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Ice and Snow Blankets Much of the South; Terror Suspect Arraigned; 85,000 Jobs Cut in December; Reverend Making His Mark; Full Body Scans
Aired January 8, 2010 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The news continues on CNN in the "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. Thanks, guys. And here's what we're working on for the CNN NEWSROOM right now.
Terror suspects in court today. The young Nigerian who tried to bring down the jet liner will learn the charges against him.
And also, full body scanners coming to airports. What does it mean for you? You have been asking us about the health risks, so our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to talk about those a little bit further.
And also, homeless in the bitter cold. We've been talking about these temperatures for days now. Struggles for people on the streets and for those who help him.
Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. It is Friday, January 8th. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Let's get started with this. New jobless numbers just in now. The Labor Department reports 85,000 people lost their jobs in December. And the unemployment rate was unchanged staying at 10 percent.
We are going to get more on what these numbers mean when CNN's Christine Romans joins us from New York. That's coming your way in just a few minutes.
Also making news this morning, terrorism in America. There will be a court hearing today for the man accused of trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas day. Twenty-three-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab faces six charges including attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, President Obama confronting the security lapses that preceded the attempted bombing. He announced about a dozen security changes including expanded terror watch lists and better communication among intelligence agencies.
Let's begin with this afternoon's arraignment of terror suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. That's due to begin about five hours from now in a federal courtroom in Detroit.
And CNN's Debra Feyerick is there for us this morning.
Deb, what are you hearing about family members who may actually come to the United States to support Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question, Heidi, whether, in fact, the father has indeed traveled to be here with his son. He was the one who initially told officials at the U.S. embassy in Nigeria that his son was missing and he feared that he had become radicalized.
So we are waiting to see whether in fact he will be in court today. A line has already begun to form outside the courthouse for people who want to go in to hear the proceedings today.
You can see perhaps behind me some of the barricades have been set up. A lot of security as Abdulmutallab prepares to be transported here for this arraignment that's expected to take place at about 2:00. It's going to be quick.
There will also be a detention hearing, of course. Prosecutors are going to argue that in fact there is no way this person should be let out and in fact he should remain in the United States to face trial.
This 23-year-old Nigerian graduate student has now become the face of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The smiling face of 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is framed by the Islamists flag of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The group claims responsibility for the failed Christmas day attack, which targeted a U.S. jet liner, and which ultimately underscored serious flaws in U.S. airline security.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The system has failed in a potentially disastrous way.
FEYERICK: Authorities say the Nigerian graduate student smuggled the bomb on board the nine-hour flight from Amsterdam, hiding it in his underwear, attempting to detonate it on the plane's final approach to Detroit.
RICK NELSON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: One thing that al Qaeda is very good at, and they're very good in recruiting and finding individuals that are susceptible to its radical ideology. And they will be patient until they find the right individual that they can feel has the access to be able to get on airliners, to perpetrate an attack.
FEYERICK: Where and when Abdulmutallab became radicalized is still under investigation. But here is what authorities know so far.
Abdulmutallab applied for a multi-entry U.S. visa in London the summer of 2008 after graduating university there. Though he wanted to study in Cairo or Saudi Arabia, his parents sent him to Dubai.
In August, something changed. According to a family source, Abdulmutallab text-messaged his parents to say he was leaving for Yemen to pursue the course of Islam. Two weeks before his flight from Amsterdam, Abdulmutallab was in Ghana, where he allegedly paid $2,800 in cash for a round trip flight from Nigeria to Detroit.
He left Christmas Eve, transiting to Amsterdam before flying to the U.S. with only a shoulder bag. When he was arrested he allegedly told federal agents, Yemen is where he got the device and instructions on how to use it.
Though his father did go to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria in November, fearful his son had come under radical influences, the information was not circulated among federal agencies. And Abdulmutallab was never put on a no-fly list.
MARK FALLON, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: I think al Qaeda has really done a phenomenal job with their psychological operations. I think that for their recruiting they need to show some successes. And I think the fact that the disruption that they caused to our system, for them is a win, because it shows that the -- that David can once again throw rocks at the -- at Goliath here.
FEYERICK: Now Abdulmutallab is being represented by the chief federal defender who has a lot of experience representing terror suspects. She represented a man accused of being part of the Detroit plot targeting U.S. military bases. Heidi?
COLLINS: All right, Deb Feyerick for us this morning in Detroit. Deb, thank you.
The near catastrophe of Flight 253. A White House review of the attempted bombing reveals frightening blunders in the intelligence community. The bottom line of the six-page report, the plot should never have come so perilously close to succeeding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The U.S. government had the information scattered throughout the system to potentially uncover this plot and disrupt the attack. Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to collect and understand the intelligence that we already had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Here are some key points now of how security will be beefed up to better protect the flying public. The government will deploy another 300 full body scanners at U.S. airports this year. Right now there are only 40 and they are scattered around the country.
Also in the works, more bomb-sniffing jobs, more metal detectors and more technology to detect explosives. And the security enhancements will also be felt on board the airliners. Hundreds of law enforcement officers will be trained as federal air marshals.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN. You severe weather headquarters.
COLLINS: Now to the brutal cold gripping much of the country. It's been at least 20 years since one system has affected so many people. The ice creating a travel nightmare at airports and on the roads. And this morning, 27 vehicles slid into each other south of Atlanta. At least three people were hurt in that crash.
Ten states from North Dakota to Georgia have cancelled school. And the wind is certainly picking up, which is obviously making it feels even colder.
We, of course, are covering all of it for you this morning. Jacqui Jeras in our winter weather headquarters, Rob Marciano in Memphis, where several people have now died from the bitter cold.
And also Martin Savidge in St. Louis where they're racing to get people into those warming shelters we were telling you about.
Let's go ahead and begin now with the very latest. And Jacqui, as we tossed to you, just reminding everybody like we did yesterday you can look to the bottom of your screen, look for the city that you live in, and we'll give you the current weather conditions throughout the day here.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and I can guarantee it's going to start cold. But the good news is that we'll watch those temperatures start to warm up a little bit by early next week. So if we get through this weekend and definitely the worse will be over and we're going to see some moderating temperatures.
But that Arctic front now making its way off the coast into the east across central Florida. It will cross even through the Keys overnight tonight. So we're left in this frigid air. You know, the front that came through brought some light snow across parts of the northeast as well as parts of the south.
It wasn't a lot, but it's enough to cause a lot of traffic issues. We've got a live picture to show you out of the Baltimore area at this hour, where you've got less than an inch of snowfall since last night. And a few lingering snow showers still possible this morning.
The temperatures are going to get up there to 33 degrees but Maryland Department of Transportation say there are about 1,200 pieces of equipment out there sanding and salting the streets because things are very slick. And they are also expecting to see a lot of delays on the trains across this area for today. So watch for the snow to come to an end in the northeast, but we'll continue to see lake-effect snow showers pushing areas like Pittsburgh and then to the Cleveland area. And then while the snow has pulled up in the southeast, look at these temperatures still well below the freezing mark.
So bridges and over passes in particular will continue to be problems with black ice. We're real concerned about that, especially tonight.
Now our own CNN meteorologist, Rob Marciano, has been braving the bitter cold conditions in Memphis, Tennessee where they're not so used to conditions like this -- Rob?
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Definitely not, Jacqui. This cold is biting, even if you live in Minneapolis, this is tough stuff. Eight degrees right now here in Memphis, much, much colder than it was at this time yesterday with that front through. The windchill, minus 5, so it feels like below zero here across parts of the southwestern Tennessee.
Happy to report to you at this hour, so far, since last night, no fatalities. And I can tell you if anybody was out in this cold for an extended period of time last night, that is extremely good news. And we certainly hope that bodes well for the rest of this cold snap.
This batch of cold air, Heidi, certainly worse than the last one earlier this week where there were fatalities across parts of the western Tennessee. We'll talk much more with a more detailed report in about 30 minutes. We'll see you then.
COLLINS: OK, Rob, very good. Thank you.
They don't want to come in, so he goes out to them. A minister makes his mark for caring for the homeless people in the bitter, bitter cold.
And new unemployment numbers showing more Americans lost their jobs last month. Look behind those numbers and what they mean to you.
COLLINS: Let's get back to those unemployment numbers for just a moment. Employers cut more jobs than many people expected last month, but the unemployment rate does remain the same.
Christine Romans is joining us now from New York for more details.
The unemployment rate, 10 percent, though, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is 10 percent. You're right, Heidi. And that is a number that's uncomfortable for many people, for both you and I, people on Main Street, and people who are in power, who are looking at a 10 percent unemployment rate and saying that's just not sustainable. Eighty-five thousand jobs lost, 10 percent unemployment rate still for the year of 2009. 4.2 million jobs were lost in this economy. And when you look at the recession, overall, 7.2 million jobs were lost.
Those are pretty dismal numbers. But take a look at this chart. Job losses really slowed down in 2009. The beginning of the year was horrific, all the way through the summer. And then employers were slashing fewer jobs. In fact, a little bit of a surprise, if you will, in these numbers.
November, the economy created 4,000 jobs. That was a bit of surprise. So we did finally reverse almost two years of job losses in November. Four thousand jobs is not a lot in the context of an economy with so many workers, and six million people, frankly, have -- you know, are discouraged or dropped out of the workforce, or even millions more are working part time because they cannot get a full- time job.
So you could still see the unemployment rate continue to rise this year, Heidi, in the beginning part of the year as this flood of people who are out of the labor market start tiptoeing back in, because they want to -- you know, they want to try their luck again here in the beginning of the year.
We did create some jobs in temporary and professional services.
ROMANS: We know that some companies like to test the waters and hire temporary workers first. What we haven't seen, though, is those temporary work -- jobs translating into full time jobs. We're still waiting for that to happen.
COLLINS: Yes. Yes. Got it. We've done a couple of stories on that here. And that people who came up with the idea to run companies that offer...
COLLINS: ... temporary agencies.
COLLINS: Those are the smart guys right now.
COLLINS: Everybody seems to be feeling the pain of unemployment pretty equally across the board?
ROMANS: No, you know, it's a pretty dynamic labor market. There are a lot of differences when you look within these numbers. Adult men have an unemployment rate that is frankly higher than the general public. Indeed, if we're going to look at these numbers you can see that adult men in November, they had a 10.5 percent unemployment rate. They're still higher than the average.
Blacks have an unemployment rate that rose slightly. It had been at 15.6 percent in November. It rose to 16 percent. The unemployment rate for Hispanics also rose -- you know, knocking on the door, 13 percent. And teens, record unemployment for teens, Heidi, now, 27 percent unemployment for teens.
So some of these groups have been feeling the recession far longer and far deeper than others.
COLLINS: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. All right, well, we will continue to talk about these numbers...
COLLINS: ... throughout the morning. Christine, thank you.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
COLLINS: What happens when the homeless people won't come inside during brutal cold spells like this? In St. Louis, one minister goes out to check on them himself.
Martin Savidge reports now on a man who's "Making His Mark."
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Darkness falls in St. Louis, and with it, the temperature.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Blowing snow as well. The windchill index 5 below downtown at the arch.
SAVIDGE: And at the New Life Evangelistic shelter the homeless have begun showing up for the night. But despite the bitter cold, there are some who refuse to come in. They are the ones that the Reverend Larry Rice wants to find.
(On camera): You try to bring them in or do you just try to look after them in place where they are?
REV. LARRY RICE, NEW LIFE EVANGELISTIC SHELTER: We often look after them in place, letting them we have a place available that they can come. But as meager as their belongings may be and as primitive as their place may be, that's still home.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Our first stop is an abandoned home.
RICE: We have to check on this people regularly. OK?
SAVIDGE: That's not abandoned at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how are you doing, Larry?
RICE: All right. How are you all doing? Staying warm, are you?
SAVIDGE: Inside we find a community of young people in their teens and 20s.
RICE: How you all doing? I've got a new coat here for you. Can you all use a sleeping bag?
SAVIDGE: Thanks to roaring fires and gas heaters, it's warm. For Susan Fanter, it's heaven compared to the street.
(On camera): How many people are in the house here?
SUSAN FANTER, HOMELESS: Wow. Fifteen or 20? I don't know. I haven't really -- I never count.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): At the next stop, we realized Susan was right about the heaven part. This is where she was living, in a tent in a tunnel.
RICE: I'm Larry.
FANTER: Oh, Larry?
RICE: Larry Rice.
SAVIDGE: And as the temperature heads towards zero, we find others still here.
(On camera): Well, what do you do to stay warm?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My lantern.
SAVIDGE: That lantern is your source of heat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. When I have fuel for it.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Next door, the tent has no ceiling.
(On camera): Why don't you go to a shelter?
DAVID HUCKSTEP, HOMELESS: We prefer to stay out here. We don't like to be around a whole bunch of different people that we don't know. We're kind of like a small group of people that get along good.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): A small group of people living in the stone age just beneath a modern American city, surviving a night so cold it could kill.
COLLINS: Marty Savidge is joining us now live. Boy, what a piece, Marty. Given the economic situation that we've been talking about for so long now in this country, are they finding different faces on the street?
SAVIDGE: They are indeed, Heidi. In fact, Reverend Rice this month will celebrate 38 years that he has been reaching and preaching to those who are homeless in the city of St. Louis. But he says he's never seen the circumstance like he's finding this particular winter. Never has he seen so many women, he says. Also he is seeing a lot more families that are left homeless out there. And then there's this new sort of thing that he's running across. It's people who have a home, but due to the economic crisis can't afford the heat, can't afford electricity.
So he has now added them to the list as he makes his daily rounds with his team, checking on them, making sure they're all right, making sure they're surviving. Tonight, by the way, is going to be even colder than last night here in St. Louis -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Boy oh boy. It is tough out there. All right, Marty Savidge for us this morning. Nice to see you, Marty. Thank you.
Security in our airports. New body scanner technology getting the go-ahead possibly causing another risk to your health.
ANNOUNCER: "Making Their Mark," brought to you by...
COLLINS: Time now to check some of the top stories that we're following this morning.
An Iranian opposition leader escaped injury when his car came under fire in northern Iran. A reformist Web site says pro-government protesters were there for Mahdi Karroubi's arrival. Karroubi is one of the men who ran against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in last year's election.
The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force arrests two men this morning in connection with the suspected plot in New York last September. The men were originally questioned last year as part of the investigation of Najibullah Zazi.
Zazi, seen here, was accused of trying to use weapons of mass destruction in New York on September 11th of this year. He has denied the charges against him.
COLLINS: We've been hearing an awful lot about those full body scanners being ordered for airport security, and privacy is, of course, one issue but many of you are also asking us about possible health dangers.
CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joining us now to talk a little bit more about that.
So, Sanjay, could the radiation from these machines actually lead to health problems in the future?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I have been thinking about this a lot, in part, you know, because people like you and I travel so much. The short answer is it doesn't seem to be. There's two types of machines that you're likely to see a lot of at airports coming out. The first one is something that relies on something known as millimeter wave technology. This is what the machine is going to look like, Heidi, incidentally.
When you see a machine like this, what's happening specifically, it's actually giving off radio waves and creating an image based on those radio waves. Think of it more like an ultrasound rather than actually an x-ray.
And as far as energy goes, it gives off about 10,000 times less than even a cell phone. That seems pretty safe. The other one that's people are talking about a lot lately, Heidi, is this thing that relies on back scatter technology.
And this is what that looks like. You've seen the types of images that it generates. What happens here, Heidi, and we talked to a few physicists about this, is that you do have radiation, but it's designed to bounce off the skin and then create an image from that bounce back.
That's where it gets that name the scatter sort of technology. And with this, they say, as far as setting the upper limit of a safety limit, you'd have to go through it about 125,000 times in a single year. So pretty safe there.
COLLINS: That's a lot of travel.
GUPTA: Yes. That's a lot of travel. Though, I think, I might close. This is an actual x-ray, which people are used to seeing. That is ionizing radiation. That does penetrate the skin. But again, this seemed different from that, Heidi, overall. So it seems safe, at least based on our initial conversations.
COLLINS: Yes, sure. A few weeks ago we were talking about the CT scans and how the radiation on those...
GUPTA: That's right.
COLLINS: ... can change regarding or depending on which machine you use, but is it because these are sort of that ultrawave -- ultrasound technology that you're talking about that they won't really vary? They'll all be the same and much lower?
GUPTA: Well, what's interesting with -- there a study showing that even within the same hospital, CT scans could give off up to 13 times more radiation on scanner versus another.
GUPTA: What you'll find is that a lot of times technicians -- excuse me -- would actually calibrate the scanner themselves. Here, we asked that same question and they say you're going to have standard calibrations across the country. So some of the numbers I just cited to you should apply in every airport. Again, I always give the caveat that this is obviously brand-new so we'll see how some of this plays out, but that seems to be the plan here.
COLLINS: Yes. And so low a dose because as you again mentioned, you know, similar to ultrasound, OK for pregnant women and children?
GUPTA: That's a good question. And the radiologists and physicists seemed a little bit divided on that. When it comes to pregnant women or small children, they sort of split half and half. They said, you know, we don't think it's going to be a problem. They don't think there's any danger from these machines.
But if they were concerned about it, you can go for the pat down instead. Instead of going through the machine, you can have a pat- down exam and pregnant women and children, if they wanted to do that, they could opt for that instead.
COLLINS: Interesting. All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent. Thank you.
GUPTA: Have a good weekend, Heidi.
COLLINS: You, too.
A winter wakeup call, though, for the southeast. An Arctic cold front blasts the region making cold temperatures even colder. And creating treacherous driving conditions.
ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.
COLLINS: Just an hour ago the latest jobs numbers were released. And as Christine Romans told us the unemployment rate did hold at 10 percent even though 85,000 positions were cut last month.
Let's go ahead straight over to Wall Street now where Susan Lisovicz is standing by for a little bit more on reaction, at least by way of investors.
Good morning to you, Susan. What's going down there?
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: For the final trading session of the week and the big report of the week, Heidi, let's face it. Stocks have been treading water since Monday's rally as investors waited this report. Expectations were high. The numbers from December disappointing so we are expecting a lower open, but not a big selloff because -- actually, where a few glimmers of hope in the big report.
For all of last year, 4.2 million jobs were lost, and even though the unemployment rate held at 10 percent in December, it's mostly because more people have just given up and stopped looking for work. The good news is that we find a small bit of job growth. The figure for November was revised higher of 4,000, ending a string of 22 straight months of job losses. Overall, though, of course, the report shows the labor market has an awful long way to go. And the latest company to cut jobs is UPS. The shipping giant plans to cut 1800 management and administration positions.
But way over in China, things are better. That country overtaking the U.S. as the world's biggest auto markets. Chinese auto sales hit $13.6 million in 2009. That's up 45 percent from 2008. To compare, well, we know, U.S. sales fell. They fell 21 percent last year to about 10.5 million. Yet another sign of China's rapid rise as a global economic power.
LISOVICZ: We are not seeing a rapid rise, though, in the three major averages, Heidi. We're seeing a little bit of give back. But like I said, you know, investors haven't been too spooked by this.
You know, another thing that was the glimmer of hope is that hourly wages is just a little bit higher. And that's certainly a bright note. We like that. Oil prices pulling back. We like that, too. But prices are still high at about $82 a barrel, Heidi. More later.
COLLINS: All right, Susan. We'll check in later on. Thank you.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The road conditions, the bridges are iced over, sliding across the bridges. Some places are really, really slushy. Some parts of the road are really icy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: A north Georgia resident describing treacherous conditions as ice and snow blanket the area yesterday. Look at that. The storm is part of the arctic system that has 2/3 of a nation shivering with below freezing temperatures.
Schools across the metro area, Atlanta area that is, cancelled classes today. Drivers in Georgia are being warned to stay off the roads until at least noon. The frigid conditions also snarling U.S. air traffic with some 400 flights cancelled at Chicago O'Hare Airport yesterday.
So how long is it all going to last? Jacqui Jeras has those answers from our winter weather headquarters this morning.
COLLINS: Yes, definitely. And, boy, I don't care who you are, when you've got the black ice, that is, in a lot of places.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely.
COLLINS: It doesn't matter what kind of car you're driving, or who is driving it.
JERAS: Experience doesn't always help there.
COLLINS: That's right. Jacqui, thank you.
COLLINS: Coping with all this ice and snow is especially tricky, as we were just saying, in the south, where people are just not used to it. Our own Rob Marciano is braving that bitter cold in Memphis, Tennessee, this morning.
Rob, good morning to you.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Heidi. You know, it's hard to believe that I'm standing this far south in Memphis, Tennessee, because I can tell you the cold feels like any winter storm that we've covered in Minnesota or Michigan. Right now, it's 8 degrees. With the wind, it feels like minus 5. We're along Main Street here in Memphis.
The trolleys are working, but for the most part the streets are certainly quieter than they would be during a normal time of year, or at least a time when it wasn't so cold. I mean, it snowed yesterday along Beil Street. How crazy is that? It's just not unheard of, but certainly a rare event. The home of BB King and also the home of Elvis Presley, which, by the way, he would have turned 75 today. It's his birthday.
So, you know, on a more serious note, they have had fatalities here in western Tennessee with the last batch of cold air. And we are happy to report to you that last night being the coldest night yet, no fatalities reported. That to me is amazing. They took the precautions. They opened the warming shelters. And yesterday, you may remember we did a story on a woman who had her lights and power and heat turned on after being in the dark for almost a year because she couldn't pay her bills. She's one of roughly 500 customers that had that done that to her place. And because of that, she's resting in a warm shelter for a change of pace.
All right. Let's talk about other spots of the country. Namely, check out some of this video coming out of Oklahoma -- Yukon, Oklahoma, where winds are gusting over 40 to 50 miles an hour, snapping power lines and blowing up transformers. At one point, 30,000 people were out of power. I'm told this morning that most of those customers had been restored. Thank goodness, because it's even colder up there in Oklahoma.
MARCIANO: Places in the Dakotas had wind chills yesterday. Fifty degrees below zero. And all of that air is driving further down to the south. Further over to the east, we've seen snow across Nashville, down I-75 and through Atlanta, where we are reporting on snow there as well. That's where our David Mattingly has been reporting on the rare event that's happening in Atlanta. And that would be snow. And it doesn't take much to get to that city to come to a screeching halt as far as winter weather goes.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rob, it wasn't so much the snow here, it was the ice that came along with it. You can see the express way behind me. Traffic moving pretty well right now. Crews were working all night to make sure the interstate stayed open. But it was all those side roads, the overpasses, the on- ramps, the elevated roads that were causing so much problems with the icing.
Take a look at this video that came in to us from overnight. This was south of Atlanta. A 27-car pileup on an on-ramp to I-85 south of Atlanta. Fortunately, there were only three injuries, all of them minor, reported in this incident. But at least 27 cars sliding around on the ice, banging into one another. It took a long time for this to get cleaned up. Now, in a separate accident, we also received word of fatality related to the weather. One car involved there. One fatality. But so far, that's all that we've heard reported from overnight here when all of that ice was causing so much of a problem.
Now at the world's busiest airport at Hartsfield, Jackson, Atlanta International Airport, a lot of flights were cancelled yesterday. Proactively with the weather coming in, today a lot of those travelers now going out. No delays reported there. That airport getting back to normal. But here, Rob, the continued story is the cold.
We are not going to get above freezing at all today, so everything that is on the ground is going to stay here and continue to cause problems through the weekend until early next week, when we start to get a substantial warming trend here in Atlanta.
MARCIANO: All right. Thank you very much, David Mattingly, live in Atlanta.
And you make some really point, Heidi. And that is, typically, when the south gets a cold snap, one, it doesn't last for this long, and two, at least during the day, temperatures go above freezing. Temperatures won't get out of the teens here in Memphis. That would be a 30-degree dip below what is average for this time of year. And certainly in Atlanta, any sort of coatings on the roadways not going to melt at least until tomorrow and maybe not towards - maybe not until the end of the weekend. So extremely rare, cold snap, one of two this year. Even the trolleys are creaking by because it's so cold here in Memphis.
COLLINS: Sounds like wheels spinning in the background there. Yes. Boy, oh, boy. All right, Rob. Everybody is going to try and top this one out off. Obviously, we don't really have a choice, do we? Rob Marciano for us in Memphis this morning.
Weather obviously the big topic today. And so it is also the big topic for our blog this morning. We are asking what the weather is stopping you from doing today? Or if it is stopping you from doing anything today? Just go to cnn.com/heidi. Let us know your thoughts today. We're going to read some of those responses a little bit later in the show.
Checking on some of our top stories this morning. It was the deadliest incident in open police history. And now, an independent board has found police mistakes may have contributed to the death toll. Four officers died after a traffic stop last March. Police say a convicted felon killed two patrol officers, then two SWAT members who had chased him into a nearby building. The felon was then shot dead by police.
Gay rights activists have lost a battle in New Jersey. The State Senate rejected a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The bill was seven votes short of moving on into state assembly. Opponents of the legislation have argued the state's civil union law is sufficient for same-sex couples.
And Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, are endorsing U.S. missile strikes against militants on Pakistani territory. The two senators are part of a congressional delegation in Islamabad today. Eight suspected militants are dead after an explosion in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. A senior police official says the blast may have been caused by a suicide bomber's vest stored in a house.
Facing criminal charges. The would-be Christmas Day bomber heads to federal court today, but should his case be a military matter? We're going to talk to an expert in just a moment.
COLLINS: We are learning more about the suspected double agent who attacked a CIA base in Afghanistan. Seven CIA officers died in that attack. Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi is the man identified as the suicide bomber. His mother says he was a loner. His Turkish wife says she was shock and did not know he was an agent. But was also proud that he accomplished a very big operation in such a war.
The man accused of trying to bring down a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day is due in federal court in Michigan today. The 23-year- old Nigerian faces six federal charges.
So joining us to talk a little bit more about the case, and the government's to try Abdulmutallab in a criminal court is Laurie Blank. She is the acting director of the National Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory University Law School right here in Atlanta.
Thanks for coming in today...
LAURIE BLANK, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW CLINIC, EMORY UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Thanks so much for having me.
COLLINS: ...especially regarding the weather conditions out there. We appreciate it.
BLANK: Thank you.
COLLINS: There has been a lot of talk about where this suspect should be tried.
COLLINS: Your thoughts, and what is going to be different because he will be under the U.S. court system?
BLANK: Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that he may be a terrorists but he's still a criminal. Basically a terrorist is just a criminal. He got on that airplane, he tried to blow it up, that's a crime under U.S. law. We have multiple, multiple laws that criminalize terrorism. And our Federal Courts are very experienced in dealing with terrorists.
And so that's really, it's a pretty straightforward matter in that sense. And since he committed a crime or is alleged to have committed a crime and we're going to bring our experienced and professional prosecutors and judges into the mix in order to try him.
COLLINS: And so then, why have war tribunals at all? Especially during a time of war?
BLANK: Well, this is really a separate matter from the military commissions. In this situation like I said, he's just a criminal. The military commissions are really a different ball game altogether. And they are used for people that we have picked up overseas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other places and we don't have the same type of information about them.
We all remember the footage that we saw of that airplane on Christmas day when it was pulled off beside of the tarmac...
BLANK: ... and surrounded by police cars and they combed that plane for evidence. They interviewed every single person on the airplane and they were looking to see if he had cohort on the airplane trying to figure out what happened.
And I mean, they combed that thing clean. And they have -- reams of evidence to deal with this.
The types of people that we pick up overseas, that's -- those are in battlefield conditions, we can't do that same type of situation. Some of those people are picked up as part of an intelligence sweep, where we just may know that they were involved with somebody else and it's a different type of situation altogether.
COLLINS: Yes, what about his suspected ties to al Qaeda? Does that not change things?
BLANK: No, I don't think it changes things as all. Yes, he is alleged to have ties to al Qaeda and from what we've learned about him so far, that seems to be pretty clear. But again, al Qaeda is a terrorist organization. This guy is a terrorist. That just means that he's a criminal.
It doesn't make him a warrior of any kind. It doesn't make him a soldier. It doesn't grant him some particular change in status that says that he's fighting a war against him.
COLLINS: Well, it does afford him certain protections that he would not have, obviously. I mean, that's the discussion here about being in any combatant and what you receive by way of protections from public offenders or otherwise that you wouldn't get. The Miranda rights, as well.
BLANK: Well, it's also important to keep in mind that in the military commission system he's going to have a lawyer, he's going to have the same right to be presumed innocent, he's going to have, you know, access to cross examine witnesses, all the same types of protections. He's going to be interrogated based on the same standards that he would be interrogated in the Federal court system.
So it's not some great change. And I think it's really important to remember that these terrorists, al Qaeda and other affiliated folks, they like to think of themselves at war with us. And if we look at it that way, we're granting them a stature. We're legitimizing them by saying they are warriors and they don't deserve that legitimacy. They don't deserve that status, they are just criminals.
And so our courts are tried and true. We've been trying terrorists in our federal courts for years. We have 350 terrorists in our federal prisons right now, two-thirds of which are foreigners. So we have all the resources that we need to do this. We have professional prosecutors, professional judges; and they're going to do a great job.
COLLINS: All right, well, we will obviously be following it here very, very closely. Laurie Blank, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
BLANK: Thank you, very much.
COLLINS: And now local law enforcement catching dangerous criminals in routine traffic stops with help from the Department Homeland Security. We'll tell you about it in a moment.
COLLINS: Secure Communities, a new homeland security program takes a closer look at illegal immigrants in an effort to get dangerous criminals off U.S. streets.
CNN's Rafael Romo has more.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice- over): Evan Methadia (ph) has been in the United States illegally for at least three years. Even though he's been convicted of 12 charges, including battery on a law enforcement officer and cocaine possession, the 32-year-old was never deported because he lied about his status.
He was only identified, thanks to a new homeland security program.
(on camera): This machine here is going to connect you immediately with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security right away.
CAPTAIN JON SPEARS, GWINNETT COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Yes, it is.
ROMO (voice-over): In Gwinnett County, Georgia Captain Jon Spears oversees the new program called Secured Community which checks the suspect's fingerprints against federal databases.
JOHN MORTON, ASSISTANT HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: What we're introducing to the process is the digital exchange of the fingerprints so that we can run the databases not only at the FBI but at the Department of Homeland Security for immigration purposes in a matter of minutes and get them back to the law enforcement officials.
ROMO: But immigrant rights activists say the program targets migrants unfairly.
JERRY GONZALEZ, GEORGIA ASSOCIATION OF LATINO ELECTED OFFICIALS: It's open season for Latinos in Georgia.
ROMO: Jerry Gonzalez says the program takes away local law enforcement's flexibility to decide whose fingerprints are run, essentially reporting everyone to ICE, even people with minor offenses or extenuating circumstances.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has repeatedly said one of her department's priorities is the removal of illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes.
GONZALEZ: They're deporting people for minor traffic violations. And that's outside the scope of what Napolitano wants accomplished.
ROMO: The Department of Homeland Security insists its focus is on capturing the most dangerous criminals here illegally.
MORTON: Secure Communities is all about public safety. And it's all about trying to identify for removal from this country, serious criminal offenders in local communities.
ROMO: Methadia who habitually drove without a license and used 15 aliases in Georgia and Florida was charged thanks to the program and will be deported to his native country after serving his sentence.
(on camera): So to those who have fears about racial profiling, what would be your response?
SPEARS: Don't break the law. If you're not in custody, you're not going to be checked.
ROMO: So far the program is available in 108 counties throughout the nation. In Gwinnett County, Georgia it started last October. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security say their hope is that it will be available throughout the country by 2013, but Congress would have to approve significant resources for the Security Communities Program to continue.
Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.
COLLINS: Busy newsroom day once again here in the CNN NEWSROOM. We are of course following all of the big stories this morning.
Our correspondents are hard at work for you, as you can see. Rob Marciano standing out there in those freezing temperatures in Memphis, Tennessee. Good morning once again, Rob.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Heidi. The coldest morning of the year yet; eight degrees with a minus five wind chill. And the cold snap continues across the Deep South tomorrow they may very well be close to zero. A live report coming up in the next hour.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. The bottom does drop out today for the plains, tomorrow across the southeast. What are these icy conditions doing to your travel? We'll have your forecast and the details on a little bit of a warm-up coming up at the top of the hour.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Christine Romans in New York.
The unemployment rate still an uncomfortable 10 percent, but this economy did create -- it did create jobs late last year, 4,000 jobs created in November. But then in December, employers slashed another 85,000.
What happens in 2010? What happens this year? Will things get better for you and your job? I'll have that at the top of the hour -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes, that's the question.
All right, guys, thanks so much.
In fact also ahead this morning, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is going to be joining us to talk more about those latest unemployment numbers.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Lots of hugs and kisses for a 5-year-old Indiana girl credited with saving her dad's life. Her dad thought he was having a heart attack and called 911 but Savannah took over and talked to the dispatcher when dad had trouble breathing. The dispatcher was impressed with how calm she was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON BONHAM, DISPATCHER: Every time I've listened to it, it's amazing, because she's just a little person.
Keep him awake, ok?
SAVANNAH: Ok. He really needs oxygen.
BONHAM: He really needs oxygen?
SAVANNAH: Yes. Real bad. He looks like he's real shaky. I am real shaky too.
BONHAM: They should be getting there any minute.
SAVANNAH: Ok. Like how many minutes?
BONHAM: Probably only a couple.
SAVANNAH: Ok. You have to stay awake. Ok, dad. It's ok.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: It doesn't get any better than that, does it?
Savannah's dad is ok and was back at work just a couple of days later.
Also, pro basketball hall of famer Dave Bing gets inaugurated today for his first four-year term as Detroit's mayor. Bing won the general election in November, as you remember, just a few months after winning a special vote to replace jailed former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
An Oakland Area Rapid Transit officer has his first court hearing in Los Angeles today. He's charged with killing an unarmed man on a station platform a little over a year ago. A judge cited excessive media coverage and racial tensions as the reason for moving the trial from Oakland to L.A.