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Chris Christie Inauguration; Search for Black Widow?; Mexico Fighting Planned Execution

Aired January 21, 2014 - 05:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Blast of snow and chilling cold. A winter storm walloping the Midwest, and it's heading East. What you need to know in moments.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And celebration with a side of controversy. It's Governor Chris Christie's big inauguration day today. The question is, will he be able to escape questions surrounding all the scandals?

ROMANS: A terrorist in Sochi? A search is on for this woman who could be planning an attack at the Winter Games. Is she working alone?

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's half past the hour right now.

Here it comes again, an arctic air mass pushing down from Canada, bringing with it snow, ice and more mind-numbing cold across the Midwest and all the way to the east. As much as a foot of snow expected in some areas along this very busy northeast corridor.

The federal government offices in D.C. have already closed for the day. Parts of the Midwest already getting hammered. More than 1800 airline flights today have been canceled due to the storm.

Indra Petersons is here with the frosty details. She's had no practice on stories like this, this winter at all.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not at all. First timer, guys, so bear with me, right? Yes. We definitely have that big storm that we really saw develop yesterday. The models picked up on this so this is what intensified. The system right now into the Midwest, generally kind of dry. It's a clipper, which doesn't typically bring that much snow with it, except for Chicago. They got a little bit of that lake- effect snow.

Here's the thing, though, it's going to intersect with the ocean. It's going to bring all that moisture. So closer to the coast you are, you're going to be talking about some heavy amounts of snow, even a blizzard warning right now right off the cape where they could see the highest amounts, about a foot of snow.

New York City, Philly, even D.C. calling for even as much as 10 inches of the snow. And out back towards Pittsburgh, also about two to four inches.

So let's talk about what's going on. Here's the low. Once again, looks like by 10:00 or 11:00 this morning, we'll start to see some of that making its way in through D.C. 11:00 and 12:00, talk about New York City seeing some of that snow. Boston, not really until the late afternoon are you going to get into the action. And then overnight tonight starts to clear out of D.C. maybe in the overnight hours.

Still snowing overnight, though, for New York City and Boston, even through early hours tomorrow morning. We're still talking about that snow. Finally clearing about 6:00 in the morning for New York City, still making its way up the coastline, so Boston and eventually in through Maine on Wednesday.

Still talking about this very dry snow thanks to that cold air. And think about it, we have these strong winds that are going to be out there, so still going to be talking about really blowing around, that visibility being very poor out there. And then there's the temperatures.

You'll, of course, have strong winds and you have cool temperatures, it's going to feel even cooler than the lows that you're already going to be talking about. Highs today, D.C. looking for 34, at 10 below, by tomorrow, the temperatures drop even further. It will feel like single digits with snow and wind.

I hope you guys brought a lot of jackets, not just one. You need like two.

ROMANS: I've got boots.

PETERSONS: That's all you got?

ROMANS: I'm ready.

PETERSONS: A dress and boots.

ROMANS: I'm ready.


ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: All right. In just a few hours, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be sworn in for a second term. It's a day of celebration, but it will be shrouded in controversy by not one, but two now political scandals.

Christie's lieutenant governor is dismissing claims by Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer, that the Christie administration was playing politics with Superstorm Sandy relief funds, holding them hostage to win her support for a real estate development project.

The mayor fired back on "AC 360" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER (D), HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: I think what's interesting about what the lieutenant governor said today is, she says that my -- you know, it's illogical what I said, and when you look at the documents, you look at the letters that I've written, you can see that it -- it wasn't illogical at all.

It's actually a progression leading up to something where they wanted to send me, you know, give me a very direct message.


BERMAN: So the New Jersey assemblyman who's leading an investigation of the Christie administration plans to speak with the Hoboken mayor about her allegations.

We're joined now this morning by CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser to break this all down.

Paul, this was supposed to be a big inauguration day, a celebration. At this point, how do you think it will play out?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Here's the game plan for today, John. It starts about three hours from now, and Chris Christie's going to be in Newark, New Jersey, at the same inner city church where last October he marked the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

Then it's off to Trenton, the state capital, for the governor. That's the swearing-in, the official swearing-in and his inaugural speech. And finally, tonight, the big party, I guess you could say, at historic Ellis Island at Liberty State Park.

John, we're told that the governor will not be making comments. We believe he will not be making comments about the controversies at his inaugural speech. Very different than last week. Remember, he did make a mention at his State of the State address of these controversies.

You really hit it on the head there, though. This was going to be a day of celebration, to look back at the achievements of Chris Christie's first four years in office as New Jersey governor and also of his landslide re-election victory last November, and maybe a hint of things to come in 2016.

All that now being overshadowed, I guess you could say, by these clouds of controversy -- John.

BERMAN: Let's talk about 2016, because Chris Christie has really made no secret of the fact that he is considering a run for the presidency. He will have to play to the entire national audience. Any sense of how Americans overall now view the governor?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, we've seen a couple of poll numbers out there over the last couple of days on Chris Christie since these controversies have hit. Here's some brand new numbers that came out yesterday from the Pew Research Center. Look at this. The middle line, I guess, is the most important. You can see the upper line. A year ago, his favorable rating among all Americans, 40 percent. Really hasn't changed much, but look at the unfavorable in the middle there. From 17 percent a year ago, it's doubled to 34 percent.

On the bottom there, the people who didn't know enough about Chris Christie, you can see that number definitely getting smaller as he's been more in the limelight here.

John, one other thing that's important about that poll number there, it's Democrats and independents. Those unfavorable numbers have really skyrocketed. That's hurt a guy who really touts his bipartisanship. And look at this here, you got it right here on the screen.

This really hurts his credibility, I guess you could say, 32 percent believe him, 58 percent don't believe him when he says he didn't know about those lane closures at the George Washington Bridge -- John.

BERMAN: So I know the governor and his allies right now are probably looking for some kind of silver lining from all this. Is there any out there?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, in this poll, there sure is and we've seen it elsewhere as well. That is that Republicans are sticking with him. Look at this. Republicans' opinions of Chris Christie a year ago, 49 percent. Has it changed? Not at all.

And we talked yesterday about Chris Christie's trip this past weekend to Florida to do fundraising as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and also with some top donors, and we were told that he got a very warm reception. So right now Republicans are sticking with him.

John, with all poll numbers, we always say about this, people change their opinions, there could be new controversies, new developments here. His approval ratings and unfavorable ratings could go up, they could go down. Stay tuned this is far, far from over -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Steinhauser in Washington for us, thanks so much, Paul.

ROMANS: It appears the U.S. military will be at the ready to evacuate Americans, if needed, from Sochi, Russia, in the event of terrorism during the Olympic Games. Officials are preparing to deploy transport planes and Navy ships to the region, that as Russian authorities are trying to track down a so-called black widow who has vowed revenge for her Islamic militant husband's death at the hands of Russian security forces.

CNN's Phil Black is back with us. He's on the phone now from Volgograd, Russia.

Let's start first with the search for this woman in the pink head scarf, this idea that there could be black widow or black widows who are bent on destruction for the Olympics. What do you know?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes, Christine, the concern is she could already be in Sochi. That's what Russian authorities believe. That's why they've distributed notices to hotels with those pictures, her description. They said she's 22 year old from Dagestan. They believe she tried to traveled to Sochi at some point within the last two weeks and could be working with some sort of terror group to plan an attack on the Olympic region of Sochi.

She's very distinctive looking, a scar on her left cheek. And the concern is that she's gotten into the game zone so close to the Olympics, when the security is supposed to be very, very tight, and Russian authorities are so concerned, they are asking for members of the public to help them find her -- Christine.

ROMANS: Now if there were an attack, what do we know about how the U.S. is now preparing to react?

BLACK: Yes, there is a contingency. So, planes, transport aircraft in the area and also two military planes going to be stationed in the Black Sea off Sochi, in international waters, just in case something happens like a terror attack, just in case there are Americans that need to get out, and just in case the Russian government decides it needs help -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Phil Black in Volgograd, Russia, for us. Thank you, Phil.

BERMAN: Breaking news overnight. Police are looking for a gunman after a student was shot on the campus of Widener University just outside of Philadelphia. The victim was hit as he sat in the parking lot near the athletic center. He is hospitalized in critical but stable condition this morning.

Police say they have searched the campus, students have been told to stay inside until 6:00 a.m. this morning.

ROMANS: Developing this morning, authorities in Omaha, Nebraska, say they've now accounted for everyone who was inside an animal feed processing plant during an explosion and partial building collapse. Two people were killed, 10 others injured. One of the plant workers says the whole experience was very frightening.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a loud noise and I looked up. I seen everything collapsing. I started running. Next thing I know, I see a big fireball, and I tried to run, get away as fast as I could.


ROMANS: Cause of that plant explosion still under investigation.

BERMAN: New this morning, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry heading to Geneva to attend a peace conference about Syria that gets under way tomorrow. Representatives from Iran will not have a seat at these talks. The United Nations secretary-general rescinded his invitation following Tehran's rejection of plans for a transitional government in Syria.

Russia's foreign minister says it was a mistake to disinvite Iran, which is President Assad's chief sponsor, but not a catastrophe.

ROMANS: New this morning, the FAA taking steps to reduce the chance of plane collisions with more staggered take-offs and landings at more than a dozen big airports. Problems have arisen as planes abandoning landing attempts have ended up on routes intersecting with planes that are taking off. The changes could worsen delays at peak travel times, but the FAA says safety is more important.

BERMAN: He has been held in North Korea now for more than a year now, but there are some encouraging signs this morning that could possibly lead to Kenneth Bae's eventual release. The U.S. is offering to send a special envoy to North Korea to try and secure his release.

Bae was paraded before reporters Monday and told them he had committed serious crimes and he urged the Obama administration to work to free him. Kenneth Bae's family is doing its part to bring Bae home. They issued a statement asking for mercy and apologizing to North Korea's leader on his behalf.

ROMANS: I know a lot of people are wondering what are the mechanics behind this.

BERMAN: I know.

ROMANS: Why did the government allow him to do that? And some people actually are a little optimistic because when others have said -- have gone out and confessed, then it hasn't been very long before they were released. This --

BERMAN: There's a lot of propaganda at play here. Of course, the important thing is to get this guy home.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right, let's talk about the stock market. U.S. stock futures higher this morning after a -- you know, a trend we're seeing in the markets all around the world. Stocks around the globe are generally higher. Dow futures up 56 points. That's ahead of a big earnings week. Today alone we'll hear from IBM, Johnson & Johnson and Verizon.

Stocks in London, Frankfurt and Paris all higher. Stocks in Asia higher this morning. In Japan the Nikkei finishing up 1 percent. Stocks in Asia gained as China's central bank pumped about $43 billion into the money markets to ease fears of a credit crunch there.

We've been hearing a lot about income inequality lately. A new report from Oxfam says that almost half the world's wealth is owned by just 1 percent of the world's population. That works out to the 85 richest people owning the same amount as the bottom 3.5 billion people.

This study comes just ahead of the start of the World Economic Forum this week, that's in Davos, Switzerland. Leaders there have identified income inequality as one of the greatest risks facing the world in 2014.

We know that the president has said income inequality will be his signature issue of the year. Those folks at Davos saying this is the biggest threat to developing and developed nations, is income inequality.

BERMAN: And the "Post" has been talking about it also.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Very much a hot-button topic right now.

Forty-two minutes after the hour. Coming up for us, President Obama's NSA proposals not going over too well with the American people.

And a shocking number don't think these policies will even work.

ROMANS: Plus, incredible video of this volcano erupting. It's a crisis there about to unfold.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

So when it comes to the NSA's phone and Internet spying activities, most Americans oppose them and have little faith in the president's proposals to reform them.

Take a look at this new survey by the Pew Research Center and "USA Today." 53 percent of the adults surveyed now disapprove of the NSA's bulk collection of metadata, while just 40 percent approve. And an overwhelming 73 percent say the changes offered up by the president will not increase privacy protections, while just 21 percent say they will.

ROMANS: Stunning new video for you this morning of a volcano erupting in Indonesia. Mt. Sinabung has been erupting since September, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. They're having to seek temporary shelters. Officials say 16 people have died of illnesses related to the volcano's eruption. Clean water now in short supply, calls are mounting for the government to declare the situation a national disaster.

BERMAN: You know, we've been looking at these pictures for days and they are in fact stunning, but the situation there seems to be getting more and more serious.


BERMAN: Let's take a look what's up coming up on "NEW DAY," Kate Bolduan joins us now.

Hey, Kate.

ROMANS: Good morning, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Good morning, guys. So this morning we're going to be hearing from the family of Kenneth Bae. As you well know, he's the American held for more than a year now in North Korea. His sister is speaking exclusively with "NEW DAY" about her fears now that her brother has spoken publicly and asked the Obama administration to help get him released.

We're going to hear her take on that whole situation. That's such a tough one for that family.

And also, you well know and you've talked about it, it's inauguration day for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, coming at the very same time his lieutenant governor and his staff are defending their actions amid new accusations of the woman on the right there, from the mayor of Hoboken, that they strong-armed this mayor, that coming from her. We're going to be live in Trenton.

We're also going to speak with one of the top Republicans in the state this morning to get his take on this whole thing. And it is inauguration day.

BERMAN: All right, thanks so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: An emotional reunion in Alaska. A man gets to meet the rescuers who pulled him from a frozen lake and saved his life. Last month, 60-year-old Michael Fugere was riding his motorcycle on the ice, he hit a thin patch, went right in, and then two ice fishermen came to his rescue.


JASON SADEI, RESCUER: We didn't have any rope, so we did the old I'll lay on my belly.

JOHN GARBRAE, RESCUER: I grabbed his legs and we just basically worked together as a team to get him out of the water.

MICHAEL FUGERE, SURVIVOR: So grateful to those guys for putting their lives at risk to save me. I'm so grateful.


ROMANS: The emergency techs say the fishermen got to him just in time. When he arrived at the hospital, his body temperature had dropped down to 91 degrees.

BERMAN: That is crazy. He's a lucky, lucky man.

ROMANS: Yes, unlucky and then lucky.

BERMAN: Exactly.

All right, coming up for us next, could an execution in Texas violate international law? And why some people now say this case could put Americans abroad at risk.

ROMANS: Another reason to pop open a bottle of red wine and dig into that candy bar.

BERMAN: I don't need another reason.

ROMANS: Right now, Berman. It's 13 minutes to the top of the hour. Why scientists say it could be good for you, not for breakfast, but it could be good for you.

BERMAN: Why not breakfast?

ROMANS: OK. Breakfast.

BERMAN: It's always good.



ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START this morning. Mexico is trying to block the execution of a cop killer in Texas, arguing it would violate international law.

Nick Parker has more for us this morning from Mexico City.

NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A last-ditch appeal here in Mexico to the planned execution of Edgar Tamayo Arias set for this Wednesday in Texas. In a strongly worded statement, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said the execution would be, "a clear violation by the United States of its international obligations under the Vienna Convention, whose observance is fundamental in guaranteeing the right of every person to a due process."

At the center of the controversy is the accusation Tamayo was not offered access to Mexican consulate assistance after he was arrested in 1994. Article 36 of the Vienna Convention states that any person detained in a foreign country has the right to speak to their country's officials.

The 46-year-old Tamayo was later convicted of shooting dead a police officer after he was arrested for robbery.


SANDRA BABCOCK, TAMAYO ATTORNEY: By setting an execution date in this case, we have sent a signal to the international community that the United States doesn't care about the promises that it makes to its treaty partners.


PARKER: In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled the U.S. had violated the Vienna Convention in the case of Tamayo and 50 other Mexican nationals. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged a stay of execution, arguing it could undermine U.S. interests abroad, but Texas prosecutors say the case has been reviewed by a series of courts and the death by lethal injection should proceed.

ROMANS: Thank you, Nick.

A sticky situation with two friendly countries at odds here.

BERMAN: All right. Moving on now. In West Virginia, officials are calling for tighter regulation of chemical plants. Earlier this month, 7500 gallons of coal-cleaning chemicals seeped into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply of some 300,000 people for days. The governor has unveiled a new bill that would require annual tank inspections and new emergency plans to address spills. The company behind the recent leak filed for bankruptcy last week.

ROMANS: New this morning, officials in Texas have arrested two people in connection with a massive credit card scam. The Mexican nationals are accused of stealing account information from residents in south Texas to purchase numerous items from stores, including Best Buy, Wal- Mart, Toys "R" Us. Officials say the two were carrying nearly 100 fraudulent credit cards.

BERMAN: All right, so, don't feel bad anymore about raising your glass, tearing open that chocolate wrapper.

ROMANS: Are we supposed to feel bad?


BERMAN: Any time of day. A new study says that high levels of an antioxidant called flavonoids found in red wine, berries, tea and dark chocolate may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The UK's National Health Service isn't so sure, though. It's questioning how the study was set up and says people should not overindulge.

ROMANS: This is where we say -- every time we do one of these studies, moderation, moderation, moderation.

BERMAN: Yes, and I say how do you get to be a part of one of these studies?


That's what I -- that's what I say. Sign me up.

ROMANS: Paid to drink wine and eat chocolate.

Coming up, more good news for the one-percenters. Details over who's making the money in "Money Time."


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time."

Global markets up across the board today and U.S. stock futures are higher, too. Dow futures up about 50 points. Big earnings day for Dow stocks. We're going to get results from IBM, Johnson & Johnson and Verizon later on.

If you're a football fan, you might have heard of the Super Bowl indicator?


ROMANS: It says that stocks could pick up steam if the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos. Happens in less than two weeks. The Wall Street lore goes like this, the Dow goes up when a team from the original National Football League beats a team that played in the upstart American Football League.

Don't laugh, the indicator's been more or less accurate 80 percent of the time, but it's just pure dumb luck.

Anyway, we've been hearing a lot about income inequality. Wanted to show you this. A new report from Oxfam that says that almost half of the world's wealth is owned by just 1 percent of the world's population. That works out to the 85 richest people in the world owning the same amount, holding and controlling the same amount of wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion.

This is a study that just comes ahead of the start of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week. Income inequality will be a major topic there. That's -- you know, that's -- you know, central bankers, all the big wigs around the world gather and talk about how to fix the world's problems.

And this might be the ultimate symbol of the gap between rich and poor. A bottle of Macallan whiskey sold for a record-shattering $628,000.

BERMAN: Oh, my goodness.

ROMANS: This is at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong. That crushed the previous record of 460,000 grand. That was for a bottle of whiskey in 2010.

This is a rare Macallan M. It was an exclusive six-liter decanter. There is an encouraging sign, the proceeds will go to Hong Kong charities, but someone had the cash to spend $628,000. How many shots are in a six-liter?

BERMAN: Does it make you fly after you drink it? Like, what happens? I mean, I like whiskey, but --

ROMANS: It makes you rich. It makes you so rich that you can drink $628,000 worth of richness.

BERMAN: That's a lot of richness.

All right, that's it for us this morning. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. Whiteout conditions are upon us and a massive snowstorm is moving east. More than 1800 flights canceled already. The federal government officially shut down in D.C. and this time it won't be gone as fast as it comes.

Indra Petersons tracking it all.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Terror hunt. Russian police in an all-out search for a black widow, a female suicide bomber who may already be inside Sochi and she may not be working alone.

We're live with the latest.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY exclusive. The family of Kenneth Bae reacting to his dramatic press conference, pleading to the U.S. and his family. What they see in that video.

CUOMO: Your 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 Tuesday, January 21st, 6:00 in the East.

Right now a big bad polar blast is bearing down on the northeast. So nasty, it shut down the federal government. Take a look at the size of this system. Forecast is showing a frozen spine from the mid Atlantic to Maine. It's threatening to be a turbo charged trifecta.