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Thanksgiving Travel Threatened for Millions; President Obama's Declining Numbers; U.S. Allies and Lawmakers Blast Iran Deal; Air Fares Could Soar with Airline Merger; Arrest Made in Random, Violent Attack

Aired November 25, 2013 - 09:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Marching east right now, threatening Thanksgiving travel for millions of people.

Also, nuke deal.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

PHILLIPS: Ground breaking and controversial.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Is not historic agreement. It's a historic mistake.

PHILLIPS: Plus, knock out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god. Is that a game?

PHILLIPS: A scary growing trend spreading across America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a game because, I mean, the person probably was really injured like you could get like a concussion or something. That was a hard hit.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And people have been killed.

PHILLIPS: The one-hit quitter. Kids randomly punching strangers. Police on alert and on the lookout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're doing this to get a thrill.

PHILLIPS: And hungry for the games.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire.

PHILLIPS: Katniss, Peeta, and then there's this.

Miley lets the cat out of the bag.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: And good morning, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips. Carol Costello is off today.

Well, with just three days to go until Thanksgiving a deadly wintry blast is making its way east and it could disrupt travel plans for millions of all of you. Driving in some places just downright dangerous at this point. In Oklahoma this SUV spins out, flips over then tumbles off the road. Ice, sleet, snow, all blamed for 10 traffic related deaths.

And then in Dallas planes are being deiced. Hundreds of flights pre- cancelled and it's not just the bad timing but many travelers didn't even expect to see conditions like this in Texas.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of a bummer. I mean, all state, like, all state Texas the weather is just insane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not Texas weather. This is Alaska or Idaho.


PHILLIPS: It's not Texas weather, that's for sure.

Nick Valencia joining us now live from Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport.

Not a great way to start off the week, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all. And what's happening here in Dallas, Kyra, is really a microcosm or a snapshot of what's happening all across the United States. You mentioned hundreds of flights, about 300 flights cancelled here at Dallas-Ft. Worth on Sunday. That represents about 30 percent of the flights that come out of this airport and you can take a look up here at the board.

It's more of the same this morning. Another 86 flights cancelled this morning. American Airlines is the big airline that operates out of Dallas-Ft. Worth airport and they're just preparing for the worst right now.

There's some passengers that we spoke to, some of them are a little bit more angrier than others about the delays. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know why American cancelled all those flights yesterday. They cancelled them at 9:00 in the morning and there wasn't a flake of snow or sleet anywhere to be seen. So we're pretty upset with American. That's for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're delayed again and we have work to be at and we're out $400 that we didn't expect and American is not even helping. So it's very disappointing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, my flight is a little delayed but it's not too bad.


VALENCIA: And back here live pictures at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. We want to mention, though, that this travel here, yes, it's bad in Dallas, but places like central Pennsylvania are being impacted. Upstate New York. And I don't have to tell the people watching us in Oklahoma or Arkansas just how bad it is there. That low pressure system moving through creating temperatures that are about 10 or 20 degrees below average.

Usually we see this kind of weather around January not around November and that's really causing a lot of mess for this week because, as you know, Kyra, this is a really busy holiday week, travel week. About 40 million Americans expected to travel 50 miles or more.

So if you are traveling or getting on the road, stay -- stay safe and be sure to check those travel advisories -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We'll be checking with you throughout the next couple of hours for sure.

Nick Valencia for us in Dallas this morning. Thanks so much.

So just how long is this storm going to stick around and where is it headed next?

Indra Petersons in the CNN Severe Weather Center for us.

What do you think, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Now, Kyra, unfortunately things are -- going to be getting worse. Now take a look at this video. It's just an example of what we're expecting. As the system continues to push off of these. This is Oklahoma City where they really saw some of those icy roads.

And they're not a standalone incident. Look at all these reported incidents we've already seen. Heavy snow we're seeing from New Mexico in through Oklahoma. Especially pay attention in through Texas where we had tons of reports of freezing rain. So, yes, travel woes but also half an inch of freezing rain that makes a power line weigh 500 pounds.

So we're talking about power outages as well, and of course that freezing rain right now moving in through Arkansas. So let's talk about this set up. Today we have these icing concerns. Really wintery mixes anywhere from Arkansas back in through Texas.

Here is the set up now moving forward. This low is picking up moisture out of the gulf and it will combine with a second system making its way across the lake. So you have a lot of moisture and then you have cold air really mixing in with it. This is the concern as we go through the holidays here especially if you're going through Tuesday and Wednesday.

Now for today heavy rain pushing farther to the east, anywhere from two to four inches along the gulf, into tomorrow. We'll see that kind of push up to the Carolinas as that first low makes its way up the eastern seaboard. Also a little bit of snow behind that.

In through Tuesday, we're still talking about some light rain starting to fill into the northeast but for now looks like no snow for them as of yet. But in the mid-Atlantic we'll start to see that wintry mix behind at the snow.

Tuesday night through Wednesday, this is going to be the trickiest when we start seeing even heavier snow, heavy rain, strong winds which alone will bring travel delays, and continue to see that wintry mix. So this will be the toughest time period if you're traveling again Tuesday night in through Wednesday morning.

Throughout Wednesday right now still we're talking about rain along the eastern seaboard closer to the coast more rain the farther you are inland. We're going to be talking about snow and of course that's going to be the concern.

Good news it tapers off, so by Thanksgiving conditions start to improve and hopefully everyone wants to get there prior to Thanksgiving, Kyra. And that's what we're all hoping for to get there safely.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Indeed. Indra, thanks so much.

And on this program every 15 minutes we will have your forecast for you throughout the morning.

Also this morning a new CNN poll shows a majority of Americans, of you, are losing confidence in our president. Sixty percent say that Barack Obama cannot manage the U.S. government effectively. Now these numbers are coming in not long after that disastrous launch of the Obamacare Web site which has had the White House on the defense ever since.

So the big question now, can this administration oversee major policy rollouts as faith in Obama's ability has been steadily declining since the spring? I mean, we're talking 52 percent in May, falling to 47 percent in June.

CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty at the White House.

Good morning, Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra. Well, you know, you look at this poll and it's not only the ability to manage that's one of the things that Americans are having problems with President Obama but it's also personal qualities. And one of those personal qualities is honesty.

Look at this poll. Is Obama honest and trustworthy? Yes, 46 percent, but a 53 percent answer says no. And then you also look at another kind of odd thing, I would point out is ironically people still think that he is likeable, although there's been some slippage in that. So look at this. Likeable back in May, it was 79 percent. Now it's 71 percent, which is really actually quite high.

But when you get into the honesty, again slipping from May 58 percent back down to 46 percent now. And a strong leader back in May, Americans were saying 58 percent in this poll that he was and now they are saying 46 percent believe that he's a strong leader.

So if you look at this, when you get into those numbers even more directly, is he a strong and decisive leader you have 46 percent saying yes, but 53 percent saying no. And then finally inspiring confidence. Much the same reaction. So these are significant problems for the president. They go beyond just immediate issues but into what is he and who is he as a leader -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jill Dougherty at the White House, thanks so much.

We're talking about the issues, the policies. How about foreign policy, too? U.S. allies and members of Congress slamming a historic deal on Iran's nuclear program but they are not alone. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it's a historic mistake.


NETANYAHU: We cannot and will not allow a regime that calls for the destruction of Israel to obtain the means to achieve this goal. We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability.


PHILLIPS: Well, Israel is refusing to recognize the deal reached over the weekend, even though the six-month agreement slows Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting some of the sanctions. Returning negotiators received a hero's welcome in Tehran in the midst of all this as well.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has been covering the negotiations, joins us live now from Geneva.

So, Jim, historic agreement or a blow to our allies?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a question, if you listen to Israel and Saudi Arabia it's a blow to the -- to the allies. If you listen to Secretary of State John Kerry it makes them and us safer. But really, before the ink was even dry on this agreement you started hearing that opposition and not just from overseas, on Capitol Hill as well.

And from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who say they're going to pursue new sanctions even as this deal gets under way. But I'll tell you, being there in that room as they were making this agreement in the early hours of Sunday morning you really had a chance, an idea that this was going to be a history making moment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO (voice-over): A historic agreement sealed with a hug.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This agreement could not have been reached without the decision of the Iranian government to come to the table and negotiate.

SCIUTTO: After three weeks of intensive talks, the deal puts unprecedented limits on Iran's nuclear program. Iran limits enrichment of uranium to well below the level needed to make a nuclear bomb. Iran dilutes its existing stockpile of highly enriched uranium. And it allows intrusive daily monitoring of all of its nuclear sites.

In exchange the West economic sanctions on Iran will be eased, in all about $7 billion in relief. But in a case of diplomatic ambiguity it allows for very different interpretation of Iran's rights.

KERRY: It is not in this document. There is no right to enrich.

SCIUTTO: In answer to a question from CNN, however, Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said the deal gave Iran what it has long sought -- formal recognition of its freedom to develop a peaceful nuclear program including enriching uranium.

(On camera): The White House says there is no formal recognition of a right to enrich. How did you square that circle?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We believe that the current agreement, the current plan of action as we call it, in two distinct phases, has a very clear reference to the fact that Iranian enrichment program will continue and will be a part of any agreement. Now and in the future.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): The deal will only last for six months. It presses the pause button on Iran's nuclear program, but it doesn't press delete. And it will all happen in the face of bitter differences between the U.S. and America's closes ally in the region.

KERRY: Israel is in fact safer than it was yesterday.

NETANYAHU: What was concluded in Geneva last night is not historic agreement. It's a historic mistake. It's not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.


SCIUTTO: Administration officials tell CNN that the White House will begin consultations with Israel right away on a longer term agreement with Iran. We just learned that Israel's national security adviser is going to be traveling to Washington this week to discuss it.

But, Kyra, in light of how stiff their opposition is to this agreement it's hard to see how the White House can convince them to come on board going forward.

PHILLIPS: We're going to talk a lot about it next hour. Jim Sciutto, thanks so much. And still to come soaring fares and slicing service. Who is the biggest loser in possible merger between U.S. Airways and American? Fortunately you.

Good morning, Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I'm going to take a very close look at what all these big mega mergers in airlines means for you and the price of your ticket when you travel right after this break.


PHILLIPS: I'll tell you what? There is a nasty winter storm out there and it could disrupt your holiday travel. We're talking about millions of you affected this week. Every 15 minutes, we're going to be giving you your forecast.

We're talking snow, ice, sleet, all moving across the Southeast today. And it's heading towards the East Coast just in time for thanksgiving and that's where a lot of people are getting worried.

Freezing rain hitting parts of Texas and Arkansas and by tomorrow snow will be starting to fall in Kentucky, Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

CNN is covering this storm like no other and we will have your forecast like I said every 15 minutes.

Now, millions of us are flying home for Thanksgiving. And if you think the airport will be crowded this week just wait. Get ready for fewer flights as well and higher fares.

Take the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, for example. According to "USA Today", when the number of seats drop by 80 percent between 2005 and 2013, well, fares jumped 26 percent. The average ticket now, $519.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans here to explain it all.

Christine, this is why you and I stay home with all the kids because that really racks up. No doubt.


PHILLIPS: You come to my house.

ROMANS: Sometimes the pain of traveling has nothing to do with the ticket price in our case.

PHILLIPS: That's true, screaming kids.

ROMANS: The traveling companion. That's what we have to deal with.

Look, this is a fascinating analysis by "USA Today" on front page. It looked at 100 of the big markets over the past eight years in this big period of consolidation in the airline industry. They took a real close look what happened with fares.

They found wide variations, quite frankly and in some of these places that used to be big hubs for these airlines, after a merger, maybe they are not a hub any more and there's less available seats and higher ticket price. When you look at the numbers crunched here, for example some big, big ticket increases, you mentioned Cincinnati, there's some others they pointed out in Washington, D.C., Savannah, Dallas, et cetera, some big fare hikes over the past few years.

What's interesting here is you've had -- remember Delta and Northwest? They went together. You had United and Continental -- they merged together. You have smaller carriers that disappeared off the face of the earth. And now, you've got this American and U.S. Airways merger.

Today, American going to court actually in the final timetable for its merger, and a lot of consumer advocates are taking a very close look whether this will mean higher fares for you. Now, the government was in on this. So both the government and American now say, no, no, don't worry we'll still have good service. They made some concessions and the like. But over the past ten years in some of these places, you've seen fares increased.

Here's the good news, though, Kyra. The good news is when you go back to the 1990s, fares today are lower than they were in the 1990s.

PHILLIPS: OK. There's one little piece of good news there. We still should have the families come to our house. It makes it a lot easier.

Christine, thanks.

Still to come, the one hit quitter. Kids just randomly punching strangers and police are on alert, on the look out and making arrests. A live report from New York, next.


PHILLIPS: It's called the knockout game. Kids, even adults, walking around, looking for a stranger to cold cock, just knocking them out for no reason except to be cool. There's been several videos that have surfaced popping up online showing the random attacks.

Now, in New York City, a 28-year-old man has been arrested and charged in one attack against a Jewish man.

CNN's Pam Brown is following that story for us out of New York.

Pam, it's hard to understand why people would want to do this?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's truly just mind-boggling. It doesn't make sense, Kyra. You know, a 12-year-old boy, a 78-year-old grandmother, a 24-year-old Jewish man. Just a couple, few of the victims recent live punched in the face for no apparent reason.

But are these violent stunts just isolated or part of a larger phenomenon known as the so-called "knockout game"?


BROWN (voice-over): New York City police arrested this 28-year-old man Friday and charged him with assault after he randomly punched a 24-year-old Jewish man according to authorities.

An NYPD spokesperson says its hate crimes task force is investigating that case and looking into recent similar attacks against Jews in Brooklyn New York. New York City police Commissioner Ray Kelly stopped short of saying they are part of the knockout game.

RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: When you highlight an incident or a type of criminal activity some people will simply try to copy it which is a phenomenon we've seen before.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God! Is that a game?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, that was like real people that wasn't like CGI or something?

BROWN (on camera): No.

(voice-over): The people we showed video to could hardly believe this is happening. These videos captured by surveillance cameras could just be random attacks or they could be what is considered the knockout game or the one hitter quitter where youths randomly punch strangers with the goal of knocking them unconscious with a single blow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a game because, I mean, the person was probably injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea to attack someone for no reason on the streets of New York City is something that's outrageous.

BROWN: One of the latest victims, a 78-year-old grandmother. Her daughter says she was walking home earlier this month when a young man ran up and punched her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's terrified. She now will not leave the front of her building.

BROWN: The violent stunts have been reported in six states and Washington, D.C. At least four victims have died including this Vietnamese man in St. Louis and a homeless man in Hoboken, New Jersey.

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: They are doing this to get a thrill to prove their manhood or womanhood, part of peer pressure. And, certainly, they are followers and not leaders.


BROWN: And it's difficult for police to know exactly how widespread these cases are. Until now, they all fall under assault. Some police department its spoke with are reluctant to tie any of the recent random assault cases to the knockout games because random attacks on strangers is nothing new, Kyra, and it's unclear whether they are tied to the knockout game, unless the suspect confesses to it.

But one thing is for sure here, the suspects of these crimes can face very serious consequences and in fact the case for the St. Louis man was killed the suspect was sentenced to life in prison. So, it is anything but a game.

But, you know, there has been this debate in the wake of this, you know, how this should be labeled. It is part of the knockout game or not. But the point is these random attacks are happening. The video is proof and people need to be aware of it.

PHILLIPS: Yes, and arrests need to be made on a regular basis.

BROWN: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Pam, thanks.

Still to come in THE NEWSROOM: bad weather, bad timing and millions of us getting ready to travel for Thanksgiving. Indra Peterson is going to lay it out for us next.


PHILLIPS: And happening right now in THE NEWSROOM:

Frozen solid, millions of people under the gun and over a barrel as a massive winter storm is snarling Thanksgiving travel plans for much of the country. Plus this --


REP. MIKE ROGERS (R). MICHIGAN: Our Arab partners don't like the deal. Israel doesn't like the deal. We may, we may have just encouraged more violence in the future than we have stopped.


PHILLIPS: Talk about a historic agreement with Iran over its nuke program and why some say it's just rewarding dangerous behavior.