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Atlanta Shuts Down After Winter Storm; President Obama Speaking Across the Country; More Charges for Justin Bieber; Texas Family Challenges Law, Take Brain-Dead Woman Off Life Support

Aired January 30, 2014 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNNANCHOR: The south still frozen this morning, iced over after a historic winter storm turns roads into skating rinks, left thousands stranded, kids sleeping in schools this morning. There is hope on the horizon. Indra Petersons tracking when the ice will finally melt.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A heartbreaking loss. A Texas man opens up about his decision and why he had to fight a hospital for weeks to take his brain-dead wife off of a ventilator.

ROMANS: Justin Bieber arrested again as part of an assault investigation and now facing a new threat. Could his bad boy antics get him deported? Why the White House could be getting involved.

BERMAN: Yes. Can you believe that? All right, welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour, it's 4:31 in the east.

BERMAN: And today the south is trying to thaw out and get back to normal. Man, does it need it. This may be very, very difficult to do today after the nightmare of bad weather left all the roads down there, especially the big ones, just paralyzed.

The death toll across the south is now at least ten. Students were stuck in school for hours, drivers stranded in their cars, some for nearly a day. You heard people saying they were in their car more than 20 hours. Starting this morning, state authorities in Georgia will help get people back to their cars, which people just had to leave, abandon on interstates throughout the Atlanta area.

And this morning, as you can imagine, many people are asking, how did this happen? A major city shut down by just a few inches of snow. Our Brian Todd has that part of the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Snowmageddon in a major city, an auto graveyard on the interstate, semi trucks jack-knifed, cars abandoned by the hundreds, others struggling. Over 1,000 accidents were reported in the city of Atlanta and the greater area. Look at these school buses, children stranded inside them. Nearly 100 children were stuck on buses until about midnight.

UNIDENTIFIED CHLID: I was super scared! I was like, if I don't get home to my parents, I'm like, I'm going to freak out.

TODD: Other kids had to sleep at their schools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We spent the night, all the teachers and the staff set up gym mats.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It took a long time for daddy to dig out.


TODD: Good Samaritans tried to free cars that had been stuck for hours, while the national guard came out to help stranded victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First priority was look for people that were stranded, you know, hadn't had any food or water, and to bring that to them.

TODD: Trucker Greg Schrader had been stuck in his truck for 23 hours when he spoke to CNN.

GREG SHRADER, TUCKER: Seen hundreds of accidents. I'm not stuck on anything. There's just nowhere to go.

TODD: All from a snowfall of, at most, 3 1/2 inches, and a layer of ice so slippery, these kids could play hockey on it. Atlanta's mayor admits, the government was partly to blame because schools and government offices let people out at about the same time businesses shut down in the early afternoon on Tuesday.

Is that really how it escalates so quickly, everyone hitting the road at the same time?

PROF. SAMER HAMDAR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It does. Practically, if everybody is hitting the road at the same time, your demand on the transportation network would be so high that the corresponding capacity or supply of your network would not be able to handle such demand.

TODD: In Atlanta, that led to people taking 12, 14 hours or longer to get home. That's with like to be stuck or sliding around in this chaos?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 5 miles an hour, basically.

TODD: Here's self-shot video from CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos. She chronicled her journey home heading north on I-75. Before she got stranded at a hotel, look what happened.

MARI RAMOS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Okay, my car skidded off the road. I'm going to go ahead and get out now because it's pretty scary to stay in here. I'm not alone. There's emergency vehicles behind me, as you can see there. I need help, but they can't help me because there's a serious accident up the road. So, they're trying to put some salt there because that big truck in front of me is sliding as well.


RAMOS: I can't sir. I can try.

TODD: In these situations, one traffic expert says drivers become distracted by stressful conditions, trying to stay warm, take care of children in the vehicle.

It wasn't just the weather or the massive volume of vehicles on the road all at once that contributed to the disaster in Atlanta. The traffic expert we spoke to says a lack of driving skill plays a major role in these situations.

HAMDAR: If you are dealing with a southern state that is not used to getting the different kind of snow precipitation among other weather conditions, the skills of drivers will not be able to handle the roadway condition in a proper manner.

TODD: Samer Hamdar says in these situations, local governments can stagger departures, make people leave offices in different waves with school-aged children getting first priority. You can coordinate those departures by region, and he says you can have contra-flow with police closing down the opposite incoming lanes of freeways and directing large waves of drivers leaving the area into them to open everything up. That happens often during hurricane evacuations, but it looks like none of that happened in Atlanta.

Brian Todd, CNN.


ROMANS: All right, that storm obviously so bad for drivers, including the one behind the wheel of this car. Let me show you this, Woodstock, Georgia. This car spun out on the slippery roads, hit a fire hydrant, then dropped into a sinkhole full of water.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water kept flowing out from the hydrant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got out of the car safely.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long before this happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably 30 minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see it happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I was back there and all my school stuff was in it, and I was like, oh.


BERMAN: That was not the only accident. There were thousands of them from Alabama to Virginia. This was the scene in Virginia Beach, which got hit with about 9 inches of snow. A car just hit this home. The driver and three people in the house had to go to the hospital. None of the injuries, thankfully, are said to be serious.

ROMANS: All right, in North Carolina, the snowfall was less than expected, but the problem now is the cold. Roads are frozen, schools are closed, many offices are telling the workers simply stay home today.

BERMAN: In Alabama, more than 11,000 students had to spend the night at their schools. That is just crazy. They are finally home this morning. The last of them finally making it back to their families just a few hours ago. Because of the weather, many districts there decided it was safer to keep the kids in school rather than send them back home during the storm. The teachers, the principals there just did amazing, amazing work.

ROMANS: I wonder for how many of them was this their first overnight away from parents. Can you imagine? What a great job those teachers did.

Also from Alabama, a piece of good news in spite of the bad. Darshea Jones went into labor in Birmingham two weeks early. She called an ambulance. The ambulance got into an accident, couldn't come, so she had to call 911 to figure out what to do. The baby was coming and she had to figure out what to do. The dispatcher went into coach mode, walking her and her boyfriend through what to do at home.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We 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, she said, 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: All the major players here deserve a big round of applause. Mother and child are doing fine. They've named the baby Winter, and the facial expression of the dad is just -- it's going to be my happy moment of the day.

BERMAN: I got in trouble. I expressed concern over the father because he seems like he deserves concern there, but Indra Petersons got mad at me, saying the mother did all the work there. She is right. Indra's always right.


BERMAN: Thankfully, she's watching the forecast for us today. Indra?

PETERSONS: Tough job, high expectations here.

We are definitely looking at some better news into the south. Of course, that system has made its way out, still hanging right around Florida, but generally speaking, cooler and drier air is in place. Think about that. That also means temperatures go down in the morning hours, so a little cooler today in the south today than it was yesterday, so with that, a hard freeze in many places across the south.

The good news, by the afternoon it will warm up, so things should thaw out. Of course, you have one morning left with a lot of black ice on the roads and especially on those roadways and bridges, but things, again, improving by the afternoon, not only into the southeast where temperatures will be rebounding and going up over the next several days. Same thing in the northeast as well.

The upper Midwest starting to see cooler temperatures. We'll be looking at that again as a series of systems make their way through. Notice, first of all, Minneapolis today 4 to 6 inches of snow. Second system comes through Iowa, Chicago, through the upper Ohio valley. Saturday comes the third one, this one being a little bit stronger. So definitely a couple days here with snow and windy conditions into the upper Midwest.

But I have to talk about the big change that we've been waiting for all winter into the west coast. They've been having this huge dome of high pressure, atypical for this time of year, very dry. Finally, that is breaking down. They have rain in the forecast. Keep in mind, that is the same system we'll be tracking to see, depending where it goes, whether or not we get rain on Super Bowl Sunday. For now, it's out.

BERMAN: You know what, that's important news, though, for people out west.

ROMANS: So dry in California.

PETERSONS: Huge. They need it.

ROMANS: All right, thanks Indra.

President Obama is taking his case to the people again today, on the road in Milwaukee and Nashville, trying to drum up support for some of the programs he laid out in his State of the Union address. That just a day after stops in Maryland and Pennsylvania.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm hoping that 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.


ROMANS: One program already in the works, the president has directed Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, to begin a program to make rules for a new starter retirement plan to help lower-wage workers save for retirement.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, Republicans are spending a second day at their annual winter retreat in Maryland, where top 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 towards making those principles law if the rank and file agree.

ROMANS: And the rank and file don't agree whether that probationary status should lead to citizenship eventually, and that seems to be the big sticking point.

BERMAN: There is no 100 percent accord there at all. Trying to figure that out.

ROMANS: You're looking at pictures of Congressman Michael Grimm. He says he's sorry. He's the New York Congressman who is now apologizing to a reporter for threatening to throw the reporter off a balcony and break him in half like a boy.

Grimm made the threat just after the State of the Union when the reporter asked him about a campaign finance allegation. After initially defending his outburst, Grimm now says it shouldn't have happened.


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


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

Stocks in a big sell-off worldwide after the U.S. government decides the Fed announces it's going to continue to slow the amount of money it's been pumping into the global economy. Nikkei down sharply, London down as well. Indications are we're going to see a tough day in the markets on the U.S. open. Dow futures up about 31 points right now, but it's no way guaranteed you're going to see a higher day.

Look, it's been an ugly January, the Dow down five percent so far this year. That's after closing on a record high on the last day of 2013. Imagine, a record and then, boom, this. Many are saying, John, it's time for a correction. That's a decline of 10 percent in stocks. The selling may not be over, but we already may be halfway there.

Watching emerging markets, watching the Fed, and certainly, 31-point gain right now in the Dow futures, but we've got a long way to go, a few hours before the opening bell.

BERMAN: Forty-two minutes after the hour right now and more troubling news this morning for Justin Bieber. This time in both Canada and the United States. All of North America seemingly has it in for Justin Bieber. In Toronto, Bieber had to push through fans and reporters to get into a police station. He was surrendering in connection with the assault of a limo driver back in December.

Now, this in Canada happening just a few hours after his lawyers in Florida entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in Miami Beach on DUI charges. And out in Los Angeles, police are still looking into whether Bieber was responsible for pelting a neighbor's home with eggs.

So, all that is going on, and now, of course, there is potential White House involvement. The White House will now have to respond to a petition on its website calling for Bieber to be deported. More than 175,000 Americans have now signed on to that petition. This White House says if more than 100,000 people sign these online petitions, that there will be some kind of response.

ROMANS: It's rare to see questions about a pop star like a State Department briefing or a White House briefing, but you're getting these questions.

BERMAN: Yes. You can see the face on the people at the briefings, you know, just go blank.

ROMANS: At the highest levels of government.

Coming up, a Texas man sharing his heartache. The tragedy that left his wife brain-dead. You've heard this story. It's so heartbreaking. The hospital that refused to honor her end-of-life wishes. We'll hear from him next.


BERMAN: We're hearing this morning from a Texas man detailing his heartbreaking fight to take his brain-dead, pregnant wife off of a ventilator. Erick Munoz and his mother-in-law spoke with Anderson Cooper about what happened when Marlise Munoz was taken to the hospital after collapsing. Officials there argued they had to keep her alive because of a state law, even though doctors said she was brain-dead.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When she first had the embolism, she was at that point 14 weeks pregnant.

ERICK MUNOZ, MARLISE MUNOZ'S HUSBAND: Yes. Once we got to the hospital and after the doctors do their initial procedures that they do to try to determine what's causing the problem, see if they can fix it, they showed us a CT of her cranium, her brain. Like I said, I can't tell you exactly what I was looking at, but I knew it was wrong.

COOPER: So the doctors initially didn't even know about this --

MUNOZ: No, actually, we were called back into her room in ICU, and the doctor told us about this, and of course, we're like, no, we want to disconnect her, and his words were -- you know, we were asking for an explanation. In his words, he's like, I'm sorry, I just found out about this law five minutes before you did. I've been told to notify you of it.

COOPER: What goes through your head when a doctor says we're not going to follow your wishes?

LYNNE MACHADO, MARLISE MUNOZ'S MOTHER: For me, I thought there must have been a miscommunication of some way, that we said, no, no, no, that's not what she wanted. She wanted never to be on life support, and that's when they're saying, well, but she's pregnant. And then, you know, it went from there. And so, we knew -- we weren't going to let this rest because it wasn't right. It was not honoring her wishes.

COOPER: There's some families in that situation who think, well, maybe she can come back from this, maybe, you know, a miracle can happen.

MUNOZ: I mean, we still hoped. I mean, I did. I can say I did. But at least for me, I couldn't turn off the knowledge that I know of what was going on. And even though I do want to keep the hope -- it's my wife. I'd do anything, you know. Many a night that I asked God to take me instead, but you can't turn off that knowledge that you know how bad it was.

And like I said, I promised her, I told her, I will honor your wishes. For me and her dad, that was the hardest, because we looked her in her eye and told her. And for the state of Texas to not let us do that was hard. You know, you want to keep your word to your loved one.

COOPER: What was she like?

MUNOZ: She can light up a room with her smile, personality, like I said, contagious. I am not one to talk a whole lot, but she -- it was just, being around her to me was natural, it was just relaxing. I could do things that even my parents, you know, I felt a lot more relaxed with her than I did with my parents, which -- but it's just, she's contagious. I mean, that smile, that personality, that kind, noble heart that she has is indescribable.

MACHADO: Toward the end as the body reacted to the amount of time it had been on life support and the deterioration that had started, it made it very hard to look at this body that used to be our daughter and to know that nothing about her was there.

COOPER: And you could even -- you could see deterioration.

MACHADO: Very much. Very much. And you could smell it. COOPER: Really?

MACHADO: Smell the deterioration.


MACHADO: I had said, when I go by, you know, if I'm close to her head, I smell death.

COOPER: I understand you learned that you were going to have a daughter. Is that --

MUNOZ: They had done several sonos throughout the process, and for the initial ones, they couldn't determine. So, after the court hearing, I said, you know, I would like to know the gender to give my baby a name. I know it's nothing legal, you know.

COOPER: What did you name her?

MUNOZ: Nicole. Nicole. It was my wife's middle name.

MACHADO: For me, closure began after she was disconnected. I was able to get a sense of closure. And of course, now we're starting the grieving process. And it was hard to do, hard to start the grieving process when we still had this body that we knew was an empty shell in front of it. We really couldn't start grieving, but now we can. For me, our story does not end here. It will end when we have laws changed, and --

COOPER: And you're going to continue to fight for that.

MACHADO: Yes. Yes, we are. Yes.


ROMANS: What brave people. I cannot imagine what they have all had to go through, and to put all of that legal wrangling on top of something that is just so horrible in the first place? Wish them really the best of luck and thank them for telling their story, really, really thank them.

Coming up, just how did hackers get their hands on your personal information at Target? We have new details this morning about what happened in Money Time, right after the break.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's Money Time right now. Losses in stock markets in Asia and Europe right now, sell-offs there following what happened in the U.S. yesterday, but it looks like stocks here might be able to open higher. Take a look. Dow futures are up 29 points right now, Tokyo down a big, hard 2.5 percent, London down about 0.3 percent.

Huge corporate deal for you this morning. Google selling its Motorola Mobility smartphone unit to China's Lenovo. Motorola mobility has been a money loser for Google, which it bought just a year and a half ago. Google celebrity CEO Larry Page saving face by saying this sale allows Google to stop making the product and instead concentrate on innovation for its Android operating system. For Lenovo, could be a big win. Lenovo was the world's largest PC-maker, in fourth place as the biggest smartphone maker. The CEO says it will allow it to challenge Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market. Could be interesting to see the U.S. government's reaction to that sale, by the way. I suspect there will be a national security review when you have something that big.

New details on what might be the largest security breach in U.S. retail history. Target now blaming the hack over the holiday shopping season on stolen vendor credentials. A Target spokesperson says the company is now taking extra precautions to make sure its systems aren't hacked again. We certainly hope so; 110 million customers affected by the breach, 40 million credit and debit card users had their information stolen, 70 million customers had personal information revealed. A really big, big tech security blunder. We need to know every little step along the way is helpful to make sure it doesn't happen again.

BERMAN: Well, they need to restore trust, too.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: In the millions and millions of consumers that may have had their information found out.

All right, just a minute before the hour right now. EARLY START continues immediately.

Still frozen! The south dealing with these icy, icy conditions again as they wake up this morning. This follows the tragic day on the roads. Several people killed, thousands stranded. We're covering the very latest and when it will finally, finally warm up.

ROMANS: 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 Justin Bieber arrested again, accused in the assault of a limo driver and now a petition to deport Bieber is gaining huge momentum. Why the White House may actually have to get involved.

ROMANS: All right, now that I'm trying to keep score let my just - DUI, assault of a limo driver -

BERMAN: And then there's the whole California Egg thing.

ROMANS: The eggs, the eggs. All right, we've got to unravel all that for you today.

Good morning, welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Thursday, January 30, 5AM in the east.