Return to Transcripts main page


49 States Awaken to Snow Today; Power Outages in 16 States and D.C.; Suits Costing Team USA Medals?; General Motors Recall Some Old Cars; Son-In-Law Charged in Deadly Package Bomb; Consumers, Lawmakers Blast Comcast Deal

Aired February 14, 2014 - 09:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tomorrow morning on "NEW DAY SATURDAY." Don't miss that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of weather news for you. The developing situation being so bad for literally 100 million people. Forty-nine out of 50 states having seen snow. Unbelievable. So let's get you right to the "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello for the latest.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, at least we're all in it together, right?


BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

COSTELLO: Happy Valentine's Day. Thanks so much.

NEWSROOM starts now.


COSTELLO: Happening now in the NEWSROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy. I wish the winter would stop. We keep being hit over and over.

COSTELLO: From Louisiana to Massachusetts, ice, snow and wind. Some areas pummeled with up to 18 inches. And then this thundersnow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw more damage, more power outage in this storm than during Sandy.

COSTELLO: This morning the big dig begins.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Down at the ground we have a lot of ice. So this bottom layer that's going to be very tricky for you this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we seriously need to look at this. COSTELLO: The new Goliath, Comcast/Time Warner Cable. If you think their pending marriage will it drive up your bills, you're right. This from Comcast top dog, "We're certainly not promising customer bills will increase less rapidly."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be higher prices, worse service, and worse choice.

COSTELLO: And now Washington is stepping into the deal.

And the fabulous Johnny Weir. His hot pink jacket, his grandma Chanel brooch, his leather leggings, his sassiness in Sochi now controversial.

And forget St. Valentine. Just talk to St. Francis. The Pope pulling out Cupid's arrow and offering advice to young couples.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. Happy Valentine's Day, and for millions of Americans good luck getting flowers to or from your sweetheart. The East Coast is slogging through this slushy flappy remnants of this week's nor'easter and a new storm is just hours away.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons looks ahead from snowy New York. David Mattingly has the recovery in the Carolinas. Erin McPike is in Maryland.

But let's start with you, Indra, in White Plains, New York. Good morning.

PETERSONS: Good morning. Oh, yes, in New York City we definitely got a lot of snow. Just want to tell you how much snow we've seen this season. Just yesterday 12 1/2 inches. That's official that was now reported at Central Park.

That means, Carol, we've seen 54 inches this season making it the ninth snowiest season since we've been starting to keep records. Unbelievable. Easy to see why. Just take a look at all the snow. The last (inaudible). If you haven't cleared out you're dealing with feet of it still on the ground.

And here's the problem. Remember yesterday we transitioned to rain for a while then back to snow. So at the bottom of all this, if you take the time to plow you're left with this very thick coating of ice. And you can just see so many people this morning struggling to get through this last inch. They're also trying to drive around on the streets, a lot of people getting stuck.

Especially when they're trying to make their way up the hills. So what are we dealing with? Well, this morning we still have a little bit of the remnants of the system we have right now. That is left right toward Vermont, New Hampshire, also in through Maine. That's not the system we're really worried about, although they could still several inches out there today.

But we're going to be left with some strong winds. A lot of snow still on the ground. So definitely a difficult day with these winds, but you heard it already, Valentine's Day, and yes, another system, a clipper is out there currently in the Midwest. This snow maker bringing several inches not as big, guys, don't worry. But either way making its way through the Ohio Valley tonight for those Valentine's Day dinner plans.

And then after midnight in these big cities and metropolitan areas tonight again starting to see more snow lasting into your Saturday, leaving on Sunday.

And I tell you what, when we look at piles like this, Carol, no one wants any more snow.

COSTELLO: No, they don't, but at least there's extra reason to cuddle tonight, right?


PETERSONS: That's true.

COSTELLO: Yes. Indra Petersons, thanks so much.

This morning there are power outages to tell you about in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The good news is the number of homes and businesses without electricity keeps falling. At last check the number was down to 525,000 and that's -- that includes most of the East Coast.

CNN's David Mattingly is in Charlotte as the southeast battles back from its worst storm in years.

Morning, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Some good news from the State Highway Department today. They say across North Carolina the roads are pretty much open with some slick spots so they are still telling motorists to keep an eye out and be careful when they get out today. But after a tough couple of days the sun is out. And the big thaw is under way.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): The storm may be over but the cleanup is still a major work in progress. After two straight days of heavy snow in North Carolina, crews are trying to dig out and re-open roads. One aggravating lesson apparently learned there was no repeat of Wednesday night's gridlock that jammed many motorists in the cold in Raleigh.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory using the National Guard to make sure no one is stranded in the cold.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: What we didn't want was to have those delays of people abandoned overnight like it's occurred in other states during other storms.

MATTINGLY: It was a dig at the city of Atlanta, paralyzed two weeks ago when two inches of snow trapped thousands overnight in schools and on jammed highways. This time this storm there were no surprises. Thursday the sun came out in Atlanta for the first time in days. Melting ice on trees and power lines. People getting outside to play. While state officials expressed relief.

GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: The fact that we were able to keep many people from being involved in the mix, I think has made it not nearly as dramatic and traumatic as it might otherwise have been.

MATTINGLY: The good news after three days the snow seems to be over in the southeast. But overnight freezing is once again making roads treacherous for hundreds of miles.

And throughout the south recovery is only beginning. More than an inch of ice brought widespread damage to homes, trees and power lines in Georgia and South Carolina. Making last night a dark and cold one for the many people still without electricity.


MATTINGLY: 91,000 was the number they were saying here in the Carolinas for the people without electricity. We're told today that most of the lights will be back on today. The rest will have to wait until sometime this weekend -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And I must say, David, yesterday when the sun came out in Atlanta, you saw people on the streets looking up saying, what is that? They were kind in a zombie like state but they were happy.

MATTINGLY: Yes, something similar here. Yes.


COSTELLO: David Mattingly, many thanks.

Controversy at the Olympics over high tech Mach 39 suits. American speed skaters are wearing those suits and they are losing.

OK. So there was cool sound with that but you see the suits are really cool and they're very high tech. Still for the skaters wearing them in the Olympics well, let's just say this is the worst Olympic showing for this American skater in 30 years.

Shani Davis was expected to win the gold, he came in eighth. The women aren't faring much better. Heather Richardson, a world record holder, did not medal. And all of them wearing those Mach 39 suits designed by Under Armour and Lockheed Martin.

Rachel Nichols, the host of CNN's "UNGUARDED" is in Sochi.

Tell us more about this controversy.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN HOST, "UNGUARDED": Well, these special new suits were supposed to make our athletes faster. They have a new venting system in the back. The idea was to allow heat to escape. But what it sounds like maybe happening, and look, they're not 100 percent sure what's happening, but what it sounds like may be happening is that air is getting caught in those vents and creating drag.

Remember, this is a sport where people win and lose by hundredths of a second. So little pockets of air can make a huge difference.

Now you mentioned two of the U.S. hopefuls. After Shani Davis came in eighth, an event that he's won gold medals in the last two Olympics, Heather Richardson before her 1,000-meter race went to the seamstress of Under Armour, the person who's organizing these suits for them, and said you got to help me out. They inserted a special rubber flap under the vents to try to prevent this drag problem but apparently it didn't work. She came in seventh place. And mind you, she came into this event as the number one overall in the world.

The U.S. team hasn't had a finish better seventh place for any of the speed skating long track races. Remember they won four medals at the Vancouver games in speed skating. So it's a huge, huge drop off and they are looking for the problem here.

COSTELLO: Well, I even hear some skaters want uniforms that they wore in the past where they have been winners then and they're trying to ship them to Sochi in a hurry for future competitions.

NICHOLS: Yes. Any athlete wants what they're most comfortable with. Nobody wants any extra factor contributing to what could be a loss for them. So it's unclear how much the suits are a factor but even if it's a tiny factor they want to change.

COSTELLO: Yes. Well, while team USA is not doing well in a traditional Olympic sport like speed skating it is medaling in newer extreme sports. So that's a good thing, right?

NICHOLS: Yes. You know I happened to talk to the -- talk about this with Kelly Clark. She is the most decorated snowboarder -- really, the most decorated woman in all of snowboarding history. She's kind of the female Shaun White, Carol, as it were and I asked her about this idea that her sport when she first started in the Olympics, because she just medaled by the way in her third straight Olympic games, it was the rogue outsider, the kid that was stashed to the corner. Now it's really the American success story at these games.

Take a listen to what she told me.


KELLY CLARK, U.S. SKATEBOARDER MEDALIST: I think it's so successful because it's really relatable. It's something that people watch and people are able to go out on weekends and do with their families.

NICHOLS: The fact that your sport has become associated with what the Americans are good at the Olympics, what do you think when you hear that? CLARK: I think that's what we should be known for. Snowboarding is one of the most amazing sports out there. There's a culture, there's a community, there's a creativity. There's room for individuality. It's such a unique sport that I think it should be on the forefront of our culture.


NICHOLS: Kelly points out this creativity is a very American way of looking at things. It's why the Americans have dominated these kinds of sports. They are proud of the fact that snowboarders, the aerial and the freestyle spheres, that they are becoming what U.S. athletes represent. It's not the traditional chiseled Olympic athlete. It's someone like Kelly, it's somebody like Sage Kotsenburg who says shred it and dude all the time. They're the ones winning the gold medals here for the U.S. Those are our Olympians.

COSTELLO: I know. I love when they make mistakes and at the end of the run they just go, sorry, I tried.


They have good spirits about them.

Rachel Nichols, many thanks.

An internal National Security Agency memo is giving new insight into how Edward Snowden got access to the agency's huge database. The memo first reported by NBC News says a civilian employee has resigned after being reprimanded for giving Snowden access to his password.

According to the memo, Snowden tricked his fellow worker by getting him to enter his password at Snowden's computer terminal. Snowden has previously denied stealing a password to get greater access to classified information.

General Motors is issuing a recall for hundreds of thousands of its older cars after six deaths were linked to crashes. The likely culprit, a faulty ignition switch that can cause the engine to shut off.

Alison Kosik is live at the New York Stock Exchange to tell us more.

Good morning.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. This recall involving 778,000 vehicles specifically Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5s that were made between 2005 and 2007. Now true we've seen bigger recalls but here's what's scary about this one. Six people died because of the problem with the ignition switch that causes two potential problems here. The engine can unexpectedly turn off because of the faulty ignition switch and air bags they don't deploy in accidents.

Now GM says certain things tend to trigger this like when the car is off-roading or when the switch is being jarred in some sort of way. Another potential trigger, really heavy key rings meaning tons of key chains and keys kind of weighing down the key chain. In the cases of these fatalities, GM says what's been happening is those heavy key chains are jarring that ignition switch.

Also GM saying that some people were not wearing seat belts and that alcohol may have also been a factor in some of these accidents.

Now, Carol, the Cobalt Pontiac G5, those cars not made any more. These are older low-cost cars valued at less than $4,000. So people really looking for a deal who have bought them. Important to be aware of these problems, though. If you own one of them the dealer will replace the ignition switch, again, to take it into a dealer, though -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Got you. Alison Kosik, many thanks.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a Tennessee couple is dead after a package bomb explodes inside their house. Now the police have charged their son-in-law in connection with their deaths.

Jean Casarez is following the story for us.

Good morning.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's no other way to say it. It happened in the home. This elderly couple retired. They were just blown up by this package bomb. The grand jury returns an indictment and it was a shocker. We'll have more right after this.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A shocker in Tennessee. The Setzers who died as a result of a letter bomb were allegedly killed by their son- in-law. Police say 49-year-old Richard Parker lived with his wife, the Setzers' daughter, in a house behind the victims. But so far, no motive in this case.

Jon Setzer retired attorney died instantly when the bomb exploded. His wife Marion died at the hospital two days later. The bomb went off at their house Lebanon, Tennessee, 30 miles east of Nashville.

Jean Casarez is following the story from New York. She joins us with more.

Good morning, Jean.


This has been an investigation that's been going nonstop since Monday. You got the FBI, the ATF, you've got Homeland Security, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation along with state authorities and finally they called a press conference because they said we've got information.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CASAREZ (voice-over): Federal and state law enforcement officials announced they have charged this man, 49-year-old Richard Parker in the alleged package bomb murders of retired Tennessee couple Jon and Miriam Setzer and then a bomb shell.

Parker is their son-in-law.

MARK GWYN, DIRECTOR, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: After hearing that evidence, they returned a two count indictment, a felony first degree murder, two count indictment premeditated, first degree murder.

CASAREZ: A law enforcement source says Parker and the victim's daughter live in a house right behind the Setzers. They share a common driveway. Parker allegedly placed the package somewhere in front of the main house on Monday. Another source told CNN, Parker left a note.

JEFF FULTON, BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, AND FIREARMS: It was clearly a functioning disruptive device and killed those two people.

CASAREZ: The bomb exploded after 74-year-old Jon Setzer, a retired civil lawyer brought it inside. He was killed instantly. His wife 72-year-old Marion died later.

The family pastor said no one could understand why Parker would allegedly do this.

REV. KEVIN ULMET, NASHVILLE FIRST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE: His own wife of more than 20 years did not nor did his children, you ask all the questions in your own mind, how? Why? All of those things. And there's no answers at this point for those questions.


CASAREZ: So, that is right. The man that's charged with these crimes, Richard Parker is married to the daughter of the retired couple that he allegedly blew up.

Carol, he's on $1 million bail right now, awaiting his first court appearance. May I remind you in Tennessee, they have the death penalty and this is a double homicide, will be persecution (ph).

COSTELLO: Does this guy have a clean record?

CASAREZ: He has an arson conviction from 1993, which very interesting. He was on probation for a number of years.

So, that in a sense shows the mindset. Remember he's innocent until proven guilty of these crimes. But the pastor in his interview last night on Anderson Cooper talked about a confession that he had made. We've not yet confirmed this. Authorities will not talk about the investigation.

But that's what possibly helped authorities to then go to the grand jury late yesterday afternoon.

COSTELLO: Jean Casarez reporting live from New York. Thank you.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come, Comcast is selling its proposed deal with Time Warner Cable to consumers and lawmakers. But it might be off to a rocky start with customers.

Christine Romans is in New York with more.

Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. This will be a big sell for consumers. Why? They are wary. Customer satisfaction is low. Cable bills already sky-high. I'll tell you what this merger means to you and whether it will really happen after the break.


COSTELLO: The proposed sale of Time Warner Cable to Comcast is proving a tough sell to customers. In fact, many of the customers are calling the merger evil. Consumer groups were the first to blast the deal, one called it the cable guy on steroids.

Now, Senator Al Franken is stepping into the fray, slamming the proposed sale earlier on NEW DAY.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I'm concerned what this will do for consumers' cable bill, for their -- are they going to get worse service than they are already getting? Are they going to get less choice?

So, yesterday I sent a letter to federal regulators to take at that look at this and expressed my deep concerns.

When you have monopolies or oligopolies, very often you get with less competition, you get less innovation. This is something we very much have to look at.


COSTELLO: And it seems the deal isn't being in handled so smoothly from inside the company either. According to a tweet by an "L.A. Times" reporter on a conference call, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said, quote, "We're certainly not promising that customer bills will go down or increase less rapidly."

He actually said increase less rapidly. Seriously? You're trying to sell me a deal by promising I'm not going to safe any money now and I won't save any money in the future?

Joining me now to discuss, chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

This just does not sound like a good deal for consumers even from Comcast.

ROMANS: On that same conference call, the CEO Brian Roberts called it pro-consumer, pro-competitive and strongly in the public interest, but he wouldn't promise that customer bills are going to go down or rise less rapidly as well. So, that was the big topic of conversation.

Look, the average bill has been rising already for basic cable, they climbed from 39 bucks a month a year in 2000, to $78 a month in 2013. Those fees are forecast to reach 110 bucks by 2020.

Now, Carol, those are just basic cable. That's before tacking on costs for premium channels and the Internet. And we know there are more and more bells and whistles to the services you're getting and providers would say it costs more to deliver them.

This merger could also limit your choices when you're shopping for cable providers, especially, Carol, in some states like Florida and North Carolina, they already dominate in those markets. That's why it's very possible, regulators could make Comcast agree to certain conditions to prevent the kind of behavior that Senator Franken is talking about as they did in the Comcast NBC Universal deal.

So, regulators have to look hard that. This is a very big cable provider with a lot of power and leverage. We already know that cable bills are going up.

No one in there is making any promises this will halt the rise of your cable bill, Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. So, Comcast has already hired many, many lobbyists who are lobbying members of Congress, right?

ROMANS: That's why the way it works, my friend. That's the way it works.

COSTELLO: Like the deck is always stacked against the consumer.

ROMANS: So you always hear about people cutting the cord. We'll cut the cord. We're going to use some other services. When you look at it the average person is still spending four hours a day sitting in front of the warm glow of their television set. The cable cutting is still just a little sliver of it.

People like their TV. They like -- they want their cable service. More and more they are doing the triple bundle of phone and Internet.

COSTELLO: So, write them as much as you can --


ROMANS: It's a huge part of your budget and that part of your budget is rising just about anything else. Health care, cable bills are two things that don't seem over to go down and there's no question that in consolidation, as they get bigger and bigger, no sign that that's going to prevent them from going up or even going up more quickly.

That's what -- this is -- this ball is in the court of regulators now to make sure they design a deal that doesn't hurt consumers.

COSTELLO: So, I guess I should tell people to call their congress person. That's all you can do, right?

ROMANS: It is about all you can do and know that your congress person success lobbied by a whole bunch of other people with a lot more money than you.

COSTELLO: Oh, Christine!

ROMANS: Carol, I call it like I see it.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: Still to come, day three of jury deliberations in the loud music murder trial. A look at why the jury was barred from viewing a key piece of evidence, next.