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Harry Reid Apologizes for Racial Remarks; Africa's Lost Children; U.K. Deep Freeze; From Slave's Son to Civil Rights Pioneer; Aftershocks in California; Wacky Weather

Aired January 10, 2010 - 19:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello once again, I'm Randi Kaye in for Don Lemon.

Senate Majority Lead Harry Reid has spent his weekend apologizing -- as many of you have heard -- to the president, to civil rights leaders, to just about everybody he can think of. But news of Reid's comments about the president's skin color and lack of quote, "negro dialect" still have Washington talking and of course, many of you.

Republicans are piling on, but Democrats including the president are standing by him.

Our Kate Bolduan is tracking the story for us in Washington.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Randi, despite calls for him to step down it doesn't look like Senator Harry Reid plans to go anywhere any time soon. A statement from his spokesman says the Majority Leader will stay in his position and will continue to seek re- election. Reid's spokesman also firing back at Republican critics for, quote, "looking to politicize the issue."

Today, though, Republicans were coming out strong; Senator John Cornyn and others calling on Reid to vacate his post. Cornyn call the Majority Leader's comments embarrassing.

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said the comments were racist, and accused the Democratic Party in reacting to Reid's comments as following a double standard.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Oh, yes, there's a big double standard here and the thing about it that's interesting is that when Democrats get caught saying racist things, you know, an apology is enough. If that had been Mitch McConnell saying that about an African-American candidate for President of the United States, trust me, this chairman and the DNC would be screaming for his head, very much as they were with Trent Lott.


BOLDUAN: Now, Trent Lott, a Republican and former Senate Majority Leader, was forced from his post in 2002 following comments he eventually apologized for that the country would be better off if pro-segregationist presidential candidate Strom Thurmond had won the presidential election decades earlier.

But Governor Tim Kaine, the head of the Democratic Party argued today there's no similarity in the two situations. Kaine says the case is closed following Reid's apology and President Obama's acceptance of it.


GOV. TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Senator Reid very appropriately, immediately went out and apologized for comments that were insensitive. They were comments made in the context of him praising Senator Obama and supporting his candidacy for president. But still they kind of reflect the thinking of the day going by. The Senator was wise to immediately apologize and the president talked very specifically about how he knows who Senator Reid is and he accepted the apology.


BOLDUAN: While conceding Reid's comments were insensitive, Kaine and other Democrats today are really trying to pour cold water on this fire very quickly. Reid is in a very tough re-election fight and the last thing Democrats want right now is to let anything shift the focus from getting health care reform finalized -- Randi.

KAYE: All right, thank you, Kate Bolduan for us tonight.

There is a lot on the line for Harry Reid, the Democrats and even the president in this controversy. Let's bring in CNN's political editor Mark Preston to talk about all of it and break it down for you.

Mark, this certainly is embarrassing for Harry Reid but the real problem doesn't seem to be in Washington for him. It seems to be back home in Nevada with those poll numbers.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It really is Randi. Look, this is terribly embarrassing; has been a terrible weekend for Harry Reid. I just got off the phone with his office and as Kate is reporting they are adamant he has no plans to leave his leadership post. He will stay as Majority Leader.

Now, the problem is back home in Nevada a new poll has come out this weekend that shows that he has a 52 percent approval rating and he is losing right now, Randi, to three basically unknown Republicans. These are not superstars, heavyweights in Nevada but if he were to run against any three of them he would lose re-election.

He is going to spend upwards of $25 million, his office tells us, to win re-election. Harry Reid right now should be very thankful that President Obama came out, Randi and immediately said he accepted his apology but he does have bigger issues back home.

KAYE: And a lot of people today coming out swinging against Harry Reid.

One of those is Republican Party Chair Michael Steele. Let's play this sound bite from him earlier today on Fox. And we'll talk about it right after.


STEELE: The reality of it is this, is that there is this standard where the Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own. But if it comes from anyone else it's racism. It's either racist or it's not and it's inappropriate absolutely.

So if the standard is the one that we saw with Trent Lott as speaker, as the leader at the time, then I think this absolutely falls in that category. More than just an apology here, it's a reflection of an attitude.

Now remember, this is the same leader who just a few weeks ago was talking about health care in the context of slavery. Clearly, he is out of touch, not only with where America and his district are but where -- how African-Americans generally feel about these issues.


KAYE: And Michael Steele, calling for him to step down -- for Harry Reid to step down along with Republican Senator John Cornyn. Mark, what do you make of this call for him to resign?

PRESTON: Well Randi, we should expect Michael Steele to go out this morning and ask Harry Reid to step down as well as John Cornyn, the Texas Senator who oversees the campaign operation for Senate Republicans. That is their job.

The fact is again, he has no plans of stepping down. But I will tell you right now GOP operatives tonight are putting together quote, "from 2002 when Democratic senators said that Trent Lott should step down." I've been told that over the next couple days expect them to really hammer home and highlight these quotes from these Democratic Senators to try to pressure these senators to do the same with Harry Reid.

But for now the Reid camp says he has no plans on stepping down. And quite frankly this is probably not the biggest issue for him to deal with. This is terribly embarrassing. A lot of black leaders across the country have come out and said that they accepted his apology. President Obama has accepted his apology.

But going back to what we said before, his real problem is back home with these poll numbers. He needs to try to turn them around.

KAYE: And he's certainly wants this to be a day -- a one-day story which is certainly isn't going to be clearly.

PRESTON: Yes. Absolutely not.

KAYE: All right. Mark Preston for us. Thank you, Mark.

PRESTON: Thanks Randi. KAYE: Aftershocks in Northern California are keeping a lot of people on edge tonight. Yesterday afternoon the area was hit by a powerful 6.5 quake just off the coast.

his is what it looked like in a grocery store in the town of Arcadia and that was about 4:30 local time yesterday. People immediately headed toward the exits because this was much bigger than the smaller shakes they normally feel.

The strongest of about a dozen aftershocks was 4.5. About 28,000 customers lost power, but Pacific Gas and Electric says all power is now back on.

Now, the CNN "Security Watch" and the new U.S. focus on Yemen's role as an apparent safe raven for members of al Qaeda. General David Petraeus, Chief of the U.S. Central Command recently returned from face to face talks with Yemen's president.

On this week's edition of "AMANPOUR," he tells our Christian Amanpour that the U.S. plans a big increase in aid to Yemen's government.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: The programs that we submitted that were part of the budget that has since been approved, the Appropriations Bill that's been signed by the president, would, in fact, more than double the security assistance. Last year, it was somewhere around $70 million. Over the course of this fiscal year, it should be somewhere around $150 or more. And the amount of economic aid increased as well.


KAYE: "AMANPOUR" airs Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

As General Petraeus pledges more U.S. help for Yemen, the father of American born Islamic cleric Anwar al Awlaki, who's been linked to the Christmas day plot as well as the Fort Hood shooting suspect tells CNN his son is not a member of al Qaeda. And he says he's not hiding out with terrorists in southern Yemen.

Our Paula Newton has more from the Yemeni capital.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can certainly sense the anguish with Dr. Nassar al-Awlaki. He wanted to make it clear that his son is not a member of al Qaeda. He claims that he does not believe that his son met with Abdulmutallab, the man accused of trying to blow up that plane on Christmas day.

And further he says look, my son is a wanted man. He's cornered. He is not hiding out with al Qaeda. But once the missiles started in this village he had to chance -- he had no choice really, he had to seek protection from his own tribe in the mountains here in southern Yemen.

Now, I just want to read you some of the quotes that he gave us. He says, "I am now afraid of what they will do to my son. He's not Osama bin Laden. They want to make something out of him that he is not." You know, his father saying, look, he has controversial views but that's not the same as advocating terror and inciting terrorists to commit violent acts.

He says he wants to try and convince his son to try and perhaps, surrender himself, talk to the Yemeni authorities, talk to the American officials. And he says, "I will do my best to convince my son to do this to come back. But they are not giving me time. They want to kill one of their own citizens. This is a legal issue that needs to be answered." And he's speaking there both about the Yemeni government and American government.

But it was extraordinary to hear this man talk about his son so completely differently than what the media certainly and the American official lying about him and the Yemeni official lying than has been. He says, look, he is a preacher. And in being a preacher, yes, he has had more controversial views over the last few years but he is definitely not a member of al Qaeda.

He adds, "He has been wrongly accused, it's unbelievable. He lived his life in America. He's an all-American boy. My son would love to go back to America. He used to have a good life in America and now he's hiding in the mountains. He doesn't even have safe water to drink."

And it's clear this man is quite upset about what's going on with his family. What's going on with his son and doing all he can to help. But at the same time wondering how long it is before Yemeni officials catch up with him here in this country.

Paula Newton, CNN, Sanaa, Yemen.


KAYE: More than 50 children crammed in a shack in northern Nigeria. Their clothes are torn, their faces dirty, as they murmur lines from the Koran, in unison. They are orphans but the CNN's Christian Purefoy, discovered they are groomed to fight a very adult battle.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lost children of West Africa. Following an ancient tradition, these boys have been sent by their families, often hundreds of kilometers away, to learn the Koran in the big cities of northern Nigeria.

One of a network of Islamic boarding schools called the al Masri (ph). Once here, they have no other education, no money and no family. (on camera): All of these children from across northern Nigeria and West Africa in these dark, cramped conditions, not only study here but must eat and sleep here as well. Al Masri boys must beg to survive. This young man from neighboring Niger spoke to us on condition we hide his identity for fear of his life.

He explained to us how many of the schools use some of the children as foot soldiers in religious clashes. In 2000 he lost his arm in religious violence that killed over 1,000 people here Kaduna (ph).

"I blame my Koranic teacher who sent me to fight during the riots," he tells us. He has ruined my life.

The only census ever taken was in Kono State (ph) which founded in 2006, there were 1.2 million al Masri children in Kono alone. One researcher working with UNICEF estimates 60 percent of the children never return home.

PROF. MUHAMED LADEN, AHMADU BELLO UNIVERSITY: You can see the manifestations in child begging, child destitution, child trafficking. And then they really instigated for them to be involved as children in such conflicts that have largely been violent and largely (ph) or some very bloody in this part of the world.

PUREFOY: The government is looking into monitoring and licensing schools like this one. But one group piloting such a program complains of too little funding. They warn that the consequences of ignoring the children could be dire.

USMAN JIBRIN, NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR WELFARE OF THE DESTITUTE: They are real threats. They are real problems to the society unless we address this issue now. Otherwise these children one day will take over the control of this country in a very, very unpleasant way.

PUREFOY: A grim prediction from the agency responsible for Nigeria's poor where the government worries that some children in a generation victimized by poverty and a failed education system, will grow up to become potential threats to the country's future.

Christian Purefoy, CNN, Zaria, Nigeria.


KAYE: The end of an era, a very short era for Jay Leno's new show.


KAYE: NBC is drawing the curtain on Jay Leno's primetime comedy experiment. Today the network announced it was pulling the plug on Leno's relatively low-rated three-month foray into the 10:00 p.m. time slot. NBC/Universal chairman Jeff Gaspin says negotiations are under way with Leno and comedians Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon so the network can hold on to all three for late night laughs at 11:30, midnight and 1:00 a.m. respectively. Last hour I spoke about NBC's late night shakeup with the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES", Howard Kurtz.


HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": NBC refused to confirm this a couple of days ago but we all knew it was true. Jay Leno was unfortunately a flop for NBC in primetime. Obviously to take the guy who was the king of late night for 17 years out of that time slot and put him in primetime was a disastrous blunder and NBC now trying to repair the damage by sending Jay back to 11:30.


KAYE: NBC says "The Leno Show" at 10:00 p.m. wasn't meeting the needs of its affiliates. The change is effective February 12th.

The arctic blast much of the country is experiencing is impacting Florida utilities. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras has more in the CNN Severe Weather Center -- hi there Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey there Randi. Everybody's got those heaters cranked, don't they, across central Florida? Southern Florida even; something they're not used to.

Florida Power and Light reporting they had an all-time peak overnight last night and I know there was some other high usage outages as well going on in the Tampa area, too. So, you know, try and take it easy if you can. But of course, the main thing is to keep safe and those space heaters, be real careful with those. You probably don't want to leave those on overnight.

The temperatures remain frigid across the Sunshine State. Here we are. You know, as the sun sets those temperatures go down: it is 37 in Orlando now; 34 degrees in Tampa. We've seen temperatures in some of these citrus grove areas north of Orlando and into the Gainesville area in there that have made it down toward the freezing mark and it's been almost a week.

The good news is that we're going to start to moderate that a little bit get through tonight. When you add the winds which have been gusty at times it's going to be feeling like teens across central Florida, 20s and 30s across parts of the south.

Here's your overnight lows; Tampa, 26, and check out Miami there about 37 degrees. But notice that we're starting to warm up and we're staying above zero. Look at that.

Minneapolis, your overnight low around 11 degrees. So we are starting to see just a little bit of progress. You know those cold temperatures the air is warmer than the water in south Florida. Take a look Ryan Dooly (ph) sent me these photos from Miami. You can see the steam fog that has developed because of that.

Isn't that a cool shot? I just love that. Temperatures tomorrow starting to warm up even more across the nation's midsection. Dallas, hey, how about those 50 degree temperatures? And we'll watch the southeast stay 5 to 10 degrees below average before things look better.

Still a lot of people slipping and sliding out there; check out these pictures that we have for you out of New Hampshire. This is out of the Nashua area. A tractor trailer truck which was carrying 2,000 gallons of milk overturned on the ramp and that milk nearly instantaneous froze on the roadways.

The driver was injured but nothing serious so that's some good news there, but boy, what a big mess to clean up.

A reminder, Randi, the daytime highs are starting to get above freezing now, especially in the south. And then it freezes back up at night as you go back below that freezing mark so those roads are going to be slick for everybody going back to work tomorrow morning.

KAYE: That is for sure.

JERAS: Watch out for that.

KAYE: All right, Jacqui Jeras for us. Thank you Jacqui.

It's not just the United States. There's a northern hemisphere shiver being felt across the globe. CNN's Morgan Neill reports from Chawton, England.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in the small village of Chawton, about an hour's drive southwest of London. Now this is a small village just between 300 and 400 people. It's where Jane Austen once lived in that house right there behind me.

We're here to see how people in the smaller communities are coping with this very unusually severe winter weather. Today we had a chance to talk to the local deejay, someone who's been hearing people's problems because of the weather all week long. And he says the reaction that he's gotten from other residents has been heartening.

LINTON, DELTA RADIO PRESENTER: This morning I had a call from a lady who said her mother, the lady I mentioned about going to hospital. She's got a hospital appointment this coming week and she lives on top of a hill. And you can't drive up it because the council hadn't grated (ph) the road. And I put in an announcement out from the radio and had about three or four calls.

One offering her a lift to hospital and another guy saying he'd try to get some snow clearing equipment to clear the roads so that she was able to make her way to hospital. Which is good actually, it's good that people are pulling together.

NEILL: But of course, the severe weather has also brought a host of problems not least among them trying to get around on the roads, clogged with snow and ice. And that has taken a toll on local businesses as we heard from the proprietor of the local pub here.

PETER WHITEHEAD, GREYFRIAR PUB OWNER: It's been massive. People aren't able to come out. And obviously this sort of weather conditions, nobody's going to come out and drink in their car and try to drive in these conditions.

It's really killing us in the rural areas because they (INAUDIBLE). People aren't able to get here. So, therefore, we're losing out on money.

NEILL: Now temperatures did rise in many parts of the UK today. That meant that some of the snow and ice on the roadways melted. But that brings its own problems, according to authorities, including the highway department. They say you have to be particularly careful now because once that's melted it can then refreeze once temperatures drop at night, bringing black ice.

They're warning anyone who has to get out and travel, make sure to bring the supplies you may need in case you get stuck out on the highway.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Chawton, England.


KAYE: If you have 24 hours to live, what would you do? Who would you spend it with? It's the subject of a new book written by a former CNN anchor. Jim Moret will join us live later in the hour.


KAYE: He was known by thousands as "Mr. Chairman". We'll look back at the life of Percy Sutton just ahead in the newsroom.


KAYE: A sobering reminder today of the high risks in covering a war zone. British journalist Rupert Hamer was killed yesterday by an IED in southern Afghanistan. A U.S. Marine also died in that attack. A photographer, Philip Coburn was wounded.

Hamer worked for the "Sunday Mirror" in London. He was the 20th journalist to die in Afghanistan and the second in recent weeks.

A Canadian journalist was killed by a road side bomb on December 30th.

Using the word Allah has explosive consequences for Christians in Malaysia. Eight churches have been fire bombed or vandalized over the weekend, all part of a dispute between Muslims and Christians over who has the right to call God Allah. No one was hurt. Many Muslims are angry over an New Year's Eve court ruling that overturned a government ban on using the word in reference to the Christian god. Only about 9 percent of Malaysia's population is Christian. Free the mothers. Chanting protesters gathered outside an Iranian jail today demanding the dozens of moms be let go. The women were reportedly arrested yesterday while peacefully protesting against their children's deaths and disappearances during Iran's violent anti- government rallies. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says more than 100 officers stormed Saturday's demonstration at a Tehran park hauling in 33 members of the mourning mothers group.

Percy Sutton was the pioneering civil rights attorney who defended Malcolm X. He was also the son of a slave who became a media mogul and a prominent New York politician. He's also credited with saving Harlem's renowned Apollo Theater.

We told you about his death the day after Christmas. Now, we're going to take a closer look at the life he lived for 89 years.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: As we look at our flags flying at half staff, let us join in honoring and thanking a true civil rights pioneer and a legendary public servant and great New Yorker.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD; CNN CORRESPONDENT: High praise from the mayor of New York remembering civil rights lawyer Percy Sutton, a man whose accomplishments include serving as a Tuskegee airman intelligence officer in World War II. His Passion to fight for the rights of black Americans drove him to Brooklyn Law School. His legal firm represented more than 200 freedom marchers in the 1960s.

MALCOLM X, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We'll work with any group, organization...

WHITFIELD: One of Sutton's influential and controversial clients was Malcolm X, Nation of Islam leader and human rights activist. Sutton remained the family's lawyer after Malcolm X's assassination in 1965.

ATALLAH SHABAZZ, DAUGHTER OF MALCOLM X: Whether you knew him personally, intimately; where you got to be loved by him, counseled by him, given guidance by him, instructed by him. That in this day and age, someone that saw so much and could have made many other choices chose to stand nearby to be accessible to all of us.

WHITFIELD: Percy Sutton was also a New York state assemblyman, later becoming Manhattan's longest serving borough president from 1966 to 1977. His rein as one of the highest ranking black officials in New York, an inspiration.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I admired him. I respected him. I worked for him. The opportunities that my generation has been given were paid for by the hard work and sacrifice of his. Without him there would be no me.

WHITFIELD: In 1971 Sutton started investing in media companies by purchasing New York's AM station WLIB, making it the first black- owned radio station in New York. For a time, he owned New York's largest black newspaper, too, "Amsterdam News".

Sutton eventually became chairman of the media conglomerate, Intercity broadcasting, which owned more than 18 national radio stations and cable franchises. And In 1981 Sutton bought and helped resuscitate the bankrupt Apollo Theater for $250,000. It was a landmark that launched the careers of artists like Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, and the Jackson 5.

PERCY SUTTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER: You're better off just paying the debt, but closing down your facility. Because of what Apollo Theater means to this community and a number of people worldwide.

WHITFIELD: The Apollo Theater re-opened in 1985, after Sutton invested more than $20 million in renovations leading to the longtime syndicated program "It's Show Time at the Apollo".

Just days ago, thousands filled Riverside Church in Manhattan to say good-bye. Congressman Charles Rangel says Sutton's impact was far reaching.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I was walking down 135th Street and a woman grabbed me with uncontrollable tears. I said, "Did you know Percy?" She says, "no, but Percy knew me."

WHITFIELD: Percy Sutton's kindness touched many. He was a man of several achievements, but for those who knew him, the broadcasting pioneer, Tuskegee airman, and lawyer, will always be remembered as "Mr. Chairman".

Fredricka Whitfield, CNN, Atlanta.


KAYE: New video in to CNN of yesterday's 6.5 earthquake off the coast of northern California. This is surveillance video of a supermarket in the town of Arcata. The powerful quake shook up a lot of people but the damage was minimal. No one seriously hurt. All power has since been restored.

Starting tomorrow this federal courthouse in San Francisco becomes ground zero for the gay marriage debate. The trial over the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban is slated to begin. Back in November 2008 voters approved proposition 8, banning gay marriage. But the American Foundation for equal rights sued on behalf of two couples seeking the right to marry.

The new year has brought higher prices at the gas pump. According to the Lundberg surveys the average price of a gallon of gas rose 14 cents in the last three weeks. It's now $2.74 for a gallon of regular. That is the highest level in more than a year.

This morning on NBC's "Meet the Press," California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had his checklist in his pocket. When it comes to serving California, he's getting it done one issue at a time. Schwarzenegger also talked about our nation's crumbling infrastructure when an interesting coincidence happened. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I always run around with this list, David. And I put this down. Workers' compensation reform, done. Budget reform, not done. We still have to fight for that. Rebuilding our levees, rebuilding our roads, rebuilding our schools. More affordable housing. Rebuilding our prison. Those things were done. But then tax reform was not done.

You know, campaign finance reform was not done. Open primaries was not done. So you know, I think we have a lot of things we got done though Democrats and Republicans fight, but I think it is much easier when people take party out of the way. I know it's very hard to do. But you got to be a servant to the people, not to your party. And bringing both of the parties together and to get our infrastructure, the water infrastructure past. Pay no attention, just a little earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you speak things happen.

SCHWARZENEGGER: See in California, when there's a noise, the governor never shakes or worries about it because earthquakes happen all the time.


SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly. That's right.


KAYE: He's been in California too long. You noticed he didn't even flinch. Just when you think you've seen everything that can happen at a convenience store, think again. How about a Molotov cocktail to go?


JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And good evening, everyone. I'm CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. The last of the final blast of that Arctic air has temperatures hovering near freezing now in parts of Florida. We'll talk to you about the warmer temperatures which are on the way coming up in the forecast.


KAYE: Convenience stores get robbed all the time, but fire bombed? Surveillance video from last month shows someone walking into a store in Milwaukee and hurling a flaming bottle at a cashier. A customer nearly got hit in the head but the cashier was protected by bulletproof glass. But the fire cost about $1,000 in damage. Since the fire bomber didn't take anything police think it may have been retaliation for a recent arrest in a previous robbery of that same store.

Small, compact and fuel efficient. That's what you will see at this year's North American International Auto show. More than 800,000 people converge on Detroit for the two-day event. This year's theme is green. And with all the focus on going green, well, you never know, maybe this could be a green year for automakers, too.

Three major volcanoes around the world are showing signs of life this weekend. This is Mt. Turrialba in Costa Rica. It hasn't erupted for more than 150 years. Right now, as you can see there, it's venting some steam, even some ash, which is blowing over populated areas. Large volcanoes are also rumbling in the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

You think the weather is bad here right now? Try living in Russia. We'll show you.


KAYE: This brutal snap of arctic weather, many of us are dealing with, is more than just an inconvenience. For emergency workers and crews that have to work outside the weather isn't just tough on them, it's tough on their equipment as well. These firefighters in Omaha explain the difficulties that come with the job in extreme cold weather.


CAPT. PAT O'BRIEN, OMAHA FIRE DEPT.: You can't do your job as well. You get cold. You get tired more. The added weight of the ice and snow with your pack, your equipment, your gloves get frozen. I mean, your hands will be curled into one position and you can't move them.


KAYE: And I bet those firefighters aren't going to like the forecast very much. Jacqui Jeras, you have some good news for them maybe?

JERAS: Well, it's warming up. You know, Omaha is going to be a little bit better tomorrow. But the people who are in the southeast unfortunately not so much. It's still going to take another couple of days. But it impacts you. I'm going to use the cold weather as an excuse why I can't do my job as well. When I stumbled in the last commercial break.

KAYE: But you're inside. I let you pass.

JERAS: It's cold in here.

KAYE: Right.

JERAS: Maybe it's the short sleeves. Whatever. Anyway, yes, temperatures are cold. Still across the southeast. This is really the worst last blast of it for the overnight temperatures. You can see our windchill already, we're down to 31 in Orlando. 28 degrees is the temperature your body feels in Tampa. And it's just really tough to deal with this. It's been a week now that temperatures have been below freezing at night in Gainesville, and Florida. You've been in and out of it throughout the week.

And check out these pictures out of the Orlando area, just kind of showing you the experiences that have been going on in the sunshine state. Yes, the number one concern, of course, is that crop out there. The citrus crop. And they've been spraying those crops with the water, which creates a protective coating. It kind of insulates them a little bit. We won't know for weeks from what I understand before we know just how bad the damage has been. But I'm going to say when we're looking at a week with temperatures below freezing at nighttime we are going to have some problems.

That could impact everybody at home. Everybody who eats fruit. You need to pay attention. Now let's talk about what we can expect for those overnight temperatures. Tonight, we're going to see above freezing in Miami. Tampa, you'll be below, you'll be borderline say in Orlando. 15 Atlanta, 21 in Memphis. And hey, look at this, you're above zero for your overnight lows in Minneapolis and other parts of the upper midwest.

So that's a little bit of good news. It's going to be the midwest that will see the most immediate warming and you can see 30s back here, 26 into Chicago. 37 degrees for you into Washington, D.C., we're going to be above freezing here throughout the day, but then overnight temperatures dropping back down. So you get that freeze/thaw. And that's something to think about as we head off to work tomorrow morning. Bridges and overpasses especially are going to be icy and so you have to watch out for that.

Here's the five-day forecast for you for Tampa to give you an idea of what we're going to do. Look at that. 50s tomorrow. Pushing 60 there. Over 60 by the end of the week. Notice those overnight temperatures, this is tomorrow morning there. And then we'll see everybody staying above that freezing mark.

So the changes are on the way. They're going to be gradual, but we'll get there. So we get through tonight, Randi, and things are going to be looking a lot better across most of the eastern U.S.

KAYE: My mother lives in Boca Raton, Florida. Today she finally gave in. She turned on the heat in her house. She's been holding out.

JERAS: She waited until today? Not even last night?

KAYE: She's pretty tough. Actually, my brother - it's been so long in Florida she had to turn on the heat, that my brother who also lives down there had to go over there and help her and show her how to do it.

JERAS: You have to check those furnaces. Because if you don't use them often, you have to make sure your pilot light is lit.

KAYE: Right.

JERAS: You forget when it's been that long. Absolutely.

KAYE: Hopefully, she'll warm up soon.

JERAS: She's a tough one.

KAYE: Thanks, Jacqui.

JERAS: Sure.

KAYE: Florida citrus farmers literally have billions of dollars riding on tonight's weather. And with a hard freeze warning in effect for much of the sunshine state, it could be a very long and losing proposition in store for them this evening. And you could end up paying for it.

Martin Savage is live in Ft. Lauderdale with the latest. Hey there, Marty.

MARTIN SAVAGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Randi. You know, if you were to look at the background here, it would look like that idyllic scene you expect of south Florida. You got the palm trees sort of gently moving in the breeze. You got the sand on the beach. And then you got me, looking like (INAUDIBLE), which ruins the whole image.

And on top of that, the thermometer which is hovering at 40 and doesn't even express to you what the wind chill is. And in fact, there is a windchill advisory in effect for south Florida here as well as a freeze warning. None of that sounds like the typical weather you would expect for this part of the United States.

But as you point out, there's going to be another very anxious night for the orchards and those who grow in the citrus industry here. It was a tough night last night, expected to be even colder tonight. They are reporting there has been substantial damage but not catastrophic damage. Much of that damage is hit-or-miss in various areas to the north of the growing region for the citrus industry.

Also, we should point out that Florida is the second largest grower of strawberries. There's been damage there as well but it's still too soon to tell how bad. When you talk of other costs, take a look at this video we have out of Jacksonville. It shows you a different kind of cost of the cold. And that has to do with a fire that tore through 20 units of an apartment building last night.

Fortunately everybody, including the cat, got out safely, but it still was an expensive fire. And they blame it on a fireplace that was being used for heating. We also want to tell you about another impact and that's on the vital business of tourism. Of course, one week does not make a season, but it does impact the notion that people have about the state of Florida.

Many folks are going to go home with not so warm memories including Lisa and Brian Gregg. They're from Wisconsin. They said it felt a lot like Wisconsin down here. Here's what they had to say.


LISA GREGG, VISITING FLORIDA: The palm trees is the only reason I know I'm actually here and the ocean.

BRIAN GREGG, VISITING FLORIDA: Yes, we've been here a number of times and usually you get to Florida and you wait for that sunshine to bust through and it's all warm, but we're not getting it this time.


SAVAGE: The good news for them was they were here to get on a cruise ship. They've already sailed off. They hope it's to some place warmer than here. And finally, we have to show you these images we got this morning on Ft. Lauderdale beach.

Keep in mind the windchill at that time was about 20 degrees. We found these surfers that were enjoying the waves that the wind was creating. The water temperature is warmer, it's about 69 or 70 degrees. So you're better off in than out. But still what in the world would their mothers say as you look at that?

Meanwhile, tonight, as we expect, much colder temperatures than last night. Hopefully the end is near. Randi.

KAYE: So Martin, are most residents there taking it in stride? I would imagine they enjoy a little bit of a cold snap. Maybe not too much like this one, but --

SAVAGE: Yes, I think they liked it when it was just a snap. But now it's become a spell. In other words, if it was just a day or two, people do like the refreshing change, and in fact, the chance to pull out some coats they haven't worn in a long time. But this has dragged on really since the end of last year.

And as a result of that, that is really what's making it historic. Most people are saying, you know what, I remember cold spells but none that have lasted this long and continue to get worse. It's going to stand out in the memories of people here for a long time to come.

KAYE: I'm sure. Martin Savage for us in Florida, trying to stay warm.

Well, stop whining about the cold and take a dip, why don't you? That's kind of the attitude in Moscow, where for some winter is a wonderful time to get in shape and enjoy the outdoors. No kidding.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is there.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Stripping off for an icy dip isn't everyone's idea of surviving this freezing winter. But as temperatures take a plunge, so, too, are Russia's ice swimmers, suggesting Europeans and Americans battling the cold should do the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): I wish they could become familiar with our Russian winter and follow our example. CHANCE: Says this swimmer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To become as robust and healthy as us Russians are.

CHANCE (on camera): Well, as much as the rest of Europe shivers in this freezing weather, I think it's fair to say Russians have a unique attitude towards the cold. Rather than let it shut their country down, they actively embrace these frigid temperatures.

(voice-over): It's true, Russia seems to handle the cold weather much better than elsewhere. It's fleet of snowplows and army of shoveling workers not cost efficient in more temperate countries. These roads, at least in the capital are kept snow-free, allowing people here to enjoy the coldest winter in some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): We've been waiting for this many years. We are very happy and are walking around so we can enjoy this. How should Europe save themselves from the cold? Well, we save ourselves with the vodka.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is especially joyous. We are having great winter weather this year. This is definitely better than (INAUDIBLE).

CHANCE: Back at the ice pool, (INAUDIBLE) who organizes the swimming insists it's a great idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's too cold.

CHANCE (on camera): You're saying it's minus 10 outside but in the water it's plus 4. It's warmer in the water than it is actually out here.

(voice-over): And just in case you overheat, there are plenty of ways this winter to cool off.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


KAYE: That is the modern version of a snowman right there.

It is a face many of you will recognize. His story you won't believe. Former CNN anchor Jim Moret talks about being on the brink of suicide and what kept him alive. His story, next.


KAYE: First gay marriages were banned in California, then they were legal and then banned again. Tomorrow a historic trial that could change the law one more time. Tonight at 10:00, a look at what's going on in California.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KAYE: Two and a half years of unemployment and a mountain of debt. Part of the problems outlined by my next guest, Jim Moret in his book "The Last Day of My Life." Jim is a chief correspondent for "Inside Edition" based in the Los Angeles bureau and a former CNNer, we should point out.

Jim, normally, you are the guy behind the story but you have quite a story yourself. If you would, take us back. At what point in your life did you think you would be worth more dead than alive? Which is what you really say in this book.

JIM MORET, AUTHOR, "THE LAST DAY OF MY LIFE": To be honest it was around April of 2008. It wasn't when I was out of work. But it was some years later after I've re-established my career at "Inside Edition." But while I was out of work I relied on my house to keep me afloat and I really set off what was a time bomb that didn't set to explode until years later.

And I was literally driving from an assignment down a windy road above the hills of Malibu. It was a beautiful area. But my thoughts weren't beautiful at all. They were quite dark. And I thought going around this curvy area, this would be the perfect spot to literally drive off the edge, my family would collect a multimillion dollar life insurance policy and everything would be fine.

But the reality is everything wouldn't be fine. Because what I saw in the car, because I brought it to a stop and I could see the faces of my three children and my wife, imagining my own funeral and imagining the pain that I would put them through and I really liken that moment to the scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" where Jimmy Stewart is on the edge of that bridge.

And Randi, you and I covered a lot of stories. This time I really turned the camera on myself and asked myself a simple question, that took me months to answer. What if I had 24 hours left to live? How would I live that day? And so I went home and I started writing and I didn't even share these thoughts with my wife until I had written that first chapter.

And I remember the first time she saw my thoughts on paper. She started to cry and she said, is this true? I said, yes, it is. She hugged me and she told me she loved me, and our kids loved me. It didn't matter where we lived, if we lost our house. She wanted me and she encouraged me to write and gave me the strength to write what was initially a note for myself and it turned into this book.

And I wrote about friendship and love and compassion and tenacity and apology and forgiveness. None of what I wrote had anything to do with money. But it helped me re-evaluate my life.

KAYE: So you didn't seek professional help but you got through it and along the way, I'm sure this was a very emotional journey for you. Can I ask who you did forgive along the way?

MORET: I had to forgive - well, I had to forgive a family member, basically, for something that was very personal to me and it was my father. And, you know, I look at this book as a book of hope. I don't blame anyone for anything in this book. For all of the things I've done, I take responsibility.

I look at this as an empowerment and hopefully an inspirational book, because I think there are probably millions of people out there right now who are looking at losing their home or their jobs or their retirement plans and, you know, a lot of folks may be depressed, thinking there's nowhere to go and they may think they're alone and they're not alone.

KAYE: I think it's interesting that the book is called "The Last Day of My Life." In a way, the book really gave you a new life, certainly a new outlook on life.

MORET: Well, I look at every day as the last day of my life. I kind of reset a 24-hour clock every day and I go through a mantra. It may sound hokie. But I look into the mirror and I say what am I grateful for? I'm grateful for my wife and our three children who I love so much and the fact we have our parents and that they're healthy. And then I go through a list of what I call the 10 Cs, and these are words of empowerment like calm, cool, connected, composed and I end on the word centered.

I take a breath in and open my eyes and then I face today with a positive attitude. And that really reflects back on everything I do.

KAYE: All right. Jim Moret, joining us today, "The Last Day of my Life" is his book. Be sure to check it out. Jim, thank you so much for sharing some of that with us today.

MORET: Thanks for having me on, Randi.

KAYE: Well, I'm Randi Kaye at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. I'll see you right back here at 10:00 Eastern tonight.

"State of the Union" with John King begins right now.