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Moscow Commuters Squat For Free Subway Ticket; 52 Passengers Rescued Off Antarctic Coast; Hackers Reveal 4 Million Usernames on Snapchat; Brutal Winter Storm Blankets American Midwest; Colorado Starts Selling Legal Marijuana

Aired January 2, 2014 - 8:00   ET


MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: I'm Monita Rajpal in Hong Kong. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.

Passengers on a ship stuck off the coast of Antarctica for days are finally airlifted to safety.

Over 4 million Snapchat user names were posted to the web after hackers break in.

And earning a free ride on the Moscow subway by doing squats.

52 passengers stranded on a ship in Antarctica have finally been rescued. A Chinese helicopter ferried them to an Australian icebreaker earlier today. Their research vessel got trapped in the Antarctic ice more than a week ago.

Expedition leader Chris Turney posted his thanks on Twitter. He wrote, "we've made it to the Aurora Australus safe and sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese and of Antarctic for all their hard work."

But while the passengers are finally free, it's only the beginning of their journey to safety. It could still be weeks before the research team makes it back on land.

Anna Coren is following the story for us in Hong Kong.

Anna, so they've still got quite the journey, but what a journey it's been so far.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESOPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely. As you say, they were on a research mission. They got stuck in ice on Christmas Eve and they've been down in Antarctica ever since. But today, thanks to the Chinese and the Australians they've managed to get off that stranded vessel. And they are now on the Aurora Australus, that Australian icebreaker.

Now from there, once that ship gets permission it's going to head to Casey Station, which is the Australian post in Antarctica. It's about 1,000 nautical miles from where they are at the moment. And once they are restopped and supplied, they're going to head to Hobart, Tasmania which is the very bottom of Australia. That's about a seven day voyage.

But as you say, this could take several weeks.

But, you know, everybody is in high spirits. Everyone is in good health. They have a lot to be grateful for. And as you mentioned in that tweet that was issued earlier by that expedition leader, they are very grateful to everybody whose been involved in this rescue Monita.

RAJPAL: Give us an idea, Anna, as to how difficult this rescue mission has been. They've been stranded for over a week now and people haven't been able to get to them.

COREN: Yeah, absolutely.

I mean, the weather in Antarctica I think is completely unpredictable. And certainly they've had bad weather in recent days just to get to that stranded vessel. They never were able to get close to it. I think they came within about 12 nautical miles and then the Chinese icebreaker flew a helicopter, landed close by to that vessel. And in, you know, batches of 12 to 15 passengers, they ferried them back to the Australian icebreaker.

So the weather has been a problem. As you would have seen from those pictures, it had blue skies today, clear skies, perfect conditions, really, for this rescue, but the weather has been a bit problem as has the ice.

22 crew on board that Russian research vessel, they will stay. They've got plenty of supplies to last them several weeks. They're hoping that the ice will dislodge soon and they'll be able to make their way home, Monita.

RAJPAL: All right, Anna, thank you for that. Anna Coren there live for us from here in Hong Kong.

As South Sudan edges toward the brink of civil war, there are new hopes for the agreement of a ceasefire. Representatives from the government and rebel groups are set to meet in Ethiopia to end weeks of ethnic bloodletting. Two South Sudanese states have seen horrific violence and scores of civilian deaths since clashes between government troops and rebels broke out in December.

About 180,000 people have been displaced. And the UN has expressed grave concern over the discovery of a large number of bodies and evidence of gross human rights abuses.

Arwa Damon has been following events on the ground in South Sudan. She filed this report from the capital Juba.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Individuals representing both the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former vice president and now rebel leader Riek Machar have arrived in Ethiopia's capital with more individuals expected to be coming there throughout the day.

Talks anticipated to begin possibly as soon as this evening or within the next few days.

But these talks do not by any stretch of the imagination mean that there has been a cessation of violence on the ground here in South Sudan. The government declaring that state of emergency in two areas. The state of unity, that is where much of the country's oil resources are located, also Jonglei State. Both of these areas are largely currently under rebel control.

But the United Nations is warning that even if a ceasefire is implemented, that does not necessarily mean an end to this violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's been killings, fighting, grave human rights violations and atrocities committed. We've seen evidence of apparent ethnic targeting of South Sudanese on ethnic grounds. This can lead to a perpetual cycle of violence that can destroy the fabric of the new nation.

DAMON: At stake is the very identity of this young nation. The UN saying that the country right now is at a crossroads. So far this conflict has cost at least 1,000 lives, 180,000 people internally displaced and more than half of them have not made it to the safety of UN compound. Grave concerns for their situation.

It is believed that they are largely hiding out in the bush without access to food, clean water, or medical resources.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Juba.


RAJPAL: Pervez Musharraf has been hospitalized on the same day he was due to appear in court on treason charges. His lawyer says the former Pakistani president fell ill and was taken to hospital on doctor's orders.

If convicted, the former leader could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty for suspending the constitution and imposing emergency rule in Pakistan in 2007. His trial has now been postponed until Monday.

Vladimir Putin is vowing to tighten security across Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics. The Russian President was in Volgograd on Wednesday talking to survivors of two terrorist attacks that left more than 30 people dead.

As Jill Dougherty reports, Mr. Putin wants to reassure the world that Russia is safe to host the Winter Olympics, which take place in just 36 days.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A somber New Year's Day for Russian President Vladimir Putin laying red roses on the site in Volgograd where a suicide bomber blew himself up on a trolleybus, one of two attacks in just 24 hours that killed 34 people. Then, to the hospital to visit some of the 64 injured.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): The abomination of this crime or crimes that were committed here in Volgograd does not need any additional commentary. No matter what motivated the criminal's actions, there is no justification for committing crimes against civilians, especially against women and children.

DOUGHERTY: Putin is vowing complete annihilation of the terrorists and promising to beef up security across Russia.

There's been no claim of responsibility yet, but suicide bombings are the hallmark of the Chechen terrorist dubbed Russia's Osama bin Laden, 49- year-old Doku Umarov.

In March, 2010, his female suicide bombers attacked the Moscow metro at rush hour, killing at least 40 people and injuring more than 100.

Chechnya, once a war zone, has largely been pacified. But the terrorists have simply moved to neighboring Dagestan, 600 miles away from Sochi where Russia will host the Winter Olympics in little over a month.

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Clearly at the games, the opportunity to do an attack is going to be much, much tighter than any place else. So if they do an attack outside of Sochi, is it any less significant? Is that any less of a victory for the terrorists and less of a defeat for Putin? I would argue it's not.

DOUGHERTY: A worrying trend, young Russians radicalized by Islamic extremists. Russian media reporting that the suspect in the Volgograd train station bombing is a medic, Pavel Pechyonkin, who reportedly became a Muslim in 2012 and moved to Dagestan.

His distraught parents followed him there, but he disappeared.

They recorded a video. His mother saying, "Pavel, I'm appealing to you. Please come him. We'll do anything. Please come home."

But Pavel answered in his own video posted on a terrorist website.

"I came here so that Allah would be pleased with me so that I would deserve heaven. And you cannot deter me from this path."

Putin won the support of many Russians because he's been able to crack down on terrorism. These attacks could undermine support for him at home and shake international confidence in his ability to protect the games.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.


RAJPAL: You're watching News Stream. Still to come on the show, Snapchat users exposed: hackers leak personal details of millions who use this photosharing app.

Formula One legend Michael Schumacher remains in critical condition in hospital. We'll take you live to the French Alps for a closer look at the ski trail where he fell.

Plus, wild weather in the U.S. is causing chaos and residents are bracing for more.


RAJPAL: Let's turn now to the red hot rhetoric that's coming from North Korean leader Kim Jong un. Well, he welcomed in the new year with new threats. Brian Todd tells us how analysts are interpreting Kim's message.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He calls the U.S. and South Korea, quote, "war maniacs." Says those nations are deploying forces, girding for nuclear war with his country. And North Korea's menacing young leader Kim Jong un delivers this warning for America.

KIM JONG UN, PRESIDENT OF NORTH KOREA (through translator): Should another war break out on this land, it will result in a deadly nuclear catastrophe and the United States will never bee safe.

TODD: What are western intelligence agencies interpreting in that rhetoric?

BRUCE KLINGNER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: What they're seeing is that North Korea once again is blaming the U.S. and its allies for the high level of tensions on the Korean peninsula rather than North Korean actions themselves.

They're also threatening, as they have been for the past six to nine months, that they already can hit the United States with a missile, perhaps nuclear tipped.

TODD: This is Kim Jong un's first public speech since the execution of his uncle Jang Sung-taek last month. And his first personal comments about it. Without mentioning the uncle by name, Kim called him part of a group of, quote, "counter revolutionary factionalists" and said their removal unified North Korea.

But the purge of Kim's uncle and others close to him signified huge internal upheaval.

MIKE GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The violence and publicity behind this take down of the uncle Jang Sung-taek may cause -- will cause great fear among the elite in North Korea for the near future. But the next time Kim Jung un starts to move, then the general or the family member, the party leader who sees it coming may strike back first.

TODD: That may have been the case with Kim's uncle. South Korean officials and media said recently Jang Sung-taek had control of lucrative fishing grounds. They said Kim wanted to take them back, hand them to the military and a gun battle broke out between forces loyal to the uncle and North Korean soldier.

Kim was enraged when soldiers were killed in that battle, according to those reports, and moved against his uncle.

It all signifies the dangerous, unpredictable nature of this young North Korean leader. In his New Year's message, Kim Jong un said there should be improved relations between North and South Korea. But analysts say he's likely to launch another provocation soon. And if he does, South Korea's President Park Geun-hye is much more likely to retaliate than her predecessors were.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


RAJPAL: Still to come here on News Stream. We are learning more about the final moments before Michael Schumacher's tragic skiing accident. Stay with us for the latest. Details on that.


RAJPAL: Welcome back.

The New York Times editorial board, well it's making its case for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. In a piece published today. The paper calls for clemency for Snowden, the former NSA contractor is wanted in the U.S. on charges of espionage. And he is now living in Russia under asylum.

Part of the editorial says, quote, "when someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government."

The Guardian also put out a similar piece today that comes to Snowden's defense. The British paper argued that Snowden deserves clemency.

Well, for more now, let's go to Athena Jones who joins us live from Honolulu. She's traveling with the president right now and he's there on vacation.

Athena, so what kind of reaction has there been to these two major publications asking for clemency for Edward Snowden?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Monita. Well, no reaction from the White House on this editorial, this strongly worded editorial, neither of these, from the New York Times or The Guardian. But the editorial board is calling Edward Snowden as whistleblower for exposing the extensive surveillance operations of the National Security Agency and saying that it's time for the United States to offer Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency.

Snowden's revelations about the NSA not only tracking Americans phone calls, but even listening in on the phone calls of world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sparked an uproar here in the U.S. and all around the world and launched a bit debate about privacy issues.

Now you just read the key portion of the New York Times editorial saying that a person like Snowden revealing this information shouldn't be - - shouldn't face life in prison at the hands of the same government.

It went on to say that President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden's vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

The editorial also notes that two federal judges have said the NSA violated the U.S. constitution and that special panel that was appointed by the president himself should review the NSA's operations has recommended major changes to those operations, Monita.

RAJPAL: There have been calls for Snowden's freedom or amnesty, I should say, in the past. And the president has answered those. What does he say?

JONES: That's true. He was asked -- the president was asked about this right before he left to come here to Hawaii for Christmas vacation in that press conference. He was asked specifically about remarks made by a man named Rick Ledgett, he's the one heading up the NSA's task force dealing with these leaks from Edward Snowden. Ledgett told CBS News that it was, quote, worth having a conversation about granting Snowden amnesty if Snowden would agree to stop leaking additional material.

The president at that point said, look, as important as it is to -- and as necessary as this debate, this debate about privacy that Snowden's revelations helped spark, as important as that debate is to have, he said those same revelations have done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence and to U.S. diplomacy. And he said that he's going to leave it up to the attorney general and the courts to weigh in publicly on this case, because it's already being dealt with in the justice system -- Monita.

RAJPAL: All right, Athena, thank you very much for that. Athena Jones joining us live from Honolulu.

Let's get you an update now on the health of Formula One legend Michael Schumacher. His manager says he is in critical, but stable condition. Doctors have said it's still too early to speculate about his long-term prognosis. The 44-year-old suffered severe head trauma on Sunday in a skiing accident in the French Alps.

Let's get you the very latest now. And Jim Boulden joins us live from outside the hospital in Grenoble, France. And Jim, are we expecting any more updates today?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, we're not expecting any updates today from the doctors nor from his managers Sabine Kehm who yesterday is the one who told us that he is now considered to be stable, but still critical.

The doctor said several days ago they weren't going to keep updating the media every time they do a procedure, every time something might change unless it's a dramatic change in the health of Michael Schumacher.

They did brief his manager this morning and she chose not to give us any update. So it has been more than 24 hours now, Monita, since the doctors informed us -- well, that Sabine informed us -- that he was critical, but stable and a number of days since the doctors performed their second operation. In fact, that was Monday night when they were able to relieve some of the pressure in his brain.

Of course, the brain swells inside the skull when you have severe brain trauma, which is what he had on Sunday when he crashed, of course, in Meribel while skiing onto his head. So, we can only say now that the doctors have said it's hour by hour. We're trying to say now that they're not giving us updates, so as far as we know stable, but critical.

And I should just notice -- note, Monita, that tomorrow, Friday, is Michael Schumacher's 45th birthday. He does remain in this medically induced coma that he's been in since he was brought to this hospital in Grenoble since Sunday, Monita.

RAJPAL: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Boulden there live for us from Grenoble in France.

Now in the days since Schumacher's accident, we have been learning a little bit more about what actually went wrong on the slopes that day. CNN's Christina Macfarlane traveled to the French Alps. And she skied down the off-piste run herself. Take a look.


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was here on this ski slope on a sunny day in the resort of Maribel that Michael Schumacher set out with his friends and 14-year-old son for a ski run that would end in disaster when he fell and struck his head on a rock.

(on camera): This is the area where it said Michael Schumacher fell just a few days ago. It's a small area, just in between the two peaks here, and if you look down, you can see rocks jutting out to the left and right and fairly large holes just underneath the surface of the snow.

(voice-over): The first people to respond to the scene were the Ski Patrol, who were located a short distance away in this hut. Francois Debroux helped to direct the rescue operation.

FRANCOIS DEBROUX, SKI AREA MANAGER, MARIBEL: It's a normal procedure for us. Having a witness saying that someone fell and they saw some blood on the head. So for us, we knew it was a quick rescue to proceed. This, I realized, clearly seen as being off-piste, and it was off-piste, as we have many, many slopes behind us where you can see the limits. Maybe you can see there, the limit between the slope and outside the slope is something which is -- which seemed to be obvious for us and which seemed to be obvious for the skiers.

MACFARLANE: A local ski instructor tells us the snow conditions have been very uncertain in recent days.

AMANDO PAYAN, SKI INSTRUCTOR: Weird. Yes, it's not clear. It's not as usual when you have much snow because it's all white. You think there is many, but there are not many, actually. There are rocks everywhere.

MACFARLANE (on camera): So this whole area here is quite chopped up. It's icy in places and it's bumpy. It's not exactly the easiest ski ride.

(voice-over): I was keen to see for myself how the snow felt, and so carefully, we traced the route.

(on camera): I have skied quite a lot of off-piste in my time, but that was really quite difficult and shaky in places. As I was skiing, the snow was deep and I could feel some of the rocks just under the snow.

(voice-over): As Michael Schumacher remains in intensive care, his injuries prove that no skier can be certain of the hidden dangers of skiing off-piste.

Christina MacFarlane, CNN, Maribel.


RAJPAL: You're watching News Stream. Still ahead, white-out. North Americans prepare to get pummeled by a huge snow maker. The blizzard could cause big disruptions if you're planning to travel.

And high hopes in Colorado. It's the first state to sell marijuana for recreational use, but are businesses ready to fill the need for weed?


RAJPAL: Hello, I'm Monita Rajpal in Hong Kong. You are watching News Stream. And these are the headlines.

All 52 passengers trapped on a research ship in the Antarctic have now been transferred to an Australian icebreaker. Chinese helicopter carried out the rescue mission. 22 crew members will stay behind on the Russian vessel until the ice breaks up and allows it to move again.

Hackers have exposed the personal details of more than 4 million users of a popular photo and video sharing app Snapchat. User names and partial phone numbers have been posted on a public website. That site is now suspended. The hackers say they want the app developers to include better security measures.

Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has taken a turn for the worse. Doctors say his vital organs are shutting down and he is in critical condition. Sharon has been in a coma since suffering a stroke eight years ago.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is in hospital. His lawyer says Musharraf was admitted for a treatment on doctors orders. He was supposed to appear in court on charges of treason. The accusations stem from Musharraf's decision to suspend the constitution and impose emergency law in 2007. His lawyer described what happened.


AHMED RAZA QASURI, LAWYER FOR PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: He was in the process of moving toward the court, he had suffered some ailment and for that he was immediately, instead of bringing him here, shifted to AFIC armed services institute of cardiology, which is one of the top institutions, radical institution of the country regarding the heart diseases.

So, he is now admitted there. And we are all praying for his long life and health and speedy recovery.


RAJPAL: Ever since Pope Francis uttered the words "who am I to judge" when referring to gays, it appears the attitude of the Catholic Church has softened a bit. One example involved a transgender homeless immigrant who was beaten to death in Rome.

As Erin McLaughlin reports, she has finally received a Catholic burial.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Andrea Quintero was described as a gentle soul and a devout Catholic. While known to charity workers, Andrea gave this interview to local media just days before she was brutally beaten to death. They have yet to find her killer.

Four years ago, transgendered and homeless, Andrea left Colombia for Italy looking for a society that would accept her for who she was, a man who felt like a woman.

VLADIMIR LUXURIA, TRANGENDER ACTIVIST: She has been treated by life like the cigarette butts that she was picking up from the streets because she didn't have the money.

MCLAUGHLIN: But in Rome it was no different. In fact, it was worse. She was abused on a regular basis.

On July 29 here at Rome's main railway station where Andrea lived with other homeless people, her body was found beaten and stabbed.

That very same day, on a plane ride from Brazil to the Vatican, Pope Francis uttered the five words that have come to define his papacy, "who am I to judge," his response to a question about gays and the Catholic church.

And so on December 27, what was previously unthinkable happened, Andrea was honored here with a Catholic funeral in a prestigious Jesuit Church in Rome.

LUXURIA: I was surprised. We haven't been acknowledged by the Catholic church. It is as if the Catholic Church say we feel the way you feel you are.

MCLAUGHLIN: Months after her death, no one from her family has come forward to claim her body. Even so, government officials, activists, even the mayor of Rome gathered to pay tribute to Andrea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The priest talking about her spoke using "she." I think it's a very symbolic gesture of what happened today.

MCLAUGHLIN: What does that say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That everybody is equal.

MCLAUGHLIN: Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Rome.


RAJPAL: In the northeastern United States, extreme winter weather is set to create havoc. Boston is one of several areas that have declared a snow emergency. And New York City is bracing for more than 22 centimeters of snowfall. In all, over a dozen states are facing some type of winter weather advisory. And the National Weather Service says this complicated storm system is expected to bring freezing temperatures and dump up to 30 centimeters of snow in some areas.

So certainly not -- it's fun if you're indoors, Mari Ramos, but it's fun to watch and play in if you don't have to go to work, but if you're traveling it's going to be frustrating.

MARI RAMOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yeah, it's going to be very frustrating for a lot of people. And you know what, because it's going to be so cold, Monita, it's even going to be difficult for people that want to play in the snow, because we're talking about frigid temperatures that are dangerously cold. And that is a huge concern for authorities across this region.

Look at the radar image over here. We -- the white, of course, is all the snow that's falling all the way from New England all the way back over into the Ohio Valley here. You can see it.

And then of course farther to the south, we have a cold rain that continues to fall until that cold air begins to move in.

So, some of the snowfall totals already pretty impressive and we're just getting started. And Detroit 18 centimeters, Indianapolis had 12 centimeters of snow. And Chicago is not done quite yet and they've already had 18 centimeters of snow.

The temperature in Chicago right now is minus 8, that's the actual air temperature.

One of the big things -- it's not only cold, it's going to be windy across much of the country. And in Chicago right now when you factor in the wind, it feels like minus 15. So we're -- that's what I meant about dangerously cold conditions.

But even so, some are still brave enough to stand out there in this freezing weather, such as our own Ted Rowlands. He is right outside of Chicago in Naperville, Illinois. Ted, tell us, what's the latest from your part of the world there?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's cold and it is snowing. I don't know how brave we are. They're making us stand out here as part of the job, but it's actually not that bad right now. The temperatures are going to drop very, very -- even worse in the next few hours.

It started snowing New Year's Eve day and, quite frankly it just has not stopped.


ROWLANDS: Throughout the night, snow continuing to pile up in Chicago. Millions from the Midwest to New England will be impacted by the New Year's first major snowstorm, bringing with it blizzard-like conditions and dangerously cold temperatures. Some parts could see more than a foot of snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seemed like it's been snowing since we -- winter got here.

ROWLANDS: Boston already declaring a snow emergency and planning to close public schools on Friday, the massive winter storm already wreaking havoc.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay off the road.

ROWLANDS: More than 200 spinouts reported in Minneapolis alone as ice blankets the roads. Frigid temps complicating rescue efforts in the twin cities as firefighters had to be rotated in and out of the front lines of this raging apartment fire.

CHIEF JOHN FRUETEL, INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our nozzles have a tendency to freeze up if we don't keep them flowing water. ROWLANDS: In upstate New York, lake-effect snow is the story, more than two feet of the white stuff on the ground already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was hard on the businesses last night because people had reservations to go out to New Year's Eve and they couldn't get out.

ROWLANDS: The deep freeze will have parts of the country feeling temps well below zero.


ROWLANDS: If you think that's cold, take a trip up north to Winnipeg, Canada, where the temps hovered around 40 below zero, colder than the surface of Mars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This storm is something else.


ROWLANDS: It sure is something else. And for the last day or so, it has been warm enough so kids have been out playing in the snow. They're off for a holiday this week. Most folks in this Mid west, that's all going to change as these temperatures plummet, Mari.

Biggest problem, transportation, O'Hare has over 1,00 cancellations. They're expecting more. Holiday travelers trying to get back if they're coming through Chicago may have some issues. That's the biggest problem. And it's uncomfortable.

RAMOS: Oh, yeah. I'm sure it's going to get dangerously cold like you mentioned. Any word of shelters or anything that are open for people that might not have proper heating or a place to go?

ROWLANDS: Yeah. It's a huge problem for the homeless whenever a large storm comes in that lasts for more than a day or so. So in cities across the country, efforts are being made to open up more shelters or identify the homeless population that is in jeopardy.

And you got it, when the temperatures drop this low, it is dangerous. And so it has local officials with their hands full trying to help people into shelters and make sure they're safe.

RAMOS: OK, great. Ted, you try to stay warm, you and your crew out there. I know they're making you stand out there in the cold, but be safe. Ted Rowlands there reporting there from just outside of Chicago in Naperville, Illinois. Thank you so much.

Well, let's go ahead and move on. This winter storm system, a classic n'oreaster. That's there in the Mid West, but as Ted was telling us, it's going to be affecting areas in the northeast as well, so it's not quite over yet.

And then once all of this is said and done, that cold air will plunge into areas farther to the south. But the snow, combined with the cold, combined with the wind is going to be the major concern across all of these regions. Boston, like we said, snow emergency.

What a difference, though, compared to what's happening across Europe, Monita. Temperatures have been very mils. And even though it has been snowing in some of the higher elevations, and even raining quite a bit and raining quite a bit to the south, across much of Eastern Europe, actually it's been pretty mild, minus 3 in Moscow, that's not the coldest I've seen it in quite awhile. We've had these storm systems that move across the northwestern corner of Europe and then we have high pressure in place that has kept things well above the average as far as temperature goes.

We even have some trees that were starting to bloom across portions of central Europe, including Berlin some cherry blossoms were starting to sprout there.

10 degrees above the average in many, many places. And that's since mid-December. Over the next couple of days, even though it's getting a little bit colder, even for you in Moscow where you had, what, the warmest Christmas on record and one of the warmest New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on record? Temperatures will be below freezing, finally. But your average is minus 7 and you'll barely be making it to about minus 1 or 2. It's minus 3 right now. That's one of the coldest days you've had in quite a long time.

Central Europe will get some moisture from this next weather system and also pretty messy here across the western Mediterranean all the way back up into areas of North Africa.

And then to the north, those heavy bands of rain that haven't changed too much, as you can see there. And in the east, partly cloudy. Enjoy it while it lasts, because you know winter can come very quickly.

And this story, I just want to update you on the weather in Argentina. They have an energy emergency, because they've been in a heat wave for so long. In this picture, you see a fire there in the background. Part of the protest and this woman banging some pots and pans. Earlier this week, a lot of people took to the streets to protest the lack of electricity and water supply across many areas.

What a difference, huh? Now we have some clouds moving in, that heat wave finally breaks today and tomorrow. That is going to make a huge difference across the areas, but it is going to be short-lived, I'm afraid. Even though we get back to normal at 27, 28 degrees closer to the average.

Look at this Monita, like a little staircase the temperatures in Buenos Aires rising back up well above the average. So all those people without electricity unfortunately are not going to have too much, I'm afraid, of a break. Back to you.

RAJPAL: All right. Mari, thank you very much.

Hackers appear to have taken personal data from millions of Snapchat users. Over 4 million usernames and partial phone numbers were posted online on Wednesday. The hackers told Tech Crunch they did it to urge Snapchat to tighten security, ironically.

The company has yet to respond to the hack.

Now if you're not familiar with Snapchat, here's a quick guide. It's a picture messaging service for smartphones. Take a picture like this, you can draw on the picture to add a message, then send it. But there is a catch. Snapchat messages will disappear. The person receiving the message has been one to 10 seconds to view the picture and then it's gone.

Now so how many people use Snapchat? Pretty good question there. The company has never actually said how many users it has, but it has seen a notable service because of who its users are: teens. One recent study by University College London suggests that Snapchat is one of a number of services that are even threatening Facebook.

Author Daniel Miller wrote a study of teens in the UK show Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. That could explain why Facebook reportedly tried to buy Snapchat. The Wall Street Journal said the service turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook.

U.S. President Barack Obama's signature health care law faces a new high stakes legal test. Most major rules of Obamacare took effect on Wednesday. And officials say more than 2 million people have signed up for coverage so far. But some religious groups are objecting to a provision in the law. Athena Jones reports.


JONES: Today could be the first real test for Obamacare as doctors offices, clinics and pharmacies reopen after the New Year holiday and more than 2 million Americans get a chance to try out new health insurance plans.

MARY-THERESE: I've been waiting a long time for January 1, 2014.

JONES: President Obama's allies at Organizing for Action have been busy promoting the new law. And President Obama himself sent out a new year tweet saying, "I signed the ACA for kids like Marcellus Owens. He lost his mom because she couldn't afford coverage. Today, millions of Americans finally can."

Owens was at the president's side when he signed the bill in 2010.

But questions about the health care program persist. One administration official tells CNN they have no way of determining whose actually paid for coverage. And the White House has yet to reveal who signed up.

The law was also thrown a judicial curve ball right as it was supposed to take effect. An emergency ruling by Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor temporarily halts a mandate in Obamacare that requires religious affiliated nonprofits to provide contraception coverage for their employees.

ERIC MARRAPODI, CNN BELIEF BLOG CO-EDITOR: They're saying the Affordable Care Act infringes on their religious liberty by forcing them to buy birth control that conflicts with their religion.

JONES: Despite fierce opposition from Catholic and evangelical leaders, the president has defended the mandate.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We decided to follow the judgment of the nation's leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care.

JONES: In response to Sotomayor's order, a White House official said we defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters, but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance between contraceptive care and religious objections.

Athena Jones, CNN, Honolulu.


RAJPAL: Still to come here on News Stream, a new Colorado law has some enterprising retailers flying high over booming sales. See who is lining up to buy after the break.


RAJPAL: Welcome back.

Japan's demographic difficulties are well documented. The number of deaths each year are greater than the number of births. And it has been that way since 2007. But health officials are saying the gap last year is a new record with the natural population decline rising to nearly a quarter of a million people and the number of deaths is said to be the highest annual rise since World War II. Remember, around one-quarter of the Japanese population is aged 65 or older. And that's nearly 32 million people.

The government expects the elderly will make up 40 percent of the population by 2060. As its population ages, Japan faces high pension and medical bills. And if trends continue, it will not have enough working age people to sustain the economy.

But here's another way to think about this graying nation with the world's longest life expectancy and one of the lowest birth rates, Japan is expected to see sales of adult diapers overtake those of baby diaper by 2020.

Now, in Colorado some residents were ready to start 2014 on a bit of a high note. Hundreds lined up to be among the first in the U.S. to buy marijuana for recreational use legally. Casey Wian visited one of those stores making history.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This married couple rang in the New Year by waiting outside the Evergreen Apothecary at 2:00 in the morning, six hours before recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado.

(on camera): Why was it important for you guys to be here so early and be first in line?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we're pioneers.

WIAN (voice-over): Some 800 people took a number at this store on day one alone, some waiting in the snow, to select their preferred strain of pot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a cross of O.G. Cush, Mandola (ph) Cush and Sweet Tooth.

WIAN: And the first legal deal was done.


WIAN: It's been a long time coming. Since the sale of alcohol resumed after the end of Prohibition 80 years ago, marijuana has been on the target of authorities. "Reefer Madness," a propaganda film from the 1930s portrays the descent of high school pot smokers into a life of crime and insanity. But attitudes and laws have since changed.

Colorado first allowed medical marijuana in 2000. It took 12 years before voters here approved Amendment 64, legalizing recreation pot use and sales over the opposition of the state's government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, this is the forefront. To be a part of history and to -- Prohibition has ended.

WIAN: Colorado residents age 21 and over can purchase up to one ounce of marijuana. Out-of-staters can buy a quarter ounce.

MIKE OWENS, CUSTOMER: I'm excited. I've been dreaming about this since I started smoking.

WIAN: There are other rules. No taking marijuana out of state, no consumption in public. The main concern for law enforcement, no driving stoned.

JACK FINLAW, CHIEF COUNSEL, COLORADO GOVERNOR'S OFFICE: If someone is drinking and driving, they're driving too fast or aggressively. If you're under the influence of marijuana, you're likely to be slow. But, frankly, we've had medical marijuana in Colorado for about 13 years. So, we're used to dealing with people who are driving and consuming marijuana.

WIAN: For new recreational retailers, the biggest concern is demand exceeding supply and the possibility of shortages and higher prices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A candy like taste to it.

WIAN: Here, it's already going for $50 per eighth of an ounce.

Casey Wian, CNN, Denver.


RAJPAL: Well, the new year has really gotten off to a bang in Taiwan. Remember that giant rubber duck that's on a world tour, it even was seen bobbing around our Hong Kong Victoria Harbor for awhile last year, well the 19 meter tall duck unexpectedly exploded in Taiwan.

Organizers think changeable temperatures increased the pressure inside to the breaking point, or perhaps a blower that keeps it inflated isn't working properly. Don't worry, though, folks repairs are well underway.

So far the giant duck has traveled to 13 cities in nine countries and regions since 2007.

Now, when most of us think of celebrating the New Year, giving birth might not come to mind. But one family brought in 2014 with twins born in different years. I love this story. As Hank Silverberg reports, it's an emotional way to close one chapter and open another.


HANK SILVERBERG: Here they are, Lorraine Begazo (ph) born 11:58 New Year's Even at Washington Hospital Center and a brother Brandon born three minutes later the first minute of 2014. Their father, Warren Begazo knew twins were coming, but it was the timing that made it very emotional.

WARREN BEGAZO, FATHER: Receiving a present for new year is a (inaudible) that you are receiving the first seconds of a new year is speechless emotionally overwhelmed. I'm full of joy and hope and I really (inaudible)

SILVERBERG: Lorraine (ph) checked into the world at 5 pounds 10 ounces. Her little brother at 6 pounds 4 ounces with mommy Lainey (ph) doing just fine.

BEGAZO: I was kind of sad all these (inaudible) years because, you know, when I leave this planet my son will be alone and (inaudible). It breaks my heart. And you know, he won't be able to have nephews, nieces, and it was really hard for me. And that was really one reason why I do this.

DYLAN BEGAZO, BROTHER: When I was growing up, I always asked him for sibling, but they never came. And he didn't want me to be alone, because he said family is what matters, love and family.

SILVERBERG: When Brandon and Lorraine grow up, they're going to have a real good story to tell about how they were born and where and when.


RAJPAL: Great story.

Russia will soon host the 2014 Winter Olympics, but athletes aren't the only ones working up a sweat ahead of the games. Up next, we'll show you how Moscow commuters are getting into the Olympic spirit and they're earning a free ride on the subway at the same time.


RAJPAL: We have a bit of programming note for you. Because a landmark CNN series is returning this Saturday, Cold War charts a tense power struggle that played out around the globe and defined our world today. The series is narrator by Oscar nominated actor and director Kenneth Branagh. You can see it here on CNN on Saturday at 7:00 pm here in Hong Kong.

Well, Russia is gearing up to host the Winter Olympics. But this Russian gymnast isn't training for the games here, she is earning herself a free ticket on the subway. Phil Black headed to a Moscow metro to put an innovative new ticket machine and his fitness to the test.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Beneath the freezing streets of Moscow is the city's underground train system, the metro. It was a source of great pride to the Soviet Union. Some of its stations and platforms are spectacular.

This is a recent attempt to build national pride with the metro. These people are buying tickets. With the Winter Olympics coming to the Russian city of Sochi next February, the government wants people to get excited and get moving. Instead of accepting 30 rubles for a ride, about one dollar, this machine allows people to pay with 30 squats.

We saw lots of enthusiasm, some big age differences, and interesting techniques. Sometimes there was even a lineup. But the numbers were still pretty small. There was only one squatting machine for the whole metro system, which moves as many as 9 million people a day.

The regular ticket booths were getting a lot more traffic. So I asked this woman, why you lazy? Apparently that's a rude question in Russia. She denied it and accepted the challenge. I held her handbag. She squeezed out a confident 30. Apparently you can't call other people lazy without having a go yourself.

BLACK (on camera): OK. It is a bitterly cold Moscow day. What could possibly go wrong? A very popular one, I've noticed, has been, here we go, the superman. It's not counting. There's also the squatting chicken. I've seen that a bit. That's popular. The dancing, Cossack, pretty easy, or so I thought. Fifty-nine, 60. (inaudible) said one more time.

BLACK (voice-over): Annoyingly, he was right.


BLACK (on camera): No, it said...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to do it all over again.

BLACK (voice-over): Everyone else seemed to be much happier with the experience. They told us they'd like to see more of the machines and think it's a great way to build Olympic spirit.

Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.


RAJPAL: Before we go, we leave you with a sad note. The hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a staple television program in many American homes in the 1990s. Beloved Uncle Phil, remember him, was the tough yet lovable character who acted as a father figure to his nephew, a role model made famous by Will Smith.

Well, actor James Avery who played Uncle Phil, he died on New Year's Eve. His manager said he had complications from open heart surgery. James Avery was 68 years old.

That is News Stream for this Thursday. The news continues here on CNN. I'm Monita Rajpal. World Business Today is next.