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Winter Storm in the U.S.; Should Passengers on Planes Be Able to Use Cell Phones?

Aired December 13, 2013 - 04:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Fridays are awesome. Even when they are freezing, which is why we have flannel Fridays. Earlier this week, we talked about the thermostat setting a new low - 135.8 degrees below zero. That was the temperature reading in Antarctica in 2010. And some researchers say it could be the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Things aren`t that cold in the United States. But the winter weather is in full effect. Snow, ice, freezing rain, sleet and bitter cold - these storms spread across huge parts of the country. They can have a physical impact we all know about, but winter weather can also take a mental toll and an economic one.


LONNIE QUINN: Everybody throughout the area is at the freezing mark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you thought today was cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next few days are going to be very cold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frigid temps gripping the nation as another blast of Arctic air has millions from the Great Lakes to the northeast waking up in a deep freeze.

City after city experiencing temperature 20 degrees or more below average. The coldest it` got in the taste of winter. Forecasters say the windy city already filling like its earliest subzero temperature since 1995. Earlier this week, morning temps plunged to six below zero.

It`s the same story in frozen Fargo. They`ve had single digit temps or below for a full week. New Yorkers bundling up for their morning commute with brutal windshields that feel like the teens and 20s. Bitter cold temps made fighting this apartment fire in Wisconsin challenging for the firefighters. It`s so cold in Wisconsin that a reporter for CNN affiliate WAOW left his banana outside in negative two degree air for just 30 minutes.

EMILY NEUBAUER, WAOW REPORTER: So when we come back, we find the banana completely frozen solid. So frozen, in fact, I can actually use it to hammering this nail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in Minnesota plucking in as one of the coldest spots in America. Hospitals there already preparing for an influx of hypothermia and frost-bite cases. And doctors urging people to stay indoors.

DR. KAI TUOMINEN, ST. JOHN`S HOSPITAL: As you get colder and colder your decision making gets worse and worse. The longer you are out, the more damage is done and it can be fatal.


AZUZ: All right, we`ve been reporting for a while on political unrest in Ukraine. The country split between people who want closer ties with European Union and people who want to be more aligned with Russia. A country`s alliances can affect who it trades with, and some of the decisions that its government makes. The current unrest started when Ukraine`s president rejected a trade agreement with the European Union. But yesterday, President Victory Yanukovych met with representatives from the E.U. and afterward, they said he`s changed his mind.


CATHERINE ASHTON, EU HIGH COMMISSIONER: He indicated he still wishes to sign the association agreement with the European Union. From our perspective, we think that`s good for this country.


AZUZ: Nothing will be official until President Yanukovych signs the deal, and commissioner Ashton says the Ukrainian leader still needs to resolve the conflict in his country.

Next up today, phones in flight: should you be able to make a cell phone call on a plane? On our blog a few weeks ago, Dylan said it`s a good idea, Rob said no way, and Hannah said yes, but only if research proves it won`t cause problems. The big question is, what does the FCC thing? The Federal Communications Commission currently has a ban on in flight cell phone calls. But yesterday, the FCC voted three to two to consider lifting that ban. At the same time, the U.S. Transportation Department said it might look into banning cell calls during flights. One thing is for sure on all this - this issue is dialing up a lot of debate.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can already connect from almost everywhere. And cell phone calls from cruising altitude may be next. The Federal Communications Commission chairman says the ban on cell phone use on passenger flights is outdated and restrictive, and he`s proposing allowing cell phone use above 10,000 feet. The FCC says technology`s advanced enough, so that cell phone transmissions from the air would no longer interfere with cell towers on the ground. But it`s the response from the flying public that`s all the buzz.

BRIAN TODD: You can use them almost everywhere else: on buses, on trains, but as for airplanes, there is some pretty steep resistance to the use of cell phones. Here`s passenger Judy Carol. Judy, what do you think of it?

JUDY CAROL, PASSENGER: I think the phone call can wait. I think that, you know, if it`s that important, do it before you board the plane. Wait until you land.

MICHLER BISHOP, PASSENGER: You might want to talk the entire flight in a loud voice about every single problem you have in your family, blah-blah- blah, right? So, I`m afraid it won`t work.

TODD: That potential tension between passengers is also a safety hazard: according to the Flight Attendants Union, which is against the idea, they say it`s also a security risk.

VEDA SHOOK, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: We have concerns about the ability for those who might wish to do harm to be able to coordinate during the flight or amongst (ph) flights.

TODD: But some passengers say the ability to communicate trumps all.

AMY RATCLIFFE, PASSENGER: There is lots of work that I do that I need to be in touch with people, and the hour and a half that I spent flying between Atlanta and D.C., I lose that time.

TODD: But in a time when we all face more crowded flights, delays, added charges for bags and meals, be ready to pay more for calls from the air. A consumer advocate says airlines and wireless careers will pass the costs of installing this capability to you.

CRAIG AARON, FREE PRESS-CONSUMER ADVOCATE: You`re going to either have to sign up for extra service, or you`re going to have to pay serious roaming charges, you know, probably in excess of $2 per minute for every phone call you make.

TODD (on camera): In the air?

AARON: In the air.

TODD (voice over): Or maybe much more. Outside the U.S. where the capability already exists, some customers have been charged $12 a minute. As for the U.S., if the FCC lifts the cell phone ban, it`s going to be up to the individual airlines to choose whether to provide cell service to passengers. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s time for the "Shoutout." On a baseball field, what shape is home plate? If you think you know it, then shout it out! So, is it a pentagon, square, diamond or rhombus? You`ve got three seconds, go!

Home plate has been a five-sided shape since 1900. So, if you said pentagon you hit it out of the park. That`s your answer and that`s your shoutout.

AZUZ: Even though it`s a sport with charging, striking, hitting, popping and slamming, baseball is generally not seen as a contact sport, except for this: a catcher is positioned in front of home plate. The runner headed for home collides with him hoping the catcher will drop the ball allowing to run the score. Major League Baseball is hoping to make this illegal starting next year. The reasons are clear: too many guys, both runners and catchers were getting hurt. Catchers got ten of the 18 concussions that sent players to the disabled list this year. Buster Posey who was National League MPV in 2012 missed most of the season in 2011 when a collision broke his leg and tore ligaments in his ankle. The proposed rule change still has to be approved by owners and players, and penalties for breaking it still have to be worked out. And it has its critics. Some saying this cuddles the players. Some saying the risks of getting hit by a fastball or a line drive, or colliding with another player, are all part of the sport and should stay that way. But if the MLB gets its way, home plate collisions will soon go the way of the spitball.

The mascots for the schools in today`s "Roll Call" definitely have a major league flavor: First, (inaudible) are the cubs from Alcester-Hudson High School in South Dakota. Next location to pop up is Loveland, Ohio, home of the Tigers from Loveland High. And hitting cleanup (ph), the Marcy Marlins (ph) from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Cubs, tigers, marlins, and now the "Roll Call" is out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this legit? George W. Bush was a 43rd person to be U.S. president. Not true. There were 41 people to be president before him. Grover Cleveland is counted twice since he served non-consecutive terms. That`s why President Bush is considered the 43rd president.

AZUZ: Cade Foster is also number 43. That`s his jersey number. Foster is a kicker for the University of Alabama football team. In a recent rivalry game, Foster missed two field goals and had another blocked. He got a lot of criticism, some of it very harsh, but he also got some encouragement from former President George W. Bush. Foster posted this letter on Instagram. It says, quote, "Dear Cade, number 43, life has its setbacks. I know, however, you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, another 43." Foster said he`d be framing the handwritten note when he shared it on social media.

Here comes Santa Claus. Here comes Santa Claus. Now, Santa Claus - come on. Apparently he brought a bunch of his friends. These Santas opted for skies or snowboards while this one seems to have upgraded from Santa`s usual sleight. Who needs reindeer when you`ve got horsepower? And ho-ho- hold the bow, because scuba Santa wants to dive and to make a splash in this segment. Do you know scuba is an acronym? Stands for Santa Contained Under Water Breathing Apparatus. Ah, Santa puns - they are (inaudible), and we squeeze them in just in that nick of time.

2013 is almost over. We want to know what you think were the biggest stories of the year. If you`re already on Facebook, go this weekend. Tell us your pick for the top story of 2013. Have a great weekend.