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Cold Air Moves Across U.S.; Pilot Whales Stranded Near Florida; Sandy Hook 911 Calls to Be Made Public; NTSB Pulls Union off Train Derailment Investigation; President Obama to Speak about Healthcare, Employment

Aired December 4, 2013 - 11:00   ET



and what will they reveal, if anything?

How are the families dealing with this painful reminder of their unthinkable tragedy from a year ago?

And we are live in Florida where there is a desperate effort under way this moment to save an entire pod of stranded pilot whales.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, December the 4th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Our top story this hour, I guess you could say it's a four-letter word this time of year, and I don't mean snow. There's going to be plenty of that in the Rockies and the upper Midwest, and maybe some ice down in the South.

But the big four-letter word is "cold," the coldest air of the season so far and maybe even the coldest in years.

Dallas, I'm talking to you. You're going to get a sultry 80 degrees today, but enjoy it fast, because tomorrow's high is about 39 degrees. And that's one big drop.

And you know what? Even that is sultry compared to your neighbors up north. Just ask Ana Cabrera.

She got the assignment in Boulder, Colorado, where right now the temperature is eight, and she's smiling. The temperatures is eight.

Our Chad Myers, obviously a little bit more senior, gets the toasty weather assignment in the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Ana, I want to talk to you first about this. Look, Colorado, winter, cold and snow, they're all synonymous. Is this December or is this something more than just December?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's December. Yes, people expect snow. But there is something unique about this particular storm. Two things, it's the combination of the amount of snow and the extreme cold temperatures. Take a look here in Boulder. We're already dealing with probably six inches or so of snow, by my hand's measurement. And we could still see a couple more inches today.

This is the most snow we've seen so far this season in Colorado. Normally we may have seen up to a foot of snow in the metro area.

We've only had about three-and-a-half inches until this storm, and now we're already doubling that.

So it's hitting people like a bit of a shock to the system.

On top of it, dealing with extreme cold temperatures, single digits. Maybe we'll see a few teens in some places, but that's as hot or as warm as it's going to get in the next several days and dipping into negative temperatures at night.

In fact, one woman at the National Weather Service was telling me that this could become the longest stretch of cold weather Colorado will have seen since 2009.

So people are not expecting these types of temperatures even here in Colorado. It's making for dangerous conditions to be outside for a long period of time.

The homeless shelters are full, and it's making for very slick conditions on the roadways.

We're dealing with a thin, icy layer underneath all of this snow causing a lot of traffic accidents and road closures.

So a lot to deal with here in Colorado, and it's pushing across the country, Ashleigh, so --

BANFIELD: Boy, is it ever.

CABRERA: -- we certainly have our fingers crossed that it gets better soon.

BANFIELD: All right, Ana. Take care out there and keep bundled up. I can't believe you smiled through that whole thing at eight degrees. Thank you for that.

Chad Myers, look, this is not just a Colorado story.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. It's moving all the way from Texas all the way to Ohio.

Now, for Ana, it's just -- it's really going to be over except the cold. The snow is done. The snow is being caught in the mountains.

This is what it looks like out in Loveland, Colorado. This is I-70. For yesterday, we had a couple of times where I-70 was actually closed out there.

So that's just the cold air. When the snow gets caught in the mountains, that's great news then, because the skiers get to go play in it.

But the cold air is spilling down from Canada, and remember, if you're in these areas where it gets down to four degrees below zero, that salt on the road really only works down to about 10 or 15. After that it refreezes anyway. So you need to be careful.

Here is what the forecast radar looks like for the next couple of days. Let's go to noon about this time tomorrow, snow in Oklahoma City and an ice event south of there. We're talking even west of Dallas and northwest of Dallas. There will be snow and ice on the roads.

It's going to be raining in Memphis. It'll be raining in Little Rock, but then all of the sudden, the cold air slides in.

Here we go to 8:00 now, tomorrow night. Memphis, you're beginning to get down to about 34. That's a bad number, because as soon as you get down after the sunset, you're going to start to get some roads freezing.

And then back here to about -- I would say that's Paducah to Louisville, back into Cincinnati. See how the storm slides to the east.

Now, for the most part, New York should be just wet. It's get cold late enough to snow, late in the storm, but there's no moisture left, so I think it's just a rain event for New York. But watch out for those frozen puddles on Saturday.

BANFIELD: Yeah, it's great advice.

Chad, thank you for that. And keep an eye on it for us if you will.

Also, happening right now off the Florida Everglades National Park, about 30 pilot whales are trapped in shallow water. The pictures are really remarkable. You can see the stretch of beach where some of them are absolutely beached.

This - there's an urgent attempt right now to try to rescue the whales that are still in the water, though. Look at that.

A parks spokeswoman says that four of them are dead. All of these others, though, potentially could be saved.

CNN's John Zarrella is driving to the scene right now. He joins us by telephone. I'm always curious as to how this happens. It always seems that there's no explanation.

What else can you tell me, John, about this predicament that we're watching live?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Ashleigh, that's exactly right. And, in fact, biologists to this day don't know exactly what the cause is of these mass strandings.

It could be viral. It could be environmental. There just is no real answer to whether it's whales or dolphins, whatever it is. But right now as you mentioned, an effort going on to try and save the whales that are in the water. It is very, very shallow water over there.

That's on the West Coast of Florida in Everglades National Park and it's really flat. So, that water at low tide can be a foot deep if not less than that, and that's the kind of water that those whales have gotten stranded in.

Even at high tide, it may not be more than three, four, five feet. So, what these park biologists are doing, fish and wildlife, federal officials, and they've asked for volunteers, to get down there, to get in the water and try and keep these whales afloat as best they can until they can get them into deeper water until the tide comes in.

And, hopefully, they can get the whales to then migrate back out to sea. But, as we know, Ashleigh, that's not always the case. Sometimes they go out to sea. Sometimes they turn around and come right back in.


BANFIELD: Oh, it's just heartbreaking to see this. I hope that they're successful in the rescue attempts.

Obviously, there's such a new interest in this since CNN aired is that documentary, "Blackfish," because these whales, these pilots whales, are members of the dolphin family, and they're second only in size to that killer whale.

So, it's hard to tell how big they are from the sky, but they're huge.

John Zarrella, keeping an eye on it, let us know if anything develops this hour, John. Thank you for that live report.

We're also watching live as the president prepares to speak out on the economy. That's set to happen just minutes from now, in fact.

White House says he's going to focus on the growing income gap between the rich and poor. The White House also says he's going to renew his push for a hike in the minimum wage.

This, as a new survey shows that the private sector added 215,000 jobs in November, and that is the most in a year.

A truck carrying radioactive cobalt-60 has been stolen in Mexico. The International Atomic Agency says that cobalt-60 could be used to make that so-called "dirty bomb" that has many officials worried.

U.S. officials say there are sensor devices at border crossings and seaports to prevent this or other radioactive material from entering this country.

Famous TV chef Nigella Lawson dropped what you could call a bombshell in a London courtroom today. She's testifying in a fraud trial of her two former personal assistants, and in doing so, she admitted that she's used cocaine twice. Once, she said, with her late husband John Diamond, when he learned his cancer was terminal. And then one other time, years later, she says, when she felt threatened by her next husband, who is now who are ex-husband, Charles Saatchi.

As we mentioned earlier, just a few hours from now, the emergency calls from the Sandy Hook School massacre are set to be made public, a lot of survivors and family members who asked authorities not to release those 911 calls.

Coming up, we're going to examine the media's role and the LEGAL VIEW in all of this. Back in a moment.


BANFIELD: When Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary almost a year ago, in less than five minutes, 26 people were dead, and as you well know, 20 of them were children betweens the ages of 6 and 7.

Almost immediately, the 911 calls began pouring in, but the fear and the desperation and the sheer helplessness likely in the voices of those making the calls have remained private in a hard-fought, year- long battle by the families of the state of Connecticut to stop their release.

The judge in the case, however, disagreed, and the calls will be made public today.

Keeping those calls under wraps, the judge said, quote, "only serves to fuel speculation about and undermine confidence in our law enforcement officials."

Joining me now to talk about this, CNN's media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter, and also with the LEGAL VIEW, CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos.

Brian, let me start with you, just because this involves us, full disclosure. We're part of the media, and we have to make this big decision ourselves here at this network.

It was a huge topic of conversation this morning. What is the plan here at this network? How are we going to handle these tapes? What are we going to air, if anything?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, CNN, like most other networks, is taking a wait-and-listen approach.

The comment from the network is that CNN will review the tapes when they are released and make a determination about what, if anything, will be used on-air and online.

Of course, that means they might -- this network might not broadcast any of it, or may broadcast some portions of it, may broadcast lots of it. We don't know what's in the tapes. We don't know what we'll hear, so there will be a wait-and-listen approach. And that's what I've heard from other networks as well. For example, NBC's news president says, unless there is a compelling editorial reason to play the tapes, she would like -- the president of the news division would like to respect the families' wishes for them not to be heard.

BANFIELD: OK, I think that's a laudable decision.

There are reasons, Danny, the judge made the comments that were made. There's a precedent issue. There are other crimes that could be argued the same way that clearly are in the public interest.

Break down for me why a judge might come to this decision.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: OK. We start with the basic rule. 911 records are public records and they're subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Newtown argued that there are exceptions to this act, and that's true. And one of those is child abuse. Records of child abuse under Connecticut law may be kept confidential.

But here's the thing. People don't realize that child abuse is not defined simply as any child who is injured. Instead, it has a specific statutory definition, and it typically involves, even at federal law, a person who is entrusted or responsible for the care of that child.

And you really can't argue that Lanza on any level was a person under the law who was entrusted for the care of any of these children.

BANFIELD: It's hard no matter what. As you hear the technical, arcane, legal decision-making, and then you remember that there are hundreds of people directly affected by the murders of these 26 people.

Brian, I want to bring it back to you for a minute. Just because you can, should you? Should you be airing this knowing what it's causing? Knowing full well what that community is feeling like?

And by the way, I want to let our viewers know the two of us are from CNN and we have decided not to have any live presence in Newtown on the anniversary out of respect for those families. But should we be airing these today?

STELTER: Reporters almost always err on the side of transparency. And when I talked to people at ABC, CBS. NBC, and CNN today, as well as some local stations and other networks, they all said we always err on that side of the transparency.

But just because journalists want something to be released and made available to the public does not mean they have to actually broadcast it, or share it on their websites. That is a step further, and that's why every news organization is saying we're going to listen to this first. We're not going to rush on the air and broadcast anything before we know what the contents are.

BANFIELD: And quickly, Danny, to you, when the judge talked about precedent and also, you know, full disclosure, transparency, we need to know how our first responders are acting, no one had any complaints. As I recall, no one has any complaints about how the police responded. They were there within seconds. No one has complained about the 911 operators either. Did that not enter into the legal argument?

CEVALLOS: Well, really, the judge focused on the definition of child abuse. That's the main reason, that and maybe a jurisdictional argument, was the main reason that Newtown was resisting disclosing these records, was based on their interpretation of what the child abuse law required, which is maintaining a registry of confidential information about children. However, the judge concluded that they defined child abuse' too expansively. And it may really surprise people to find that child abuse is not just any time a child is injured. It is statutorily defined and that did not exempt these records from disclosure.

BANFIELD: Maybe that's our argument here at CNN and other media outlets. Is there a - go ahead.

STELTER: At the end the day, these are news worthy tapes, and we're going to find out just how newsworthy they are in a few hours.

BANFIELD: You and I will talk tomorrow about that. I don't believe they are, but I am open-minded. And if there is something on the tapes that does make an argument for the transparency of first responders and how things happened, I will change my opinion. Right now, I'm with Newtown. Just going to put that out there.

Thank you to you both, do appreciate this discussion. It's a critical one to be having.

A campaign slogan from years ago could be coming back. Are you better off now than you were years ago? President Obama is about to speak about the growing income inequality in this country and probably a little bit about Obamacare too. We're going to bring that to you live as our cameras get ready to go in just a moment.


BANFIELD: So this is a shot in the arm that President Obama needs. Right as he gets ready to take that podium and deliver a live address about the economy, it turns out American business last month added 215,000 jobs to the roll. And that's the most in a year. Payroll processor ADP says that it was driven by gains in manufacturing and construction, and also the financial sector.

So the White House has it all planned out for him to take the podium any moment now in fact, and talk about the economy, specifically the growing income gap between the rich and poor. And with good reason because poll, after poll showing what troubled the Americans the most, even in this whole Obamacare debacle, etc., is the state of the economy. And when I say debacle, that seems to be the loudest voice about the Obamacare rollout, not necessarily how it's going to go, but how it's been going. So he's been getting pretty low marks on how he's been dealing with the economy. And today much of what's going to be said in the remarks hosted by the Center for American Progress, probably toward the economy, and there's the whole legacy thing. Getting the agenda set for the rest of his term. Probably that's a big deal too. So, we'll continue to watch that live picture and bring it to you as soon as he comes out to the podium.

In the meantime, federal investigators say the Rail Workers Union talked out of turn about what may have happened just before the Metro North commuter train wreck early Sunday morning in New York. They're objecting to a union representative's comments to CNN that the engineer of the train, William Rockefeller, nodded off at the controls.

Our Nic Robertson is live in the Bronx right now. So, what's exactly the problem? If that was the report that came directly from officials, what seems to be the issue with it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the NTSB says that whatever partners they had in this union was one of those partners in the investigation, that there's a confidentiality agreement that they don't explain what's going on behind the scenes with the investigation.

Of course, one of the key things in the investigation, the interview with the train engineer William Rockefeller. And his union has come out, according to the NTSB, and if you will divulged what's been said and put their own interpretation on what's been said. And that breaks the confidentiality.

And the NTSB reacting very, very quickly within hours of that spokesman talking us and other journalists last night saying that no longer can that union be part of this investigation. It's a clear signal from the NTSB that they want to keep control of what's being said and the information coming out.

BANFIELD: Well, the interesting thing is, you would expect, if anything, the union to couch any kind of remarks and to be on the side of its membership. So, this is sort of an unusual development. In the meantime, what do we know about Mr. Rockefeller at this stage? Is he still talking? Is he cooperating with both the feds and local police?

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. That's what his union rep says, that's what his lawyer says, and that's what the NTSB say. They say they spoke to him about three hours yesterday. Talked to him the day before as well. So, it does appear that he's cooperating.

I mean, what seems to be happening here, perhaps this explains to some degree, why his union representatives would want to come out and put in the public domain how Mr. Rockefeller is feeling and the explanation that he has for what happened is he's very remorseful and been in tears and that he realized what happened and as acknowledged that it was him at the wheel nodding off for those moments, highway hypnosis, it's been called. Lack of concentration. His lawyer even struggling to find the precise words. But it's for that reason the union has become involved in it. And really, I think this is -- this is the thrust now. Not just for the investigation, but for the public's knowledge as well about what happened. And clearly this engineer very remorseful about what has happened here, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And the public's knowledge. Every morning I'm waking up to the massive headlines. "Eyes wide shut." Everybody seems to want to ascribe blame pretty quickly in this one. I'm waiting on the NTSB. Nic Robertson, thank you for that. Do appreciate it.

So the campaign slogan, are you better off now than you were a few years ago? That's the question many of us are living with every day. Whether we say it out loud for just think it in the backs of our minds. The president knows that. It may be why he's at this event in Washington, D.C. today to talk about the economy and you and what's going right maybe and what isn't going right and how that might be fixed. One thing he's not going to be focusing on, what ain't going right with respect to Obamacare. We're expecting him to make some comments about it, and we're expecting him in just minutes. Quick break. Back right after this. Live.


BANFIELD: So I just want to take you back live to Washington, D.C. We've been waiting on the president. He's a little later than expected, but there is someone at least at the podium.