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Tough Travel In Cold; Deadly New Year In Iraq; Back To North Korea

Aired January 6, 2014 - 05:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

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

The big news this morning --


ROMANS (voice-over): dangerous cold gripping much of the country. Look at this map. We're going to show you a map and the center of it shows you just how widespread these temperatures are, these cold temperatures are. In some places, it's the coldest it's been in almost two decades with wind chills feeling like 60 below zero.

BERMAN (voice-over): Get this, in Chicago, schools are closed today because the temperature's not going to get above the negative digits. The wind chill may make it feel like 50 below! That led to an about- face by Chicago public school officials who changed course after first announcing that schools would be open. Chicago is nearly one of two dozen districts now closed because of this weather.

ROMANS: No driving in Indianapolis. The mayor there saying conditions just too cold for travel. He's ordering everyone to stay where they are, except in emergencies. This is the first time the government has banned travel in 35 years. It could feel as cold as, what, 45 below zero in Indianapolis? The mayor says it's just too dangerous to be out on the road.


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.


BERMAN: In Minnesota, it hit 20 below this morning and two bodies have now been recovered from a car that plunged through the ice in the Mississippi River in Winona. Recovery teams had to break through the ice and use an underwater camera to find this vehicle as it ran off the road and through a guardrail early Sunday morning.

ROMANS: Drivers in St. Louis being warned, don't get behind the wheel. Officials fear snow plus wind. Plunging temperatures could be a disaster waiting to happen on area roadways.

BERMAN: Even the south feeling this cold. Rain and sleet falling this morning on Atlanta, followed by record low temperatures there, and there are real worries this morning that the commute could be a dangerous one with wet roads that could freeze. It's going to be colder today in Atlanta than in Anchorage, Alaska. Let that sink in for a second. Colder in Atlanta than Anchorage, and it's the middle of January.

ROMANS: Wow, that's something. You know what, everyone check on your elderly friends and relatives. I think that's a really safe thing to do today.

BERMAN: Great idea.


ROMANS (on-camera): Just one thing to put on your list. Let's get to Indra Petersons to break this all down for us. Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. You guys may have heard particularly dangerous situation. It's the word we typically use, and we're talking about the severe risk for tornadoes, but today, something different. We're talking about a particularly dangerous situation for temperatures that are so frigid that they are life- threatening. We're talking about places like Minneapolis, places like Sioux Falls seeing temperatures this morning below 0, but not just below 0.

Look at these numbers, anywhere from negative 40 to even negative 65 degrees, not out of the question. So, that's the concern. Right now, Duluth negative 56 degrees with that wind chill. What you have is this very cold arctic air mass. You have some winds blowing through the area. So, that combination bringing these extra chilly temperatures and also some blowing snow, so many people there attempting to go on the roads. Let's hope they're not.

Visibility also poor in these regions. And notice, even as we go through the afternoon, their highs are still below zero today. Minneapolis looking for negative 14. That's a good 40 degrees below normal even for them. This cold air, it has spread. It is no longer in just this portion of the country. It has spread all the way down. Notice Nashville 40 degrees below normal today. Their high just expected to be 10 degrees.

We even take you down into the southeast, same concern there. We're looking for those highs well below normal and below freezing. Atlanta today even starting out with some sleet at 24 degrees. Now, if you're on the East Coast, you may be saying it is warm this morning. I noticed it was warm. Well, there's a reason for that. We have a warm front in the region, but it is not going to be long lived.

This cold air, thanks to that cold front, will be moving through. So, throughout the day, it's actually going to get colder by the hour. That is the concern. And notice by five o'clock today, temperatures will have dropped down to most likely just barely above freezing in New York City at 36, below freezing farther down to the south, and of course, by tomorrow morning, we're going to be talking about wind chills that look like this. Pittsburgh could feel like negative 27 degrees tomorrow morning at this time.

ROMANS: That's just unbelievable.

BERMAN (on-camera): Not fair.


BERMAN: Not fair. As we said, I saw on Twitter, someone wrote "This weather is drunk," with 40 -- you know, 40-degree swings up and down.

PETERSONS: Yes. You may feel drunk when you're outside. You got no cognitive thinking anymore.


BERMAN: All right. Indra, thank you so much.

The weather is being blamed for a lot of accidents on the roads and causing real problems for people getting around or trying to get around in the air. Thousands of flights were canceled on Sunday. Thousands more today. Alexandra Field is live at New York's JFK airport, where one plane actually skidded off the runway. What's the latest, Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The pilot of that Delta Flight says that he was able to land, but when he was turning from the runway on to the --away, that plane skidded, it landed in a snow bank. Thirty-two people were on board. No one was hurt, but the plane had to be towed back to the gate and the airport shut down for a couple of hours so all of the runways could be deiced.

High winds were a problem in Aspen, Colorado over the weekend. That's where investigators say the winds contributed to a deadly crash that killed the co-pilot of a small plane that was trying to land there. And in Chicago, icy temperatures and blizzard-like conditions have created chaos for travelers. Half of all flights going into and out of O'hare International Airport have been canceled.

Here in New York, the heavy fog is setting in this morning. It's only complicating the situation. Four hundred flights are canceled this morning in the New York City area. The website that tracks flights for you this morning, they're reporting that more than 2,300 flights nationwide are canceled. That's on top of 3,800 flights that were canceled yesterday. So, all of this a headache for travelers.

Hundreds of people spent the weekend at the airport. Their frustration is running high, but the airlines say it could take days to get back on track. We'll have to wait for this weather to clear and then they'll have to get all of those displaced passengers wherever they were trying to go -- Christine, John.

BERMAN: Another tough, tough day. Alexandra, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: The Senate gets back to work today and set to take up this bill that extends unemployment benefits. A procedural vote set for this afternoon.


ROMANS (voice-over): If approved, it would give the long-term unemployed three more months of checks. These checks on average about 300 bucks a week.

More than 1.3 million people lost those benefits just before New Year's when an existing program expired. An emergency program that some Republicans have said the emergency's over, we need to pay for it if we're going to extend this.

BERMAN (voice-over): The senate today is also taking a big, big measure poised to approve Janet Yellen to become the next leader of the Federal Reserve. The vote is all but assured and Yellen is set to become the first female chair of the nation's central bank. She'll replace Ben Bernanke who's stepping down after two terms. She is expected to continue many of his policies and oversee the unwinding of the fed's stimulus policies.

ROMANS: Secretary of state, John Kerry, insists U.S. troops are not heading back into Iraq. That after another deadly weekend there. Car bombings killing at least 18 people in Baghdad. Hundreds have died in fighting and other violence in just the last six days. As the government fights militants, a fight some say Iraq cannot win without U.S. help.


ROMANS (on-camera): Nic Robertson is monitoring developments for us from Jerusalem. Hi there, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Christine. Well, a lot of the fighting focused around the town of Fallujah. Fallujah is in the western province of al Anbar. This is a majority Sunni area. The rest of Iraq is majority Shia. It's a Shia- dominated government. The army is Shia-dominated as well.

And what the prime minister is telling the army right now is when they shell Fallujah, when they attack Fallujah, and that may be beginning right -- may be happening right now. There were some elements of it happening over the weekend to avoid civilian casualties. A lot of people kind of get out of Fallujah as well over the weekend.

But what this is, the prime minister's defining this as an uprising by al Qaeda. The people in the Fallujah say, no, this is the tribes, the Sunni tribes against and angry with the Shia-dominated government. But whatever the nature, and it's very hard to tell on the ground there, getting accurate information is tough.

Whatever the nature, John Kerry has said and was saying this weekend from here that the United States is watching very closely, that it will be supporting the Iraqi government. It won't be sending any troops. But of course, he said al Qaeda in that area are the biggest threat to the region, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Nic Robertson. Thanks so much, Nic.

BERMAN (on-camera): We're going to move on now to some breaking news that you heard first on CNN. Liz Cheney is dropping her campaign for the U.S. Senate for the seat in Wyoming. Sources tell CNN an official announcement could come as early as today. Now, Cheney first made the decision to jump into the race against fellow Republican, Mike Enzi, last summer.

It was controversial when she made that decision. But recent polls have shown that Enzi maintains a wide lead, and Cheney has publicly battled with her own family over the issue of same-sex marriage in a very, very public way. Unclear whether the family battle is over, but the Senate battle at this point is.

ROMANS: All right. First Lady, Michelle Obama, is getting a little time alone. She's staying in Hawaii for a few extra days after her husband and the first daughters headed back to Washington. Mrs. Obama turns 50 in a few days, and The White House says the extra time in the aloha state is part of President Obama's gift to his wife. Mrs. Obama will spend some time with friends before returning to D.C.

BERMAN: Coming up, Dennis Rodman at it again, headed to North Korea for a game. He says he's not a politician. He says he's just going to play basketball for his friend, the dictator, Kim Jong-Un. What's going on here? Is this really a good idea? And can anyone stop Dennis Rodman? We're live, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Dennis Rodman, you were hoping to hear this, right? He's at it again, returning to North Korea today with a few ex-NBA players for an exhibition game in honor of the man he calls his friend, Kim Jong-Un. This is for Kim's birthday. Quite a present.

Rodman's goal, he says, is to show North Korea isn't that bad. Those are his words, not that bad. North Korea, the country where Kim just executed his uncle a few weeks ago. Karl Penhaul is following this story. He's live in Beijing for us this morning. Karl, what's the latest?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, of course, these trips are controversial because North Korea has a dire record on human rights and because the regime quite frequently threatens to unleash nuclear war. Add to that, that American missionary, Kenneth Bae, is doing hard time in a North Korean labor camp, but Rodman and his team of NBA old-timers have broad shoulders, they're unfazed, and they really do believe that they can build some bridges.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: One thing is showing people that we can actually get along. Just get along. Not politicians, nothing like that. I'm not trying to save the world. I'm not trying to save Kenneth Bae, all these people. It's not my job. Not my job. My job is one thing, sports, and they love sports, and he loves sports, and that's it.


PENHAUL: Now, we know that the Swiss-educated Kim Jong-Un is a big basketball fan and going along for this birthday basketball bash along with Rodman, Charles D. Smith. We've got Doug Christie. We've got Vin Baker. We've got Eric Floyd. Some people are describing this as basketball's version of that movie "The Expendables," where a team of has-been action heroes get together for one last mission.

What we've got to see, though, is whether Rodman's main mission is to party with a dictator or whether he's planning a diplomatic slam dunk -- John.

BERMAN: A lot of big names there, Karl. You have to wonder what the family of Kenneth Bae thinks right now watching these American basketball players go to North Korea when their family member, Kenneth, is still in prison there. Karl Penhaul from Beijing this morning, thanks so much.

ROMANS: And you have to wonder about the assurances of security for those basketball players as well.


ROMANS (voice-over): All right. Breaking news from California where a 13-year-old declared legally brain-dead has now been removed from a hospital by her family. Jahi McMath has been on a ventilator since complications from tonsil surgery left her brain-dead. It's not clear where her body is heading. At least one rehabilitation facility in New York has offered to take her.

The family says they want to keep her alive so she might have a chance to recover. The hospital says she is legally dead.

BERMAN (voice-over): Such a sad story for that family.

And there's another sad story. A three-year-old in Hawaii has now been allowed to die, months after undergoing a dental procedure. Finley Boyle (ph) had been in hospice since late December. Her family says she went to a dentist earlier in the month for several root canals but suffered brain damage.

They allege she was sedated and left unmonitored for 26 minutes. Her mother said the decision to remove her daughter's feeding tube was the only choice.


ASHLEY BOYLE, MOTHER: To see her go from a happy, healthy three-year- old to, like, what going through puberty and a diaper, you know, like 15 years later is not a choice I was going to make. (END VIDEO CLIP)

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

ROMANS: All right. Now to New York where a weekend fire has left one person dead and others seriously hurt. The blaze breaking out in a high-rise apartment building not far from Times Square. Flames pouring out of the 20th floor of this 42-story tower. Residents forced on to the streets as they tried to escape the flames. Twenty- seven-year-old Daniel McClung, that's him on the right, died apparently from smoke inhalation in a stairwell.

His 32-year-old husband, Michael Todd Cohen, is in the hospital. They were only married last July. Residents describe a chaotic scene and say management didn't do enough to tell them what to do.


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

ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF JOHN SUDHIK, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: Unfortunately with this fire, it appears that the victims may have originally been in their apartments safe and exited the fire and became a victim in the stairwells themselves.


ROMANS: Terrifying. At least six other people were treated for smoke inhalation. The investigation into the cause of that blaze is ongoing.

BERMAN: Also in New York, a mystery and controversy over the killing of a Brooklyn landlord. Monachem Stark's (ph) body was found Friday in a trash bin covered in bruises and burns. He owned a real estate company that apparently owned dozens of apartment buildings. The "New York Post" says the company owed thousands in fines for building violations and quoted tenants who called living conditions there awful.

The "Post" even published a cover asking, look at that, "who didn't want him dead?" The family not happy at all about that cover is calling it character assassination. They just want to know who is responsible for his death.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would never think if someone told me a week ago something like this could happen in Brooklyn, I would be amazed.


BERMAN: The family is demanding an apology from "The Post," but the newspaper says its reporting showed Stark had a long list of enemies and is standing by the controversial headline.

ROMANS: A security scare on a flight from San Francisco to New York, leading to an emergency landing. 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 the plane landed so the plane could be searched. Once authorities were confident the drive was not a bomb, everyone got back on the plane a few hours later, and the plane continued on to New York.

BERMAN: Glad I wasn't on that flight.

All right. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan join us now. Hey, guys.

ROMANS: Welcome back!

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, guys. Happy Monday.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to be here, JB. Thanks for holding it down for me while I was away. My family appreciates it. Thank you.

BERMAN: I appreciate your family.

CUOMO: But then I come back here, go from a warm place and it is freezing. We're going to follow this historic cold, because that's what it is, literally record-setting, slamming more than half the country, creating serious problems at the airport, but forget about that. Two thousand flights are canceled. That's a big number, but it's the temperatures and how people are dealing with it in their homes, their schools, their places of work.

Schools are being shut down. It is literally deadly. We'll show you how people are coping and which way the front is headed.

BOLDUAN: And we're also going to be watching, talking about the weather, that deadly plane crash at Aspen's airport. It killed one person. Several celebrities actually witnessed the accident. It's a pretty small airport, if you've ever been there. Just look at how that ended up. We're going to have the details and the latest on how that crash happened and what they're doing to investigate it now.

CUOMO: And also, we're going to have a little bit -- remember the tiger mom book?

BOLDUAN: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: -- controversial? There's a new book out that she co-writes with her husband, and it's also controversial. Here's why. She's claiming in the book or they're claiming that there are certain cultural groups which she delineates that are superior to the rest of us and that they do better in America because of three main qualities that they have.

Now, the obvious speculation, when you separate like this, are you just a racist or do you have solid science? Is it helpful? We'll get into all of it. There'll be a debate here on the show about it.

ROMANS: And the biggest question, how many books will she sell?

BERMAN: That's right.


BOLDUAN: What made her a best-seller?

CUOMO: Controversy often drives the sales, so we'll see.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, guys.

Coming up for us, in just a few hours, she will be one of the most powerful people in the world! We'll tell you what you need to know about Janet Yellen and what she means for your money, because that's what you care about. Money time is next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. "Money Time" this Monday morning. OK, this woman I'm going to show you now, she's arguably going to be the most powerful woman --


ROMANS: -- in the world by tonight. Not me.

BERMAN: oh, not you. The other most powerful woman in the world.

ROMANS: Janet Yellen, most -- most powerful person in the world, almost. The presumed next chairman of the Federal Reserve. She's expected to be confirmed by the Senate later today. She'd be the first woman to run the fed in its 100-year history. But, you know, for a lot of people who follow money, that's not the headline. The headline is, she's going it take over Ben Bernanke's place when his term expires this month, and that job unwinding the fed stimulus will be very, very important.

A very big deal for your money, and it's a very big week for your money. We're going to get a look at how much money companies are making. The issue their sort of quarterly report cards this week. You're going to hear from Alcoa, Bed Bath & beyond, Family Dollar, a whole bunch of them. We're going to be looking at the earnings quality.

If the earnings quality is good, maybe that keeps fueling that Wall Street rally into 2014. On my show this weekend, CNN's "Your Money," there was a clear difference of opinion between the bulls and the bears on the health of this rally. Listen.


MATT MCCALL, PRESIDENT, PENN FINANCIAL GROUP: The best asset class out there right now is stocks, and there's so many individual investors that missed out on this big rally that are going to be rushing into stocks in the first few months of this year.

MICHAEL O'ROURKE, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST, JONESTRADING: I think monetary policy has created a bubble in equity prices, not so much that they're historically expensive, but what you have going on is they're well beyond the prices they would be without the fed help.


ROMANS: Translation? Some people think this thing keeps going. Others think that there's a bubble from the fed and it's going to, you know, it's going to pop. The fed is going to be watching one very important, close jobs report, something really important on Friday, the December jobs report. The expectations for payrolls, 195, 203 was what we had in November and that jobless rate expected to remain at seven percent.

OK. Think about this, it is now legal to smoke marijuana in Colorado, but your boss can still fire you for it if it happens off campus, on your own time? Doesn't matter. It's an interesting turn for people who thought that, you know, legal pot would have few strings attached.


CURTIS GRAVES, EMPLOYMENT LAW SERVICES: Amendment 64 allows employers to have and enforce their drug policies, which means that if somebody is inclined to drug testing and marijuana is one of the drugs they test for, somebody comes up positive on the test, the employer can take whatever employer action they deem to be prudent.


ROMANS: So, Colorado says that recreational pot use, it may be legal under state laws, but isn't under federal law. It has to be legal under both for workers to be covered under employment protection laws. All the rights in this case belong to the employer. So, if you smoke pot outside of work legally, you could still get fired if it shows up on your drug test.

And it's interesting, because when you look at the ski resorts and a lot of the big tourism companies, they've been trying to figure out, how are they going to manage recreational pot use on their premises, both by their customers and also by their employees.

BERMAN: It's a legal twilight zone. Every day in Colorado --

ROMANS: You're going to see legal challenges.

BERMAN: Every day, new ground is being broken and we're learning new things.

All right. Five minutes before the hour right now.

Coming up, if you don't have it, someone you know just may. You're going it hear the coughing, the wheezing, oh, no! We're talking about the flu. The cases are growing across the country. We'll have details right after the break.


BERMAN: It is not too late to get your flu shot. And you know what? You really might need it. The CDC now says flu activity is kicking up with widespread cases now reported in 25 states. The number of infections doubling in just one week. The most severe activity seems to be in the southeastern states. At least eight children have now died from the illness since September.

It is serious, folks. Really think about the vaccine. We're going to have more on the flu coming up on "NEW DAY," including some crucial tips to get you through season. That's comes in the seven o'clock hour of "NEW DAY."

ROMANS: Crucial tip, you stay on your side of the desk. Don't touch my keyboard or my pen.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Temperatures that we're talking about are deadly.

CUOMO: Epic cold. Seventy below in parts of the country. So cold it's deadly and schools are closing all over. How are people coping for the worst freeze in decades? We're going to show you with a front (ph) is headed next.

BOLDUAN: Runway danger. Two commercial jets skidding off runways over the weekend. And then this, a private plane crashing in Aspen as fliers including celebrities watch in horror. What went wrong?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Breaking overnight. First on CNN, Liz Cheney dropping out of a race for the Senate. Her bid drive a huge wedge in her family. We're live with the latest.

CUOMO: You're "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 Monday, January 6th, six o'clock in the east. And listen to this, 140 million Americans are waking up in the grip of a history-making polar vortex. The translation? A record shattering deep freeze that is literally deadly.