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Historic Deep Freeze; Gates' Scathing Critique; Rodman Under Fire

Aired January 8, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Death toll rising as a devastating deep freeze moves across the country. Historically low temperatures creating catastrophe for people in their homes and for people on the roads. Is there relief in sight? Indra Petersons is tracking bitter cold for us this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A shocking critique of the White House. The former defense secretary and the new book that has Washington reeling this morning. Why he says things were so bad, he almost quit.

ROMANS: Dennis Rodman under fire on the day of his big basketball game in North Korea after giving a bizarre, angry interview to CNN's "NEW DAY." We are live with the fallout and what Rodman is doing this morning.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Brr. It's Wednesday, January 8th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: But you went brrr. You did the brr thing. We have good news. I know this is a break from policy.

The good news is, the deep freeze that has kept us in its evil frigid ice grip for days is finally coming to an end. Soon, but not yet.

But first, we have one more morning of the beyond frigid temperatures. These are the temperatures right now -- 13 below in some parts of Minnesota.

ROMANS: Oh, man.

BERMAN: Sorry, Minnesota. The consequences of this, folks, are actually very, very serious. At least 17 deaths blamed on this freezing weather.

ROMANS: One of the hardest hit areas during a blizzard, the village of Hamburg, near, Buffalo, New York, people have had to deal with whiteout, strong conditions with heavy snow, conditions changing on a dime. Any chances that they have to try to dig out we're really short-lived.

BERMAN: People in Chicago renaming that city, Chiberia, they have such winter. It finally broken 37 hours of subzero temperatures on Tuesday. But it's still just incredibly cold, getting around potentially dangerous. Drivers in the area dealing with the threat that's on the road. It's very hard to see.

Of course, we're talking about black ice. Very, very dangerous. This sedan, you can see it spinning out of control. I'm sure hundreds having this same problem. Officials telling drivers to avoid the roads unless it's absolutely necessary.

ROMANS: In Minnesota, scary car accident caught on camera. Take a look as a truck flies off a bridge. This is just north of Minneapolis. It landed near the south-bound lanes of Interstate of 35, narrowly avoided being hit by oncoming traffic.

Amazingly, John, the driver -- after all of that, the driver survived. Authorities say the road was pretty at the time of the incident.

BERMAN: That's amazing.

Century-old pipes and subzero windchills a really bad combination in central Connecticut. Water mains ruptured in South Hartford. Some of those pipes date all the way back to the late 1890s.

ROMANS: And in South Carolina. South Carolina, thousands losing power because of the cold there. Scenes like this, burst pipes, ice everywhere because of what happened in the top floor of a condo complex. A pipe in a laundry room erupted from the cold. And there you go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost like you could ice climb up the side of the building there. I just woke up to a six-story man made waterfall.


ROMANS: We're talking about the Carolinas here.

BERMAN: No, wait, there's more, indeed like a plumber's hedge across much of the country. More breaking pipe news. Get it? Double entendre there.

In Arkansas, pipes are rupturing almost everywhere. Plumbers in Little Rock say they are so busy, customers are being told there's a two to three-day wait for service calls in Little Rock.

ROMANS: That sound, pretty common across many states, it was so cold, cars wouldn't start. In Maryland, AAA says it receives more than 1,000 calls an hour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really business. Really busy. I mean, we're totally swamped right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom line is, we got to get the battery replaced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hoping that the car would start so I could get my kid to school.


BERMAN: Bottom line is it's really, really cold and bad things are happening for thousands of passengers who saw their flights canceled. There could be hope that today may finally be the day that they get in the air more than 500 flights are grounded today, mostly in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo. Some passengers say even if they got on a flight in the past few days, their luggage didn't make it.


JOHN SINDONE, PASSENGER: They kept telling us they were loading our luggage on the plane that's why we were played three or four hours. Then we got to Orlando, it never actually came at all, for the whole entire plane.


ROMANS: Wow. Take a look at this. The icy cold dipped into -- that's Florida, ladies and gentlemen -- causing serious freezing on everything. These pictures taken by an iReporter not far from Tallahassee. Temperatures dropped as low as 19 degrees on Tuesday. Think of the snowbirds that went down.

BERMAN: This is like Florida. This is like Florida-Florida, not Florida, Michigan, or something like that.

ROMANS: All of those people trying to escape the cold. Midwesterners trying to escape the cold and it's still cold.

BERMAN: All right. Indra Petersons, make it better for us. Please.

ROMANS: Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I actually have good news. Good news for the Midwesterners to imagine that they're stuck in 30 below.

ROMANS: It's all relative.

PETERSONS: Relative. That's right. Sixty degrees warmer for them at 19 degrees.

Let's talk about what we're seeing this morning. Still looking at the dangerous wind-chills in New York City, so 7 below. Notice out towards Duluth, they are recovering. Mind you, it's a very slow recovery. They have seen 55 below in the last several days.

Currently, at about 31 below, with that child. Here's the good stuff, what everyone has been waiting for that jet stream way down to the South bringing that cold air even yet even into Florida. Notice, though, the change, we're going to see the cold air in the jet stream lift up over the next several days. Look at the difference, by this weekend, we're actually talking about temperatures back into the 60s in Atlanta. That is what we all need. It's been a tough ride. And finally there is relief in sight.

Let's start with today, because this is a slow progress. We're going to be talking about New York City's high, still below normal. Temperatures below normal, even Jacksonville, though, 55, that is a good 10 degrees below normal in that region.

But take a look, notice -- everyone is expected to go from below normal to above normal by the weekend. Thanks for that pattern change. Notice, New York City actually goes up to 40s.

But check out Tampa, they're actually the above normal, almost 80 degrees. So, that change is on the horizon. There is great news.

There is another storm that people will have to pay attention to. It's the one in the middle of the country bringing some icing today, in through Arkansas by the end of the week. It looks like the Midwest we'll see some showers and snow again. But regardless, if it's warmer, I don't care if anyone cares about rain.

BERMAN: Thanks, Indra.

There's some big news out of Washington this morning. That city's in kind of a shock over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the former defense secretary is criticizing President Obama and his handling of the war in Afghanistan.

In his new book, Gates said that he almost quit in 2009 in a dispute on how to carry out the war there. Gates says that President Obama lost his faith in the Afghan war, strategy, at least. He questioned his own commanders and listened too much to negative reviews through his advisers including Vice President Biden.

Some of the harshest words from Gates are directed at Biden. He calls the president a man of integrity. But he also writes, and here's the dagger, I think he's been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades, nearly every issue.

The administration responded with saying deliberations over the Afghanistan war policy have been widely reported and that the vice president relies on the vice president's, quote, "good counsel" every day.

ROMANS: Wow. All right. The Senate has cleared a major hurdle when it comes to extending jobless benefits, emergency jobless benefits. But the real battle maybe yet to come. Six Republicans joined with the Democrats to get the bill to 60 votes it needed to advance.

But in exchange for those votes, and there's as you a quid pro quo, right? Those Republicans need to find new spending cuts to pay for the $6.5 billion price tag. It's not clear if that can be easily done. Remember, they can't agree on much some Washington these days. Still, President Obama called on Congress to send him a bill, a bill he could sign to help more than a million Americans who lost benefits last month.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's hard out there. A lot of our friends, a lot of our neighbors who lost their jobs, and they are working their tails off every single day trying to find a new job. Now, as the job market keeps getting better, more and more of these folks will find work. But in the meantime, the insurance keeps them from falling off a cliff.


ROMANS: There's no word yet if the house plans to take up the extension.

U.S. stock futures this morning, lower after a strong gain yesterday. The Dow jumped 100 points yesterday. It was the S&P's first gain of the year. You have three goose eggs to start out the year. That had people a little concerned.

Right now in Europe this morning, stocks are down. We haven't started our day yet. But Tokyo has finished. The Nikkei closed with a gain.

In tech, the next move in Marissa Mayer's Yahoo strategy. She was the star of the consumer electronics show yesterday. We're going to get to the download in money time at 5:50.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Trey Riddle getting back to business. The Florida Republican returning to Capitol Hill Tuesday for the first time since pleading guilty to cocaine possession in November. Radel says he will rebuild trust and continue drug and alcohol treatment.

But his political future is up in the air. He faces a tough primary challenge in re-election fight in the coming year.

ROMANS: We're hearing this morning from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords three years shot to the day after he was shot in a Tucson parking lot. Three years to the day. in a column in "The New York Times", Giffords writes of new progress in the ability to regain the ability to use her right arm. She said it took many hours of rehab, but the arm now responds to her commands, and she draws a parallel with efforts on gun control, telling her supporters to remain patient and to keep working on it.

BERMAN: The first batch of Syria's chemical weapons materials has left the country. U.N. officials say the shipment of poison gas ingredients was loaded on to Danish cargo ship. They would be destroyed aboard a U.S. Navy vessel. This is the first critical step in the international operation of ridding Syria of its declared chemical weapons program by the middle of this year. Big step.

ROMANS: Now, to England in a deadly crash of a U.S. helicopter. This chopper went down on a small village in the country's eastern coast during a training mission. All four crew members on board were killed.

Let's get the latest now from Matthew Chance. He's near the crash scene. Matthew, what can you tell us?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a tragedy here on the north coast of Norfolk.

A remote part of the United Kingdom, you can see that the police behind me have cordoned off the accident area, about 1,200 feet away from where the actual U.S. military went down at 7:00 on Tuesday evening. It's a sort of modified Black Hawk helicopter had four people on board and all of them have been confirmed by the British police to be dead at this point. They haven't given the names of those individuals until the next of kin have been identified.

At the moment, investigators are on the scene to try to get to the bottom of what caused this. Obviously, these are very highly trained personnel. They're looking at the possibility of pilot error. They're looking at the possibility of technical failure on board one of those choppers. There are actually two U.S. military helicopters back there inside the cordon. They are flying together on a low-level training exercise around this part of Britain when one of them had these problems and went down.

The other chopper landed to try and provide assistance. It's been told to stay there until the area has been cleared by the accident investigators. To make sure it doesn't -- its takeoff doesn't disrupt any of the potential clues as to what happened.

Later on today, we're expecting the bodies of the deceased to be taken away. And obviously, their next of kin to be informed, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance for us, thank you so much, Matthew.

All right. Coming up, Dennis Rodman, unleashed, angry, unhinged on CNN's "NEW DAY." His interview drawing backlash on the day of his big basketball game. I guess his birthday present to the North Korean dictator. We're live with creation from those Rodman -- from those people Rodman have, and what the former NBA star is doing today.

BERMAN: Prison break at a Kentucky jail. But this inmate, he didn't get far. Why he called police on himself. That's ahead.

ROMAANS: That's helpful.

And JetBlue paying up to customers left stranded at airports across the country. The latest on the JetBlue -- oh, freeze out, I guess, next.


BERMAN: All right. Get ready, folks, Dennis Rodman's big day taking part today in an exhibition game that's been months in the making. This is a game between his team of former NBA stars and a North Korean team. This was all put together to celebrate his friend's Kim Jong- un's birthday.

But really, all that most people are talking about is his bizarre, sometimes, angry, flat-out, twilight-ish interview with "NEW DAY" about what he said about American Kenneth Bae.

Paula Hancock is monitoring this from Seoul this morning.

What's the response been, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's a quarter past 7:00 here in the evening in Korea. So the assumption is that game is under way at this point. Of course, we don't know for sure. It's a notoriously secretive state, especially if Kim Jong-un, the leader, is at one of these events, from personal experience. If you're at an event with the leader, all your communications are taken off of you.

So, our sources can't tell us that the game has started. It's not just about the basketball anymore. It is about the citizen Kenneth Bae who has been held in North Korea for more than a year now on alleged hostile acts against the country. As you said, Chris Cuomo from CNN's "NEW DAY" did ask Rodman yesterday whether or not he would be lobbying for Kenneth Bae's release. And this was his response.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Do you understand what Kenneth Bae did?


RODMAN: Do you understand what he did in this country?

CUOMO: You tell me, what did he do?

RODMAN: No, no, you tell me, why is he held captive?

CUOMO: They haven't released any charges. They haven't released any reasons.


HANCOCKS: Rodman didn't enlarge on what he believes may have been any crimes that Bae may have occurred, but, of course, the family itself is very concerned. They're worried that what he has said may actually jeopardize the chances of helping Kenneth Bae.


TERRI CHUNG, KENNETH BAE'S SISTER: We were shocked and just outraged. We couldn't believe our ears. You know, he was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth. He refused to do so, but then, instead, he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth. He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case. And so, we were appalled by that.


HANCOCKS: The Rodman's outburst has been widely condemned. The state department said it's still open to sending special enjoy, Ambassador Robert King, to Pyongyang to try to lobby for Bae's release and try to bring him home. Of course, just a few months ago, he was in Tokyo ready to get on the plane to do that. But his visa was revoked by the North Koreans at the last minute.

So, the State Department, as far as they're concerned, is still ready to try and help his release -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Paula Hancock for us in Seoul. You know, Paula mentioned that the family was shocked. I was shocked watching that interview. I think you were shocked.

Charles Smith, one of the former NBA players sitting next to him, he also seemed shock. Since then he's done some interview expressing some regret over the fact that he's part of this now.

ROMANS: Well, some of the men behind him looked uncomfortable. Maybe they could only hear his side of the conversation but it was very combative. You have to wonder what does Dennis Rodman really know about what's going on in North Korea. He seems to insinuate he knows more than he lets on.

BERMAN: He was alluding to something.

ROMANS: But does at the same time, does he consider that he could be used as a pawn, you know, of this dictator to basically poke at the United States, you know?

BERMAN: See if he says more after the game that could be going officer this very moment.

ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: It is 18 minutes after the hour.

An avalanche in Vail, Colorado, has taken the life of a 24-year-old. The grandson of the man credited with founding the resort. Anthony Seibert died in a popular back country area on Tuesday morning. He and three other people were trapped in this avalanche. It's not clear if they were ski boarding or snowmobiling. Rescuers were able to free three others. Experts say the avalanche danger in Colorado this season is very, very serious.

ETHAN GREENE, DIRECTOR, COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER: It's been combined as a couple hundred yards wide, maybe up to 10 feet deep, running a few thousand feet of vertical. We've been seeing over the last day, say, 10 days or so, just generally an increase in size in avalanche in the back country.

BERMAN: This is the second avalanche death in Colorado in just over a week.

ROMANS: We've been talking a lot this week about the impact of cold. It's impact on millions of people.

BERMAN: I haven't noticed this cold.

ROMANS: Yes, it's cold.

Here's one example, an escaped prisoner actually begging to go back to jail. The inmate Robert Vick apparently escaped from a minimum security facility on Sunday. Great, he made. He was serving a six- year sentence for burglary.

The temperatures dropped below a single digit. He went to a home, a motel, he asked for food and then made his request, can you please call the police?


UNIDENTIFEID MALE: He was ready to go back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's frosted on his fingers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was shivering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's frost bit. Our barn's out back, I get slept there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, can you call the law? I looked at him like he was crazy or something.


ROMANS: Dispatchers, they didn't believe the call. But they did send an ambulance and a police car to take Vick to the hospital and then back to jail.

BERMAN: It's helpful. Very helpful, right?


BERMAN: All right. Washington state could soon face unusual problem. Too much marijuana. State licensed stores are set to open for business midyear. Now officials say they have too many applicants for both growing and selling pot. They're hoping to cap production to 46 acres and limits number of retailers but applications keep flooding in. Officials say they might have to result to a lottery system.

A Baltimore bound jet forced to make an emergency landing on Tuesday. Officials say the American Airlines departed Dallas. But just after reaching cruising altitude, a water pipe burst. Some of the passengers were reportedly soaked in the incident.

Can you imagine being on a plane soaked by a burst pipe? The pilot landed without incident in little rock. After repairs, passengers hopefully dried off, reportedly re-boarded the flight.

ROMANS: JetBlue is promising again and promising compensation for the more than 150,000 passengers it wasn't able to get where they were going. The airline shut down nearly all operations in Boston and the New York City area earlier this week. Seventeen hours, blaming the weather and new FAA rules requiring extended rest periods for its drew but that left many thousands of passengers stranded.

And the airline says, along with getting those passengers on new flights, it's going to give them either money towards future travel or frequent flier miles for their trouble.

BERMAN: All right. We have a very important warning for if you're planning on making cheesy nachos for the Super Bowl, there might not be enough Velveeta.

ROMANS: This could be an economic crisis.

BERMAN: This is serious. Actually, I read this story four times, because I really care about this one. Kraft says that a manufacturing issue is leading to a shortage of Velveeta in some parts of the country. Say it ain't so.

Obviously, Kraft runs a lot of ads this time of year talking about how perfect its product can be when you're making queso dip. It goes very well with football, trust me. You might have to fin an alternative.

One thing you could use is actual cheese.

ROMANS: It's a one-two punch, a very robust demand over the holiday for your queso season, right, in your processed casseroles? And then football, too? There you go.

It will be temporary. They say it's temporary.

BERMAN: In other sports news, I'm not sure you can overcome the Velveeta controversy, a college betting scandal. The FBI now involved as three players are kicked off their team. Andy Scholes covering Velveeta and the controversy in the "Bleacher Report", coming up next.


ROMANS: Good morning, 25 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Three UTEP's men's basketball players kicked out of school for gambling on sporting events.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes joins us now with the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.

SCHOLES: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, gambling on anything as an athlete is a big no-no. And once UTEP (INAUDIBLE) that some of their players were betting on sports, they got the FBI involved. Now, yesterday, the school announced that leading scorer McKenzie Moore, Jalen Ragland and Justine Crosgile were no longer part of the team and they were no longer enrolled at the school.

Per NCAA rules, any type of sports gambling is prohibited and resulted in a one-year suspension and loss of eligibility. According to the school, there is no evidence that the three bet on their own games.

A New Jersey man is suing the NFL because he says the legal is pricing the average fan out of the Super Bowl. Josh Finkleman claims the NFL made only 1 percent of tickets available to fans and that vial lights the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. The NFL said it's reviewing the suit. But the league did point out that the majority of Super Bowl tickets are given to teams which sell them at face value to fans who win lotteries.

All right. Florida State completed their dream season Monday night beating auburn for the national title. But someone got a little too excited when rushing to get the championship t-shirts ready for order. The official championship T-shirt being sold to the Florida State Seminole shop Tuesday afternoon had the score backwards.


SCHOLES: It said auburn won the game 34-31, not Florida State.


SCHOLES: It's been fixed. No word on if anyone actually received this shirt with the wrong score on it.

BERMAN: College.


SCHOLES: On top stories on, it comes from the Heat taking on the Pelicans last night. LeBron gets the bucket without the foul after being held up by teammates. Just wanted a picture. Check it out, LeBron goes in and gives her a smooch on the cheek. That's awesome.

ROMANS: Cool. OK, thanks, Andy.

BERMAN: I hope he didn't have a cold.


ROMANS: I hope you didn't have a cold.

The top headlines, everything you need to know for the day after the break.