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West Virginia Chemical Spill Crisis; Christie to Deliver Major Address; Obamacare Enrollment Worries

Aired January 14, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: a judge's new warning to a company responsible for a huge chemical spill that left hundreds of thousands of people without water for days. We are live this morning with the very latest.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In just a few hours, Governor Chris Christie with a huge speech smack in the middle of political scandal and new accusations of corruption. What he plans to say to put all these troubles behind him.

BERMAN: And new this morning, murdered at the movies. A man killed after sending a text inside a movie theater. We have new questions this morning about this shocking, shocking story.

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Great to see you this morning. It is Tuesday, January 14th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's begin this morning with the news breaking overnight, the investigation into that leak of a dangerous chemical into West Virginia's water supply. It's growing this morning, with a judge now issuing an order against the company responsible for the leak. That as the crisis has left hundreds of thousands of people unable to use their tap water now for days.

The crisis is abating. We've got more today. We should find out, can they turn on the water? When can they turn on the tap?

Alexandra Field is live in Charleston, West Virginia, this morning.

Alexandra, what's the latest?


Seventy-five thousand people have been given the word that they can turn on their faucets and let that water run, but 225,000 people are still waiting for the same green light.

Freedom Industries, the company that's believed to be responsible for the leak that contaminated the water supply, is now at the heart of a civil suit. Overnight, a judge ruled that the company could not alter, destroy or change any evidence related to the case. The Chemical Safety Board has also arrived on site now to begin their investigation. They'll be looking at the possible failure of equipment, the nature of the leak, how it was reported. They'll also delve into any safety data that's available concerning the chemical itself.

Here's what the team had to say.


JOHNNIE BANKS, CSB: The fact that this event affected, you know, close to 300,000 people, it resonated with our agency, and we made it a top priority to get a team here, to start the inquiry into this.


FIELD: The CSB will also be looking at how regularly that plant was inspected and how rigorous those inspections were.

Over the weekend, the state's Department of Environmental Protection said the plant was last inspected back in 1991 when it was under different ownership and used for a different purpose. The state DEP now says that an inspector returned to the plant in 2010, following an odor complaint but found nothing wrong.

And in 2012, the DEP says that inspectors were asked to investigate whether any processes at the plant had changed and whether any new permits were needed. At the time, they found that wasn't necessary, and -- Christine, John, the tank, again, was not inspected then.

ROMANS: Certainly a lot of questions about oversight this morning, even as people are struggling to figure out if they can turn on their tap, a real big problem still in West Virginia.

Alexandra, thank you.

BERMAN: New this morning, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie back in the spotlight. He will deliver his State of the State Address amid more investigations and more allegations of political payback against mayors who would not endorse him.

CNN has learned that the governor does plan to acknowledge the scandal during his speech. That scandal, of course, involves at least two top aides who apparently shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge as seeming retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee.

Meanwhile, new documents are backing up the mayor of Jersey City's allegation that the governor's allies canceled meetings within an hour after he, the governor of Jersey City, refused to endorse Christie for re-election.

State lawmakers are now forming a special committee to look into what happened. They have subpoena power and they want answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: It's an abuse of power, it's a cover-up of the abuse of power, and this governor ought to be true to his words in his long apology and be very cooperative in making sure every document is turned over so that my committee and the legislature can look at this thoroughly and decide for itself what his involvement was. Look, there may not be direct involvement from him, but what it does show is a man not in control of his own staff.


BERMAN: Now, on top of that, in a story that CNN first told you about on NEW DAY, a federal investigation is now under way into whether the Christie administration misused Sandy relief money to pay for a tourism ad, a campaign ad, really, that featured his family. It was a tourism ad. Critics say it was more directed towards his campaign.

ROMANS: All right, new worries this morning for the health care overhaul. Officials reporting most of the enrollees for Obamacare so far have been older and less healthy. That's spurring fears that premiums may rise, since the system was built with the thinking that younger, healthier enrollees would help balance the costs.

Administration officials say they're optimistic more young people will eventually sign up in months ahead.

BERMAN: And there are new details this morning about just what might be keeping some people from signing up for Obamacare. A study from George Washington University finds the policies put in place by some states are actively discouraging people from getting health care coverage.

On the list, Missouri, Montana, Texas and Florida, all four limit so- called navigators can ask when trying -- when you go to them to try to get help for enrolling.

ROMANS: New documents shedding new light on the deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. That attack on September 11th, 2012, left two Americans, including the ambassador, dead. The newly unclassified documents from the House Armed Services Committee show while they were worried about terror attacks around the world that day, little attention was paid to the potential for an attack in Libya. But despite growing concern that eastern Libya was becoming a hotbed for extremism.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, a federal law enforcement source tells CNN no charges are likely to be filed, no charges in the scandal over the IRS handling of tax-exempt organizations. Prosecutors apparently have not made a final decision yet, but the source says investigators do not believe anyone committed a chargeable offense.

IRS officials have admitted that the agency inappropriately targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny when they filed for tax- exempt status.

ROMANS: All right. In Washington today, House and Senate leaders scrambling to put the finishing touches on a temporary measure to keep the government running through the weekend. That as they work on a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund federal agencies through the end of September.

If you thought this was all finished in December, think again. That agreement was just a framework. This one gets into the nitty-gritty of what will be funded and what won't be. A final vote on this funding bill is expected next week.

Budgets are never easy. They're especially not easy right now.

BERMAN: This is 1,500 pages of not easy.

ROMANS: It's not even a budget, it's just getting us through.

BERMAN: There could be new hope this morning for more than a million Americans who lost long-term unemployment benefits. The Senate is still talking about a possible compromise to start sending checks again, delaying any vote until today at the earliest.

Now, as of yesterday, it appeared that negotiations were stalled, not going anywhere, but now it seems both sides are working, trying to find some sort of agreement. It still is honestly unclear whether they can reach common ground.

ROMANS: We'll be hearing more today about the future of the NSA's surveillance program, as members of a White House committee go before the Senate to talk about their recommendation that these programs be reformed or shut down. President Obama is considering his options now. He's expected to announce a decision about changes to those NSA programs on Friday.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, new revelations this morning about admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden and what he did in the years before he stole a huge pile of documents, really, a mound of documents from the spy agency. "Foreign Policy" magazine reports that back in 2010, the then-NSA contractor traveled not New Delhi in India, reportedly to work as a technical expert at the U.S. embassy. He took a course in, quote, "ethical hacking," how to break into computer systems to show how to better protect them.

Snowden apparently never disclosed the trip when he renewed his top- secret security clearance in 2011.

Secretary of State John Kerry at the Vatican this morning, but he will not be seeing Pope Francis. Kerry is meeting with his diplomatic counterpart, the secretary of state for the Holy See, to talk about humanitarian issues, including peace in the Middle East and an end to the conflict in Syria.

ROMANS: Stock futures higher this morning after the biggest sell-off on the Dow since mid-September. The Dow falling nearly 180 points yesterday. That's a little more than 1 percent. The S&P and NASDAQ down more than a percentage point, too. The Dow is now down six of eight trading sessions in 2014. Ouch!

As for stocks in Europe, they're lower right now. Right now, London, Frankfurt, Paris markets right now falling, likely continuing what happened in the U.S. In Tokyo overnight, another decline. The Nikkei, yes, down more than 3 percent. I want to look here at shares of Google. They're rising in the U.S. right now.

Google making another play that reaches right into your house. Google will buy smart thermostat maker Nest. Have you heard of this company, Nest? $3.2 billion. It would give Google an important link to a new market when home appliances and Internet services are beginning to merge.

Your smart house, Nest really at the crux of that. Google sweeping in for a $3.2 billion purchase.

BERMAN: Romans, I'm getting nervous about the markets.

ROMANS: I am, too. I was OK two days ago, now I'm a little nervous. Look, you have a lot of earnings this week. That's going to be important. And we're hearing from retail companies that things weren't as good in the year as they thought they were, hoped they would be.

That's really the problem with stocks.

BERMAN: Not a good way to start the year.


BERMAN: All right. This morning, do not look for the Weather Channel on your TV if you are a DirecTV customer. Why would you want to? You would be watching EARLY START, anyway.

The channel has been pulled in a dispute over fees. DirecTV reportedly wants to pay less than it has in the past for the longtime cable TV staple. The Weather Channel for its part says DirecTV is trading safety for profits, calling its network a critical source for severe weather information.

ROMANS: Another critical source of severe weather information, let's get a check of your Tuesday forecast. Indra Petersons is here with that. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Looks like a rainy day for a lot of us today, especially on the Eastern Seaboard. You can see on the current satellite and radar the rain pushing up along that East Coast.

So, what's going on? We have that low that formed and now it's slowly making its way up along the coast. Notice a lot of the rain is actually going to be offshore. And even by tonight, you can see it's starting to exit off right around New England.

Keep in mind, it is a series of these cold fronts. So, by the time one of them comes ashore, goes offshore, you talk about the next one really kind of making its way in.

So, you get a little bit of a break tomorrow only to have another system kick on through, and behind that, another clipper even behind that.

So, each one of these is going to be cooling us off a little bit more and also bringing another chance for pretty much light showers. In fact, if you add up all of the systems, still, we're not talking about a lot here -- bulk of the rain still down to the south, two to three inches there, one to two, of course, towards the Northeast, but some chances for some heavy snow and near blizzard conditions right around Green Bay.

We could see about eight inches of snow there and some strong winds as well. Another thing to keep in mind, the core of the jet stream, where the strongest winds are, that's going to be coming straight down from Canada, so temperatures really cooling off today around the Dakotas, even Nebraska, and, of course, bringing them very strong winds.

Speaking of winds, out towards the West Coast, strong winds from the Northeast, which means critical fire danger. It's been so dry out there. They're very concerned over the next several days.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: Dangerous conditions.

Coming up for us, killed over a text. This is a shocking story, folks. A movie theater fight ending with one man dead and another behind bars. This morning, new questions in this case.

ROMANS: And happening right now, protests and explosions as polls open in Egypt -- a critical election there that could dramatically change that country. We are live there as the votes come pouring in.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Fourteen minutes past the hour.

Developing this morning in Egypt -- voting for a new constitution now under way. It's a major milestone for Egypt as the country tries to move forward six months after a coup ousted the democratically elected president. But Mohamed Morsi's supporters are urging their countrymen to boycott, and there's been an explosion outside a court.

Reza Sayah is live in Cairo this morning for us -- outside a polling place. Bring us up to speed, a really important day here in Egypt.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, these are tumultuous, unpredictable and often dangerous times here in Egypt, and today is no different.

A big vote today. This is the referendum on the all-important newly amended constitution here in Egypt. We're at one of these polling stations, and I'm surrounded by dozens of Egyptian women. We've worked hard to keep it relatively quiet, because they are very excited. They want to vote yes on this constitution. But other groups, other individuals have other things in mind. There was a lot of concern that some groups would try to disrupt this day with an attack, and that's exactly what happened around 7:00 a.m. local time today in Cairo, about five hours ago. Investigators say a homemade bomb was placed in front of a courthouse in Cairo -- the best news, no casualties, no fatalities, but a lot of damage to the facade of this courthouse.

Shortly after the explosion, hundreds of Egyptians, many of them angry and emotional, gathered in front of the courthouse condemning the blast, pointing the finger and blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that was ousted, then banned, and now deemed a terrorist organization by this military-backed government.

We should point out at this point, there's no indication who carried out this attack. Two hours after the blast, the polling stations opened, thousands of Egyptians coming out to Cairo to vote. Most of them say they're voting yes, and it's very likely, according to analysts, that the military-backed government will get a yes vote, but the big question is, can they restore peace and stability and end this cycle of violence that seems to be ratcheting up in this ongoing political crisis for this all-important U.S. ally? Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Reza Sayah, tumultuous that's I think the word really to Republican describe what is happening there. Thank you so much. Talk to you soon.

BERMAN: Speaking of tumultuous, tens of thousands of protesters spending another day on the streets in Bangkok in Thailand, all but shutting down that city in demonstrations against the government there. They want the prime minister to resign, and in response, she has called for elections next month.

The protesters are rejecting that. Believe it or not, they actually want less democracy, and they are vowing to stay in the streets.

ROMANS: A retired police officer waking up behind bars this morning after a deadly shooting at a Tampa area movie theater. This happened during an afternoon showing of the movie "The Lone Survivor."

Authorities say 71-year-old Curtis Reeves was upset because a man had been texting during the previews. So, Reeves got up, walked out to apparently try to find a manager, and then came back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They started arguing again about the cell phone. The guy who was shot said something, I just was texting my daughter, 3-year-old daughter.

The fellow who's shot gets up, starts talking with the guy who was the shooter, OK? Their voices start going up. There seems to be almost a confrontation, somebody throws popcorn. I'm not sure who threw the popcorn, and then, bang, he was shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Wow. Chad Oulson was hit in the chest. He died. His wife, Nicole, was shot in the hand. An off-duty sheriff's deputy in the theater grabbed the gun and detained Reeves until police could arrive.

Reeves retired from the Tampa police force in 1993. He reportedly was once director of security for Busch Gardens. He is facing second- degree murder charges.

BERMAN: Still a lot of questions here. Can you imagine?

ROMANS: Over texting and popcorn being thrown in a movie.

BERMAN: All right. British police today are reportedly poised for arrests in the case of Madeleine McCann, the little girl who vanished nearly seven years while on vacation with her family in Portugal. She was just 3 years old.

This could be a big development. Now, the police are on the hunt for three alleged burglars suspected in a rash of break-ins at the time. Newly discovered cell phone records show a sudden spate of calls between the suspects in the hours following McCann's disappearance. People have been watching this case for a long, long time. Again, this could be a big development this morning.

ROMANS: New developments this morning in an infamous murder case from Illinois. Drew Peterson has now filed his appeal, asking a court to overturn his conviction in the killing of his ex-wife. The former police officer's current lawyer writes that a judge in Peterson's defense attorney made critical errors during his trial and the state did not present the evidence to convict him.

A spokesman for the state's attorney says they're confident the verdict will stand.

BERMAN: A civil suit set to be announced today by the family of Jonathan Ferrell, who was shot and killed by a North Carolina police officer back in September. The suit is against the officer, the police department and the city of Charlotte. The 24-year-old Ferrell was unarmed when he was shot and the state attorney general says he'll take the case against Officer Randall Kerrick to a grand jury, seeking an indictment on manslaughter charges.

ROMANS: All right. Two Southeast Airlines pilots are off the job this morning as the investigation into their mistake in the air ramps up. OK, the jet they were flying, a 737 touched down at the wrong airport in Missouri on Sunday, an airport six miles away from their intended destination with a dangerously short runway.

CNN has learned the plane was cleared to land at the correct airport.

Both pilots have more than a dozen years of service with the company. They're now on paid leave.

BERMAN: The woman known as the Octomom is facing charges this morning, accused of welfare fraud. California officials say that Nadya Suleman failed to report $30,000 in income while on public assistance. Suleman is due in court on Friday and could face nearly six years in prison. She denies these charges. That strange, bizarre soap opera continues.

Meanwhile, coming up, the shocking, new twist in the Alex Rodriguez case, now suing Major League Baseball, and -- get this -- suing his own union as the details of the case against him come to light. Andy Scholes is going to break the whole thing down for us in the "Bleacher Report," coming up next.


ROMANS: All right. A-Rod's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said right here on CNN yesterday, his client's fight against Major League Baseball will continue, and now the battle is in a federal court.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes has the details in the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

A-Rod and his lawyers have filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that arbitrator Frederick Horowitz was biased when he ruled A-Rod would have to sit out next season and the postseason. In the suit, A- Rod names Major League Baseball and the players association as defendants. He claims the union did not fairly represent him and that he is being suspended without just cause.

Legal analysts believe that this lawsuit has virtually no chance of being successful.

A Massachusetts woman who lost both of her legs in the Boston marathon bombings is finally running again. Celeste Corcoran -- she received new prosthetic legs last week, and just two days after receiving them, she was able to run on her own.


CELESTE CORCORAN: The first time that I did it myself, like, I literally just kept saying to myself, I can't believe I just did that, I can't believe I just did that. I just did that by myself.


SCHOLES: And Celeste is not only running, she's also rock climbing and swimming. Good for her.

All right, if you watched the Broncos/Chargers game on Sunday, you probably heard this before every Broncos offensive play.


PEYTON MANNING, NFL PLAYER: Omaha! Omaha! Omaha! Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: So, that's Peyton Manning yelling "Omaha, Omaha" before pretty much every snap. Now, the city of Omaha tweeted during the game, "We certainly appreciate all the love." Guys, I think if we're going to have to hear everything Peyton says on the field, he should go commercial with this and start yelling "Papa Johns! Papa Johns! Free toppings tonight."

Turning on right now, for some, nothing gets in the way of watching your team in the big game, not even in church, not even if you're the pastor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may not be aware that there is a football game starting in just a few moments. Would you all like to be forgiven for your sins?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, that's great. You are. There's some bread and some wine up here on the table. You feel free to help yourself, if you'd like to. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

CROWD: OK, we will. Thanks be to God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm out of here!


SCHOLES: And guys, this got over 250,000 hits on YouTube already. The pastor's name is Tim Christensen.

Just so you know, he didn't really walk out of there. It was just kind of a joke. He did go back and have a real service.

ROMANS: What's his team? We couldn't tell what his team was.

SCHOLES: It was the San Francisco 49ers. That's why he's kissing the biceps, Colin Kaepernick's touchdown ceremony.

BERMAN: That is a powerful religious message, Andy. I can sign up for that.

Andy Scholes, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

After the break, all of our top stories, every single one.

ROMANS: And business!

BERMAN: And business, including a major new development for hundreds of thousands of people affected by a huge chemical spill.

ROMANS: Oh, wow, that's a huge story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Breaking news overnight. A judge's new warning to a company responsible for massive contamination that left hundreds of thousands of people without water for days.

BERMAN: Killed for texting. Could this really happen? An argument inside a movie theater ends with one man dead and another behind bars this morning.

ROMANS: New enrollment numbers revealing trouble for the president's new health care law. Why Obamacare prices could soon be going up.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, 29 minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: And we're going to start this morning with breaking news overnight, new developments in the water crisis that left hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia unable to use what was coming out of their taps. The cause: a chemical leak at a coal processing facility. Now, Freedom Industries has been ordered by a judge not to destroy any evidence or even move its tanks.