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Massive Thanksgiving Storm Heads East; Caroline Kennedy Tours Tsunami-Affected Areas of Japan; Did Iran Get Better Deal in Nuke Negotiations; China and Japan Dispute; Hunger Games on Fire

Aired November 25, 2013 - 12:30   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Does the timing get any worse? Usually when there's a big holiday, of course, people are concerned about their travel, but imagine, add on to that a monster storm coming during one of those busiest travel weeks of the year.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Yeah, it's early and it is brutal, wintry weather pounding the nation's midsection right now. They don't normally see that at this time of year. And the thing is, it's moving on east.

GORANI: So you have sleet, snow, ice, damaging winds, all part of the package. Now, it's had some tragic consequences. At least 10 people have died because of dangerous road conditions in Texas and Oklahoma.

HOLMES: Yeah, and as you were saying earlier, Hala, airlines canceling flights left, right and center, about 500 at Dallas-Fort Worth International alone since yesterday.

And it could throw more wrenches in people's travel plans as Thanksgiving edges ever closer, both in the air, also on the road.

GORANI: Right.

Chad Myers is tracking all of this for us. Where is the storm now? Where is it headed? How bad will it be, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, if you look at it, it doesn't look all that impressive, just kind of a little bit of rain down here across the South.

The problem is, the past couple days there's been ice all the way through here. Dallas is above 32 degrees now, so a lot of this is melting. The problem is, this storm runs right up the East Coast with all of this rain. What's the problem? It's cold. That cold north wind has already blown temperatures down well below freezing.

Now, there are still planes in the sky. Don't get me wrong. There are 5,100 dots on this map. We call this kind of "ants on candy," but there should be more planes on this map right now. That's part of the problem. There's the rain, a little bit of ice in Little Rock, especially north of there, maybe a little bit father south as to St. Louis.

The problem is that the low grabs the moisture, a lot of moisture off the Gulf of Mexico. It's going to rain a lot. That's a problem because it's going to rain. It's going to be 31 in many, many big cities, from Buffalo to Pittsburgh, down through Wheeling, down into parts of Tennessee, Lexington, down to Chattanooga.

Those big cities have big interstates running through them, and we don't need ice on roads whether he all is the people are trying to go to grandma's house or somebody else's house.

There's 41 million people trying to move. A lot of them are going to be slow.

HOLMES: Yeah, or slippery. That's the thing I hate most of all, ice.

GORANI: Right. You have to be very, very careful on the road for that. Thanks very much, Chad. And we'll keep our eye, of course, on this story throughout the day.

For the latest on the weather and a look at the world's busiest airport, which is, by the way, Hartsfield -

HOLMES: Yeah, Atlanta.

GORANI: -- Hartsfield International, right here,

HOLMES: Yeah, Gatwick would probably argue. It depends what you call the busiest. Is it passengers? Is it takeoffs and landings? They have different --

GORANI: Somehow Gatwick feels busier. At any rate, this is conversation for another day.

Now, the American ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, is already flipping the script that diplomats follow once they go overseas to represent the United States. Instead of sticking to the Tokyo circuit, she's getting out of the Japanese capital to see people across the country. She's touring the area hard hit by the 2011 tsunami, a two- day visit, meeting with survivors there.

Our Karl Penhaul is with the ambassador in northeastern Japan.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a big day at Magokuura Elementary School. The school brass band is lining up, and they're moments away from the arrival of Caroline Kennedy. The new U.S. ambassador in Japan is wasting no time with diplomatic formalities. She's getting right down to business, and she's come to the heart of the area hit by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake.

Madame Ambassador, a quick question for CNN, what do you feel when you see those horrible tsunami pictures and think of the families of this natural disaster and other natural disasters?

CAROLINE KENNEDY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN: Well, I'm looking forward to meeting some of them this afternoon, so obviously, it was a devastating tragedy. And I think the resilience of the people is really impressive. So this is just the beginning of the tour. So I'm looking forward to meeting more people and learning more.

Thank you.

PENHAUL: Good to see you. Thank you very much, ma'am.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

PENHAUL: For the Japanese media and the Japanese people, as the daughter of JFK, Caroline Kennedy already has celebrity status, but it strikes me that coming to this area for the first time, she's keen to put her own personal stamp on this diplomatic posting, trying to show that the Japanese people for her are front and center of those diplomatic priorities.

Now, there have been comments from some observers that Caroline Kennedy perhaps didn't have enough political or diplomatic experience for this post, but what she's shown today is a real personal touch.

She sat there and read the children "Where the Wild Things Are." She took part in a calligraphy class, as well, laughing and joking with the children. all the time seeming very relaxed. And her central message was one of friendship. And here she's been talking to a group of elderly residents who were describing to her the horror and how they managed to survive those killer waves.

But, of course, it's not all business for Ambassador Kennedy. She's a great fan of Japanese art. And in one of her first interviews to Japanese media, she said this was one of the best places in the world to be hungry. She loves Japanese food.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.


HOLMES: With a handshake and a stroke of the pen, Iran agrees to back off its nuclear program. Some call the deal a success. The Israeli prime minister says it's a historic mistake.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL: It's not a historic agreement. It's a historic mistake. It's not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.



HOLMES: Welcome back.

Well, did Iran get too much in this weekend's nuclear deal with world leaders? Israel, for one, says yes. President Obama and other world powers say no, not at all. GORANI: OK, here's a reminder what the agreement actually is all about.

Sanctions against Iran are going to be eased in exchange for Iran's slowing its nuclear program. Israel's prime minister called it a historic mistake, even after President Obama tried to ease concerns.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The resolve of the United States will remain firm as will our commitments to our friends and allies, particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions.

Ultimately, only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program.

NETANYAHU: What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement. It's a historic mistake.

It's not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.


HOLMES: All right. James Rubin is former U.S. assistant secretary of state, joins us now from London. Good to see you Jamie.

Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear Israel is not going to be bound, if you like, by the agreement. He and the president could not be further apart on this deal.

Why is Israel holding that this is such a bad deal when pretty much the rest of the world thinks at least let's give it a shot?

JAMES RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: That's right. And I think the logic of the Israeli position is surprising because it's really quite naive.

The Israelis seem to think that if the United States just holds out a little bit longer, if the West just waits a little bit longer, the Iranians are going to capitulate. They're just going to give up and say, OK, you're right. I'm not going to do any enrichment. I'm not going to spend any more of the time on this $50, $75 billion program that have been around for 10 years.

It's just naive to expect sanctions ,just economic sanctions to get Iran to capitulate, to give up. And that's the fundamental difference between Washington and Israel. Both the United States and Israel would like to limit Iran's program. The United States and the Western powers just believe that it's only a rational way to do it is to give a little bit of sanctions relief for a little bit further restrictions.

GORANI: But if you look at the deal, this is not a final agreement, as you know. It's a six-month interim deal. It eases some, certainly not all, of the sanctions. It is subject to verification. Iran is to give access to two main sites to international inspectors. Is this a deal that's going to hold and yield something more permanent in which case, essentially, a war has been avoided here.

RUBIN: It's possible that a war has been avoided. Although I think at its core, this deal reflects the fact that none of the Western powers, including the United States, prefers that option. And because the United States is not prepared in the end when push comes to shove, probably, to use force, they would prefer to put restrictions, limitations, on Iran's program.

Israel, on the other hand, wants to take a maximalist position, get Iran's program reversed to where it was 10, 12, 13 years ago. And that's just not going to happen.

We have a new situation now, though. We have a new Iranian leader who is not the Ahmadinejad figure who so alienated the West, so alienated the world. And that's probably quite frustrating for the Israelis, to see Iran have normal contact with Western secretaries of state and Western foreign ministers, to see people smiling. It's very frustrating for the Israelis. They got used to the idea that the Iran was a pariah state. And with this agreement now, Iran is coming in from the cold.

We'll see how far, because, as you say, this is really just an interim step. It's kind of a modest control on their program and a modest sanctions relief. But it doesn't answer the fundamental question.

HOLMES: Yeah, and there's hard-liners on both sides of the equation. There's hard-liners in Iran just waiting to be able to say, I told you so, to the moderates.

It's interesting. I spoke a short time ago with Trita Parsi on CNN International, president of the National Iranian American Council.

And he was saying that the people in Iran, also, they are proud to have a nuclear capability, but not a nuclear weapon, that they're against that themselves on the ground.

Let's listen.


TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: Support for a weapon has actually always been pretty week, whereas support for the idea they should have an enrichment program has been very, very strong.

I think the Iranian people definitely realize that actually having a weapon increases Iran's insecurity and makes it more of a target than actually adding to its security.

And I think that part of reason why the population right now is quite pleased is because, on the one hand, they're moving towards restoring and improving relations with the West, while at the same time, making sure that they're retaining what they believe is their right.


HOLMES: And, Jamie, I suppose that the question is, you know, nobody knows for sure deep inside the bowels of the Iranian leadership whether what they really want.

But this has got to be a positive sign. Do you see that perhaps this could look in the broader picture lead to Iran, if you like, coming in from the cold on a more permanent level?

RUBIN: Well, we'll have to wait and see on that. What this is, though, is the effect of the Iranian election. This deal has been on offer for a long time.

It's -- what's new is the Iranian leadership is prepared to take it. And they're prepared to take it because, contrary to what the prime minister said, they have not chosen to go headlong rushing for a nuclear weapon.

They could have done that years ago. They haven't done that.

HOLMES: Yeah, Jamie, thanks so much. Always good to see you, a former United States assistant secretary of state joining us there. As we were discussing earlier, too, the sanctions have hurt the Iranian people, the Iranian economy, but never slowed down the nuclear program.

GORANI: Right. Yes, indeed. The result of some secret negotiations through there, as well.


GORANI: But break -- Katie Couric gets a new gig and it could make her the face of a global Internet powerhouse.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

Yahoo! has just confirmed that veteran TV news woman Katie Couric is going to be the face of its global news operations. Couric is expected to conduct interviews with major players on the Yahoo! homepage. This is the latest effort, of course, by the Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, to turn around the aging web portal, putting heavy emphasis on content, hiring a lot of people over at the news section. A lot of people, of course, turning to the Internet for television style reporting.

Meanwhile, Italian prosecutors are summarizing their case against Amanda Knox. They're hoping to get a murder conviction that sticks this time around. Knox's retrial resumed today in Florence. She is accused of killing her British roommate in 2007 when they were college students studying abroad. Knox isn't actually in the courtroom. Indeed, she's not in the country this time. She says she is afraid to return to Italy.

GORANI: Now this. China has told the United States to butt out of the territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea. The Chinese are angry about a U.S. warning that a military claim by Beijing to air space in the region raises the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations, quote/unquote. It's a war of words, but could it escalate to something more? Let's get an update from David McKenzie. He is in Beijing.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China has hit back at U.S. officials saying they shouldn't get involved and shouldn't take sides in their dispute with Japan. China recently announced an air defense zone which stretches from the coastline and includes disputed islands that both Japan and China claim. On Saturday, China sent military planes to the region. Japan scrambled F-15 jets to meet them. Analysts believe that China's move could increase tensions in this already difficult region.


GORANI: David McKenzie there.

And that's going to do it for me. I'll be back with you guys here on CNN USA tomorrow. But I'm heading off to my day job.

HOLMES: Your other job. Your other job.

GORANI: My other job on CNN International.

HOLMES: You'd better get down there too.

All right, still to come, meanwhile, here on "AROUND THE WORLD" -


JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ACTRESS, "CATCHING FIRE": Please, just help me get through this trip.

WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR, "CATCHING FIRE": This trip doesn't end when you get back home.


HARRELSON: From now on, your job is to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are.


HOLMES: Katniss, "Catching Fire." "The Hunger Games" tops the box office domestically and sizzles abroad.

And then Monty Python, the skit group is reuniting. Now another big announcement. We'll tell you, next.


HOLMES: And now to something completely different. If you're a fan of Monty Python, you're familiar with that line. It's right up there with, what have the Romans ever done for us? Any excuse to play a Monty Python clip, and so we are going to do just that because we have an excuse. So here's your clip.




HOLMES: As they say in the classics, beautiful clue, midge. Anyway, that was the Python's classic parrot sketch. Last week we told you that the British comedy troupe, you can tell I'm a fan, they're getting back together for a reunion show. Well, the tickets went on sale today 33 years after their last live performance. Guess what? Tickets sold out 43.5 seconds. That's according to Python's P.R. people and so, not surprisingly, more shows have been announced for July. Classic stuff.

All right, well, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" setting new records at the box office in its weekend debut. Here's a clip of that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There she is, Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are looking to you, Katniss. You've given them an opportunity.


HOLMES: Yes, the film is rocking the ticket sales around the world as our heroin Katniss Everdeen returns home after the fight of her life. Let's bring in our Maggie Furlong in Los Angeles to look at why the film is capturing so much attention.

Maggie, this is the second of the trilogy. Gets into some pretty heavy themes, I'm told. The media, privacy, the difference between social classes. This is a big hit among particularly I think teenage girls. Tell us about the global appeal.

MAGGIE FURLONG, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" brought in an estimated $308 million worldwide this weekend. Half of that came in from U.S. moviegoers. And that makes "Catching Fire" the 12th largest international movie opening weekend ever, which is huge. You mentioned a few of the themes "Hunger Games" touches on, and they're obviously ideas that resonate with audiences everywhere.

HOLMES: Yes, and most of those who went to see it, as we say, were young women. I know my 15-year-old daughter was a big fan. I never got to see it. Seventy-one percent of female -- of ticket buyers were women, so -- or young women, too. They're shaping pop culture in a way by doing just that.

FURLONG: Absolutely. Katniss Everdeen is the main character of "The Hunger Games." She's a strong, courageous young woman. She's a great role model for girls. And that's what's really drawing young women to the theaters.

And on top of that you've got Jennifer Lawrence. She's so incredibly charming. She plays Katniss. She's a strong, positive female role model herself and an Oscar winner and just really a delightful young woman. And I feel like there's an appetite for more characters like Katniss and more actresses like Jennifer in Hollywood. So if the movie studios are smart, they'll give all these young moviegoers more of what they're asking for. There's obviously demand.

HOLMES: Well, there sure is. And the third one's coming. And if it's anything like the books, I'm told, it's going to be darker still. Maggie Furlong, good to see you. Thanks so much. Reporting there from Los Angeles.

FURLONG: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right, I'm going to leave you with a couple of stories that caught our eye today. Remember playing Etch-a-Sketch as a kid? Well, a woman in Louisville turned her hobby with the children's toy into works of art. Her name is Kerry Jones (ph). And look at the stuff she's drawn. Everything from the Roman Coliseum to the Cardinals basketball team. All with her Etch a Sketch. Some of her work has actually sold for over $100.

And now let's take you home, in my case, to Australia. A family putting up more than half a million Christmas lights at their house -- yes, that's their house -- to reclaim the Guinness Book of World Records title for the most Christmas lights on a residential property. They actually won it two years ago with just over 300,000. Then lost it last year to a family in New York. Well, they weren't going to sit by and let that happen. They came back again and they beat the record by more than 150,000 lights. Can't wait to see the power bill.

Thanks for watching "AROUND THE WORLD". I'm Michael Holmes. CNN NEWSROOM with Wolf Blitzer starts now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now a deadly storm is moving east, threatening to derail holiday travel for millions of Americans. It's leaving behind snow, flooding and massive delays across parts of the southern plains. We're going to tell you what else to expect over the next few days.

Also right now, police at Yale University are checking a report of a person with a gun on or near the campus. An alert on the university's website urges people to stay where they are, schools in recess, most of the students have left campus.

Right now, the news anchor and talk show host Katie Couric is preparing for a new assignment. Yahoo! has named Couric as the face of its global news operation starting early next year.

Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting today from Washington.

We begin with the weather. The warnings across the country which could make for some anxious moments for those of you trying to get home for Thanksgiving. First off, there is the snow. This is what is it looks like in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. And check out this wreck in Oklahoma. Besides the snow and icy roads, there's also strong winds and heavy rain. Those are combining to make travel even more treacherous as this storm heads east. We're going to get more on where the storm is headed in a moment.