aspen, Colorado, over the weekend, investigators say high winds led to a deadly plane crash. The co-pilot of a small plane was killed when that plane tried to land at the Aspen, Colorado, airport. And in Chicago, icy temperatures and blizzard-like conditions have forced the cancellation of half of all flights going into and out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

All of these issues creating a ripple effect for passengers across the country. This morning the Web site is reporting that already more than 2,300 flights have been canceled for today. That's on top of the 3,800 flights that were canceled yesterday. This is something that travelers, though, have been dealing with for days. Hundreds of people have been camping out in airports since Friday.

Of course, frustrations, we know, are running high, but the airlines say there's really nothing they can do to get these flights back on track until the weather clears. It could take days. And if you can see right where we are here at JFK, heavy fog this morning, only complicating the issue for people. About 400 flights are delayed right now in the New York City area.

ROMANS: And you'll keep us posted. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

BERMAN: The fog was crazy this morning.

ROMANS: I couldn't believe it.

BERMAN: Couldn't see a thing coming in.

On the subject of fog, the Senate returns today from its holiday recess, and on the agenda, extending unemployment benefits. A procedural vote is set for this afternoon on a bill that would give the long-term unemployed three more months of benefits. More than 1.3 million Americans lost these benefits just before New Year's, when the existing program expired.

ROMANS: The Senate is also expected to approve this woman, Janet Yellen to become the next leader of the Federal Reserve and one of the most powerful people in the world. The vote later today is all but assured, Yellen set to become the first female chair of the nation's central bank. She's going to replace Ben Bernanke, who's stepping down after two terms. Yellen has the tough job of unwinding of the Fed's stimulus programs.

BERMAN: It was another deadly weekend in Iraq, where at least 18 people were killed in car bombings on Sunday. Hundreds have now died in fighting since January 1st as militants affiliated with al Qaeda battled government troops in the Anbar province.

But Secretary of State John Kerry on a trip to the region says that U.S. forces will not be going back to Iraq. He pledged continued support for the Maliki government there.

As for the main goal of Secretary Kerry's trip to the Mideast, he is reporting possible progress in negotiations over peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He spent the last three days trying to find common ground, saying the path is now clearer but nothing is done yet.

Nic Robertson following developments from Jerusalem.

Nic, what's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John Kerry describes his work here as a little bit like putting a mosaic together. He says where you get concessions from one leader on one issue, if you then ask or go for concessions on something else, then the other leader will change what they're willing to concede on another point, but what he says has happened is that there is some agreement on some smaller issues, and he sees that as a big positive. He is positive here, and he says some of the core issues are now on the table and being discussed. He is trying to get the leaders to agree to a framework agreement, which he says will kind of lock them into this pathway to get to a final status agreement. What is he talking about here? He says when he talks about core issues being on the table, under discussion, the future of Jerusalem as a possible capital for both Israelis and Palestinians, security issues in the West Bank, borders, what would they be, right of return for Palestinian refugees and for Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

So, it is the core issues, but Secretary Kerry, even after these intensive rounds of talks, still says he has some way to go in a tough process so far, John.

BERMAN: The core issues that have been contentious for decades and decades.

Nic Robertson for us in Jerusalem. A lot of work still to be done there. Thanks, Nic.

First on CNN: a famous daughter is dropping her bid to join the U.S. Senate. Sources tell CNN that Liz Cheney plans to end her campaign to unseat Mike Enzi in Wyoming. She's going to make an official announcement as early as today.

Cheney made the decision to jump into this race last summer, mounting a primary challenge against a fellow conservative Republican. This raised a lot of eyebrows, but recent polls have showed Enzi is maintaining a wide lead and Cheney, she's had issues inside her family as well, publicly battling her sister over the issue of same-sex marriage.

ROMANS: All right, the will Hillary run game intensifies with another new revelation that could point to a 2016 presidential campaign. This time, it involves an e-mail list.

A super PAC said to be helping lay the groundwork for a possible future run has now rented the e-mail list compiled by Clinton's 2008 campaign, and it sent out an e-mail on Sunday, offering free bumper stickers. The former senator, secretary of state and first lady has publicly said she'll make a decision about running some time this year.

BERMAN: Phenomenal article in "Politico" this morning about the campaign organizations being set up for her on her behalf.

Meanwhile, the current president, President Obama and his daughters are back in Washington after their holiday vacation in Hawaii. The trio returning to the White House Sunday. But not with them, First Lady Michelle Obama, who is remaining in Hawaii for a few extra days ahead of her 50th birthday.

The White House says this is part of the president's gift to his wife and Mrs. Obama will spend some time with friends before returning to Washington later this week.

ROMANS: Sounds like a girls' trip, before she turns 50. All right. Dennis Rodman back in North Korea this morning for yet another visit to practice what he calls basketball diplomacy. Rodman brought a team of former NBA players with him for an exhibition game in honor of Kim Jong-un's birthday. He says he wants people to see North Korea isn't that bad and to bring the whole world together.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: With the game, I hope to open the doors a little bit around the world, around the world, around the world. I just want to hope. Of course, everything else, it's not my job, you know. I'm just -- I'm not the president, I'm not a politician. I'm not an ambassador. I'm just an athlete, individual that wants to go over there, that's it.


ROMANS: But maybe he's a pawn? I don't know. Coming up in our next half hour, we're going to talk to Karl Penhaul in Beijing about Rodman's latest trip to North Korea.

BERMAN: This comes weeks after Kim executed or ordered the execution of his own uncle there. So, a lot going on in that part of the world.

Coming up for us next, horror inside a New York City high-rise, an inferno that turned deadly 40 stories in the air. We have new video this morning.

ROMANS: Plus, breaking news overnight on a teenage girl whose tonsil surgery turned tragic, next.


ROMANS: Breaking news this morning from California, where Jahi McMath's body has now been released to her family. She's the 13-year- old who's been on a ventilator since complications from tonsil surgery left her brain-dead. It's not clear where she's heading.

At least one rehabilitation facility in New York has offered to take the body. The family says they want to keep her alive with ventilators, so she might have a chance to recover. The coroner, several doctors and the court have all said the teenager is legally dead.

BERMAN: Such a sad story.

And we have a sad story from Hawaii as well where a 3-year-old has been allowed to die weeks after undergoing a dental procedure. Finley Boyle had been in hospice since late December. Her family says she went to the dentist earlier in a month for several root canals but suffered severe brain damage. They allege she was sedated and left unmonitored for 26 minutes.

Her mother said that the tough decision to remove her daughter's feeding tube was the only choice.


ASHLEY BOYLE, MOTHER: To see her go from a happy, healthy 3-year-old to, like, going through puberty and a diaper 15 years later is not a choice I was going to make.


BERMAN: The family is suing the dentist's office for allegedly giving her improper medications. That office is now closed and has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

ROMANS: All right, in New York, a mystery and controversy over the killing of a Brooklyn landlord. Menachem Stark's body was found in a trash bin covered in bruises and burns. He and a partner owned a real estate agency that apparently owned dozens of apartment buildings. "The New York Post" says the company owed massive fines, building violations and quoted who called living conditions there awful. "The Post" even published a cover asking "Who didn't want him dead?"

The family is calling that cover character assassination and they just want to know who was responsible for his death.


ABRAHAM BUXBAUM, BROTHER IN-LAW: I would never think if someone tell me a week ago something like this can happen in Brooklyn, I would be amazed.


ROMANS: The family demanding an apology from the newspaper, but the "New York Post" says their reporting shows Stark had a long list of enemies and it's standing by that controversial headline.

An emergency landing after a security scare on a flight from San Francisco to New York. The 767 touching down in Kansas City after a flash drive was found in a bathroom. A passenger found the device, told the crew, and it was forced to land for a security search. Once authorities were assured there was no threat, everyone got back on the plane a few hours later, and it continued to New York.

BERMAN: New rules now in effect for pilots, and they could significantly improve airline safety. The FAA now requires at least 10 hours of rest between shifts and 30 straight hours of rest each week. The 25 percent increase. In response, the airlines are adding new pilots and scheduling systems, the most sweeping changes in 50 years were adopted following a 2009 crash in Buffalo that killed 50 people.

ROMANS: All right, more and more Americans coming down with the flu. Widespread cases now reported in 25 states, doubling in just one week. The most severe activity seems to be in the southeastern United States. At least eight children have now died from the illness since September, but doctors say this is a typical season and it should peak some time in February.

BERMAN: Just what we want to hear about, the cold, the flu.

ROMANS: You got your flu shot, right?

BERMAN: Sounds like winter.

I got my flu shot, you know, like in summer. Way prepared.

Serious, new questions we have now about the dangers of oil and natural gas drilling. According to a new "Associated Press" review, hundreds of complaints have been made about well water contamination in at least four states that have fueled the nation's energy boom, but the report says differences in how each state reports the problems make it difficult to tell how serious and widespread the problems actually are. Officials maintain that the problems are rare.

New York may become the latest state to legalize medical marijuana. The governor, Andrew Cuomo, reportedly ready to allow hospitals to dispense it for select patients, but the system is said to be very selective. Decisions made on a person-by-person basis. Some 20 states and the District of Columbia now allow for medicinal marijuana.

BERMAN: A weekend fire in a New York City high-rise has left one person dead and others seriously hurt. This happened not far from Times Square, flames pouring out of the 20th floor of the 42-story apartment building. Residents were forced on to the streets as they tried to escape the flames, 27-year-old Daniel McClung -- that's him right there on the right -- he died in the fire, apparently from smoke inhalation in a stairwell.

His 32-year-old husband, Michael Todd Cohen, in the hospital right now. They were just married last July. Residents describe the chaotic scene and say management did not do enough to tell them what to do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're banging on my door, they're telling me, hey, you've got to get out, it's a fire. I had to run down 18 flights of stairs barefoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, this fire, it appears that the victims may have originally been in their apartment safe and exited the fire and became a victim in the stairwells themselves.


BERMAN: Authorities say they could have survived unharmed if they had stayed in their apartment. You heard that right there. At least six others were treated for smoke inhalation. The investigation into the cause of the blaze is ongoing.

ROMANS: The Vatican insists it's not a policy change, but Pope Francis is making news again for what he's said about the church's treatment of the children of gay and separated parents. We're just finding out what the pope told religious leaders back in November, including that different kinds of families present different challenges and priests must rethink how they treat children who come from nontraditional homes.

BERMAN: So, the deep freeze across much of the country is spreading to the box office. Disney's animated "Frozen" is taking the top spot this weekend, shelling in more than $20 million. "Frozen" has now grossed more than $600 million over the last seven weeks, making it the second highest grossing Disney animated film ever!

Rounding out the top three, the horror spinoff "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones." That had the scariest preview I've seen in my entire life. My wife was cowering in the theater during that preview. Also on the list, "Lord of the Rings" prequel, "The Hobbit" doing very well as well, and that's been out for a while.

ROMANS: "Frozen" is on my list.

BERMAN: "Frozen" is in your list. "The Paranormal Activity," not unless you want cardiac arrest.

ROMANS: No, no, I don't do scary movies.

BERMAN: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, what is it, 5 degrees outside? This was certainly the coldest NFL game this year, but that didn't stop the Packers and 49ers from bringing the heat last night! Andy Scholes break it all down in "The Bleacher Report" next.

BERMAN: Break it down.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

I'm recovering from a whole lot of football this weekend. Four games, playoff games, almost all of them were awesome, capped off by the Packers/Niners playing in insanely cold temperatures.

ROMANS: Oh, man that was something. Andy Scholes joins us with the highlights in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good Monday to you.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good Monday to you, too, guys.

You know, this weekend, another great example of why the NFL is key. All of the games were must-see TV, especially last night, the frostbite bowl between the Packers and Niners. The game wasn't quite as cold as the legendary ice bowl. The temperature was 5 degrees at kickoff with a wind-chill of 10 below zero. That's still really, really cold.

Now, Aaron Rodgers was so cold, he couldn't feel these 49ers defensive linemen all over him in the fourth quarter. He somehow escapes to find Randall Cobb down the field, on a fourth down play. That led to a go ahead touchdown. Under two minutes to go, Niners trying to answer. They're driving to win the game and Colin Kaepernick comes up with a huge first down. That led to the game-winning field goal from Phil Dawson. Niners get the big win in the cold temperatures, 23-20.

Turning to, Bengals/Cardinals squaring off, Phillip Rivers with the fade. Check out the amazing catch by Ladarious Green. He gets both feet in. San Diego goes into Cincinnati and stuns the Bengals. They bet. Chargers win 27-10 and Philip Rivers pretty excited about going on to the next round.

All right. In case you missed it, the Indianapolis Colts made NFL history Saturday night, rallying from 28 points down in the third quarter to beat the chiefs, and this play right here, guys, might be the heads-up play of the year. Donald Brown fumbled it, Andrew Luck picks it up and dives in for the touchdown.

Definitely a lucky play for the Colts. Indianapolis will now face the New England Patriots on Saturday night, the divisional round Saturday afternoon. The Saints will be at the Seahawks.

Sunday, the Niners are going to play at the Carolina panthers. That game will be followed by the rubber match between the Chargers and Broncos. They split their two matchups this season.

All right, tonight, a champion will be crowned in college football. Auburn the team of destiny taking on undefeated Florida State. Seminoles led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston are looking for their first national title since 1999. The Tigers, meanwhile, they're looking for their second championship in four years. Kickoff 8:30 Eastern tonight.

I think I got Auburn winning this one, guys. Who do you got?

BERMAN: I think that's a safe bet. I think I would go with Auburn, the SEC team, for sure, Andy.

ROMANS: You know what? You know what one of the biggest challenges of playing at Lambeau Field when it's so cold, back to the subzero temperature? Keeping the beer from freezing. I'm not kidding. They spent all day keeping the concession doors closed until the last minute so the beer doesn't freeze.

BERMAN: What I like about Christine Romans, her priorities are in check there.


BERMAN: Serious priorities there.

Andy Scholes, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

SCHOLES: Have a good one, guys.

ROMANS: Top headlines, everything you need to know for the day. The New York is open. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: A huge arctic blast barrels across the country. People warned to stay indoors. Cities and towns taking historic measures to stay safe. Just how cold will it get?

Indra Petersons tracking this dangerous deep freeze.

ROMANS: Breaking political news this morning. Liz Cheney with a big announcement about her run for U.S. Senate.

Could she be pulling out of that race?

ROMANS: And developing overnight. Here he goes again. Dennis Rodman heading back to North Korea. And this time, he's bringing the whole team with him. What's going on, you ask? We're live.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's 29 minutes past the hour and it's Monday.