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Ice and Snow Disrupting Travel; Obama Nominates New Chief of Staff; Riots in Egypt; Dolphin Stuck In Brooklyn Canal; Arrest in Doctor's Gruesome Murder; College Degree No Classes; Fears of A Wing Shortage

Aired January 25, 2013 - 14:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: It's claimed three lives. Now bitter cold is moving over the southeast. This arctic air system you see here, it's expected to bring snow and freezing rain and dangerous amounts of ice to the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama. Look at this, in Nashville, drivers are being urged to stay off the roads.

Out west, passengers were stranded in Salt Lake City. A rare ice storm closed airport runways there. You can barely even see the planes here.

Let's go to the Midwest, where we saw the signs first of this deep freeze. You're looking at the aftermath of a phenomenon known as ice shove. Never heard of it? Well, high winds literally shoved ice across Lake Winnebago, sending huge chunks over roads and into backyards.

You remember that abandoned warehouse also. This is Chicago, where there was the fire inside, but the outside was encased in ice. It's because of the freezing temperatures there, as well. Well, the city has ordered an immediate demolition of the building, which, despite the ice, as we said, has been reigniting since Tuesday.

In Massachusetts, the car slid off the road here and plunged into this frozen pond.

Now to New Jersey. This is happening everywhere. In New Jersey, it's even too cold for the polar bear plunge. You know the point is to jump into cold water. Too cold. The annual event is now being postponed.

All this cold weather is causing chaos on the roads. CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis is here.

Karen, we're hearing a bus has overturned in Indiana. What do we know?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It was on Interstate 69. It was the Murray State in Kentucky, the women's athletics. They were on their way, in a minivan, to an event, but they hit a patch of ice and the minivan rolled over. They said there were about nine injuries. Two were transported to the hospital. The injuries are believed to be non- life threatening. And it looks like, in spite of how disastrous this actually looks, very few injuries. They were transported. But this was due to hitting some ice on some of the interstates there.

Well, this storm system is expected to move fairly rapidly towards the east. But right now, the critical zone is going to be in this tri- state area from Tennessee, into North Carolina, and Georgia. This is where we're looking at the worst of the icing conditions right now.

I want to show you what happened in the past 12 to 24 hours. This coming out of Utah, right around Provo. This from our i-Reporter Lane Russell (ph). Take a look at the video. And he says that in Provo, at BYU University, that they had ice, they had snow. But on one of the ramps there, he said there was a layer of ice and they were trying to get across this, but people were holding onto the rails or they were just taking their chances or they just sat down and just would glide all the way down the icy structure there.

Well, take a look at this other piece of video that we have for you. Toby (ph) is a magnificent black lab. He seems to be having a whole lot of fun. This coming out of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Well, Toby's owner, Jaren (ph), said that he teaches school, school was canceled, but for Toby, the games were on. He was having a great time with a plastic barrel.

But as much fun as this looks, they actually are having pretty much a few difficulties as far as the airways are concerned. Delays expected now Atlanta, New York, Charlotte, but also for San Francisco.

Victor, back to you.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Toby, apparently, is the only one having fun here.

MAGINNIS: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: Karen Maginnis, thank you so much.

President Obama named one of his closest friends and advisers as his White House chief of staff today. Mr. Obama says Denis McDonough is a man of integrity who will speak his mind. Now, McDonough will replace Jack Lew, the Obama nominee for Treasury secretary. Hours ago, the president heaped praise on McDonough over and over, even told a few jokes during this announcement.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, don't get me wrong, Denis can be tough. It probably comes from being one of 11 children. You've got to be tough. Two of his sisters are here today, by the way, Mary and Anna, and I know they could -- well, they're just beaming. They could not be more proud of their brother. Maybe it comes from his college football days as defensive back under the legendary John Gagliardi (ph). I always tease Denis that, you know, he made up for modest talents with extraordinary dedication and a high threshold for pain.


BLACKWELL: They seem loose and comfortable, jokes and smiles there. Candy Crowley joins us from Washington.

Candy, it's very clear that the president chose someone with whom he has a close relationship. The question is, the other people who work in the West Wing and in the White House, how are they reacting to the McDonough choice?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They like him. He's a popular guy in the West Wing. I think our Jessica Yellin noted how crowded that room was for the appointment, how happy people seemed that he got what everyone knew he was going to get, which was chief of staff.

I think outside you heard the president talking about, hey, don't get me wrong, he's tough. I think that if you talk to some folks at the Defense Department, the State Department, McDonough obviously is an expert when it comes to foreign policy and international affairs. He broke some eggs over there in those particular institutions. So he's no pushover.

But I think the most important thing here is exactly what you noticed. And that is that relationship. We are starting the second term of the Obama administration. Believe it or not, time is short before people begin to turn to the future. Right now, yes, the president's working for the country, et cetera, et cetera, but this is also about legacy.

I think this is a legacy chief of staff pick. This is somebody who has been with him from the -- been with the president from the beginning of his sort of federal office days, when he was a senator-elect they first met, et cetera. So he's been there from the beginning. He has the president's back. The president understands that. This is someone I think the president is entrusting, not just with the staff at the White House and all the things that come with that chief of staff role, but also with the Obama era, as it will.

At some point, the Obama era will be written up and so much of what -- and we could tell from the president's inauguration speech, he believes that the Obama era has not yet been shaped. And this is the guy he trusts to do it, because this is the man who has been with him -- one of the men who's been with him all along. So I think it's the trust factor and I think that normally (ph) helps -- that's not just why the president picked him. It's also why people know that when McDonough talks, he is basically talking about the president's opinion.

BLACKWELL: All right, Candy Crowley. This guy, you mentioned, has international policy chops. We'll see how much that will be a hurdle for him as the president moves forward with his domestic agenda. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Exactly two years after its revolution, this is Egypt today. Look. Anger in the streets of Cairo. Thousands of people in Tahrir Square. Again, it's the second anniversary of the Egyptian uprising. Violence is now breaking out between protesters and police with injuries on both sides. Scenes like this one similar to the beginning of the Arab Spring, an 18-day revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak. CNN's Reza Sayah is in Cairo.

Reza, what's happening there now? This has been going on all day. What's happening now? REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is 9:00 p.m. local time, Victor, and here in Tahrir Square we're starting to see some of the protesters leave. There's still several thousand people here, but things relatively calm at this location.

However, in other parts of Cairo, in other parts of Egypt, things seem to be escalating. We're seeing violence and pockets of clashes in the side streets, a few blocks away from Tahrir Square. We're seeing clashes between protesters and police in front of the state TV building here in Cairo, several blocks away.

We're also seeing clashes. We can also tell you that protesters have blocked off traffic in both directions. That the 6th of October bridge, a major bridge over the Nile River. They've also blocked off a subway system here near in Tahrir Square.

It's hard to believe it was two years ago when an uprising here in Egypt eventually toppled then President Hosni Mubarak. And it started right here in Tahrir Square, this iconic landmark. People gathered and demanded an end to the Mubarak regime. They demanded more political freedom, human rights, better economy, jobs. Remarkably, Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Victor. But two years later, many of these people behind us and throughout Egypt not happy. They're protesting the current government now and the current president, Mohamed Morsi.

BLACKWELL: And we've seen these protests over the two years, especially when Mohamed Morsi made that power grab, as many would call it, at the end of 2012. What are these protesters demanding today?

SAYAH: Well, these are the secularists, the moderates, the liberals who feel that they've been squeezed out of the political process. They're concerned about their rights moving forward. We spoke to one of the protesters. Here's what she had to say.


AZZA LAMLOUM, PROTESTER: Everybody's protesting. What did we get since two years?


LAMLOUM: We did nothing. Nothing achieved. (ph)

SAYAH: The president says be patient. It is just part of the process.

LAMLOUM: We need a sign. A small -- small thing. And we will wait. (ph)

SAYAH: And you don't think he's given you a sign?

LAMLOUM: But, no -- look at the constitution. Look at the constitution. Is this a constitution for all Egyptians? It's not. (ph)

SAYAH: He says people voted on it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sure. LAMLOUM: How many voted? Sixteen million or 52 (ph) millions went to vote. Ten million said yes and six said no. Is this -- can this be possible? (ph)

SAYAH: Do you trust the president?



SAYAH: What do you do as an Egyptian? If you don't trust -- right now.

LAMLOUM: What do I do? What can I do? I go on protest, protest and protest until forever. (ph)


SAYAH: Clearly a lot of mistrust and animosity on the part of the protesters. For his part, President Mohamed Morsi says these protests are unfair. He is maintaining that he is defending the democratic process. And what we have here, Victor, is a very divided nation. And the question is, how is this president going to address the very real problems this country has when this country is so fractured.


BLACKWELL: And patience is running thin. Reza Sayah in Cairo for us. Thank you.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says stop looking backwards. It's advice to his colleagues in the Republican Party as he lays out his vision for the GOP and the nation.

Also, have you heard about this? A bizarre murder in Philadelphia. The victim is a doctor. The suspect is an exterminator. And the crime scene, a basement.


BLACKWELL: We've got live pictures from you -- for you right now. This is the Gowanus Canal. And you can see that kind of movement in the water. There is a dolphin. You see the blow hole there. You see the dorsal fin. A dolphin stuck here in the canal. Karen Maginnis is joining us now.

This doesn't happen very often, but it has happened before.


BLACKWELL: Talk to us about this canal and what happening.

MAGINNIS: They say that this particular event, an animal getting stuck in the canal, is very uncommon, but it has happened before. Reports that we're getting are maybe in the last four or five years that they've had something similar. Now, we don't know if it was a common dolphin, which this is being described as a common dolphin. They say they are taking pictures of it. People are standing around. They think that it's gotten stuck in settlement because this is a canal, it's low tide, but high tide around 7:25. They are hoping that that will unstick the dolphin. But just in case, they are prepared to go into the canal and do whatever it takes to free the dolphin.

But there you can see, there's not a lot of visibility with that water, which does indicate there is settlement and it does appear, just from my casual observation, it does look like that dolphin is in distress. So they are prepared to do whatever efforts it takes to take care of that dolphin and rescue it.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and they're going to widen this shot occasionally. And you'll see that there is a group of animal rescue workers. They're standing on the bank there. They cannot jump in the water because there is no shore, there is no gradual movement into the water and it would just be unsafe for the worker and possibly for that dolphin. But we'll see, as you say, what, 7:25 tonight?

MAGINNIS: 7:25. And just to give you kind of a locater. Lower Manhattan. This is on the east side of lower Manhattan. That's where the Gowanus Canal is located. But hopefully there will be a successful rescue, or perhaps this dolphin will be able to free itself at the time of high tide.

BLACKWELL: OK. Karen, thank you very much.

A revolutionary move for one tough -- one school in a tough economy, rather. They'll issue bachelor's degrees with no classroom time required.

Plus, a senator says enough. Hear what Senator Saxby Chambliss says showed Congress at its worst and led to his decision to quit.


BLACKWELL: A young doctor was brutally murdered and set on fire in her own home. The suspect, an exterminator she called to deal with mice in her basement. Philadelphia Police say that Melissa Ketunuti, her hands and feet were bound behind her back before her body was set on fire Monday. Our Philadelphia affiliate KYW reports the victim's friends and colleagues understandably are in shock.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, KYW REPORTER (voice-over): A show of support and solidarity for a life lost too soon and suddenly.

LEVON UTIDJIAN, WORKED WITH VICTIM: There's just so much love and support that I've always felt at every stage, at every -- every moment I've been in shock (ph), and that's what you guys are showing here right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dozens of friends and colleagues of Dr. Melissa Ketunuti first gathered outside the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Then, they marched over to the 35-year-old's home in Center City. Neighbor Julia Bringhurst did not know the victim personally, but felt compelled to pay her respects.

JULIA BRINGHURST, NEIGHBOR: Just to kind of take a moment myself and, I don't know, add my presence to the moment I guess as a neighbor and, you know, community member.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A community still trying to make sense of the senseless. In this surveillance video obtained exclusively by Eyewitness News, we see Dr. Ketunuti walking home. Seconds behind her is her accused killer, Jason Smith, an exterminator she had called for a rodent problem. About an hour later, the video shows Smith leaving, covering something with his jacket, then driving away in his pickup truck. Police say Smith circled past the murder scene twice.

CAPT. JAMES CLARK, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: He struck her. She went to the ground. He immediately jumped on top of her, started strangling her, and then he set her body on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thursday night, only Eyewitness News captured Smith's attorney leaving court, after Smith was arraigned on charges of murder and related offenses. While he declined to comment --

ORI FEIBUSH, COFFEE SHOP OWNER: This terrible individual walked directly underneath a high powered surveillance camera and actually looked up at the camera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Businessman Ori Feibush expressed relief the cameras on his coffee shop helped police identify and arrest Smith at his Levittown home Wednesday night.


BLACKWELL: Police tell "The Philadelphia Enquirer" that the suspect confessed after a few hours. Sarah Hoy is tracking this story in Philadelphia.

Sarah, this story is -- there's so much to process. It's a brutal case. What evidence are the police focusing on?

SARAH HOYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, when they did take Jason into custody, they were looking at several items that they say led to this and also led to them to bring forth the charges. So not only did he give that statement, which you just spoke about, that KYW told us about, but also that there was evidence that led to -- led them to believe that he would be able to be charged for murder.

So in terms of specifics, there was rope on the scene, and there was some other items that they're not disclosing. However, they do feel that they have the right person in custody. And, as of today, he is in jail without bail because this is a murder case and he will go to trial next month in a preliminary hearing.

BLACKWELL: And, as we said, police tell "The Enquirer" that he confessed after a few hours. Sarah Hoye, thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: It is the last day on the job for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. He took the position in 2009 when the country was in a deep recession, unemployment was surging, stock prices were sinking, and the financial system was on the verge of imploding. President Obama calls Geithner one of the best Treasury secretary's in U.S. history.

How about this? Get a college degree without ever going to class. It's possible. It's a new program at the University of Wisconsin that offers online tests based solely on what you know. If you pass, you got a bachelor's degree. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, I have not heard of this type of program before. Is it the first of its kind?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. It almost sounds like a dream. This program was actually going to start in the fall at the University of Michigan. And what it really is, Victor, is a response to, you know, a lot of new education options that are out there online. And many of them are free. But, you know, when you go and take a course in history at one place, another one on writing and Spanish at other places, you know, what do you do with all those classes, especially since a lot of these other universities online, they don't offer degrees.

So under this Wisconsin University flexible option program, what students can do is earn a degree by passing a series of tests without ever stepping foot on the campus. Now, you may need to take a few classes to get, you know, to get up to speed, but it offers students a ton of flexibility. It could really be a sign of where education is headed. You know, testing your way to a bachelor's degree.


BLACKWELL: There are a lot of people who will go to their freshman year saying, yes, that makes sense. If I could just take the test without going to class. Hey, has the University of Wisconsin at Madison determined how much this program will cost?

KOSIK: Not yet, but we're going to get more details when this thing goes online in the fall.

BLACKWELL: OK. So I want to talk about something serious now. We should probably have like some animation or, like, just in. Looking ahead to the Super Bowl, there are rumors of a chicken wing shortage. Please, say it ain't so.

KOSIK: OK. All right. So there's no need for people to going running around like chickens with their heads cut off to go looking for these chicken wings because there is no chicken wing shortage, Victor. The National Chicken Council is actually setting the record straight, coming out today saying, wait, there is no shortage on chicken wings. The fact is that there are going to be fewer wings out there this Super Bowl Sunday compared to last year, and that's just because chicken companies produced about 1 percent fewer birds last year and that's partly because of the drought over the summer that caused feed prices to rise. And what that means is that wings are going to be more expensive for this Super Bowl.

But here's how the National Chicken Council put it in its wing report. There's actually a wing report out there that, when the demand for the wings is stronger than the demand for the other chicken parts, the price of wings, they're going to go up, as it has this past year. In fact, you look at wing prices, they're at a record high. They're up 14 percent from a year ago. But, you know, the council also says, Americans, they're willing to pay more because they want their chicken wings for the Super Bowl and they want their wings badly.

BLACKWELL: All right, lemon pepper and smoky southwestern for everybody. Alison Kosik --

KOSIK: Yes, spicy only.

BLACKWELL: Yes, spicy. All right, thank you.

Hey, some of the hottest stories now in a flash. "Rapid Fire." Hit it.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal tells fellow Republicans, quote, "we must stop being the stupid party." And that's just one of the directives he gave party members at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in North Carolina last night. The GOP is rethinking itself after Mitt Romney lost last November.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We must quit big. We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well offs so they can keep their toys. We've got to be the party that shows all Americans how they can fly. We're the party whose ideas will help the middle class and help more folks join the middle class.


BLACKWELL: We'll have much more on the Republican meeting coming up in the next hour.

And speaking of Republican politics, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is not going to seek re-election. Chambliss says he's frustrated by, quote, "legislative gridlock and partisan posturing" in Washington. He says haggling over the raising of the debt ceiling and trying to avoid the fiscal cliff showed Congress at its worst. Chambliss has served two terms in the Senate. He angered some conservative activists with his attempts to find a bipartisan solution to the nation's debt problem.

Playing the lottery might become impossible for some people in North Carolina. Here's why. A state lawmaker wants to ban people receiving government assistance or those who have declared bankruptcy from playing. Republican Representative Paul Stam is helping to draft this legislation. He says welfare money should be used to help people survive, not for gambling. Of course critics say everyone should be able to play.


TINA TURNER, MUSICIAN (singing): What's love got to do, got to do with it.


BLACKWELL: Bom, bom, bom. Great song.

Singing legend Tina Turner is saying good-bye to her U.S. citizenship and will soon be a citizen of Switzerland. Now, she's 73 years old. She moved to Switzerland in 1995 with her long time partner and she says that she cannot imagine a better place to live. She needs the approval of the Swiss federal authorities, first, to make this official.

The vice president takes his gun violence task force to a Virginia university. He met with some who went through the Virginia Tech shooting. It was a closed door panel, but we have details, after the break.


BLACKWELL: A judge is set to decide whether the public will get to see the trial of two high school football players accused of raping a 16- year-old girl after a party. A hearing on a motion to close the trial is being held this afternoon in Steubenville, Ohio. The girl and her parents want the trial closed to protect her privacy. One defendant wants it closed to prevent anyone from intimidating defense witnesses. But news organizations are arguing to keep the trial open. They say an open court will stop speculation that the trial might be skewed in a town that's crazy about its high school football team.