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New Year's Freeze; Evacuations After Fiery Train Crash; Olympic Security Concerns; Critical Test For Obamacare; Girl's Life Support Extended; Trying To Free Al Qaeda Hostage; Death At Logan Airport; Helicopter Airlift for Stranded Passengers; Wall Street Ready to Close Books

Aired December 31, 2013 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: They're celebrating all over the Shire this new year, 2014 for Frodo and Bilbo and friends. And as we all know, Gandolf is an expert with the fireworks.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: He's actually bit of an expert from many years back, if you will. We'll take a look at some of the celebrations throughout the morning because we thought this would be the best way to end 2013.

ANA CABRERA, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: They apparently play the same music there we do here.

BERMAN: It's a small world after all.

PEREIRA: It really is. It really is. So Happy New Year --

BERMAN: Midnight in New Zealand.

PEREIRA: It's always drinking time somewhere John Berman says.

CABRERA: At this early hour sometimes it feels like it's the middle of the night.

PEREIRA: It certainly does. Michaela Pereira, John Berman and Ana Cabrera here to celebrate the last day in 2013 with you. Kate and Chris both have the day off. We wish them a happy new year. We start with this discussion of bitter, bitter cold and even dangerous cold, right here in the U.S. People in the eastern half of the country now feeling the coldest air of the season so far, parts of the Midwest and the Upper Midwest are enduring subzero temperatures.

Check out Minneapolis where it will feel like 18 below zero tonight. It will feel like 7 degrees in Chicago, 11 in Boston and 21 in New York City where lots of people, including our Jennifer Gray, who's in for Indra Petersons, will be watching, the weather and New Year's begin from a cold Times Square. You're there before all of the party kicks off. It's still very cold.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Let me just tell you, I can tell you, it is cold out here. It feels like the teens, actual temperatures in the low 20s. We are about 18 hours away from all the excitement here in Times Square when that ball will drop. It will be packed. Let me just give you one key word, layers is what you will need. We were here yesterday and talking to the folks and they are getting excited. They're not letting the weather stop them.


GRAY (voice-over): A brutal freeze is gripping the eastern half of the country in the final hours of 2013.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a cold day, but it's a fun day.

GRAY: Revelers are bundled up and ready to watch the ball drop in New York's Times Square where temperatures will feel like they're in the teens tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's freezing. I've learned layers. I'm all layered up.

GRAY: The bitter cold temps won't keep people away from the excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lots of layers and we'll keep together and we'll have a good time.

GRAY: New York is not alone. The Midwest is contending with even colder temps for their festivities. Parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan are under wind chill warnings and advisories. The extreme bitter temps are hard to fathom in some parts. This landmark waterfall in Minneapolis, frozen solid with wind chills in Northern Minnesota Monday plummeting to 50 below zero.

The windy city will mark the New Year with temps in the teens and wind chills that feel like 10 below. Winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour created dangerous conditions for drivers in Minnesota and North Dakota Saturday. The arctic blast is also triggering heavy lake-effect snow for parts of the Great Lakes and the New Year is expected to get off to a snowy start.

Two weather systems converge on the first day of 2014. One model suggests that New England and parts of the I-95 Corridor could get hit by a powerful nor'easter, packing heavy snow and bone-chilling temps that could be the coldest in years. Some estimates have the storm dumping as much as 6 inches in New York and 10 inches in the Boston area.


GRAY: Guys, while it will be cold in Times Square, this is not going to be the coldest spot. A lot of areas in the country feeling temperatures 20 and 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill. It will be very cold, the cold air that's in the north will move to the northeast over the next couple of days. And you can see temperatures are just going to plummet.

We'll be in the single digits across much of the north as we go through the next couple of days, as that cold air makes its way to the northeast, we'll see temperatures in the teens by Friday. They do recover a little bit by the weekend. If you are ringing in the New Year anywhere across the country, chances are you are going to be cold. Look at Minneapolis, Happy New Year with 18 degrees below zero. Wow.

PEREIRA: Jennifer Gray, to make you feel better, take you back at least in your mind to New Zealand where it's 55 degrees and it's already New Years. Doesn't that make you feel better?

BERMAN: This has been going on for 5 minutes. They know how to party in New Zealand.

PEREIRA: Can you imagine sitting on the beach and being able to enjoy New Year's?

BERMAN: I wouldn't say I'd rather be there because it's not true. I'd rather be with you --

PEREIRA: You wouldn't hurt Ana and my feelings.

BERMAN: It would be nice to be there, let me say that.

PEREIRA: That's OK. I'll let it slide at this point.

Jennifer Gray, stay warm, bundled up. I'll have to send hot chocolate down for her. It's going to be cold tonight there at Times Square tonight. Be sure to tune in from the warmth of your own home at 9:00 p.m. Eastern because we'll send Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin back for more fun. I love to see how many times Kathy can make Anderson blush.

BERMAN: That's a party, folks.

PEREIRA: Tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

BERMAN: We want to turn now to a situation that is very serious and very scary in North Dakota. Many people being forced to leave their homes after a fiery train collision, two trains, smashing into each other about 25 miles west of Fargo. One of these trains was carrying crude oil, the other apparently derailed. The impact triggered a series of explosions and now officials fear the smoke from the burning wreck may make people nearby sick.

Look at that fireball, folks. We're joined now by Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney on the phone from Casselton. Sheriff, I do understand you advised people in your town about 2,300 people that it would be a good idea to evacuate.

SHERIFF PAUL LANEY, CASS COUNTY, NORTH DAKOTA (via telephone): We did. Last night, we issued an evacuation order. It was a mandatory order, but we strongly, strongly recommended that people recognize the order and evacuate the community. I would say we're guessing, it's a rough guess at this point, but probably 65 percent of the community has evacuated, especially those closest to the scene. BERMAN: What is the current situation? Are the flames still burning? Have you been able to do any tests on the air to find out if it in fact is toxic?

LANEY: Actually the testing crews are here. We just met with them a very short time ago. They have two or three crews taking readings from different areas, up near as close as they can get to the area and the additional housing that's nearby the scene and they're starting to spread their way out into the community and getting the readings.

The next few hours will tell us a lot, as far as the current situation, when we start bringing people back. Right now we're going to hold the line. The area is safe, people are out. Everybody's accounted for and at this point we're going to let the experts tell us what kind of readings they're getting.

The railroad crews are responding and getting set up throughout the night here and ready to attack the fire at daylight. So things are definitely happening and everybody's safe. Right now, no fatalities. No injuries. We're just very thankful for that.

BERMAN: You say no fatalities, no injuries. We've been looking at these dramatic pictures of the fireball and a huge explosion. No one was even hurt on board these trains as it happened? And I should also ask, no reports of any sickness in the surrounding areas from the air?

LANEY: As of now, no. What we've been advised by the railroad companies is that their crews are accounted for. There's been mixed stories that there may have been an injury from one of the train crews. That's not what's being reported to us at this point. But the crews are accounted for. You see the fireball and you see the damage and the aftermath, that's amazing that nobody was hurt.

And the closest house was about a quarter to half mile away. There were people inside their homes that could feel the heat from the explosion in their homes. Probably three-quarter mile away I had an officer setting up a perimeter. When one of the explosions went in her squad car, she could feel the blast inside her car.

BERMAN: It's just amazing pictures. The great news, as you say, no one injured at all, no fatalities here. We hope you can have a happy New Year and everyone in that community gets back to their homes as soon as and as safely as possible. Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, thanks so much for joining us.

LANEY: Thanks for having us on and thank you thinking of us.

PEREIRA: To Russia now where the Olympic focus is now squarely on security after two terror attacks this week in Volgograd. Authorities have found a link between the bombings Monday on a bus and Sunday at a train station. New video of that attack is sending shock waves through Russia with the death toll now rising and the countdown to the games now at 38 days.

Diana Magnay is in Moscow this morning to bring us up to date. Diana, we know that some of those that were injured succumbed to their injuries thus the death toll is rising there.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. A couple of people dying overnight of their injuries. There's a huge anti-terror operation going on in Volgograd right now. Michaela, there's something like 5,000 police and security officials there. That's including the regular police there and they're detaining people, searching their documents. There have already been just under 90 people detained, apparently mostly because they don't have documentation for weapons they were carrying.

You can get a sense of how deeply and thoroughly investigators are trying to look into this. They're also assessing the debris from both attacks, they say they have body fragments and they're trying to find DNA samples to identify who the bombers were and they've already reached some other conclusions.


MAGNAY (voice-over): Russian authorities have discovered a link between the two deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd. Monday morning's attack on a crowded trolley killed 16 and on Sunday, a massive explosion rocked the city's railway station. This chilling surveillance video captures the horrific incident.

At the security checkpoint where a suicide bomber detonated 22 pounds of TNT, killing 18. Authorities now say both bombs contained similar shrapnel, a sign they originated from the same region. The attacks highlight the terrorist threat that Russia faces as it host the Winter Olympic Games next month in Sochi, just 400 miles south of the devastation.

WILLIAM RATHBURN, 1996 ATLANTA OLYMPICS SECURITY DIRECTOR: All of the Olympic sites have physical security, electronic security. Everybody will be screened. I think it will be difficult for a terrorist to set off a bomb inside a village or venue.

MAGNAY: Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, is personally involved in security plans and promising maximum security in Sochi. Russian authorities say they will not change security measures they already have in place, confident they're well prepared. U.S. authorities have offered full support to the Russian government in ramping up security measures.

In a statement, the United States Olympic Committee says in part, "We're always concerned with the safety of our delegation and the Sochi games are no different in that regard," an effort by the committee to avoid a repeat occurrence of the bombing that killed two at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta.

RATHBURN: What concerns me is when you harden targets. You often force the terrorists to select softer targets. So that makes everything else in Sochi and the surrounding area vulnerable.

MAGNAY: Targets like transportation hubs, where tourists and athletes will travel to and from the games.


MAGNAY: Two issues here, can President Putin keep the games safe and does he, as he claims, have the north caucuses under control? Those two attacks would suggest he doesn't. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, our thanks to Diana Magnay in Moscow, following the story for us that's been going on down in Volgograd.

It's 13 minutes after the hour. A top Obamacare official suddenly calling it quits as actual coverage starts kicking in at midnight. Michelle Snyder was at the wheel when the website sputtered to a start in October and now she's the second high ranking health official to leave, retiring at this critical moment for the program.

CNN's Athena Jones is in Honolulu with the latest -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Michelle Snyder was the chief operating officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, responsible for supervising the rollout of She's retiring for personal reasons after 41 years as a public servant. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner called Snyder a key member of the agency's leadership team and said that Snyder had planned to leave last year but stayed on to help with the rollout.

This comes as health care providers, insurance companies and pharmacies prepare to deal with thousands of people who could find themselves in a health care coverage limbo starting tomorrow, thinking they've successfully signed up for coverage only to find out that they haven't. This could be due to incomplete applications or errors in transmitting their information from the health exchanges to insurers.

Now those folks who have paid their premiums should bring their insurance I.D. cards with them when seeking treatment or medicines. Some providers have said they'll be flexible with people who can prove they've signed up for coverage, but still a lot of other people may find if they don't have their insurance I.D. cards or their customer I.D.s when it comes to pharmacies that they'll have to pay out of pocket for the time being -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Athena Jones for us in Honolulu where they will be among the last to celebrate New Year's.

PEREIRA: It will happen.

BERMAN: Hang in there all day, Athena. Appreciate it. Let's go now to Ana Cabrera for some of the day's other top stories -- Ana.

CABRERA: Good morning, guys. Making news right now, a California judge extended his own order to keep a brain dead girl on life support. Jahi McMath will now be kept alive until January 7th. The original order was set to expire last night. Her family says a facility in New York has agreed to take her, but the California hospital won't help. That hospital says it's not had any serious talks with any facility about transferring Jahi and the girl had complications after a tonsillectomy. The State Department is reassuring the family of al Qaeda hostage, Warren Weinstein, saying a lot of people are working behind the scenes to secure his release. He was a consultant, helping with community projects in Pakistan when gunmen stormed into his apartment and took him captive. This was more than two years ago. It's believed al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is holding him.

A worker at Boston's Logan International Airport is dead. Investigators believed he was hit by a truck on the tarmac. This happened near the airport's cargo terminal near a parked plane. Police say the truck's driver will be tested for drugs and alcohol, though he did not show any obvious signs of impairment.

Gun owners in Connecticut are racing to meet a deadline to register their assault weapons and their high capacity magazines ahead of the sweeping new gun control law that takes effect tonight following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This new law widens the definition of assault weapons and bans the sale or the purchase of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

OK, listen up Netflix users, some of your favorite movies and TV shows -- well, they're set to disappear from the site come New Year's Day. In fact, more than 80 movies and a handful of TV shows will expire, no longer be available for instant streaming. Among those being purged are "Titanic," "Top Gun," the classics and "Being John Malkovich." Some seasons of "Saturday Night Live" even are set to expire.

The company says it frequently narrows its list of available items and say these have to go, while it brings other new items in.

And I have Netflix. I always have the hardest finding kind of the new hits. So, maybe this will help.

PEREIRA: I know, they've got to make room.

BERMAN: We shouldn't make light of this. This is serious stuff. Last year, they took away "Downton Abbey" from Netflix. And man --


PEREIRA: But as long as they retain our favorite "Keeping Up Appearances", the British comedy that I spent much time watching in the afternoon --

BERMAN: Oh, just so you can use the access. We're so lucky, aren't we?


PEREIRA: Next up on NEW DAY, it turns out helicopters may be the only way out for dozens of people still trapped aboard that ship in the Antarctic ice. We're going to have the latest on what is being done to get them out.

BERMAN: And we have the information you need to know to stay on the right side of the law in 2014. A lot of new laws taking effect at midnight. And if you're not careful, they could land you in some serious trouble.


PEREIRA: So glad you could join us for NEW DAY.

There is a new plan in place this morning to rescue some of the 74 people stranded on a ship in Antarctica. The Russian research vessel has been stuck in unusually thick ice since Christmas Eve. After three failed attempts by ice breaking ships, now, a helicopter will be used to air lift passengers.

Matthew Chance is live in London with the very latest.

Happy New Year to you, Matthew.


That's right. It's the new plan. In fact, the only plan, according to rescue workers, that is going to get these people out of that packed ice. They've abandoned all the attempts to reach the stranded research special by sea. Instead, they're going to air lift the passengers and some of the crew to safety once weather conditions permit.


CHANCE (voice-over): This morning, new video, dozens of passengers walking arm in arm, doing what they can to speed their rescue.

CHRIS TURNEY, EXPEDITION LEADER: We've just learned the Aurora can't reach us. So, they are preparing the helipad by getting the team to stomp down the snow and ice so the Chinese helicopter from Snow Dragon can reach us when the weather improves.

CHANCE: The weather conditions are not expected to get better until at least one more day. In the meantime, the crew has marked the spot in the ice where the chopper can land. Once it does, it will transport 12 people at a time to a Chinese ice breaker, then a barge will ferry them from the ice breaker to another ship from Australia.

The stranded research ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy, is set out to study climate change in Antarctica, retrace the steps of explorer Douglas Mawson, who studied life on the frozen continent a century ago. But they got stuck in thick ice.

TURNEY: This was big chunks of ice. Really thick, lots of years. Lots of years worth of growth. And we just don't know if we're in trouble here. But this is the no going to be easy. The captain was persevering and trying to get through that. You could tell it wasn't going to happen.

CHANCE: Since Christmas, three separate ice breaker ships have tried and failed to cut a path to the research vessel. Once the rescue does happen, a skeleton crew will be left behind. But for most of the 74 people marooned, this Antarctic ordeal may soon be coming to an end. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: And, Michaela, we're keeping a close eye on the situation as it develops there. At the moment, the winds are far too high we're told by the rescue teams for the helicopters to operate safely. But that could change within the next 24 hours or so. Back to you.

PEREIRA: All right. Matthew, yes, it's still a delicate operation. And, again, as you're saying, skeleton crew will stay on board. They're not abandoning ship altogether. They'll stay on board. They want to get those passengers, the eco-tourists if you will, out of there and to safety.

BERMAN: Yes. Matthew was saying the skeleton crew needs to stay by because there could be an economic calamity if the ship is left there and unaccounted for. So, they're going to take of it and apparently, they will be safe for sometime.


BERMAN: All right. It is money time now and it's the last day of a pretty amazing year for the stock market.

Business correspondent Zain Asher joins us now.


And what year it has been. We're about to close the books on the best year in stocks since 1997. Yesterday actually was the 51st record high of the year for the Dow. So, by this year, the Dow is up 26 -- I can hardly believe it by the way. The NASDAQ is up 38 percent and the S&P 500 up 29 percent. Pretty much three times what you'd find in a normal year.

Some pricey parties scheduled for tonight, if you're still making New Year's Eve plans. "Ripley's Believe It or Not" in New York City could cost you, if you ring in the New Year here, it costs you almost $1,000. Yes.

PEREIRA: That's not nothing compared to Cameo.

ASHER: I know. R Lounge in Times Square will cost you $8,500. Cameo Nightclub in Miami, they're offering 75 bottles of champagne in a meet and greet with rapper Lil Wayne, tell me people this is worth it, for $100,000.

But, of course, if you don't want to pay anything, the ball drop in Times Square is free. It will just be you and, of course, 1 million of your best buds as well.

PEREIRA: We can celebrate here with free bottles and John Berman.

ASHER: And if you want to watch the festivities on TV, check this out. This is actually the most expensive television in the world, $150,000, 110-inch model. Samsung basically started to sell it in South Korea. They say they've received 10 orders for it, all from the Middle East.

PEREIRA: The blue models are not included by the way.

ASHER: No word yet when it's going to be available in the U.S., which is a shame because I was thinking about ordering one.

BERMAN: Right, to go with your $100,000 New Year's party in Miami.

PEREIRA: And no Lil Wayne.


BERMAN: Our party is $7.99 right here on NEW DAY.

PEREIRA: And John Berman is our entertainment, right? Ana, Zain, you in?

ASHER: I'm in, I'm in.

PEREIRA: Happy New Year, and we're glad you're here with us.

Next up on NEW DAY, a spectacular eruption at one of the world's most famous volcanoes. We're going to take you to Italy where eyes are on Mt. Etna this morning.

BERMAN: Plus, danger on the slope. Why going skiing right now may not be the safest thing to do this time of year. We will have the details, coming up.


PEREIRA: Half past the hour. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Let's get to Ana. She has today's top stories.

CABRERA: Good morning, Michaela and John.

Good morning to you at home.

We're warm and toasty in the studio. We can't forget the folks who have to be outside today in the bitter cold start to 2014.

Temps expected to be in the 20s for ball drop in Times Square. Winds will make it feel even colder. In Chicago, we're talking teens. Some of the northern states might not get above zero degrees this week. Once the confetti has fallen, well, snow could follow. We could see a big storm developing for later this week.

Late-breaking developments now out of North Dakota where a massive fire is still burning after an explosive collision involving two different trains. Look at the fireball here. Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney telling NEW DAY just a few minutes ago that 65 percent of Casselton, just outside of Fargo, has now been evacuated because of all that thick, black smoke, still coming from the wreckage there.

Nearby homes were rattled by this explosion, people could feel the heat by as far as half a mile away. Crews are now on that scene just starting to test the air for toxins. So far, no reports of any injuries.

New video this morning of the Phoenix bank robbery suspect gunned down after a shoot-out with police. This is Mario Edward Garnett, seen walking around that bank with his gun drawn, making demands.