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The South Digs Out; Judgment Day for Amanda Knox; Bieber Arrested Again

Aired January 30, 2014 - 04:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Still frozen. The South wakes up to ice again this morning. Are they ready this time after a day of chaos on the roads, several people killed, thousands stranded? We're tracking the cleanup this morning. Also, when will it finally warm up?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Judgment day for Amanda Knox, awaiting a third verdict in her former roommate's murder. Could the freed American be forced to return to an Italian jail cell? We're live.

BERMAN: And this is not made up, folks. Justin Bieber arrested again, accused of the assault of a limo driver, and a petition to deport the star is gaining massive momentum. So, why the White House may now have to get involved?

ROMANS: All right. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: A very early EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

It is Thursday, January 30th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone.

This morning, Atlanta and much of the South still waking up, still frozen, a day after the trip home from work and school turned into a nightmare for millions. Roads clogged, many stuck for hours trying to get home. At least ten people, ten people have now been killed across the South because of this storm.

This morning, we're happy to say most people have finally gotten where they're trying to go, but there are still some students who are sleeping at school.

BERMAN: That is unbelievable.

ROMANS: And the roads are littered with abandoned cars. People just now trying to figure out how to reunite with their cars.

Martin Savidge has the latest.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been another brutally cold night, and that means that the roadways that had thawed out some here in the Atlanta region once again froze solid, and that is making for some treacherous driving conditions.

The good news is, is that it appears that many drivers are heeding the advice of state officials to stay off the roads, unless it is an absolute emergency. Schools will remain closed, as will some government offices in the Atlanta area -- the idea there to reduce the amount of traffic so the road crews can start to catch up.

Also later today, the Georgia Department of Transportation will begin ferrying drivers back to the cars that they abandoned at the height of the storm. They're going to be providing fuel, which is necessary, because many people ran out of gas. They'll also be providing a jump- start, if that's also need.

They know they have to get these hundreds of cars off of the exit and on-ramps as well as the sides of the road, because they continue to pose a hazard.

The good news is the temperatures this weekend will feel spring-like. That is not doing much, though, to try to lessen the furor that many people have for the state and the city, who they feel was not properly preparing for the storm that they knew that was coming.

The governor and the mayor of Atlanta have both said they accept some blame, but that it wasn't all their fault. Some drivers who spent up to nearly 24 hours trapped behind the wheel trying to get home would strongly disagree.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.


BERMAN: We keep saying stuck behind the wheel for 24 hours. I simply cannot imagine that.

We're getting unbelievable pictures from all over the region. Take a look at this one from Woodstock, Georgia. This is a car in a sinkhole. You saw it there just covered with water. The reason, the slippery roads. The cars are sliding everywhere. This one slid into a fire hydrant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water kept flowing up from the hydrant.

REPORTER: You got out of the car and you got out safely.


REPORTER: How long before this happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably 30 minutes.

REPORTER: Did you see it happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, all my school stuff was in it, and I was like, oh. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The dog ate my homework and my car slid into a ditch, hit a fire hydrant.

ROMANS: Everyone gets a homework pass for the next couple of days in the South. Virginia Beach saw a lot of accidents, as it wracked up about 9 inches of snow, including a car that hit this house. The driver and three people in the house had to go to the hospital, none of the injuries, thankfully, are said to be serious.

BERMAN: North Carolina digging out this morning with schools closed an many offices telling workers to stay home. This weather event continues, folks. It was a few inches of snow that fell there. The problem this morning is the cold. Again, it is causing so many of these roads to freeze.

ROMANS: All right, it took until late into the evening, but the last students stranded at a school in Alabama are finally home this morning. More than 11,000 kids had to spend the night in their schools with their teachers because of the storm. The last students reunited with their families just a few hours ago.

BERMAN: And despite all this, you know, bad news, there were miracles to be seen in this weather, including for a woman and her boyfriend in Birmingham. Darshea Jones (ph) went into labor two weeks early and the ambulance set to take her to the hospital got into an accident, so she had to call 911, where a dispatcher walked her through giving birth at home.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't even know Alabama like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking, like oh, my God, what the heck are we going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She asked me, have you ever done this before? I said, no. We're going to learn it together. And I heard that cry, and I was like, oh, my God, I have brought a baby into this world.


ROMANS: The look on the dad's face is just priceless.

BERMAN: He's my favorite person ever, I think, this morning.

ROMANS: What are we going to do?

BERMAN: What are we going to do?

Mother and child are doing fine. The father seems to be in shell shock. He will recover, eventually. They have named the baby, get this, Winter.

ROMANS: That's beautiful! BERMAN: It is lovely.

ROMANS: I think that is beautiful.

Indra Petersons watching the forecast for us.

Indra, a lot of babies named Winter this year, because there is a lot of Winter.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm still trying to get over how you're get giving dad credit. I'm going to give mom credit.

ROMANS: You're right.

PETERSONS: Wait a minute, you're missing a beat here.

Let's talk about this. Let's talk about what's going on in the South -- very easy to see in the 12-hour loop. The system that was there has made its way offshore. Still leftover showers in Florida.

The new story today will be the clearer skies, so colder temperatures this morning. You can actually see in a lot of places it's cooler today than it was yesterday morning.

Why does that matter? Because of course, we have the hard freeze in many places into the South. That also means any moisture that's left overnight, likely froze overnight. So, definitely tough commute in the morning with a lot of black ice on the roads and especially on those bridges.

Other thing we'll be looking at this morning is the warm-up, so that's the good news. Conditions will be improving through the next several days. Notice Atlanta finally recovering, even to above normal. So, that's the good piece of news.

Temperatures across the country feeling a lot better, especially on the East Coast, but once again in the Upper Midwest, this is where a lot of our systems come from, we're going to see little bit of that cooler air again today.

What's going on? We have a couple systems making their way through. So, Minneapolis today could see 4 to 6 inches of snow. Little system today, here comes the next one Friday in through Saturday, looking all the way into the Ohio Valley, several inches with each one of these. Saturday most likely the strongest one, but keep in mind, also strong and windy, so any snow already on the ground continuing to blow around in that region.

So, it looks like we're getting back to the typical pattern, where the snow should be this time of year.

ROMANS: At least those double digits don't have minus signs in front of them.

PETERSONS: Looks a lot better, right?

ROMANS: Yes. Thanks, Indra.


ROMANS: Thanks a lot.

BERMAN: All right. Seven minutes after the hour.

Happening today, President Obama on the road visiting Milwaukee area, also Nashville. This is part of his post-State of the Union effort to drum up support for his economic plans. The president will stop at an engine plant in Wisconsin and a high school in Nashville, where he is expected to outline just what he will do if Congress does not work with him. That a day after stops in Maryland and Pennsylvania.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm hoping the Congress goes along with this, but I'm not going to wait for Congress. I could do more with Congress, but I'm not going to not do anything without Congress. Not when it's about the basic security and dignity of American workers.


BERMAN: One program is already in the works. President Obama has directed the treasury secretary to make rules for a new plan designed to help lower wage workers save for retirement. It is an interesting idea.

ROMANS: And more people need to save for retirement and you save more money. The government wants to get involved in that.

All right. Republicans, meantime, are on Maryland's eastern shore today gathered for their annual winter retreat where immigration is expected to be the big topic today. The leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, plan to release a set of principles for an immigration overhaul, including giving probationary status to many illegal immigrants, but they say they will only move toward making those principles law if the rank-and-file agree.

BERMAN: This morning, New York Congressman Michael Grimm says he is trying to move on, now that he has officially apologized to a reporter that he threatened to throw off a balcony and break in half like a boy. Grimm made the threat just after the State of the Union address, when the reporter asked him about a campaign finance allegation. Well, after initially defending his outburst, now Grimm says he is sorry.


REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: This was an unfortunate incident that shouldn't have happened, and you know, I'm sure my Italian mother is going to, you know, be yelling at me saying you weren't raised that way, and she's right. She's absolutely right.

So, the bottom line is, I overreacted, and my emotions got the better of me, I lost my cool, and that shouldn't happen.


BERMAN: You shouldn't have threatened to throw the guy off a balcony and break him in half like a boy.

Grimm says the reporter has accepted his apology and the two are planning to have lunch together some time next week.

I have a joke here. They're going to break bread instead of break him in half. Do you like that one? I've been working on that all night.

ROMANS: He should invite his Italian mother along, to mediate that.

OK. A terrifying warning Wednesday from the top U.S. intelligence official telling congress that a Syrian militant group tied to al Qaeda is determined to attack the U.S. and its allies and is now training, training right now a growing number of fighters to do this.

Director of intelligence, national intelligence, James Clapper, said the fighters come from Europe, the Mideast, they come from the U.S. the plan to train them and send them back home to carry out these attacks.

BERMAN: And the director of national intelligence also had troubling news about North Korea, saying the isolated nation is moving ahead on threats to advance its nuclear weapons program by expanding the size of uranium enrichment facility and restarting a plutonium reactor that has been closed since 2007. South Korean intelligence confirms the reactor is up and running. The North has been beefing up its nuclear program since an atomic test explosion last February.

ROMANS: All right, a look now at the markets at this moment. Markets in Asia down sharply. Japan's Nikkei bearing the brunt of a broad- based selling. Hong Kong and Shanghai also lower. London is trading lower right now.

Real tough, tough night, guys, for stock markets, a few things at play here. The Federal Reserve's bond-buying program that was put in place to help stabilize the U.S. economy was also helping growth in emerging markets. The money the Fed was pumping into the world was going into places like Turkey, India, Brazil.

Yesterday, the Fed is going to start slowing the amount of money it's injecting into the global economy. That has investors nervous about the stability of those emerging markets. Those currencies in those countries have been falling and those countries have had to take some action.

On top of that, confirmation overnight manufacturing is slowing in China. New export orders are down for the second straight month in China.

John, as you know, that's been a big driver of global growth. So, you've got this, it's not here, what's happening around the rest of the world, real concern for stock markets. BERMAN: All of a sudden everyone's looking at Turkey.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Having a huge impact here.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. This morning, Justin Bieber is in trouble not in just one country but two countries, folks. The 19-year-old pop star surrendering to police in Toronto in connection with the assault of a limo driver back in December.

Look at this. Bieber had to push his way through the throng of fans and onlookers to get into the police station where he stayed for about 90 minutes. This came just a few hours after his lawyers entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in Miami Beach on DUI charges. So, two countries, two set of charges, and an investigation is still ongoing in Los Angeles into whether Mr. Bieber was responsible for pelting a neighbor's home with eggs.

More than 175,000 Americans have now signed on to a petition on the White House Web site calling for Bieber to be deported back to Canada.

So, there's no official reaction yet from the Obama administration, but the White House has always said that when 100,000 people sign these online petitions that it will respond. So, there will be a response coming from the White House on the suggestion that Justin Bieber should be deported.

ROMANS: And let's be clear, convictions, certain kinds of convictions can change your visa status, absolutely.

All right, coming up, judgment day for Amanda Knox. On trial for a third time now in the murder of her roommate. Could the now freed American be forced to return to jail in Italy? We're live with that.

BERMAN: And a neighbor's complaint leads to a shocking discovery inside a California teacher's home.

ROMANS: This story is the -- this is a scary story.

BERMAN: All right, we'll have it, coming up next.


ROMANS: This morning, Amanda Knox may find out her fate. The American from Seattle on trial again in Italy for the murder of her roommate, charges she had been convicted of and then cleared of before.

Now, a new court is very close to announcing another verdict, a verdict she is not in Italy to hear in person.

Erin McLaughlin is live in Florence for us.

Erin, what's the latest?


Well, we're hearing that Amanda Knox's lawyers have finished with their closing arguments this morning at the courthouse behind me. The jury has now retired to deliberate. Amanda Knox, of course, not present in court, though her former boyfriend and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito did make an appearance in court this morning, his father telling CNN that he is absolutely terrified but that he's here to face justice, even though he's legally not required to be present in court.

Both he and Knox were convicted in 2009 in the brutal killing of 21- year-old British student Meredith Kercher. That conviction overturned by an appellate court in 2011 for lack of evidence. But Italy's Supreme Court did not approve of that acquittal, saying that it was full of contradictions and deficiencies.

So, here we are, once again, back at a court in Florence, a jury of six individuals and two judges considering all the old evidence, as well as some new evidence, none of that appearing to be game-changing. One of the things, though, that could possibly hurt the defense is Amanda Knox's decision to remain in the United States, to not appear throughout these proceedings. She wrote an e-mail to the court explaining that she was very afraid, very afraid of being wrongfully convicted. All of that, of course, now being considered by the jury currently in deliberations -- Christine.

ROMANS: So, whatever the court decides, will this be the final version? It feels like this legal, the legal twists and turns in this case have been going on for years.

MCLAUGHLIN: No, this will not be the final decision. Whatever the jury decides, the jury and the two judges decide today, that will then have to go again to Italy's Supreme Court for approval. So, that could be months away, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Erin. Thank you so much. Live for us this morning in Florence.

BERMAN: About 18 minutes after the hour now. And it will not be long until we find out if federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Justice Department confirms that Attorney General Eric Holder will announce a decision by tomorrow. Tsarnaev faces 30 criminal counts for the April 15th bombing that killed three people and injured 260 others.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, Missouri's third execution this month. Herbert Smulls put to death by lethal injection last night for the 1991 murder of a St. Louis jewelry shop owner. The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay late Tuesday to take up several appeals. The final one was rejected 30 minutes before Smulls was put to death.

BERMAN: New developments in the chemical spill that prompted a water ban for 300,000 West Virginians this month. State and water officials are rejecting a scientist's claim that residents may have inhaled formaldehyde while showering. Officials say the chemical that leaked into the water supply only produces formaldehyde at 500 degrees, which is way, way hotter than any shower.

ROMANS: We're also watching developments this morning in California's massive drought. Officials say 17 areas parched by a largely rainless winter could run completely dry within 100 days. Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency this month. President Obama called Brown Wednesday to pledge federal in helping lessen the drought's effect.

BERMAN: A deep, deep cleaning is happening today on a cruise ship turned sick bay for hundreds of passengers.


BERMAN: "The Explorer of the Seas" is now back at port in New Jersey after nearly 700 passengers and crew came down with some sort of stomach bug, likely norovirus.


KIM WAITE, SICK CRUISE PASSENGER: You could see people sitting there getting sick in buckets, in bags. It was awful. And they just gave us a number to wait. And I had to wait three hours to be seen.

DANIELLE PANEPIANCO, SICK CRUISE PASSENGER: We were looking forward to staying warm and being on our honeymoon and enjoying our time together and we're never going to get that back.


ROMANS: Honeymoon!

BERMAN: Oh, no.

ROMANS: Somebody else yesterday it was 12 family members who had all taken vacation, cousins and all got together for this once-in once-in- a-lifetime trip and they were all sick.

BERMAN: Something about that honeymoon like, ugh.

All right. Royal Caribbean is giving passengers refunds and credits towards future cruise. The ship will be, off-limits for 24 hours but scheduled to head out again on its next journey on Friday.

ROMANS: OK, this is the story of the morning that freaks me out the most. Near Los Angeles, a school teacher facing charges after police raided his home and pulled out hundreds, hundreds of snakes living, some of them dead.


POLICE: (INAUDIBLE) police! We have a search warrant! Come to the front door!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The stench is overwhelming, and everybody who comes to the house for a party is just, like, they don't want to come. It's like, what's that smell? Smells like something's dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're very cold, and it appears that most of them haven't eaten in quite a while. There's various stages of dying and dead and underweight.


BERMAN: Which she says, by the way, as she is holding a snake casually there.

ROMANS: OK. The teacher's name is William Buckman (ph). He was arrested. He's an elementary school teacher in Newport Beach. A neighbor said that Buckman used to breed snakes, but it's not clear why he had so many in his home now, alive and dead.

BERMAN: Some people collect baseball cards. Other people collect hundreds and hundreds of snakes, living and dead.

ROMANS: How could you sleep at night with that many snakes? OK.

BERMAN: Twenty-two minutes after the hour right now.

And the gift of a lifetime for a teen battling cancer. We will tell you this amazing story when we come back.


BERMAN: You want to hear an amazing story? A Nevada teenager with cancer and his family are heading to New York today for the trip of a lifetime. It's a chance to see the Super Bowl in person.

Sixteen-year-old Cody Beach (ph) has melanoma and has undergone months of treatment. His parents say he has been incredibly strong throughout this whole ordeal, but he was understandably surprised when a couple that he never met turned over the all-expense-paid trip they won in a raffle. They couldn't go because the husband, who also has cancer, was too weak to travel. So, for Cody and his family, this was just an amazing gift.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just thank you, give them a hug.

KIRT BEACH, FATHER: He's had five operations so far, and then in his lungs.

CORY BEACH, BROTHER: I'm praying that I'll have a long time with him. But if worse comes to worse, I want this to be a great memory for all our family. Just forget about what he's going through and just really live in the moment.


BERMAN: I now want this to be the best Super Bowl ever just for this family. As for the tickets to the game, there were supposed to be only two tickets, but the NFL mistakenly sent out four, which seems like an awfully perfect mistake. Maybe the NFL was just showing its heart. This meant, of course, that Cody's whole family could go to the Super Bowl.

ROMANS: I hope they have a great, great time and wish him the best of luck.

All right. The South still frozen over this morning following a deadly, catastrophic day on the road. We've got the latest for you that millions, millions are waking up to. That's right after the break.