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Storm Kills Power; Toothpaste Bombs; Castaway Struggles with Health; Obama Addresses National Prayer Breakfast; Christie Travels to Texas for RGA

Aired February 6, 2014 - 12:00   ET


PAUL CALLEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Proven high is what I say, yes, OK.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, you got to stop. My show's over.

Bye, guys.

Hey, by the way, a quick reminder again, starting Monday, this program's moving to noon, folks. I'm going to sleep in an extra hour. No more bags under the eyes. My crew couldn't be happier.

AROUND THE WORLD starts right now. Thanks for being with us.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The Winter Olympic games have begun in Sochi amid warnings that explosives could be hidden in toothpaste onboard flights to Russia.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hundreds of thousands still with no power throughout the northeast. We'll be live from Pennsylvania, which has been hardest hit.

MALVEAUX: A schoolteacher, tired of his job, becomes a meth drug lord. We're not talking about the TV show "Breaking Bad," but a real person. Hear what he told us about his new job.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company.

Let's take a quick look, first of all, at the markets because they have been so active up and down over the last couple of weeks. They are up today. They got a boost when the morning bell rang.

MALVEAUX: And here's a look at the Dow Jones right now. The boost coming in part from the latest unemployment news. Now fewer Americans filed for jobless benefits last week than expected. And another key report comes out tomorrow. That is the January jobs report. Economists expect a big jump in jobs created last month compared with December.

HOLMES: Now, the good news, a third snowstorm that was headed towards the northeast has lost a little bit of steam.

MALVEAUX: Thank God.

HOLMES: It is looking now like it's going to bring a few inches of snow. But, remember, we were talking about, a few days ago, a few feet of snow.

MALVEAUX: Yes, Chad was talking about 30 inches of snow just a couple of days ago.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly.

MALVEAUX: But the bad news, of course, millions of folks still feeling this week's storm. From the Rockies to New England, they are just digging out. The ice, wet snow helping bring down power lines. This is across the East Coast.

HOLMES: Yes' it's amazing, isn't it? Hundreds of thousands of people still don't have electricity. Many of them are in Pennsylvania. Now, some might have to wait until the weekend before they can get the lights and, of course, the heat back on. Our Margaret Conley is in Abington Township. That's near Philadelphia, joins us now.

You know, it's one thing to be cold and snowy, but when you can't turn on the heat or the TV, that makes it all that much worse.

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Michael. That is a key factor. Hundreds of thousands of people here in Pennsylvania are without power. And some areas have actually been hit harder than Superstorm Sandy.

On this street right behind me, last night it was pitch black. We went inside a few of the homes and we talked to people. They were surviving by candlelight. And here's what a couple had to share with us.


CONLEY: How are you going to cope with that three days without power?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have a lot of candles. We have a lot of batteries and flash flights. And we've prepared because we were here for Sandy, which we were without power for three days. So we stocked up. We have a gas stove, so we can cook if we need to. But we don't have heat, so it's a little more pleasurable to go out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then intermingle with some people, you know, and get some social atmosphere because there's no television, there's no radio. You know, we're charging our phones in our car.


CONLEY: Now, a lot of the power has been out because if you look at the trees above me, they are caked with ice and with snow. That weight has been breaking down branches. The trees have then obliterated power lines. So a lot of the emergency workers, they're out here, they're trying to clean up this whole mess. We can actually hear crackling up in the trees right now because the ice is melting. But you can still see, there's a lot of ice up there. So it's kind of dangerous on the ground, too. We have to make sure that in this shot right here ice isn't going to fall and branches aren't going to fall here too. Suzanne. Michael.

MALVEAUX: Yes, you've got to be careful there, of course, not to stand underneath those trees. I understand, as this typically happens, right, that they're getting crews from other states as well to help them out in Pennsylvania?

CONLEY: That's right. We've been on the phone with the emergency workers, Suzanne. We've been on the phone with PICO (ph), which is the main power source company. PICO, they're having people come from Chicago, Arkansas, Ohio, New York, Canada and Massachusetts, all in right now to help. Officials are telling us though that some people may not have their power back until this weekend.

MALVEAUX: All right. Margaret, stay warm and stay safe.


All right, let the games begin.

MALVEAUX: Finally.

HOLMES: Well, yes, we haven't had the opening ceremony, but it's already started. And you've got Olympic hopefuls hitting the snow already competing in Sochi ahead of the opening ceremony and also, we have to say, amid a new terror alert.

MALVEAUX: Today's Olympic events, they come as we are learning now about more warnings that explosives could be concealed, if you can believe this or not, a toothpaste or cosmetic tubes. U.S. officials are saying that the bomb making ingredients might be smuggled into airplanes or into the Olympic city.

HOLMES: Yes, we've got the latest on both the warnings and the games. Nick Paton Walsh is with us from Sochi and Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

Nick, let's first go to you. You've got athletes from all over the world arriving, including American athletes, arriving this hour. And that toothpaste threat on the minds of many. What have you been hearing there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It couldn't have really have been timed worse in many ways. The warning we heard yesterday from U.S. officials quite specific. And I think they're still assessing the level of credibility. But it is enough for them to keep Barack Obama informed about it. Concern really about flights coming from Europe to Russia and particularly those which will end here in Sochi.

Now, I should point out that the airport itself is quite distant from the venue behind me here. So the fear perhaps is that any explosives could end up being used on airlines if they were smuggled on using toothpaste tube. But Russian may have had an inkling of this because when I flew down from Moscow to Sochi, they didn't want any liquids being brought on in carry-on baggage at all. That's not a universal ban across the country (ph), but they do seem to be concerned about that particular element.

Nonetheless, Michael, we have seen U.S. athletes turning up today jovial, happy, frankly, confident, very much on message about how these games will be safe, how they're looking forward to competing. I spoke to a German snowboarder who, when he arrived yesterday, said his expression was "wow" when he saw the number of soldiers lining the runway. So, certainly I think sort of a slight intake of breath when people see the security preparations here. I'm not quite sure if that's because they feel safe or because they're amazed at quite how extreme they are.


MALVEAUX: And if we actually have some sound - we do have some sound from some of the Team USA folks that have just arrived a short time ago. I want to listen to this.


WALSH: Welcome to Sochi. What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So far so good. Just landed.

WALSH: Are you psyched?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, of course, it's the Olympics.

WALSH: While you were flying, there were some more security alerts about possible explosive toothpaste. What - I mean, did that get to you? Does that stress you out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday we were doing processing and then we were traveling all morning. So, no, we hadn't heard about that. But I think that really our job here is to just focus on what we can control and what we can do and that's how we're going to perform at our first Olympics.



MALVEAUX: So it certainly sounds like everybody's getting ready and they're -- they are excited about the games to begin.

WALSH: Absolutely. I mean, we're seeing that pace build up. And certainly when Vladimir Putin came in a couple of days ago, you know, we saw helicopters milling around the Olympic village, a real sense of, I think, the tone and pace picking up slightly.

We're still waiting to see crowds of foreign tourists flocking the streets here. (INAUDIBLE) in massive numbers, but still some time to go. And I think, as you just saw there, people trying to come here for sport to focus on the game and put the corruption, the construction and the security concerns way behind them.

HOLMES: All right, Nick, you know, I'm curious, though, about one thing. I mean -- and we've heard about some things not being ready. We don't want to go crazy on that. You know, some hotel rooms and things like that. But what is the mood on the street? Is there any kind of excitement amid all this security and concerns?

WALSH: It seems quite fragmented here. I mean when you walk around Adler (ph) as a whole, where the Olympic village is, there's a lot of security, there's a lot of the Olympics venues behind fences. I've yet to be able to find kind of a fan area where you see a lot of extraordinarily excited people that who can't wait for the ice skating to begin. That's not in evidence at the moment. I mean we're hoping to see that in the days ahead. It may be it's a clue that in some part we haven't seen just yet. And certainly at the airport, when the athletes arrive, they get a substantial welcome. And that's, again, to build the excitement here.

But it seems like a lot of the concerns and anxiety may have taken some of the shine off the build-up to it, but still we have tomorrow, the opening ceremony, 8:00 in the evening. A spectacular which the kremlin on state TV says perhaps half the world's population could be watching. An enormous level of expectation. And I think really $51 billion, you'd expect that much.


HOLMES: Wonderful. Good (ph) on you, Nick, there to enjoy it all. Nick Paton Walsh, thanks.

MALVEAUX: We'll be watching.


MALVEAUX: Want to bring in our Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

So, Barbara, first of all, explain to us what this is all about, the toothpaste threat, to begin with.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it was yesterday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about airlines traveling to Russia, concerns that they could be carrying what is now, within 24 hours, known as toothpaste bombs, containers filled with explosives that might be carried on board airliners.

So now the question is this, the threat may be fairly specific. They're going to try and do it, they think, in the run-up to the games. But is it credible? So that's where we are right now.

The U.S. intelligence community, you know, people hope they're working with the Russians and the Russians are sharing, looking at everything it can. The latest intelligence. What's out there on intercepts? What's out there on jihadi forms? Who's talking to who? What bomb makers may be out there that have the expertise to assemble and carry something like this off. Easier said than done. Some of these devices are actually fairly complex to make them work. So how credible is the threat? Could somebody really get all of this past security and carry it off (ph)? HOLMES: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Appreciate it, Barbara. Thanks so much.

MALVEAUX: Here is more of what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD.

A man who claims that he spent 13 months lost at sea, well, he is back in the hospital. And he is talking to the media. We're going to hear what this fisherman had to say about his whole ordeal.

HOLMES: And President Obama says the freedom of religion is under threat around the world. Hear what else he had to say at today's National Prayer Breakfast.

MALVEAUX: And he won the Nobel Peace Prize 50 years ago. Well, now, Dr. Martin Luther King's daughter says that her siblings are trying to take it away from him. We're going to talk live with the Reverend Bernice King, up ahead.


HOLMES: Well, if he spent 13 months adrift like he claims, and it's starting to add up actually, it's no wonder he's having some health issues. Amazing he's alive at all really.

MALVEAUX: We're talking about the castaway fisherman who left Mexico in a small boat, was washed ashore at the Marshall Islands more than 6,500 miles away. Well, he's cleaned up, he's shaved his beard, but he is not out of the woods yet. We've got more from our own Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): Still walking slowly and helped by two assistants, Jose Salvador Alvarenga made his way into a room of waiting government officials and reporters. He's now clean shaven and got a haircut, but still seems dazed. When given the opportunity, he only said he was grateful.

"I would like to say thanks to the government of this place for supporting me and for being my friends," he said. "Thank you for taking care of me and helping me feel better." After this brief appearance, officials say, Alvarenga's health took a turn for the worse and the fisherman was taken back to the hospital to be fed intravenously. Doctors say his limbs have been swelling and they seem unable to keep him hydrated.

This is what Alvarenga looked like when he washed ashore last week on the Marshall Islands on a small fishing boat.

He told authorities he had been lost at sea for 13 months after he and another fisherman had been caught in a storm off the Mexican Pacific coast.The other fisherman was identified by his family in Mexico as 23-year-old Ezekiel Cordova. Alvarenga says he died four weeks into the drift. During the long 13 months, he said he also thought about ending his own life.

JOSE SALVADOR ALVARENGA, CASTAWAY (via translator): Twice. I thought a couple of times of killing myself. I grabbed the knife. When food and water ran out, I got depressed and I would grab the knife and contemplate killing myself.

Alvarenga says he survived by eating raw turtles and fish and drinking rainwater and, at times, his own urine.

The Mexican government is now helping Alvarenga return home to El Salvador.

CHRISTIAN CLAY MENDOZA, MEXICO'S DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION & TRADE: And that is my main mission here, to facilitate the logistics to make sure that, number one, he's healthy enough to travel, number two, that all documentation is in order, and number three, that we can get him together with his family as soon as possible.

ROMO: Questions remain as to how a man could have survived for 13 months in the open sea, eating raw fish and turtles and drinking rainwater.

But neither officials in the Marshall Islands nor the Mexican government diplomats who are assisting him have expressed any doubts about his story.

Plans to help him return home to El Salvador have been postponed due to his worsening health condition.

After being sent back to the hospital, doctors are now closely monitoring his progress.


MALVEAUX: And Rafael Romo joins us.

I mean, his story is more and more compelling as you listen to him and some of the details.

And now I understand that the other -- the family of the other fisherman who died, are asking some very serious questions.

ROMO: This is the other side of the story. Remember, he was not alone. He was traveling with another fisherman, a 23-year-old, who died, he says, only four weeks into the drift.

Now, the family in Mexico is saying we want to talk to Alvarenga because we want some answers here. We just learned that our son has died, and we just don't know how he died.

And as you can imagine his parents are very distraught. All this time they were wondering if he was alive. And they were hopeful that he would be alive, but they just learned last week that he is indeed dead, so a very sad family in Mexico as well.

HOLMES: What a sad story.

Rafael, thanks for following it for us, Rafael Romo there.

MALVEAUX: We certainly wish this fisherman is in good health.

HOLMES: Yeah. He's got organ issues and the hydration thing.

MALVEAUX: Serious problems.


MALVEAUX: We are getting report today about a large-scale prison break. This is in Syria.

Human rights groups and activists in Aleppo are now telling CNN that rebels and other fighters have taken control of the prison and freed hundreds of inmates.

HOLMES: Yeah, witnesses say Syrian troops and rebels from a couple of Islamist groups, we should say, started fighting earlier today after rebels set off what sounds like a massive car bomb at the prison, multiple tons of explosives apparently.

About 3,000 men and women were being held at that complex. It is a huge complex, one of the worst prisons, apparently, in all of Syria.

And it looks like hundreds and hundreds of people did get out. There's still some ongoing clashes there. We'll let you know if there's anymore developments.

MALVEAUX: And this is a place where faith is meeting politics for more than 60 years. It's the annual National Prayer Breakfast we're talking about.

This morning President Obama talked about the importance of religion, as well as our national security. That story, up next.


HOLMES: Welcome back everyone.

President Obama, carrying on the presidential tradition that stretches right back to Dwight Eisenhower, actually.

He headlined the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington this morning.

MALVEAUX: And that's where lawmakers leave the politics that divide them and focus on the faith that brings some together.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here as Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our creator, among them freedom of religion.

Yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other way, too, because religion strengthens America.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Wolf Blitzer out of Washington.

And, Wolf, the president stressed religious freedom and other nations important to our national security.

He brought up a couple examples. He talked about the importance of getting Kenneth Bae out of North Korea. He's a pastor imprisoned there. He also talked about the Christian pastor detained in Iran since 2012.

What does he say that the United States needs to do to win their freedom and the intersection of those two?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, I know the U.S., the Obama administration and a lot of others in Congress, are doing everything they can.

There are limited opportunities, clearly, with North Korea. Maybe there's some greater opportunities with Iran right now in the midst of this six-month interim nuclear deal, and there are conversations now going on between the secretary of state, the foreign minister of Iran.

So maybe there's an opportunity to do something in Iran that didn't exist, let's say, a few months ago.

So far both of these Americans are still being held captive in North Korea and Iran. There are other Americans being held captive other places, including in Cuba right now, as well.

So this is a struggle that the administration has to deal with, but there are limits to U.S. power as far as these kinds of situations are concerned.

HOLMES: Yeah, indeed.

Wolf, on the other side of the political fence, Chris Christie going to Texas for some fundraisers.

Now, of course, the bridge scandal and all of that hanging over his head, any smoke signals there regarding his possible run?

BLITZER: Well, I think what he's trying to do is show that he can go on and do his business as usual not only as governor of New Jersey, but also as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and go out there and do some speaking, fundraising, even campaigning for Republicans out there.

He's going to be going not just to Texas today, but he'll be in Maryland, in New York. He's going to some other states, as well.

I think his strategy in part is, yes, there are these investigations going on into the closure of those lanes of the George Washington Bridge, some other issues going on involving investigations in New Jersey.

But he wants to show he's above it, that he can do both of these jobs. And he's showing no indication whatsoever that he's inclined to move away from his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, which traditionally can be a platform for higher office.

Before the scandals erupted, as you know, he was widely considered one of the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination. Since then, his star has begun to fall.

HOLMES: All right, Wolf, thanks so much, Wolf Blitzer there. And Wolf will be back in about half an hour with "NEWSROOM." Good to see you.

MALVEAUX: Good to see you, Wolf.

The children of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., are fighting again, and this is what it's about, where is the father's Bible, and the Nobel Peace Prize medal, and who should be in charge of them?

The lawsuits are flying. We're going to talk to King's daughter Bernice, live, up next.