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Olympic Terror Threat; Digging Out from the Storms; Hoffman Death Investigation

Aired February 6, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Toothpaste terror. The new threat to the Olympics. Fears that bombs could target the thousands and thousands of people flying to the games. We are live.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Digging out from the storms. Snow and ice causing record-breaking power outages across the country. More than a million people this morning waking up in the dark as others try to catch missed flights, thousands of them drive on ice-covered roads, and there's still, uh huh, another storm on its way.

Don't blame Chad Myers, but he's going to tell you how we're tracking it, next.

BERMAN: New information this morning in the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Tracing the calls he made just before he died, and what we now know about the people that have been arrested in this case.

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone. It's Thursday. I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to EARLY START.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. February 6th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's begin with the new threat that has security officials on edge in this country and overseas, and it comes just as the first events are getting under way at the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Homeland Security is warning airlines, terrorists could try to hide explosives in toothpaste tubes or in cosmetics. Law enforcement sources tell CNN the threat is specifically tied to the Winter Games.

Let's go live to Sochi for the very latest. Nick Paton Walsh is there.

Nick, what are you hearing? How serious is this threat?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems as though U.S. officials are taking it to be a credible enough threat that even Barack Obama is being kept up to date about what is happening here.

Now, I mean, the real issue is, of course, Russia has a bit of a history of problems on airliners. Back in 2004, two planes were blown out of the sky, almost simultaneously by female suicide bombers, and there were suggestions back then there may have been explosives hidden in their face cream. Since then, we had the 100-millimeter limit on carry-on luggage, but now in Russia, ahead of these games, you can't take liquids on your carry-on luggage on the flights that from Moscow to Sochi.

Now, that isn't a 100 percent blanket. It seems like some people have managed to get things on board, some haven't, but it shows you the concern among Russian officials ahead of this statement by U.S. officials, but certainly it seems these were related to flights coming from Europe into Russia and flights headed towards the games here in Sochi. So, a clear direction to the threat, but this has also caused some senior U.S. politicians to voice concerns about even coming here.

Let's hear what they're saying.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I would say that they are reasonably safe, but I would not go myself. If I were an athlete, that's one thing, but just as a spectator, I don't think it's worth the risk. I mean, odds are, nothing's going to happen, but the odds are higher than for any other Olympics, I believe, that something could happen.


WALSH: So, some of the first sporting competitions getting under way today. The big opening ceremony at 8:00 tomorrow, but still, what people are talking about most about these games is security, and that really comes down to the choice of putting this quite spectacular, beautiful venue on the black seacoast behind me, right on the edge of a long-running, decade-long insurgency that's still very violent, still very volatile -- Christine.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh for us live this morning -- thanks, Nick.

BERMAN: All right. Big news back home. This morning, the storm is gone, but the problems just getting worse for millions from the Midwest all the way up to Maine. Heavy snow, sleet, ice falling over a huge part of the country. The second bad storm this week, and guess what? There's even more to come.

ROMANS: More than a million people waking up this morning without power. Three-quarters of them in the Philadelphia area, the result of the snow and ice that fell from the storm, ripping down trees, making roads treacherous and making for a very cold night for a lot of people.

BERMAN: Ooh, look at that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been rough. Homes don't have heat. You know, the roads are horrible still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winter's really been rough. We haven't had a winter like this in almost three years, I think.

BERMAN: Many travelers left stranded by the storm hope to get on their way this morning. Some 3,000 flights were grounded because of the weather, leaving a whole lot of people stuck waiting for word from their airlines.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lady says, hey, we're trying to reroute you on United, we'll get back to you. Well, that was a couple hours ago, so we're just sitting here and actually watching a movie here, just passing the time.


ROMANS: Thank goodness we can watch movies at the airport now, right?

Kansas still cleaning up from the foot of snow that fell on much of that state. Today, the problem is the cold, the brutal cold. The high only expected to be 10 degrees. That means icy roads. So far, at least three deaths in car accidents this week blamed on that weather.

BERMAN: Chicago could see flurries today and very, very cold temperatures, leading to continued warnings over falling ice off the city's famous skyscrapers. You know, we saw that here yesterday, ice falling everywhere, the sidewalks in Chicago very slippery, so residents are being told to be careful if you are heading out.

ROMANS: This winter has been so bad, many places now running out of salt to use on the roads, a problem partly solved by this ship that's now arrived in Milwaukee carrying 50,000 tons of salt from Canada. The salt will be distributed in Wisconsin and Illinois to help deice the roads. You know, seven major storms since thanksgiving. No one's really planning for that.

BERMAN: So, thank you, Canada, right?


BERMAN: A salt shortage also causing problems in New York, where officials are warning today, please, take it slow. The snow and sleet that fell started to melt and refroze overnight. The roads driving in this morning, got to tell you, very, very slippery, some places like a sheet of ice.

ROMANS: All right. Chad Myers has his eye on the weather and what to expect today. Is this the coldest winter in 20 years? I mean, this is epic.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, and it's not even close to over.

BERMAN: Thanks for that, Chad.

MYERS: I know. We're only at February 6th!

I know. And I slipped at least on my two-block walk. I slipped at least three or four times. Caught myself, but it is icy out there. The roads are icy, the sidewalks are icy. There was a lot of snow, there was a lot of ice, then it was 32, 33 degrees.

Then, all of a sudden, it decided to refreeze overnight tonight. From Bainbridge all the way into new Ipswich, talking a foot of snow or more, and even big cities like Boston, picking up 10 inches. The issue, it's way below freezing. It's 14 degrees in Scranton, it's 15 in Albany.

This isn't going to go away any time soon. I don't see high temperatures in any city in the Northeast above freezing for the next five days.

Now, that big storm you talked about coming up on Sunday I think is a Nova Scotia storm now. I guarantee there was going to be a lot of snow somewhere, but I don't think in the U.S. that's some good news. Maybe up into Maine and Northeast, but this is a storm that will travel through the northeast and then get its act together out here and then get up into Nova Scotia into Atlantic Canada and also Newfoundland.

So, although we talked about the big snow showers coming on Sunday, I think it's a 4-inch, not a 4-foot snow. The big snow way up to the Northeast.

ROMANS: We love you for that.

MYERS: Something of good news.

ROMANS: Canada gave us the salt and we'll give them 20 inches of snow.

MYERS: They want their salt back.

ROMANS: Thanks, Chad.

An important vote set for today in the Senate over extending those jobless benefits for more than a million Americans. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid moving ahead with the procedural vote on a bill that would start sending the checks out again, but it cut off the Republican request for amendments. Meaning, the bill may not get the Republican support necessary to move forward. Yes, we've been here before. That is trouble if you're looking for your jobless check.

BERMAN: On a subject that we've been here before.

Another road block today to immigration reform happening in Congress. Several prominent conservative Republicans pushing back against leaders in their own party, now insisting it is not the time to do reform on immigration. They're telling reporters they think it's better to wait until next year when the Republicans might control the House and the Senate.

ROMANS: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie heads to Texas today for fund-raisers in Fort Worth and Dallas, and two of the state's top Republicans, including Governor Rick Perry, won't be there to greet him, another sign the GOP is growing more nervous about the scandals in his office, perhaps? Also developing this morning, the job once held by Christie ally David Wildstein has been eliminated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He stepped down in December. He is the official who said, "got it" in that notorious e-mail chain that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

BERMAN: This morning there are new concerns that nuclear talks with Iran may have hit a snag. The Iranian foreign minister Mohamed Zarif telling reporters that Washington's wishes are unlikely to come true. Zarif says the U.S. wants Iran to give up significant parts of its nuclear programs, but insists the demands will not be met.

ROMANS: All right. Markets overseas holding on to gains right now, trying to end the week on a better note than they started, Japan, China, London. You can see it's a mixed performance right now, basically break-even day for U.S. stocks Wednesday, only down 5 points for the Dow, and we'll take that as a vote of confidence. Welcome relief following the beating that stocks took earlier in the week.

Twitter releasing its first financial report to the public. Things have been good for the social network, but it doesn't look like it will stay that way, Twitter warning sales and user growth will slow. The problem is, Twitter sales are already well below --

BERMAN: Oh, wow.

ROMANS: Look how small -- people talk about Twitter all the time. Look at how small it is compared to the other tech companies, its competitors, Facebook in particular, Yahoo!. Most of those sales are in Twitter's bright spot, mobile.

Watch, Twitter's stock down 15 percent overnight after it had its earnings report.

BERMAN: There's only so much you can do with 140 characters.

ROMANS: And it has 240 million active users. It needs more of those.

BERMAN: All right. Nine minutes after the hour.

There is a controversy this morning on the campus of Wellesley College up in Massachusetts. So, imagine waking up, looking out your window and seeing this. This is a statue of a mostly naked man sleep- walking. Now -- ooh, tighty-whities to boot. This is a piece of art, part of an exhibition. The sculptor's work at the Wellesley College Museum.

Now some folks at the all-female school are demanding the statue be taken down, calling it stress-inducing and saying it triggers thoughts of sexual assault. It is on the creepy side. The college says the goal of the exhibition is to provoke discussion. It's certainly doing that.

ROMANS: Provoke discussion about what? I mean, aren't they discussing things at Wellesley College already, lots of interesting things? BERMAN: To say how creepy is it? How scared is that snowman? Why is his eyes closed, boxers or briefs? I don't know. There's a lot of things you could discuss about this.

ROMANS: It's way too early in the morning for me to think about that.

BERMAN: Coming up, we'll leave you with that image in your head.

ROMANS: Thank you. Thank you.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, we do have new information about the people arrested in the investigation surrounding Philip Seymour Hoffman's death and what could be a huge supply of heroin discovered.

ROMANS: And police say he killed a man for texting inside a movie theater. Emotional testimony playing out in the courtroom. Should the accused killer be released? Next.


BERMAN: All right. We're finding out more this morning about the investigation into the apparent overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Three people have now been formally charged in connection with the drugs found in Hoffman's apartment, including 57-year-old Robert Vineberg, a musician who apparently had Hoffman's phone number in his cell phone.

A law enforcement source tells CNN a large amount of what is believed to be heroin was found in Vineberg's apartment.

Now, also charged with drug possession, 22-year-olds Juliana Luchkiw and Max Rosenblum. Their lawyers insist their clients were not responsible for Hoffman's death.


DANIEL HOCHHEISER, ATTORNEY FOR MAX ROSENBLUM: Searching for a scapegoat to solve the overdose of an addict is a fool's errand. My client, by all accounts I know of, has nothing to do with Philip Seymour Hoffman.


BERMAN: Looking for answers, not sure they're looking for a scapegoat.

Overnight, there was a candlelight vigil in New York City for Hoffman at the theater company where he was once the artistic director. An autopsy so far has been inconclusive and it may be weeks before toxicology results may clear how he died.

ROMANS: A Texas teenager whose controversial sentence in a fatal drunk driving case sparked a national debate is heading to a rehab facility. A juvenile court judge ruling she would not resentence Ethan Couch to jail for killing four people while drunk driving. Four people dead. Instead, sticking with her earlier decision to send him for treatment at an undisclosed center. During his trial, the defense argued Couch suffered from what an expert had called affluenza, that his wealthy family coddled him, so he never developed a sense of responsibility.


RICHARD ALPERT, PROSECUTOR: I'm satisfied that wherever he's going, the people will be motivated to try to fix his issues, but you can't fix somebody who doesn't have an attitude about wanting to be fixed. Treatment only works for people that accept they have a need for treatment, and the only person that knows that is Ethan.

REAGAN WYNN, ATTORNEY FOR ETHAN COUCH: If this case has not taught me anything else, it has confirmed what I was pretty sure of all along, which is that the media circus is poison to the criminal justice system. The story that was reported has so twisted the facts that were actually presented in court that I don't think the truth will ever be able to come out now.


ROMANS: The fact is, four people are dead and he will go to a rehab facility, not prison.

The judge did not set a minimum time for Couch to stay in rehab. Prosecutors for the families of his victims worry that means he could be out in as little as a few weeks.

BERMAN: And, of course, there are questions about whether he was treated differently than people would have been who were not as wealthy.

ROMANS: And he was a repeat offender. This was not the first time he was in trouble for drunk driving.

BERMAN: Sixteen minutes after the hour right now. Three people under this morning in connection with the disappearance of Virginia police officer Kevin Quick who's been missing for nearly a week. Authorities say three siblings, two sisters and a brother, were taken into custody Tuesday night, two of them were charged with stealing Quick's SUV, which was found abandoned. State police say they were recorded driving the vehicle in northern Virginia.

ROMANS: New developments this morning in the case of a Georgia teen found dead inside a gym mat at his high school. Kendrick Johnson's family is now suing the funeral home that handled his body. As CNN first reported, when the body was exhumed, the family discovered Johnson's internal organs had been removed and they were replaced with newspaper. The lawsuit accuses Harrington Funeral home of acting in a morally despicable way. No response yet from the funeral home.

BERMAN: This morning, we're getting a better look at the evidence against a Florida man accused of a deadly shooting in a movie theater. A bail hearing for 71-year-old Curtis Reeves is set to resume on Friday after prosecutors brought on witness after witness to make their case that the former police officer was not justified in killing Chad Oulson. The pair, you'll remember, got into a shouting match, seemingly over Oulson texting at the movies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you at any time see Mr. Oulson strike Mr. Reeves?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you at any time see Mr. Oulson punch Mr. Reeves?

CUMMINGS: I did not.

CORPORAL ALAN HAMILTON, SR., SUMPTER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: He had leaned towards, you know, at the time, I didn't know who she was, but she was sitting to his right, leaned towards his wife and made a comment, and then she postured and she said, that was no cause to shoot anyone. And then he leaned back around, stuck his finger out, you know, as to, you know, scold her, and said, you shut your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth and don't say another word.


BERMAN: Reeves broke down at one point as his daughter talked about his grandchild. He argues he acted in self-defense and feared for his safety after popcorn was thrown at him.

ROMANS: Also in Florida, opening statements are set to begin today in the trial of a man accused of killing an unarmed teen over loud music. Michael Dunn approached 17-year-old Jordan Davis and his friends in a Jacksonville parking lot in 2012, asking them to turn down their music. He claims they threatened him and he saw a shotgun. That's why he says he opened fire, killing the teen. Police say there was no weapon in the car.

BERMAN: This morning, Ohio is sticking with its execution procedures now that a state review has found no reason to change the way condemned prisoners are put to death. Ohio executed Dennis McGuire last month using an untested lethal drug combination. That execution lasted 26 minutes, during which witnesses say he was gasping for air for as long as 14 minutes. McGuire's family is suing the state, claiming the execution was cruel and inhumane.

ROMANS: West Virginia residents are being told again today it is safe to drink the water amid continued concerns, weeks after a chemical spill spurred a do-not-use order for 300,000 people. The CDC insisting the water is safe to drink, it is safe to bathe with, even though some doctors are discouraging their patients and saying avoid it.

On Wednesday, two schools closed early and a teacher and a student had to go to the hospital after a chemical spill whiffed through classrooms.

BERMAN: You can understand why there is concern still, why people will be extra wary. ROMANS: Absolutely, absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty minutes after the hour. Coming up for us, a major airline mistake nearly ending the Olympics for one team before the games even begin! Call it not so cool runnings.

Andy Scholes explains this near tragedy and how the team is making it all work. That's coming up in the "Bleacher Report," next.


ROMANS: All right, one big heck of a party is still going on in the Emerald City, an estimated 700,000 --


ROMANS: Very quiet fans packing the streets of Seattle to celebrate the team's first Super Bowl victory.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes watched it from afar and brings us the details in the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, the population of Seattle is about 635,000. That means there are more people at this parade than live in the entire city. Now, they didn't make yesterday a city holiday, but that didn't stop anyone from missing work or school, 25 percent of students skipped school while 565 teachers took a personal day.

Now, Marshawn Lynch, he was throwing his favorite candy, Skittles, out to the crowd. And check this out. Something catches his eye midway through the parade. It's a bottle of whiskey! Lynch nearly falls off the float trying to get it, but mission accomplished. Good thing Lynch doesn't speak with the media. Everyone looks like they had a grand old time yesterday afternoon.

All right, Thursday night football is coming to broadcast television. The NFL announced that CBS will run eight games in prime time starting in September. The NFL network will handle the late-season games, including a Saturday doubleheader in week 16. The $250 million deal is for the 2014 season only.

All right, here's something you rarely see. In the NBA last night, Lakers forward Robert Sacre fouled out, but he got to stay in the game because the Lakers ran out of players. That's right. L.A. only had eight players coming into the game. Two players got hurt during the contest and two players fouled out, but per NBA rules, you have to have five players in the game, so he got to stay in.

Somehow, the Lakers won 119-108. As you can see, players on the bench had plenty of room to stretch their legs.

All right, trending on today, more problems for the Jamaican bobsled team. They made it to Sochi for the games, but their luggage did not. The team missed its first practice session because its gear didn't arrive in Russia in time, but there was a happy ending, guys. The team's equipment did finally show up just a day late.

And if there's any team you want to cheer for other than the good old USA, it's got to be these guys. Not only did they have to raise money to get to the Olympics, they've had a lot of problems getting there.

BERMAN: We're glad they got everything they need. Andy, that basketball thing, I've watched 41 years worth of basketball. I have never seen that.


BERMAN: I did not even know the rule. Has it ever happened before?

SCHOLES: Yes, I said this morning when I got here, I was like, has this ever happened? I have never seen it before. This is the NBA! It's not like it's a college team that can run out players because of academics or something like that, but whoo, hey, seen it now.

BERMAN: Crazy. Glad you are here to tell us about it. Andy, thank you so much.

ROMANS: A new terror alert at the Olympics for toothpaste. How terrorists may be smuggling bombs aboard passenger planes heading to Russia. That's right after the break.