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Sickness on Cruise Ship; Texas Congressman Controversy; Bitter Winter Blast; New Terror Threat; Housing Market Roars Back; Grammys Host Weddings

Aired January 27, 2014 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: That was too cool. That just made my day. Wolf, thank you.

Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for joining me on this Monday.

Right now, the Center for Disease Control is on board this Royal Caribbean Cruise ship, scrambling to identify this mystery illness that has struck down more than 600 people, including 49 members of the crew. Their symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea.


ARNEE DODD, EXPLORER OF THE SEAS CRUISE PASSENGER (voice-over): As soon as I got down there, the nurse walked out and looked at everyone and said, if you're not sick, you have to leave right now because this is spreading faster than we can contain it.


BALDWIN: Crews officials making the call to cut the trip short. It is now en route to New Jersey two days early, expected to dock on Wednesday.

And joining me now, Elizabeth Cohen, senior medical correspondent.

You just feel for these people who took this time off from work and now they're sick. Mystery illness still a mystery?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a -- I suppose you could call it a mystery illness, but doctors pretty much know what it is. It's something called norovirus, which happens with some regularity on cruise ships. It's a gastro intestinal illness. I won't go into all the nitty gritty details.

BALDWIN: Yes, let's not.

COHEN: Yes, I think we get it. And, you know, it spreads very quickly. That's one characteristic of norovirus, it spreads very quickly.


COHEN: Not hard to transmit it. BALDWIN: So on a cruise, I've only been on one, but tight quarters, right?

COHEN: Right.

BALDWIN: So how do you either - since this happened, prevent it or at least slow the spread? Can you?

COHEN: You know, you can by washing your hands a lot. I've been told on cruise ships there's a lot of these hand sanitizer stations, you know, where you can clean up your hands. That's, you know, really one of the few ways. I mean, of course, basic hygiene. You know, after using the bath room, washing your hands before eating, all of that. But really hand washing is the big way.

BALDWIN: And now they come home Wednesday feeling ill, back to work.

COHEN: Right. Not all of them. And you hope -- we were told that the illnesses are decreasing.


COHEN: The number are decreasing. So that's a good thing. So maybe we've seen the worst of it. I'm sure there are many passengers on that ship right now saying, please, don't let me get sick in the next few days.

BALDWIN: Feel for them. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: We'll be watching that over the next two days there.

Also, after suffering the worst week in 18 months, the Dow pretty flat today here as we're looking at the numbers on Wall Street. Investors, they're waiting for earnings from Apple, which are expected today after the closing bell.

And we turn now to the congressman who went missing, or did he? Representatives Steve Stockman of Texas has missed a lot of votes this year and reports indicate he actually hasn't been seen in weeks, at home or in Washington, D.C. But he has just resurfaced and he's blasting reports that he's been missing in action.

Brian Todd, let me bring you in, because, you know, it's not often you hear about a congressman disappearing. We're used to seeing them, you know, run towards the cameras. So what's happening here?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a big mystery for two weeks, Brooke. Congressman Stockman's office, you mentioned, just issued a press release a short time ago essentially saying that he was testing the media to see if they noticed what was going on. In that press release it says the congressman returned today from a 10-day official congressional visit to Egypt, Israel and Russia, which it says he took with State Department officials. The press release says Stockman was with the media and conducted press conferences with State Department officials in every city he visited.

His press release says this. It's fairly bizarre. Quote, "reporters knew I was on an official State Department trip but refused to admit the truth because it would have spoiled their bizarre stories. We decided to hold out and see how long reporters would pretend they didn't know I was on official business."

And we have called and e-mailed the State Department to see if they are going to verify any of this. They have essentially not played on this. They said they will refer us to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We're trying to get in touch with them.

We've also called and e-mailed Congressman Stockman's office to see if they can explain this further, explain why he's not been on the campaign trail and has missed 17 straight House votes, has been MIA for at least two weeks.

My colleague, Lisa Desjardins, reached out to the offices of other members of Congress who are in that delegation, Brooke. They have not been able to give us much detail other than Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's office saying that the delegations left on January 16th. There may be some indications that Congressmen Stockman joined the delegation a couple of days letter, but they say they got back to the U.S. yesterday, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I'm still going back to this phrase, "testing the media."

TODD: Yes.

BALDWIN: So I'm scratching my head over that. And you mentioned you all are reaching out to his staff. What about his family? Did they think he was missing?

TODD: We've tried to get answers on that. We've called his -- not only his congressional office to try to get some answers on this, we also called his campaign office in Texas. None of them have gotten back to us on this. So we're not sure what his family knew and didn't know and what his staffers knew and didn't know.

BALDWIN: We know he's not running for re-election. He is challenging incumbent Republican John Cornyn for the Senate seat.

TODD: Right.

BALDWIN: Any chance he could actually win?

TODD: He's not given much of a chance to win. He's way behind in most of the polls. He does not have nearly as much money as John Cornyn has. Cornyn is a conservative senator, but Stockman's been running from the far right against him. The primary is in March, so he doesn't have much time left.

BALDWIN: OK. Brian Todd for us in Washington. Brian, thank you very much.

TODD: Thank you. BALDWIN: And to the bitter cold. The winter blast that's blanketing the Midwest is taking its toll today. Many people there say they're just sick and tired of the blizzard-like conditions in those sub normal temperatures. Can you blame them? School districts from Chicago to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cancelled class today just because it is freezing. People want relief. When do they get it? Meteorologist Chad Myers joins me now with that.

And I'm a little afraid of your answer.


BALDWIN: Oh, exactly.

MYERS: I just can't see an end to this pattern. It's a ridge in the west and a trough in the east. Record highs across California. No rain where they need it. No snow in the Sierra either. They'd like to see more of that for skiing. There's some, but not enough. And not enough certainly for the summer, because that's what they're going to drink. That's the water they're going to use for power to put in their faucets and their taps.

Anchorage, Alaska, 40 degrees.

BALDWIN: A balmy 40 compared to Minneapolis.

MYERS: Minneapolis, six below zero.


MYERS: It's just -- the numbers are mind-boggling. We used to call this the polar plunge, the artic plunge, the Siberian express, whatever. It is cold air coming down for the north. Chicago is one. Thirty-nine degrees colder in Chicago than in Anchorage. New York City now tied with Anchorage, 42 to 40. And even Atlanta, 56. And it will snow in Atlanta tomorrow.

The cold air gets all the way down to New Orleans. I am going to be on a plane in two hours because, New Orleans, you're going to have an ice storm. The cold air is going to come down --

BALDWIN: New Orleans?

MYERS: That's where I'm going. They can't leave us together for more than one day. You know that. They think something's going on.

Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, there are your warnings and advisories. And all the way down to the deep south, the cold air is going to get down to the Gulf of Mexico. A storm is going to come out of the Gulf of Mexico and try to rain down to New Orleans and it's going to be 30. It's going to snow here, it's going to snow in Charleston, it's going to snow in Wilmington, North Carolina, all the way up even into Hampton Road into Virginia.

These are what the wind chills feels like right now. It feels like 32 degrees below zero in Green Bay, 25 in Minneapolis, and it's not going up for the next few weeks. It's going to be a cold Super Bowl, but not this cold.

BALDWIN: Yes. Enjoy - enjoy those icy venues (ph), Chad Myers, a little for me.

MYERS: That's right.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much. We'll chat then from New Orleans.


BALDWIN: Meantime, coming up next, as athletes begin arriving in Russia just 11 days before the Winter Olympics, a new terror threat surfaces. We will tell you what happened now.

Plus, Macklemore apologizes to a fellow rapper for winning best rap album at the Grammys. And his win is getting a lot of reaction just about the genre in general and about race. We'll go there, coming up.


BALDWIN: A new terror threat just 11 days from the start of the Winter Olympic games in Sochi. And today Russian security forces are facing a big test with the Olympic torch passing through the militant hot bed of Dagestan. Take a look at the map and you can see, this is a familiar place to many of us because this is where the Boston Marathon bombing suspect hailed from and where one of these hunted black widow bombers was killed in a shootout just last week. And then there's this, a statement today from Russian militants on an Islamist website. The ominous words, "Russia has been warned."

Joining me now from (INAUDIBLE), Dagestan, is CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, senior international correspondent.

And, Nick, we know that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. has said, and I'm quoting him, says he's, quote, "absolutely certain the Sochi Olympics will be safe from terrorist attacks." You're on the ground. Are you as convinced?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's - the Olympics itselves (ph), I think will have a lot of security continue to build up in the weeks ahead. I was there a couple of days ago. There was a ring of steel in some ways. It was getting increasingly hard to move around because they wanted sort of passes, accreditation, a lot of the roads as well. So, I think there's been a lot of an effort to simply max out the volume of policemen there. That will probably have a pretty convincing effect but there are, of course, issues about corruption and inefficiency in the Russian police that could cause problems down the line but that's a big matter of pride for the Kremlin. They'll probably do a good job there.

But that's a small part of southern Russia way out west. I'm way out east, as you said, in the hot bed of the insurgency, Dagestan. Now, you know, bombings and clashes between police and militants here happened almost sometimes daily, if not certainly weekly. So the possibility for Russia to keep this entire, huge area safe for the whole period of the Olympics, I think that's remote. We probably will see some violence. The question is, does it penetrate that ring of steel where the U.S. athletes and many tourists are supposed to be going, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We have talked so much about this ring of steel. And give me examples - I mean you've been there, give me examples of how Russian authorities are taking the security concerns seriously.

WALSH: Well, we had a remarkable scene today. You mentioned the torch moving through here. You'd expect to see people lining the streets, waving the Russian flag, you know, a general sense of festivity, people coming out to celebrate the arrival of the Olympics here. Quite the opposite. The torch, flown into the airport. No one saw it. Maximum security convoy, it seemed a lot of armed men. And it turned up at the stadium unannounced. The first people saw of it was on a TV screen inside the stadium. It came out in the stadium, did a lap.

But that was the only place where Dagestanies would have seen it on their television or inside the stadium. And the Dagestanies inside the stadium were actually shipped there on a number of buses organized by, it seems, the government to the stadium. The roads to the stadium were locked down. Police checkpoints everywhere. Very hard to move around.

They torch never passed through the main town here of Makhachkala, the kind of bridge or capital of Dagestan. That gives you a flavor of the sheer volume of lockdown that the Russian authorities are able to put into place. It shows you how worried they actually are about insurgents. But it also shows a kind of bizarre determination to bring festivities like that to - even though this place isn't really suited to them, run the risk of some sort of act occurring to simply show to Russians, the outside world and the insurgents too that they're not going to be bound (ph) by the threat of violence, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Nick Paton Walsh for us in Dagestan. Nick, thank you.

Coming up, the first lady reveals her guest list for tomorrow night's State of the Union Address. And there are a few people will you definitely recognize.

Also, pilots could lose control some 30,000 feet in the air. That fear prompting new inspections of a popular passenger jet. That's next. You're watching CNN.


BALDWIN: It is one of the most popular jets in the world, but pilots could lose control of Boeing 767s. That's why the government is ordering new inspections of the fleet after detecting possible problems with rivets that could affect the jet's adjustability to climb or descend. It's a problem first detected more than a decade ago, but it is worth noting today the issue is not decided as a cause in any crash. Boeing says it's working closely with the FAA.

And professional athlete Jason Collins has made Michelle Obama's guest list for the State of the Union. Twelve plus seasons in the NBA, Collins, you might remember, unveiled that he's gay last April. In addition to Jason Collins, Mrs. Obama has invited several survivors from the Boston Marathon bombing. Also survivors of that huge tornado that levelled Moore, Oklahoma. You'll see some other folks as well with the first lady.

As for the president, a little wind in his sails as he readies what will be his fifth State of the Union. Let's take a look at our CNN poll of polls and you can see his approval rating at 44 percent, headed back upward after the health care rollout debacle. Blow 50 percent still though. Not great for him.

And from day one of his term in office, the president's top job has been to right the crippled economy. And tomorrow night he is likely to tell us there is still a long way to go. But as Christine Roman shows us, the formerly shattered housing market has risen from the dead.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Playing house is fun. Bidding on a house, not so much.

LEE LUBARSKY, FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER: So we put in an offer on the house. We know that there's another interested buyer, which is a little nerve racking.

ROMANS: First time homebuyers Lee and Lauren (ph) want to raise their son Max in this Long Island home. But someone else wants it too.

CRAIG BELL, REALTOR: Because of the lack of inventory, you're starting to see multiple offers on any home that's priced correctly.

ROMANS: Five years after the crash, housing has roared back. But recovery doesn't mean pure.

STAN HUMPHERIES, CHIEF ECONOMIST, ZILLOW: It could be until the end of this decade before the housing markets nationally and all back to normal. A normal housing market is really a really boring housing market.

ROMANS (on camera): And this market is anything but boring. In a boring market, you'd have about six and a half months of inventory. Six and a half months of supply of homes for sale. These days, you're down to five months. And that's driving prices higher, now up more than 13 percent over the past year. The biggest annual gain in seven years.

And things are looking actually overheated in some markets. Look at these jumps. San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, 27 percent year over year jump.

DAREN BLOMQUIST, VICE PRESIDENT, REALTYTRAC: We're all of a sudden talking about homes being unaffordable again, which is surprising so quickly after the market bottomed out.

ROMANS (voice-over): Rising mortgage rates won't help affordability. They're expected to top 5 percent this year. Still historically low, but it will add up. LUBARSKY: The costs are only going to go up and the type of house that we're looking for now is going to cost us I think significantly more as we get further and further into the year.

ROMANS: Missing from the recovery, first time home buyers. But rising mortgage rates might actually help these first-timers as banks look for new business.

HUMPHRIES: Part of getting creative is going to be listening the lending standards a little bit.

ROMANS: And there may be less competition from big investors. Since the bust, they've bought tens of thousands of cheap houses to remodel and rent.

HUMPHRIES: We're starting to see their presence in the marketplace begin to fade as home values rise.

LUBARSKY: Oh, you spilled some on the floor. Uh-oh.


ROMANS: But for now, Lee and Lauren make up (ph) a higher offer on the house they want, but they are determined not to overpay.

LUBARSKY: If you don't get the house, then you don't get the house. There's more out there.

ROMANS: And that's what makes a market. Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


BALDWIN: Christine, thank you.

And just a quick reminder to all of you. Make sure you join us, join CNN tomorrow night for special coverage of the president's State of the Union Address. It begins tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Did you watch last night? Big winner or big snub at the Grammys? When it comes to the best rap album award, some say the best man did not win. In fact, the actual winner apologized. And that is sparking a big debate here.

Also, the show was about more than just music. Dozens of couples tied the knot live during the show. Not a lot of dry eyes after this one. Coming up next, I get to talk to one of those newlywed couples about their big moment. Congratulations, gentlemen. We'll talk after this.


BALDWIN: Just about the bottom of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And if you watched the 56th Annual Grammy Awards last night, it was one big love fest. The show did something it has actually never done before. It hosted this mass wedding for dozens of couples, gay, straight, black, white, live during the show. Officiating this whole thing, of course, Queen Latifah. The wedding singer, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performing their hit same love, which has really become a social anthem for the gay marriage movement.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Oh, now, here we go. America the brave still fears what we don't know. God loves all his children. It's somehow forgotten. But we can -

QUEEN LATIFAH: Delighted to see the faces of 33 couples who have chosen this moment to celebrate their vows with us here in Los Angeles and everyone watching around the world as witnesses. It is my distinct honor to now ask our participants to exchange rings to signal their commitment to one another and to a life shared together with the music of love. Will you please exchange rings.


BALDWIN: And, yes, folks, this was the real deal. Queen Latifah was ordained as a commissioner in L.A. County to conduct weddings here. So this was - this was official. The wedding party also included Madonna -- there she is in white -- who sang "Open Your Heart." This entire ceremony, a statement about tolerance and universal love live on television. And joining me now, one of those happily married couples. The first couple you actually just saw on your screen, Yawar Charlie and Jason Miller.

And, gentlemen, welcome and congratulations.



CHARLIE: Thank you for having us.

BALDWIN: OK. I've got to get the back story because I read that you two - you had this wedding date set for August. Some six weeks ago you were approached if you'd be willing to do something and be part of a major lifetime opportunity. But what else did you know?

CHARLIE: Well, you know, going into it, we really didn't know too much. We were approached by the casting director who asked us if we wanted to be part of this major civil rights movement on the Grammy Awards. And really that's all we knew. But we knew - we know our friend and we knew that it was the Grammy Awards, so we felt like we would be treated with respect. And, you know, it didn't take a genius to figure out Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were nominated for seven awards and so we felt like this -

BALDWIN: So you guess it?

CHARLIE: Well, we guessed a little bit of it, but, you know, "Same Love" for both of us has just been such a major anthem this year for equality and really, you know, showing how everyone deserves an equal chance. And so we knew we'd be treated with respect. The rest of it was a shock and surprise and amazing.

BALDWIN: Did you feel the respect last night? I mean just watching the cutaways to the celebrities, guys, I saw, you know, Katy Perry like water works all around you.



MILLER: Yes, absolutely. That's what was most amazing about it. We had several rehearsals and we were, first of all, in shock and awe that Madonna was there and Queen Latifah and all of the names that you just mentioned. But then to walk in just before the ceremony and be surrounded by just the audience members, the celebrities, big names in music and everyone wishing us congratulations and seeing everyone in such an emotional state was just so touching.

CHARLIE: Yes. I mean I liken it to getting a big hug. You would think that it would be a huge, huge not intimate situation and it really felt that everyone in that audience, the way that they were clapping and cheering and literally crying for you, it felt like these were your -

BALDWIN: Was sharing and supporting -

CHARLIE: Like they were there for us.


MILLER: Yes, absolutely, they were there for you.

BALDWIN: So let's dish now, gentlemen, because here you are surrounded by mega a-list, you know, musicians, artists, singer songwriters and who, if you had to pick one person that you just got the goose bumps, you couldn't believe you were looking and seeing them, who was that person for you?

CHARLIE: Well, again, I have to say this, ever since I was a kid it was my dream that Madonna was going to sing in my wedding. I didn't know how it was going to happen -

BALDWIN: And you go to --

CHARLIE: And the odds are - you know. And I got it. And so when I told every other couple there