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Massive Winter Storm; Hoffman Death Arrests; Obamacare and Jobs

Aired February 5, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, a huge winter storm. Pounding millions, schools cancelled. Planes grounded.

This is a commuting nightmare. Snow, sleet, freezing rain all coming down at this minute. It looks like it's going to stick around.

Chad Myers is tracking all the damage and the troubles ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, breaking news overnight. Four people arrested in the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The very latest on this investigation.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this snowy EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, February 5th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. And T.S. Eliot was wrong.

Breaking news, February is the cruelest month. Not April.

This morning, we're watching the breaking weather news across the Northeast. A giant winter storm bringing snow and ice to millions, it's quickly racing across the region. Many schools are closed, but not here in New York City. It won't be here for long but it's going to make a real mess this morning.

BERMAN: Nearly 2,000 flights have been canceled this morning. That's just so far. In Kansas City, a Southwest Airlines jet wound up stuck at the airport. This plane that just landed, it was taxiing to its gate with 55 passengers and five crew members on board. They were all taken off the plane and brought to the gate by a bus.

ROMANS: Snow plow -- snow, rather, plus wind equals whiteout conditions. Take a look at these pictures not far from St. Louis. They only got a few inches of snow and ice. You can imagine driving in this, not easy when you get those winds in there.

BERMAN: In Indiana, crews were out late treating the roads after snow turned to sleet and freezing rain. These are from Bloomington, where the evening commute was a real, real mess.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We spent about 45 minutes traveling about five blocks. And it's snow event. I'm thinking about moving to Florida actually.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took like about an hour just coming from that light right up there.


ROMANS: All right. Snow still falling this morning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hit by 3 inches of snow so far. The problem now is the plunging temperatures there, and the winds. The snow will be blowing all over the place making driving treacherous.

Stay home, Cedar Rapids. Stay home.

BERMAN: You know, it's the same story in Wichita, Kansas, where blowing snow made travel all but impossible. Look at this, the city slammed with about nine inches of snow, setting a new record. Some parts of Kansas got more than a foot.

ROMANS: Kansas City warned residents to stay home there, and for good reason. The city was pounded, 10 inches of snow in Kansas City. Stranded cars, lots of unhappy drivers. It's also leaving to good deeds. Anybody witness someone being helped is being encouraged to tweet about it, #kchelps. And the feed is filling up with stories of neighbors helping neighbors.

BERMAN: A lot of people need it right now. All that awful weather that you just saw the pictures right there. It's on top of us right now.

And Chad Myers is standing in the middle of it in New York City. He's got his umbrella. I don't think that's going to do any good, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, but it's bouncing off the umbrella. I don't know if you can see this, it's bouncing off. This is now sleet coming down. For most of the morning, it was all beautiful snow.

But now, we're turning into something that's a lot more dangerous. This is ice coming down in about an hour, it's going to be rain coming down, and the rain is going to freeze on contact making all the bridge, all the roadways, completely an ice skating rink.

So, stay home if you can. Keep the kids home if you can because this is one of those days you don't want to be out. Now, afternoon, 12:00, this is all over for New York City. It's not over yet for Philadelphia, yet, we're still seeing icing there. Washington, D.C., 34, getting out of at this point in time. But Binghamton, all the way to Albany and Saratoga, you will see a foot of snow and that goes all the way through and into New England.

They're trying to keep this place clean. But I'll tell you what, it is going to be a difficult situation with all of this ice coming down. Just right now, I could see at least an inch of this on the ground before it finally stops. You guys may have a very difficult drive home, at least I'm staying at the hotel right there, I can walk. BERMAN: Good thing you can walk, Chad, because I don't think anyone is getting out there in cars this morning. This commute will be treacherous.

MYERS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: So, everyone needs to be very, very careful. Chad Myers for us right now, standing in what is turning into an ice storm this morning here in New York City. Appreciate it, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: We also have breaking news overnight. The apparent overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Authorities in New York have now arrested four people believed to be connected to the drugs found in the actor's apartment.

Nischelle Turner is here with us live again. This has been breaking overnight.

What's the latest, Nischelle?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a lot of information that's coming out pretty much as we speak. Overnight, they did arrest three men and one woman in an apartment building here in New York City, in Lower Manhattan, they do believe they are connected to the drugs found in Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment.


During this raid, police say they recovered 350 glass and bags thought to be heroin. Now, remember, in Hoffman's apartment, they originally discovered close to 50 envelopes of what they believed was heroin. They also found new syringes, prescription drugs, and empty glassine- type bag.

Now, there are also new details that are emerging this morning about the death, the result of an apparent heroin overdose. A law enforcement source does tell CNN that preliminary result show the heroin in Hoffman's apartment was not laced with the painkiller Fentanyl, which authorities blame for 37 deaths in Maryland since September and also 22 more in Pennsylvania.

Now, the night before Philip Seymour Hoffman died, CNN also learned that he withdrew $1,200 in six transactions from an ATM at a grocery store near his apartment. A witness also told investigators that he saw Hoffman talking to two men wearing messenger bags. The next morning, of course, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment and needles still in his arm.

We should also just made clear and we have been saying that the people that were arrested last night are believed to be connected to the drugs. They're not connecting him to his death. But they are connecting him to the drugs that were found in his apartment.

BERMAN: A lot more details going overnight. We're learning minute by minute what happened.

Nischelle Turner --

TURNER: Yes, still a lot to find out, still a lot to find out.

ROMANS: Thank you, Nischelle, for being up so early for us this morning.

Also this morning, Washington reeling and the political mud flying from a Congressional Budget Office report on Obamacare. Now, the CBO finding that the law will reduce the workforce by the equivalent of 2 million jobs, mostly because people won't have to work as many hours to get health care coverage.

The analysis is complicated but the picture both sides tried to paint by what this means is much simpler.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I wonder what the cost benefit ratio is to all of this disruption both to the providers of health care, and consumers of health care, when at the end of the day, the best that you'll be able to estimate is we've reduced the number of unemployed from 45 million down to 30 million. At what the cost?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: By giving you the option of affordable and quality health insurance, we're not giving you -- that's not a negative thing, that's a positive addition to the choices before you.


ROMANS: The CBO also estimates the flawed rollout of the health insurance exchange means about a million fewer Americans will get coverage than originally estimated.

BERMAN: A lot of people think this new report could be a key factor and adds to the upcoming congressional elections in 2014.

ROMANS: I had no fewer than 15 press release e-mails from mostly Republicans saying that this shows Obamacare is fraud and we should repeal it.

BERMAN: And Democrats trying to figure out a way to talk about it, telling people it's not 2 million people who are losing jobs, it's 2 million people who will stop trying to find jobs, or work.

All right. Seven minutes after the hour.

Another key series of White House meetings for the president set to talk with Senate Democrats about his economic priorities in the coming year. Last night, House Democrats stopped by and the president told them he will continue to use executive powers if Congress will not take action on his own.

ROMANS: It will be at least two more days before the president will put his signature on the new farm and food stamp bill, now getting final approval in the Senate. That bill will expand crop insurance for farmers but cut direct payments. And it will reduce food stamp spending by $8 billion over the next decade. That's about $90 per month per recipient.

BERMAN: The clock ticking on the NSA now. Lawmakers are warning reforms must be made soon to the agency's phone surveillance operation or they will take action. Right now, the USA Freedom Act is making its way through Congress. The measure would eliminate the NSA's bulk collection of metadata entirely if the Obama administration doesn't act soon.

ROMANS: New revelations this morning about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and they come from former NSA Director Mike McConnell, now a top executive at defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden worked at Booz Allen. And McConnell said Snowden targeted Booz Allen for a job because of its access to national security contract. He says Snowden got the information after breaking into the NSA's computer system and stealing the answers to the agency's employment exam.

McConnell called Snowden a spy and said he's caused more damage to U.S. national security than anyone in history.

BERMAN: Pretty scathing accusations right there.

All right. This morning, the Navy is on the defensive and subpoenaed 30 senior enlisted sailors accused of cheating on exams. The sailors allegedly passed answers for nuclear reactor training to others. They had no connections to weapons unlike dozens of Air Force officers accused of cheating in the last few weeks.

Still, it's a black eye for the military. The Navy pledging to get to the bottom of this.

ROMANS: We're finding out today that the U.S. has seemingly hit the pause button on drone strikes in Pakistan. That as the Pakistan government holds talk with the Taliban. The U.S. has been working to bolster its relationship with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but insists it has not reached any sort of formal agreement over these strikes and will still go after any al Qaeda target deemed a threat to the U.S.


BERMAN: Back on Capitol Hill today, the chief financial officer for Target talking about the huge data breach that led to the thief of personal data of up 110 million customers.

John Mulligan will go before the House Energy and Commerce Committee the day after admitting before a Senate panel that Target no idea its systems had been hacked until government officials told them.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Had you had any knowledge of that malware was there before the Department of Justice gave you that notification? JOHN MULLIGAN, TARGET CFO: We did not, Senator, or Mr. Chairman. Despite the significant investment in multiple layers of detection that we had within our systems, we did not.

LEAHY: So, you had all your systems in place, but you found out about it from the Department of Justice?

MULLIGAN: That's correct, Mr. Chairman.


BERMAN: The target CFO apologized again for the breach. And said it would spend millions to make its payment system more secure.

ROMANS: All right. World markets trying to make it over hump day following a bumpy start to the week. Asian markets mixed. Same for Europe right now and that looks to be rolling up on U.S. shores. Futures higher following a 70-point bounce in the Dow yesterday.

That nostalgic RadioShack commercial that ran during the Super Bowl turned out to be a little bit based in reality. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the consumer electronic company is going to close around 500 stores, part of a restructuring plan. RadioShack has 500 stores around the country.

BERMAN: I liked that ad.

ROMANS: I liked it, too, that's because we're generation --

BERMAN: I know. It ages us. We're old people, we like that ad.

All right. Eleven minutes after the hour, coming up, hotel horror stories, tales of disarray. The Olympics just days away now. And this morning, lots of people saying Russia just is not ready.

We are live.

ROMANS: And the search intensifies for a missing police officer. The very latest on that case, next.



ROMANS: It is almost time in Sochi. The Olympics begin in just two days. And this morning, the torch arrives completing its journey around Russia. But there are questions still about whether Sochi will be ready to host thousands of athletes and spectators.

Ivan Watson is live there for us this morning.

Ivan, you're in front of apartments, that, I mean, they're still not ready?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, the buildings behind me, they're brand new. They're reserved for some of the hordes of journalists that are coming to Sochi now. And members of our CNN sports team were supposed to stay there, and found out that the rooms weren't ready for more than a half dozen people.

Producer Harry Ricky (ph), he tweeted out a picture that the room was in shambles. And we're hearing more and more reports like that coming from journalists across the city, across the Olympic venues. Jokes coming out that are -- the plumbing isn't work. That they aren't get anything hot water.

One journalist tweeting, I'll trade you the three light bulbs I've got from my room for a door handle from my room. We know that reporters are pretty much close to professionals when it comes to whining and complaining. The bigger question is going to be, what's going to happen when the families of athletes when tourists who spent large amounts of money to come here when they start showing up and perhaps seeing that some of these hotels simply aren't ready yet for some of the visitors? Christine?

ROMANS: The national press and international authorities maybe they've saved the good rooms not for the journalists, and you guys are getting the rooms that aren't ready.

Look, we've also been seeing a lot of reporting about the problems of wild dogs in the street. Have you seen that first hand?

WATSON: Absolutely. There are tons, thousands of street dogs living around Sochi. You see them running through the new park. Some of the new building developments like the one behind me.

And there's a real controversy here. Because residents of Sochi, dog lovers, say that for a long time, the city authorities have culled these dogs, that they've basically poisoned them in the streets with either injections or poison food.

I've seen video of this. This is awful. The dogs die in convulsion for hours. It looks very painful, agonizing.

And some of these dog lovers are taking matters in their own hands because they claim that the city authorities have stepped up the extermination of the street dogs ahead of the Olympics. So, for instance, one man drove all the way from Moscow, more than a thousand miles to take a van-load of dogs out of here.

I've been to a dog shelter that volunteers built. They're paying their own money to house dogs to protect them. And this has put the city and Olympic authorities under fire. They've responded saying, hey, we're not killing dogs. We're getting them examined by professional veterinarians and then releasing them.

The city government just built a new dog shelter. But of the activists I'm talking to, they don't trust them. They say this is just been done because the eyes of media are on this. And because it looks pretty bad around a public point of view to be exterminating dogs around the Olympic park -- Christine.

ROMANS: Wow. What an odd and interesting story.

All right. Ivan Watson in Sochi for us -- talk to you again soon. Thanks, Ivan.

BERMAN: These are not the stories that Vladimir Putin wants just two days until the Olympic starts.

ROMANS: No. And when you think about it, when you go to the Olympics, that ring of steel, it won't be what we've seen recently. People usually go and then they see that country, right? There's not going to be that chance.

BERMAN: They're going to see this ring of steel.

ROMANS: They're going to be there and you're not going anywhere.

BERMAN: All right. Nineteen minutes after the hour right now.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie preparing this morning to go national. He's launching a month-long fund-raising tour that will take him around the country to really test his star power in light of the scandals that have been dogging this administration. The governor will raise money for other Republican candidates. He is in charge of the Republican Governors Association.

And he will also speak at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Washington. That is a big deal. That's next month.

This tour starts tomorrow in Texas.

ROMANS: All right. A chemical spill that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people in West Virginia, it's now a criminal investigation. CNN has learned that subpoenas have been issued by a federal grand jury.

Some 10,000 gallons of the chemicals leaked from a holding tank, right into the Elk River last month. Water bans have been lifted. But, you know, many residents are still reluctant to drink that water. Independent tests have found trace levels of that contaminant still in that water supply.


BERMAN: In Virginia today, authorities are stepping up their efforts to find a missing Virginia auxiliary police captain. The reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Kevin Quick has been increased to $10,000. Quick's Toyota 4runner was recovered on Monday. And investigators are tracing his movement over the weekend for any possible clues. They say the officer's phone has been turned off since Friday night.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, that music mean, it's "Road Warriors."

And in today's installment, being trapped on a plane with crying children can be a nightmare. Whether its' your children or someone else's it doesn't matter. But now, some airlines are actually offering a potential solution, child-free zones.

Singapore Scoot, for under 20 bucks, you can upgrade to the scoot section where only passengers 12 and older can sit. Malaysian Airlines doesn't allow children on its jumbo jets. And also has an adults-only section and economy on some other flights. AirAsia X also introduced a quiet zone last year.

All right. These are all international carriers, right? Could U.S. carriers follow suit?

American Airlines says it has no plans to ban children from sections of its plane. Delta promises to keep an eye on customer demand for this. It's not offering child-free seats yet.

So, you need to go to Singapore or Malaysia if you want to get away from your children.

BERMAN: That's right. I was going to say, Malaysian airlines doesn't do the New York to Chicago route, or the shuttle?

ROMANS: No, they don't. They absolutely don't.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty-one minutes after the hour right now.

Coming up for us, an accused bully back in the game, perhaps? The Miami Dolphins lifting Richie Incognito's suspension. But will he be returning to the football field?

Joe Carter following this for the "Bleacher Report", coming up next.



BERMAN: Accused bully Richie Incognito is no longer serving a suspension by the Miami Dolphins. Of course, they're not playing football right now. The NFL says the move is purely administrative. It does mean he is actually back with the Dolphins yet.

ROMANS: Joe Carter has more on this in the morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Joe.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

Yes, lifting the suspension basically allows both sides, the Miami Dolphins and Richie Incognito to move forward. Now, the team is done paying him a salary. Incognito as of March will be free to find another team. Obviously, another team is going to welcome him on the roster.

But this is interesting stuff. In the last week, over 1,000 text messages between Incognito and Martin were obtained by "USA Today" through leaked sources. Now, these texts were exchanged between October 2012 and November 2013. The messages do show few signs of Martin being bullied by Incognito.

Now, the texts are very crude. It's incessant talk about partying, drinking and chasing women. But it does demonstrate a crude joking relationship. Now, here's a short re-enactment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet at my place at 6.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your address?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hahaha. I'll be there soon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to egg your house and light a bag of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on fire then ring your door bell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to shoot and claim self-defense. I'm white, you're black. I'll walk.


CARTER: Obviously, very crude. Now, as far as the NFL's investigation into this bullying scandal. We're expecting Ted Wells, the independent investigator to come back with his findings any day now.

In other news, David Beckham has a major announcement in Miami. Beckham is expected to tell the world that he'll be owner of a new major league soccer franchise in Miami. Now, it's part of Beckham's original contract when he joined the MLS, he was granted the right to buy a team after he retired.

Now, Miami has tried this before with the Fusion back in early 2000s. But the Fusion was only in South Florida for three years before it folded.

Hey, guys, quick reminder -- the Super Bowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks, will hold their championship parade today at 11:00 a.m. local time in downtown Seattle. It will start -- guys.

ROMANS: I hope all the Seahawks fans can be there. I met some yesterday who are still stuck in New York. They've been trying to get out. They're trying to get out today, but a lot of flights canceled.

BERMAN: Good luck trying to get out today.

ROMANS: I know, I know.

BERMAN: All right. Joe, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. Schools canceled. Planes grounded. Millions in the middle of a massive winter storm. Right now, what you can expect this morning.


ROMANS: Right after the break.