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Frigid Temperatures Plague the Nation; RNC Discusses Political Strategies; Biden Takes Gun Control on the Road; Disabilities and Athletics; Medicinal Marijuana Helping Children?

Aired January 25, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: Thank you Carol. Nice to see you everyone. Hello and welcome. It's 11:00 on the East Coast. 8:00 on the West Coast.

You know you really can't see the cold, but you don't have to live in New Hampshire to get goose bunts when you see pictures like this. You also don't have to be stranded in Salt Lake City to feel the pain of an unlikely ice storm like that. And you don't have to be a dog in Chicago who wishes for a warm fireplace instead of a frozen lake to be stuck on like that.

Today the arctic blast that we've been talking about for days, is being joined with a euphemistically called a wintry mix in the south. And that means ice and it means freezing rain. And we're going to talk more about that in just a moment.

But, first, I really want to show you some very compelling and very cool -- pardon the pun -- animation. It's this week's arctic blast as seen by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It's a pulsing blue blob, literally. Take a peek.

Here's what happens. It's a bit mysterious. It pushes south during the night and then it pulls back during the day and then it pushes further south the next night. Sort of gives you goose bumps to see how it all transpires.

And all that cold and the very, very strong winds have also created a phenomenon that many of us have never heard of before this week. It's called the good old-fashioned "ice shove."

It's just like it sounds like, ice being shoved across a frozen lake or a frozen pond and it took out an entire house the other day in Wisconsin.

It also is bringing a lot more visitors, tourists, believe it or not, to Lake Winnebago, including Jennifer Wilson of our CNN affiliate WBAY in Green Bay.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you get up there? Do you want to turn around?

JENNIFER WILSON, WBAY: It's a brand-new tourist attraction that retiree Dave Berg never expected in his backyard.

DAVE BERG: Unbelievable. Hundreds of cars down here since Saturday night.

WILSON: The news of mother nature's overachieving ice shoves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking over as that ice pushes over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never seen nothing like that before.

WILSON: Spreading as fast as the high winds that created them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because I seen it on Facebook so I thought I'd bring my daughter out here to see it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of my neighbors called me and one of my brothers says, oh, you've got to go down to (INAUDIBLE) and look at all the ice shove. And it's unreal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I live in Fond du Lac, so this is a little bit of a hike for me, too.

WILSON: And here's what people are coming all this way to see. This ice shove is about 20-feet high and it's come so far inland it's taken out a tree and even a light post.

These large ice chunks pushed from Lake Winnebago have overtaken resident's backyards, crushed personal property and disregarded street signs.

All of this would be upsetting ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that tree over there. That's amazing.

WILSON: ... if it wasn't so impressive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's kind of cool.

WILSON: The booming ice shove tourism even has Berg rethinking his retirement.

BERG: If I had a buck for everybody that drove down here, I'd be a rich man.


BANFIELD: And this just in. Do you want to know how cold it is? Apparently, it's just too cold for a polar bear swim and I kid you not.

The Asbury Park, New Jersey, Rotary Club has announced that it's postponing its Sunday polar bear plunge because it's just too cold. And the sad part of this -- it may be cute, but that raises money for the Hurricane Sandy victims, so that's off the agenda for now.

Anyway, our Karen Maginnis is joining us now, meteorologist who is probably experiencing one of your busier weeks, so to speak.

Listen, these pictures are interesting and the ice shoves are interesting but I keep saying over and over, this is deadly stuff. I grew up this in weather and it can kill you.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it really can and it doesn't take a lot. And we talk about the ice and, definitely for people who are going to be driving through Tennessee and Kentucky and portions of Ohio, the ice is the big factor. You can't see it. It's black ice in a lot of cases.

It's moving through fairly quickly, especially across Kentucky. By the way, we'll just go ahead and show you what's happening along Interstate 65. Now, this is along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This area right here, that's Interstate 65. Just south of that near Elizabethtown, they have a pileup there because of the icy conditions, so it has become at least aggravating and, at best, you're going to be slowed down, but at worst, it could cause quite a few traffic accidents. So, watch out for that. We've already seen that, about three-tenths of an inch of ice coating across southern Kentucky.

Where you see these icons where ice is currently being reported and it's fairly difficult to kind of pin down what's going to happen as we go over the next several hours, but this is the ice accumulation of 0.3 inches. A tenth of an inch of ice over some the areas in the past hour of so.

But, as I mentioned, this is going to move through quickly, but these overnight low temperatures are expected to continue to be cold. So, the ice is not going to disappear any time soon.

All right. as we take you through time, for Friday, that system moves right across the southern Appalachians on the tail end of this. That's where we'll see the ice once again.

To the north, it looks like it's mainly going to be some snow. For Washington, D.C., and New York, one, two inches of snowfall expected across these regions, and it does look like the ice as well as winter weather conditions extending from Atlanta.

We may dodge a bullet for Atlanta, but extending on up through Charlotte, all the way up into the Delmarva Peninsula, that's where you're looking at the bitterly cold temperatures.

And, Ashleigh, as you said, very dangerous conditions here. At least we weren't looking at a widespread event across the Southeast like ...

BANFIELD: It is wide enough, though.


BANFIELD: I mean, this thing hit everybody except for folks on the far -- hey, by the way, I just wanted to tell you, Karen, when we had our meeting this morning and we were all griping about how cold it was and how we had to dress like snow princesses, and all the rest, we found a place in Russia called Oymyakon.

Apparently, we should not be complaining because the 500 or so residents of Oymyakon on a regular basis have minus-60 as their temperature and it can get as cold as 108 in Oymyakon.

So, I just want to make sure people know that elsewhere gas prices can be higher and it can be a lot colder. And also the murder rate goes down in a lot of places. New York hasn't had a murder in seven days. So there's also an upside to this story. Plus, what you said, it's going to be over soon.

MAGINNIS: Strange as it may seem, I saw that as well. In the area in Siberia, they have about 500 residents and how they endure those triple-digit below-zero readings ...

BANFIELD: I can't imagine.

MAGINNIS: ... it is unimaginable.

BANFIELD: Unimaginable.

All right, Karen, I like that you have a turtleneck, but you need longer arms. Karen Maginnis, thank you.


BANFIELD: One of the rising stars of the GOP calling out his own party for being -- and I'm going to quote him here -- stupid.

As you're about to hear, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was not holding back at the RNC's winter meeting. Listen up.


GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We've got to stop looking backwards. We must reject identity politics. We've got to stop being the stupid party. We've got to stop insulting the intelligence of voters.


BANFIELD: Ah. The RNC's chairman has directed a panel to identify winning political strategies for future elections, especially minority outreach.

The vice president, Joe Biden, taking the president's gun control campaign on the road. Biden and other White House officials holding a round table discussion today in Richmond, Virginia.

He held some similar talks online, a Google talk yesterday, where he gave this advice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In California, everyone talks about the big earthquake or some terrible natural disaster, as a last line of defense. What would you say to those people who ...

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, I would say there's an awful -- you know, guess what? A shotgun will keep you a lot safer, a double- barreled shotgun, than the assault weapon in somebody's hands who doesn't know how to use it, even one who doesn't know how.

You know it's harder to use an assault weapon and hit something than it is a shotgun, OK? You want to keep people away in an earthquake, buy some shotgun shells.


BANFIELD: That's pretty candid. The vice president's comments came as the Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced her bill to ban assault weapons, which would stop the sale, transport, import and manufacture of more than 100 specialty firearms and semiautomatics.

But it would leave legal thousands of other kinds of rifles and weapons.

And a partial victory to report for gay rights in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island House of Representatives has approved a same-sex marriage act on a 51-19 vote.

It is not yet clear, though, when the Senate could take up this bill. The house vote was the first time either chamber voted on the issue since the bill was introduced back in '97.

The governor there, Lincoln Chafee, says he's going to sign that bill if, in fact, it clears the Senate.


BANFIELD: Kim Jong-un, the mysterious leader of North Korea, issuing some new threats to the United States. He's only been in power just over a year and he's pretty mysterious.

And we know little more about him today than when he took over that government upon the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, back in 2011.

What little we do know -- he is in his late 20s, he spent some time at a Swiss boarding school and, according to state media, he married the woman to his left on your screen. We have not seen her since these pictures came out. No idea if they're still married, if she's still on the scene.

But, now, uppermost in the lot of minds of the people, is this man calling the shots? Is the military calling the shots? Who exactly is in control and what does control mean in that country?

This week, Kim's government unleashed some very fiery rhetoric, some threats against the United Nations, in fact, and the United States and our key ally, South Korea, the warnings of a nuclear test and more rocket tests and the latest one coming today, a warning to the South of, quote, "strong physical countermeasures," end quote, if the South helps to enforce new U.N. sanctions against the North, sanctions imposed after North Korea's rocket launch last month.

Now, Washington believes that the North is trying to develop missiles that could hit the United States, missiles that one day could possibly be armed with nuclear warheads.

Joining me now is our CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour who's no stranger to North Korea. In fact, I remember watching pictures of you in country in 2008?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That was five years ago and things have changed remarkably.

You're asking, what is the power? Who is Kim Jong-un? Well, he is the new leader and he is taking a page out of his father's playbook.

So, no change in terms of their public posture. You've see this very belligerent, very bellicose rhetoric.

Look, the secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, held a press conference in Washington where he said we're worried, it's troubling, but we're fully prepared. And nobody believes that, right now, the North Koreans have any of the wherewithal to target the United States.

BANFIELD: When you speak, people listen and we actually have Leon Panetta's actual comments.

AMANPOUR: There you go.

BANFIELD: Let's play it and we can talk on the other side.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm very concerned with North Korea's continuing provocative behavior. We are fully prepared. We remain prepared to deal with any kind of provocation.


BANFIELD: So, here's the problem. We hear about rhetoric, fiery rhetoric, coming from North Korea all the time, whether it was Kim Jong-un's father or whether it's Kim Jong-un or whether it's whomever may be behind Kim Jong-un.

Do we actually know who's running the show? Do you think him? He's so young.

AMANPOUR: You know what? It doesn't really matter. There's him at the head of it. There's a huge military group behind him.

The policy remains the same, whether it was the grandfather and the founder of North Korea, whether it was this man or his father. It's the same.

It's a very belligerent, quote/unquote, "military-first" policy, the scant resources that they have, they pour into their military program and what everybody's worried about is the nuclear program. The United States does not have bilateral talks or bilateral relations with North Korea. In fact, the U.S. is still in the technical stage of war. It was only an armistice that was signed after the war.

BANFIELD: I'm not sure of the numbers here, but somewhere around 28,000 troops, I think, that are stationed in the DMZ.

AMAPOUR: I'm not sure of the numbers, but it is still a state of technical war.

BANFIELD: And, by the way, what do those troops mean? I mean ...

AMANPOUR: Well, they're there to guard and prevent ...

BANFIELD: Is it just to show we are here and ...

AMANPOUR: No, no, no. It's an absolute line of offense against North Korea into South if that should take place.

And it's a real statement of maintaining the South Korean allies.

BANFIELD: So, if it's -- and, again, I'm not clear on whether it's 28,000, but I don't think it's far off that number, that is far fewer than the number of standing troops that Kim Jong-un has.

AMANPOUR: Well, of course, it is, but nobody really feels that there's going to be an invasion in any event.

The real issue here, Ashleigh, is how does one solve this perpetual thorn in the side of the United States and that is these constant threats by the North Koreans.

They do not have the kind of long-range missiles yet that could reach the U.S. They do not have the ability ...

BANFIELD: Do we know this for sure?

AMANPOUR: ... to put a nuclear -- yes, we do know this for sure -- to put a nuclear warhead on those missiles.

But the fear is, how will they keep going ahead? And what they're doing is showing that the current policy is not working of the international community, that the sanctions are not stopping them from this belligerence.

Now, as I say, they're not there yet, but they might be, and what's really important ...

BANFIELD: They may not like these sanctions if they're making those kinds of threats against the South.

AMANPOUR: That's why they're making those threats.

But the thing is, this obviously points out, yet again, the big challenge for President Obama for the United States as he starts his second administration, how to stop nuclear proliferation whether it's Iran or whether it's North Korea.

It has to happen through negotiations. The Chinese who are America's biggest ally and North Korea's biggest ally in this situation are now saying that their North Korean friend is beginning to tick them off and the Chinese are the only ones who have the leverage with the North Koreans to actually try to get them to behave.

BANFIELD: So, the noose is tightening around this oddball young man who I think a lot of people saw as maybe there'll be a change here. Maybe there'll be an opening. Maybe there's a chance.

We are flat out of time, but you're wonderful. Will you come back?

AMANPOUR: Any time.

BANFIELD: I like this woman. She's terrific. Christiane Amanpour, good to see you.

Back after this.


BANFIELD: So I've done a lot of beats in journalism and I've never covered sports. It is my weakest suit and, yet, when I heard this story, I instantly became a sports reporter.

It's about a young woman named Tatyana McFadden and here's why it was so significant. She's an Olympian. She's medaled several times, so she's pretty awesome and there's her picture.

But it wasn't always an easy ride for this young woman and I'm going to tell you what happened at her first track meet in her freshman year at her high school.

Her coaches didn't give her a uniform and, when it came time for her to run her race, the meet officials stopped the whole meet and let her go out onto the track by herself, do her round by herself, and then she could get off the track so the rest of the meet could continue without her.

To say that was a humiliation for this remarkable athlete might be an understatement. What it did was light a fire under her to make a change and change she did.

She got into the legal angle of life and, all of a sudden, today, the government is stepping in to make sure Tatyana's story doesn't get repeated a whole lot and I'm happy to be joined by Tatyana from Champaign, Illinois, today.

So, first of all, I cannot believe that you went through an experience like I just outlined. Second of all, I can't believe you had the gumption to take action and I can't believe the action has resulted in real action.

Give me a feel for what the government is doing with schools to try to stop disabled athletes from not having the kind of access that you felt you didn't have.

TATYANA MCFADDEN, PARALYMPIC CHAMPION: You know, today was definitely history that was made. It was a very tough battle through my four years of high school.

I cannot express the feelings that I went through, the humiliation that I went through. It was the toughest four years I've ever had.

And when civil rights took action, I -- oh, my gosh. Tears of joy. I know that people after me can now participate in high school sports without going through the battle that I had to.

BANFIELD: Tatyana, I think, some people watching, they don't understand how the government could sort of inject itself into a school and say, you must allow disabled athletes to compete equally with able-bodied athletes because athleticism is different.

I mean, we have Paralympics and Olympics. We have Special Olympics. We have Olympics, but what exactly can be done to change some of the nature of athletics in schools so that there isn't this complete segregation?

MCFADDEN: Well, you know, when I went into high school, it's about opportunity and it's about being involved with your peers and it's really about educating that.

Whether you have a disability or not, everyone should be involved and I think it's great that, you know, it's being taken into action into schools.

You know, this opens up huge doors, you know? Like people just really going to college right after high school, getting, you know, a letter, being part of high school sports is a huge thing.

And it's about getting involved in high school, opens up so many doors and I'm really, really excited about this and I'm honored that it's happened.

BANFIELD: Well, I was looking at some of the policies and some of the examples of what schools can do to ensure that a disabled athlete can compete with an able-bodied athlete where that's possible, something as simple as this.

A track athlete who might be deaf can't hear the gun, so if you just bring some flashing lights out onto the track, that gives them the same opportunity and the same way to compete as their counterparts.

Some people would say, also, that's going to cost some money because there are going to have to be some changes across the board and, now that the government is saying if these schools don't do this, they're going to have money withheld, federal money withheld.

So, do you see where some schools may be frustrated or not know how do this without going broke?

MCFADDEN: You know, I think it's just all about educating. Schools made adaptations for me throughout my whole high school career and it is small, you know, minor adaptations.

And it's just about learning all these new adaptations to make for people with disabilities.

And, you know, I think the change is happening right now and it is for the positive. You know, you can sit there and stay all the negatives, but in the end, I mean it's going to change so many lives for people with disabilities.

And, you know, they can have the opportunity to grow and really become who they want to be in the future instead of always saying no, no, no, you can't do this, you can't be involved.

So, I think it's -- I think the change is going to be for the best.

BANFIELD: Hey, Tatyana, remind me how many gold medals, silver medals, bronzes you've earned.

MCFADDEN: I have a total of 10 Paralympic medals, three gold medals from the London Paralympic games and one bronze.

BANFIELD: Case in point.

All right, well, Tatyana, it's great to talk with you and congratulations on all your amazing success and, also, your pursuit of justice for people who are disabled and may not have been able to take the tack or track that you have taken to being such a successful athlete. Nice to meet you.

MCFADDEN: Thank you so much. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Tatyana McFadden joining us this morning.

And, by the way, off the track, she's pursuing a degree in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois. She works as a national advocate for equal access for people with disabilities.

And if you are more fascinated than I am, which is impossible, you can learn more about her off-the-field work. Just visit her website at


BANFIELD: Now, I know that you have heard on CNN and probably other networks, if you watch other news networks, about medical marijuana and how it is not the least bit controversial and then comes a story about a family in Oregon that's using medical marijuana for a child.

Before you make a snap judgment, this child has autism. OK, before you make another snap judgment, this child has the kind of autism that you may never have seen before.

And when you see what happens when they use medical marijuana, you may feel entirely differently about this story.

Have a look at our affiliate reporter, Nicole Dolls report.


NICOLE DOLL, REPORTER, KGW: It's difficult to watch this video of an Oregon child hurting himself in a fit of rage. Eleven-year-old Alex Echols is severely autistic, his self-destructive behavior brought on by tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disorder that affects about 50,000 people in the U.S.

It causes growths in organs, in Alex's case, primarily in the brain. Those growths can lead to seizures and autism. Alex can't communicate with words, making it difficult to understand what's troubling him.

JEREMY ECHOLS, FATHER OF 11-YEAR-OLD ALEX: Indescribable. It was horrifying. He was able to just be acting normal and all of a sudden just run himself into a wall.

DOLL: His parents have turned to a controversial treatment, medical marijuana, to manage Alex's behavior.

ECHOLS: When you've got no other options, are you honestly going to say no?

DOLL: It wasn't always this way though.

ECHOLS: He was actually going to be Jake for the longest time and, when he was born and when we saw him, we said that's not Jake. That's Alex.

DOLL: The day Alex was born, Jeremy and Karen Echols were full of hope until six weeks later when their baby had his first seizure.

ECHOLS: We didn't know he was going to be autistic at that time. I think he was three the first time he first started hurting himself, though.

DOLL: By the time Alex was five, it was intense, self-directed rage. Alex head-butted anything he could, bruising his forehead so badly his father says the blood would drain until Alex's entire face was black and blue.

They got him a helmet, swaddled him like a newborn, tried mood- altering drugs. But Alex's daily violent behavior became the Eugene family's new normal.

When he was eight, they made the heartbreaking decision to move Alex into a state-funded group home.