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Flight Lands at Wrong Airport; West Virginia Chemical Spill; Subpoenas Due in Bridgegate; Obama Vs. Senate Republicans; Gates Defends Memoir; Iran Set to Eliminate Nuclear Stockpile

Aired January 13, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: pilots slamming on the brakes as a Southwest Airlines jet lands at the wrong airport, stopping just feet from disaster. More than 100 passengers on board. What went so wrong?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New developments this morning in West Virginia, where hundreds of thousands have been without water for days. New information this morning about this dangerous chemical spill.


And shocking upsets at the Golden Globes. The race for Oscar changing dramatically overnight. I think they did a great job, by the way, those two.

BERMAN: It was a very fascinating evening, to be sure, shocking on so many levels.

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, January 13th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And we're going to begin this morning right now with a breaking news overnight -- a mistake in the air that could have turned tragic.

A Southwest Airlines flight, a 737, with 129 people on board landing at the wrong airport. An airport not designed to handle big, commercial jets. And there are big questions this morning for the crew and for air traffic controllers who were supposed to be guiding this flight to a landing in Branson, Missouri. It touched down instead at a county airport about seven miles away, and the runway there is half the length of most major airports.

Now, passengers say they did not realize there was anything wrong until they were on the ground, they smelled burning rubber. The pilot slammed on the brakes and the plane came to a rest just a few hundred feet from the end of the runway, overlooking an embankment and just a short distance from a major highway. This could have been really bad. Even those coming to pick up their loved ones wondered, how did this happen?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had like a really rough landing. We were all moving pretty close to the seats as we were landing, because the runway, I guess, is too short for the plane. So, then they just came on and said we had landed at the wrong runway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we got a call saying the plane has landed at an airport nearby. With that, we were thinking, OK, there is only one other airport, and it was the C of O Airport, and we're thinking, surely, not a jet plane could land there.


BERMAN: Remember, a lot of these smaller airports not equipped to handle these larger jets.

Southwest says everyone is safe. Buses were sent to pick up the passengers and bring them to the right airport. An investigation is now under way.

ROMANS: All right, now to West Virginia this morning, where we're learning that some people may be able to use their tap water again, that five days after a chemical spill led to an unprecedented order -- no drinking, no showering, not even washing clothes there. Many schools are closed again today, but tests are coming back with news everyone wanted to hear, and the water company says they plan to lift the order for some people today.

Alina Machado is in Charleston for us.


ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The governor's office tells us that chemical levels in the water are going down, and that is obviously very good news. But they are also saying that it will likely be several days before they are able to lift this water ban. Now, residents here in Charleston are on edge. They are eager to see things get back to normal. We did stop by a chili's restaurant on Sunday that opened for the first time since Thursday.

Now, you may remember, Thursday is when this whole thing started, when the leak, the chemical leak was discovered at freedom industries. And since then, it's been a mad scramble to get the word out, to get people to stop using the tap water here in this area and also in nine total counties here in this part of West Virginia. Residents, a lot of them are in town, they're getting by using water bottles, but many of them have also sent their families out of town to areas where they are able to use the tap water.

The bottom line here is that people are ready for the situation to be resolved, and they hope it happens very soon.

Alina Machado, CNN, Charleston, West Virginia.


BERMAN: And our thanks to Alina for that report.

Happening today, we could see subpoenas as soon as today in the scandal in New Jersey involving Governor Chris Christie and the closing of a route to the George Washington Bridge.

The stakes for the governor could not be higher this morning. The head of the state legislative committee investigating the scandal says if Christie knew about what happened and lied about it, the state assembly would consider impeaching him. Even some well-known Republicans are now saying while they do believe the governor was telling the truth when he said he didn't know what two former aides were doing, if his version was not the full truth -- his political career could be in jeopardy.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think he stated very clearly, he should have known. I think he stated it very clearly and very openly and honestly, and that's why he has to answer every single question. Is this a blow to him? Obviously. How permanent it is I think is we will know in the days and weeks ahead.


BERMAN: Many in the Republican Party praised Governor Christie for coming forward to talk about the scandal, and even the mayor who was the seeming target for the shutdown says he does take Christie now at his word.

ROMANS: Now to the NSA and new figures just coming out this morning about how effective its surveillance programs have been. The New America Foundation says its analysis shows the bulk collection of phone records has had no discernible impact on preventing terror attacks and only factored into one case involving money being sent to a terror group in Somalia. The findings echo a White House panel's assertion that the program is not essential to preventing attacks.

New this morning for the Obamacare Web site, this time involving its Spanish-language version. Users report some pages link to English- language forms and the translations are said to be so clunky, they're hard to understand. Federal officials insist they are working to make that site better.

BERMAN: New this morning, hope is fading for 1.3 million Americans who have lost their long-term unemployment benefits. The Senate is set to vote this evening on a compromise plan to restore those benefits, but a group of Republicans is balking because they do not like the way the Democrats plan to pay for it. They're also upset about the procedures being handled right now in the Senate. Right now, it is looking unlikely that the measure will get the 50 votes it needs to pass.

ROMANS: A battle between President Obama and Senate Republicans playing out before the Supreme Court today. At stake: the president's power to temporarily fill high-level positions that require Senate confirmation. The Constitution says you can only do it when the Senate is in recess. The courts have already ruled the president overstepped his authority in January of 2012 by appointing two temporary nominees while Senate was in session.

BERMAN: Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates defending his new memoir as part of a media blitz, talking about his time in the White House. He is sharply criticizing the Obama administration, including the president and the vice president. He will make several appearances in the coming days but told CBS he was disturbed by the president's seeming lack of conviction at the importance of the war in Afghanistan and by the vice president's seeming insistence that the military was lying.


ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's one thing to tell the troops that you support them. It's another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it. President Bush did that with the troops when I was secretary. I did not see President Obama do that. Where I had a particular problem with the vice president was in his encouragement of suspicion of the military and the senior military with the president.


BERMAN: Gates says the book is an honest account and he wanted to be blunt and candid, as he says he tried to be while he was in office.

ROMANS: New developments this morning for the Iranian nuclear program. The White House says the country will begin eliminating some of its nuclear stockpile, specifically enriched uranium, next week as part of an international deal. In exchange, Iran will soon be given access to some of its money frozen overseas for years, but the agreement is for only six months. The hope is this is a first step toward a longer-term deal.

BERMAN: An important meeting today in Paris ahead of a key conference aiming to bring peace to Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry and officials from 10 other countries will discuss preparations for the talks set in Geneva and what they can do to encourage Syrian opposition to attend these talks. Right now, the Syrian national coalition is undecided on attending, but the Assad regime says it will take part.

ROMANS: New developments in Iraq, as the government fights to regain control of a key city. The prime minister now says he will not launch a military assault on Fallujah to try to drive out militants linked with al Qaeda. He's calling up local residents and tribesmen to lead that fight instead.

BERMAN: Now to Israel, where just hours from now, one of the country's most controversial soldiers and statesmen, also revered in some parts, he will be buried. Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister who spent years in a coma, is being praised and criticized in equal parts this morning, as the memorial service brings world leaders to Jerusalem to say their good-byes.

Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem for us this morning.

Good morning, Ben. Set the scene for us.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it was a very solemn ceremony, the courtyard of the Israeli Knesset. The parliament attended by Israeli's 90-year-old President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and, of course, Tony Blair, the head of the Mideast Quarter, and former British prime minister, and Joe Biden, who has known, in fact, Ariel Sharon for decades.

And he said that when looking at the death of Ariel Sharon, for Israelis, which Israel is a fairly small country, it is a matter that is fundamentally personal.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a close-knit country like Israel, a country that has been tested as much as Israel, loses a man like Prime Minister Sharon, it doesn't just feel like the loss of a leader. It feels like a death in the family.


WEDEMAN: And that's what we heard yesterday when we spoke to many well-wishers who came to leave flowers, light candles at the Knesset. Many Israelis who remember him as a comrade in the army, as a commander, as a leader of their country, very personal recollections for a man, yes, with a controversial background, but for many Israelis, a symbol in their time -- John.

BERMAN: An historic passing, no matter how you look at it. Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem for us this morning -- thanks so much, Ben.

ROMANS: All right. On Wall Street this morning, seven trading days into the year, not looking so good. There's no crystal ball, of course, but some worry this isn't a good omen for the New Year. Major averages down so far this year, could be another lower open today.

The 2014 declines, they're not huge, but it's not usually what we see. Historically, stocks tend to rise at the beginning of the year. New money is flowing into the market. But now, the blue chips are down for the first time since 2009. Some worry it could mean it won't be such a hot year for stocks. Again, no crystal ball.

Most analysts surveyed by CNN Money, CBS and P-500 rising 5 percent to 10 percent, compared with the nearly 30 percent surge last year. But Wall Street's still cautiously optimistic, despite Friday's weak jobs report.

The data is not hitting the stock markets overseas, either. Europe's major averages just opened higher. That's how Europe is doing right now. And Asia has just closed with modest gains.

BERMAN: Turn this thing around, Romans.

ROMANS: I'll see what I can do. BERMAN: I appreciate it.

Breaking overnight: Dennis Rodman is out of North Korea and apologizing for what he says he was not able to do while he was there. Rodman landed in Beijing overnight, the last member of his team to depart North Korea after visiting and taking part in an exhibition basketball game for Kim Jong-un's birthday. This visit, as you all know, was filled with controversy as the American family of missionary Kenneth Bae begged him, begged Rodman to ask the North Korean leader, a man that Rodman calls a friend, for help getting about a released.

Now, Rodman told reporters in Beijing he was sorry he could not do anything and he continued to defend this trip.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: People make it so, just big extravaganza, like I did something so bad. Yes, he's my friend. I don't know what's going on with politics. That's not my job.

If that was the case, let someone else go for me next time and see if they can do something better than I'm doing. I'm just trying to open the door and hope that one day someone will go over there and do what, at least I had a little bit to do with. That's it.


BERMAN: Rodman says his goal was to just show the world it can get along and bond over sports. One of the players he took with him, Charles Smith, tells "NEW DAY SUNDAY" they were not paid by North Korea for the trip and he says he saw Rodman change under the pressure of this international controversy.

ROMANS: What was it that David Stern of the NBA said about this?

BERMAN: He wasn't happy about it.

ROMANS: Yes. He said it was not a true cultural exchange. Sports can be great for cultural exchange. This is not one of those instances.

All right. This morning, a whole bunch in new favorites. In the Oscars race, after a night of surprises at the Golden Globes, did you miss it? Were you asleep? We've got it for you, right now, "American Hustle" winning three statues, including best comedy, best actress in a comedy for Amy Adams, and best supporting actress for Jennifer Lawrence.

BERMAN: There she is.

ROMANS: Cate Blanchett also picking up a globe for her turn as the title character in "Blue Jasmine." "12 Years a Slave" won for best drama, but the male acting award went to two other films, Leonardo DiCaprio won for his role as a crooked stockbroker in "Wolf of Wall Street." Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won as well for "Dallas Buyers Club." "Gravity" picked up best director award. And in TV, "Breaking Bad" and "Brooklyn 99" were big winners, each getting awards for best series and best actor honors for Brian Cranston and Andy Samberg.

BERMAN: Now, this happened very late last night, a little too late for us early-morning people, but one of the things I noticed in the few minutes that I did watch --

ROMANS: All the dresses.

BERMAN: Well, the dresses were fantastic. Who did you wear?

No, but they had to walk like a million miles to get to the stage.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: The winners were like 150 yards away from the stage. Tough, tough.

ROMANS: I need to see "American Hustle." Have you seen that?

BERMAN: "American Hustle" is very good.

ROMANS: I've seen most of them, but not that one yet.

All right. Now to the Olympics and terror watch at the Olympics. The growing concern of attacks this morning as Americans heading to Russia are warned by the State Department to be careful. We are live.

BERMAN: Communities cleaning up this morning after rising temperatures trigger massive floods. We're going to show you some amazing pictures, but are these warmer temperatures here to stay? Indra Petersons is here tracking your forecast.

Come back.


ROMANS: Terror warning for Americans. Americans being told this morning be on alert if they plan to head to the Winter Olympics in Russia. The State Department issuing a warning of the potential for terrorism at the games in Sochi, that at the same time six terror suspects have been detained now as Russian authorities try to weed out any threat against the Olympics.

Nic Robertson has the latest from Moscow.

Rare and very clear words from the State Department about what Americans should do who intend to travel to Russia for these games.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and one of the really interesting warnings here is about the medical services you can expect in Sochi, saying that they're not sure that the Russians have really been able to test out their new medical facilities around Winter Olympics, with the volume of people they're going to get there, and they're advising people traveling there to have medical insurance, and not just that, to have repatriation insurance in case they need to be flown home for some medical situation.

They're saying the medical services generally in Russia don't match those that you'll find in the West. A reminder in the same alert -- travel alert -- that there has been recent acts of terrorism in the region not far from Sochi itself, and not only that, but the region around it has a big history over the last 10 or 15 years of multiple terror attacks against government facilities, schools, transport hubs.

So, it's a pretty wide-ranging warning. Plus, of course, under Russia's new laws, no one can promote nontraditional sexual relationships to minors -- meaning if you start talking or promoting gay rights issues, et cetera, here in Russia, you could face a jail term or even a fine and even being thrown out of the country, Christine.

ROMANS: So, there have been these recent attacks on the transit hubs that you were just mentioning. Have there been any arrests in those recent attacks?

ROBERTSON: You know, they've had a couple of batches of arrests over the weekend in the regions, two different regions that are really close to Sochi, within about 150, 170 miles. Six people arrested in one area. They were accused of setting off a car bomb about two weeks ago. They say that -- the security officials say that those six people have admitted that they were plotting something bigger. And then another five people arrested in another town on Friday as well, the information coming out over the weekend.

And again, officials saying that they had explosives, they had a homemade bomb -- all of this an indication of the high pressure, if you will, that's being put on the regional security officials to round up anyone who might be plotting or planning anything to target the Sochi Olympics, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson, thanks so much for us.

BERMAN: All right, 20 minutes after the hour. This morning, some people in the Buffalo area are trying to clean up and save what they can after serious flooding hit their homes. More than two feet of water streamed across roads and into basements in West Seneca, New York, as ice and snow that had piled up -- we had major storms there last week -- it melted very quickly, and it was so sudden that big chunks of ice were seen floating into neighborhoods there, almost like these giant ice floes. But the water, it was the water that did most of the damage.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I come out here, and my goodness, it's a river going down there!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chaos. A little chaos. I'm sure there's some people that are a little frantic right now or a little worried about their houses. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband said, what's that noise in the basement? I said, I don't know. I looked out the window, I said, oh, my God, it's up to -- I'm just, I'm at a loss for words.


BERMAN: It hit very, very sudden. The ice jams were blamed for flooding in several towns, but the waters, luckily, are now receding.

ROMANS: Indra Petersons is here this morning watching the forecast for us on this Monday.

Hello, there.


It's not going to be as warm as it was, but you can easily see what was going on towards Buffalo. The temperatures were well above normal, and with that, of course, they melted a lot of that ice that was there as a result of all that cold air we saw just last week.

Each day here on forward we are going to start cooling off. Today, though, still well above normal many places. Notice, New York City still looking for 15 degrees above normal. A beautiful day today, temperatures in the 50s. Charlotte not bad, actually seeing the 60s. Meanwhile, even Chicago is seeing above-normal temperatures, but, of course, cooler for them, just looking at the 30s today.

The trend is going to be we're talking about some cold air making its way in, but not as cold as what we saw last week. That arctic air is definitely still staying to the north. What we're going to be watching for is a series of cold fronts making their way through. Each one of these will bring us a little bit of rain and drop the temperatures a couple of degrees. First one today looks like towards the gulf, making its way to the Ohio Valley.

Then, as we get through tomorrow, we're going to be talking about kind of moving into the Northeast -- bulk of it staying offshore, then there will be another little system behind that one. So, the whole point here, little cold fronts, each one a baby one cooling us off a little bit as it goes.

ROMANS: All right. Indra, thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks, Indra.

All right. Twenty-two minutes after the hour.

Lawyers for Alex Rodriguez today plan to ask a federal judge to block his season-long suspension. An arbitrator this weekend ruled that Rodriguez should be out for the entire 2014 season, including any potential playoff games for the Yankees. This was actually a reduction in the 211 games that Major League Baseball wanted to suspend him. Still, it's a huge suspension.

Rodriguez has long claimed that baseball went after him as a kind of witch hunt and insists, still, that he did not break the rules. There was a stunning interview last night on "60 Minutes", with new details about this investigation, including text messages between Rodriguez and the man who says that he actually injected Rodriguez with these performance-enhancing drugs.

We'll have much more information about this coming up later on "NEW DAY."

ROMANS: He said Alex was afraid of needles, so he did it. Wow.

All right. Coming up, what a weekend in the NFL. We know now who's one step away from the Super Bowl.

BERMAN: Tom Brady.

ROMANS: And who's packing up and heading home. Andy Scholes will have all the highlights and will help me tamp down John Berman's enthusiasm, in the "Bleacher Report." That's next.


BERMAN: All right. We are down to four -- four teams left in football. In the NFC, we have the Seahawks and the 49ers. And in the AFC, wow, we have Brady versus Manning round like 122.

Andy Scholes joins us now with the "Bleacher Report." Quite a weekend, my friend.

ROMANS: Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: It sure was, guys. You know, and for fans, this really couldn't have turned out any better. Not only are we going to get to see the best four teams in the league go at it for a chance at the Super Bowl, we get Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning for a 15th time.

Now, the broncos, they clinched their spot in the AFC championship game with a win over the Chargers yesterday. Their defense frustrated Philip Rivers all afternoon. Peyton wasn't frustrated much during the game. He threw two touchdowns in the first half. The Broncos would end upholding off a late charge to beat San Diego 24-17.

Now, Peyton, he's playing as good as ever, but one reporter asked him if retirement was weighing on his mind.


PEYTON MANNING, DENVER BRONCOS: What's weighing on my mind is how soon I can get a bud light in my mouth after this game, really.


MANNING: That is priority number one.

Even the Patriots is ahead, and that question is way far ahead.


MANNING: In the NFC, the 49ers -- they went into North Carolina and beat the Panthers yesterday to punch their ticket to their third straight NFC title game.

Colin Kaepernick leading the way for San Fran. Check out this touchdown in the third quarter. He's going to mock Cam Newton's touchdown celebration. Then he does his patent Kaepernicking. Final on this was 23-10, 49ers.

So, here's your schedule for championship Sunday. Broncos and Patriots are going to square off in Denver at 3:00 eastern. That game's going to be followed by round three between the Niners and Seahawks. Winners will meet in the Super Bowl.

All right. Number one in the lineup section at today, the Seahawks -- they don't want anyone other than Seahawks fans going to the NFC championship. The team is limiting ticket sales to the people who live in neighboring states as well as Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.

That's right, 49ers fans, no California. You're going have to go to the secondary ticket market to get your tickets.

The Broncos guys are doing the same thing. This is really nothing new. Teams always try to limit the ticket sales to their home fans and the states surrounding them -- just so they get that home field advantage and try to get the ticket scalpers from getting all the good seats.

BERMAN: It's not very friendly, Andy, but thank you. Andy Scholes, appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: The top headlines, everything you need to know to start this Monday, right after the break.