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Fierce Winter Storm in the Northeast; More Info on the Peterson Case; U.S. Not Happy with Yesterday's Embassy Attack in Serbia; Clinton Motorcade Crash; GOP Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona Charged
Aired February 22, 2008 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton did she win over voters in last night's CNN's debate?
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: New protests over an independent Kosovo. The U.S. warning Serbia to protect the U.S. embassy in Belgrade today Friday, February 22nd. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
And unfolding this hour, a fierce winter storm. What is this view here, Heidi? This is Boston, Massachusetts.
COLLINS: That's some snow.
HARRIS: That's exactly what it is. Boy, the northeast in a paralyzing deep freeze, snow, sleet, freezing rain, causing massive flight disruptions and dangerous driving conditions right now.
We are covering this story from all angles. Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is in snow-covered New York. Meteorologist Rob Marciano is in the CNN severe weather center.
And let's start with you, Rob. If you would update everyone on the airport flight delays and how bad is it. Look, if you're planning to fly from west to east, for example, you really need to listen up here.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You do. Not only do we have delays in New York but we got them in San Francisco as well.
By the way, on the banner here, to the left of me, we run this all day long. It shows you great information, including forecasts, current temperatures, our conditions, radar, and flight delays. So, great information that we're going to bring to you here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
All right. First off, let's talk delays. White Plains closed. Forget about it. New York City and JFK, four-hour delays. La Guardia, three hours plus. Newark five and half, and Philly's no better with just under four hour delay there. Here's your snow on the radar. It is beginning to see some pockets.
So maybe it's losing a lit bit of its organization but the temperatures still remain at or slightly below freezing. Coming up just a little bit. So, we're not really looking for that -- the changeover will probably happen after lunchtime in New York. Right now, we're still seeing snow from Union and back to Morristown and Levittown and through the eastern part of Long Island towards the Fork and White Plains, and Darien, Greenwich, and Stanford all seeing some snow. Boston also seeing some snow. Freezing rain now beginning to change over to rain with temperatures hovering right at the freezing mark in D.C.
Let's show you that live shot again in Boston because you are about to see your more significant snow as they begin to fall. Obviously, everything moving from southwest towards the northeast. Boston will be the last stop on that train. And you are under a winter storm warning through this afternoon and through a good chunk of this evening. You are likely to see six to ten inches of snowfall in and around the Boston area. So, just be aware of that. Winter storm warnings stretched from Boston all the way back through Philly and still in it is Washington, D.C.
Down across the south look at these thunderstorms fire up. These are beneficial rains where they desperately are needed. As a matter of fact, haven't been able to say it is across the southeast. Flash flood watched in effect for Birmingham and south towards the Florida Peninsula. And this is a big storm. Look at the swath of precip all the way from the northeast down to the Gulf Coast. So, you've got some time before this thing really winds up and heads out to sea.
And on the west coast there's a storm coming in there. We've got hour-plus delays in San Francisco. So, we're book ending the U.S. and the middle not too bad. You've already seen the ice in places like Missouri.
Back to you, Tony.
COLLINS: Wow. All right. Well, we appreciate it, Rob. We know you are sticking with all the updates for us. Appreciate it very much.
In fact, we want to go outside now to Allan Chernoff who is standing by in New York, right outside the Time Warner and Columbus Circle in the heart of the city there right next to Central Park. And it is beautiful, Allan, but causing a lot of trouble.
In fact, quickly, before we chat with you, I just want to remind everybody, as Rob was saying, you see there on the side of your screen, we'll have what we call a squeeze back all day long on the winter weather conditions and flight delays across the country.
So, Allan, what's the scoop? It is pretty.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Heidi. This is absolutely gorgeous here as they sweep it all away right behind me. You can see they're doing a very good job cleaning up right outside here. But I can say that is not the case throughout the entire New York City metropolitan area.
Rob mentioned the delays that we're having at the airports. The worst being at Newark. 5 1/2-hour delays on arrivals. But it's also pretty bad for the people trying to commute into New York City. I, myself, had a half-hour delay on my train coming in to New York from New Jersey.
But also people trying to drive, boy, it is just stacking, stacking out in the suburbs where we're expecting more than six inches, in some areas up to nine inches of snow. That's significantly more than the forecast last night, which called for only about three inches of snow.
So we are definitely getting pounded here in the New York metro area. Within New York City, meaning Manhattan, I should say, within Manhattan, it's not all that bad because there's so much traffic you can see around Columbus Circle, even right behind me. You know the snow, pretty quickly turns into slush. So it is pretty easy to drive around. I mean, I shouldn't say easy, but much easier.
The problem though, even here in Manhattan, is going to come later today because this stuff is supposed to turn to ice and then to rain. So we are going to have major, major puddles all over the place. It's going to be a mess on the commute back home out of Manhattan. So it's going to be a very rough day for people here in New York City and the surrounding area.
COLLINS: You know, Allan ...
CHERNOFF: And the surrounding area.
COLLINS: Yes, Allan. I think you should pack it up and head home. After our show, of course. Wait until noon and then get on out of the city as fast as you can.
CHERNOFF: Heidi, I would love to just jump across the Central Park and play in the snow.
COLLINS: That sounds fun, too. All right. CNN's Allan Chernoff in Manhattan there. Thanks so much, Allan.
HARRIS: So, we're talking about the northeast, right? Look, the storm is really impacting. Snarling traffic, air traffic, ground transportation, all snarled. Take a look at Philadelphia right now, Heidi. A mess, as you would imagine. A low cloud deck, as Rob would say. Snow on the ground. Again, we would like to hear from you.
Why don't we get crazy on this Friday and open up the phone lines? Let's take calls.
COLLINS: OK. That sounds fun.
HARRIS: I'm kidding, i-Reports.
COLLINS: People are cranky and angry and yelling at us?
HARRIS: Yes, vent at us. Why not?
If you would send us your i-Reports, that would be fun. Give us a look at the conditions on the ground where you are right now. We do have someone on the line? Who is it? Steve Coleman from the New York Port Authority?
Steve, good morning.
VOICE OF STEVE COLEMAN, NEW YORK PORT AUTHORITY: Good morning.
HARRIS: Steve, good to talk to you. We're doing it on the fly, right? Steve, good to talk to you. If you would, talk to us to about cancellations, train traffic, of course. What are the conditions there in New York and New Jersey?
COLEMAN: Well, right now it's snowing pretty heavily out here in the New York, New Jersey area. And as a result of that we're seeing hundreds and hundreds of flights canceled at our airports, which is JFK, Newark and La Guardia. We're also seeing pretty extensive delays of anywhere from 2.5 to 5 hours.
So, we're really trying to get the word out as quickly as possible for people not to go to our airports unless they're absolutely certain that their plane is going to be taking off today.
HARRIS: And Steve, did you have, what you consider, enough notice this was coming so you could get word out through the meteorologists there locally that this was going to be a problem today?
COLEMAN: We've been getting the word out since bright and early this morning but obviously the weather patterns changed, you know, early this morning, from two- to four-inch storm to six- to nine-inch storm. But we were prepared. We had our runways clear. But obviously airlines are making decisions to try to keep their planes in sync so that they can get on schedule as soon as possible. For their deciding to cancel many of their flights today. And hope for the best tomorrow.
HARRIS: Hey, Steve, are you close to shutting down the operations at the airport? I mean, I don't know at what point, what the threshold is, are you close?
COLEMAN: Absolutely not. Runways are open. They're staying clear. We have no problems with the airports remaining open. It's a question of delays, which is air traffic control system issue, and flight cancellations which is, you know which were made by the airlines.
HARRIS: There he is, Steve Coleman, Port Authority in New York. Steve, thanks for your time. On the fly, appreciate it. Thanks.
COLLINS: Also making news this morning. His current wife is still missing. And now there's new evidence the third wife of former Chicago area policemen Drew Peterson was murdered.
Our Susan Roesgen is following this new twist in Bolingbrook, Illinois. So, Susan, what have you learned? What has police learned, I should say?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're finding now is that the heat must be really turned up on Drew Peterson. I'm outside of his house right now. Heidi, we have not seen him come out this morning. Don't know if he's inside or not. But Drew Peterson's fourth wife, Stacey Peterson, disappeared back in October. His third wife had died and, initially, it was ruled by a coroner's jury to be an accidental death in a bathtub that she accidentally drowned.
Well, after Stacey Peterson disappeared, then the local investigators decided to reinvestigate the case of the third wife. Her name was Kathleen Savio. She and Drew Peterson were still going through a messy divorce. The settlement had not been finalized when Stacey Peterson and Drew Peterson got married. Now, Kathleen Savio's family always believed she had been murdered. She had a gash on her head, there was blood in her hair, she was bruised. And yet again, the initial finding on the initial autopsy was that it was an accidental drowning.
Now, just last night, the local investigators have come out and said that a second autopsy that was performed after her body was exhumed in November, after Stacey Peterson, wife number four, disappeared, now the forensic pathologist says wife number three was murdered. Now, no one officially is calling Drew Peterson a suspect in that murder. He is officially a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacey Peterson.
But Kathleen Savio's family, the third wife's family, again, always believed that she was murdered. Stacey Peterson's family said they had their doubts.
I talked to the spokeswoman for the family last night. She said they always thought something was not quite right. How does a seemingly normal, healthy woman drown in a bathtub. And now she's afraid that their suspicions were right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAM BOSCO, PETERSON FAMILY SPOKESWOMAN: It leaves one an eerie feeling of dread. We -- we realize that Kathleen and Stacey had one common denominator, and that was Drew Peterson. So we look forward to this investigation that's on going right now with Kathleen's death and Stacey's disappearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROESGEN: Pam Bosco used to tell me, Heidi, that they would tell Stacey in the beginning, you don't really think that someone could just die in the bathtub. But Stacey defended her husband at that time and said, well, she hit her head and she just drowned. It was an accident. And Pam Bosco said at that time they thought he was such a nice, likable, engaging guy they just sort of pushed those suspicions to the back of their minds and didn't bring it up again.
Now, once again, Drew Peterson is not a suspect, not officially a suspect in the murder of wife number three. He is still a suspect in the disappearance of wife number four. Stacey Peterson has been missing now, Heidi, for five months. COLLINS: And a lot of people very curious as to where this investigation will go next in the disappearance of Stacey Peterson. All right. Thanks so much, Susan Roesgen this morning. Appreciate it.
HARRIS: The big story unfolding overseas this hour. The attack on U.S. embassy in Belgrade drawing strong condemnations from Washington and the United Nations. Serbia's president now taking action. Live now to our Alessio Vinci in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Alessio, western diplomats, what are they saying about this situation?
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly they are assessing the security threats against embassies here in Belgrade, Tony, not just the U.S. embassy but also the Croatian embassy as well as the German one. So, you can bet the ambassadors here as well as their security chiefs are meeting in these hours and days to try to assess the security on the ground.
I specifically ask one western ambassador here whether or not he was planning to evacuate personnel and he said we are assessing the situation. All options are open. He says right now there is no evacuation planned.
I also spoke earlier with the U.S. ambassador here in Belgrade, Cameron Monther. He basically told me that the U.S. are dissatisfied with the insufficient police response last night outside of the U.S. embassy when those 100 or so protesters attacked the building.
He also said that they are not satisfied with -- so far with the response, the public response, of Serb officials and I think in particular, he singled out the Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. He said that Mr. Kostunica did not publicly condemn violence. He must promise that it won't happen again publicly. And he also said he must show deeds to back his words.
The ambassador also said that he welcomes the statements so far by the President of Serbia Boris Tadic who has convened his national security counsel, demanding or requesting a report about yesterday's incident in that statement the Serbian president basically condemned violence, the looting, and the burning and he said there is no justification for this type of violence.
But the ambassador clearly left it with me saying we are not satisfied yet with how the public response has been from the vast majority of the Serb officials in Belgrade at this time -- Tony?
HARRIS: Let's leave it right there. OK. All right. Our Alessio Vinci for us this morning. Alessio, appreciate it, thank you.
COLLINS: The U.S. not mincing words in its strong condemnation of the attack on its embassy in Belgrade. Jimmy Rubin was assistant secretary of state under President Clinton in the late '90s when the future of Kosovo was being determined. He's joining us now live from New York this morning. Thanks for being with us.
So, really curious about your opinions in all of this. How angry should the United States be about what's happened here?
JIMMY RUBIN, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, pretty angry. The embassy of the United States, the territory of an embassy, is supposed to be protected under international law, the Vienna convention. And when a government is so careless as to allow this kind of mass demonstration to spill over, they know full well -- the American embassy, other embassies, Croatia, Bosnia and embassies in the region. We're going to be possible targets.
They apparently did very little to product that territory and that's a reflection of the fact that high up in the Serbian government, there's a certain schizophrenia. There are those who want to see the Serbian people re-enter Europe as a nation in good standing, to participate in the economic progress and thrive in the modern world.
Then there are those who look back perhaps with some reminiscences to the days of Slobodan Milosevic who used to use thugs like this to get his business done.
COLLINS: So is this a repeat? I mean, where does it go from here? What should Serbian officials be doing right now as we speak?
RUBIN: Well, right now the prime minister of Serbia, who has been really stoking this nationalism through his excessive rhetoric in recent weeks, needs to stand his people down and say that they are going to work this problem peacefully and diplomatically, and he hasn't done that.
COLLINS: And how likely is that, especially after what we have just seen? I mean, there's a person dead, there's 100 people or so injured. There's been an attack on an embassy.
RUBIN: Well, that's exactly right. And a failure to react strongly by the Serbian government in their own capital to this kind of thuggery is a sign that Serbia is heading in the wrong direction. That's why the president, who is more moderate, President Tadic has said and done the right thing.
But we need the full authority of the Serbian government to come down on those who would use incidents like these to spread violence, to push Serbia back to the past. This is a battle for the soul and the future of the Serbian nation. And I fear too many of the officials are standing on the sidelines in this battle.
COLLINS: Boy, it sure sounds like it, at least from where we're sitting today. In fact, former NATO ally commander General Wesley Clark, he is actually calling for resumption of NATO troops to go back into the region. Do you agree that now might be the time to do that or is it too soon?
RUBIN: Well, I think it's probably a little late to get troops in to deal with these current disturbances or things that are going to happen in the next week. Several officials outside the government have said that we need to beef up NATO forces in Kosovo in the event that the violence we saw last night begins to spread and that Serbian thugs across this area are going to resort to violence to achieve their objectives.
If this begins to spread, then I think NATO leaders need to get together very quickly and realize they have to put a stop to it early because if it begins to spread this kind of violence, this kind of nationalism, can become another flame in the tragic history of the Balkans.
COLLINS: Well, that's exactly right and as we look at that map, you know, geographically speaking, we are not just talking about Serbia and Kosovo. Americans should care about this because of what? I mean, we are looking at all kinds of different countries here that could become involved.
RUBIN: We'll, that's right. Europe is the place where the United States has declared a vital interest. We have a NATO alliance. We've gone to war twice in that continent to defend our friends and allies from Hitler's Germany and from the dangers in World War I. So this is a place that has long been front and center in the vital interest of the United States.
When the Clinton administration worked so hard to bring peace to the region, to bring democracy to the last section of Europe, that had dictatorship and extremism, it was widely accepted as a victory for the western values we all believe in. And we shouldn't take these victories for granted. We've got to defend them, we've got to protect them. And if this thing goes up in flames, it's going to be one of the great tragedies of our time.
COLLINS: And here we are today talking about just that. We appreciate your insight today, certainly. Jimmy Rubin, former assistant secretary of state. Thank you. Nice to talk to you.
RUBIN: Nice to talk to you.
HARRIS: A big snowstorm slams the northeast. Getting from here to there, a little tricky this Friday. We will update you on the situation next in the NEWSROOM.
And this story has a mean streak.
COLLINS: Can you understand that? Kill James? Naughty Elmo, in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Hey, we're trying to keep you up to date with the latest information on the terrible weather conditions, wicked weather indeed in the northeast right now. We're talking about snow, sleet, just a real mess. Live shots from everywhere we can get them right now. We're talking about Philadelphia, Boston, Mass. So bad conditions, I guess you're talking about Maryland and Delaware and Philadelphia.
I know, Heidi, you're going to talk to someone from the Philadelphia International Airport in just a moment.
New jersey right now, how about Bridgewater, New Jersey. Mia Toschi, she joins us now. Hey Mia, tell us about the conditions there in Bridgewater and it's not just travel delays it's also this snow and the impact it might have on power lines in the area. But give us a sense of what it's like on the ground where you are.
MIA TOSCHI, NEWS 12 REPORTER: Well, Tony, I'll tell you. it's been a mess all morning. And you can see right here we've got about five or six inches of snow already. And while this was predicted, it wasn't expected to early. And that's really what caused most of the problem.
Now, most of these folks when they woke up this morning they had about two to three inches already on the ground. And this is 22 eastbound. This is located in Somerset County in Bridgewater. And we're seeing a lot of folks driving by and getting along, however, there had been numerous reports of accidents throughout the state.
In fact, the New Jersey turnpike reduced speed to just 35 miles an hour. And that's a pretty good idea, because just because you have four-wheel drive doesn't mean you have four-wheel stop. And we're seeing a lot of people slipping and sliding all over those roadways. But right now, although it looks very pretty and it is rather slick conditions out here. We're just cautioning everybody to keep it slow.
HARRIS: Well, can you tell the folks behind you there to slow down? They're going way too fast. Me, I'm just curious, schools canceled for the most part today?
TOSCHI: Just about all the schools have closed throughout the state, to tell you the truth. A lot of kids did have vacation here. But most of the schools are closed. Many area businesses as well. So just a good day to keep it home.
HARRIS: Isn't that the truth? Mia Toschi of Bridgewater, New Jersey there. Mia is with News 12 New Jersey. Mia, good to see you. Thank you.
COLLINS: All right now, we want to find out more about what's happening in the skies, or maybe I should be more clear, what's not happening in the skies by way of air traffic. This live shot for you that we are looking at coming out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and also looking pretty socked in. we're talking about this weather, six to nine inches or so of snow in the area.
But it's sort of spread out, too, being a lot of other weather phenomenon. The sleet and the wind and just plain old nastiness. So we want to talk with Phyllis van Istendal, she is a the spokeswoman with the Philadelphia International Airport about what is happening there. If I remember correctly, Phyllis, it's something like a four- hour delay right now at the Philadelphia International Airport?
VOICE OF PHYLLLIS VAN ISTENDAL, PHILADELPHIA INT'L AIRPORT: That's correct. We got a four-hour delay. And that is due to an FAA traffic Management program. Our runways are clear. They are doing it on a rotational basis, application of chemicals. So one runway at a time. About 27 percent of our flights are canceled. And as always, we urge travelers or people expecting arrivals to check with their airlines or call our toll free 1-800-PLA gate number or logon to our Web site at thl.org.
COLLINS: Really, really good idea today. Sometimes we say it's always too late when you take off for the airport and you don't really find out until you get there whether or not your flight is on time. In this case, a little bit different, right?
VAN ISTENDAL: Yes, absolutely. I urge that as a general rule. But especially under adverse weather conditions. And the weather pattern that we're having today, for instance, right now we've changed over from snow to freezing rain.
COLLINS: That is about the worst thing you want to hear if you are a traveler. That's for sure. Let me just make sure I heard you correctly. We got about four-hour delay at the Philadelphia International Airport and 20 percent of flights have been canceled, right?
VAN ISTENDAL: 27.
VAN ISTENDAL: Yes. Through noon.
COLLINS: OK. 27 percent of flights canceled through noon. Wow. All right. Well, Phyllis Van Istendal. We appreciate your time this morning. And we wish you the best of luck in getting those flights moving. Happy smiles on people's faces because I know that's probably the toughest part. Thank you again, Phyllis.
And just a quick reminder here, when the weather does become the news, which clearly it is today, remember to send us your i-reports. Just go to cnn.com and click on i-Report or type i-Report on cnn.com right on your cell phone. But stay safe in doing so. As we hear, freezing rain now moving into some of these parts and driving is going to get continually worse as the day goes on.
HARRIS: Tax rebate checks, when you get them. Will your state want its cut? Gerri Willis answers your e-mails.
HARRIS: Coming up on the bottom of the hour. Welcome back. Busy, busy Friday morning in the CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you with us. I'm Tony Harris.
COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins.
Yes, I want to get this story to you, immediately to you. Just in now with the our producer, CNN's Mike Roselli is traveling with the Hillary Clinton group. Apparently there's been some sort of accident in the motorcade.
Mike, tell us what you know. Are you on your way to Dallas now?
MIKE ROSELLI, CNN PRODUCER: We are in Dallas now. We went from Austin this morning. And the senator has just arrived at her Dallas rally a few miles from downtown. As we passed through downtown, on the Trinity River Viaduct, a motorcycle escort, the police escort that travels in the motorcade, there was some sort of accident.
I did not see the accident, but it seems that the motorcycle officer, female, I'm told, was thrown from her bike. The motorcycle was on the far side of the road. She was on the other side of the road, probably thrown about 30 to 40 feet. The motorcade did slow down as we passed, and continued on to the site. I am told that the senator is very concerned about the injuries, and the campaign is looking into what happened and, you know, the extent of the injuries to this officer.
COLLINS: Yeah, very understandable. At this point we know though it to be one individual, a female?
ROSELLI: That's right. It was just one individual. There were probably half a dozen motorcycles in the motorcade leading the way as these things usually occur, just to block off traffic and to get other drivers out of the way as the motorcade passes. So that's what we know at this point.
ROSELLI: No other cars were -- no other car or motorcycles were involved and the senator obviously was not involved either.
COLLINS: OK. Very good. Mike, what's the weather like there? Obviously we're talking a lot about the east coast and west coast weather situations. Just curious if it's an issue there at all.
ROSELLI: The roads are dry. It's overcast but the roads are dry at this point, yes.
COLLINS: All right. We appreciate it very much. CNN producer, Mike Roselli, traveling with the Clinton group in Dallas right now.
We will of course stay on top of this situation for you but as we know, just to repeat Michael quickly, a female officer in the motorcade of Hillary Clinton in Dallas has apparently been involved in some type of accident where she has been thrown from the motorcycle. And we're going to continue to follow it for you and try to find out the condition as we move forward here this morning.
HARRIS: And another developing story in to CNN. CNN's Brianna Keilar is following the story of a U.S. congressman indicted. Brianna, what do you know?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're talking about Arizona Republican Congressman Rick Renzi. He is facing charges in Arizona. This is just coming to us with the last few minutes. He's facing charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion, insurance fraud and criminal forfeiture. This all stems from an investigation of him for allegedly using his position as a member of congress to promote the sale of land owned by a former partner.
This is really an extensive 26-page indictment we're hearing. We're trying to get it in our hands right now. But this investigation of Congressman Renzi has been under way for some time now. He actually stepped down from a key post on the house intelligence committee all of the way back in April of 2007. At this point, Tony, we're efforting response from the congressman's office and we'll bring you any development as we get them.
HARRIS: OK. Brianna, we appreciate that breaking news development. U.S. Congressman Rick Renzi, Republican from Arizona, indicted. Brianna, appreciate it. Thank you.
COLLINS: The other story that we have been following all morning long is certainly a nasty winter wake-up call. Boy, snow, sleet, ice blanketing the northeast and creating a lot of travel nightmares for millions of you.
Right now flight delays are running several hours out of Boston and New York. We know, I guess, Newark about 5.5 hours delay, Philadelphia, we know about 4 hours. Boy, it is very, very slow at the airports.
And roads, really not that much better. Snow and sleet making a mess out of the morning commute. Dozens of accidents are actually being reported. Southern New England bearing the brunt of the storm with up to ten inches of snow expected today. Watch out, everybody.
HARRIS: Your tax rebate, 401(k), mortgage payments, you have questions. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis is here right now with answers. Ready to dive into the e-mail bag here?
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Good to see you. Let's go. Yes.
HARRIS: All right. Dusty from Idaho writes, do we have to claim our government rebate checks as income on our 2008 tax return, Gerri?
WILLIS: Dusty, I get this question a lot. Good news is Uncle Sam won't tax your rebate check. But guess what, your state might. Now, it's unclear right now how many states will make that claim for your rebate check but it wouldn't be surprising if most states require you to include it in state taxes, you know given how states are doing right now, which is not great.
Now to find out, ask your accountant or go to your state revenue department as you get closer to next year's tax season though because they probably don't have an answer right now. Guess what, it's not all for you.
HARRIS: Right. You know, what Gerri, I love this next question because, you know, we oftentimes are just wrapped up in -- we pretend sometimes that people know all the terms that we use. And maybe folks don't. And Pon has a wonderful question. What is -- what's the difference between a bull and bear market? WILLIS: Hey, 101 here. Great question though. A bull market refers to a market where stock prices are rising or are expected to rise. On the other hand, the bear market is when stocks are falling. Generally a bear market happens when the stock indexes drop 20 percent from their highs.
Here's the thing I didn't know. My producer Jen Haley found this. The use of bull and bear are used to describe the way animals attack their opponents. So a bull thrusts its horns up into the air, stocks go up, while a bear swipes its paws down, stocks go down. Get it?
HARRIS: I'm with you. And I did not know that.
WILLIS: Isn't that cool?
HARRIS: That's great. Liza from North Carolina has a question for you. Look, Gerri, I left my job at the end of '07 to go back to school, but I have to do something with my 401(k) by the end of the year. What should I do? Gerri, help.
WILLIS: Good question. You know, look, the easy answer, roll it over into an individual IRA with a bank or mutual fund company. You could also consider rolling the money into a Roth IRA if you can pay income taxes on that right now if though, since you won't be making much income as a student, the good news here is that you will be in lower tax bracket, probably pay less and that will play into your favor since you will be able to take the money out when you retire tax free.
Whatever you do, though, make sure, make sure it's a direct roll over. Don't touch the money. If you do, taxes, penalties accrue. Don't want to go there.
HARRIS: Nasty business there. Do you have time for one more question?
WILLIS: Sure. Let's do it.
HARRIS: OK. Crystal from Michigan writes, oh, Gerri, my husband and I just purchased a home last June. We want to refinance but we don't know if there is a certain length of time we need to wait. What's the best thing for us to do?
WILLIS: Hey, it's not so much a matter of time, it's a matter of how much equity you have in your home. So if you only put 5 percent down when you bought it, you're going to have a hard time refinancing right now.
As a general rule of thumb, you're going to need about 10 percent to 20 percent equity in your home to be able to refinance. Look how much money you put down in your down payment to begin with and how much principle you paid off so far.
You want to make sure you don't have any prepayment penalties, too. That can be a big problem. This is a penalty you'll have to pay in case you pay your pay your mortgage off early. That's why they call them prepayment penalties. Some of them can be 3 percent of the original loan amount, thousands of dollars.
If you decide that refinancing is worth the time, shop around because these days it's getting a lot harder to qualify for a refi. You have to have a credit score of 720. But if you do, you should be just fine. Keep in mind, just because the fed cuts rates doesn't mean the interest rate on a 30-year loan is down. That because the mortgage rates, remember they're tied to what the market does, not necessarily what the fed does.
If you have questions send them to us at toptips@CNN.com. We love answering those questions right here.
HARRIS: Gerri, we just can't keep up with you. One day it's "LARRY KING LIVE." The next it's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." And now you've got something special coming up next week. Fill us in.
WILLIS: Well, I'm coming down to see you, Tony.
WILLIS: I'm going to be in Atlanta all week. We're doing financial security watch. Listen, we talk about these issues every day, right? Next week, noon, every single day, we're going to be attacking those problems, looking at your bottom line, your home, your debt, jobs, savings. You know, we're not just going to be describing the problems; we're going to be giving you solutions. We will be taking your phone calls live.
HARRIS: That's great.
WILLIS: On the air. So be sure to tune in. It's going to be an exciting week. We're going to have lots of answers.
HARRIS: Coming on down to Atlanta, huh?
WILLIS: Yeah. Can't wait.
HARRIS: We will leave a light on for you.
WILLIS: Keep the temperature up there. Turn that to have snow, OK?
HARRIS: Will do. Great to see you. Have a great weekend. See you next week, Gerri.
COLLINS: Snow? What? Up? Oh, yeah, there's a ton of it today. That's for sure. Mostly on the east coast. In fact, we want to talk with Phil Orlandella. He's with the Logan International Airport in Boston to talk more about what's happening there.
So, Phil, fill us in, if you will.
PHIL ORLANDELLA, LOGAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Yes I will. Right now there's no real accumulation here in Boston and Logan but due to the east coast airports experiencing some pretty bad weather, we're -- we have delays ranging from three to six hours to east coast airports down Newark, New Jersey and Philly. That's having an affect on us. And the cancellations are starting to mount, too.
COLLINS: It sounds like it. We were just talking to someone at the Philadelphia airport. About 27 percent of the flights are canceled from there through noon. Update us on that. As you look forward in the day, you know, people have it figured out by now. They know if it's nasty in the morning it will likely push things back all day long.
ORLANDELLA: Well, it's the old domino effect. They're getting their share of the storm now. We're expecting to get hit shortly. We're expecting six to nine inches of snow. That's a lot of snow. We will probably be part of that domino effect very shortly.
COLLINS: Yes. I bet you will be. All right. Phil, we appreciate it, the director of media relations for Boston International Airport, Phil Orlandella. Thank you, again.
We are going to be following this weather, of course, throughout the morning. And I'm guessing throughout the day as well when we're talking about that much snow. We'll be back in just a moment. We'll talk with Rob Marciano.
COLLINS: I want to take a moment to update you on the story that we told you about just a few minutes ago. Boy, really awful pictures coming in live from our affiliate there in Dallas, Texas.
This is of the motorcycle in the Hillary Rodham Clinton motorcade on her way to a rally in Dallas. One of the officers riding that motorcycle apparently, according to our producer who is traveling with the Clinton group, Mike Roselli, did tell us that this officer is female officer.
But from the information that we have from Mike here, on the way to this rally in Dallas, apparently this motorcycle officer went down, was thrown approximately 30 to 40 feet from her bike. Helmet was tossed to the side. Of course, there are a lot of officers. And I do even see some firemen there on the scene. Possibly now trying to find out what happened.
It is clear that she's been removed from the scene. We have no information at this time as to what her condition may be. But we, of course, will be in contact with our producer, Mike Roselli, who is traveling with them to find out what we can from this accident.
But, boy, it does look pretty awful there, again, coming out of Dallas, our affiliate cbs11tv.com.
Also want to go ahead and get you back to the other story that we're following here, that is the weather. Boy, it is nasty out there and even nastier if you're trying to get anywhere, particularly in an airplane. These pictures coming in live from our affiliate in Philadelphia. Four hours delay there at that airport, 5.5 hours out of Newark. And I think there's going to be a whole lot more where that came from.
For a moment now we want to talk with Ben Mutzbaugh, writer for "USA Today." He writes a column called "Today in the Sky" and it is not a nice day today, Ben.
BEN MUTZBAUGH, "TODAY IN THE SKY" COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Indeed, it's not. You know, you saw some of those pictures there and you're talking about the airports in Philadelphia and New York and Boston, you know especially Philadelphia and New York, these airports has trouble when it rains in the summer. You throw frozen stuff into the mix and it's not a good day for any travelers in this part of the country.
COLLINS: No, not a good day at all. Talk to us about a couple of things. People may not really understand but the FAA actually has restrictions on what the airports and the airlines can do when it comes to weather situations like this.
MUTZBAUGH: And try to condense it into a short laymen's terms, basically what happens is when you have poor visibility, these old airports which aren't built with new, modern runways that are spaced far apart, when you get these poor visibility issues, planes have to space themselves out a little longer and in some cases two planes can't land on runways at the same time because they're too close to each other and poor visibility, it's not considered safe.
These airports are already at their max to begin, with even on a clear, sunny day. You start throwing visibility issues into the mix, let alone precipitation, they have to space out the flights more and it ripples throughout the day.
COLLINS: Yes but there are a few options. I mean, some of these airlines actually have policies that might help out travelers when we're talking about weather. Because usually everybody says, well, it's weather, nobody can control it and too bad for you.
MUTZBAUGH: Right and you know, you do have to be realistic. If it's bad weather, especially the icy, frozen stuff, you could just be out of luck but it doesn't mean you can't try to look for another option and possibly the first place to go, I know U.S. Airways for example has issued what they call a winter weather waiver policy for its flights in Philadelphia. All the information is on airline's Web site. JetBlue, American also do these things.
Basically what they do with a few restrictions, they let you move your flights up, possibly move your whole trip to a different time if your flights are affected by the weather, will give you a two- or three-day period. Say if you're flying in from Philadelphia Thursday, you know, Thursday through Saturday, you can move your flight. There are some restrictions but these are pretty customer-friendly policies.
If you don't have to be getting into or out of Philadelphia or New York or some of these other cities, might be worth your while to change your flight instead of sitting hours or days at the airport.
COLLINS: Let me ask you a quick question, Ben, because this happened to me once. What happens if you're already checked in? You decide, no way I'm going to through this 5.5-hour delay. I really just want to go home. Can they pull your bag?
MUTZBAUGH: Yeah, if you don't want to go on the flight, this may be a headache but if you decide to do that, they can do that. They might have to send it to your house. It's not an ideal situation. But you know, at some point it's in the airline's best interest, too, because if they're struggling to get people on flights, one less person to accommodate today means they can send someone else on that that flight instead of being stuck in the airport.
Make sure you go to the ticket agent, counter agent, ask nicely and politely to see if they can help you. They're probably frustrated by the whole turn of events as well. And they can do that, yes.
COLLINS: The CSR, the customer service representative, is your friend even in a time like this.
MUTZBAUGH: I think that's the golden rule that everyone has to remember. You're frustrated and maybe you even think you're not getting the service that you are hoping for from the airline people. But being snarly and surly with these gate agents won't get you anywhere. You know, they're frustrated too. If you're nice to them, that only makes them more likely to go the extra mile to get you where you need to go.
COLLINS: Yes. Good advice. Ben Mutzbaugh with "USA Today," sure do appreciate it. Thank you, Ben.
MUTZBAUGH: My pleasure.
HARRIS: What a mess. Shovels, snowblowers, the season in full force. New York and the northeast slammed. Travelers trapped. We're covering all the weather all day right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Well you know, we've been so busy with all of the weather news right now that we need to check the big board. Wall Street, New York Stock Exchange right now, a little more than an hour into the trading day. Coming up on an hour and a half. Yeah, about an hour and a half.
As you can see, the Dow is down 52 points. We had some concerns about the Dow today. The overseas markets were down. Futures were indicating that this could be a volatile day. And so it goes.
We will be checking the markets. Susan Lisovicz is with us throughout the day right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Again, back to the big story, and it is the weather. There he is. Boy, the flakes, more numerous, fatter, just heavier snow it looks like falling on our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff in snow- covered New York. Allan, is this just flight delays and traffic snarls we're talking about right now or are we also talking about accidents and power outages as well? CHERNOFF: Tony, I can't tell you about power outages. Not aware of that just yet. But certainly we are having very, very messy conditions here. You can see right behind me the taxis are slipping and sliding through the streets of New York City. At least in New York we because there's so much traffic, people can get around.
In the suburbs, that's another story and certainly there the traffic is very difficult to maneuver at all.
Now here if you come with me to the curb you get a sense, look down over here, of the sort of slush, the really yucky stuff that develops when people step out of these beautiful vehicles right into this. It's going to get even worse today because after this beautiful snow, we are forecast to get lots of rain and some ice as well. So by the late afternoon commute, we are really going to have a very wet mess here in the New York City metropolitan area.
HARRIS: Wow, Allan, with the umbrellas and the snowblowers and the pedestrians in the foreground of your shot, looks like some staging and blocking for a movie. That is something to see. Well-done.
CHERNOFF: We've got the shovels coming by right here. Ten men at work trying to clear this sidewalk here.
HARRIS: That is terrific. That is a great view. All right. Allan Chernoff will be back with us at the top of the hour. We are telling this snow story, the traffic snarled, air traffic, traffic on the ground throughout the northeast.
We're going to take a quick break and come back. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: I am Heidi Collins. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Shovel and snowblower season in full force today.
HARRIS: Good morning again, everyone. You're with CNN, you're informed.
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