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Mystery Virus Paralyzes Children in California; Crisis in Ukraine; Arctic Outbreak

Aired February 25, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Crisis in Ukraine -- desperate and billions in debt. How the U.S. may be stepping in to help and why it could reignite Cold War flames with Russia. We're live.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A mysterious virus paralyzing children in California. Parents desperate for a cure. The new information we're learned this morning.

ROMANS: Arctic outbreak. Millions across the country waking up this morning to bitter-cold temperatures. Record lows could be broken. Stay in bed, everyone.

Indra Petersons is tracking how cold it's going to get.

BERMAN: We're getting to like ridiculous, obscene levels now at this point.

ROMANS: Oh, good morning. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: So nice, you had to say it twice.

Hi, there. I'm John Berman. It is Tuesday, February 25th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: Let's begin this morning with grave concern about a polio- like illness that's caused partial paralysis in children in California. Doctors not exactly sure what it is or what's causing it. Five cases have been confirmed, and state health officials say there may be 20 more cases.

Sophia is one of the children studied so far showing signs of this illness. All of these kids received polio vaccination. Doctors say the children experienced sudden, apparent irreversible paralysis affecting one or more limbs.


DR. KEITH VAN HAREN, PEDIATRIC NEUROLOGIST: The prognosis we've seen so far is not good. Most of the children we've seen have not recovered use of their arm or leg.

JESSICA TOMEI, VICTIM'S MOTHER: I'd like to say that Sophia is still a healthy, young girl who's thriving. She goes to preschool. She does dance. And we were very lucky that it only affected her left arm.

I was with her in the ER when she was having trouble breathing. I know that we are so lucky that she's here and I know that many families go through losing a child. So, we are so grateful that Sophia is with us today, and she's going to do amazing things.


ROMANS: Oh, my goodness. The love those parents.

Doctors studying the syndrome says it's extremely rare. They say all cases have been reported in California and only in the past 18 months.

BERMAN: And the unknown there has to be so frustrated for parents and families.

All right. This morning, it has all the makings of a diplomatic showdown. Russia calling the ousting of the Ukrainian president an armed mutiny and says a new Ukrainian government is not legitimate. There is a manhunt right now for Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president who is now a fugitive accused of the mass murder of his own people. And as that happens, the U.S. is reaching out, offering financial assistance to the country in turmoil and dispatching a senior diplomatic envoy to Kiev to discuss emergency U.S. support.

Reports say Ukraine has delayed until Thursday putting an interim government in place. That deadline had been for today. They extended it until Thursday. Still, there are serious questions about whether even that can happen amid the chaos.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh live in Kiev this morning.

Nick, what's the latest from there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're hearing at the moment is that Bill Burns, deputy secretary of state, is arriving today with people from the U.S. Treasury. They will, of course, have to address the issue of the emergency amount of money that Ukraine needs right now.

They asked yesterday for $35 billion, but that's going to be a real tough ask, because the Russians are willing to put $15 billion in. The E.U., the U.S. are talking the right talk, but they don't have the cash in hand yet.

So, there are conditions they would like to see, like the currency being devalued, like the IMF being more closely involved, where they will put extra strain on the economy here as well. But it's really I think the vision of support the West is trying to offer by stepping in where the Russians have stepped back.

You did mention how the Russians have said through their prime minister that this was an armed riot that removed the government and they're not sure about the legitimacy of what's followed. But the real question is, when do we hear from Vladimir Putin? He really calls the shots in Moscow and he's been noticeably silent, having just left the Sochi Winter Olympics that he was very much put through a spectacle of the way he'd like to see Russia in the future. We haven't heard his word on this yet, noticeably silent.

We're waiting to see quite what the U.S. can provide in terms of financial assistance, but behind me here, still grieving. We've been hearing almost constant mass now for those who died, for dozens who died last Thursday. A lot of anger still here, both at the riches that have fled Viktor Yanukovych, no word of where he is right now, last seen in (INAUDIBLE), a private house near Balaclava, but a fugitive on the run.

They want to see him brought to trial. They want to see their new parliament and government transparent and open, during the Russia votes that happened yesterday, putting various ministers in with votes. There were people outside the parliament crying shame, angry at how the whole process had a lack of transparency to it.

So, people here demanding a lot from their government. The government has an extraordinarily hard task ahead of it and needs money right now. Difficult days ahead -- John.

BERMAN: Difficult, indeed.

And, Nick, we can hear the sounds of those memorial services happening behind you, the sounds of mourning today in Kiev.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right, big news for your 401(k) this morning. The bull market in stocks, alive and well.

The S&P 500 hit a record high yesterday and opens this morning less than a point from that closing high today. Tech stocks on fire. Facebook, Google, Tesla shares, record highs for those tech stocks. The NASDAQ, a 14-year high almost.

And that enthusiasm is circling the globe at this hour. Japan's Nikkei just closed above 15,000. Australia's main index slipped, but not before hitting a nearly six-year high in Australia stocks.

Stock futures here in the U.S. holding steady this morning. This has been a stellar run. I want to show you what it looks like. This is a run that started nearly five years ago. The S&P 500 has nearly tripled in value since hitting bottom in 2009, five years ago about next week.

There's been a wave of corporate deals, Facebook buying WhatsApp, Comcast buying Time Warner Cable. Most corporate earnings have come in strong. The economy is growing, and the Federal Reserve is planning to pull back its stimulus out of the economy only gradually.

For now, all of those ingredients still fueling a bull market. The big question for everyone with a little skin in the game, a little exposure to, say, the stock market and their 401(k), they're wondering how long this five-year-long bull can last.

BERMAN: Well, in January, it was tough. January was not a good month and everybody was talking about is this the correction people have been waiting for? Not a technical correction in January.

ROMANS: No. It's 5.8 percent is what the S&P fell, need 10 percent for a technical correction. Just falling 5 percent was enough to find a lot of new buyers and now up near record highs again.

BERMAN: Up we go.

All right. Six minutes after the hour.

New this morning, our first look at the long-awaited Republican plan to simplify the U.S. tax code. This will be released tomorrow, but CNN already has highlights.

The measure would slash the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. There would only be two tax brackets, 25 percent and 10 percent. The plan would also impose a surtax on the super rich.

A joint congressional committee analyzed the plan to determine that the vast amount of taxpayers would see little or no change to their tax bill.

ROMANS: There's no crisis looming, but the White House says President Obama will have a private sit-down with House Speaker John Boehner in the Oval Office this morning. It's not known specifically what they'll discuss, just that a broad set of topics on the agenda. It's likely the president will lobby the speaker on his legislative priorities, including immigration reform, a minimum wage increase and extending unemployment benefits that lapsed last year.

BERMAN: You know, not such a bad thing for the president and speaker to talk. Just so they can talk.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel travels to Army and Air Force installations in Virginia today to pitch his plan for a much leaner U.S. military. Hagel's proposed defense budget calls for a smaller fighting force pretty much across the board and includes more possible base closings. This would shrink the army to pre-World War II levels.

Hagel says the U.S. requires a smaller high-tech military as opposed to a larger, less modern force.

ROMANS: In Venezuela, a key opposition leader slamming President Nicolas Maduro, instead of showing up for a scheduled meeting with him. Henrique Capriles said that the meeting would like look an endorsement of the repressive regime. He did not say whether he would also sit out a national peace conference hosted by the president, called for tomorrow.

For weeks, Venezuela has been torn by political strife that's reportedly left more than a dozen dead. People there very angry about poor security in the country and 50 percent-plus inflation.

BERMAN: It's crazy.

All right. This will get U.S. attention. "Reuters" is reporting a deal for Iraq to buy arms and ammunition from Iran. This is a move that would violate a U.N. embargo on weapon sales by Tehran. The report cites documents showing the agreement was reached back in November. Several Iraqi lawmakers are telling "Reuters" that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made the deal after being fed up in delays with U.S. arm shipments.

Breaking this morning, a South Korean flagged fishing vessel stranded in Antarctic waters. Ninety people are said to be aboard the Kwang Ja Ho. The Chilean navy head is operating a search-and-rescue operation at this point. We will be following this. We will bring you details as they become available.

ROMANS: All right. Extreme cold making a comeback. Temperatures heading due South again. Parts of the Midwest and the Northeast could see record lows up to 40 degrees below normal. Does this sound familiar?

BERMAN: Very familiar, all too familiar.

Indra Petersons is here to explain it all to us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I have no idea what you're talking about. What?

Yes, we know this by now. We're definitely talking about that arctic chill again, making its way down to the South. We're talking about that cold air kind of hanging around the Midwest and the lakes today, but that cold air's going to spread even further.

Let's just talk about where the temperatures are this morning. Very easy to see where the purples are, right? Minneapolis right now negative three, but that's not even with the windchill brought in. You add in the windchill and you're talking about these temperatures feeling like 20 below.

New York City right now, I know, I was shaking running into work this morning. Feels like 19. There's good reason for that, right?

Now, let's talk about what else is expected. (AUDIO GAP) you can see around Indianapolis, they saw about half an inch. Some flurries will be out there throughout the day. We're not expecting a lot, but yes, it may take some people by surprise, I suppose.

Then, overnight in through tomorrow, still talking about some flurries out there. A little low making its way around. New York City 0.2 inches, not a lot, D.C., a little over an inch.

You get the picture, flurries, not a major storm. Farther down South, we're talking about 1 to 2 inches of rain, since it is warmer, and that's not the big story.

The big story is the cold. How long's going to last? Well, throughout the week. Look how nervous I am already. BERMAN: Yes, I know. Thanks for that.

But you say it might take people by surprise. You should never be taken by surprise if you listen to Indra. She will always tell you --

PETERSONS: Love you more now, John.

ROMANS: It's true. Thanks, Indra.


BERMAN: Did you catch it last night? Seth Meyers, one of my favorite late-night talk show hosts, he is now on TV. "Late Night" franchise on NBC. The former head "SNL" writer and update anchor debuted as host of NBC's "Late Night," taking over for Jimmy Fallon.

The first guest on his show, Amy Poehler, his former "SNL" castmate, of course. And he also had Vice President Joe Biden who said he resisted stealing Meyers' opening night thunder.


SETH MEYERS, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: You've been very open about talking about 2016 and considering what you're going to do. Where are you in your thought process? What are you taking into account?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I was planning on making a major announcement tonight, but I decided tonight's your night.

MEYERS: Thank you. Thank you.


BIDEN: So, I hope you'll invite me back.

MEYERS: Yes, absolutely.

And, Amy, your 2016 plans?

AMY POEHLER, COMEDIAN: Oh, I'm going to run for president.

MEYERS: OK, great.


BERMAN: How about Vice President Joe Biden showing some comic timing there? That was terrific.

Amy Poehler had encouraging words for her good friend, Seth Meyers, as a host, saying "I've watched you for 13 years. Pretend to listen to people."

There's Fred Armisen, another former "SNL" castmate, leading the band there.

ROMANS: The vice president has comic timing and comic mistiming, both of them. He's very funny.

BERMAN: An unusual and valued commendation.


All right. A new warning for women about Tylenol this morning. Why researchers say taking the drug while pregnant could affect your child for life.

BERMAN: All right, take a look at this. They say their lives flashed before their eyes. A family celebrating, but it ends in tragedy. The warning they want you to hear this morning, next. Wow.


BERMAN: Bill Clinton and aka, the big dog, back on the stump today in Kentucky. The former president making his first big stop of the 2014 election, going to a fund-raiser for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The 35-year-old beating to unseat Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who also faces a primary challenge from the right.

Grimes calls Clinton a longtime, close family friend. Indeed, he is. And hopes his popularity will give her a boost in the typically red state.

Bill Clinton won Kentucky in 1992, which is interesting. People forget that. Also interesting, this is a state where Barack Obama could not go to campaign for a Democratic Senate candidate, but Bill Clinton can.

ROMANS: All right. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie releases his proposed state budget today as new polls show his approval ratings in the tank. According to the Monmouth University poll, only 49 percent of registered state voters approve of the job he's doing. In January it was 58 percent. Last year, 70 percent.

Those are poll numbers, you know, politicians don't like to see.


ROMANS: Bridgegate may be to blame. More people than ever now say Christie has not come clean about his politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

BERMAN: More testimony today in the trial of Kerry Kennedy. That's the daughter of Robert Kennedy, charged with driving under the influence of a sleeping aid. On Monday, jurors watched a seemingly disoriented Kennedy allegedly failing three sobriety tests on police video. Prosecutors say she had a duty to pull over before causing the minor accident.

Two of her brothers and her 85-year-old mother, Ethel, were in court on Monday. Kennedy is expected to take the stand.

ROMANS: All right, U.S. attempts to extradite Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman are on the back burner this morning. That's because Mexican authorities have formally charged him with cocaine trafficking and a judge will decide today whether to put him on trial in Mexico. Guzman's lawyers have already filed a petition asking the Mexican courts to block any extradition request from the United States.

BERMAN: Ohio's governor honoring the three women who survived a decade of captivity in a Cleveland house. Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michelle Knight received Courage Awards. It is so wonderful to see them all smiling.

The three appearing on stage Monday night with Governor John Kasich. He said the three extraordinary women, despite having the worst in this world thrown at them, rose above it and emerged not as victims but as victors. Lovely words.

ROMANS: All right. Federal marshals joining the manhunt for a convicted child rapist who cut off his ankle monitor and fled a group home in Colorado. There he is. Police say 51-year-old Eric Hartwell is a sexually violent predator. He had been living at Independence House in Denver since December and police say this is not the first time he has escaped.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a history of this. He served his time in the correctional facilities, and then gets released under supervised release, cuts off a bracelet or a monitoring device and is gone.


ROMANS: Hartwell was convicted of raping a 6-year-old and trying to rape a pregnant teenager. He was paroled to the Denver facility under lifetime supervision because he failed to register as a sex offender.

BERMAN: We have some stunning video to show you of a deck collapse in Indiana. Look at that -- 24 people plunging more than a story to the ground. That is just unbelievable.

This happened back in December during a family Christmas party as people gathered for a group photo. You can see it happen right there. The deck just gives way.


JEREMY WILT, WIFE & DAUGHTER WERE ON DECK: We were in shock. I mean, I said how could this happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people called this a freak accident. You know, a meteorite hissing your house would be a freak accident. This was going to fall one day.


BERMAN: The family involved is now suing the people who made and maintained the deck. They're hoping the video can help others spot potential deck dangers. Three of the people injured in the collapse still are not walking.

ROMANS: A new study suggests women with genetic mutations carrying the risk of breast and ovarian cancer can reduce their risk of cancer if they have their ovaries removed by the age of 35. The study shows that the risk is reduced by as much as 80 percent. Researchers at the University of Toronto tracked nearly 6,000 women to determine the survival benefit.

BERMAN: I think there's a lot of medical news this morning that will make women take notice, including this. New fears about acetaminophen, the active drug in Tylenol. A new study suggests a strong link between prenatal use in cases of ADHD, attention deficit disorder.

The study shows that increased risk for kids whose mother took the drug, especially during the second and third trimesters. Many doctors say fevers could pose an even greater risk to the fetus and would still recommend Tylenol to control those fevers.

ROMANS: Oh, wow.

All right. A big change for baseball, a new rule that could change the way the game is played. Andy Scholes breaks it all down next in the "Bleacher Report."

BERMAN: No home plate collisions here, Andy.


BERMAN: All right, sports fans, you may have missed this. I did.

Michael Sam's historic quest to become the NFL's first openly gay player hit a snag as he struggled at the NFL combine.

Andy Scholes tells us more in the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy. Break it down for us.

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

You know, before the combine, Michael Sam was predicted to be a mid to late-round pick in May's NFL draft, but he definitely did not help that projection with his performance yesterday.

Sam ran a disappointing 4.91 40-yard dash. He also struggled in the weight room and in the moving drills. While Sam did not impress the scouts.

Jadeveon Clowney sure did. The 6'5", 255-pound defensive end ran a 4.53 40-yard dash. That's just insane for a man his size. Check out Warren Sapp's reaction. Clowney is expected to be a top three pick in the draft.

All right. Trending on this morning, Knicks versus Mavs. Tied at 108 with time winding down, Carmelo Anthony teeing up Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk tosses it up, it bounces around, then goes in at buzzer. Mavs over the Knicks 110-108. And that right there may be the nail in the coffin to the Knicks' miserable season.

And Dirk's game-winner not the end of the bad news for the Knicks. Point guard Raymond Felton was arrested this morning on three counts of criminal possession of a weapon. The "New York Post" is reporting that Felton allegedly pointed a gun at a woman.

Among the charges for Felton are second and third-degree criminal possession of a firearm, which are felonies.

All right. Major League Baseball has approved a new experimental rule that they say will help prevent the most egregious collisions at home plate. The new rule prevents catchers from blocking the plate before they have possession of the ball, and it prevents runners from deviating from their direction path to make contact with the catcher to try to knock the ball out. Umpires will be able to use video replay to make sure they get these calls right.

And, John, baseball purists, you know, they don't like rule changes that change the game in any way. What do you think about this new rule?

BERMAN: I think they need to do something, try to do something to address the home plate collisions, because they're ridiculous things. It happened a lot to us here on EARLY START -- no, in all seriousness, I think they need to do something.

There's a little bit of a gray area here, I'm not sure I quite understand. I think it would put the runners at risk because the catcher can still stand there if he has the ball and I think the runner won't know what he does now?

SCHOLES: Basically, the runner has to slide and they're sliding into a catcher that has all this gear on. It could cause further injury.

BERMAN: That's a concern. And also having to make that snap decision when you're ten feet away from the bag. That could lead to snapped ankles, things like that, but I like trying to address it somehow.

Thanks, Andy.

ROMANS: Why didn't Andy Scholes ask me what I think about it?

BERMAN: What do you think about it?

ROMANS: I think whatever you think, Berman. That's my instructed opinion on sports.

BERMAN: Now, we know you're lying.

ROMANS: The top headlines and everything you need to know for the day and the stock market, ahead after the break.