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Country in Chaos; Terror Alert at the Airport; Temperatures Rising; USA versus Canada

Aired February 20, 2014 - 05:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight. Happening now: deadly protests taking over the streets of Ukraine, a country in absolute chaos as we speak. We are live.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Terror threat at the airport. The new alert this morning on how terrorists may be trying to smuggle bombs on board flights to the U.S.

HARLOW: And temperatures rising across the country. But with the warmer weather comes a new danger. Our Indra Petersons is tracking what is coming our way

LEMON: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. Boy, it is really early. I'm Don Lemon.

HARLOW: It is really early.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Good to be with you. It is Thursday, February 20th, 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

We begin today with breaking news from Ukraine, where a truce appears to clearly be falling apart. You're looking at live pictures from Independence Square in Kiev, where protesters and police are clashing once again at this hour. There are reports of more deaths, more injuries, after some of the worst violence in that nation's modern history, drawing international calls for both sides to stop.

Our Nick Paton Walsh was just down in independence square. He has been covering this throughout the night.

You were down there, Nick, as the violence escalated. What are you seeing? What is happening? And we're just seeing some reports of, apparently, what appear to be dead bodies found in the hotel right where you are?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me give you some context. The hotel where I'm standing is used by many media and has now become the bottom floor, a kind of triage medical center for those protesters who have been injured. My colleague, Todd Baxter, has been down there and to his count, 11 dead bodies under sheets, presumably that are dead, beyond any help at all. We've been hearing gunfire pretty much throughout the morning. It comes in phases, then it stops. I've just heard what sounded like a couple of shots over to my left over there.

Let me wheel back and explain to you how we got here. This morning, many of us awoken by what sounded like gunfire, consistent, then we saw bodies of protesters being taken down the streets, away from what seemed like the new police front lines, further up the road here to my left.

Now, it seems, according to different accounts, that at some point in the morning, the police suddenly withdrew. We don't quite know what caused that and there are varying accounts from protesters, some suggesting that snipers began shooting at them, and they fired back. Then the police led, some say maybe a stun grenade was used, hurting protestors, that caused the protesters moving forward. Some suggesting the police simply left because they want to create a vacuum for protesters to rush forward.

So, lots of confusion about how we got to this point, but no doubt what followed. There has been gunfire aimed at protesters. I haven't seen myself who fired the shots, but we've seen the rounds of bullets of AK-47s weapons. And we've seen ourselves quite a substantial number, I would say about a dozen I've seen myself wounded or dead people being brought down from the roads around where I'm standing.

That hasn't dented at all the protesters. They are building new lines on all the roads where they had lost 48 hours ago when the police advanced. They're building new lines there. Some have tire fires. Some in the other corner simply have massive people standing arm in arm, blocking the police from moving forward.

A very worrying situation here. Just eight, nine hours ago, I stood here talking about the possibility of peace talks. That's clearly out of the window.

HARLOW: And, Nick, of course, this is just hours after we heard President Obama making those comments in Mexico yesterday, talking about a line that must not be crossed in Ukraine. We also have the French, German and Polish foreign ministers arriving today.

Has there been any response to what the West is saying about this?

WALSH: I'm sorry, I can't hear your question, forgive me. But basically, the other issues we're dealing with here are reports that parliament has been evacuated. We have not heard confirmation of that ourselves or any information to back it up.

We are expecting -- we were expecting three key E.U. foreign ministers to arrive in the country at some point this morning to try and bolster any kind of negotiation going on, French, German and Polish. We still don't know if that's still happening.

Things have changed here quite dramatically, even from the last violence we saw 48 hours ago, because there is, oddly, a sort of vacuum of security forces in much of the area here. Now, that's because they did move back, perhaps because they felt they're under attack or perhaps because they tactically chose to do that. That's not clear at this point and that will be the discussion point for the days ahead.

The major fear now is what happens next. What is going to be the response from the Ukrainian security forces?

Yesterday, they were talking about how this had prompted an anti- terror operation nationwide. The concern is, is the army now going to get involved now live gunfire is being used? What will the police do in response? One dead policeman, we hear, according to official reports at this point.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Our Nick Paton Walsh reporting live in Kiev, Ukraine. Nick, thank you. We appreciate it.

LEMON: Now, we go to Venezuela, where tensions are high as well this morning where the opposition leader remains behind bars amid intense protests that have now left five people dead. The latest victim, a 22-year-old beauty queen who was shot in the head during demonstrations in her home state west of Caracas. President Nicolas Madura in a televised speech overnight called the demonstrators fascist and said someone who doesn't like Venezuela should leave.

The protesters are demanding Maduro resign because of faltering economy and surging crime.

HARLOW: Now to the new threat that has the government warning airlines to keep a closer eye all travelers, a warning that once again terror groups may be trying to hide explosives in shoes.

Intelligence officials tell CNN that information gathered overseas shows that work may be under way on new methods of sneaking bombs on planes.


PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: DHS warning is nonspecific, but the universe of people who have desire and capability is not large. It's al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM: I'd be as concerned about the bomb makers as I am about the bomb. You'd be surprised how difficult it is for a terror organization to find a bombmaker with the sophistication to build a shoe bomb. We're not talking about a roadside device. We're talking about something that can get past sensors in an airport.

So, I'd be trying to figure out not only how to stop the bomb, but how to find somebody that can make something like this.

(END VIDEOI CLIP) HARLOW: Now, it's also important to note that this warning is apparently not tied to any specific known plot. This, of course, comes some 13 years after Richard Reid attempted to detonate a bomb in his sneakers on a flight from Paris to Miami. That lead to the new TSA rules that we must all take off our shoes through security checkpoints.

And you may see tighter security if you try to get on a plane in the next few days.

LEMON: Today in Vienna, the latest round of talks over Iran's nuclear program are wrapping up, and all sides have reportedly reached a deal, setting the framework for future talks expected to begin next month. Six world powers, including the U.S., are trying to reach a long-term agreement to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions and ensure it does not work towards building nuclear weapons. It is expected to take at least six months before a final agreement can be reached.

HARLOW: New details about efforts to bring home an American soldier captured along the Afghan/Pakistan border. Taliban officials tell the "Associated Press" they have been holding indirect talks with the United States over possibly exchanging five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, an American sergeant. He is believed to be held by the Pakistani Taliban since 2009. U.S. officials have also confirmed those talks to CNN.

LEMON: And breaking overnight, a new condemnation of a U.S. drone strike that killed at least a dozen people in Yemen. The group Human Rights Watch says the strikes failed to comply with the Obama administration's own rules designed to protect civilians. The people killed were part of a convoy leaving a wedding. The report says shrapnel even hit the bride near her eye.

HARLOW: Now abandoned, the Homeland Security Plan to build a nationwide license place database. Officials are pulling back a request that had been posted for a proposal from a private company for some sort of system that would scan license plate data that could then be used to track down cars from coast to coast with the time, location, et cetera, where they were spotted.

Well, homeland security leadership apparently had no idea that this proposal was made. They're reviewing that at this moment.

LEMON: All right, more now on the weather. This morning fears are rising along with the temperatures now in a big part of the country, all of the snow that's piled up for weeks that we have been seeing, it is all melting. Yesterday, I walked outside, I thought it was raining, and the doorman said, no, it's just the snow melting from the room.

HARLOW: Surprisingly warm.


But that could mean flooding for a lot of people and sheets of ice flying off building. Plus, heavy rain is set for the Midwest, only making the snow melt faster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the melting snow that we've gathered over the last couple of months, that snow's going to begin to melt. It's going to run to the roadsides, it's going to stand in the roads, it's going to stand in cul-de-sacs in the subdivisions. It's going to have a really hard time getting off the road.


HARLOW: Yuck! I mean, snow, snow, snow, now rain, rain, flood.

LEMON: Snow, rain. What next, Indra Petersons, locusts?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, right? Unfortunately today, it's not even going to be the flooding concern that's the highest concern. We actually have a threat for severe weather and blizzards out there. So, the combination is high.

Take a look. I mean, looking at the arrowhead of Minnesota, you're talking about possibly over a foot of snow with strong winds, six to thirteen inches possible in through Wisconsin today. So, still snow is out there.

But look, just farther to the South, you're starting to see a lot of activity. Look at all the lightning out there. Chicago going to have a tough day with strong winds and some heavy storms making their way through and they are not the only ones. Take a look -- we're talking about 37 million of you today under the slight risk area. What are we talking? Strong thunderstorms and even the isolated threat of tornadoes will be out there today.

Why? Look at all this temperature contrast. We're talking about 70s here into the South. You have cold temperatures and blizzard-like conditions up around the lakes, so you have a system make its way right through the middle, and once again, you have that setup for severe weather.

So, today, we talk about 37 million of you today, but by tomorrow, the system makes its way farther to the East, so mid-Atlantic through Florida looking for a threat for severe weather. Heads up, it is warm. At least enjoy that because another blast of cold air comes next week.

HARLOW: Of course! Of course it is! This has been the worst winter.

PETERSONS: Horrible on so many levels.

LEMON: Wonder what that means for the summer.

PETERSONS: Nice, nice.

LEMON: Thank you very much. HARLOW: Thanks, Indra.

LEMON: New this morning, just how far have we come in this economic recovery?

Our Christine Romans is in San Francisco, where she got a chance to sit down with the treasury secretary to ask him that very question.

So, I want to know what Jack Lew had to say, but my goodness, what time is it in San Francisco?


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it is early! And you know what, I'll tell you what, Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, and I were so happy to not be in the 5-foot berms of snow in Washington and New York, so we were really enjoying San Francisco -- beautiful out here, although it is very, very early.

Look, he's on his way to Sydney for the G-20 meeting and I got a chance to sit down with him, talk about the economic recovery.

He said we're moving along, the economy is recovering. There is a lot of progress he can cite over the past five years, but this administration really, really wants to raise the minimum wage, and that's something he says is going to be priority number one in the days and months ahead.



JACK LEW, TREASURY SECRETARY: I don't believe that it's right for people to work for 40 hours and take home pay that's below the poverty line. The president made it very clear that as a country, we have to make sure that if you work full time, you're at least at the poverty line.

ROMANS: You can get that done this year? Do you think you can get that done this year? Do you think you can push -- I know the president's done executive order on a small sliver of the federal workers?

LEW: He's done executive order. We're going to keep pushing at it. It's obviously not in our power to force Congress to act, but we can make the case for it and we can have the American people make the case for it, and we're going to continue pressing, because it's the right thing to do.

ROMANS: CBO report this week really gave the people against it what they feel is ammunition, you know. It would be a job loss. It would be a poverty alleviation program on the backs of small businesses who'd have to pay for it.

LEW: You know, I think if you look at that CBO report, it also showed that it would take almost a million people out of poverty. You know, one thing about American people generally is if they're doing well, they don't begrudge other people doing well.

ROMANS: Right.

LEW: They want a chance to have a middle-class job, and we can solve that problem.


ROMANS: I also asked him about income inequality, guys, and he said we're not going to fix in a year or a few months something that's been going on for about 30 years, you know. So, he's concerned about these bigger-picture issues but in the near term really pushing for that minimum wage increase.

Meantime, watching the markets right now, you guys, it's an ugly, ugly start to the day in Europe, in Asia, and futures are lower right now. So, we're really going to watch to see if there's a sell-off overall.

We'll also be watching Facebook shares. I'm right here in San Francisco, Silicon Valley. And if you really sniff, you can smell money! There is money in this town, I'm telling you.

Facebook buying this WhatsApp for $19 billion. I mean, think about this, this company is only 5 years old buying this online messaging service for $19 billion. There's a lot happening out here.


ROMANS: Facebook shares down a little bit this morning.

HARLOW: You know, it's interesting. Watching at the open how Wall Street reacts to that, because think about it, they bought Instagram for $1 billion. This is $19 billion. Then I looked at the numbers, 450 million users WhatsApp has, adding a million new users a day?

LEMON: I am shocked by that. I tried WhatsApp when it first came out, but I had a BlackBerry then. Do you use it on your iPhone?

HARLOW: You can use it on your iPhone, but Christine, I was so surprised --

ROMANS: And they're young customers, young messengers.

HARLOW: They're young.

ROMANS: And that's what they need. Don, they don't need you, my friend.

LEMON: What are you talking about? I'm barely out of high school!

HARLOW: You're right!

ROMANS: Facebook needs young people, and that's what they're buying, they're buying -- for $19 billion, they're buying a whole new market. HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: The stock is down a little bit -- Facebook stock is down, but I'm going to tell you, that stock hit a record high yesterday, up 27 percent from earnings in January. So Facebook's been on a tear. They've got the money to spend. Boy, they're spending it.

HARLOW: And Zuckerberg said of WhatsApp, quote, yesterday, "No one in the history of the world has done anything like that" in terms of getting that many users that quickly.

So, we will watch. What an interesting acquisition. Christine, thank you and great interview.

LEMON: Get some sleep.

ROMANS: Thank you.

HARLOW: Congratulations this morning to someone or some people in California, very, very rich right now. There was only one winning ticket for last night's $400 million-plus Powerball jackpot. It was sold at a gas station in Milpitas, California. That's not too far from San Jose. Of course, it's not clear whether it was purchased by one person or a group.

This is the second time in recent months that a big winning ticket has been sold near San Jose. Lucky town, I guess. The last one went to a truck driver back in December.

LEMON: You buy a ticket or you could have just gotten in on the WhatsApp application and there you go.

HARLOW: There you go.

LEMON: You got it.

A community in shock, a little girl kidnapped and killed, a middle school coach arrested for it. New details we're learning this morning, straight ahead.

HARLOW: And Philip Seymour Hoffman's final wishes for how his son should be raised revealed in his will, straight ahead.


HARLOW: Breaking overnight from Mississippi, where dozens of people were hurt, including 11 teenagers when a church floor collapsed. It happened at a Baptist church north of Hattiesburg. As many as 79 people, including kids from grades 7 through 12 were inside when the floor suddenly gave way. Thankfully, all injuries are described as minor.

LEMON: In Missouri this morning, a middle school football coach is now facing murder charges in the abduction and death of a 10-year-old girl. Hailey Owens, who was snapped off her block just blocks from her home. Craig Michael Wood has been charged in her death. Police say they found a body they believe to be Hailey's in garbage bags in Wood's basement.

Witnesses say the abduction as it happened and -- saw the abduction as it happened. State police tracked down the police.


RICK RIGGINS, EYEWITNESS: My neighbor's yelling at this man and her to get away -- he was yelling at her, saying get away from the car, don't go over there telling him, you know, don't touch her, don't touch her. And I guess the man grabbed her and pulled her in the truck and sped off really fast.

DAN PATTERSON, GREENE COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Tragically, we're not able to say it's Hailey. As the father of an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old daughter, these are very hard facts to talk about. I'm just glad that he is captured and we'll be able to bring him to justice.


LEMON: Police say there is no evidence that Woods knew the girl. He works in her school district but in a different school, and any motive remains unclear.

Details from the will of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in an apparent heroin overdose this month. Well, the will now is made public, and it contains some unusual request. Hoffman's strong desire for his son to grow up in New York, Chicago or San Francisco and not Los Angeles. His other children had not yet been born when the will was written. Hoffman leaves the bulk of his estate to his children's mother, Mimi O'Donnell.

HARLOW: Football fallout from the bullying incident that led Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin to leave the team. The dolphins now firing offensive line coach Jim Turner and head trainer Kevin O'Neil. This move -- these moves really are the first punitive steps taken by the team since a report on the NFL's investigation of the case was released last week.

Both Turner and O'Neil were mentioned in that report, and in a statement, the dolphins' owner said both men exhibited, quote, "poor judgment."

LEMON: Yes, very damning report at that.

Coming up, a great day for the U.S. in Sochi, and the U.S. men's hockey team is getting closer to gold, but not so good for the Russians. National pride dashed.

HARLOW: Andy Scholes has all the Olympic highlights in the "Bleacher Report." That is straight ahead.


HARLOW: It is the game we have all been waiting for, especially Don. He sits there with the remote waiting, waiting, waiting for the hockey game, right? LEMON: Oh, the hockey game!

HARLOW: Right, the hockey game.

LEMON: That's right.

Andy Scholes joining us now with more from this morning's "Bleacher Report."

But, Andy, it's the hockey game!


LEMON: Don's so into the Olympics. I certainly am. I had to go to sleep before most of it last night, but here we go, right? Team USA?

SCHOLES: Yes, USA versus Canada, guys. This game's pretty much four years in the making. You know, Team USA, they took care of business yesterday against the Czech Republic, setting up this huge semifinals matchup with Canada.

You know, the last big game between these two came in the 2010 Olympics. Canada won that game in overtime to take the gold. Now, both these teams have been playing great, they're both undefeated thus far in the Olympics. So, tomorrow's game should be another great one. Puck drops at noon eastern.

Now, if there was one medal that this year's host country, Russia, wanted, it was the hockey gold. And you know, it's their national sport. President Putin even suggested that the whole country's Olympics success hinged on the hockey team.

Well, Finland crushed Russia's gold medal dreams yesterday by beating them 3-1. Russia is now out. And as you can see, the Sochi bear taking the loss very hard. Some fear he won't be able to rebound and finish out the Olympics.

All right. The U.S. women's hockey team will be playing for gold at noon Eastern today. They will also be playing Canada, who has won gold in the last three Olympics. This one should also be a great game.

Here's a look at the current medal count right now. We are on top of the medal board with 23 total, seven of them gold. Russia and the Netherlands tied for second with 22.

Trending on right now, American figure skating champion Gracie Gold is in position to grab a medal later today after yesterday's short program. Gold is in fourth place. Her teammate, Ashley Wagner, right now is in sixth. Both need to have a solid free skate performance later this morning if they want to end up on the podium.

Korean skating sensation and defending champion Yuna Kim is currently in first place.

We'll have to see how that all plays out later this morning, guys. Hopefully, Gracie Gold can get in on that medal stand.

HARLOW: I recorded it last night and now I know what happened before I watch it.

SCHOLES: Sorry for spoiling it for you.

HARLOW: Thanks, Andy. Appreciate it.

Well, the top headlines and everything you need to know for the day, straight ahead here -- right after the break.