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Northeast Gets Big Snow Again; Winter Storm Delays FedEx Shipments; Colorado School Shooter Heavily Armed

Aired December 15, 2013 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Still one week until winter, and a fast-moving storm is pummeling the Northeast, dropping more than a foot of snow. More than 1,000 flights canceled. Road crews on high alert and even FedEx shipments are facing nationwide delays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the winner is Jameis Winston, Florida State University.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Jameis Winston, the greatest college football player of the year. But these days, the Heisman trophy these days doesn't guarantee an illustrious career in the NFL. Jamal Anderson breaks down the Heisman curse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been listening -- to what Americans are saying.

BLACKWELL: Oh, they just could not resist, could they?

"Saturday Night Live" poking fun at the scandal surrounding the Mandela memorial interpreter. And he was not the only person who feel the heat.

Your NEW DAY starts now.


BROWN: We're looking for that "SNL" skit last night knowing it was going to happen.

BLACKWELL: Yes, waiting for it.

BROWN: Well, good morning, everyone. So nice to have you here with us on this Sunday morning. I'm Pamela Brown.

BLACKWELL: Certainly a pleasure. I'm Victor Blackwell, 8:00 here on East Coast. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

BROWN: The calendar is about to catch up with the weather that we're experiencing. In fact, winter starts next Sunday. BLACKWELL: Yes, already the third big storm in recent weeks is burying upstate New York and New England this morning. And this system left a thousand-mile trail of snow across the Midwest. Imagine that. Places like Chicago, and Detroit and Cleveland, we got several inches of snow that need to be shoveled off or plowed somewhere today.

BROWN: Yes. And Alexander Fields is out there, in the thick of it, in that cold, yucky weather this morning, in Woburn, Massachusetts.

So, tell us, Alexandra, how bad is it?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, it's going from scenic to sloppy pretty quickly. Take a look at what we're seeing here in Woburn.

We have about six inches of snowfall overnight. This is just about ten miles outside of Boston. But it's quickly turning to slush. This is the same kind of mess we're seeing all over the Northeast this morning.


FIELD (voice-over): The sights and sounds of a fierce winter storm. Overnight, the large swath of snow and ice moved into the Northeast, packing a punch that has many in the region digging in for a long winter.

LARS NELSON, POTTSTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: We've got plenty of salt, the back roads are starting to stick a little bit. It looks like it's coming down pretty good now, though. They might get a little worse, especially the back roads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to stay in for this and get out of the way.

FIELD: Boston's mayor, Tom Menino, cautioning everyone this holiday season before the worst hits his city.

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON: Be very careful as you come back from those (INAUDIBLE) this evening. The roadways, there'll be snow on them. And I ask you, when you celebrate, celebrate responsibly.

This is a snowstorm that is a major proportion. (INAUDIBLE) way to handle it.

FIELD: The 1,000-mile path of this system has put states from Kansas to Maine in the bull's eye, with winter storm warnings and watches across the board. Airport delays caused by the storm are forcing many flights to be canceled with a ripple effect being felt coast to coast.

Dangerous conditions on the roads are also a major factor. At least one person was killed when a car slid off a Missouri interstate.

But in New England, the Massachusetts DOT says they're ready. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have almost 4,000 pieces of equipment. We have both salt spreaders and plows and really heavy pieces of equipment, as well as some specialized snow-blowing equipment.

FIELD: And yet, despite the blizzard-like conditions, not everything came to a halt. The annual Army game went on as planned. The Navy Midshipman beat Army for the 12th straight year in a row, 34- 7.

And Erin Flanagan got her wish of a white wedding. The Pottstown, Pennsylvania, bride and her groom said their "I dos" in the middle of a storm.

ERIN FLANAGAN, POTTSTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: I wanted to snow and I think snow is beautiful because I'm from Massachusetts. So, it works for me, and I got it.

FIELD: You hit the jackpot.

FLANAGAN: Yes, I did.


FIELD: A lot of people look forward to this first snowfall of the season. Early this morning, there were six good inches of powder. Now the rain came through and maybe made for this thick wet heavy snow. It's tough on the plows but they've been coming through, piling up the snow banks already -- Pamela, Victor.

BLACKWELL: They have to keep working through the night --

BROWN: They do.

BLACKWELL: -- to make sure people can get to work tomorrow.

Alexandra Fields, thank you.

BROWN: They have been hard at work.

And it might be cold and miserable to most in Massachusetts, but in New York, nothing gets them down. Tourists were out in Times Square, doing a little shopping as we see here. And, of course, the kids were out on the hills, sleds in tow.

BLACKWELL: But will it stick around?

Jennifer Gray is here with the forecast.

What's happening later today? Is it going to stick?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we'll have melting for sure, because some areas will get above freezing. But overnight and especially into tomorrow, very, very cold temperatures settle in. So, we could see a lot of that refreeze.

But we are seeing it pushing out. So the snow is over for most of you -- Washington, New York, Boston. Now we're just dealing with a little bit of snow in northern portions of Vermont, New Hampshire, also in northern Maine. Even Upstate New York getting some snow as we speak.

So, we'll zoom down a little bit closer and you can see Boston, the rain now pushing out. Still dealing with maybe a couple of flurries, a couple of showers, but nothing too major. As we take the storm hour by hour today, right around noon, you can see the snow basically in Maine and then northern Vermont, New Hampshire. It pushes out by 9:00 tonight, looking clear for most of us.

So give the flights a chance to catch up, a lot of delays yesterday and on into this morning. Snowfall amounts, pretty impressive. We saw a foot of snow in Upstate New York. North Haven Connecticut, about 7 inches, Boston 6, Central Park 5, and Chicago 4.

So, a lot of snow fell with the storm. We're also going to see breezy conditions today. It's going to be windy for you in Portland. Gust 48 miles per hour. Could see gusts of 27 in Boston, 29 in New York City as we go through the morning.

Those winds should relax a little bit as we go through the afternoon- -- Pamela and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jennifer, thanks.

You know, this weekend the snow was also creating a big problem for FedEx. The shipper says that high winds and the winter weather delayed some shipments out of the Memphis, hub. Now, FedEx also says if you're concerned about a delay, just check that tracking number on your receipt. Go to the Web site and find out where the package is.

A Colorado sheriff says that a school shooter Karl Pierson, he was heavily armed and out to hurt a lot of people.

BROWN: Pierson shot one girl, 17-year-old Claire Davis, at point-blank range. Right now she's in critical condition with a head trauma.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Ana Cabrera is live in Centennial, Colorado, just outside of Denver.

Ana, you're learning some new details about the shooting. What have you learned?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: School surveillance video providing some crucial details about what happened Friday afternoon. Now, we know that it took 1:20 from the time the shooter entered the school until the time he took his own life.

We've learned he bought the gun and the ammunition he used to carry out this crime legally from a local retailer in Colorado. He's 18. He purchased that gun on December 6th. He purchased the ammunition the morning of the shooting on his way to school.

Now, he fired five shots. One of those shot hit 17-year-old Claire -- and her name is Claire Davis we've learned. She was shot in the head. Severe head trauma, remains in critical condition right now.

The sheriff's office does not believe she was the intended target. But they believe that the shooter intended to cause a lot of harm. They say he came here not only with the gun, the ammunition strapped to his body. He also had a machete and he had a three Molotov cocktails inside a backpack.

He did ignite one of the Molotov cocktails inside the school library. That caused a little bit of damage. That's also where the shooter took his own life. But the sheriff says they believe the quick action by the school resource officer may have saved a lot more lives as the shooter realized he didn't have a lot of time to carry out his plan.


SHERIFF GRAYSON ROBINSON, ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO: The shooter came armed with a pump shotgun and had multiple rounds available to him. It is our strong belief that he came to this school with that weapon and with multiple rounds and his intention was to utilize those multiple rounds to cause harm to a large number of individuals.


CABRERA: The sheriff still believes the motive here is revenge against the school's speech and debate coach. Apparently, he had a confrontation and disciplined Pierson, who is on that team, sometime back in September. Even at that time apparently, Pierson made a threat against the speech and debate coach, but nobody believed that it would result in what happened here Friday.

BROWN: So disturbing. And let's go back and talk about the victim, Claire Davis, you mentioned earlier, Ana, she's in critical condition. Do we have any more word on how she's doing, what her family is saying?

CABRERA: Her family just saying they want everybody to pray for her. That she's not doing very well. Again, she has severe head trauma. In fact, a lot of people offering and lifting up those prayers last night in a vigil that was held nearby the high school. Candlelight vigil with the community members who came out to pray for not only her healing but also the healing of the entire community.

Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no happiness without suffering. What we're going through right now is part of -- these last 24 hours will not define us as was said. What will define us is how we rebuild and recover as a school, as a family.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: So, we're hearing a lot of strength and a lot of courage from this community and from the students here at Arapahoe High School. We do know the school district is providing some grief counselors and a traumatic stress counselors to these students to help them cope with what they've gone through -- Pamela, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ana Cabrera in Centennial, Colorado for us -- thank you.

BROWN: And now, the man who became the symbol of a new unified South Africa and an international icon of forgiveness has been laid to rest. A short time ago, Nelson Mandela was buried in his childhood village of Qunu in South Africa. A military escort carried the casket to its final resting place.

Quite a turnout here. Earlier today, some 4,500 people including heads of state and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, filled a giant tent for the state funeral for South Africa's first black president.

BLACKWELL: We are hearing and seeing the final moments of 19 firefighters who were overrun by a massive wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona. They remain stunningly calm even as they found themselves surrounded by flames.

BROWN: An American has been missing in Iran for six years. Was he secretly working for the CIA? We're looking into that, just ahead.


BLACKWELL: We're going to share those chilling moments we spoke about just a moment ago with you now.

You may remember that tragedy that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters. It was in Arizona. And it happened as they were battling the Yarnell Hill fire. That was in June.

BROWN: Well, for the first time, an audio recording of those final moments of the Granite Mountain Hotshots has been released. It's revealing just what these men faced as flames encircled them.

Elizabeth Erwin of CNN affiliate KNXV reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just saying I knew this was coming.

ELIZABETH ERWIN, KNXV REPORTER (voice-over): Seeing the Granite Mountain Hotshots working together for the last time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just feel it, you know.

ERWIN: Hearing Eric Marsh (ph) talk to his crew. It makes what happens next even harder to handle.

This is never-before-seen video, watching the Yarnell Hill fire creep closer and closer. GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOTS: Breaking in on Arizona 16. Granite Mountain Hotshots we are in front of the flaming front.

ERWIN: And hearing the Granite Mountain Hotshots react to the shifting flames. What you're seeing now comes from another firefighter's helmet camera. He was not with the Hotshots. But you can hear the final radio transmission just moments before the men died.

FIREFIGHTER: Is Granite Mountain still in there?

FIREFIGHTER: Well, they're in the safety zone. The black.

OPERATIONS: Granite Mountain, operations on the air to ground.

Air attack, Granite Mountain 7, how do you copy me?

FIREFIGHTER: Is that Eric?

FIREFIGHTER: I heard Granite Mountain.

FIREFIGHTER: I heard saws running. That's not good.

FIREFIGHTER: Not when they're in a safety.

GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOTS: Air attack, Granite Mountain 7!

FIREFIGHTER: This ain't good.

FIREFIGHTER: No, he's screaming.

OPERATIONS: OK, Granite Mountain 7, sounds like they got some trouble.

DIVISION ALPHA: Yes, I'm here with the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Our escape route has been cut off. We are preparing a deployment site. We're burning out around ourselves in the brush. I'll give you a call when we're under the shelters.

ERWIN: But minutes pass with no word.

FIREFIGHTER: So, did they deploy, they say?

FIREFIGHTER: They said they'd let us know.

FIREFIGHTER: You got your radio on?


ERWIN: As crews try to contact the men, they're met with silence.

BRAVO 33: Granite Mountain 7, Bravo 33 air to ground.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: That was Elizabeth Erwin of CNN affiliate KNXV reporting, just really chilling and powerful to hear that. That's audio is from an investigative team report. It says poor conditions contributed to the firefighters' death.

BLACKWELL: The silence was worst of all.

Hey. Coming up, if you got kids in the room, send them somewhere to read a book, you know? Kitchen, where you ever are, send them somewhere else, because a FOX News anchor is getting hammered because what he said about Santa Claus.

BROWN: Up next, we're going to tell you the comments that ignited a media firestorm. Stay with us.


BLACKWELL: Bunch of reports about one of the most secret and well-respected government agencies is now stirring up controversy. According to "The Associated Press" and the "Washington Post," Bob Levinson, the man on the screen, the American who vanished during a trip to Iran back in 2007, he was actually working as a spy for the CIA.

BROWN: For years, the government described Levinson as a private citizen on private business. On Friday, the White House pushed back against the reports.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Bob Levinson was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing in Iran. As there is an ongoing investigation into his disappearance, I'm not going to comment further on what he may or may not have been doing in Iran.


BLACKWELL: Let's talk more about this. We've got host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter with us. She's live from Washington.

Brian, good to have you this morning.


BLACKWELL: What's the damage here? And talk about the decision to publish them now.

STELTER: The only people who know if there has been damage are the people we can't reach, of course. That's whoever is holding this man, if he is still alive. One of the reasons why the associated press and the "Washington Post" and other news outlets decided to publish these stories this week is because, frankly, no one knows if Bob Levinson is alive or dead.

It's been years since there's been proof of life. And furthermore, the government doesn't have any leads that they're following up on, although some officials might dispute that.

"The Associated Press" actually released a statement that explained it. I think we can put it up on screen. It sort of explains some of their thinking. They said "The A.P." is reporting the story after holding it for years because nearly seven years after his disappearance, those efforts have repeatedly come up empty. The government has not seen any sign of life in three years.

So, essentially what they're saying is the importance of the story outweighs any damage it may or may not cause.

BROWN: All right. We're going to shift our focus to something else. This has been quite a talker in the media and beyond, Brian. You might want to get the kids out of the room for the next one. Disclaimer, everyone.

FOX anchor Megyn Kelly getting slammed for comments she made about Santa Claus, comments were in response to an article on "Slate" that discuss how Santa shouldn't be portrayed as white.

All right. Let's take a listen to part of what Kelly said.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: This is so ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it's racist to have a white Santa. You know? And, by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white but this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa.

Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change. I mean, Jesus was a white man, too. But it's like we have -- he was a historical figure. I mean, that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa. I want the kids watching to know that.


BROWN: All right. Brian, has she clarified her comments?

STELTER: It feels like the silly season, doesn't it? She did clarify her comments on Friday. She acknowledged that it's not a verifiable fact necessarily that Jesus was white. There's a long amount of literature online and in books about the origins of Jesus.

Of course, about Santa as well -- I don't think it's strange to say that Santa is whoever you want him to be, whatever skin color you want him to be. But this created this firestorm, thanks to this FOX News segment. The only thing that drove me crazy, we didn't see the writer of the article on FOX.

The writer said that they didn't call to book her when they talked about her article. We're going to bring her on on "RELIABLE SOURCES" this morning and talk about a wild week she's had to create this controversy. Aisha Harris will be on with us to talk about it.

BLACKWELL: You know, and that's one thing I wanted to ask you really quickly. You said created this controversy. Is this created to get more attention for her show?

STELTER: You know, I'm sure that Megyn Kelly when she brought it on the show thought it would be a buzz creator. It worked. If she's going to talk about it on the show, have guests on, she should invite the writer of the story that she's talking about. Later in the week, she said she invited her and declined.

But she'll be on "RELIABLE SOURCES" this morning and it will be interesting to hear what her week has been like.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I want to hear more about that.

Verifiable fact she said.


BLACKWELL: Brian Stelter, good to have you.

STELTER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And you can watch "RELIABLE SOURCES" this morning at 11:00 Eastern, where he will have much more on Megyn Kelly's Christmas controversy.

All right. Still to come on NEW DAY, the East Coast digging out after this massive snowstorm. And it ain't over.

BROWN: Yes, it's not far from over. We're going to tell you who got hit the hardest and why FedEx is feeling the chill even.


BROWN: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back everyone. We appreciate you spending part of your Sunday with us. I'm Pamela Brown.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell, pleasure as always.

Five things you need to know for your NEW DAY now.

Up first: that massive snowstorm. It's dumping snow across a thousand-mile stretch of the U.S. Some parts of upstate New York got a foot of snow. Travelers are getting hit with delays, of course, including more than a thousand canceled flights. Even FedEx is feeling the impact. The company says high winds and, of course, the snow disrupted service at its hub in Memphis.

BROWN: And number two, South Africa's beloved Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest. The country's first black president was buried today in the village where he grew up. A military escort carried his flag-draped casket to its final resting place.

Earlier, more than 4,000 people, including Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Prince Charles and Jesse Jackson attended a state funeral.

BLACKWELL: Number 3, the Obama administration says about 15,000 sign-up forms that were completed on never reached insurance companies. Most of the failures happened shortly after the site launched in October.

Officials say that since major site fixes took effect and that was December 1st, enrollment errors have been "close to zero."

BROWN: And number four, the stars of the reality TV show "Sister Wives" have won their lawsuit against the State of Utah. A federal judge ruling in the case struck down part of a state law that bans polygamy. According to the ruling, the state ban on cohabitation violates a person's constitutional rights to due process and religious freedom. Utah officials are expected to appeal.

BLACKWELL: Number five there is a new Heisman Trophy winner. Florida State Star Quarterback Jameis Winston he was awarded college football's most prestigious prize last night. He's just 19 years old and he's now the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy since its inception back in '35. Now Winston will lead his team against Auburn in the BCS Championship game. That's January 6th -- also, Jameis' 20th birthday.


All right we've been talking a lot about the weather this morning. That winter storm over New England leaving behind plenty of snow to shovel.

BLACKWELL: Let's check in with Alexandra Field who is in Woburn, Massachusetts this morning. So we've seen things kind of melt throughout the morning. Give us a quick tour.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right absolutely, Victor. Take a look at this tree we showed you this to you a couple of hours ago. And it was covered in snow. And now you can see the water actually just dripping right off of that tree. We had a lot of moisture in the air early this morning of sort of light rainfall and that made the lovely coating of powder that we got very heavy and wet. This is that really moist, tough snow.

This is tough to shovel. So if you can wait for it to melt, I imagine that some people will want to do that. But the plows are not waiting. Take a look at the streets out here in Woburn. You can see that the plows have been through they've been coming through all morning. These roads were salted and sanded in advance of this storm. So it's making conditions a little more bearable right now.

But this is a town that got about half a foot of snow it's the same total that were seeing in Boston. We're just about ten miles outside of Boston right now. So people who have been waiting for this and looking forward to it well they'll wake up this morning and hopefully they will start to get their fill of some of the snow this season -- Victor, Pamela.

BLACKWELL: Yes and they'll start to get a fill of the ice.

BROWN: Yes. BLACKWELL: Because once the temperatures dip and all that's melted it's going to freeze over. Alexandra Field, thank you very much.

And if you need more proof that it's winter, you know where you can go -- the airport. Look at the board. Alerts for delays and cancellations hit millions of travelers this weekend. The storms pounded the country from Kansas to Maine.

BROWN: But while the skies may be clearing, finding a seat on another flight might not be so easy. Jennifer Gray has been following that story. So Jennifer I'm one of those people who is going to be traveling today hopefully.


BROWN: What can we all expect?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes good luck to you. I was delayed just a little bit last night. But it wasn't so bad. And luckily, this morning most of the airlines are reporting no delays. This is our flight tracker map. And all of these little planes on here, these are planes that are actually in the air. So looking good across the country we're not seeing any delays in any of the major airports right now.

But we could possibly see delays as go through the afternoon and later this evening. And a lot of that will be due to wind, also low visibility, a couple of showers in the New York area, Boston will see rain, snow, very high winds in Boston. In Florida we're going to some showers and storms start to push into that area as we go through the afternoon. That could slow you down. Also Detroit could see low clouds and snow showers later this afternoon.

I was mentioning the winds and look at this. This is 11:00 this morning. You could see wind gusts of 45 in Portland, 29 in Boston, 30 in New York and Washington. And as we go through the afternoon, they should relax just a little bit. So those airlines will be playing catch-up for the most part today. But hopefully things will -- will start to even out, especially with the storm system pushing out and the skies will be clearing -- Pamela and Victor.

BROWN: All right a bit of good news there. Jennifer Gray, thank you.

BLACKWELL: You know it's not just snow, though. Because the community in northeast Florida, they're cleaning up this morning from an apparent tornado. Authorities say a twister may have touched down -- may have touched down in four spots in the city of Palm Coast. Good news -- no one was hurt. But several homes were damaged and more than 2,000 customers lost power. And officials are expected to determine today if a tornado really did form.

Still to come on NEW DAY, the Pope is breathing new life into the Catholic Church, a lot of people agree with that. But will his message stick or is this just new packaging and the same old product? We're talking about that next.


BLACKWELL: In today's "Faces of Faith", we're talking about branding and the Catholic Church. Now any fan of "Mad Men" can tell you the secret to your brand is messaging. You don't like what people are saying -- change the conversation. Old product getting stale -- remind people how much it means to them.

BROWN: This year Pope Francis has done just that. He's revitalized the Catholic Church and reenergized the faithful with his message of hope and inclusion. But can the messaging, the branding, can it last? That is the big question.

Here to discuss I'm joined by CNN religion contributor Father Edward Beck and Joey Reiman, author of "The Story: A Purpose, the Path to Creating a Brighter Brand, a Greater Company and Lasting Legacy." It's so great to have you both with us. Thanks for joining us.

BLACKWELL: Hey Father Beck I want to come to you first because the Pope responded to some of his critics who called him a Marxist than maybe not some but one -- Rush Limbaugh, let's use the name -- for speaking out against what he called the tyranny of capitalism. Now in the interview with an Italian newspaper the Pope said this. "Marxist ideology is wrong but I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended."

I want you to respond to one the claim that the Pope is a Marxist and then the Pope's response.

REV. EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well I think what the Pope is saying really is maybe some of the tenets of Marxism kind of built on a socialist ideology where you share goods and when someone who doesn't have you make up what they don't have. Perhaps in an ideal world, there's some value to that political entity.

However, it has been corrupted by political regimes as we know. So he's saying I don't want to be associated with Marxism because of how it's come to be in history but perhaps I know good Marxists who do good things and good work. So maybe it's not so bad if you associate me with them because maybe the end goal is an ok one.

BROWN: All right Joey I want to go to you now.


BROWN: You know it's interesting here. The Pope hasn't necessarily changed the doctrine he just wants to change the conversation, change the perception of the church. Tell us how has he been able to do this?

REIMAN: Well for one, I'm Jewish and I'm following him on Twitter.

BROWN: You go out right there. REIMAN: So that talks to his massive appeal. And it's really not just the message it's that media. I mean he is -- this Pope is a pop star. He has brought heaven down to earth. He's speaking to the masses about compassion and about his own passion.

And any great brand has three elements. Passionate, they create the dialog with their customers and there's a sense of constancy. You're constantly in touch with him. I'm following him every day and I'm sure everyone else is. And that's what he needs, followers.

BLACKWELL: Now Father Beck needing followers there's this Pew Research Foundation poll that found that there's really not been a change in the number of Americans who are now going to church since Pope Francis was elected. You see the number here from you know 2009, 41 percent sliding down to 39 percent in 2013. I mean is this just a very charismatic man or is this in some way going to translate the numbers?

BECK: Well Victor, first of all, I have seen a change in local parishes where I help. There is an increase. And some people come up to me and they say we're here because we have faith in this church again.

I want to add one quality to branding that Joey perhaps left out. And that would be authenticity. People have to believe the brand is authentic. And I think what we're seeing with Pope Francis is this authenticity. We're seeing the same man that we saw when he was Cardinal Archbishop in Argentina, who eschewed the palace there and did the same thing in Rome, who lived among the people. He's taken really the papacy from the palace to the streets.

So yes, I think there is a branding. You know what it's called? Baptism. It's the same branding as all Christians. Is to walk in the path of Jesus and he's trying to do it authentically. And I think that's why it's resonating with people.

BROWN: You think that probably played a large role in why he was chosen in the first place.

REIMAN: Yes absolutely like any great brand he's gone back to the ethos of the church. Though he's done something incredible he's represented religion and the church and Jesus in a more modern, truer version of itself.

BROWN: But really quick, you know he's also pushed back against focusing on Catholic stance on abortion, gay marriage. Does he risk alienating his base, the people who actually attend the mass instead of just tweeting about them?

REIMAN: Well actually, I think he's very focused on uniting humanity and really not dividing it. So I think you're going to -- I think there's going to be more appeal than ever.

BLACKWELL: How does this trickle down, Father Beck, beyond -- well I don't want to say trickle down. Let's change that. We talked about the Pope. We've talked about the parishioners. But the leadership of individual churches, between the Pope and the people, how does that affect the leaders and communities in the church?

BECK: Well, I think we have to now take our lead from our leader. So it's very interesting to me. Remember last Holy Thursday when Pope Francis went to wash the feet of the juvenile prisoners and he washed the feet of a woman and a Muslim woman at that. We know there are some dioceses in the United States that say you can't wash the feet of women on Holy Thursday. It has to be just men because the disciples were all men.

But what I think pastors this year would be very hard-pressed to exclude women from the washing of the feet. You have the Pope, the head of the so-called corporation, doing it. Then everybody can do it. So you think we're taking our lead now from someone who is saying this is the mission of the church. Get with the sheep, smell like the sheep, put yourself there. You're not above. You're meant to serve. That's the real brand. Serving like Jesus served. Who did he serve? The outcast, the leper.

So when he puts his face, this Pope against that man with all of those boils on his face --



BECK: -- how much more Christ-like can it be than Jesus who touched the leper? It's exactly the same thing.

BROWN: Really he's one of the people.


BROWN: All Father Edward Beck, Joey Reiman thank you so much for being here with us.

BLACKWELL: And for more stories on faith, be sure to check out our belief blog it's at

So thousands hit the street in Ukraine today.

BROWN: And a key U.S. senator is there to show support for protesters. We're going to talk to CNN's Candy Crowley about it up next.


BLACKWELL: Republican senator John McCain, a key voice on foreign policy, is in Ukraine this morning with words of support for protesters there.

BROWN: Tens of thousands of people jammed central Kiev today and they went Ukraine -- they want Ukraine, rather, to look west and forge closer ties with Europe. Instead, their government often looks to Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We are here to support your just cause. The sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently through all Ukrainians -- America stands with you.


BLACKWELL: Ok. Senator McCain joins Candy Crowley on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" at the top of the hour. Candy is with us now.

"America stands with you." Is he speaking for himself and the American people? Is he speaking for the administration when he says that?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: Well, whether he's on an official mission, no. Is he in sync with the administration, absolutely. The Secretary of State particularly when there was a violent crackdown against the anti-government protesters in Kiev, Secretary of State Kerry condemned it. A State Department spokesperson has also come on board and said negative things about, particularly when the protests were attacked by government forces.

So he's on the same page just slightly different from speaking for the president. He's there as far as we know, on his own. But nonetheless, speaks along with the administration from the same playbook.

BROWN: Candy, also you're going to be talking to Colorado's governor. Tell us about that.

CROWLEY: We just want to get -- you know they had a shooting at a school on Friday, left a young student in critical condition in the hospital. The shooter is dead, killed himself. We want to talk to Governor Hickenlooper about that. The latest on that, what they know. This shooter entered the school heavily weaponized as they say. Had a lot of stuff with him -- It was quite visible. That's obviously one of the questions.

But one of the things that seemed to have worked this time was the shelter in place practices that the students have done, at least they talked about that when they came out. We have to talk about safety and also the latest in the investigation.

BLACKWELL: All right. Looking forward to it, Candy Crowley -- again, with U.S. Senator John McCain at the top of the hour. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And stay here for "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley. She'll talk with Senator McCain from Kiev. It starts at the top of the hour at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

We've got a question for you. What do you think is the best and the biggest story of 2013?

BROWN: That's a big question. There's a lot of big --

BLACKWELL: Yes, a lot have --

BROWN: -- stories this past year. Starting tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, we hope you'll tell us. All you have to do is go to and there you're going to see a list of some of the most covered store of the 12 months.

BLACKWELL: Now from our list of 20, we want you to choose 10. Voting for the top stories of 2013 will continue until, well, the end of 2013 -- December 30th, actually, the day before the end. At 9:00 a.m. Eastern on live television and online, we will reveal your top ten stories of 2013.

BROWN: Yes, it should be fun. And don't forget to vote.

BLACKWELL: Still to come -- an up close look at NASA's new superhero robot. What does that even mean? We'll explain the science behind the humanoid.

BROWN: And we'll also get the latest look at this weekend's snowy forecast right after this. Also flight cancellations, as we see, unfortunately.



BLACKWELL: So what's 6'2", it 265 pounds and fighting for a chance to live on Mars?

BROWN: Why, of course, NASA's new super robot. It might look like something out of a science fiction movie, but this technology could one day save your life right here on earth. CNN's Chad Myers has more.


CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Technology of the future -- it's always been something reserved for places like the movies. Take "Iron Man" here.

Well, not anymore. The future is now -- moving off the big screen and right into the lab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet Valkyrie, 6'2", 125 kilograms. Superhero robot.

MYERS: Valkyrie has got it all: cutting edge arms that detach, mounted cameras from head to toe and sonar sensors. It even has the glowing circle in its chest that would make Tony Stark smile.

It took NASA nine months from design to build to produce this humanoid machine. Capable enough, the agency says, to enter disaster zones and provide search and rescue function. Maybe even one day go to Mars. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly, NASA will send robots ahead of the astronauts to the planet. These robots will start preparing the way for the human explorers.

MYERS: The first Valkyrie has another mission: to compete in a robotic challenge sponsored by the Department of Defense.

GILL PRATT, DARPA ROBOTIC CHALLENGE: The Valkyrie robots that NASA at Johnson Space Flight Center has been building really an extraordinary machine. Of all the robots, it's the one with the most degrees of freedom, the most joints that can move around. And it's really quite sophisticated. And I have very high hopes for it.

It's related to the robonaut, which is a robot that's on the space station right now but the robonaut doesn't have any legs. It can't move around. And so what NASA Johnson Space Flight Center is trying to do is to see whether they can add that capability that the robonaut has right now to use its arms and to perceive things with its head and also add some mobility to the platform. It's very exciting.

MYERS: 17 teams from around the world will be competing in the trial where teams will attempt to guide their robots through physical tasks that include testing mobility, dexterity and perception.

PRATT: What is so exciting about this is that we're actually trying to make the future. I have been reading science fiction books about robots ever since I was a little kid -- Isaac Asimov's stories and much more recent stuff as well. It's really an extraordinary thing to see these robots begin along the very long path to get to where they're actually going to be useful to help us in our lives.

MYERS: Chad Myers, CNN, Atlanta.


BLACKWELL: Thank you, Chad. Tower cam, live look here at Lowell, Massachusetts.

BROWN: This is the scene in a lot of places right now. It's only 23 degrees there right now and they're expecting a little more snow and rain today.

BLACKWELL: Too much. Jennifer Gray is here with the forecast for the week, one more look.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. We are seeing the system continue to push out and so the northeast looking better and better by the minute. You can see most of the snow now is basically in Maine and then also in northern New Hampshire, Vermont, upstate New York. All of the D.C. area, New York and even Boston, completely clear -- maybe left to just a couple of light showers around the outside of the city but most of you looking very, very good.

We are going to continue to see those skies clear as well. So as we take this hour by hour, you can see that most of the snow will be pushing into Maine by noon today and then out of here completely by this afternoon. So the snow will be gone, the rain will be gone. We'll be left with basically our winds. So it will be very, very windy. As far as snow totals go, though, throughout the rest of the afternoon, we could see two to four inches in Vermont, New Hampshire, also we could see up to a foot, though, in northern Maine. So it is going to continue to be snowy there -- elsewhere though looking better.

Wind gusts in Boston this afternoon, 29 miles per hour, 45 in Portland. So guys, it is going to be breezy today. So we could see a couple of flight delays due to that.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll add them to the list.

BROWN: Yes. Hard to believe that winter doesn't officially start until next Saturday.


BROWN: Crazy.

BLACKWELL: Jennifer Gray, thank you.

BROWN: Thank you so much. And that's it for us. We appreciate you watching us on this Sunday

BLACKWELL: Certainly. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now. Have a good day.