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U.S. Shoots Down Flying Objects Over Lake Huron; Rescuers Continue to Rescue Survivors a Week on After Earthquake in Turkey and Syria; Kansas City Chiefs Win Super Bowl LVII. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 13, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, ANCHOR: Right now on EARLY START, what is going on up there? Three mystery objects shot out of the sky by American fighter jets. Plus, against all odds, people are still being saved from the rubble of Turkey and Syria's earthquake disaster more than a week later.




ROMANS: Kansas City erupts as the Chiefs take the Super Bowl for the second time in four years. All right, here we go, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Christine Romans. We begin with the U.S. fighter jet shooting down another airborne object on Sunday, this one over Lake Huron.

According to the Pentagon, the object was not a military threat, but it was determined to be a flight hazard. The operation marks the third day in a row that an unidentified object was shot down over North American airspace.


GLEN VANHERCK, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES NORTHERN COMMAND & NORTH AMERICAN AEROSPACE DEFENSE COMMAND: These are objects, I am not able to categorize how they stay aloft. It could be a guess. It's a type of balloon inside a structure or it could be some type of a propulsion system.

But clearly, they're able to stay aloft. I would be hesitant and urge you not to attribute it to any specific country. We don't know, that's why it's so critical to get our hands on these, so that we can further asses and analyze what they are.


ROMANS: Officials say the objects were shot out of the sky out of an abundance of caution. More now from CNN's Kylie Atwood.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon now confirming that at 2:42 p.m. on Sunday, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. military F-16s shot down an object over Lake Huron. That is according to Pentagon Press Officer Cesar Santiago.

This object, according to the Pentagon, was traveling a about 20,000 feet above ground. That elevation meant that it posed a threat to civilian aviation. And there was also a flight restriction by the FAA that went into place on Saturday in Montana.

And the Pentagon is saying that there's reason to believe that this object is what actually triggered that flight restriction to go into place based on the direction that it was headed in. And this object was shot down because of the potential threat to flight aviation and also because of its potential surveillance capabilities.

With the Pentagon saying that they're now working to recover this object, after it was being shot down, still many questions. We don't know who or what was responsible for this object or what its motivation or its objective of being in the air over U.S. airspace actually was. Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.


ROMANS: OK, Kylie, thank you for that. Now, we know it was a Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the South Carolina coast last week. But what about these two, these latest objects? U.S. officials say they have not been able to definitively assess what they are.

And there's no information yet about who launched them or why? CNN's Steven Jiang live from Beijing. Steven, what are we hearing from the Chinese government?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Christine, the latest from Beijing is Chinese officials declined to answer any specific questions regarding the three objects shot down in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend. But they did seem to determine to try to turn the tables on the U.S., accusing the U.S. of being quote-unquote, the world's biggest spying empire. And just a short while ago, a Chinese foreign military official revealed an interesting piece of information. Here's what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is also common for U.S. balloons to illegally enter the airspace of other countries. Since last year alone, U.S. high altitude balloons have illegally flown over China's airspace more than ten times without any approval from relevant Chinese authorities. The first thing for the U.S. to do is introspect itself and change its course instead of slandering and inciting confrontation.


JIANG: So what he seems to suggest is, this kind of occurrence, it was fairly common in the past involving both parties, but the U.S. deciding to blow this out of proportion this time due to domestic and geopolitical consideration, and that is the real danger. And not surprisingly, the Chinese also denounced the U.S. announcement to sanction six Chinese entities involved in the country's balloon program, which of course, according to CNN's own reporting is part of a sweeping global Intelligence gathering operation run by the Chinese state.


But one another intriguing development the Chinese official declined to comment was over the weekend, state media quoting Maritime authorities as saying they have spotted a UFO off the coast of eastern China and preparations were under way to shoot it down. Given the timing, given the Chinese military previous pledge to take similar actions after the U.S. shot down the first confirmed Chinese balloon, the story went viral.

But we have not heard much since then, but all of the silence as you can imagine, Christine, fuelling a lot of the speculation as well as uncertainty and tensions, Christine --

ROMANS: Sure, all right, Steven, thank you so much for that. The Air Force General in charge of North American Airspace was asked if they had ruled out aliens being behind these mysterious objects that were shot down, and he didn't say no.


VANHERCK: All of the Intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out. I haven't ruled out anything at this point. We continue to assess every threat -- potential threat, unknown that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it.


ROMANS: Another U.S. Defense official says there is no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns. All right, for the second time in four years, the Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl champions.




ROMANS: All right, you could see the scene in Kansas City after beating the Eagles in an instant classic. Andy Scholes is live in Arizona for this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT". Just amazing to see how happy people were.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, of course, Christine. And you know, what a game this was, just full of emotions. You know, one team takes the lead, and then the Chiefs coming back, it was just an incredible atmosphere. And if you liked seeing points, this game was certainly for you.

The first Super Bowl ever where both teams scored more than 35, it was certainly a battle. And you can see just how much this game meant to Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni from the start, he had tears pouring out of his eyes during the national anthem. But he certainly cheered up early on and was happy to see how good his quarterback Jalen Hurts was playing.

He had a historic half. Hurts, the first player ever to run for two TDs and throw for one in a Super Bowl even out of a third-rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, which is a Super Bowl record for a quarterback as well. But when the Chiefs needed Patrick Mahomes the most, he came through big time.

Mahomes, even with a bad ankle that he reinjured in the first half, he led the Chiefs on a scoring drive every time they got the ball in the second half, and with the game tied at 35 in the closing moments, Mahomes, this big 26-yard run up the middle to get the Chiefs into field goal range.

Now a defensive holding call helped the Chiefs run out the clock, and some fans were mad about this call, but James Bradberry admitted after the game, he was holding on to play. Chiefs, just the second team ever to erase a double-digit half-time deficit. They went 38-35 to claim Super Bowl LVII, and Mahomes was named the game's MVP.


PATRICK MAHOMES, QUARTERBACK FOR KANSAS CHIEFS & SUPER BOWL LVII MVP: It's hard, man. It hasn't even sunk in. I don't think even yet. I mean, I appreciate -- I appreciate just the failures. I mean, the failure of losing a Super Bowl and losing an AFC championship game, and it may give you a greater appreciation to be standing here as a champion. And luckily, I'm going to Disneyland now, so I have Disneyworld and Disneyland crossed off, to make it more partial, I can go around everywhere and do a world tour.

ANDY REID, HEAD COACH, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: You've seen the greats, and he strives to be the greatest. I mean, without saying anything, that's the way he works. I mean, he wants to be the greatest player ever, that's what he wants to do. And that's the way he goes about his business, and he does it humbly.


SCHOLES: Yes, and Andy Reid coached an incredible game in Super Bowl LVII. Mahomes, I mean, he's off to the greatest start we've ever seen from an NFL player. He's got two Super Bowl titles now to go with two MVP awards. He's the only player ever to do that in his first six seasons.

Now, you know, the story we talked about all week heading into the Super Bowl was the Kelce family, and how invested they were in this game. Jason and Travis, first brothers to ever face off in the Super Bowl. And Mama Kelce was on the field right afterwards, sharing an embrace, consoling Jason after the Eagles lost. But she quickly had to turn that frown upside down and be happy for

Travis and jump into his arms and celebrate the win with him. Now, after the game, Travis, he was emotional when talking about beating his brother, Jason.


TRAVIS KELCE, TIGHT END, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: There's nothing you can really say to a loved one in a situation like that. You know, you joke around all the time and say that you want to beat your brother in the biggest stage ever, but it's a weird feeling.


JASON KELCE, CENTER, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: I've talked to my brother more this year than I've talked to him since college, probably. And he's an incredible person. And it's been truly a joy, probably one of my most enjoyable seasons both as an Eagle and you know, as a brother.

T. KELCE: There's nothing really I could say to him other than I love him and he played a hell of a year, a hell of a season.


SCHOLES: Yes, Christine, you had to imagine that just had to be such an emotional day and evening and night for the Kelce families, you know, having to be happy on one side --

ROMANS: Yes --

SCHOLES: But then also sad for the other. But you know, they certainly handled it really well.

ROMANS: Just so cool having two brothers play each other in Super Bowl. Just cool. All right, nice to see you, Andy, great game, thank you --


ROMANS: Next, stories of hope and survival emerge almost a week after the earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria. Plus, what's going on in America's airports? This time, a plane hits a bus. And the big reveal during Rihanna's Super Bowl half-time show.






ROMANS: More than 34,000 people have been killed in Syria and Turkey, but rescuers there refuse to give up hope. And for good reason, at least 41 people have been rescued within five to six days after the earthquake struck more than a week ago. CNN's Nada Bashir joins us live from Istanbul. And Nada, what can you tell us about these miraculous moments amid just so much despair.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Christine, it is truly remarkable. A week on now since that devastating earthquake and survivors are still being pulled out from beneath the rubble, but of course, this is now shifting from a rescue effort to more of a recovery effort across southeastern Turkey.

And there's also a real sense of urgency around providing humanitarian aid to those survivors. We're at an aid distribution center here in Istanbul, and it is absolutely buzzing. Volunteers here working around the clock to provide that crucial life-saving aid. And of course, these stories of survival, of miracles, really, people being pulled out of the rubble more than 100 hours since the earthquake struck. But it's these moments that are giving volunteers like this hope.


BASHIR (voice-over): Reciting a prayer, hoping for a miracle. This time, their prayers have been answered. A weekend of remarkable rescues, several survivors pulled to freedom after almost a week buried beneath the rubble. In Hatay, smiles of relief. This son telling his mother, we are here. We are with you.

And this little girl, still in a state of shock, but free at last. Time, however, is quickly running out. This French rescue team working overnight to retrieve the body of a 6-year-old boy. Retrieving the dead, this colonel tells his team, is also a crucial part of their job. In northwest Syria, the grief is almost too much to bear. Rescue workers here say they are no longer holding out hope for more survivors.

This is a region already decimated by President Bashar al-Assad's brutal war. Now, crushed under the weight of one of the worst natural disasters this region has seen in a century.

ABDELAZEEM IBRAHIM, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): No matter how horrific this disaster was, no matter how big this crisis was, we've seen and lived through such terror before.

BASHIR: Aid has finally arrived in Syria's rebel-held territories, volunteers say it's simply too little, too late. Across the border in Gaziantep, life has been transformed, this elderly woman says she lost everything, but these are tears of joy. A phone call from her son to tell her that he is alive. For others, hope is dwindling fast.

This young woman sits waiting for news. Her mother and sister are still beneath the rubble beside her. "They are dying under there", she says, "and I am dying here." And now, as the death toll continues to soar, grief for some is turning to anger, and calls for accountability are only growing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASHIR: And look, Christine, for those still waiting for news of

their loved ones, for those who are missing beneath the rubble, this is said to be a hugely difficult and troubling few days. And of course, for those who did survive, they've lost their homes. It is a difficult few weeks and months ahead. But it's volunteers like these behind me, they're working so hard to ensure they can provide that crucial support. Christine?

ROMANS: Yes, the scale of the devastation is just hard to fathom. Nada Bashir, thank you so much. Right, so many questions after U.S. fighter jets shot down not just one, but three unidentified objects over North America this weekend.


REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): This is time for the United States to take this as a turning point to invest. We need more sophisticated radar systems. We have them, we just don't have them deployed to protect the United States, an integrated missile defense system, we've helped invest in Israel having integrated missile defense system. We don't have one ourselves. This is a turning point where we need to discuss, this is a threat and how do we respond to it?


ROMANS: Bring in CNN national security analyst Shawn Turner. Good morning. You know, do you agree with Congressman Mike Turner there, that this is an opportunity for the U.S. to ramp up security and investments in radar systems?


SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, good morning, Christine, thanks for having me. You know, I do agree with the congressman. You know, one of the things our adversaries understand about our systems is that they're based on signatures. And those signatures tell us whether or not we're talking about a civilian aircrafts or military aircraft or something else.

And so, we tend to look for those things that we know pose a threat to the United States. But one of the things we have not done so well in the past is to look at those things, to expand those signatures, to look at things that might not pose a threat. So, this is an opportunity, I think the congressman is right.

And I think we're probably going to open that aperture a little more and look for more of these sorts of objects that we typically just don't pay a lot of attention to.

ROMANS: Yes, so what's happening here? I wonder about the timing. We've had four shoot-downs of aerial objects in the past ten days. We've just never seen anything like this before. Is this, you know, public awareness or is it increased frequency of these kinds of events? What's happening do you think?

TURNER: Yes, you know, in the last -- I would say in the last five to seven years, there had been significant increase in the observation of unidentified flying objects. In fact, just last month, my old office, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, put out a report that indicated that there was a sharp increase in different objects in the atmosphere.

So, I do think there has been an increase across the board. Now, you take that increase in the Intelligence community, and I ask people in my old world, what's your temperature on this? In other words, how are you feeling about the threat to national security? And what I'm told, Christine, is, the temperature is sort of light to moderate because we've been seeing so much, so many of these things lately.

But it is the case that, that the increase is concerning because we really don't understand the nature of each and every one of these things. We don't understand whether or not it's surveillance by a foreign country. There are a lot of civilian private companies out there that are doing different types of research where they're putting these things up above -- or below --

ROMANS: Yes --

TURNER: Twenty thousand. So it's just unclear exactly what this is.

ROMANS: Shawn, the Pentagon is not ruling out the objects potential surveillance capabilities. I guess, what kind of data could these devices be collecting?

TURNER: Yes, this is -- this is all about signals Intelligence. And what I mean there is, you put these objects up, and because these objects don't need to move constantly, because they can hover, they can float in one area, what they're allowed to do is, if they can capture a signal, that they can collect data being transferred that's encrypted.

The reason that's so important, Christine, is because, you know, satellite has to keep moving. A satellite can pick up a chunk of data, but it has to keep moving and pick up more data when it comes back around. But if you can hover over a particular area and you can get streams of data, it makes it much easier for the people collecting that data to be able to try to decrypt that encrypted data.

So, it's all about cellphone information, it's about military communication, it could be about government-to-government communication, but the possibilities are endless by putting these different types of devices up, they increase their chances of actually collecting good data.

ROMANS: All right, Shawn Turner, nice to see you this morning, thank you.

TURNER: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, quick hit across America now, five people are injured after a shuttle bus collides with an American Airlines plane at LAX. It's the latest in a series of troubling incidents at airports. The plane was being towed when it hit the bus on Friday. An annual ice fishing tournament in Vermont cancelled after three fishermen died. They fell through thin ice on Lake Champlain following unseasonably warm temperatures.

Just a day before Valentines, OSHA has found a candy factory in Pennsylvania, more than $14,000 for unsafe practices. It seems two workers fell into a vat of chocolate last year. Rihanna singing her greatest hits at the Super Bowl half-time show and revealing some very big news.




ROMANS: From the moment she took the stage, fans suspected Rihanna might be pregnant with her second child when she placed her hand on her belly, she then performed a 12-song Medley included, "Work", "We Found Love", "Rude Boy", "Only Girl in the World" and "Umbrella", and she closed out her performance with "Diamonds".




ROMANS: Hollywood reporter later confirmed Rihanna is pregnant. Her fans are always happy for her, of course, even though despite mean the 7-year wait for a new album just got a little longer. Right ahead, Damar Hamlin speaking out for the first time since his near fatal injury on the football, and a mother who lost both of her sons in the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.



ROMANS: All right. The Ukrainian military says Russia's attacks on the Donetsk region have intensified with unprecedented artillery fire near Bakhmut where Kyiv has restricted access into that city. Russia's Wagner mercenaries continue their campaign of terror. CNN's Scott McLean joins us live from London reporting on all of this. You know, Scott, this month's long onslaught has been brutal for residents who remain in the region. What can you tell us?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, brutal is definitely an understatement there. The Ukrainians say that the Russians launched a record number of artillery strikes in the region, and the price for the Russians continues to be this town of Bakhmut, a place that before the war, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of Ukraine will even would have heard of it.

And yet, it's taken on this outside importance in this war in part because it is so well fortified both naturally and also militarily as well. The Ukrainians have previously called Bakhmut an unwinnable fortress.