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Russian Model-Turned-Bodyguard Killed in Carjacking; Politics and Personalities; Gushing Profits of Exxon-Mobil; Clinton and Obama Drop the Hatchet

Aired February 2, 2008 - 11:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN, ANCHOR: That will take a few days to discover, but in the meantime, thanks for joining us. I'm Betty Nguyen.
Hundreds of people on Amtrak trains stranded in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. The snow keeps coming. So what happened and how long until rescuers can get to them?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN, ANCHOR: And what about the weather mess going on in China? Hundreds of thousands of people stuck outside in train stations and airports, on buses. What do you do? Ten-hour bus trip goes nowhere for days.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody pays their taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not happy about it because it just goes to show you got fame, you get off easy.

NGUYEN: Outrage and a lot of it over why a jury found Wesley Snipes not guilty on most counts of tax fraud. No tax filings for six years on $38 million of income? What happened in the courtroom? Well, we've got those details right here in the NEWSROOM.

And breaking news right now from central Africa. The U.S., France, and U.N. are scrambling to get staffers out of Chad this morning. A coup appears to be under way. Hundreds of rebels swarmed the Chadian capital in N'Djamena today. Witnesses say they seized the presidential palace, but that is not confirmed. And sources tell CNN the Parliament building is being ransacked. The whereabouts of Chad's president, well, that is unclear. Some reports say he is hold up at the presidential palace. Others claim he fled the country. The rebels apparently moved into Chad three days ago from Sudan's Darfur region. Chad accuses Sudan of backing the fighters, but reports say three rebel groups joined forces in this push to bring down Chad's government.

HOLMES: And how about this? Stranded in the California mountains. About 150 passengers aboard Amtrak's California Zephyr trapped behind a derailed snowplow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The snowplow derailed near the Donner Pass, known for its savage winters and named after the Donner party pioneers who died in the pass during a 19th-century snowstorm. The snowplow derailment originally stalled two tracks, but one of them was pulled back to Reno, Nevada, where passengers were transferred to a hotel. 155 passengers remain aboard the second train waiting for the track to reopen.


VOICE OF UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The snowplow has been removed from the tracks. Crews are there to ensure that the track doesn't have any damage and they're also removing some snow that accumulated overnight. And as soon as the area is clear, we will proceed.


HOLMES: Heck of a scene there for folks. Amtrak says the stalled train has heat, electricity, water, and food. The California Zephyr runs from Chicago and Denver to Emeryville, California, just outside San Francisco. And like we said, kind of just a heck of a scene folks are going through there. Expecting some new video from what's happening there. We're going to bring that to you when we do get it.

NGUYEN: Well, travel is getting back to normal in the Midwest after heavy snow there. About four inches of snow fell in Fort Wayne, Indiana, snarling airport operations. Chicago's O'Hare Airport got 7 1/2 inches of snow, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations there. O'Hare is now operating normally. Snow also caused transportation problems in the Pacific northwest. Crews working to reopen a pass in Washington state used explosions to create controlled avalanches. This is obviously very serious out there with all this wintry mix.

HOLMES: Reynolds Wolf got his eye on all this wintry mix. We've got all kinds of travel delays. We all kinds of --

NGUYEN: Trains stuck.

HOLMES: -- issues.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN, METEORGOLOGIST: I know. It really is a nightmare. What's really bad is we're seeing the beginning of another winter storm for much of the West Coast, some of it in the form of rain from Crescent City. Our friends are tuning in from Eureka this morning. If they step outside, look up, they see gray skies and then rain coming down. However, when you get to higher elevations, we're not talking about rain, we're talking about some snowfall.

We're talking about the Zephyr, the Amtrak train. Zephyr means breeze, and they're going to see some strong breezes. In fact, winds going up to 100 miles per hour later on today, not necessarily for parts of Mt. Chasta, but rather back into the Sierra Nevada where as we zoom into Donner Pass. Check this out, they're expecting anywhere from 10 to 20 inches of snowfall between now and into Sunday night. So it is going to be a very, very messy time for them.

Not just them, but for much of the west, they're going to have all kinds of wild winter storms, some watches that we have that are in effect from state park, into Cascades, into the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies too, the northern Rockies, Central Rockies, anywhere from one to two feet -- not far from Sun Valley, Idaho Falls, back towards Lake Tahoe, anywhere from one to three feet. Anywhere from half inch or rather half a foot to a full foot into the Cascades. Meanwhile, we're also watching some weather, I guess you could say improving weather conditions for parts of the northeast. We did have some scattered snow showers well to the north of Punxsutawney, but this morning where Phil predicted another six weeks of winter, cloudy to partly cloudy skies, temperatures right now mainly into the 20s and 30s.

Meanwhile in northern Maine, we're seeing some scattered snow showers. Back into Chicago we go, you are snow-free for the time being, but I wouldn't be surprise if these are a few flakes there. No major accumulation anticipated. But back into parts of the Midwest, across the corn belt into portions of Missouri, we're seeing a few snow showers and then back out west, of course, we're talking about the rain and the snow.

That's a look at your forecast coast to coast. Another busy day. Always seems to happen on the weekends. Back to you.

NGUYEN: You got your hands full.

WOLF: Oh, yes.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Reynolds.

HOLMES: All right. Big weekend here, the last weekend before super Tuesday, and the remaining presidential candidates are out and about. 24 states in America and Samoa will be holding contests in three days. The candidates have picked states where their prospects are best and they're traveling across those states, making last-minute appeals. In California, one of the big battleground states for the democrats and CNN's Jessica Yellin is joining us live from Los Angeles. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama concentrating a lot of their fire power on California this weekend. Good morning to you out there, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, T.J. we need a weather report out here. It's awfully windy, but I'll tell you, none of this weather is stopping the candidates from fighting vigorously for support in this state, in this delegate-rich state they are fighting to win. The most recent boom went to Barack Obama. He won the coveted endorsement of the "Los Angeles Times," which had this to say -- in the language of metaphors, she - Hillary Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned. Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibilities.

Well, that's a historic endorsement because the "L.A. Times" has not endorsed any presidential candidate since 1972, but that is not stopping the Clinton train. After all, California is historically Clinton country, and they have been here for more than a year with a ground game that they describe as incredibly vigorous. That means there is support on the grassroots level, their get out the votes efforts. They are particularly strong in the Latino community and with women voters, and they are here in force. All three Clintons will be in town this weekend. Senator Hillary Clinton, Chelsea, and her husband Bill Clinton. And I'll tell you something very interesting, Bill Clinton will be here this weekend taking a tour of some African-American churches right here in Los Angeles. CNN has confirmed that. It could be a news-making event, but he has some stiff competition. Both Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama will also be campaigning in Los Angeles on Sunday. A real head-to-head that day. We'll look for what comes out of that, T.J..

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness! Set up the big battle! Oh, you've got Oprah -- it's L.A.. It's Hollywood. What do you say? Jessica Yellin out there, we appreciate you giving us the weather report via your hair. Thank you so much. It's windy out there.

YELLIN: Thanks.

NGUYEN: Oh, T.J.. All right, let's move on now to John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, all out campaigning for the republican nomination. CNN's Mary Snow is watching the GOP race from New York and the republicans will be making their way to the northeast. So how is that race shaping up?

MARY SNOW, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Betty, a lot less windy here inside the studio, right? You know, the northeast is going to be interesting. As Jessica was just talking about, the democrats campaign in California. The republicans have already campaigned there. They're making their way across the country. Senator John McCain will be hitting up the northeast tomorrow, and there is a bit of a turf battle, because Senator McCain will be in Massachusetts by tomorrow. That is Mitt Romney's home turf. He was the governor there. And he is expecting to win Massachusetts. So there is a battle going on there.

As for today, Mitt Romney taking a pause from the campaign trail. He is going to be attending the funeral of the leader of the Mormon church, who died earlier this week, Gordon Hinckley. Then he'll be back on the campaign trail, focusing on Minneapolis and also be heading to Missouri. Senator McCain is going to be in the south today. He is courting voters there in terms of voters in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee. He told reporters he believes that there is a good chance that he will win the republican nomination after Tuesday's results are in.

There's been a lot of sparring between him and Mitt Romney. John McCain saying that Mitt Romney has thrown everything at him but the kitchen sink. Now, Mike Huckabee is courting voters in the south today, as well. He'll be in Alabama. He's saying, look, this is not a two-man race, and if it is, he says, it's between him and John McCain. He is really banking on getting conservative voters, the evangelicals who are supporting him. That could be a big challenge for Mitt Romney, who's courting some of those same voters. Also, Ron Paul is still in this race. He is, of course, the underdog, but has been raising millions along the way, hitting records on some occasions. He is campaigning also in the last 72 hours before super Tuesday.

NGUYEN: It's a big day, so we will see how they play out. And a lot of stuff to do between now and then, and you know these republicans are going to be out there on the campaign trail. Thank you, Mary.

SNOW: Sure.

HOLMES: Of course, democrat Barack Obama has been making a strong pitch to young voters, but the young don't speak with one voice. They have a variety of concerns and support a variety of candidates. CNN's Ted Rowlands reports.



TED ROWLANDS, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: First-time voter Lynette Troy is an 18-year-old college freshman who is supporting republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

TROY: I like his economic policy about the fair tax.

ROWLANDS: Lynette's not the only student worried about the economy. It's an issue that resonates across party lines among young voters. UCLA student Jose Nias likes Barack Obama.

JOSE NIAS, UCLA STUDENT: Trying to get a job, something that will pay well to be able to pay off the college loans. Give peace a chance.

ROWLANDS: Young voters may have a reputation for putting idealistic issues like world peace and the environment ahead of economic concerns, but according to the Pew Research Center, 80% of 18 to 29-year-olds surveyed rated the economy as very important. Just 61% gave the environment the same rating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of them are graduating college, graduating high school, they're looking to their first job and they realize, this job market is not so good.

ROWLANDS: Political strategists call these young people millennial voters, Americans between the ages of 18 and 29. Their number's approaching 50 million. But historically speaking, young people are notorious for showing high enthusiasm in the early stages of a campaign but skipping out on election day. So how much will they matter this year? Lauren Lees is a millennial voter from California who's never bothered to vote before, but says 2008 is different.

LAUREN LEES, MILLENIAL VOTER: It's definitely the candidates. It's definitely just what's going on. I mean, we have the war in Iraq and all the education and all these different things.

ROWLANDS: We heard the same thing from a group of UCLA students watching CNN's democratic debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of the youth are getting excited about this. The candidates are actually speaking to us at this election. It's a very exciting time. ROWLANDS: Whether it's the economy, other issues, or the candidates, turnout among young voters has been up so far this year. 29-year-old singer-actress Brandy Norwood told us she thinks that trend will continue.

BRANDY NORWOOD, SINGER-ACTRESS: I just feel like they're going to get out there and vote, and I'm here to tell them, get out there and vote.

ROWLANDS: And because so far they have, candidates are paying attention. Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.


NGUYEN: Well, Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, is scheduled to campaign for her husband in Los Angeles tomorrow. Michelle Obama recently sat down with CNN's Soledad O'Brien, and she talked about her reaction when her husband entered the presidential race.


MICHELLE OBAMA, SEN. BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: I am like most Americans, cynical about what you can do. And there was a level of selfishness. This is going to be hard for me, you know? But when I took off those hats and started thinking and hoping and dreaming for the things that I would want for this country and the kind of leadership that I'd be looking for, I thought, if I weren't married to Barack, I would desperately want him to do this.


NGUYEN: And you can see more of that interview with Michelle Obama today on CNN's "Ballot Bowl." It begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

HOLMES: And also later today on CNN, a debate doubleheader. Back-to-back replays of this week's presidential debates. CNN will bring you the democratic debate at 7:00 Eastern followed immediately by the republican debate at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. And later we'll show both debates again starting at midnight Eastern. So you're not going to miss it.

NGUYEN: Nope, not at all. As long as you keep it on CNN.

We do have a disturbing story to tell you about. Take a look at this lady. Well, here's what happened. She's a pregnant police officer and she was killed while working alone in New Orleans. Where was her backup?

HOLMES: Also, actor Wesley Snipes hasn't been paying taxes for quite some time. Find out what a Florida jury had to say about this money train.


HOLMES: Well, a few stories people are talking about across America this weekend. Don't go near the water. That nasty water. 3 million gallons of sticky, nasty sewage has just messed up the San Francisco Bay right about now. The partially treated water free flowed for 20 hours. The treatment plant says a worker forgot to turn on enough pump.

NGUYEN: Somebody's in trouble.

HOLMES: Forgot. OK.

Also, let's show you this, fire destroying two steeples at a historic Cincinnati Church. Firefighters saved the main building of old St. George's, but these days the 135-year-old structure is home to a community center and coffee houses and things like that.

Also, after a week of brutal winter weather, Oklahoma is battling a brush fire today. Crews from 20 departments are trying to knock down flames near Apache. Several homes were evacuated but everybody is back home this morning.

NGUYEN: Hobbled by Katrina, New Orleans' mental health system remains in crisis and the death of a young police officer this week seems to bear that out. Here's CNN Sean Callebs.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN, CORRESPODNENT: In New Orleans, a somber, solemn farewell to 24-year-old police officer Nicola Cotton, killed in the line of duty. Cotton had weathered Katrina and was proud to be in the first graduating class of rookies after the storm. John Raphael is a former cop and was Cotton's pastor.

REV. JOHN C. RAPHAEL JR., NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURC: Very kind, very quiet person that you wouldn't even think would be a police officer if you would not see her in uniform, but she was committed to her job and to serving this city.

CALLEBS: In many ways, Cotton's death shines a glaring light on two of the problems plaguing post-Katrina New Orleans -- crime and what many in the medical field call a woeful lack of mental health treatment. Cotton was killed after stopping a man who fit the description of a sexual assault suspect. Police say Bernel Johnson, who had a history of mental illness, pounced on Cotton during questioning and wrestled her gun away. Johnson, described as a paranoid schizophrenic, first beat Cotton with her night stick, then allegedly shot her 15 times.

DR. JEFFREY ROUSE, CHIEF DEPUTY CORONER: When people like him fall through the cracks, they don't just go quietly. Unfortunately, people like him when they fall through the cracks, they can cause havoc.

CALLEBS: Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the city's deputy coroner had Johnson committed recently. Johnson could have been held 15 days, but Rouse says the mental health facility decided to release him earlier. Clearly, treatment is a huge problem in the city and one mayor Ray Nagin can only address with the same explanation he offers for so many problems.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: Well, we're working with the resources that we have.

CALLEBS: Rouse is angry and frustrated.

ROUSE: And the fact of the matter is that until all the systems can get together and have the resources to handle these kinds of problems, I fear that things like this will just continue to happen in my hometown, and that is unacceptable.

CALLEBS: Cotton was unmarried. The autopsy showed she was eight weeks' pregnant when she was killed. New Orleans has become a more violent city in the aftermath of Katrina. Cotton's bosses say she followed procedure, but Johnson was twice her size, and it turns out, he wasn't even the man police were looking for. Now, however, he is being held on a charge of first-degree murder. There were 209 murders in 2007, many of them in the low-income area of central city, where Cotton was patrolling by herself in broad daylight the day she was killed.

RAPHAEL: There's not going to be any change until the community decides we have enough.

CALLEBS: Another unwanted legacy of a storm that punished the area nearly 2 1/2 years ago. Sean Callebs, CNN.


NGUYEN: That's a tragic story, and it seems like the problem's just getting layered on top of other problems there.

HOLMES: So much in New Orleans to get worked out still.


HOLMES: Well, there's something else we want to turn to now, a mystery happening in Alabama. Where did the guest workers go?

NGUYEN: 100 of them, in fact. They just disappeared from their jobs and their apartments. Do they pose a security threat?


NGUYEN: This is the case of where are they and are they a security threat? Dozens of people from central Asia have just vanished in Alabama. Want to get the story now from CNN's Bill Tucker.

BILL TUCKER, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Approximately 100 guest workers from Nepal at the Cinram Plant in Huntsville, Alabama, have abandoned their jobs and their apartments. No one knows for sure where any of the workers have gone. The owners of the apartment complex where the workers were living say they left without notice and claimed that they stripped the furnished apartments of furniture and TVs. MARY SNOPL, LANDLORD: I don't know if they're living in Huntsville or somewhere else. I just know they aren't living with us and they're not working at Cinram.

TUCKER: The initial news of their disappearance touched off security concerns. One local county official who had been opposed to the company bringing in the workers raised concerns of a terrorist threat.

MO BROOKS, MADISON CO., ALABAMA COMMISSIONER: Cinram insisted that there were long background checks and Cinram was vouching to the citizenry of Madison County that they had this program under control, when apparently they did not.

TUCKER: Cinram dismisses those concerns, noting that each worker under went a background check by the Department of Homeland Security. The company issued the following statement -- "all of the H-2B Visa applicants must be screened by the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. department of labor, the U.S. Counselor in their local country, as well as the U.S. embassy in their local country." A spokesman from the United States citizenship and immigration service confirms D.H.S. does do background checks, but that doesn't answer the question of where those 100 workers went or why. A company spokesman says he believes as work slowed down, the workers just decided to sight-see the country rather than work.


TUCKER: Nor does it answer the question why the company had to hire 1,141 foreign workers from five different countries to work at its plant in Alabama instead of hiring American workers. The company says there weren't enough local workers to fill the jobs that pay $8.50 an hour, so they went to Nepal. We should point out that the terms of the H-2B visa do allow for travel, but we have no idea of where these workers have traveled to, nor do we know if they will leave the country once their visas expire. Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.

HOLMES: Now a deal to end the violence in Kenya. But fresh clashes are being reported today in the western part of that country. Four civilians and a police officer reported dead and a church and homes burned down. Former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan has brokered an agreement in which the government and the main opposition group pledge to stop the bloodshed, restore fundamental rights, help those forced from their homes and also resolve the political crisis. The presidential election claims it was rigged fueled this crisis. The violence claims more than 800 lives and left a quarter million people homeless.

NGUYEN: Quick story for you. She was a model and also one of Russia's most famous body guards.

HOLMES: Her death, though, has all of Moscow talking. Her story, just ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: Twenty-nine past the hour now. Happening around the world, things are getting comeback to normal in the Midwest after this week's snowstorm -- after canceling hundreds of flights in Chicago's O'Hare Airport yesterday or rather earlier this week, but the FAA reports no delays so far today.

Chaos to report in the central African country of Chad. Security sources say at least 400 rebels are in the capital and heavy fighting is reported near the presidential palace. Conflicting reports, though, on where Chad's president is. We should have the first pictures out of Chad's capital coming up in a few minutes. We'll bring them to you as soon as we can.

NGUYEN: Questions keep coming. What happened to Natalee Holloway in Aruba, and will we know anything soon? Well, a source tells CNN that the chief Aruban prosecutor wants Joran Van der Sloot arrested for a third time. The move is based on assertions made by a Dutch crime reporter. His report will air tomorrow. And he claims to know what happened to the Alabama teen. And it is apparently pointing to Van der Sloot.

Holloway was on a senior class trip to Aruba where she vanished back in 2005. She was last seen leaving a nightclub with Van der Sloot and two other young men.

Just weeks ago, Aruban police had labeled the Holloway case a cold case.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, she was a model, stunningly beautiful. Then she switched careers and became a bodyguard. But beauty and brawn failed her on a dark Moscow street.

Here now, CNN's Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: For many Russians, she was a feminine icon, bridging the glamorous world of modeling with the rough underbelly of Russian crime.

Behind the glossy images of her last photo shoot with "Maxim" magazine, 29-year-old Anna Loginova was an experienced bodyguard, trained in martial arts, commanding high prices to protect millionaire clients.

Those who knew her say she was never deterred by the danger.

IGOR CHERSKI, MAXIM MAGAZINE: I think she was one of a kind, I think, and not like "Terminator," not like -- but I felt she wasn't afraid. There was not any fear in her life.

CHANCE: That fearlessness proved fatal. Police recovered her body after she tried to prevent her own car from being stolen, clinging onto the Porsche SUV as it sped away. The vehicle was later found abandoned. "An intruder just threw her out of the car," this Russian investigator says. "She grabbed the door handle, but when the car picked up speed, she let go."

Luxury car theft in Moscow is common. Loginova told Maxim, in a recent taped interview, she fought off a thief just four months ago, twisting his arm and pulling a handgun.

But this time, even the skills of Russia's most famous and glamorous bodyguard couldn't save her.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: All right, we will turn to some politics for a bit now, or shall we? Our front-runners, ahead, Super Tuesday, we know who they are and we know how they got there. The issues? Was it personality? Was it suits? What was it?

NGUYEN: Well, that's a big question, especially when it comes to the personality.

Josh Levs has been pouring over the exit polls from the primaries and caucuses and found some revealing answers when it comes to the politics and the personalities.

JOSH LEVS, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS ANALYST: Yeah, that's what I wanted to know for today. When they actually step into the booth, what is it in the end? Because there's so much that we give them and so much that politicians give them. But for voters, in the end, what's that last thing?

And what I found really so striking here is that despite the fact that there have been different winners in all these states so far, when you talk to people, why do you end up voting the way you do, you keep getting the same answers in every state, wherever you go. You get pretty much exactly the same responses on the Democratic side and on the Republican side.

So let's jump into those, because I want to show you this. For example, here is what Democrats in all these different states are saying in the end is most important to them. And this is significant. Issues, 60 percent. Personal qualities 40 percent. That's why when you're seeing the debates, when you're seeing the candidates out there on the stump they really do get into some nitty gritty will issues. Here's exactly the specifics of my health care plan, that kind of thing. Because on the Democratic side, there is a clear advantage for someone who can nail issues.

Now, let's take a look at the Republican side. It's different there. All over the country, what we're seeing there, pretty much the exact same thing, 50-50, which means really getting into the nitty gritty of issues and a little bit less of an advantage there. Personal qualities are 50 percent. So what you find more often in the Republican debates really is very much playing to this and really trying to play out this kind of strength in personality in order to get those voters.

NGUYEN: OK. So when it comes to that personality, I mean, are there any specifics? What are people looking for when it comes to that?

LEVS: Yes, there are, and again, exactly the same thing. Every single state so far, no exceptions at all.

Let's look at the Republicans, for example. On the Republican side, for personal quality, what's the top personal quality? They all say by far share my values. That's the winner in every state among Republicans, share my values, which is why among the contenders that you still see on the Republican side, there is a lot of talk about what values they stand for, what values they believe they can bring to the nation.

Now, let's also look at the Democratic side. Again, one very clear winner there, and that is just what you would guess, changes can bring change. To the Democrats, that's why you're hearing only two left now, Clinton and Obama, talk about change all the time, because the majority of Democrats in every state are saying the same thing.

So let's take this into Super Tuesday. Because we're seeing the same results in all the states so far, when you've got 24 states coming up, right, for this week, what they really can believe, these candidates can legitimately believe it's the same thing throughout the country.

So you'll see a little playing to regional needs. But more, you'll see the same, broad messages everywhere around the country. You'll see the Democrats keep playing up issues and change and you'll see the Republicans keep playing up personality and values, because the fact is, everywhere we're seeing that that's what voters want to see in their candidates.

NGUYEN: And you've got to factor in the whole likeability issue, too. You have to simply like them.

LEVS: I know.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Josh.

HOLMES: Josh, thanks.

NGUYEN: Well, you can get a close look at the candidates on CNN's "BALLOT BOWL" this weekend. Our special political coverage gives you the chance to see the presidential hopefuls unfiltered on the campaign trail. "BALLOT BOWL" kicks off today at 2:00 p.m. eastern.

And later today on CNN, a debate doubleheader. You don't want to miss, back-to-back replays of this week's presidential debates. CNN will bring you the Democratic debate at 7:00 p.m. eastern, followed immediately by the Republican debate at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

Later we'll show both debates, again, starting at midnight. So plenty of opportunity if you didn't catch them live earlier this week.

HOLMES: All right, six more weeks to the winter.


HOLMES: If you want to believe a big, hairy, furry -- what did Reynolds call it earlier?

NGUYEN: A creature with bad teeth? I think he called it a pillow or something like that, a stuffed pillow.

HOLMES: Yes. Punxsutawney Phil. He woke up, we're supposed to say, and saw his shadow.

NGUYEN: No, he was rudely awakened and ripped from his home.

HOLMES: He was rudely awakened and told to point to a particular scroll, and that's how it really went down. But happy Groundhog Day.

You see, there it is. Like which one is he picking?

NGUYEN: How can you tell?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: He's not really a high-energy guy. Did you notice that?

NGUYEN: No, because he's tired. He just got woken up.

WOLF: No coffee or anything. They yank him out and he does his thing.

You were talking about politics a while ago. I can string politics together with this. CNN has got a great political journalist, my favorite person in the whole world, Bill Schneider. Bill Schneider occasionally out in the field will wear a hat that looks very similar to Punxsutawney Phil, so I don't know. I've never seen them really...

NGUYEN: So you're saying they're kin? Is that what you're saying?

WOLF: What I'm saying is during the off-season, Phil sits on top of Bill Schneider's head.

NGUYEN: Bill Schneider's head.

HOLMES: We need that picture now to show people what you're talking about. We know exactly the hat you're talking about.

WOLF: It happens.

HOLMES: That's right.

WOLF: Hey, let's take you right to Punxsutawney where that giant guy with the weird teeth, again, gave us six more weeks of winter.

Well, we have partly cloudy skies, partly cloudy skies now, temperatures right near the 30-degree mark. It's not going to get much warmer there today. It's going to get a little bit better in New York, though, temperatures getting into the 40s, perhaps even some 50s in some spots.

Meanwhile, as we head towards Chicago, Chicago should remain dry for the day. However, in points north up near Osh Gosh, Green Bay, Cedar Rapids, we're talking snow, but light precipitation expected.

Meanwhile, in the central plains and back into say Missouri, much of the snow leaving the area. However, you may have some icing on parts of I-70.

And out West, we've got big-time precipitation, some rainfall just south of Seattle, right near parts of the mouth of the Columbus River in through Eugene, just north of San Francisco. However, in the high spots near Bend, Oregon, back near the seven sisters, the nice rains there, part of the cascades, you'll get snow there. So great for skiers. Some snow also for Mt. Shasta, but we could see more snow in places like Donner Pass, where we had the stranded train that was stranded. Anywhere from 10 to 20 inches through Sunday night. So it's going to be certainly a stormy time through much of the weekend. Some places into the Rockies, into the Sierra Nevada, even the cascades getting around a foot or so. Some locations in parts of, I'd say near Salt Lake City in the highest areas near Snowbird, one to three feet with wind gusts approaching 100 miles per hour.

So busy times out there. Again, a groundhog on top of your head might be the perfect thing to wear. Back to you.

NGUYEN: It will keep you warm.

WOLF: And it would serve him right, too, for giving us that forecast.

HOLMES: All right, Reynolds, we appreciate that.

WOLF: Talk to you soon.

NGUYEN: We want to get you to some news and new video out of Chad. This is a first video that we're getting in today in light of what is happening there in the capital city.

A lot of violence to report. Chad's ambassador to the United States insisted that a rebel uprising in the capital has quashed government troops amid reports that at least 400 rebels have entered the city and broken into the presidential palace.

We also have some video of some French troops as well, but we understand both the U.S. embassy and the French embassy are urging their governmental personnel, at least those dealing with non- emergency situations, to leave the country as soon as they can due to the uncertainties about the security. But again, heavy fighting is reported around the presidential palace, the defense ministry, even the official radio station building, as rebels have streamed into the capital from several directions.

And these are just the first pieces of video that are coming in to CNN from the situation in Chad. A lot of violence to tell you about. And of course, we'll be following all this and bring you the latest as soon as we get additional information.

HOLMES: And conflicting reports right now. Don't know where the president is exactly. Some saying that he was actually in the presidential palace and under heavy guard. Other reports that he had actually already fled. So that right now conflicts in reports, a mystery, but a developing situation and ever escalating and deteriorating situation, you could say, about what's happening there. So we will see and keep an eye on this.

NGUYEN: Actually, we've got a live report coming to us just as soon as it's available. Nic Robertson is in Ethiopia, on his way to Chad and he will give us a live update on the situation as soon as we can bring that to you.

Meantime, though, Exxon-Mobil made more than $40 billion -- with a B -- last year, and some people say that might actually be a good thing. Really? And no, it's not just the chairman of Exxon's board. We'll give you the details.


NGUYEN: All right, so with gas hitting record highs last year, a lot of you struggled to fill up your tank, but big oil is struggling, too, believe it or not.

HOLMES: Yes, they are struggling! It's all that money in their pocket!

NGUYEN: Don't you feel so terrible?

HOLMES: You run out of space for all that cash! What do you do?

Well, CNN's Brian Todd now with the gushing profits.


BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Numbers that might make you want to pull away from the pump. Exxon-Mobil makes the highest yearly and quarterly profits ever for any American company, nearly $11.7 billion in the last three months of 2007, $40.6 billion for all of last year. Don't both doing more math. We can tell you that $1,300 a second.

It's got some politicians again accusing oil companies of gouging.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Children living on the street in America while Exxon-Mobil makes $40 billion.

TODD: For those in Congress who deal with energy issues, the problem's not so much the profit.

REP. ED MARKEY, (D), ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: What's wrong is when after reporting the highest profits in the history of any company, in the history of the world, that they then turn around and ask for bigger tax breaks.

TODD: Exxon says for every dollar it makes in profits, it pays $2.50 in taxes and denies critics' charges that it's keeping supplies down.

Oil analysts say we'd all better hope these companies make big profits. Why? Because it costs money to find more oil.

Analysts say much of the reserves we're now tapping into, in the Gulf of Mexico and the Middle East, may not be available much longer.

The head of Europe's largest oil company recently wrote -- "After 2015, easily accessible supplies of oil and gas will probably no longer keep up with demand."

Demand from places like China and India. The U.S. government projects those supplies will last much longer, but experts say oil companies are already trying to explore and drill in harder-to-reach places, might even have to go into environmentally off-limits areas like the arctic before long, and none of that's cheap.

TOM WALLIN, ENERGY INTELLIGENCE: Very deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or offshore west Africa, you know, the incremental cost of bringing on these kinds of reserves are, you know, way, way above the costs the company had been facing say ten years ago.

TODD (on camera): There is also the challenge of refining. It's getting more expensive and difficult to build and operate refineries and getting harder to find places to build them where communities won't resist. In fact, a new refinery hasn't been built in the U.S. since the 1970s.

(voice-over): Another big problem -- countries hostile or competitive with the U.S. economically have nationalized their oil industries. As a result, Venezuela has pushed Exxon and ConocoPhillips out of large oil fields there. Russia's done the same with Shell and BP.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: All right. Wesley Snipes -- he took on the tax man. Who came out on top?


HOLMES: This is really the highlight of our Saturday morning, this right here.


NGUYEN: This is my highlight, too. We're all together.

HOLMES: Good morning.

WHITFIELD: Last weekend we did the group hug, you know...

NGUYEN: Yeah, we're not going any further than that.

WHITFIELD: We won't do that today. That's freaky. You've got germs.

HOLMES: No, I'm good. I'm good now.

WHITFIELD: You've got a little bug.

NGUYEN: We've got medicine out here. Like a medicine cabinet back there with his inhaler and all his other drugs...

HOLMES: Why...


WHITFIELD: All right, let's look ahead now, shall we?


WHITFIELD: Let's talk about the noon hour and what we've got straight ahead.

Well, you know Wesley Snipes for his "Blade" fame. Well, he has simply sliced through the tax fraud charges. Somehow, he has escaped some jail time. We're going to weigh in with our legal guys to find out how he managed to do this. Yet, a lot of his buddies, not so lucky.

And then the Donner Pass. If you've ever been there -- have you ever been through the Donner Pass?


WHITFIELD: Well, it is very beautiful, but you can't help but go through the Donner Pass and not think about the 19th-century pioneers and their saga. So today's saga, these Amtrak passengers, who are on now the ride of their life, stuck there in the Donner Pass. We'll have an update out of California on what's happening with those folks and how they might get freed from those icy tracks.

NGUYEN: Yeah. They've been stuck there overnight, so they're ready to get to where they were going.

WHITFIELD: They are.

NGUYEN: Hopefully, they'll get a chance. WHITFIELD: Fortunately, Amtrak says there are lots of things on board so they're heating...

NGUYEN: Electricity, heat, food. They'll get a free ride out of it.

WHITFIELD: Right, right. May not want one. Good to see you guys.

HOMES: Fredricka, thank you so much, ma'am.

WHITFIELD: You're welcome.

NGUYEN: And we want to talk about this, because coming up, up close and personal.

HOLMES: Well, just what in the world are those sweet nothings they're whispering in each other's year?

NGUYEN: You're fabulous. You are.

HOLMES: My goodness. Look at this. Much different theme from these two that we saw this week. We'll talk about what they might have been whispering at the debate this week.


HOLMES: Back up off me, please! -- that's what an L.A. city councilman wants the paparazzi to do in terms of celebrities. In the wake of the media swarm that's been stalking Britney Spears, the councilman has introduced a personal safety zone ordinance, requiring photographers to stay several feet away from celebrities.

It's not just the stars that deserve a break here. The councilman says the swarms are outrageous danger to the public. And unless something is done, somebody is going to get hurt.

NGUYEN: Well, a lot of celebrities have been saying that -- Look, somebody's going to get into a bad accident if you guys don't just back off.

You know, there are a lot of folks that we could maybe put in this category, Bogie and Bacall, Brad and Angelina, but Barack and Hillary?

HOLMES: I don't know if they go in the same category, whichever one we're talking about. A lot of Democrats wanted their candidates to drop the hatchet. But after this week's debate, Jeanne Moos was wondering, did they go just a little too far?


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He gallantly moved her chair for her. He boyishly touched her arm. It sounded like a first date.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're having a wonderful time.


MOOS: But when the debate ended...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That has to end our conversation this evening.

MOOS: That's when the conversation really got interesting. Both Senators ripped off their microphones and began whispering, smiling, touching, and whispering some more.

(on camera): In your wildest imagination, what might they be whispering to one another?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama asking Hillary, would you make me your vice, would you be my vice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for not beating me up too bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's asking how is his wife doing.

MOOS: Although they could be talking about the Super Bowl.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would we pull that off? We just saved the American public and we're friends now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just for the cameras. It's nothing.

MOOS (voice-over): Actually, nothing is what we got out of both campaigns when we asked what the sweet nothings were all about, though the Clinton campaign joked from snub to hug in two days flat, referring to Obama supposedly turning his back on Hillary at the State of the Union.

Not since George Bush and John McCain hugged has there been such memorable contact between same-party rivals. At least Obama didn't kiss Hillary on top of the head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like she's saying "I'm so going to kill you, you're so dead" or dead meat, maybe? I'm trying to do lip reading.

MOOS: Let's get a lip reader to read their lips.

George Overlander works with the League for the Hard of Hearing. George thinks that Hillary says...


MOOS: This is our big break.

Then Barack says... OVERLANDER: Find out who has blank after we win.

MOOS (on camera): After we win.

(voice-over): And Hillary seems to agree.

OVERLANDER: Yeah, that's right, yeah, that's right, exactly.

MOOS: But those who don't read lips prefer the idea that he's giving her lip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He saying I'm going to kick your ass, but he's got a smile on his face.

MOOS: While some dream about a political marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A dream ticket, a dream ticket for the...

MOOS: Others are more romantic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are acting like lovers a little bit. Maybe she's getting even with Bill.

MOOS: Ah, but Hillary left holding someone else's hand. That doesn't stop us from letting Barry White do the lip-reading.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: Oh, those sweet nothings.

HOLMES: What do you guess them saying?

NGUYEN: I agree with the lip reader. I'm no expert in that category.

HOLMES: I'd say -- see, I could kind of tell. I'm not an expert, either, but it seemed like he was saying I wish Betty Nguyen was moderating this instead of...

NGUYEN: Oh, get out of here!

HOLMES: I think that's what he said.

Fredricka, I'm pretty sure that's what it was.

WHITFIELD: Good guess. I'm going to go with that, too.

You all have a great day.

NGUYEN: You too.

HOLMES: You too. WHITFIELD: We're following a lot this hour, starting with some pretty serious news taking place overseas. Chaos in the central African country of Chad. Security sources say at least 400 rebels are in the capital and heavy fighting is reported near the presidential palace. There are conflicting reports on where Chad's president is.

We have Annette Rehr from the UNHCR on the phone with us now.

And not far away from the capital, miles away, but you are in Chad. So, Annette, what's your understanding of what precipitated this and what your group or anyone at this juncture can even think about doing?

ANNETTE REHR, UNHCR: We have to say we're getting very mixed messages from what is actually going on in the capital. We know that all United Nations non-essential staff have already been evacuated yesterday and will be evacuated today out to Cameroon. So the situation is really very serious for us. As far as the UNHCR is concerned, we are still on the place and everything is still going fine. We also wait for rebels to come and reach the town of Avishi (ph), which is about 1,000 kilometers east of the capital, N'Djamena. But we are still waiting and we have to see how the situation develops to decide on what we are going to do next.

WHITFIELD: Chad is a country that that is received a lot of attention as of recent, meaning a number of refugees have found a place to stay or refuge there in Chad. Is it your understanding whether the unrest here has anything to do with the instability of Sudan?

REHR: Well, actually, you're right.