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Massive Winter Storm hits Midwest; Snow Emergency Declared for Boston; Massive Nor'easter Headed for East Coast; Clemency for Snowden; Kerry Heads to Middle East; Fiat to Take Ownership of Chrysler; Passengers Rescued from Russian Ship in Antarctic; Freeze and Snow Projected for Northeast

Aired January 2, 2014 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Millions more people along the East coast, they are hunkering down for a possible blizzard that could bring life to a standstill. People in the Midwest, they are already dealing with a snowstorm. The temperatures there, about to take a steep dive below zero. We've got CNN crews in all of this covering every angle. Margaret Conley, she's in Boston. Alexandra Field, she's in the field in New York. Ted Rowlands is just outside Chicago. And Alexandra Steel in the Severe Weather Center tracking the storm.

Ted, got to check in with you first because you are dealing with some brutal cold on the way. We've already seen some iReports and people sending in photos. The snow's already arrived there.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has been snowing basically straight since New Year's Eve day. And we're getting a lot of accumulation. I have my shovel here. We'll show you how much we're getting so far. This is, I don't know, maybe close to seven, eight inches. And they're expecting it's going to be over a foot by the time it's done later today.

The big problem, of course, is getting rid of all of this stuff. The crews have been out 24/7 clearing the streets. And O'Hare Airport in Chicago is having a lot of problems, over 1,000 flight cancellations so far today and nationwide, a lot of them at O'Hare. And they're expecting more throughout the day.

Luckily for the folks in the Midwest, the snow is moving out. But as you mentioned, it is going to be bitter cold in the next few hours. So it's going to go from bad to worse, really, because in Chicago you add those temperatures with a little bit of wind and it is downright miserable. But at least, I guess, the snow is moving on. So for the commute and other things, it will be a little bit easier. But not looking forward to the next few hours.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Yes, no, Ted, I used to live in Chicago. I know what that freezing frigid cold is all about. Thanks, Ted. Try to stay warm there.

I want to bring in Margaret in Boston. And, you know, went to school in Boston. Folk there's, they know what they're doing. New Englanders, they have seen bad weather. They get hit with this all the time. How are they dealing with this today? Are they ready?

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, we're just getting a big gust of wind right now. The worst of this storm is yet to come. Boston's declared a snow emergency. The snow has gotten worse now. It's going to get even worse into the night and into tomorrow morning.

Well, how bad is it going to get? We have our stick here. It's less than an inch and it's going to get up to a foot. That's as bad as it's going to get. We're expecting temperatures to drop to minus three degrees and it's going to be freezing.

As you can see here, there are not many people out on the streets. There was a postman we saw earlier. The only people here are shoveling the snow. And it's a really, really light snow and there's strong wind and that's going to be a problem for travelers. It's creating a blizzard-like effect. So visibility is going to be very tough.

Do not travel; that's the advice we're getting from weather services. It's going to be tough on the roads, also in the air. Flights have been canceled. And there actually have already been accidents on the road with concerns for black ice.

So one thing we are doing here, Suzanne, is we're tracking how many snowplows are out on the ground in Massachusetts. There are 1,500 out there. They have capacity to go up to 4,000. So we are just in the very beginning stages of this storm.


MALVEAUX: Yes. Margaret, we've been watching you all morning and it is really amazing that that wind just picked up just as soon as we went on air there. But you got a great hat for all of this. Hunker down. We'll get back to you very shortly.

Want to bring in Alexandra, who's in New York, where they are getting ready. And this is going to be a big one for people in the city and, of course, the new mayor, he's got a major test to see how they're going to get through all of this, yes?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. When we're talking about a snowstorm of this size in the city of 8 million people, there's a lot to think about. There's a lot of planning to do. It will be a big test for Mayor Bill de Blasio in his second day in office. In a couple days, we're going to see how we all come through this. But right now every step is being taken possible to get the city ready.

I'll give you a look behind me. This is the sanitation department right off the west side highway here. You can see one of these trucks filled with salt. That's one of 365 of these trucks that have loaded up this morning. They're heading out on the roads. They want to keep those roads dry and safe as this storm approaches. The worst of it expected to come in later today into the night and into tomorrow morning. So a lot of that work is being done now.

We also know that 1,600 New York City garbage trucks have been outfitted with plows. They will be on the roads as well. As soon as we get two inches of snow in New York City, that's when plows head out. We are, of course, expecting more like five to 10 inches here, so a big job for those plows.

Out on Long Island, even more snow and blizzard-like conditions. We're also expecting some of that wind here in New York City and these bitter subzero temperatures. So, hey, stay indoors if you can. These guys are getting out there to get ahead of it.

MALVEAUX: All right. And I expect we'll see the mayor out and about to making sure that everything goes well. We'll be - we'll get back to you as well.

Our other Alexandra, of course, keeping the storm watch here in Severe Weather Center in Atlanta.

So, just how big this thing? How serious are we talking about in the next 12 hours, 12 to 24 hours?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right. Well, let's get to it. Let me show you what we've got. Here's currently where the snow is. And certainly not seeing as much now. Of course, we saw the snow in Chicago and also along New York state, the New York State Thruway. But the worst is really yet to come overnight tonight into tomorrow.

So let me time line it. What's happening, this nor'easter's developing. These two areas of low pressure will phase together and become quite a strong nor'easter. We do have blizzard warnings and those winds are going to pick up. And you can see in Boston, it's a very light, powdery snow. Not a lot of moisture content. So when the winds begin to pick up, that's when these blizzard warnings really will pick up and be in effect.

So by tonight you can see where the snow is, all of Pennsylvania and New York, Long Island, Connecticut. So, again, it's kind of a phase of snow which is kind of good for New York. It's going to come in two phases. By morning, on Friday, there it is, still. But then by the afternoon, all the snow is over. But it's the backside, these isobars show you how strong the winds are. That's when the winds will really be incredibly strong, gusting to 45 miles per hour.

So totals, eight to 14 in Boston, six to eight in New York City, eight to 12 right along this New York State Thruway in Albany, four to seven in Philly. And now even bringing in a little bit in Washington, D.C.

Here, look at all these states covered with some type of watch or warning. The pink delineating winter storm warning. And here's where the blizzard warnings are and why. Because of the nature of the snow, you can see along the cape and the islands and also, of course, on Long Island, Suzanne, that's when we're going to see the incredible winds blowing all the snow that has fallen already.

MALVEAUX: All right, brace yourselves. Alexandra, thank you. Ted Rowlands, Margaret Conley, Alexandra Field and, of course, Alexandra Steele, our intrepid reporters out there, thanks. Appreciate it. We're going to get back to you momentarily. It is going to be a big one. And "The New York Times" now and "The Guardian" in Great Britain, well, they are now praising Edward Snowden for leaking the information about the NSA's surveillance program. Now, "The Times" is say he did the country a great service and actually wants the Obama administration to give him a break.

So here's part of the editorial that we are focusing on today. It say, "when someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden's vilification and give him an incentive to return home."

Well, Snowden has been living in Russia for the last few months to avoid espionage charges. And "The Times" thinks his should get some form of clemency. Here's what Snowden's advisor told CNN earlier.


BEN WIZNER, LEGAL ADVISER TO EDWARD SNOWDEN: Washington is full of people who broke the law by lying to Congress, by engaging in illegal spying, by ordering the torture of prisoners. We haven't seen prosecutions of those officials and we haven't seen a lot of hand wringing about the precedent that's going to be set by not prosecuting those people. So let's not, you know, get on a high horse and say that, oh dear, if we don't prosecute this person, we're going to set a bad precedent.


MALVEAUX: Want to talk about this more with our CNN justice reporter, our correspondent, Evan Perez in Washington.

And, Evan, you know, "The New York Times," a very powerful paper. The editorial as well. Clearly the White House, you know, is reading what they say. They care about what they say. Do you think it's going to make a difference in terms how the Obama administration pursues Edward Snowden?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Suzanne, you know, if you had asked me this question probably about three, four months ago, I would have said, you know, this is not something that anybody would probably think about seriously. It is true, however, that, you know, we've had a lot of things change in the last few months.

You've had now two court decisions, one court -- one judge here in Washington who said that some of these programs, in particular the one that collects data on every single phone call made in the United States, that that could be a violation of the Fourth Amendment and perhaps unconstitutional. Another judge in New York said the opposite.

So, you know, I think this is a debate that's actually being had right now within the government. It's not - it's not something that you're probably going to see resolved very soon. People in the Justice Department who are trying to prosecute this probably would not be very much in favor. The attorney general, Eric Holder, told me the same - told me just that a few weeks ago. However, people at the NSA would love to see for these leaks to stop. So that's where the complication lies.

MALVEAUX: And I also want to read this part of the editorial. "The Times" saying that "the shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but not has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation's security." Have we heard from the security community? Have we heard from people who are pushing back on that?

PEREZ: Well, yes. I mean, I think if you talk to the - to people at the FBI and other - the intelligence agencies, they will say that they have seen some changes of behavior in terrorist organizations. There are people who are now communicating different ways to try to avoid some of the surveillance.

Of course, you know, it's hard to prove any of that. And it's also hard to prove -- this is the problem for the NSA -- it's hard for them to prove whether these programs have actually stopped any attacks, which is something that had been brought up by both some of these judges that have looked at this and even by a panel that was appointed by the president to take a look at these programs.

MALVEAUX: Evan, do we have a timetable at all when all this is going to be resolved?

PEREZ: Well, we don't. I mean, we have members of Congress who are talking about making some changes to pull back some of these programs. The president says next month he's going to address some of these issues.

Even the issue of trying to work on any kind of plea deal would be very complicated because Snowden has said he's given up some of these documents to some of the journalists that he's working with. So they would have to be in on perhaps any kind of negotiation because the government would for sure want to make sure those documents come back and to stop the leaks from going forward, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it is a very complicated case. Evan, thank you. We appreciate your insights.

Here's more of what we're working for AROUND THE WORLD. A powerful explosion has now gone off in a Beirut neighborhood. We're going to have the latest just ahead.

And Fiat buying full control of Chrysler. So what does this actually mean for the future of American car companies?

Plus, would you do 30 squats for a free subway ride? That's actually what they're doing in Russia. Our own Phil Black decided to give it a try.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very popular one, I've noticed, has been, here we go, the superman. It's not counting. (END VIDEO CLIP)


MALVEAUX: New bloodshed in Beirut. A car bomb exploded today in a residential neighborhood. Authorities now say that four people have been killed, many others injured. The damage, as you can see, is extensive. Now, this blast happened in an area that is a stronghold of Hezbollah. It comes less than a week after a car bomb exploded in the heart of the city killing half a dozen people. Now, violence has surged in Lebanon since Hezbollah militants acknowledged helping Syria's government in the civil war.

And Secretary of State John Kerry, he has now just wrapped up a meeting. This is with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is in the Middle East to propose a new framework for a Middle East peace deal. Kerry also plans to meet with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. And this is Kerry's ninth trip to the region. Well, the proposal is based on five months of extensive consultation with the leaders since the peace process resumed this summer.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The time is soon arriving where leaders are going to have to make difficult decisions. We are close to that time, if not at it, and I think we understand the circumstances within which we are working. I know -- I come here with no illusions. I know that there are many who are skeptical of whether or not the two parties can achieve peace.


MALVEAUX: So what's different here? The United States seems to have moved into a more muscular role as mediator by presenting its own proposals to these parties, instead of relying on the Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate the decades-old conflict themselves.

And the Italian automaker Fiat, which makes these cute little cars here, about to take full ownership of Chrysler. That's right. Fiat already owned the majority of Chrysler. It was brought in as part of the bankruptcy deal four years ago to keep Chrysler from going under, right?

Richard Quest is joining us New York to talk about the bigger picture here.

So you've got a foreign company buying full ownership of this classic American brand. What does it mean?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's not get too excited at the idea of foreign ownership here, because don't forget, before Chrysler went bankrupt, it was owned by Daimler-Benz of Germany.

So, Daimler Chrysler was around for a good 10 years. Chrysler has been owned before by a foreign company. And all this really does, think of this as a massive tidying up operation because Fiat has wanted to get its hands on Chrysler and the United Autoworkers and its pension fund, which had taken a large stake, 41 percent, after the bankruptcy, they wanted to get out of the stake.

There was a very nasty possibility of the battle over of an IPO, a public offering.


QUESTS: What this does is bring it all together, and finally recognizes that the Italian company, Fiat, now owns Chrysler.

MALVEAUX: So, Richard, what does this mean in terms of jobs? That's going to be the first question people have. Is it going to impact the number of jobs people have? Are the cars going to change? Are we going to see tangible differences here?

QUEST: No, and you shouldn't because Fiat has had its sticky fingers all over Chrysler since day one in terms of sharing of technology, manufacturing, and future plans.

Sergio Marchionne, the leader, the CEO of Fiat, has been running both companies. Look at how the company's done.

If you look at Chrysler's share and the share of the market and its profitability, Chrysler has moved back into profitability in the last couple of years, being extremely profitable over recent years, and that is set to continue.

What this will allow is single ownership, clear direction of the way forward. And I mean, look at that. Since 2013, sales have been up 18 percent, and 70 percent over the past three years.

Now. both of these companies, Fiat, fiat has to repair itself in Europe, and Chrysler has to increase its Asia presence. And a larger entity will be able to do it.

MALVEAUX: Yeah. Richard, I remember when the Obama administration got a lot of criticism for those when they first decided they'd let Fiat make the move, but it seems to have paid off now.

QUEST: And don't forget there are some of us who are just about old enough to remember Lee Iacocca and the famous line when, of course, Chrysler sought a bailout decades ago, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

So, Chrysler has never been, if you like, smooth sailing in terms of its corporate governance.

MALVEAUX: We remember Lee Iacocca. We're old enough.

Thank you, Richard. Appreciate it, as always. Thanks again.

Want you to take a look at this. This is two major rescues. Watch this. So this one from the Antarctic ice, and then the other from the Mediterranean Sea. Those stories, straight ahead.


MALVEAUX: Of course, we are following the weather story, a big weather story, potential winter storm heading to the northeast.

We're also following this, rescued from the frozen bottom of the world. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first of the helicopters to take us home. Thanks, everyone!


MALVEAUX: That's actually the Snow Eagle landing on the Antarctic ice. That happened earlier this morning. It ferried out all 52 passengers of a Russian research ship. It's been trapped in the ice since Christmas Eve.

Our Matthew Chance has been following all of this from the very beginning. He's joining us from London.

This is one of my favorite stories, Matthew, because I just couldn't imagine like all of the guys sending videos. They seem so happy. They're confident. They finally rescued them after many, many failed attempts, but you still have a crew that's on board that ship.

Tell us, first of all, how did they manage the breakthrough, this rescue operation, and what happens to the crew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right. It's one of my favorite stories, as well, across the holiday period. You almost get the impression they're going to sad to see the back of the Akademik Shokalskiy, the stranded vessel.

But they're off it now, 52 of them. They were airlifted by that Chinese helicopter to a Chinese ice breaker that's a short distance away that couldn't get through the thick ice.

The reason the breakthrough came is because there's been such terrible weather down there over the past couple of days that the helicopter hasn't managed to take off safely.

So it was only when the weather cleared that they were able to do it and ferry the 52 passengers, including scientists and tourists, off that vessel, they've been stuck there since Christmas Eve, onto the ice breaker. They're now on another ship heading into open water.

You're right. There are 22 crew members, they're mainly Russians, that are staying with the ship. They're not leaving it. They don't want to abandon it.

They're going to want to wait for the packed ice to melt, or for a path to be broken through by the ice breakers so they can get out into open water. And they could be there for several weeks to come, so for some people on that ship, for 22 people, the adventure continues into the new year.

MALVEAUX: All right. Matthew, thank you. I'm sure we'll be getting videos from them as well. Good to know that they're all safe and sound. Thank you, Matthew.

We also have this story as well, a more pressing rescue to tell you about. This one is in the Mediterranean Sea off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Two-hundred-thirty-three people, they were saved from an overcrowded boat that was at risk of sinking.

Now, the Italian navy, what they did was they launched this rescue because they realized that the seas were quite rough, that boat, only 33-feet long, had no life jackets on board. Officials say the passengers were migrants, most of them African, and they are now being taken to a port in Sicily.

And this, following this deep freeze, deep snow, we could be in deep trouble. That is right. The northeast, in the hours ahead, we are watching the weather and we're watching it very closely.

How bad is it all going to get? Up next.


MALVEAUX: Keep your eye on bottom of the screen there. We are tracking this storm.

We're getting an update on the blizzard warnings, the extreme cold that is threatening millions of folks right now. We're talking about from the Midwest all the way to New England, snow and wind likely to bring life to a standstill.

We're seeing a number of flight cancellations already growing, more than 1,700 right now. Boston under a snow emergency, parts of New York getting ready now for a big blizzard. People in the Midwest shoveling snow, preparing for the temperature to drop even more.

Alexandra Steele is tracking all of this. So, where do we begin?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Let's begin with not only is the snow coming, Suzanne, but it's the winds and the precipitously low, cold temperatures.

So here's the wind speed, the future wind speed. This is this afternoon. Notice the gusts, 39 in Boston, 36 in New York. And then as we take it to later, we get to 46, 50. You can see by 11:00 tonight, Boston starts gusting to 50.

The Cape and the islands and Long Island, those will see the strongest gusts overnight tonight into tomorrow. You can see Friday morning, 40s, 50s, even into Philadelphia and Washington and Baltimore gusting into the 40s. So that's part of the story. That's really what will impact airports, as well. Temperatures, look at Boston Saturday morning, three-below. Boston has not been below zero since January of 2011, so the coldest air we've seen in years coupled with this inundating snowstorm.

So here's where the snow is now. As we head through 3:00 this afternoon, really late tonight and into tomorrow, that's when the biggest cities will be impacted.

Tonight you can see it covers all of New Jersey, Long Island, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, overnight tonight and then in toward tomorrow morning, still in New Jersey, even a little bit of a dusting in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

But by tomorrow afternoon, even by noon, the snow is gone.