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CNN NEWSROOM

CVS to Stop Selling Cigarettes; George Zimmerman in Boxing Ring; Olympic Preparations Continue

Aired February 5, 2014 - 15:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The Northeast getting socked with up to a foot of snow, a state of emergency declared for both New Jersey and New York. Thus far, more than 2,700 flights have been canceled across the U.S. And in Boston, look at this, still coming down, two inches of snow falling per hour.

And this shows how bad things are, because this is, folks, a snowplow, right? It's there to help people out, get the snow and the ice out of the way. It's stuck. This is a Boston parking lot. That's not going anywhere. The snowplow in Boston, in that bad. We are working this entire weather story with Don Lemon in Boston. We have Ted Rowlands in Chicago. And we have Jennifer Gray in Atlanta.

Don Lemon, you have been having fun out there. It's still coming down, isn't it?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, ma'am.

It is still coming down. I'm having fun. But it's serious for a lot of people. But, for Boston, this is what they do. As a matter of fact, hey, Brooke, I'm going to -- not going to go as planned now. I'm going to go talk to this guy. Mike has been coming up and he can tell you what the conditions are like.

Mike, come here. Slow down. Turn that down a little bit. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?

LEMON: Mike?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael.

LEMON: How long have you been out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since 6:00 this morning.

LEMON: The snow came down really fast, didn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very fast and very wet.

LEMON: How much? Everyone is saying about six or eight inches. It seems like a little bit more than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saying about eight to 10. LEMON: You think so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

LEMON: How are people dealing with it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to get out there and going to do a little at a time and don't get hurt.

LEMON: Since 6:00 a.m., how much longer you going to be out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably until about 7:00, 8:00 tonight.

LEMON: You going home to a good meal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, and a nice shower.

LEMON: And a nice shower. Thank you, Mike. Nice to meet -- where you from? From where?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From North End of Boston.

LEMON: North End, which means North End to the rest. Brooke, you know. You got it.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you, Michael. You got it, right, North End.

But, yes, everyone is saying six to eight inches.

I thank you, Mike.

I think it has been a lot more. This stuff is -- it was pretty powdery this morning. Throw that in there, Julian. It's a pretty big chunk of snow. It's been pretty powdery. But as it gets wetter, it gets thicker, so it's pretty -- it will catch you. It's good. Let me get my fat butt up. I'm not as young as I used to be.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: I see people enjoying the snow. Glad Michael is getting back to his job. People want that stuff cleared, if anyone actually does need to get out. Don Lemon in the snow with some snowballs. Thank you so much, sir.

Whoa. That was Julian Cummings with the arm. Don, thank you.

Ted Rowlands, let me go to you, because I know ice is a big issue there and it's locking up the Great Lakes. That is an issue for the shipping industry, right?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are in Oak Park, Illinois, where actually the issue here is salt today because they are one of the communes running low on rock salt.

But the Great Lakes, and we're in the Great Lakes region, is looking at a big problem on its hands. And 70 percent of the Great Lakes are now covered in ice. Last year, to give you some perspective, it was about 35 to 38 percent. When the shipping season kicks off and when the Locks and Sault Ste. Marie open up in the end of March, March 25, there are some real concerns that the shipping season here in the Great Lakes is going to be delayed.

And so they are already assembling plans for ice breakers to come in to help out and try to break this up. The record is 90 percent back in 1970s, but they say if this weather conditions, and, boy, it sure doesn't look like it's ending any time soon, it could be a major problem.

And if the Great Lakes shipping is delayed, we are going to feel it from an economic standpoint. Plans are being assembled to bring those ice breakers in. But they say if they don't get some help from Mother Nature, watch out. It could be a very tough start to the shipping season next month.

BALDWIN: OK. Ted Rowlands, thank you in Illinois.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BALDWIN: And now to Russia we go.

With the Olympic opening ceremony happening in two days, a major development in the attacks that shook people's sense of security about them in Sochi. The Russian state media is reporting a prime suspect in the December bombings in Volgograd is dead from a police shoot-out at this scene hundreds of miles away in the Dagestan area.

State media reports the suspected mastermind may have sent two suicide bombers to Volgograd and the two attacks there at a train station and on a trolley killed 34 people and injured about 100 more. Reportedly, other suspects were killed in the shoot-out, but an accomplice surrendered.

And there is this new CNN/ORC survey. It found 57 percent of those asked believe a terror attack will likely hit the Winter Olympic Games. Terrorism, though, it's not the only concern here at this resort city in Russia. Also, time, as in running out of it. Reporters now in the city, they are hip to the Twitters, and they're all over social media tweeting about incomplete building projects, unfinished hotel rooms.

And some sporting competition does begin as early as tomorrow. The opening ceremony, as I mentioned, is Friday. In fact, look at this. Our sports producer here at CNN, Harry Reekie, tweeted this and this picture. This is the one hotel room of 11 reserved Sochi 2014 has given us so far.

"Shambles," he says. Shaun Walker from "The Guardian" tweets this: "I have a room. No heating or Internet, but it has a single bed at least." Still, the torch, the torch is on schedule arriving today in all its glory as planned in Sochi.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh Live for us there at the site of the Winter Olympic Games.

What about the Olympic officials, Nick? How are they responding to the myriad concerns over the city's readiness?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have said that all the media hotels are open. Now, that's totally true. In fact, we just walked into one completely unsupervised about a few hours ago, because the locks weren't working, but that doesn't mean necessarily they're ready.

I think a lot of the thrust of the message we're hearing from Olympic officials is these are details around the edges. To a degree, that's true and there's been a lot of improvement in the last 48 hours. But we went to some of the hotels being complained about and one journalist telling me his sink drains onto the floor, rather than into a pipe.

One American tourist we spoke to actually pulled her bath away from the wall just to prove it wasn't particularly well-tethered to anyone at all. There are still real issues and there are -- a hotel we stayed in five days ago that water came out of the pipes there brown.

A lot of the buildings new and a lot of this to do with the difference between Russian standard of building done in a hurry and what people expect that they are paying five-star prices for extraordinarily hotels for the Olympics, but at the end of the day disappointment around here.

BALDWIN: Water and bathing then aside, Nick, what about the other concern which is hacking? I know people will be -- they're tweeting and they're sending pictures. How secure will their personal information be on phones and laptops?

WALSH: One of the things the State Department does is warn people that when they come here, they will be inside the kind of Russian firewall, so to speak, which is heavily monitored. One of the things that the Russian government has been doing across Russia is to kind of clamp down on the Internet.

There are some (INAUDIBLE) Web sites you can't even access. But hacking is a big issue in Russia. When the Internet first came around in the late '90s, it was often in Russia where a lot of cyber-crime was said to originate. I remember being here myself around the time of the Boston bombings and my own computer had a bizarre hack attack where the Internet browser suddenly got a life of its own.

It's an issue here, certainly, but obviously now as you know from the NSA issue, people looking at your information and that happens pretty much all over the world, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Nick Paton Walsh, we will stay in close touch and we will see how things go. Thank you very much.

Coming up, George Zimmerman, George Zimmerman reportedly getting in the ring for a celebrity boxing match. We're learning who could be in the other corner. He's a rapper, not holding back, already describing exactly what he would do to the man here on your TV screen.

Also ahead, CVS pharmacy, huge, huge news today, making a decision that will cost the chain $2 billion each year -- the store announcing it will stop selling cigarettes. What led to that decision? Might other stores follow? We will talk about it next here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Huge story today about health and business.

The nation's number two drugstore chain, CVS, says it's phasing out sales of cigarettes and all other tobacco products. CVS says smokes will be gone from behind the counter by the 1st of October at all 7,600 locations.

Both the president and first lady issued statements welcoming the news. In fact, President Obama said it should advance the goal of reducing tobacco-related deaths right here in America.

Casey Wian live with me now from Los Angeles.

And, Casey, what more can you tell me about this?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, Larry Merlo, the CVS company's president, had a conference call with reporters this morning and he explained the decision this way.

He said selling tobacco goes against everything the company stands for. They are really trying to emphasize the health part of their business, the contracts they have with big corporations to provide pharmaceutical prescription medicines to the clients and they want to get rid of this part of their business.

It has always been a strange site when you walk into a pharmacy and you see cigarettes behind the cash register and you go back to where the pharmacy is and you see smoking cessation products there. It's really kind of a paradox the way he described it.

What they are going to do is get rid of that tobacco portion of the business and the way he described it is they will actually double down on the smoking cessation part of their business. He said that this one move that CVS, they're not operating under the illusion that this going to have a significant impact on smoking rates in the United States, but what they are hoping is that some of their competitors actually follow suit.

And that, they say, could really impact smoking. Here's what some customers that we spoke with had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if I agree, but I think it's a pretty noble thing and I think there will be a lot of healthier people for it. I also think it will probably drive the prices of cigarettes up, but hopefully then everyone will say I will just quit and be healthy and cancer-free and save their pretty little lungs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad idea.

CASEY: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you realize how many smokers are in the U.S.? It's fricking ridiculous. They have some of the best prices on cigarettes, so they are going to lose so many customers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CASEY: Very happy about this move, the American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association, and groups like that have been urging pharmacies to do this for a long time.

As of now, Walgreens and Rite Aid not saying whether they will follow this move. They say they are though evaluating that portion of their business -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Pretty little lungs. I like that. Casey Wian, thank you so much in L.A. for us this afternoon.

Coming up, he was looking for a fight and now he could have one. George Zimmerman said boxing is a hobby and he wanted an opponent. And next who could join him in the ring? Also, we will share his message for this man.

Also ahead, we are learning more about the suspects arrested in connection with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of whom worked with huge musicians like Wyclef Jean, Amy Winehouse, Willie Nelson, just to name a few. And police also found Hoffman's personal journal. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: There are a number of developments today in the investigation into the death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

First, let me just begin with this raid on an apartment building. This is Lower Manhattan captured on camera overnight by TMZ. Police confiscated some 300 bags of suspected heroin here.

Four people were arrested on various changes, including criminal possession of a controlled substance. They include 57-year-old Robert Vineberg, a jazz musician who uses the stage name Robert Aaron. He has recorded with some huge, huge acts over the years, including the likes of Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Tom Jones, Wyclef Jean.

Also today, CNN has learned that Philip Seymour Hoffman's phone number was stored on Vineberg's cell phone. And a law enforcement sources tell us that the largest amount of the drugs found in last night's raid were in his apartment. We just got word from the medical examiner's office that Hoffman's autopsy was inconclusive. That's the word they are using. They are still waiting for toxicology test results to declare an official cause of death.

So many people were outraged by that Utah elementary school that took those lunches away from 40 or so of its young students. Remember we talked about this? I want to say it was last Friday. School workers threw away the kids' food, tossed it in the trash, all because their parents owed money on their lunch accounts, those lunch cards these kids have.

The way those children were treated really touched this one man in Texas. He was so bothered by this that when he heard about it, he looked into the lunch program at his own child's school and he did something about it.

Watch this piece from Keith Garvin of our Houston affiliate KPRC.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNY THOMPSON, FATHER: The one meal we can control in the school is lunch.

KEITH GARVIN, KPRC REPORTER (voice-over): In his 10 years as a mentor and tutor, Kenny Thompson has always done his best to meet the needs of the students in his life. That's exactly what Kenny Thompson did Monday when he learned that some children at Houston's Valley Oaks Elementary School who had negative balances on their lunch accounts were receiving different lunches than the other kids: cold cheese sandwiches, instead of a full tray of food.

He was spurred to take action after hearing last week dozens of Utah students, whose accounts were delinquent, had their lunches taken and thrown away.

THOMPSON: I'm like, wow. I know that's probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.

So I came in and inquired about it.

GARVIN: He not only inquired about it. Thompson learned that many of the kids were already on reduced lunch, children whose parents couldn't afford the meals that cost just 40 cents a day. He took $465 of his own money and zeroed out the delinquent accounts of more than 60 kids.

THOMPSON: These are elementary school kids. They don't need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.

GARVIN: Thompson says many kids he knows with negative accounts forgo the lunch line altogether to avoid embarrassment. But physicians have linked classroom performance with proper nutrition. Thompson believes he made a difference when he made the decision to help those students. THOMPSON: When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn't have that stress, the best money I ever spent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Oh, how awesome is that? Keith Garvin, thank you very much for that report from KPRC.

By the way, that school district in Utah, the one that chucked the kids' lunches, they are now promising to make changes to be sure that it never happens again.

If you are a criminal with a violent past, let's say armed assault, drug trafficking, soliciting sex from a minor, you can still be a foster parent. Those are actually the rules that have one state answering a lot of tough questions today. So, coming up next, we will talk to the investigative reporter who broke the story wide open.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Today, George Zimmerman remains in the spotlight. He now wants to box for charity. But he may have an issue with who his promoter chose to fight him.

Yes, not sure. George Zimmerman wants to fight DMX. But the fight may happen once the contract is signed. Just a short time ago, we got an the official statement.

Let me read it for you in part: "The boxing match between George Zimmerman and DMX is not officially confirmed. DMX has promised to beat his 'blank'" -- forgive me -- "but no contract or paperwork has been signed or agreed to next."

So, Nancy Grace, Nancy Grace, let me bring you in from our sister network HLN.

If you were advising George Zimmerman here getting into a ring and back in the public spotlight, is this a good idea really?

NANCY GRACE, HOST, "NANCY GRACE": Well, number one, I would not be advising George Zimmerman, because that would make me a defense lawyer. And I would never do that.

BALDWIN: OK, this is an if.

(LAUGHTER)

GRACE: George Zimmerman in the ring, let's just start with this. All right?

BALDWIN: OK.

GRACE: At first, he was going to I guess box or wrestle Chyna, you know, the female wrestler?

Now, what would be more humiliating than getting a beatdown by a girl? BALDWIN: I don't know. She is pretty tough, Nancy Grace.

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: Yes, I interviewed her. I'm sure she would give him a beatdown. I don't have any doubt about that.

Then there's The Game, the rapper The Game. He wants a piece of Zimmerman too, but Zimmerman thinks he's too big. If you will remember The Game, he is a rapper whose picture was sent out on the Internet as being Trayvon Martin. But The Game is like 35 years old and weighs like 240 pounds. That's how The Game got into this.

To DMX -- DMX just made about $30 million worldwide. I'm sure he will take the ring, but what this is, is blood money, because although Zimmerman is claiming this is going to go to charity, uh-uh, there's going to be some costs, some expenses.

Everything about him is a scam. He was just selling artwork, artwork online. And the AP busted him because it was basically him tracing an AP photo or picture and selling it. He did that before with the American flag that he sold for like 100 grand online. Everybody is a scam. And this is just another scam.

BALDWIN: Is there any way whatsoever that Zimmerman could benefit from this?

GRACE: Sure.

BALDWIN: How?

GRACE: Taking a cut, having his agent take a cut and it filter down to Zimmerman.

BALDWIN: So, just money?

GRACE: There's a million ways.

Look, you have had the Trayvon Martin shooting.