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More Weather Threats for the US; Peace in Ukraine?; Facebook Closes Higher After WhatsApp Deal; Chris Christie's Next Political Test

Aired February 21, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, dangerous storms across the country, people waking up to blizzards, thunderstorms, flooding, and you see it there, even tornadoes. Indra Petersons tracking this very latest for us and what's coming next.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight, peace in Ukraine. Dozens have been killed, hundreds injured, but, this morning, the president is promising that violence will stop. We also have the very latest on that.

ROMANS: New details this morning on a terror threat at the airport who Homeland Security believes may be trying to smuggle bombs on board planes.

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

LEMON: Yes. And I'm Don Lemon. It is 5:30, almost 5:31 in the morning.

This morning, we are following some breaking news and it's about the weather. Most of the country facing some major weather, severe weather threat. Snow, rain, high winds, hail all in the forecast, and we could see storms that usually happen in the spring happening right now.


LEMON: And from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico to New England, it is all over.

ROMANS: Overnight, tornadoes touched down in Illinois. This one west of Springfield, one of at least a dozen reported in that area. Today, National Weather Service crews are going to be out investigating just what happened.

LEMON: Severe storms also hitting Nashville, Tennessee, where you can see the lightning --

ROMANS: This picture is wild.

LEMON: -- hitting the top of the building, right? If you look close enough, it will do it again. There it is right there. The results of intense thunderstorms. There are reports of trees down and damage to some homes. Some 9,000 customers were without power in the Nashville area at the height of this storm.

And lightning strike said to be the cause of this fire that seriously damaged a daycare center in Mississippi. One of the owners was driving in torrential rain with his son when he saw it happen.


RICK HOSKINS, DRIVER: He said, "dad, look!" And I looked back and I saw a bolt of lightning just went straight down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: no one was here. They had just left five minutes before the lightning hit the building. So, luckily, blessed, no one was here.



In Minnesota, it wasn't rain, but snow. Oh, Minnesota, I'm so sorry for the winter you've had. Intense, heavy snow at rates of up to three inches an hour leading to whiteout conditions in the twin cities and elsewhere.

LEMON: We haven't had it so easy here in the New York area as well.

ROMANS: No, no. Everybody's just been hammered.

LEMON: The roads slippery all the way around here. Look, this is Iowa, where snow and ice forced this bus off Interstate 80 west of Des Moines. At least three people were hurt in that.

ROMANS: And look at this garage near Detroit taken down by the weight of all that snow and ice that's fallen for weeks. The owner keeps classic cars there. Those cars were damaged, but luckily, no one was hurt.

LEMON: All right. This is thick fog, and it's blamed for this accident not far from Joliet, Illinois. A 20-car pileup on Interstate 57 that left the highway shut down for hours. Many of the cars and trucks were on fire, and at least ten people had to go to the hospital, but the injuries are said to be not life-threatening.

ROMANS: And in Chicago, crews desperately trying to move snow away from storm drains to deal with the problem now of flooding. Water backing up on the streets as the snow melts and rain falls. So far, the flooding there is being called minor.

LEMON: Indra Petersons has the latest, but Indra, it's a good day to stay at home, if you can, right?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I mean, the severe weather is not over with yet. This is just the last 24 hours. I mean, this puts it into perspective as you watch this swell making its way through. You can actually see, we had 13 reports of tornadoes in Illinois. But notice all the wind damage and hail reports that we did see, and it's very easy to see when I show you the water vapor loop, you can actually see how explosive in nature these storms are, and they are still out there.

That is the concern moving forward as we go throughout today. Already watching severe thunderstorm watch into the southeast. Atlanta, you are under the gun for this. Looks to about 9:00 a.m. or so. We're still going to have that watch in place. I showed you the swell and progressing to the east, so just south of D.C., all the way down towards Jacksonville, we have the biggest threat, again, for more of those severe thunderstorms.

But also thunderstorms really lining the entire eastern seaboard today, so we'll be monitoring that. Look for some rain making its way through. And we know by now that is not the only story. Take again another look at the upper Midwest. We're still talking about snow, six to 10 inches already fell. Strong winds are out there. It's going to continue to blow more snow around and reduce low visibility, but additional snow will also be falling.

So, another six to 10 inches could be still out there today. So, definitely, those blizzards and winter weather advisories. Otherwise, I have to end on a good note, so I'm sticking with this, guys. Beautiful as we go through the weekend. Temperatures are going up. So, heads up, next week, they go back down.

ROMANS: I know.

PETERSONS: So, enjoy like the 24 hours --

ROMANS: What's 53 degrees going to do to the four-foot snow in my front yard?


PETERSONS: Yes. Well, the rain as well. That should be melting and there goes the flood problem.

ROMANS: I know. I took away your good note, I'm sorry.

PETERSONS: Yes, I know. You totally did.


ROMANS: Try again next hour.

LEMON: Thank you.

We've got to get to some breaking news now. It's in Ukraine this morning. You're looking at live pictures now from Kiev's Independent Square where there may be a tentative deal to end the violence, maybe a tentative deal. That violence left more than 100 people dead in the last few days. Nick Paton Walsh live now in Kiev this morning. Nick, what is the very latest? NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were expecting half an hour ago, according to a statement from the president, that he was going to sign a deal with the opposition to perhaps end this crisis, but no sign of that as yet. In fact, what we're hearing instead is signs from European diplomats who've been negotiating that deal, that perhaps he jumped the gun with that statement and they had a break in talks.

They're going to resume later on at some point. There was a report from the Ukrainian police of shots fired near the parliament. I have to say, we haven't seen much evidence of that on the ground, because if there was an exchange of fire, you'd know about it in the atmosphere amongst the crowd. That's purely on the basic statement, though, from the police.

We saw also down in the crowds reasonably large number of police officers who have defected, it seems, from the west of the country, brought through the crowd. There was a cheer in the crowd for their presence here. People still waiting, though, for a public statement from Viktor Yanukovych, himself. He's certainly under pressure here.

Perhaps that premature statement about a deal may have added on to the pressure here as well. We're also hearing, oddly enough, that Ukraine isn't going to be getting involved in a $2 billion bond deal with Russia. That was part of the Moscow bailout to keep the country afloat. That may be on the rocks. That's a sign, perhaps, they're moving westward, rather than eastward at this time where certainly they want to enflame the crowd by cozying up too much to Moscow.

But the next few hours ahead are absolutely vital. Can they reach a deal? And more importantly, if that deal doesn't include the departure of the president from his job, it's the crowd behind me going to buy it? Back to you.

LEMON: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for that.

ROMANS: Now to the latest developments in Venezuela where protesters and security forces are clashing once again. The death toll in more than a week of demonstrations there has now reached six. A supporter of the president, Nicolas Maduro, was apparently shot during a protest. The opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, is jailed, but that murder charges against him have been dropped now. The government accuses Lopez of inciting the violence.

LEMON: This morning, we're finding out new details about what was behind a government warning over possible shoe bombs on planes.

U.S. officials tell CNN the threat is credible and is linked to al Qaeda's branch in Yemen, specifically, a master bomb maker there who's tried to strike the U.S. before.


PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: -- was responsible for several of the attempts on U.S. aviation in the last few years. He's ingenious at making bombs. He's constantly trying to come up with new ways to get past airport security. So, if al Qaeda groups are, indeed, trying to develop a new generation of shoe bomb devices, it's quite possible that al-Asiri is at the center of this.


LEMON: Officials say the threat appears to just be aspirational at this point, but at least one official tells CNN, Homeland Security would not have put out a warning if the threat wasn't real.

ROMANS: We now know more about the Obama administration's plans for its next budget, including that it won't offer to make cuts to cost- of-living increases in Social Security checks. The administration offered that last year. It was a gesture of bipartisanship to Republicans, but it's now off the table. Republicans say it shows this president has no interest in tackling a looming debt crisis.

LEMON: And at the White House today, a sit-down between President Obama and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and activist. A meeting all but certain to anger China. The president and the Dalai Lama are likely to discuss politics and reports of human rights violations in the Chinese-controlled Tibetan areas. It is the third time the two have met since the president took office.

ROMANS: And the Dalai Lama a popular figure in the United States, but there's always a polite request from China not to have the United States president sit down with him, and the president does anyway.

All right. Stocks in Asia and Europe higher right now. A great end to the week for stocks in Asia. Japan up nearly three percent today. European stocks heading for their third straight week of gains. U.S. stocks look to be heading in the same direction if all things hold. Futures are higher following yesterday's gains. The Dow broke a two- day losing streak. NASDAQ back on its hot streak. And the S&P 500 now just ten points away from an all-time high.

All right. Facebook, we've got to keep talking about this, that biggest deal ever, $19 billion for the messaging app, WhatsApp, creating buzz around tech stocks. The NASDAQ higher now for 10 out of the past 11 days. You know what, Facebook closed higher yesterday, even after announcing it was going to spend all that money for that app. Facebook actually closed higher yesterday. Watch the S&P 500 today after tanking in January. The S&P, look at that, it's had a huge rebound this month. It's now ten points from that all-time high set on December 31st.

LEMON: So, you think the WhatsApp thing was worth it? I was like nothing is worth $19 billion.

ROMANS: I was in the Silicon Valley yesterday. I was in San Francisco when that news broke. And you know, a lot of people were saying $19 billion, are you kidding me? That's crazy! It's like a third of Facebook's cash going to that deal. But, what if someone else got that app? It'd be 450 million active users growing gangbusters, and it would be outside of -- I mean, Facebook needs it and Facebook needs to make sure no one else had it.

LEMON: All right. It's the first time someone said that to me, I was like, $19 billion.

ROMANS: It's a lot of money. I mean, look, that's bigger than the annual budget of NASA.


ROMANS: I mean, think of that, a company that didn't exist five years ago. Wow!

LEMON: There you go. All right.

Developing this morning, New Jersey's embattled governor heading south to Washington for a key meeting that could help shape his presidential chances. We're going to break it all down, next.


ROMANS: This morning, New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, is getting ready for his next big test, a day after avoiding any Bridgegate backlash at the first town hall of the second term. Christie is heading this weekend to Washington, a trip with major implications for 2016.

Here to tell us more about it is CNN's political editor, Paul Steinhauser, who's in Washington this morning. Good morning!

LEMON: Good morning.

ROMANS: So, finally, after being canceled twice, he finally got to go and have his town hall that we've all been waiting for.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: He sure did. He finally got that under the bell, his first town hall in a number of months. You're right. He's coming right here, though, to the nation's capital, and he's got important meetings, the Republican Governors Association today and tomorrow right here in D.C. Remember, Christie took over as the chairman of the RGA three months ago, and many see that move as a stepping stone to a possible run in 2016 for the White House.

You know, for Christie, this is his first get-together with his fellow Republican governors since the George Washington Bridge controversy went viral in early January. And the key here is, we'll see how he's received by his colleagues. One thing, though, that may make his colleagues happy, his fellow governors, a Republican Governors Association official telling me, guess what, Christie has helped raise $18 million since he took over as chairman three months ago.

That's not too shabby. Christie known as a veracious fundraiser. Also, Rick Perry in town. He's a Republican governor as well, we know that, from Texas. He's here for those meetings. And you know what? Like Christie, he's also thinking about making a run for the White House in 2016. If he does run, him and Christie, well, they could be rivals. And, well, catch this. Take a listen to what Perry said last night with Wolf Blitzer in the "SITUATION ROOM" about Chris Christie. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) TEXAS: We're on the same team. We're working together, but let me tell you something, he's a competitor, and I'm going to go and compete against him. I'm going to go against and compete against Rick Scott. I'm going to compete against Bobby Jindal. I'm going to compete against Nikki Hailey. I'm going to compete against Jerry Brown and Pat Quinn, and those guys are a little easier to compete against because of the policies they put into place.


STEINHAUSER: Whoa, whoa, what's he talking about there? Is he talking about 2016? It sure sounded like him and Christie going at it in 2016, but he said no, no, no, I'm talking about 2014, helping more Republican governors get elected. We'll see. Stay tuned if Rick Perry runs or not. Remember, Rick Perry, guess where he's going to be next week, Christine? Iowa.

ROMANS: Hoo! It's cold in Iowa. We keep showing pictures of how cold and snowy it is in Iowa, but Iowa's hot, hot, hot for politics, right?


STEINHAUSER: You got it.

ROMANS: Let's talk about all the talk about 2016 has been about Hillary. And you know, it's so interesting, because last night on "Piers Morgan," walk us through what John McCain has to say about the Hillary chances.

STEINHAUSER: This raised some eyebrows. They were talking about 2016, of course, and whether Clinton may run or not. Listen to John McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I would bet, my friend, as much as I hate to admit it, that right now, this is why we have campaigns, but right now, if the election were tomorrow, Hillary Clinton would most likely be the president of the United States.


STEINHAUSER: Yes. How about that? But he said -- you know what he said? Hillary Clinton wouldn't be my candidate. Of course, he's a Republican, she's a Democrat. One more thing, the first lady on "Jimmy Fallon" last night. Take a listen. Oh, no listen. I'm sorry. No sound there. But you know what? Guess what? Her and Jimmy Fallon have teamed before for the healthy initiative that she does, healthy eating initiative.

And she was on Jimmy Fallon last night. They did their skits. They talked serious things about health care. And, you know what? Maybe she should run for president. What'd you guys think of the performance?

LEMON: I thought it was really good. Actually, the first lady was in -- obviously in town yesterday doing Jimmy Fallon. Look at that.

ROMANS: I think she's got a great sense of humor.

LEMON: But she was down in the bowery yesterday doing an initiative for water.

ROMANS: Oh, really?

LEMON: Called the drink up campaign, yes. And I went down there. She was gone already, but I went down and checked out the art. Lots of young people. She's trying to get young people to drink more water, so --

STEINHAUSER: And sign up for the health care law. That's --

LEMON: Absolutely.

STEINHAUSER: -- another thing she's trying to get people to do.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Paul. Nice to see you this morning. Happy Friday.

LEMON: Want to take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Here's Mr. Chris Cuomo. Good morning, Chris.

ROMANS: Hi, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": How are you doing? Don't you two make a nice fetching color this morning.

ROMANS: Look at the red. Look at the red. No, we're not making a call of the stock market by any stretch of imagination, but we're both wearing --

CUOMO: Very good. Always about the stock market. Always about the stock market with you, Romans. Well, not here on "NEW DAY."


CUOMO: Today, we're obviously going to be dealing with what is hitting too many people for, you know, what, the 15th time? Severe weather. We're not just talking about plummeting temperatures, we're talking about literally the full range of bad stuff. We've got tornadoes, we've got snow and rain snarling up traffic. We'll take you through what is happening where.

We're also going to focus on Ukraine. Here's why. You remember the Syria situation. It starts about being all about them and the push for democracy and the U.S. monitoring and the U.S. pressuring for the right type of force to be used and it to be as peaceful as possible. And then it starts to escalate and we wind up on the brink of war? That's happening in Ukraine. They say they found a deal, bu We're only hearing that from one faction. What's happening on the other side? Well, you're looking at it. If this is happening in the streets, will anything really get better if the U.S. doesn't get involved? If so, what should the involvement be? General Wesley Clark understands this region of the world very well. He's going to break down the conflict and what the stakes are for the U.S.

All right. Then, we're going to turn back here to the U.S. and talk about something that's pretty central to our culture, the NFL. Football is the most popular sport in the U.S. It's not even close. There's a battle about what the culture is in the NFL. Are they too rough? Is it a culture of violence? Most recently, we have the Ravens running back. He's a local product from here in New York. He was a college standout.

Ray Rice supposedly, allegedly knocked out his fiancee before dragging her off an elevator. No, look, there are a lot of mixed allegations here. Both were arrested, originally. And then you have former NFL star, Darren Sharper. He's facing multiple rape allegations. This is obviously just the latest legal trouble, but, is there a problem in this league?

Is there a character issue about who's being allowed to become an NFL player and star or is it just about highlighting the worst, but on average, the league is as good or better than the rest of society? This is the discussion we're going to have today.

LEMON: All right. We'll see you in a few. Thank you, Chris.

ROMANS: We'll be right back.


ROMANS: Breaking overnight, an attack at a tribal office in California has left four people dead. And a woman is in custody this morning, accused of opening fire and then using a butcher knife to finish her assault. Police aren't giving out the suspect's name and the motive is, so far, not clear. Autopsies are set for today.

It's now the law in Arizona, a controversial measure that would allow people to cite religion as a defense against claims of discrimination. The Republican sponsors of the bill say it allows business owners to refuse service to gays and others if it goes against their religious beliefs. They claim it's a First Amendment issue.

Democrats call it an outright attack on the rights of gays and lesbians in Arizona. The bill now goes to the governor, Jan Brewer, who vetoed a similar measure last year.

Marijuana becoming legal business in Colorado and Washington state, and that's good news for the government. We'll tell you the tax benefits of legalization in "Money Time," next.


ROMANS: Good Friday morning to you! Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time." Stocks look like they could end the week higher. You've got futures are up. There were gains in Europe and Asia. And you know what? The stocks in your 401(k), they most likely track the S&P 500. Look at that chart.

The S&P this morning is within ten points of an all-time high, record territory again for that broadest gauge of the stock market, after all that concern in January, here we are again.

Looking at Ukraine, you've seen these pictures, political unrest there now being felt in financial markets. Ukraine has canceled plans to raise $2 billion by selling bonds to Russia. Without this deal, there's concern the country won't be able to pay its bills. Standard & Poor's downgraded Ukraine's foreign currency because of, quote, "the escalation of political turmoil."

It's less than a $200 billion economy, so a small economy relatively speaking, but really a big impact for the people who live there.

All right. In this country, legal pot sales in Colorado will mean money in the state's coffers, but how much? The state expects to take in $184 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales in the first year and a half of legalization. What will they spend it on? Teaching kids to stay away from pot. And they also will use it to treat people who are abusing pot.

Marijuana became legal for recreational use in Colorado on January 1st. Pot is heavily taxed, three times its tax when it's produced, when it's sold, and when it's bought. That revenue will be used to treat people who use marijuana.

"NEW DAY" starts now.