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CNN NEWSROOM

Second Brutal Arctic Blast; Terror Plot Clues Missed; Exporting Terrorism

Aired January 7, 2010 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone.

It is Thursday, January 7th, and here are the faces of the stories behind the morning headlines.

Jacqueline Mosley, Memphis resident without electricity for almost a year. But brutal arctic air somehow brings heat to her home.

Humam al-Balawi, double agent and suicide bomber. His family talks about the man who killed seven CIA officers, a CNN exclusive.

And Mark Ingram, Heisman Trophy winner. The Alabama running back will try to carry the Crimson Tide, Roll Tide, to a national championship over Texas tonight.

Hook 'em Horns. I think I'm covered.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

From the freeze to the deep freeze, another brutal arctic blast coming to much of the country. Forecasters say you can expect snow from the upper plains to the Northeast, and as far south as Kentucky and Tennessee.

A dangerous mix of ice and snow possible from Louisiana to Georgia. The bone-chilling cold is blamed for at least seven deaths nationwide.

Most of the weather-related deaths are in Tennessee.

Let's go there live now to CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano. He is in Memphis.

And Rob, if you would, how would you describe the conditions there?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they've gotten a lot colder just in the last couple of hours.

You know, last night and early this morning, temperatures were about as warm as they have been in several days, right around the freezing mark. And we got some snow, which is a rare sight, to say the least, her in Memphis. And now that that first snow mostly is gone, the front is through, and temperatures are dropping, and that's what they're afraid of, this second punch of cold air that's going to drop temperatures, even colder than they were the past couple of days. And with people here in Memphis not being used to the cold, and then a lot of people just without power for various reasons, it has officials scrambling to keep everybody warm.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO (voice-over): Here in Memphis, at least three fatalities have been attributed to the bitter cold. So the sheriff's special services unit volunteers are going door to door.

BOBBY STODDARD, SHELBY COUNTY DEPT. SPECIAL SERVICES UNIT: It's important that we come out here and check on these people to make sure they're not using a improper space heater, that their houses are warm, that their utilities are on and still functioning.

MARCIANO: But many in Memphis are without utilities because they simply can't pay. So the mayor and Memphis Light, Gas and Water cut a deal to turn the power back on until the weather warms up.

This is a situation in which I simply don't have the ability to compare the threat to human life with some dollars over here. So, to me, it was fairly simple. We just pushed that aside. We've got some lives to save out here.

MARCIANO: Jackie Moses had been without utilities for almost a year, until now.

JACQUELINE MOSES, MEMPHIS RESIDENT: Oh, I have lights.

MARCIANO: Propane heaters and even burning charcoal inside to stay warm, a dangerous way to live.

MOSES: When you're trying to survive, you're not thinking of that hazard. You're thinking of surviving. Listen to that.

MARCIANO (on camera): What's that?

MOSES: Heat!

MARCIANO: The sweet sound.

MOSES: That's heat. Oh, my God.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Jackie was born in this house, came back to years ago to care for her dying mother, and she still can't find any work.

MOSES: All I want is a job. You know? I don't care if it's beneath what I used to do. I don't care, as long as I can take care of myself.

MARCIANO: For now, she's grateful for getting to sleep in a warm home with even colder nights on the way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: Unfortunately, Jackie's (ph) story is fairly prevalent here across Memphis. The mayor describes the state of the economy here as one in five people living in some condition of poverty. So that means a lot of people like Jackie (ph) who just can't afford to pay their utility bills.

About 1,700 people here in Memphis, their power has been shut down recently because they haven't paid their bills. So like we said in the piece, the mayor got together with the power company. So far, since yesterday, they have restored the power and heat to about 500 people out of that 1,700, and they hope to do a little more today as the coldest weather, Tony, is expected to move in tonight, and we could see temperatures close to zero come Saturday morning.

And I don't care where you live, be it Memphis or Florida or even Minneapolis, zero degrees is zero degrees, and that is dangerous cold weather.

HARRIS: I've got to tell you, we were absolutely shocked earlier this week to learn how many people in the state of Tennessee are living on some form of public assistance. It was really surprising.

Rob Marciano for us.

Rob, thank you.

Other big stories on the radar this morning.

St. Louis police are looking for the man who opened fire at a sprawling manufacturing plant today. Police say three people were shot. The shooter, armed with a semiautomatic rifle. The company, ABB, makes hardware for the electrical industry.

F-15 fighter jets escorted a Hawaii-bound airliner back to Portland, Oregon. The pilot turned around 90 minutes into the flight. Officials say a passenger made threatening remarks and refused to store his carry-on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE YTURRI, HAWAIIAN AIRLINES PASSENGER: And we see the fire department surrounding our airplane as we landed. The next thing you know, they told us we couldn't move out of our seats. Then, all of a sudden, the doors open and the police are there escorting two people out. So we knew it wasn't a mechanical problem right then and there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Well, the man questioned by the FBI and released.

Christmas Day bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow. A federal grand jury in Detroit has returned a six-count indictment. The charges include the attempted murder of 289 people aboard the Detroit-bound plane and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

We will learn more details today about government mistakes leading up to the attempted terror attack on Christmas Day. The Obama administration releases a preliminary report on the findings, and we will hear from the president himself later this afternoon.

Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry joining us live now.

And Ed, good to see you.

What are we expecting to hear from the president today?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're getting a taste of it, that it's going to be shocking, frankly. And that's coming from the president's national security adviser.

Retired General Jim Jones telling "USA Today," in an interview, that, basically, dots should have been connected here, that U.S. officials had some information and intelligence suggesting the eventual suspect never should have gotten on that plane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JIM JONES, (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think there's a certain shock to it in the sense that, you know, the man on the street will say -- will be surprised that -- you know, that these correlations weren't made, because there was data out there. There was a number of things that could have triggered a prevention of this individual ever getting on an airplane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: The other big question is who will be held accountable for those big mistakes that are shocking, in the words of one of the president's own top aides right there? You'll remember last week, in Hawaii, the president said that he demands accountability at all levels of government. He also spoke about systemic and human failings.

We've heard a lot about the systemic failings, about terror watch lists that maybe are not working, need to be more efficient, aviation security that needs to be beefed up, but we have not heard a lot about the human failings, who's responsible, which agency. Basically, who dropped the ball so you can figure out how to fix this basically -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. And Ed, you know, I guess there's some reporting that there is an "LA Times" article with some information about the report that the White House is actually knocking down.

What can you tell us about that?

HENRY: Yes. Well, the "LA Times" is reporting that, basically, while this flight was in midair from Amsterdam to Detroit, officials on the ground, U.S. officials, put the names from that flight into a database and they turned up this eventual suspect, and they were planning to question him when he landed.

Now, the thrust of the report suggests that maybe if they had gotten this information a little sooner, they would have kept him off the plane and it would have been a dramatic way to stop all of this. What the White House is knocking down is the notion that they could have stopped it.

They say the problem here is they already know that he was in a broad database, but the problem is that he was not on a more select no-fly list. That's what needs to be fixed, because even if this information had gotten to the airline officials earlier, they had no specific intelligence or anything to keep him off the plane.

That's one of the things that needs to be fixed. And as you noted, one of the things we're expecting to come in this report today, what exactly went wrong there -- Tony.

HARRIS: All right. Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, for us.

Ed, appreciate it. Thank you. See you next hour.

The administration is digging deeper into terror suspect Umar Farouk abdulmutallab's ties to al Qaeda.

Senior Political Analyst David Gergen talked about al Qaeda's recruiting tactics on "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": And David, what are you hearing? I know you had some inside information about al Qaeda and some of their recruiting tactics.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I was told, Anderson, by folks at the White House that they were quite surprised that the recruiting effort, how successful and how quick it was. This young man, just like Mr. Hasan, was drawn in by the Internet, which one person called today hauntingly persuasive for people like him.

But then he went to Yemen. He was only there about four months. And in that time, essentially he was swept up and he was brainwashed in an almost cult-like environment.

And they sent him forward on his mission. It happened very quickly. He was turned around and turned into this, in effect, a guided missile for al Qaeda.

So the White House is trying to figure out now, ,how does this al Qaeda operation work? Is this similar to what's going on elsewhere? How sophisticated is it?

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: And a reminder. The president will give his security review of the failed Christmas Day terror attack. CNN will bring you those comments live at 3:00 Eastern Time this afternoon, right here in the NEWSROOM..

And terror on the Internet. You heard a bit about that from David Gergen. It is how one youth movement is recruiting for al Qaeda.

Our senior editor of Middle East affairs joins me next.

And Jacqui Jeras is tracking the huge winter weather system blanketing so much of the country right now. In many areas, the cold temperatures are one thing, but it is just how long the system will be around that is causing real concern. So we'll talk to Jacqui in just a couple of minutes.

And let's get you to the Big Board, New York Stock Exchange now.

Another flat start to the day. We are following these numbers, of course, with Susan Lisovicz for you throughout the day, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A quick break and we're right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: You know, cooperation among terrorist groups in Africa and the Middle East is not new, but more and more there appearance to be a push by those groups to recruit among Africa's poor and disillusioned.

Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor for Mideast Affairs, has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SR. EDITOR FOR MIDEAST AFFAIRS: They call themselves al-Shabaab, which means "the youth" in Arabic. They pledge allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his terror network, al Qaeda, and propagate al Qaeda's ideology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only reason we're staying here, away from our families, away from the cities, away from, you know, ice, candy bars, all these other things, is because we're waiting to meet with the enemy.

NASR: Al-Shabaab's enemy is anyone representing western powers and anyone who aids them or collaborates with them. In a broken African country like Somalia, where one million people face death by starvation, the scene is wide open for gangs, pirates and Islamic militants to recruit, train and terrorize freely.

In propaganda videos and statements such as these posted on radical Islamist Web sites, we get a glimpse of what they're up to. Al-Shabaab has publicly announced their cooperation with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terror group that encompasses several others with the same ideology.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, but has claimed responsibility for attacks near and far from its base. The latest was the Christmas Day failed bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner.

In a statement this week, Somalia's al-Shabaab released these pictures of what it described as a graduation ceremony of its fresh recruits trained and ready to head to Yemen to "assist in jihad, the brethren of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: All right. And Octavia Nasr joining me live now.

Octavia, if al Qaeda is looking for new havens, does that mean that it is feeling pressure in places like Afghanistan?

NASR: It would seem like it. Experts are saying that why else would al Qaeda start being so active in areas such as Yemen and Somalia and, of course, northern Africa?

Very important to say here that this is not new. This is not -- their existence there is not new.

They have been there, they have been training, we've been monitoring them. The intelligence community is on their case. But now what's happening is that the attacks are starting to go outside of that area. For example, the Christmas Day bombing, the failed bombing here in the U.S., an assassination attempt in Saudi Arabia.

So you're feeling that now they feel comfortable, one, to brag about their new recruits and say that they're going to Yemen to help their brothers in arms and so forth. And two, is to attack, attack outside of their area.

HARRIS: You're talking about attacking outside of their area. Would that suggest that international intelligence needs to be certainly looking at Yemen, but perhaps Yemen and beyond, to places and corners of countries that we're not even talking about right now?

NASR: Absolutely. For example, you think about the Christmas Day failed bombing. Now the focus is on Nigeria, because the would-be bomber was from Nigeria.

But you have to think about it. There are many countries in the world, especially in Africa, especially in the Middle East, where there are terror groups, there are cells that exist, and that they're all starting to talk in the name of al Qaeda.

So you have groups that were attacking, for example, within their own neighborhoods, within their own cities and countries. Now what they're doing, they're joining forces with groups like them with the same ideology and then they're starting to export terror. So terror can be, for example, in Somalia, training and getting arms and getting ready, but then it can go and attack anywhere else in the world. HARRIS: Yes. Think about countries with poor populations. It might be an easy way to begin to look at this.

NASR: A poor population, no infrastructure. Countries like Somalia, really a totally broken country, lawless, where people can roam freely. You have bandits, you have pirates, you have al Qaeda, you have all kinds of things happening in Somalia, and there is no law to stop them.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

NASR: So it's not just poverty, because we're noticing, for example, that Christmas Day would-be bomber, he comes from a wealthy family. He's someone who went to school. He went to college. His father is a big banker.

So we're not talking only about the poor as poverty leads to this, but we're talking about poverty gives a fertile ground for terror and for people who want to practice...

HARRIS: Receptive to the ideology.

NASR: ... and train. Yes.

HARRIS: Yes. Octavia, appreciate it.

NASR: Any time.

HARRIS: Good stuff. Thank you.

And another reminder here. The president will give his security review of the failed Christmas Day terror attack. CNN will bring it to you live at 3:00 Eastern Time, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM..

If you were looking for a new place to live and don't want to buy, boy, now is the time to rent. Our CNN Money segment is next, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: This upside to the economic downturn, apartment rent is a little bit cheaper in 2010.

CNN's Christine Romans is in New York with us.

And Christine, you're looking at some new real estate research?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I am. New research from an outfit called Reese (ph).

For 30-some years, they have been monitoring vacancy rates, how many apartments are empty and how rents are doing. And for the first time in 30 years, they say the vacancy rate of apartments is eight percent.

Think of that, eight percent of apartments in this country, Tony, are sitting empty and rents are down. Rents actually down about three percent.

The sharpest increases in the vacancy rate, Tucson, Charlotte, Lexington. And then here, take a look at where you're seeing the leading declines and falling rents as landlords slash the rent to try to keep people in their apartments -- San Jose, Seattle, San Francisco.

If you're curious, Tony, about the average monthly rent at some of these places, apartment vacancies, again, at a 30-year high here. Seattle, $937. Miami, a little more than that. San Francisco, $1,700.

New York, $2,600. Ouch.

The highest vacancy rate, Tony, is in Jacksonville, Florida, where more than 14 percent of apartment buildings are sitting empty right now.

And I'll tell you, there's three things happening right here.

First, a few years ago, you had people who were first-time homebuyers; right? They were getting into the housing bubble, they were moving out and moving to finally -- you have the American dream of homeownership. At the very same time, you had cheap credit, so these real estate companies were building apartment towers in cities across the country.

HARRIS: That's right.

ROMANS: Now those apartment towers are finished and people aren't really moving around very much. Also, young people tend to be apartment renters first. Young people are staying home with their parents because they're not getting jobs.

HARRIS: You better believe it.

ROMANS: All these things are combining together.

In New York City, rent is down. I thought this was an interesting tidbit. Rent down 5.6 percent year over year.

New York City, Tony, that's even worse than after September 11th. A very, very terrible time for the rental market in New York City. It gives you kind of an idea of just how vicious this recession has been.

So if you're a renter, it is a renter's market here right now. And these numbers are really bearing that out.

In the fourth quarter of last year, there was some 28,000 brand new apartments coming onto the market. And you just look around here -- and I'm sure in Atlanta and in any of the other big cities, you've got a lot of towers that are now available. And you can get in some places free Starbucks, free carpet cleaning, a free month's rent, free gym membership if you're shopping around. You might be able to find your landlord is willing to throw in some trinkets with your lease.

HARRIS: Some perks, sure.

And I will tell you this -- folks are doubling and tripling up in some of these apartments as well, taking on roommates. You know, folks who would ordinarily be living on their own are deciding to get roommates.

ROMANS: You know, and it's interesting, too, because all of these people for years, we've been talking about homeownership at all costs. Right?

If you look at what it costs to get a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with 20 percent down in some of these towns, and then you look at still, even with these low mortgage rates, and you look at some of these rents, and you start to wonder, are people, some people, really rushing after the homeownership dream and maybe they should be renting until they get their financial house in order?

HARRIS: That's a good point. Christine, appreciate it. Thank you.

ROMANS: Sure.

HARRIS: Let's get you caught up now on our top stories.

Bundle up for arctic blast round two across most of the nation. More snow in the forecast for the upper plains to the Northeast. Bone-chilling cold expected to push as far south as Florida.

We will hear from President Obama today about government missteps surrounding the Christmas Day terror plot. The administration releases a report on the findings so far. The White House national security adviser says the public will be shocked.

Live coverage of President Obama's remarks scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And bombs killed at least six people and wounded seven today in western Iraq's Al Anbar Province. An Iraqi official says explosives were planted outside four houses in the town of Hit. A separate bombing north of Baghdad killed one person and wounded 12 others.

We've been warning you about the second arctic blast, and today it arrives. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras has info you need and pictures you must see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Well, if you're bundled up in your home, or you're working on a project, maybe doing a hobby, find your passion and make it your business.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: So 2009 was certainly a homebuyer's market. After all mortgage rates hit record lows, around 5 percent, in some cases below 5 percent. But if you want to lock in a rate that good, you'd better move fast because things are changing in this new year.

Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange rocking the floor of the exchange with the latest details on mortgage rates.

Good to see you, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to talk to you, Tony.

I suppose in a way it's a good thing if mortgage rates start to tick higher because it's a sign that things are improving. But let's face it, for you guys out there who are ready to buy a home, prices are low and mortgage rates are low, but that window of opportunity for the 5 percent or lower, it is closing or may be closed permanently.

Thirty-year fixed rates, Tony, has been rising for four straight weeks. Started December at 4.71 percent, ended the month at 5.14 percent. That makes a big difference in your monthly nut. It's about nearly $500 on a $170,000 mortgage. That would make a difference of $14,000 over the life of that loan in that particular example. So everybody who's been in the housing market knows that it makes a big difference when you see those rates go up.

Why is it that we're seeing that rise? Well, one of the reasons why is that the Federal Reserve has been -- is putting now a timeline on winding down some of its extraordinary programs to keep a lid on mortgage rates to help prop up the housing market. And one of them set to expire in March is to buy these mortgage-backed securities. So some analysts say you could see the 30-year fixed 6 percent this year, Tony.

HARRIS: So we could have rising rates almost a certainty that we will. And then we can't forget the first-time homebuyer tax credit, that will expire. That was extended and expanded, that will expire this Spring. Won't that undercut the recovery in the housing sector that we've been seeing?

LISOVICZ: Well, that's the trillion-dollar question for the housing market and for the economy overall. What happens when the punch bowl gets pulled away? Can the economy grow on its own?

You know, yesterday afternoon, late in the afternoon we got minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates and there were some members that want that program on buying those mortgage-backed securities extended and expanded. Whatever the case is, we'll find out as this year progresses, more decisions on interest rates to come.

But we are seeing the effect of that. In the meantime, we've got new numbers on applications for new mortgages dropped by double digits in the most recent week. And refis dropped by 70 percent. So you're seeing consumers respond. I should say 30 percent, not 70 percent -- 30 percent. Still a big drop.

One more housing-related item I want to tell you about, Tony. Lenar, big homebuilder, reported that new orders, orders for new homes rose for the first time in three years, so that's a bright spot. And Lenar shares are up 11 percent.

Dow is not up by 11 percent, but it is up by 5 points, Tony. Nasdaq is under a little bit of pressure.

HARRIS: Can you imagine where we'd be if we were up by 11 -- hello, happy days plus.

LISOVICZ: Yes, that would be a rational exuberance.

HARRIS: That would be. All right, see you next hour, Susan. Thank you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

HARRIS: I got to tell you, this may be the perfect time to start your own business. Believe it or not, that's what an expert told us, and the response from you has been overwhelming.

Josh, I love the optimism in what this woman had to say to us yesterday. And we have seen her optimism about starting a new business reflected in article after article after article.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: About the opportunities that there are right now to start your own business.

HARRIS: Yes.

LEVS: And a reminder of why it is so important, this is the unemployment map behind me. The more red, the more unemployment. Red is over 10 percent. We can all remember why so many people are in this situation now trying to look into how they're going to do this. And you know what? We met this woman, she's done behavioral economics more than three decades. She says that everything point to the fact that now is the time to take that chance, start your own business.

Here's a clip of our interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLOTTE PHELPS, ECONOMIST, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: A successful career, count on your friends. It's the network of friendships, the network of social interactions can help you survive as a family, but they also will -- your friends can point you to opportunities.

There are so many opportunities now because of the electronic age and the Internet. You have to be creative and think of a niche where you can sell your idea, and that's what will pay off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVS: She says all of her studies of history show that people who have confidence and are open with their friends and get their friends involved are the ones that have the greatest success. Let me show you some of your responses, then how I can give you some help. Let's take a look here. Mitch wrote us, "I started my own business seven years ago this week. Best thing I ever did."

Take a look at this one, this is my Facebook page, from Rosanna, " I love your article this morning. It's very inspiring for people like me who have a degree and for others who have been unemployed during these times."

A lot of people at our blog, CNN.com/Tony or CNN.com/Josh, are talking about where do you find funding. Whale (ph) wrote in here, "There are ways to be an entrepreneur such as venture capitalism. You can find a family member or friend that has resources and believes in your objective."

And take a look at this one over here, this is interesting. This is from Brian who says he's trying to come up with an idea for how to succeed. And this one here from Benjamin, "The segment was very exciting and encouraging. However, can you provide any specific and practical advice regarding the first steps to take."

Actually, yes. Tony, check this out, from CNNMoney.com, look at this, how to build a bulletproof startup. And Robert, can you get way in on these pictures here? I like it because it's going to look good on TV. And what we do is we talk you through the individual steps that you should follow that give you the greatest shot.

HARRIS: That is terrific.

LEVS: Isn't this great, Tony? I'm going to take this link from CNNMoney.com and I'm going to put it back up in all the places that we put the video yesterday. And you've got the graphic for that, we've got CNN.com/Josh, which is the blog. You also got Facebook and Twitter, my pages are joshlevsCNN. You'll find me, whatever, it's fine. So I'll get all these links up for you so the conversation can keep going.

And, Tony, I'll tell you, obviously we're not saying that it's going to be some panacea where you start it and...

HARRIS: It's not going to be easy.

LEVS: But the truth is, these experts are saying now is a good time to try. There are reasons and there are steps, we want to empower you with those so we're going to online.

HARRIS: That's so good. All right, Josh, thank you.

LEVS: Thank you.

HARRIS: Holiday shoppers, you did well. A recent reports by big chain stores show more sales than first thought. Check it out at CNNMoney.com.

The Texas Longhorns take on the Alabama Crimson Tide for the College Football National Championship. That game tonight. Will you be watching? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Checking our top stories now.

A new blast of arctic air will send wind chills to 50 below in parts of the Midwest. I had to double check that because, man, the frigid weather is spilling into the South and East today and will stick around through the weekend. Parts of the Deep South will see a rare snowfall.

Authorities are expanding the evacuation zone around this bubbling volcano in Costa Rica. It has been spitting ash and steam for months and growing more active. The 11,000-foot peak hasn't had a major eruption in 145 years.

James von Brunn, the accused Holocaust Museum shooter will not face justice. The 89-year-old died while awaiting trial. Von Brunn was known to be a white supremacist. He was charged with killing a black security guard at the museum in Washington last June.

Texas and Alabama go at it tonight for the College Football National Championship. A CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll taken in mid-December asked if the BCS or Bowl Championship Series should be replaced by a playoff system. The poll of more than 1,100 people finds nearly six in ten believe we need, we must have, we need a playoff; 36 percent say, no. Fewer than half of those polls, 44 percent, said they are football fans.

Tonight's game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena pits all-American quarterback Colt McCoy of Texas against Bama running back Mark Ingram. He is Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner and also one of our "Faces of the Story" today.

CNN Sports, Mark McKay, has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK MCKAY, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mark Ingram Jr. is a step away from the pinnacle of college football, leading Alabama into the National Championship Game tonight against Texas at the Rose Bowl. But some 3,000 miles away, his father is near bottom. In a New York City holding cell serving seven and a half years for bank fraud and money laundering. The son can see the gap in their two lives, but he refuses to wallow in it.

MARK INGRAM JR., 2009 HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER: Ever since I was little he's been teaching me everything I know about football, so of course he's in my heart and he's in my spirit when I'm out there running the ball because everything I've learned, everything since I've been little I've learned from him. He was always a dad to me. You know, he was an NFL starter, but he was always just dad to me.

MCKAY: Ingram's father, Mark Sr., once ascended to the top of the football world himself. A wide receiver for the New York Giants, he played a key role in winning the Super Bowl in 1991. He used that experience to give his son advice on how to prepare for this one. INGRAM: Just football. Go out and play. Don't make too much more of it than it really is. It's just another game. Although we know what's at stake, but you've got to go out and do what you've been doing your whole life since you was little.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCKAY: It's a good bet that Mark Ingram will speak to his father tonight, perhaps before or after tonight's National Championship Game here in Pasadena. The younger Ingram says he does speaks often to his father by phone. Mark Ingram Sr., while in that Queen's holding cell as he awaits further punishment for a parole violation, is expected to watch his son perform on college football's biggest stage tonight, Tony, on television.

HARRIS: Yes. And you know, Mark, Longhorn fans won't like this question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. If Alabama wins, talk to us about what a significant turnaround this would be for that program.

MCKAY: We'd love to give equal time. But yes, let's focus this time, Mr. Harris, on the Alabama program.

This, a storied program, Tony, built on the back of the Bear. The legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant won six National Championships and 25 Hall of Fame seasons with Alabama. But since 1992, that last National Championship, the Crimson Tide program had fallen on hard times. They were in and out of head coaches. And then three years ago they hired Nick Saban, of course he won a National Championship with LSU, Louisiana State University, went on to the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. And in three short years, Tony, he has the Crimson Tide of Alabama on the brink of bringing another trophy back to Tuscaloosa.

HARRIS: And, Mark, the reality is Texas won a National Championship in football just a couple of years ago with Vince Young, correct?

MCKAY: That's right. An incredible run into the end zone right here at the Rose Bowl. Mack Brown has got this team. But remember, Tony, they would not have been here if they hadn't beaten Nebraska. You know, that Big 12 Championship Game where they need a 46-yard field goal in the dying seconds to hold off Nebraska.

Number one versus number two. Yes, the system is not perfect, but we're ready for a game tonight.

HARRIS: It's going to be terrific. Roll Tide! Hook 'em Horns! I think I'm covered.

Mark McKay for us in Pasadena. Mark, good to see you. Thank you.

You know, we are learning more about how terror groups recruit young people and what's the next step for the alleged Christmas Day bomber. We will tell you right here next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: The Obama administration today releases a declassified report on mistakes leading up to the Christmas Day terror attempt. The suspect and the government's handling of his case were topics of discussion last night on CNN'S "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And the U.S. is already saying that they got information from this guy as soon as the FBI started interviewing him when they pulled him off the plane.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's right, Anderson. But what we're hearing from FBI officials is that they spoke to him without giving him Miranda. As you would expect, they were interested in the disruption of any follow-on attacks. They then gave him Miranda and what I'm hearing from FBI sources is that he then clammed up and actually became somewhat belligerent.

And so, while I agree with Jeffrey, given the overwhelming nature of this evidence, if he maintains a belligerent attitude, he may just force the government to walk the paces through the case.

COOPER: David, what are you hearing? I know you had some inside information about al Qaeda and some of their recruiting tactics.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I was told, Anderson, by folks at the White House that they were quite surprised at the recruiting effort and how successful and how quick it was. This young man, just like Mr. Hasan, was drawn in by the Internet, which one person called it a hauntingly persuasive for people like him.

But then he went to Yemen. He was only there for about four months and in that time essentially he was swept up and he was brainwashed in an almost cult-like environment. And that they sent him forward on his mission and it happened very quickly. He was turned around and turned into this in effect a guided missile for the al Qaeda.

So the White House is trying to figure out now how does this al Qaeda operation work. Is this similar to what's going on elsewhere? How sophisticated is it?

COOPER: That's pretty interesting, Fran. It also corresponds to, you know, his father coming forward and saying, look, my son has gone off the deep end. Raising all these red flags about his son, he told CIA officials that in Nigeria in the capital. It is surprising to hear how quickly, though, this young man was allegedly radicalized.

TOWNSEND: Anderson, that's right, except there's been other reports that this was a guy who was disaffected for some time, including back to the time when he was in Yemen -- I'm sorry, when he was being educated in London. And we know that al-Awlaki the same radical preacher that David has just spoken about having radicalized him in Yemen also was preaching there at the same time. It will be interesting to see as this unfolds whether or not al-Awlaki, the radical preacher, and Abdulmutallab had contact when he was in Yemen. So it may be that this was a longer period of time during which he was susceptible to these radical ideas than we realize yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: And another reminder, the president will give his security review of the failed Christmas Day terror attack. CNN will bring you live coverage of the president's remarks at 3:00 Eastern time this afternoon right here on CNN.

You think it's cold where will show you a world view of the snow, ice, and winter weather.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Here's a look at what we are working on for the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

A Jordanian doctor turned double agent and suicide bomber, our Nic Robertson talks to a family of the man alleged to have killed seven CIA officers in Afghanistan. It is a CNN exclusive.

And a woman had a gut feeling about the stock market crash and cashed out. Now companies are paying big bucks for her financial intuition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Boy, got to tell you, we are not alone with this brutal cold. Winter weather is hitting other parts of the world pretty hard as well. Our correspondents take a look in Europe and Asia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four days after record snowfalls in Beijing, it's still digging out. With temperatures well below freezing, the piles of snow aren't melting. And in a city where snow piles are rare, thousands of work crews have been clearing streets by hand, shoveling snow into bins on the backs of tricycles and then dumping it down the sewer. For Beijing, this has been the longest and coldest wintry blast in 40 years.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Morgan Neill here in London's Gatwick Airport, just over there, where severe weather has brought major disruptions. A lot of cancellations and flight delays, and that has a lot of passengers very frustrated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We spoke to four different people yesterday when we tried to get on our flight and they gave us different times the time the plane was supposed to be going, and then in the end they just said it was canceled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven different numbers I've got and it's the same answering machine. You can't get ever get through to an actual person talking, jus the ultimate -- you know, the answer machine, press one, press two. That's what it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody knows what's going on. Nobody from First Choice can put words that are simple into people's heads to give them the right information. And I think it's absolutely stupid!

AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: I'm Al Goodman at Madrid's Barajas Airport, which is operating normally through midday Thursday, all four runways being used. But the airport is on alert for more bad weather, which is already dumping snow on much of northern Spain and rains and flooding on parts of southern Spain. The Spanish government has deployed 400 snowplows and several thousand emergency workers across the nation. But for now, the heavy snow has not hit Madrid's airport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Boy, oh, boy.