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Snowstorm Targets Northeast; Controversial Start To Second Term; Olympic Terror Threat; Two Dead In Omaha Collapse; Majority Oppose NSA Phone Spying; Student Shot On Campus; Bae's Family Apologizes to North Korea; Wendy Davis' Biography Questioned

Aired January 21, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, January 21st, six o'clock in the East.

Right now, a big, bad polar blast is bearing down on the Northeast, so nasty, it shut down the federal government. Take a look at the size of this system. Forecast is showing a frozen spine from the Mid- Atlantic to Maine. It's threatening to be a turbo-charged trifecta, up to a foot of snow or more, whipped by high-speed winds and then cemented with sub-zero windchills.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Midwest and plain states already feeling it. Take a look at this video from Bismarck, North Dakota. Drivers simply blinded by swirling snow. And if you're planning to fly, you might want to check with your airline before you head to the airport. More than 1,800 flights have already been canceled today ahead of this massive storm.

Our coverage begins this morning with George Howell in cold and snowy Chicago. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. So, you know, we get to kick it off right here in Chicago. We're seeing the first of this storm right here in the city and in this area, we're under a lake-effect warning, which means we are seeing the lake effect snow as it comes in. Take a look around here, you see that overnight, where we started with not a lot. We got some snow last night. Look at that snowplow doing its best to clear this plaza.

You're seeing that on the streets as well. In fact, this morning, I can tell you there were no cars on the street, which is sort of an odd thing here in Chicago. But again, you know, we're watching as those plows do the job of clearing these streets. As you mentioned, more than 1,800 flights canceled so far, and we're seeing snow right now in the Midwest from Fargo to Bismarck to here in Chicago.

And we understand that lake-effect snow warning through 9:00 a.m. Central. Then we understand that that storm will be barreling to the east. That's where we'll see the storm increase in intensity. So here in Chicago, it's cold, 5 degrees right now, and snow still coming down -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, rough morning in Chicago. Thanks so much. George, head inside. Let's get right over to Indra Petersons who is tracking the extreme weather minute by minute. Indra, we see what it's like in Chicago. What else we looking at?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, things are quickly developing. What we're looking at right now is still very typical Alberta Clipper. So kind of moisture starve, Chicago getting more of that snow and just some of that lake effect snow, but you can tell these totals pretty minimal. We need the low to intersect with the water, get all that moisture off the ocean. For that reason, the closer you are to the coastline, the heavier amounts of snow you are going to be seeing.

In fact, blizzard warnings already out for the Cape. That's what we're looking for the hot spot as much as 12 inches, a foot of snow expected there. But still look at these totals, New York, Philly, D.C., all looking about 10 inches of snow. Back towards Pittsburgh, a little unusual this time, two to four inches of snow in that region.

So what we are we looking at. It's that low. It's pulling that moisture off the ocean. Late morning hours, 10 to 11 in the morning, D.C., you are going to start getting that snow. At 11:00, 12:00 coming in towards New York City and then by Boston towards the late afternoon.

Now this snow hangs around all day long. Not until about 11:00 p.m. or so do we see it starting to exit out of the D.C. area. Overnight, New York City, Boston, you are still going to be talking about the snow. At 6:00 in the morning, that's where we're looking at it to be moving out of the New York City area.

But still in through New England throughout the day eventually exiting offshore. Keep in mind, this low strengthens as it makes its way up shore. Stronger winds as we go throughout the day. It's cold air so it's that kind of snow that's very dry. It's going to blow around quickly. Visibility expected to be low.

So winds gusting even 30, 40 miles per hour. Notice the temperatures below normal today. Highs only at 20s and 30s for New York City. Keep in mind, by tomorrow, they get colder, 22 degrees below normal. It's going to be feeling like single digits out there. It's cold snow so it's going to be blowing around a lot.

BOLDUAN: The highways are going to be rough.

PETERSONS: Everything is going to be really difficult, yes.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra. We'll be working on this throughout the day and probably likely into tomorrow, of course.

CUOMO: All right, let's go from the snowstorm to a political storm. In a few hours, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be sworn in for a second term. Now usually it is a shining moment, a fresh start, instead Christie is stuck in the past and in the political fight of his life. First, Bridgegate then allegations he bullied Hoboken's mayor in exchange for Superstorm Sandy aid.

Erin McPike is in Trenton, New Jersey following all the days' events -- Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we should see Christie in just about two hours when he begins his day at a prayer service. He'll be sworn in at noon and then parties at 8:00 tonight on Ellis Island, but all of this as he fights back new accusations of cronyism.


MCPIKE (voice-over): In his prepared remarks, the embattled New Jersey governor is expected to discuss the need for smaller government and unity among the people, but apparently, missing, the scandals engulfing his administration. On Monday, forceful denials and charges of lying flew back and forth between Chris Christie's Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Hoboken's Democratic Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

LT. GOVERNOR KIM GUADAGNO (R), NEW JERSEY: The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false.

MCPIKE: Guadagno, a Sandy victim herself, called Zimmer's accusations false and illogical. Zimmer spoke exclusively to Anderson Cooper on Monday night about the alleged threat.

MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER, (D), HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY: This isn't something that, you know, forget. When the lieutenant governor of the state of New Jersey tells you in a parking lot, you remember it. I was very upset. I did a journal entry a few days later.

MCPIKE: Zimmer also accused New Jersey Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable of intimidation for the project. He says the claims are absurd, adding, "I welcome a full and thorough law enforcement review of her libelous claims." Complicating matters, Zimmer herself has given different versions of her story and still supports Christie's record as governor.

ZIMMER: He has done very good things for Hoboken. I mean, I think he's done terrific things for the state. Overall, I do think that he has been a great governor.

MCPIKE: A new national poll from the Pew Research Center shows his unfavorable rating doubling in the past year from 17 to 34 percent. A majority of respondents who have heard of the George Washington Bridge controversy say they don't believe Christie when he said he wasn't aware his aides ordered the lane closures.


MCPIKE: And we can now share some of the excerpts of Christie's inaugural address that he'll deliver at noon. Of course, he is going to talk up his record of bipartisanship. He's expected to say, we cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C., the attitude that say I am always right and you are always wrong so still something of a national message -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Erin, lot to talk about today in New Jersey, thank you so much. But we have to talk about Russia as well. Happening now, a massive hunt in the streets of Sochi where the Olympic terror threats are escalating even more this morning because of this woman, you see right there, the woman known as the "Black Widow." It's feared that she has already breached a ring of security surrounding Sochi. And Russian officials say she's intent on launching an attack within the Olympic zone.

CNN's Phil Black is live with more from Volgograd, Russia. What's the latest, Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning. This wasn't supposed to happen. The Sochi security system was designed to keep terrorists out of the city ahead of the games, but now the suspicion is one has slipped through. And Russian authorities are so concerned they're asking members of the public to help them find her.


BLACK (voice-over): Russian police are racing against the clock to find this woman who they say may be working with a known terrorist organization planning an attack on the Olympics. And she may already be inside Sochi ready to strike.

JEFF BEATTY, SECURITY CONSULTANT: Obviously the Russian security forces are concerned that perhaps people have already penetrated their outer perimeter and are in Sochi.

BLACK: The 22-year-old Ruzanna Ibragimova is described as a black widow, a notorious type of suicide terrorists that's emerged in Russia's clashes with Chechen separatists. Police distributed fliers to hotels in Sochi and they're asking staff to be on the lookout for her. Experts say there could be other so-called black widows planning a strike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We shouldn't assume that she is the only they are concerned about. She's likely part of a larger network that they're looking at.

BLACK: Ibragimova is believed to be from Dagestan, a Russian republican in the caucuses region. In the U.S., law enforcement agents have been conducting knock and talk interviews with people from that region for weeks, asking community members if there are any issues where they should be focusing.

This morning, the Russian Anti-Terrorist Committee posted a statement saying they killed seven rebels in Makhatchala, Dagestan early last week. One of those killed is a black widow by the name of Zaira Alieva.

All of this after a new terror threat this past weekend from two young men in this video claiming responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Volgograd last month. They say, as for the Olympics, we're prepared a present for you. Terror analysts say Sochi is uniquely at risk because Islamic militant hotbeds are within the country leaving the Olympics closer than ever to danger. TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This group does not have to fly in from the Middle East or North Africa or Asia or some other remote location. They are already in the neighborhood.


BLACK: Black widows are a known concern in this country. They have struck and killed many times before. As you've heard, one was killed in Dagestan just on the weekend. This one is the real urgent concern because of the belief she has already entered the Olympic City -- back to you, Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A known concern in that nation and now a known concern for the world. Phil Black, thank you so much.

Let's take a look at the rest of the headlines now. In Nebraska this morning, the investigation is underway as to what caused a deadly collapse at an Omaha feed plant. Two people were killed, more than a dozen others injured when part of that building collapsed and burst into flames.

Dan Simon is on the scene in Omaha. He joins us now with the very latest -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. The company's called the International Nutrition. This is a company that produces feed and other products for livestock. Crews pulled out the body of a 53-year-old man last night. They suspended the recovery for the second body because it's just so cold out here.

Crews say there was some kind of fire and collapsed the top two floors collapsing onto the bottom floor sort of a pancake effect. In addition to the two people who died, ten people were rushed to the hospital, four of them in critical condition. This is a company that has had problems in the past. A couple years ago they were fined $10,000 by OSHA for six safety violations. No word yet on what may have happened here -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: OSHA investigators and police will both be on the scene to conduct that investigation. Dan Simon, thanks for the latest on that.

In other news now, a majority of Americans do not like the NSA's phone and internet surveillance operations, but don't believe the president's plans for reform will change anything. Check out this new survey by the Pew Research Center and "USA Today," 53 percent disapprove of the NSA's domestic spying tactics while just 40 percent. And on overwhelming 73 percent say the changes proposed by the president will not restore privacy protections. While those 21 percent believe they will.

The search continues this morning for a gunman who shot a student in a parking lot at Widener University not far from Philadelphia. Police say the student was shot once in the side near the school's athletic center. They called the shooting not a random act. The victim, who has not yet been identified, managed to call 911 and is in the hospital this morning in stable but critical condition. New fears this morning that Syrian peace talks could collapse even before they begin, the talks start tomorrow in Geneva without Iran, President Bashar Al-Assad's main backer. A last-minute invitation to Iran by the U.S. was withdrawn. That invitation had faced strong objection from the U.S. and the Syrian opposition. The move to disinvite Iran is being criticized by Russia's foreign minister who called it a mistake.

Scientists have been baffled by the sudden appearance of a mysterious donut shaped rock on Mars. Get this, it wasn't there 12 days ago. Researchers say it's not like anything they've ever seen before. They think, they believe maybe perhaps it was blown out of the ground by meteoroid impact and then landed there.

CUOMO: Or else?

PEREIRA: Somebody landed there and put it in.

CUOMO: Maybe it really is a donut.

PEREIRA: Donuts on mars. Trips to Mars increase substantially.

BOLDUAN: We're going now.


BOLDUAN: Is there wind on Mars?

PEREIRA: Thank you for asking, Kate, I have no idea.

CUOMO: Yes, he says with confidence, but no certainty. There is wind. The place is wind-whipped.


CUOMO: Blew all the trees right off it.

Coming up on NEW DAY, a CNN exclusive, the family of American hostage Kenneth Bae speaking out to CNN addressing the media asking everyone to help and wait until you hear their new message for the North Korean government.

BOLDUAN: Plus, she shot to the national spotlight with a 13-hour filibuster against an abortion law in Texas, but now Wendy Davis is coming under fire. Is her rags to riches story more fiction than fact?


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

New developments in the desperate effort by Kenneth Bae's family to get him out of prison in North Korea. The latest in the saga is that Bae said on camera that he committed a serious crime. Now, his family is echoing his admission asking for mercy.

We've been talking with Bae's sister exclusively. Pamela Brown is here with more of what she had to say -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris.

His sister, Terri Chung, says her family is scared about what's going to happen next after her brother's videotaped statement. The American Christian missionary Kenneth Bae has been in prison in North Korea for 15 months. His sister saying that he is now the longest American detained there in recent history and she is pleading with the U.S. government to bring him home now.


BROWN (voice-over): Overnight, Kenneth Bae's family heart broken, after watching his first appearance in months.

TERRI CHUNG, KENNETH BAE'S SISTER: It still is very difficult for the family to watch, him having to plead for help from the U.S. government.

BROWN: The American missionary held in North Korea for more than a year, write a statement before cameras in a Pyongyang hospital.

KENNETH BAE, HELD IN NORTH KOREA (through translator): I would like to plea with the U.S. government, press and my family to stop worsening my situation by making vile rumors against North Korea.

CHUNG: That was probably the most frightening moment for us in that press conference, which is why we're imploring our leaders, now is the time to bring this man home.

BROWN: Bae went on to say that he committed a, quote, "serious crime" against that country's government, adding that he did not experience any human rights abuse.

BAE: I want to be pardoned by the North as soon as possible and return to my beloved family. For that, I ask the U.S. government, press, and my family to make more active efforts and pay more attention.

BROWN: Experts say these new images of Bae could be a positive sign, given North Korea's history of coercing confessions before releasing their captives.

DR. JEFFREY LEWIS, EAST ASIA SCHOLAR: The fact that they've paraded him out and gone through this farce suggests that they have some kind of demand in mind.

BROWN: Earlier this month, former NBA star Dennis Rodman traveled to North Korea for an exhibition game for leader Kim Jung-un's birthday. In an interview with NEW DAY, Rodman appeared to point blame at Bae for his detention.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Do you understand what he did in his country?

CUOMO: What did he do? You tell me. You tell me. What did he do? RODMAN: No, no, no. You tell me. You tell me. Why is he held captive?

BROWN: Rodman has since apologized and checked into rehab. But his controversial visit has U.S. officials questioning whether it played a roll in Kim Jung-un's decision to show Bae.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: This Rodman intervention was a disaster for him, and maybe now he wants to initiate a possible dialogue with Kenneth Bae as a bargaining chip.


BROWN: And again, Kenneth Bae's sister asking the president and Secretary Kerry to take immediate action to bring her brother home. Meantime, experts say Bae's confession follows North Korea's pattern of exacting false confessions. Most recently, 85-year-old Merrill Newman, a Korean War veteran was freed from the country after he says he was forced to give a false confession.

Of course, we'll continue to follow this story -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Pamela, thank you very much for that.

So, she was thrust into the national spotlight after her marathon filibuster against an abortion law in Texas. This was last year.

But this morning, State Senator Wendy Davis faces question, questions about her own life story, one that has been central to her campaign for Texas governor.

"EARLY START" anchor John Berman has been looking into this. And he's here with us now.

JOHN BERMAN, "EARLY START" ANCHOR: So, this is raising eyebrows because the details of this story now seem blurry. Blurry is a word used by the "Dallas Morning News".

That paper says the general contours of the story is single mom, working her way through school. The general contours are true, but it's the details and the timeline that are now in question.


CROWD: Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, Wendy!

BERMAN: She pitched her story as an American dream come true.

STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D), TEXAS: I was barely making ends meet and sometimes they didn't.

BERMAN: Texas State Senator Wendy Davis propelled into the national spotlight last summer with her physical stamina after this now famous 13-hour marathon filibuster against a restrictive abortion measure.

Davis' meteoric rise shot her to the front of the pack amongst Democrats in her gubernatorial bid. But now, her inspirational biography of a single mother is sparking some debate.

DAVIS: By the time I was 19, I was a single parent, and I was living in a mobile home.

BERMAN: Over the weekend, "The Dallas Morning News" revealed inconsistencies in her statements and began raising questions about her boot-strapping life story. The news reports she divorced at 21 and not 19. Davis admitted that her language should be tighter and clarified a few points. For example, that her divorce only became final when she was 21.

Writing in a statement, "The truth is, at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer, and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They say everything is bigger Texas. Well, that certainly wasn't the case for the trailer we live in.

BERMAN: A mobile home the newspaper says she lived in for a few months.

Conservatives seized on the discrepancies, creating a hashtag on Twitter, #morefakethanWendyDavis. Before this report, her campaign pulled in a sizable $12 million, but she is trailing her likely opponent, the state's Republican attorney general.


BERMAN: Now, one of the most contentious points is that Wendy Davis' law school tuition was paid by her second husband who cashed in his 401k for the money. They divorced purportedly right after the loans were paid off. And some conservatives are really seizing on this one this morning.

One tweeted overnight, "Wendy Davis won't rest until every Texas woman has a sugar daddy she can use then dump."

Pretty scathing stuff. Davis acknowledges her husband helped her propel her dream of attending Harvard by cashing in on a 401(k). She says they later took out loans together.

She also says, "I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I've been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance."

But I guarantee you, you have not heard the end of this.

BOLDUAN: Yes, this is going to become central to the campaign. She doesn't want it to be central of the campaign. She obviously wants to continue talking about her story and what's (INAUDIBLE) for Texas, but it's out there now.

BERMAN: It is.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John.

CUOMO: Personal over policy every time. BOLDUAN: Yes, right.

CUOMO: All right. So, let's talk some football. We all know the basic rules right, after you score a touchdown you have the extra point or attempt at a two-point conversion. Well, the NFL is considering changing that.

Andy Scholes is with us now for this morning's "Bleacher Report", looking very svelte . Andy, don't sing like I did. But tell us what's going on.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, guys. In an interview with the NFL network yesterday, Commissioner Goodell, he said basically that extra points have become so automatic and really borrowing that they're -- boring that they're considering doing away with it all together.

Now, extra points, they've had a success rate of 99.1 percent since 2004. Now, if they do away with it, one of the proposed ideas is that teams would automatically get seven points for a touchdown, then they would have the option to run a play in a two-yard line. If they're successful, they would get a point. But if they failed, they would a lose a point.

Again, this is just one of the proposed ideas.

All right. Turning on bleacher, we all know super bowl tickets are expensive. But this year's game is taking it to another level. The cheapest on StubHub right now is going for $2,500. If you want to sit lower, that will cost you close to $11,000 a ticket, according to (INAUDIBLE). Tickets for this year's big game are on pace to be the most expensive ever.

All right. One lucky fan in Texas isn't going to have to worry about ponying up the big bucks for the game. Thirteen-year-old Tyler Samson, he was surprised by the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware at a pep rally in front of this Tyler school for free Super Bowl tickets. He was the winner of an NFL contest about playing football despite being born without much of his right arm.

Great deal for him. He's going to get on the big game on February 2nd.

And, guys, what do you think about the extra point deal?

BOLDUAN: Keep it.

CUOMO: Get rid of it. Change is growth.

BOLDUAN: Keep it.

SCHOLES: I agree. I think after a touchdown, that's when everyone gets up goes to the kitchen, gets a beer.

BOLDUAN: I thought we were friends. In the past couple days, it's been contentious. SCHOLES: Yes, I like your shirt, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I like the photo that you tweeted us last night.

CUOMO: Take a look at this everybody. There's your boy Andy Scholes.

BOLDUAN: Andy started this if you all remember yesterday talking about how Peyton Manning said fat man.

CUOMO: No, you called him fat. He then went to the cross fit for the next six hours.


BOLDUAN: Maybe Andy Scholes served up a softball.

COUMO: There's nothing soft about Andy.


PEREIRA: That's a private photo.

CUOMO: Andy, Andy, here's my compliment to you. One, you're obviously jacked.

He's got good hair even when he works out, even if he does have his lips oddly pursed.


BOLDUAN: Called a Zoolander.

Thanks, Andy. That's round two of many. We'll see you tomorrow.

CUOMO: Keep your sleeves down.

Coming up on NEW DAY: the Olympics in Sochi, 17 days away. With each passing day, the threat seems to grow. Now, the U.S. is putting plans in place to keep Americans safe. We will tell you what CNN has learned coming up.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, Seahawks corner back Richard Sherman says he's sorry for his on-field ramp. But that's not all he's saying. There's more fallout this morning from his public trash talking as Sherman lets loose at his critics.