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EARLY START

Severe Storms; Peace in Ukraine?; Airport Terror Threat; Olympics Impacted by Ukraine Violence

Aired February 21, 2014 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: severe storms creating big problems across the country. Roofs caving in, trees crashing down on roads. No long safe travel for anyone from the blizzards to the thunderstorms to tornadoes.

Indra Petersons is tracking the damage and what's coming up, Indra.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight as Ukraine's president reached peace with protesters after days of deadly demonstrations on the streets. The country's leader promising the violence will end this morning. We are live with the very latest.

LEMON: New information this morning on the terror threat facing millions of Americans at the airports. Why Homeland Security is once again worried that terrorists are hiding bombs in their shoes.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Don Lemon. I'll wake up in about an hour.

ROMANS: I know. It's Friday. Only one more day to get through, folks.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday. It's February 21st. It is 5:00 a.m. in the east.

Good to see you. Love the red.

LEMON: Yes, thanks, nice.

ROMANS: We're on the same wave length this morning.

All right. Let's begin with the severe weather threat right now. From the Gulf of Mexico, to the Midwest, all the way to New England, there could be snow, rain, high winds, even hail.

Happy Friday. These things could get very dangerous today.

LEMON: Certainly could.

Tornadoes did touch down overnight in Illinois. This one was west of Springfield and one of at least a dozen reported in that area. Survey crews from the National Weather Service will be out today to look at all of this damage. ROMANS: Take a look at these dramatic images from Nashville, lightning striking a building there as a line of very severe thunderstorms rolled through. There are reports of tree --

LEMON: Wow.

ROMANS: Look at that, trees down there and damage to some homes. Some 9,000 customers without power in the Nashville area at the height of that storm. Lightning being blamed for a fire at a daycare center in Mississippi, the damage there extensive.

One of the owners was driving in torrential rain with his son when he saw the strike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

ASHANTI HOSKINS, OWNER: No one was here. They had just left five minutes before the lightning hit the building. So, luckily, blessed, no one was here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Oh, my goodness. Talk about terrifying.

LEMON: Look at the difference just a few hundred miles to the north, right? Heavy snow falling on parts of the Midwest, including Minnesota. These pictures are from the twin cities, where snow fell at rates of up to 3 inches per hour.

ROMANS: And in Iowa, snow and ice forced this bus off of Interstate 80 west of Des Moines. Winds blowing so hard, the bus went sliding. At least three people were hurt.

LEMON: And the weight of the snow and ice taking down this garage roof near Detroit. The owner keeps classic cars there. They were damaged, but no one was hurt.

ROMANS: A fog is the issue southwest of Chicago, near Joliet, leading to this 20-car pileup on Interstate 57. Many of those vehicles were on fire. The highway had to be shut down for hours. At least 10 people had to go to the hospital, but the injuries are said to be not life-threatening.

LEMON: Flooding is now becoming a concern in many areas as well, as the snow melts and the rain falls. It's called minor so far in Chicago, where the pictures are from -- these pictures are from.

ROMANS: Yuck.

LEMON: Crews are working to clear snow out of storm drains so the water can make its way out of the streets. Goodness.

ROMANS: I know. Look at that. LEMON: Indra, we just depressed everyone. We're like, it's the end of the world! It's Armageddon!

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the good news is the weekend's going to get a lot better, but unfortunately, we still have another day of severe weather to make our way through. Just take a look at the last 24 hours, 13 reports of tornadoes in Illinois. Notice as the squall line went through, all the reports that we saw, I mean, heavy wind and also large hail was seen out there.

Now, what are we looking at this morning? Look at the difference. You look out on the West Coast. You can see storms producing snow today over the Rockies, but look how explosive these storms are. Almost looks like they're blowing up as you look at the squall line making its way through.

That's how we know these are convective in nature. In fact, we still have severe thunderstorm watches in effect until 9:00 this morning towards the East Coast, especially Atlanta also included in this watch. Why? We still have the risk for the same type of weather we saw yesterday.

It's just farther to the East today. So, just south of D.C., stretching down through Jacksonville. Where you see the yellow, we're talking about the threat for even thunderstorms out there today.

So, a lot of activity going on. Taking you, again, up towards the Upper Midwest, still talking about blizzard warnings. We're talking four to 10 inches of snow that already fell. Additional, another six inches of snow additionally possible today. The other concern will be the strong winds.

So, any of the snow already on the ground, you have strong winds, visibility very poor as it lifts up that snow and kind of blows it around. But I need to end you on a good note. So, yes, finally, once the storm makes its way through, it does look beautiful. Temperatures will be above normal, especially on the East Coast.

ROMANS: Look at that.

PETERSONS: But it cools off next week.

LEMON: Where do we go now? Do we go to Miami, Puerto Rico, like, if you want to --

PETERSONS: I don't know, where are you taking me? Let me know. I'll go anywhere.

LEMON: Anywhere there's a beach and some warmth, right?

PETERSONS: Sure.

LEMON: Thanks, Indra.

ROMANS: Let's go to Ukraine now, where we're looking at live pictures of Independence Square in Kiev. The president is now claiming he now has a deal to end the violent bloodshed that's left more than 100 dead just this week, that a day after security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Kiev.

The bloodiest violence in Ukraine's modern history, killing at least 77 people. Some elected officials have now stepped down in protest.

And the White House is readying sanctions against Ukraine's government.

Nick Paton Walsh is live in Kiev this morning.

Nick, there's a lot going on there. We understand there have been shots fired near the square. What can you tell us is happening at this hour?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to a police statement by "Reuters", there have been short exchange of fire, police firing back, they say when they were shot at by protesters.

That hasn't really changed what's happened behind me. We're not seeing a repeat of yesterday morning. It seems the incident hasn't impacted what's going on. What is important is that about four minutes ago, according to a statement from the presidency, there should have been a deal signed between the president and the opposition.

Now, that doesn't look like it's happened at this stage. They were supposed to go to the president to actually pen that piece of paper. We don't know what was on it. There have been suggestions yesterday from diplomats that maybe that was going to call early elections, weaken the power of the presidency and the Constitution, and also, perhaps, put a new government in place pretty quickly as well.

But we're also hearing from German diplomats, French diplomats that really look at that statement from the presidency, it was premature. Perhaps that's the government claiming a deal's in place when there's actually not, but at end of the day, we still have a very energized crowd behind me, frankly, increasingly angry after yesterday's deaths. Official numbers now saying 76, but we did hear it could be as close to 100 from one medical official yesterday.

I have been down in the crowd walking around them. There were a number of defected police officers from the west of the country, told me they were there voluntarily and they did seem to be slightly nervous but more or less relaxed, being marched around in kind of the company of people trying to protect them from the protesters there as well.

So, still a very tense scene here, extraordinarily well-fortified barricade on the way up the roads from this protest site towards government buildings, and all eyes really also on parliament, too, which is trying to push through a number of measures today, which may further weaken Yanukovych. But still, no public appearance from him yet. People are asking about that.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh for us in Kiev this morning -- thanks, Nick.

LEMON: We are watching the situation in Venezuela, where protesters and security forces are clashing once again after more than eight days of demonstrations against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. One of his protesters is the latest victim apparently shot during a protest.

The opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez remained jailed, but murder charges against him have been dropped. The government accuses Lopez of inciting violence.

ROMANS: We have new details this morning about that government warning over possible shoe bombs on planes. U.S. officials tell CNN the threat is credible. That threat is linked to al Qaeda's branch in Yemen, specifically on master bombmaker there who has tried to strike the U.S. before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is the guy who 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

LEMON: When President Obama unveils his 2015 budget in the next two weeks, it won't include cuts to cost-of-living increases in Social Security checks. The White House says that that gesture of bipartisanship the president made to Republicans last year is now off the table, and Republicans are already pouncing, insisting the president has no interest in tackling a looming debt crisis.

Happening today at the White House, President Obama will sit down with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. They're likely to discuss politics and reports of human rights violence in the Chinese-controlled Tibetan areas. It is the third time the two have met since the president took office.

ROMANS: And something the Chinese authorities do not like to see, when the U.S. sits down with the Dalai Lama.

All right, huge jump in stocks in Japan right now. Nikkei closing on gain of nearly 3 percent. That is a nice gain for one day.

Hong Kong stock market also closed higher. Stocks in Europe heading for a third straight week of gains. Markets there broke a winning streak yesterday, following some disappointing manufacturing data from China. But today stocks look to be coming back.

Now, the U.S. stock market on a tear yesterday. The Dow, look at that, the Dow up 92 points. The S&P closing within 10 points of its all-time high. Look, we're within reach of the all -- remember all that concern about correction, correction, correction?

LEMON: Yes.

ROMANS: Tech stocks also on fire. The NASDAQ closing higher nine of the past 10 trading days.

The political unrest in Ukraine being felt in the financial markets. Standard & Poor's downgrading Ukraine's foreign currency because of, quote, "the escalation of political turmoil."

Now, Ukraine is not a big economy, $176 billion economy in 2012. But look, ripple effects of the political situation could still be felt there in its economy, in the region. The country also pulling a big sale of bonds designed to help the country pay its debts, shelving that. So, you can now see what's become a political crisis, you can see the economic ramifications inside that country right now.

LEMON: And the Dow up 92, and you said it's a tear. I guess you could call that a tear, right?

ROMANS: Yes, you can. I mean, look, the S&P is within 10 points of a record high again, so the market now weathering the weather and weathering those concerns of all the selling we saw in January so far.

LEMON: Fingers crossed.

ROMANS: Fingers crossed.

LEMON: Let's talk about new revelations this morning on why a jury could not decide if a man had the right to kill an unarmed teen after an argument over loud music. One juror takes us inside the deliberation.

ROMANS: And deadly protests on the streets of Ukraine creating some changes at the Olympics. We are live in Sochi to explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Live pictures right now from Kiev's Independence Square.

We are following breaking news over efforts to end the crisis that's left more than 100 dead in just the last few days. Conflicting reports this hour over whether negotiations between the president and the opposition leaders have reached an agreement.

We're going to bring you the latest on this developing situation. Standard & Poor's has downgraded the country's currency. We know it's pulled a big bond offering. This is how the country pays its bills. So, now you have a political crisis and you have financial concerns in this country because of it. Meanwhile, the violence in Ukraine resonating all the way to Sochi, just a few hundred miles away, where some Ukrainian athletes have now pulled out of the Olympic competition.

Ivan Watson live in Sochi for us this morning. Good morning, Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

Can you imagine what it must be like to be an Ukrainian athlete, wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag here in Sochi as the death toll in Kiev soars above 100 killed, as the streets of Kiev have been on fire?

It has been an enormous pressure, says the head of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, Sergei Bubka. He gave a very emotional interview to CNN yesterday, describing the despair that the Ukrainian national team is feeling.

The International Olympic Committee denied requests for the Ukrainian athletes to wear black arm bands in honor of the dead at the various events. Instead, what they allowed the Ukrainian team to do is to hold a moment of mourning yesterday in the Olympic Village, where there they were allowed to wear Ukrainian arm bands.

The head of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, he also said that Ukraine really needs victory right now, that the Ukrainian team can be a symbol of unity at a time when the country itself is so bitterly divided. However, some of the athletes have said that's not good enough.

And in fact, a father-daughter pair, it's a coach and one of the slalom skiing athletes by the name of Bogdana Matsotska, they say that is not enough and have pulled out of today's skiing event -- alpine skiing event. They posted a message on Facebook, basically denouncing the president of Ukraine, accusing him of killing unarmed protesters in the Ukrainian capital. That's clearly putting even more pressure on the Ukrainian team right now, a very difficult time.

Again, if you can imagine, trying to perform at your peak for your country at a time when your country appears to be on the brink of war with itself -- Christine.

ROMANS: Wow, Ivan Watson, how dramatic. OK, thank you, Ivan. Talk to you soon.

LEMON: Back here at home, we're hearing more from another juror in a controversial loud music trial. One of two black women who were tasked with deciding if Michael Dunn was guilty of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Creshuna Miles tells Alina Cho in a CNN interview that jurors did agree that Dunn was guilty of attempted murder for opening fire on Davis and his friends in an SUV, but they just could not reach agreement on the murder charge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRESHUNA MILES, JUROR NO. 8: I honestly think he was a good guy. I think he is a good guy. I don't think he hates everybody, I don't think he walks around wanting to shoot everybody. I think that he made bad decisions.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You still think he's guilty of murder, though?

MILES: Yes. I really think he's guilty of murder, but not the guilty as charged. I was convinced -- I was honestly convinced that he was in self-defense until he chased the car down and started shooting more. Everybody's making this a white-and-black thing, and it's not.

In our decision-making process, nobody brought up not one race, never. It was never brought up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Prosecutors plan to try Dunn again for Davis's death. He faces up to 60 years in prison when he's sentenced next month on the attempted murder conviction.

ROMANS: In California, a woman is in custody this morning after a deadly attack at a tribal office not far from the Oregon border. Four people are dead, two others seriously hurt. Police not giving out the suspect's name, but they say she opened fire before turning to a butcher knife to continue her attack. The motive so far not clear.

LEMON: Happening today in Missouri, a middle school football coach is due in court, facing charges he kidnapped and killed a 10-year-old girl, Hailey Owens. Craig Michael Wood allegedly grabbed the girl off the streets in Springfield. He worked in her school district, but police say there is no evidence he knew her. There's a make-shift memorial now near the spot where the abduction took place. A candlelight vigil is planned for this weekend.

ROMANS: New developments this morning in the sexual assault allegations against a former NFL great. A California judge increasing the bail for Darren Sharper, a 14-year pro football veteran turned TV analyst who's suspected of raping at least eight women in five states. Sharper has been told he cannot be alone with women he does not know and cannot leave Los Angeles County. He's pleaded not guilty to rape charges there.

LEMON: Well, think one California is enough? How about six Californias? A proposal to divide the Golden State is now closer to being on the ballot there. That's kind of odd.

A venture capitalist has been given permission to gather signatures for his plan to turn California into North, South, Central, West, Silicon Valley and Jefferson -- North, South, Central, West, Silicon Valley and Jefferson. It wouldn't hit the ballot until 2016. Of course, even if voters agree, Congress would get final say over admitting any new states to the Union.

Boy, that could make us 55 or -- ROMANS: Why not six? California's a big state.

LEMON: So, break it up into what, six?

ROMANS: Right.

LEMON: So, that would make 55 states because there would already be one, am I right? You're the numbers, lady.

ROMANS: I still have a journalism degree, so that means I have to really think about the math.

Coming up, LeBron James bloody on the basketball court, drama playing out as the Heat takes on the Thunder. Andy Scholes breaking down for us -- all the drama right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The top two players in the NBA went head to head last night. It was a bloodied LeBron James getting the better of Kevin Durant as the Heat beat the Thunder.

ROMANS: So, Andy Scholes, for anyone who slept through it, bring us up to speed in the "Bleacher Report."

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

You know, LeBron, he punished the Thunder all night, pouring in 33 points, but he paid for it in the fourth quarter. On the drive, Serge Ibaka whacks him in the face. LeBron is able to score on the play, but once on the ground, blood starts pouring out of his nose. LeBron would leave the game. He passed a concussion test and was set for an x-ray on his nose.

He joked about the whole thing on Instagram after the game, posting this pic, saying "I mean, I just might have to Bane-James."

All right. Trending on bleacherreport.com right now, another huge upset in college basketball. Duke/UNC is one of the best rivalries in the game and the fifth-ranked Blue Devils. They led this one nearly the entire way, but North Carolina went on a huge run in the final five minutes to get the win. And this is something you never se see, Tar Heel fans storming the court after the victory. Even Dick Vitale thought this was pretty weird.

All right. In Sochi yesterday, we witnessed arguably the worst collapse in U.S. Olympic history in the women's hockey gold medal game. USA was up 2-0 with under four minutes to go. Canada scored a goal. Then, after pulling their goalie off the ice, they scored the tying goal with under a minute left.

Then, in overtime, Canada on the power play scores the game-winner, a crushing defeat for the Americans. Canada has now won gold in four straight Olympics.

The U.S. men will look to get revenge for the ladies later today when they play Canada in the semifinals. They also want to get a little revenge for themselves.

Canada beat the U.S. in overtime in the gold medal game at the last Olympics. Both these teams so far in the Olympics undefeated. USA, of course, just two wins away from winning gold for the first time since the miracle on ice back in 1980.

LEMON: Miracle.

SCHOLES: And you know it, guys, the USA's been waiting for today's game for four years since losing that gold medal game back in Vancouver in 2010. So, I'm excited to see what happens there.

ROMANS: Yes, me, too.

SCHOLES: The puck drops at noon eastern.

LEMON: We're all excited, but while you're talking, guess what we're talking about here?

SCHOLES: What's that, Don?

LEMON: Remember you and I were down at Super Bowl -- what is it --

ROMANS: Super Bowl Boulevard.

LEMON: Boulevard. We were talking about how much weight we gained for the super bowl because we were eating everything?

SCHOLES: Pizza every day?

LEMON: Yes, wings, pizza, and Christine says she makes really good wings. How do you do them?

ROMANS: I love it.

When you do sports stories, all I think about the food I eat while I watch sports and I'm already thinking of how to make the hot wings.

LEMON: She does beer. She has a beer recipe --

ROMASN: I soak them in beer first.

LEMON: I soak them in beer after I eat them. Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: Have a good one.

ROMANS: It's so early in the morning to be talking about wings -- hot wings and beer, but we're going to do it anyway. Top news headlines, everything you need to know for the day, including the latest on this weather set to hit much of the nation. That's right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)