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Iran Nuclear Talk Starts in Vienna; Highlights from Sochi; Building Collapses in South Korea

Aired February 18, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the East Coast bracing for more snow. A severe storm said to make a mess of the morning drive to work for millions in what has already become one of the snowiest winters on records. I personally have stopped counting the storms. Indra Petersons has not. She is tracking when we're finally going to get some relief.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's hope it's soon.

Imagine this. How much fright would this be? Screams and panic on board a United Airlines flight. Passengers thrown from their seats when turbulence suddenly strikes. What went so terribly wrong.

ROMANS: A new era for "The Tonight Show." Jimmy Fallon making his first appearance as host of late-night's top rated show. So how did he do?

PEREIRA: I wonder if he had butterflies.


Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Michaela Pereira, in for John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, February 18th, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

PEREIRA: We are going to begin with what is happening right now. And to be honest, it's the last thing you want to hear this morning. More ice, more snow on top of what is already on the ground from the Midwest all the way to Maine.

ROMANS: Take a look at these pictures from Rockford, Illinois. The snow fell so fast there. Up to three inches an hour. You could barely see a few feet ahead of your car in Rockford. And it happened during the worst possible time, the evening commute leading to lots of accidents in Chicago and elsewhere.

PEREIRA: Meanwhile in Minnesota, the closed looked rivers of snow. It's another six inches fell on the area. Many cities have declared a snow emergency. This is their sixth of the season so far.

ROMANS: In my home state Iowa there were actually reports of thundersnow as the storm rolled through. But even worse was the layer of ice making roads slick, delaying flights. There were dozens of accidents reported in Des Moines.

PEREIRA: Indra Petersons is outside here in New York City this morning, where it just started to snow, we understand.

And Indra, we've got this all backwards. This is supposed to be happening in Sochi. They need it, we don't.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, right? It's definitely a case of ready or not here I come when it comes to the snow this morning. Just starting to come down and a lot of people definitely do not want it except, like you said, Michaela, in Sochi, they definitely need it.

Unfortunately here, right in time for the morning commute, definitely New York City, the snow is starting to come down. We've already seen good amounts as it made its way across the country yesterday. I mean, pretty much that four or six-inch rain, that's what we saw out through the Midwest, the Ohio Valley.

It is currently now exiting the Ohio Valley, making its way to the northeast. And look what we're expecting. Good amounts expected today. We even up to totals a little bit. Leave about two to four inches expected out towards New York City.

Notice when you get up here in Boston especially in through Portland, Maine, especially from the outskirts, you can see as much as eight inches of snow from the skies. So definitely this is going to be a good little system making its way through. It is not the only one.

Let's talk about the timing of it. So here in New York City, maybe about 10:00 a.m. or so we'll start to see the system exit, then kind of hanging out through Boston by noon or so. You'll start to see that snow exiting by the evening tonight in through New England. But by tomorrow, guys, tomorrow morning, another system is out there. But hey, look at the difference. We are talking rain this time.

And that may be a welcome sign. It could start melting a lot of the snow that's expected to fall. But it also means there will be some flooding concerns as that system makes its works through. It's a good thing to keep in mind.

Look at these temperatures, guys. They're going to be going way up. That's the reasons we're going to be seeing the rain, it's going to feel so much better out there. But remember when you have a clash of warm air and cold air, by the end of the week, we're going to be talking about the threat for severe weather.

So a lot is going to be going on, a couple of systems, each one completely different from the one before. But for now, here comes the snow, guys.

PEREIRA: Some of the people that haven't even bothered because they've just given up on digging their cars out of those snow banks probably will be glad to hear some rain is on the way. They'll melt it away for them.

ROMANS: And the piles of garbage that haven't been picked up because the garbage trucks can't get through.

PETERSONS: That's just gross.


PEREIRA: It is kind of gross.

ROMANS: I'm just telling you.

PEREIRA: All right, Indra, keep an eye on that snow for us. Thanks so much.


ROMANS: Twenty-nine days (INAUDIBLE).


ROMANS: This morning we're finding out more about the terrifying moments on the United Airlines flight, terrifying moments that left at least five people hurt. The 737 flying from Denver to Billings, Montana, it hit turbulence so severe, the plane dropped sharply without warning. Passengers were thrown. One says a baby popped out of a parent's arms and landed in a seat, apparently OK. Several say the crew seemed to be surprised by the sudden drop. Just as surprised as they were.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt the plane kind of bank to the right a little bit. And then it felt like we got hit from the bottom. I was scared. It was really scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of screaming and lot of hollering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody was really expecting, and I do mean nobody. I think the flight crew probably was in the same boat we were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a guy in front of me actually who lifted up and hit the ceiling of the plane and came down on the other side on the lady across the aisle.


ROMANS: Wow. This morning one person remains in intensive care at a Billings hospital. A safety team from the airlines is looking into what happened.

PEREIRA: So frightening.

The White House is now reportedly trying to pull off a prisoner swap with the Taliban. According to the "Washington Post," they're trying to trade five Afghan Taliban members currently held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for U.S. Army Infantryman Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan back in 2009. It is believed he is being held in Pakistan by the Haqqani Network.

ROMANS: Developing this morning, a political fight between the Obama administration and the government of Venezuela over protests Nicolas -- President Nicolas Maduro says the U.S. is helping orchestrate. There are more demonstrations set for today in Caracas. Expelled three U.S. diplomats on Sunday the Venezuelan government did for allegedly meeting with students who are organizing marches. But the State Department insists it had nothing to do with those protests.

PEREIRA: Happening today in Vienna, the start of talks aimed at reaching a permanent deal over Iran's nuclear program. There's little optimism that anything will happen quickly especially now that Iran's supreme leader has made it clear he thinks the talks will be fruitless.

Reza Sayah is live in Tehran this morning.

Give us an idea what the feeling is there -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, if you know Iranians, you know that they love to debate and talk about politics and current affairs so that's what they're doing today. The hot topic, these nuclear negotiations in Vienna. Many Iranians debating where this thing is going to go.

Of course there's so much at stake for Iranians if there is a deal struck and if these crippling sanctions are wiped out, it could boost the economy here and make a lot of lives much easier. So a lot of the Iranians watching. The talks today focusing on a permanent deal. Of course late last year these two sides, the world powers and Iran, struck an interim deal. That was difficult.

Observers say this one, the permanent deal, is going to be much harder because essentially both sides have put forth their position and they're saying they're not budging. When it comes to Iran they say they want to be recognized as a peaceful nuclear state, to have the right to enrich uranium and keep nuclear facilities under international law.

Western powers are talking about restricting, squeezing Iran's nuclear program, as much as possible, talking about possibly destroying, dismantling some of their facilities, some of their centrifuges, some of the heavy water reactors. Iran has responded by saying they're not going to do that.

So a lot of complicated issues on the table. They're going to see where things go the next few days. Both sides, as you mentioned, have indicated that they're not certain anything is going to come of this. The supreme leader is saying I'm not opposed to these talks. But I'm not sure if it's going to go anywhere.

Michaela, but certainly if you look at last year, no one thought that Washington would be sitting across the table from Tehran talking about their nuclear program.

That's where we are today. Many see this as an opportunity to reach a win-win situation between the both sides.

PEREIRA: Well, certainly some challenging negotiations ahead.

Reza Sayah, thanks for that.

This morning the Obama administration touting its stimulus programs five years after the Recovery Act became law. The president today will take part in an economic event in Maryland, a day after a top White House economist detailed what they say the stimulus accomplished including thousands of miles of new roads, upgraded water systems and increased access to high speed Internet.

Republicans say the stimulus increased the debt, and point to high unemployment as an indication that the program did not work.

ROMANS: What is true is there was $800 billion and some injected into the economy at the very moment the economy was cratering.

This morning, five years later, we're watching the stock market here. Asian markets lifted this morning. Word the Bank of Japan is pouring more money into the economy. That sent the Nikkei up 3 percent. Hong Kong closed higher as well. European stock markets, though, are down a little bit this morning.

This will be the first day of trading in U.S. stocks for the week after yesterday's holiday. And you know, the early indications are a flat opening. That's the big rally you saw on Friday. Were looking for a flat start this morning. The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 each up more than 2 percent last week.

Everyone wants to know will the buying continue with the horrific January, but February has been a good month so far for stocks. And welcome relief quite frankly after a bumpy starts in the year. We're going to have a lot of corporate earnings, Michaela.


ROMANS: That's going to be really important to watch this week to set the tone because right now, right now the tone is -- to start the day.

PEREIRA: Yes. We'll be watching that.

Another thing we're watching, keeping our eye on Sochi. Fog and warm weather affecting some of events, in fact postponing them but ice dancing carried on. Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first ever ice dancing gold for the United States.

ROMANS: They're being held as the golden couple.

Joe Carter has more on them in the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi, good morning, guys. Must be nice to be called the golden couple.


CARTER: You know, when this pair started skating together 17 years ago, Meryl was so shy she couldn't look Charlie in the face so their coach had to put a sticker on Charlie's forehead just so Meryl would stare at the space. And now look at them, guys. Their performances are so convincing people think they're an actual couple. But they're not.

The ice dancing duo set a new world record yesterday with their free dance program and in the process won the U.S. its first ever gold medal in this event.

Well, this story is trending this morning on The U.S. women's hockey team beat Sweden yesterday 6-1. They now advance to the gold medal game against their biggest rival Canada. Then if you didn't know, the U.S. and Canada, well, they do not like each other in women's hockey. It seems like every time they play, they fight.

They Canadian women, they already beat the U.S. in preliminary round. It was a hard-fought game. The most hard-fought game in this entire tournament. The question now, can the Team USA get revenge on Thursday and finally win gold against them.

Well, the men's U.S. bobsled team won their first medal in 62 years yesterday. Steve Holcomb, Steve Langton, placed by the tightest of margins. They won bronze by .03 seconds. Holcomb almost never made it to Sochi. A rarely performed procedure saved his eyesight a few years ago. The procedure is so rare, doctors named the surgery after him.

Speaking of eyes, a lot of people are going to be watching Lolo Jones and women's bobsled team today. You remember Lolo, she's a two-time summer Olympian but now she's making her winter games debut. Of course Lolo is still looking for her first Olympic medal.

Spoiler alert. American Alex Deibold took home the bronze in men's snowboard across this morning. And that makes it 19 total medals for Team USA. They're tied with host -- host nation Russia. By the way, Germany, guys, leads the charge with eight gold medals.

PEREIRA: Look at that.


PEREIRA: Joe Carter, Christine and I are very anxious for that women's hockey game. Canada-U.S., we hope the ladies, remember a little bit of decorum.


It is hockey. But still just a little bit.

CARTER: It's incredible. Every time they face each other, it doesn't take but a few minutes and the gloves are off.

PEREIRA: I know. I know.

CARTER: It's a brutal match-up.

PEREIRA: We need to be an example for them.

ROMANS: This is true. No more -- no more brawling during the break.

PEREIRA: That's how we spend our commercial break.

CARTER: Now you guys be nice to each other. All right.

PEREIRA: Thanks, Joe. Really a pleasure.

CARTER: You bet.

PEREIRA: Well, let's talk about last night. A big night for Jimmy Fallon's star-studded debut as host of NBC's "Tonight Show." He kicked off his first show to be broadcast in New York in 42 years of the "Tonight Show" by thanking his predecessors.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I'm Jimmy Fallon. And I'll be your host for now.


Of course I wouldn't be here tonight if it weren't for the previous "Tonight" show hosts. So I want to say thank you to Steve Allen, Jack Park, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno.


Very, very nice. Amazing.


PEREIRA: Just funny guy. The first show featured quite a barrage of guests after Fallon said a good friend bet him $100 that he'd never become host of the "Tonight Show." He should have made that a bigger bet. The parade of stars included Stephen Colbert, whose show airs opposite Fallon, apparently he came on the show to welcome his competitor to 11:30 -- a little "Breaking Bad" style.


Congratulations to Jimmy. It will be fun to watch.

ROMANS: All right. Revealing jailhouse phone calls released from the man who killed an unarmed teenager after an argument over loud music, what he told his fiancee just days after his arrest.

PEREIRA: And an out of control bus crashing through trees and into a building. The Frightening moments as you can see all caught on camera. Wait until you hear what it was like on board.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Good morning. New developments this morning in the investigation into what many are calling Bridgegate. The revelations that two top allies to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have moved to shut down lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political payback.

Now the Port Authority which runs the bridge looking in any role its own the police force may have played in shutdown. Christie's office denied he had any conversations with one high-ranking Port Authority police lieutenant about those lane closures. But the agency's internal probe was apparently focused on that lieutenant who knows Chris Christie personally.

PEREIRA: This morning a West Virginia elementary school is set to reopen after shutting down Monday afternoon because of a familiar licorice smell in the water. That is the same smell of the chemical that spilled into the water supply last month. Now officials insist the water is safe to drink. The National Guard continues retesting it. The school district says it will continue to use bottled water for now.

ROMANS: All right. This morning we're hearing the jailhouse calls from Michael Dunn, the Florida man now convicted of attempted murder in a shooting that left 17-year-old Jordan Davis dead. In the days after his arrest back in December, Dunn called his parents and fiancee insisting his shooting was justified, that a jury would understand why he did it and even outlining what he would say to get released on bond pending trial.


MICHAEL DUNN, CONVICTED OF ATTEMPTED MURDER: This is what I'm thinking, that I get to say to the judge. Your Honor, the day after Thanksgiving, I fought for the thing I value most in this world, my life. Over the years I've spent countless hours practicing and preparing to defend that which I hold most dear hoping I never have to. And I acted within the law in the tragic outcome.

Please grant me this bond so that I may return home to my family and prepare to defend that which I value second most, my freedom. I wish to settle this matter and clear my name. I thank the court to grant me this opportunity to prepare for my defense in peace. I'm an honorable man, not a threat to my community, and I swear to abide by the court's order to appear, so help me God.


ROMANS: On Monday dozens protested outside the convenient store where the shooting took place demanding justice for Jordan Davis. Prosecutors plan to retry Dunn in the 17-year-old's murder.

PEREIRA: It is sentencing day for an 84-year-old Catholic nun convicted of sabotage at a Tennessee nuclear plant. Sister Megan Rice could spend what very well might be the rest of her life in prison. Rice was convicted along with two other anti-war activists for breaking into and vandalizing the facility back in 2012. They've been ordered to pay over $50,000 in damages. The charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 years.

ROMANS: This morning the family and friends of a college student are desperately looking for any sign of the missing 19-year-old. Hundreds showed up for a vigil last night for Pravin Varughese, a criminal justice major at Southern Illinois University. He disappeared last Wednesday after a party. The family now offering a $15,000 reward.

PEREIRA: We are getting a new look today at a frightening crash of a public bus in Boise. This happened in January. Dash cam video from the bus shows it suddenly veering off course, through a parking lot and then into an office building. Take a look.

Imagine how frightening that would be. One person was taken to the hospital for a back injury. The driver has now been charged with negligent driving. He said at the time that the brakes on the bus had failed but a police investigation found evidence that the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Wow. Dramatic video this morning after a building suddenly collapses, more than a hundred people injured. The death toll there rising. Investigators are desperately searching through the rubble this morning.

We're live after the break.


PEREIRA: In South Korea this morning, officials are hopeful everyone is now free from a frightening building collapse. It left 10 people dead and more than a hundred others hurt. This happened at a resort in the mountains in the southwest part of the country.

Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul with the very latest.

What can you tell us at this hour, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michaela, there were more than 500 students within that auditorium in the resort, many of them celebrating the start of their university career. And of course it did end in tragedy. Most of those 10 people who were killed were aged 18 years old.

Now one of those who was injured was telling journalists about the panic trying to get out of the building. He said there was only door in that building and the roof just collapsed too quickly for people to be able to get out. The forensic teams are down there and they're picking through the rubble to try and find exactly what the cause of this was. It is expected at this point that there was simply too much snow in the area and it had weighed too heavily on the roof.

Of course, the question is whether or not that building had faults when it was being erected. Now we have heard from local media that one policeman said that there were no pillars within the building itself. And that could well have been a problem because it couldn't cope with the weight.

But a day of celebration certainly ending in tragedy. As I said, 10 day, more than a hundred injured -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, Paula, keep an eye on that. Thanks so much for that report.

ROMANS: All right. Already one of the snowiest winters on record but this morning the East Coast --


PEREIRA: You have to laugh at this point.

ROMANS: It's getting more snow.


ROMANS: It is so irritating. I'm moving to California after the break.

PEREIRA: No. Don't do it. You actually are going, right?


PEREIRA: Really terrifying moments aboard a United Airlines flight. Passengers thrown from their seats. One man bleeding from his head unconscious when the plane suddenly began to shake. Passengers sharing their stories with us this morning.

ROMANS: Happening now, the East Coast slammed with another round of, yes, snow. Yes, more sleet and rain this time. Quickly becoming one of the snowiest winters ever for parts of the country. When will it end? Indra Petersons is tracking the storm. PEREIRA: As the new late-night -- a king of late-night has been crowned. Jimmy Fallon making his first appearance as the new host of the "Tonight" show. We'll take a look at how it went.

ROMANS: While you were sleeping. We will give you the report.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira, in for John Berman, in this half past the hour.

ROMANS: All right. Let's start with the weather. Why not? And it's the last thing you want to hear if you live anywhere in the Midwest to the northeast, we got more snow coming, folks.