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Bitter Blast of Winter; Olympics on Edge; Grammys Big Moments

Aired January 27, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mass outbreak of minus signs. Millions waking up to record-breaking, subzero temperatures, roads a mess, flights canceled, schools closed. Make it stop now!

Indra Petersons tracking the latest round of this historic, awful weather.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Olympics on edge. New terror threats this morning surrounding the upcoming Winter Games. Can Russia keep athletes and their fans safe? We are live.

BERMAN: Ah, the drama. Ah, the music. Ah, the outfits. The big moments you missed at the Grammy Awards overnight.

ROMANS: You were sleeping, but we were there. We'll have everything for you.

BERMAN: Yes, that wasn't the Grammys that was Christine Romans' house.

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. No (INAUDIBLE) today.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Monday, January 27th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's begin with the extreme weather happening right now, happening still, happening again for a big part of the country. The Midwest is frozen, literally, with temperatures far below zero. Add in snow and wind, and it's a dangerous situation for millions who just want this to end. And the cold is quickly moving East and South, where it's going to hit even more of you!

BERMAN: Chicago getting slammed again this morning after a weekend of snow with high temperatures below zero. Two major interstates were shut down for hours. The roads were just impassable. The public schools in that city and many of the suburbs are closed this morning.

Crews have been working overtime to move snow that's piled up over the last few weeks at O'Hare Airport. Look at that. Hundreds of flights were canceled there and also at midway.

ROMANS: Minnesota, OK, Minnesota's used to the cold, right? And used to snow, but not cold and snow like this. High temperatures negative 6. That was the high, was negative 6. Roads shut down in parts of the state, including the twin cities, because the wind was kicking up so much snow, drivers couldn't see. Many schools in Minnesota, including Minneapolis-St. Paul closed today.

BERMAN: That is a ridiculous picture.

ROMANS: (INAUDIBLE) school and into June.

BERMAN: North Dakota, meanwhile, that isn't a beach with an ocean shot. No, that's North Dakota, folks. The snow is blowing across the road there in Grand Forks, winds gusting to nearly 50 miles per hour. It was all but impossible for drivers to see where they were trying to go. You can't see anything in this. Some major highways had to be closed.

ROMANS: When the wind whips across the plains like that, it's amazing. In Milwaukee today, no school in Milwaukee, the city grappling with temperatures expected to stay very, very low. Snow is falling again this weekend, residents doing their best to stay warm and stay safe.

BERMAN: Yes, it's ugly. So, what's going to happen next? Indra Petersons is tracking all this for us and where it's going -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We really have to deal with the next 48 hours. At least it's not going to be long-lived. I've got to start you with some kind of insight here, because we know it's going to be rough, especially when you talk about the upper Midwest today. Green bay 2 below, Minneapolis 13 below, Chicago only at 1, and just close to freezing right now into the Northeast. We have not added the windchill.

Here we go. This is what it really feels like out there. Many places almost 40 below right now. That's what it feels like out toward Minneapolis.

So, let's talk about what is expected to happen here. This cold air once again diving all the way down, even into the South. We're so atypical, but they could be talking about even some freezing rain and a wintry mix, especially overnight tonight into through tomorrow.

You're talking about the Carolinas all along the coast here. This is going to be an unusual mess they're going to be dealing with in through tomorrow and kind of Wednesday morning. So, that's unusual there. As far as where's the cold air, let's look at the highs, the highs today. Chicago's high is 2 below, New York City not bad at 38, but they go down to 18 for a high tomorrow and then by Wednesday, a big sigh of relief, things recover quickly.

So, definitely, better conditions are expected maybe 48 hours from now, but that doesn't help us until then, right?

BERMAN: Forty-eight hours of pain.

ROMANS: Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: In Maryland today, authorities still trying to make sense of the deadly shooting at a shopping mall, saying there is no known relationship between this man, Darion Marcus Aguilar and the two people at the mall that he killed in Columbia. Police say Aguilar showed up at the mall on Saturday with a 12-gauge shotgun, including explosives, walked around for about an hour and then went to a store in the second floor and opened fire, killing 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson.


SYDNEY PETTY, TAYLOR JOHNSON'S AUNT: With Tyler, we have lost a kind, positive son who reached out to help others in need, and he made a difference. This is so unbelievable. Our prayers are with him, the other victims and all the people who have been touched by this senseless violence.


BERMAN: Such a loss. The apparent shooter, Aguilar, died of a self- inflicted gunshot wound and apparently left behind a journal describing his unhappiness. He apparently bought the gun legally back in December. The mall is set to reopen this afternoon.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, safety checks being ordered for hundreds of Boeing 767 jets. The FAA says there could be problems with the plane's tail sections that could possibly cause the pilots to lose control of the aircraft. Now, important to note, there haven't been any reported accidents because of tail section problems and no planes have been grounded, but the FAA is ordering new tests over the next month and eventual replacement on parts of the jet to minimize the risk.

BERMAN: Now to Russia, where this morning final preparations are under way for the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Athletes from around the world begin arriving this week. Of course, they're arriving under intense security. There is a huge dragnet there, and of course, there is also increasing fears that terrorists may target the games.

Ivan Watson is in Sochi this morning. And, Ivan, we understand there is a new threat from the same group that was behind those bombings in Volgograd.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There have been a number of threats that have come out, both videos and e-mail threats, some questions about whether they're hoaxes or not. And certainly, the Russians have clamped down security-wise. I flew in last night here. I might add, John, that it's probably 30 degrees warmer here in Sochi where the Winter Olympics are going to be held than over there in New York right now.

I found that the Russian bureaucracy traveling through Russia far friendlier and more hospitable than I have encountered in the past. There is definitely a huge police presence on the ground in the Olympic park area over my shoulder, in the resort town of Sochi. Police everywhere in uniform, some of them dressed up in, like, purple kind of sports winter outfits. There have been a number of precautions taken.

For example, locals telling us that cars that are not registered in Sochi have effectively been banned here since January 7th, so if you didn't get your car out and you were from another Russian city -- well, you can't even drive the car out without probably getting fined.

On top of these security measures, we're also hearing from the U.S. government measures it will be taking to protect the U.S. Olympic team here, and some of the advice, for instance, to the U.S. athletes, do not walk out of the Olympic park wearing your team colors for fear of making yourself a target.

Also, the U.S. will be bringing two warships into the black sea, it will have transport planes ready in case something terrible happens, and it is sending FBI agents both to Moscow and here down to Sochi to help liaise with the Russian security officers who are down here by the tens of thousands, and also reportedly include hundreds of Cossacks wearing fur hats and swords -- John.

BERMAN: Some pageantry along with security there. Ivan Watson on the ground for us in Sochi -- we will be monitoring the situation there throughout the morning -- thanks, Ivan.

ROMANS: This morning military officials working to confirm the results of their latest air strike. CNN learned the missile strike targeted a senior military leader affiliated with al Qaeda and al Shabaab in Somalia, the military not yet sure if the intended target was killed.

BERMAN: That dramatic music means that President Obama is spending today getting ready for the all-important State of the Union Address that takes place Tuesday night. The speech is expected to lay out the president's plan for the next year, including, reportedly, programs to increase jobs and promote economic recovery. CNN will have complete coverage of the president's address and the Republican response. It all begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday night, right here on CNN.

ROMANS: You always get the stories with the dramatic music.

Meanwhile, Congress returns from yet another short vacation today with a lot on its plate, including raising the debt ceiling, the debate over extending jobless benefits and whether to approve a new farm food stamp bill. The House could vote as soon as today on a bill banning federal funding for abortions.

BERMAN: It will start costing you more today to mail a letter. People still mail letters, by the way, the paper ones with stamps. The price of a first-class stamp has gone up 3 cents to 49 cents. This is the largest postal rate hike in 11 years.

Allegedly, it will only take effect for about two years, enough time for regulators to recoup nearly $3 billion in recession-related losses. They rejected a request to make the increase permanent. I have suspicions that these types of things are awfully hard to roll back down the line.

ROMANS: All right. Stock markets around the world look ugly today, folks. Japan at the lowest level in two months, Hong Kong, South Korea down about 2 percent, Europe rattled as well. It's a response to a huge drop here in the U.S. less week. The S&P 500 is coming off its worst week since 2012.

One big issue here, the sell-off in currencies in emerging markets, this is a real emerging market-driven unease we're seeing. They have been hammered lately because of their concerns about the fed and other central banks pulling back on stimulus. You think it only matters to us if we taper? Oh, no, the Fed's taper will also hurt some of these emerging markets, that stimulus as been giving economies around the world a boost.

Wall Street also was slammed by a report last week showing China's economy is slowing down. China a big, big driver of the world economy.

Then, at home, worries about corporate America adding insult to injury. IBM, Johnson & Johnson reporting earnings that disappointed.

Roll it together. It's a perfect storm. And today could either way. Stock futures are flat.

Here's my hope, John. You have today coming in after this ugly start to the week for Europe or Asia. If things are kind of steady here, you know we haven't snowballed into this week.

BERMAN: But more big losses than more big problems.

ROMANS: Right, exactly.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Christine.

Meanwhile, it was a big night for the guys in the space suits at the Grammy Awards. Daft Funk, that's them right there, the big winner picking up four trophies, including album of the year for "Random Access Memories" and record of the year for their hit "Get Lucky." Pharrell Williams also a big hit.

How do you this?

ROMANS: Lorde.

BERMAN: Lorde was the top female winner, earning two Grammys for her album "Royals." Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won best new artist and best rap album. Their big moment, this was being talked about all weekend. It came toward the end of the show, they performed their hit "Same Love."

ROMANS: This is amazing.

BERMAN: While they were singing, 33 couples got married in a ceremony officiated by Queen Latifah. Madonna then serenaded the newlyweds. That's quite a wedding.

ROMANS: I'm not sure, Lewis's sister was in there.

BERMAN: Pink performed. That's Pink, by the way, spinning there. That is her hit, "Try," and that is some kind of trapeze and rope contraption. Do not try this at home, folks. And we got to see two Beatles. There is Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performing a song off McCartney's new album. The biggest surprise was Daft Punk, though, because I learned something that I did not know.


BERMAN: Their producer is Paul Williams. Do you know who Paul Williams is?

ROMANS: Oh, yes!

BERMAN: So there he is right now. Paul Williams wrote "The Rainbow Connection". He was huge in the '70s. That guy was on "The Love Boat" like 10 times and now he is winning a Grammy for producing Daft Punk.

ROMANS: Well, the sound and the feel of that song is very '70s, you know? It's really a nice, cool feel.

BERMAN: It makes you think of Muppets.

ROMANS: It makes me feel of Muppets and Miss Piggy.

So, look, now you're all read in. You can pretend you watched it, even though you were sleeping like we know you were.

All right. Coming up, new signs of progress in the peace talks over Syria. A big move could be happening today in that war-torn country. We're live for you there.

BERMAN: And a U.S. Congressman goes AWOL, vanishing for weeks from his job and the campaign trail. The very latest on this bizarre disappearance.


ROMANS: Happening now in Geneva. Key talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups who want Bashar al Assad out of power.

Today, they may actually start discussing the transition. That after the government agreed to a humanitarian deal over a besieged city. Nic Robertson live in Geneva with the latest.

Nic, what have they already decided and what's still up in the air at this hour?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think pretty much everything is still up in the air, Christine. I think it was best expressed by the U.N. mediator here, when he said that they were hopeful that these women and children would be allowed out of the besieged city of Homs, and hopeful that the government is actually working on getting aid convoys that are ready to go into that area where there are about 500 families that have been starving for many, many months. So, it's really still far from a done deal. It's all talk. This weekend has been about building confidence. But when you look at it today, before the really tough talks on transitional government get under way, very little confidence has been built, if any at all, I would say. This is how one of the opposition spokesmen put it just yesterday.


LOUAY SAFI, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SYRIAN NATIONAL COALITION: Tomorrow, we start talking about transition from dictatorship to democracy. Clearly, the regime is not optimistic, and they are stalling, they're trying to use delay tactics, trying to go into details about information that can't be verified. They are asking about names, a list of names of people who are located, rather than providing humanitarian corridors.


ROBERTSON: And what the opposition actually asked for was to get food to the starving people. The government is prevaricating on that. It hasn't made it clear whether they will or won't.

The food is ready to go, and what a senior official told me yesterday is that the government has blocked over the past many, many months, continues to block aid convoys getting into that town, that whatever the government says to the country is in fact wrong and there is a situation of starvation there that could be considered a breach of Geneva conventions and possibly even a war crime. So, everyone's watching to see if the government really is going to make good on what it said it might do -- Christine.

ROMANS: Certainly, very frustrating, very frustrating, indeed. Thanks, Nic Robertson.

BERMAN: Seventeen minutes after the hour.

New Jersey lawmakers are streamlining the Chris Christie bridgegate investigation. Happening today: both houses of the state legislature voting on a measure to create a joint committee to look into the scandal. Right now, both the Senate and the assembly are conducting separate probes. Twenty subpoenas already served by the assembly committee will remain in force.

ROMANS: After nearly three weeks, missing in action, a Republican congressman from Texas is promising to reveal today just where he has been. Steve Stockman put out a cryptic tweet, writing, "Where am I? Find out Monday."

The conservative firebrand has made virtually no public appearances and missed 17 straight House votes since January 9th. According to reports, Stockman may have turned up in London after a trip to Russia. Stay tuned.

BERMAN: Strange. New details expected this morning in a bomb case from Pennsylvania. Police say 19-year-old Vladislav Miftakhov made a bomb and other bomb- making materials? A suitcase in Altoona. He's a Russian national and engineering student and police say he was going to blow things up in a field. He is being held on $500,000 bail and is due in court next week.

ROMANS: Toledo is mourning the loss of two hero firefighters this morning who died Sunday battling a blaze at an apartment complex. Officials say 42-year-old Steven Machcinski and 31-year-old James Dickman, a rookie, suffered fatal injuries while inside that building. It's the first deaths for the department in an active fire since 1981. Autopsies scheduled for today. No word yet on what caused that fire.

BERMAN: This morning thousands of natural gas customers are still without heat after this just incredible pipeline explosion in Canada. This happened in Manitoba, when part of the TransCanada pipeline ruptured.


BERMAN: Cutting off gas to more than 4,000 people who now cannot heat their homes in temperatures that have reached minus 18. What a mess. It could be days, days before any repairs are made there.

ROMANS: All right, the passengers and crew on a Royal Caribbean ship are on their way back home this morning, and it's early, days early, because hundreds on board The Explorer of the Seas are sick with some sort of gastrointestinal illness. The cruise line says more than 560 passengers, dozens of crew members have become sick, 560 passengers sick on this 10-day journey from New Jersey to the Caribbean.


JOSEPH ANGELILLO, PASSENGER: They just said it was brought on by somebody, you know, and this and that, by this pushed the button on the elevator and spread it to somebody else touched the button, but I don't know. I don't buy that, because I mean, even the crew was sick here. They even brought in extra help to try to sanitize the ship. And now when you go in to line for your food, you're not allowed to touch anything, everything is handed to you, you know. They canceled shows because their entertainers have gotten sick.



BERMAN: Sounds like paradise.

ROMANS: The ship is expected to return to New Jersey on Wednesday and the cruise line says it will thoroughly clean the vessel. I'll have to check in, see what kind of refund they're getting.

BERMAN: Good idea. Twenty-one minutes after the hour.

Heading into the big game, this big question, will Sunday's game be Peyton Manning's last? He's made some intriguing, cryptic comments.

And Andy Scholes is here to break it all down for us in the "Bleacher Report."


BERMAN: You can sense the anticipation streaming over here from New Jersey. Super Bowl week is finally here. The Broncos and Seahawks have arrived in Jersey City. It is time to get down to business. And we're so lucky, we have Andy Scholes right here, in studio with us.

ROMANS: Show you how important this is.

BERMAN: This is huge.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Big time, right, guys?

ROMANS: If Andy Scholes is with us, this is the big time. Good morning.

SCHOLES: Good morning. One week down, one to go to the big game. The story lines, of course, the weather for this year's game. Freezing temperatures are expected.

The other one, of course, is Peyton Manning's quest for a second Super Bowl. Peyton led the Broncos off the plane once they arrived in New Jersey yesterday, and at age 37, there's been a lot of talk that if he wins, Peyton might hang up the cleats and go out on top.

Now, Peyton says he hasn't made plans past the Super Bowl, but he does feel like he has plenty of football left.


PEYTON MANNING, BRONCOS QUARTERBACK: I still enjoy playing football, and I feel a little better than I thought I would at this point coming off that surgery. I think as soon as I stop enjoying it, if I can't produce, if I can't help a team, that's when I'll stop playing. If that's next year, maybe it is, but I certainly want to continue to keep playing.


SCHOLES: The Seahawks also getting into New Jersey last night. All eyes were on Richard Sherman. The Seahawks cornerback has been thrust into the spotlight after his epic rant after the NFC championship game.

And Sherman says all the craziness from that rant has actually helped his team prepared for the big game.


RICHARD SHERMAN, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: I definitely think it helped. I think, you know, everybody getting a chance to see the cameras, see, you know, the tons of media and the press conferences and things like that has helped everybody kind of evolve and get to the next level, understanding the media and what they want to get and the messages they want to put across.


SCHOLES: Trending on today is the pro bowl. That happened yesterday. New format this year, no more AFC versus NFC. Teams were picked by Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, so you had players from the same team going against each other.

Check out this point, the chiefs' Johnson lights up teammate Jamaal Charles. Now, Charles was coming off a concussion suffered in the playoffs against the Colts. No love lost between those two. Team Rice, in case you were wondering, won the game on a late two-point conversion, 22-21.

BERMAN: It's news to me that they still play the pro bowl. I didn't even know they play --

SCHOLES: Right. In case you missed it, it happened yesterday.

BERMAN: Wow, Andy Scholes, we should bring you here more often with revelations like that. Thank you so much.

SCHOLES: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking news overnight, urgent safety checks ordered on hundreds of passenger planes, plus, all the other top headlines so you'll be prepared for the day, after the break.


ROMANS: Dangerous, record-breaking cold temperatures moving across the country again, still! Planes grounded, roads closed. Indra Petersons tracking just how long this blast of winter will last.

BERMAN: New developments this morning in a deadly shooting at a shopping mall. What we are now learning about the gunman who killed two people.

ROMANS: A big, big night at the Grammys. High-flying performances, blowout victories and a historic moment that has social media buzzing this morning.