Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

CA Residents Devastated After Homes Flooded Amid Atmospheric River; Five More Arrested In Deadly Kidnapping Of Americans; Advocates: Biden's "CBP One App" Resembles Trump's "Remain In Mexico" Policy; Jailed Prisoner Gives Unprecedented Interview From Notorious Iranian Prison; Cleanup Underway After Norfolk Southern Train Derails In Alabama; U.S. Markets Plunge After Silicon Valley Bank Shut Down; Economy Added 311,000 Jobs In February, Outpacing Expectations. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 11, 2023 - 13:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right. We begin this hour with the sudden implosion of a major tech lender and it's already sent shockwaves from Wall Street to Main Street. Silicon Valley Bank collapsed Friday making it the second largest failure of a financial institution in American history. SVB was a top source of funding for tech startups and held more than $200 billion in assets.

The collapse happened after the bank sold a bunch of securities at a loss and said it would sell billions in new shares to shore up its balance sheet. The bank is now under the control of the FDIC, which is an independent government agency that insures bank deposits and oversees financial institutions. The agency says all insured depositors will have access to their insured deposits no later than Monday morning. The FDIC insures deposits of up to $250,000.

With us right now is the host of CNN Business Nightcap, Jon Sarlin. He's also the producer for CNN Digital. John, so good to see you. So, put it into context for us. Why did this bank fail so quickly?

JON SARLIN, CNN HOST: Well, Fredricka, it is a old school bank run in a modern economy. You can point to two reasons. The first is that the Fed has been increasing interest rates since 2022. That has had an effect on the bank's assets, which means that its unrealized bonds were worth less money. On the flip side, those increased interest rates has had a devastating effect on the tech sector at large, right?

And this is a tech sector that has seen layoffs, that have seen V.C. funds dry up. Those two factors combined to -- on Wednesday, the bank announcing that it is hard to sell off some of its assets to be solvent that led to panic. WhatsApp groups, group chats of founders of V.C.'s, all were abuzz with what to do about SVB, that led to panic. The key ingredient in a bank run and what we've seen is that nobody wants to be the last customer held at a bank.

WHITFIELD: Right. And then -- I mean, help break down all those who are affected. I mean, so the tech startup companies that you mentioned, and their employees as well, possibly? SARLIN: Yes. So, SVB was the premier bank in Silicon Valley. It's called Silicon Valley Bank. So, we've seen tech companies banking at SVB as kind of a badge of honor if you're at SVB. And right now, we're seeing companies come out and say that they are affected by this Roku, the streaming media company filed what's called an 8K and said that around 26 percent of its cash assets are tied up in SVB.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. So, $487 million for say, a Roku. And we talked about the FDIC insuring up to $250,000. Does that mean that conceivably a company like that can be reduced to just having that amount recovered?

SARLIN: Right. So, $250,000 is what the FDIC insurance which for a personal account might be something but for these large business accounts we were trying to make payroll, we were trying to pay, you know, everything that a company needs money for. That is basically nothing. So, $250,000 is the floor and the FDIC has come out and said that that is what guaranteed will be available on Monday.

But right now, they're looking at the books of SVB and determining how much and how quickly they can make the rest of those funds available to the customers.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, people are, you know, feeling that hit for those SVB, you know, customers, but then people who bank in other places are learning about this. And now wondering, could that happen to me? What about my bank?

SARLIN: So, analysts that CNN talk to said that they don't think this is a 2008-like scenario, that this is a bank that is focused on one sector of the economy. This is tech and it probably won't have broader implications throughout the economy, but we just don't know. And for personal accounts, they are insured up to $250,000. But for those larger accounts, we'll have to see what happens on Monday.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. Wooh. That is quite the fall. Jon Sarlin, thanks so much for breaking it down for us.

All right. Turning now to the growing flood threats in California. Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency as floods wash away roads, leaving some residents stranded. A levee breach has also forced evacuations in Monterey County, California. The drenching rains brought on by an atmospheric river. CNN's Nick Watt got an up-close look at the damage.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT BASED (voice over): Water everywhere causing chaos across central California. Some 25 million are under flood warnings. The Kern River usually runs at about six feet. It's up over 17. Snow is the issue up at altitude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a quick sick, we lost control but I caught that bad boy.

WATT: In SoCal, they're rushing to rebuild some sort of road for 450 households. This is their only way out.


Springville's Pleasant Valley Road now anything but in my 40 years never seen it like that said the man who shot these images. A major artery in Oakland closed at rush hour nearby, a Peet's Coffee warehouse roof collapsed killing one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is longtime employee beloved by everyone.

WATT: Around 25 times the volume of water that flows in the Mississippi is flowing through the air and this is the 10th so-called atmospheric river to hit California this winter. Low pressure from the north meets moist air near Hawaii. They call it a Pineapple Express. Sounds fun, it's not. Essentially a fire hose aimed at the state, usually famed for its sunshine. Throw in a couple of other winter storms that dumped a couple of years' worth of snow on some upland areas and this is the result.

Today's storm is a warm one. So, along with all this rain, some of that snow is melting. The residents of Felton flooded in January once more told to evacuate here and elsewhere. Yet more upheaval.

ALISA, NEWMAN, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: Now we have to go home, pack our stuff and leave once again when we were just able to come back a couple of weeks ago.

WATT: Good news. All the water this winter is significantly rolling back. The years long drought suffered in the West. Bad news. Yet another atmospheric river is forecast to hit this state early next week.

WATT (on camera): Some places in California have had more than a foot of rain dumped by just this system alone. This little farming town, about six inches so far and look what has happened. And it's not over. Here, this time, it's not going to stop raining until the middle of next week.

Nick Watt, Watsonville California.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about all this now. Joining us right now is Bill Pazert -- Patzert. Sorry about that, Bill. He's a retired climatologist, formerly with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. So glad, you could be with us. So, we just heard our Nick Watt say that around 25 times the volume of water that flows in the Mississippi is now flowing through the air. And for the 10th time this winter. So, help me out here.

We're now, you know, getting familiar with the terminology atmospheric river. Maybe I've been living under a rock. I'd never heard that before now. And this is apparently, we're coming up on the 11th now. Atmospheric river. So, help us understand what is this?

WILLIAM "BILL" PATZERT, RETIRED CLIMATOLOGIST: Well, you know, after many years of punishing drought here in California, Fred, we're having these atmospheric rivers which are like, literally rivers in the sky. They're extremely wet. And the result has been almost continuous storms since December. In some parts of the Sierras, there's almost 600 inches of snow, here locally in Southern California.

We've got 10 feet of snow. It's too much of a good thing. You know, after the long drought. We needed it. But enough is enough.

WHITFIELD: Right. And though, you know, not all at once, as they say because, you know, that this rain has drastically, I guess improved California's drought conditions would you say? I mean, because after so many years of, you know, of severe drought, there is a lot of water but unfortunately, it's all at once. Can you -- can you kind of give us an idea of what kind of difference it is making for some of the tributaries and rivers and lakes? Is it too early to tell right now?

PATZERT: Well, California has a long history of long punishing droughts punctuated by these extreme storm events. We have some of the strongest storm events anywhere in the United States. We're known for our benign weather, but in fact, we have wild weather here. So, in December, about 85 percent of the state was under extreme or severe drought conditions. And since then, this train of atmospheric river storms were down to 15 percent.

So, this certainly is the welcome. It was needed. But we're on overload at this point.

WALLACE: Yes. I understand you love analogies and one that you've used in this case is, you know, these storms are like trying to fill a champagne glass with a fire hose. You know, too much, you know, and it's very overwhelming. And we're seeing -- I mean, it means a lot of people, you know, are not able to stay in their homes. Roads are impassable. Roads have been washed out, you know, fields are cut word like lake. So, there goes all the produce and vegetation.


And more is on the way. Our Nick Watt said, you know, right into next week. What do you think the real consequences are going to be here?

PATZERT: Well, at this point, many areas, especially in southern California and in the mountain communities, you know, there's a severe avalanche, flood, and a lot of extra loading on structures. And so, it's a precarious situation for many Californians. But, you know, in the past, we've spent billions of dollars in California for flood control. But with the changing climate, we see that the rain season is more extreme and more compressed.

And so, in many ways, the infrastructure we have now was built for the 20th century. But we're in a new world here in the 21st century. And so, we're going to have to rethink how we handle these great storms.

WHITFIELD: Do you see more extreme weather like this beyond, you know, this going into next week?

PATZERT: Well, you know, this is near record breaking. But let me emphasize that California has always had extreme weather. And we're known for our great floods, as well as our great droughts. So, this is not totally unprecedented.

WHITFIELD: Well, it is extraordinary. William Bill Patzert, thank you so much.

PATZERT: Always a pleasure to be with you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wonderful. Thank you. All right. Coming up. Protests continue in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to give Israel's Parliament the power to overrule the Supreme Court. We'll go live to Jerusalem. Plus, shooting Russian drones out of the sky. We talk to Ukrainian to hunt those weapons while they're on the way to the targets.



WHITFIELD: Tens of thousands of protesters are once again hitting the streets in Israel as the country enters the 10th week of mass protests over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the judicial system. The proposal would allow lawmakers to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority. Many fear the changes will weaken the country's high court and erode democratic checks and balances.

CNN's Hadas Gold joining us now from Jerusalem. So, what is the situation there right now?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. Well, it's been more than two months now of these regular protests that on a regular basis bring out more than 100,000 people at a time in a population of just around nine million. Just to get to show you how many people are coming out. We are in Jerusalem. This is -- we're right outside of the Israeli president's residence.

And as you can see, there are hundreds if not thousands of protesters here. Many of them chanting Israel will not become a dictatorship. They are chanting this is not Poland. And we're even seeing some protesters dressed as handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale. That's been something that we've been seeing as a regular part of these protests. But it's the Israeli president here who actually just a few days ago, made an impassioned plea in a televised speech.

You know, this is the first time we heard him speaking out directly against these reforms, saying that they are potentially a threat to the Democratic foundations of Israel and warning that the country is at a point of no return. For many of these protesters, this is what they feel like. They feel like they are fighting for the soul of Israel. But the reason that so many people are also coming out tonight is this week is a very important week in terms of the legislation moving forward.

It's going to go through quite a few important steps. It still has some time before it will become law if it becomes law. But this week will be a key week to push it forward even further with the police from the Israeli President, the pleas from these protesters to stop the central station, to come together to have some sort of negotiations over what these reforms will look like. Well, they appear to be falling on deaf ears.

We're getting no indication from the Israeli government, from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who's actually in Italy right now on a state visit, that they plan to slow this thing down at all. And because in their minds, they say these are necessary reforms. They say they're a long time coming. They believe these will bring back balance between the branches of government.

And also, they don't need to listen to the protesters because they have a clear majority in the Israeli parliament. They have 60 (INAUDIBLE) they can pass these reforms if they need to and if they want to. But the question will be how much more of this pressure of these regular protests, hundreds of thousands of people coming out to the streets will it take for them to actually potentially slow down these reforms before they take place. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Lots of evidence underway right now. How boisterous and emotional this struggle is. Hadas Gold, thank you so much.

All right. Turning to Ukraine now where most of the power in the Kharkiv region has been restored. This after a massive barrage of Russian missiles hit the area this week. Ukraine's military says Russia fire 95 missiles in just one day, including several hypersonic missiles, making it one of its biggest aerial assaults in months.

And in Bakhmut, the battle rages on for control of that city.

WHITFIELD: One Ukrainian commander saying Bakhmut remains the hottest spot on the front line. Whether Russian missiles hit their targets or not, partly depends on Ukrainian defenders who try to shoot them down in midair. CNN's Melissa Bell spoke with some drone hunters to keep watch on Ukraine's skies.



MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Every missile taken down means live saved. Here with a German short-range Gepard were here, one missile taken down with a machine gun.

SERHIY, UKRAINIAN AIR DEFENSE SOLDIER (through translator): It's a pity that I didn't shoot down three. It's a shame that two got through. They hit civilian targets or critical infrastructure facilities and people walk there.

BELL: These are Ukrainian drone hunters. And day and night, they scan the skies, eyes in the backs of their heads. They're machine gun loaded onto an armored vehicle trading warmth frigidity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The trajectories of the missiles and drones are constantly changing, which means that stationary units were not enough so we created mobile ones. BELL: Most nights, this is what the skies above Ukraine look and sound like. And more than a year into the war, all that Western equipment is helping. On Wednesday night, over 90 missiles and eight Shahed drones were detected. Of those, more than 30 missiles and four Shaheds were intercepted says the Ukrainian military.

BELL (on camera): Here in the frontline town of Kupiansk you can see what more than a year of heavy artillery and mortar fire have done. It was again the case on Wednesday night. There's not much air defense can do about that. On the whole, what the Ukrainian military says is that with the Western help, its air defense systems have actually been remarkably efficient. And from the very start of the invasion.

YURII IGNAT, SPOKESPERSON, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE (through translator): If this hadn't happened, we would probably not be talking to you now. And there would be no such country as Ukraine. Thanks to the Air Force, we really managed to hold the keys to the sky.

BELL: This is a rare close up look at Iran's technology of death. A shiny drone relatively intact for having been fished out of the Black Sea. At its head, it would have carried 50 kilograms worth of explosives. This is what 20 kilograms looks like.

BELL (voice over): And this is what that looks like on the ground. Part of Russia's devastating war of attrition with civilian casualties on most nights, way beyond the front lines of the East.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Kharkiv.


WHITFIELD: Still ahead. New video showing the Americans who were kidnapped in Mexico just hours before they were attacked. We'll bring you that and the latest on the investigation next.



WHITFIELD: Paul Flores, the man convicted of killing California college student Christian Smart in 1996 has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison without parole. Smart was 19 years old when she vanished in May of 1996. Prosecutors argued Flores raped or attempted to rape Smart and then killed her in his dorm room. Her body has never been found and she was declared legally dead in 2002.

In 2021, new evidence led authorities to arrest Flores and his father. His father was eventually acquitted of charges that he helped hide Smart's body.

And new developments in the case of four Americans who were assaulted and kidnapped by Mexican drug cartel members last week. CNN has obtained a new video showing the Americans just hours before they were attacked. This Facebook live stream video was taken by one of the victims. It shows the four friends driving to a medical appointment in Matamoros but ultimately never showing up there. We're also learning about additional arrests today.

CNN's Carlos Suarez joining us now live from South Carolina where the victims are from. Carlos, this new video, does it help authorities kind of put the pieces together in this investigation?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT Well, Fred, the video does a little bit of that. But it also raises a bunch of a whole other questions because according to the timeline that was laid out by the Mexican government, it appears that the group was driving around in Mexico for about two hours before members of the cartel began following them and the kidnapping took place. So, what they were doing in that time frame, we still do not know.

But an official with information on the investigation tells CNN that right now, there is no indication that the group was doing anything suspicious or that they were doing anything wrong. We know that LaTavia McGee's appointment at that medical clinic for that procedure was scheduled for 7:30 in the morning. Now according to the Mexican government, the group does not cross the border from Texas into Mexico until around 9:00 or 9:30.

And then they drive around for about those two hours when the encounter takes place. So again, exactly why they were running late or what they were doing driving around town for about two hours is still unclear. As for the arrests that were announced by the Mexican government, it is equally unclear at this hour whether the five men that were taken into custody are the same five men that the Mexican cartels said they were going to turn over to Mexican officials.

In the letter that the Mexican cartel released on Thursday, they apologize for the kidnapping and -- the kidnappings rather and the incident and they also said that the group responsible was going to be turned over to authorities.


Late last night, the Mexican government prosecutors released a little bit of information about their initial encounter with the five men, that they were arrested.

We translated some of that information and it's what you're going to take a look at right now.

It says, in part, quote, "Due to the conditions in which five men were found in Matamoros, along with a car and a letter, they were initially treated as victims of crime. But this changed to suspects when they began to report their participation into the events of March 3rd."

Back here in South Carolina, we know Latavia McGee, the woman who was supposed to get the medical procedure, she is doing just fine. She is back in South Carolina with her family.

We talked to the father of Shaeed Woodard. He is one of the two Americans that died in this kidnapping. The family tells me they are still trying to figure out how to get his body back here to South Carolina. As for the body of Zindell Brown, the other American killed in all of

this, we're told his body has been turned over to U.S. authorities.

And then Eric Williams, the other man inside of that van, he is still recovering at a hospital in Texas after undergoing surgery. Fred, he was shot three times in the kidnapping.

WHITFIELD: Incredible.

All right, Carlos Suarez, thanks so much.

A broken U.S. immigration system coming into sharper focus. Immigration advocates say President Biden's border policies look and feel just like the ones under Donald Trump.

CNN's Rosa Flores takes a closer look at how those policies are playing out at one small school for migrant children in Tijuana, Mexico.



ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a deep canyon in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of San Diego, the dreams of children, like Arthur Salazar, a 9-year-old from Guatemala.

(on camera): What's your biggest, biggest dream?


FLORES: To arrive to the U.S.?

(voice-over): And the flaws of the broken U.S. immigration system come into focus.

(on camera): I see little hands and bigger hands.

LINDSEY WEIZERT (ph), OPENED SCHOOL FOR MIGRANT CHILDREN: Yes. We serve preschool age and elementary aged children.

FLORES: Lindsey Weizert (ph) opened this school for migrant children three years ago and says the current border policies have may grant migrants waiting in Mexico.

WEIZERT (ph): My biggest concern is the toll this is going to take on children.

FLORES: Do you like science?


FLORES (voice-over): Arthur arrived in December and says the wait is depressing and sad.


FLORES: He says it's sad because sometimes they don't have food to eat.


FLORES (voice-over): His mom, Jennifer, opened this food stand in front of the school.

(on camera): What are you waiting for?


FLORES: She says the migrants here are stuck because of the "CBP One App."

(voice-over): The new app, launched by the Biden administration, lets asylum seekers set up appointments so they can enter the U.S. legally under an exception to Title 42, the pandemic rules used to return migrants to Mexico.

But getting an appointment is a big challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need a cell phone is the first problem.

FLORES: The head of Tijuana's migrant services says about 5,600 migrants live in shelters and the one port of entry nearby only take 200 appointments a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not enough.

FLORES: Lusedo (ph) says not one person has gotten an appointment in the largest shelter in town, where Jennifer wakes up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to try the app.

(on camera): So error after error after error.


FLORES (voice-over): She took screen grabs. One is a wheel of death. The app asks for a selfie, but doesn't capture her face.

(on camera): This is another one. It says that she must be close to the border.

You're in Tijuana and this is a border town.

FLORES (voice-over): Then-Candidate Joe Biden said this during the presidential debate in 2020.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the first president in the history of the United States of America to send anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country.

That's never happened before in America. They're sitting in squalor on the other side of the river.


FLORES: The scene President Biden describes then appears to be happening under his administration, too.

But light shines even in the deepest canyons. Remember the handprints?

(on camera): This was a migrant child who was here learning and they're most likely in the U.S. now.

FLORES (voice-over): Their hope that dreams come true.

(on camera): The White House pushes back on comparisons of current border policies to those from the Trump era, saying the Biden administration has expanded legal pathways to come into the country.

About the app, CBP says it's working as intended, and that the criticism that it doesn't recognize darker faces is unfounded.

CBP spokesperson telling me that CBP has processed 40,000 appointments from over 85 countries since January. The top three are Haitian, Venezuelan and Russian.

The issue with facial detection is how the photos are being taken, not on ethnicity. Meaning that it could be bad lighting or the framing of the lighting of the photo.


And about that huge demand, that means that these appointments are being taken in a matter of minutes.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Los Angeles.


WHITFIELD: And in an unprecedented interview, Iran's longest-held American prisoner makes an emotional plea to U.S. President Joe Biden. That's next.


WHITFIELD: An American citizen held in an Iranian prison makes a desperate plea for freedom.

Iranian-American Siamak Namazi speaks exclusively with CNN's Christiane Amanpour by phone from inside Iran's notorious Evin Prison.

He has been behind bars since 2015 and claims he was left behind by the American government.

In a plea to President Biden, he asks not to be forgotten.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Fredricka, you can imagine, when we were given the opportunity to engage in this conversation, an enormous weight of responsibility, a bit of a fear about what might happen.


But knowing it was Siamak's decision, because he felt so utterly alone and so abandoned and so out of options being in prison for seven years now.

He calls himself a hostage. He refused any of the charges that were levelled against him and have caused him to spend seven years of a 10- year sentence in Evin Prison.

Desperate he is to get a message to President Biden, because he will be the one who has to agree to any deal with the Iranian government to get himself and the other remaining Iranian-American prisoners out of Evin and back home.

Here's part of what he told us.


SIAMAK NAMAZI, IRANIAN-AMERICAN HELD IN IRANIAN PRISON (through telephone): I think the very fact that I have chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin Prison, it should just tell you how dire my situation has become by this point.

I have been a hostage for seven and a half years now. That is six times the duration of the hostage crisis. I keep getting told that I'm going to be rescued and deals fall apart or I get left abandoned.

Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out and to finally hear our cry for help and bring us home.

And I suppose, desperate times call for desperate measures. So this is a desperate measure.

Today, I'm in the general ward. The situation in the general ward is far better than in the corner hell that used to be in at the detention center.

It's far from a pleasant place to be in, but everything becomes relative.

My situation today is very different than the first 27 months of my arrest when I was still being held at the detention center. There my situation was really precarious. I did not feel safe at all.

And I want to mention that the Obama administration knew exactly, exactly how unsafe I was. I made sure of that.

At that point, I could see that my captors had made it a mission to strip me of any semblance of human decency.

I spent months caged. I spent months caged in a solitary cell. It was the size of a closet, sleeping on the floor, being fed like a dog from under the door. And honestly, that was the least of my troubles. And to this day --

I'm sorry. I didn't realize this was going to happen.

AMANPOUR: Siamak, you are under extreme duress.

NAMAZI: I'm really sorry. It's so hard for me.

I suppose the positive side is someday some therapist is going to make a bit of money out of this. OK.

AMANPOUR: You are able to make these quips. And there is some positivity to hear that you are still robust and you still have your strength.

I want to ask you about the -

NAMAZI: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: - other Americans. Because what you've said is you just don't understand why you have been left behind, particularly over a period of years in which other Americans have been released in deals between Iran and the United States.


AMANPOUR: There was a release in 2016, around the Iranian nuclear deal, including Jason Rezaian, the journalist. Then again in 2019 and 2020.

Each time you were left behind. Do you know why? Do you know why you were not included in that group?

NAMAZI: No. I've been imprisoned all this time. Obviously, I'm not in touch with U.S. officials.

Now I have served prison time, interestingly enough, with some people who were on the other side of the negotiation table during that 2016 hostage situation with the U.S.

They also tell me that the Americans did not push very hard. Why? That's a question that I really would love for you to ask Secretary Kerry someday.

AMANPOUR: Siamak, we will get your message out to the world. And thank you for being so brave as to talk to us at this time.

NAMAZI: I - I - I would really appreciate it if I could also - if I could also get a chance to address the president directly.

AMANPOUR: Go ahead.


NAMAZI: President Biden, I certainly hear and I sincerely appreciate your administration's repeated declarations that freeing the American hostages in Iran is a top priority. But I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn't

appreciate how dire our situation has become.

It's also very hurtful and upsetting that after 25 months in office you haven't found the time to meet with our families, to just give them some words of assurance.

Sir -- Morad, Emad and I have now collectively languished here for 18 years. Our lives and families have been utterly devastated. We desperately, desperately need you to finally conclude that we suffered long enough as Iran's hostages.

President Biden, you and you alone have the power to deliver an Obama administration's broken promise to my family.

I implore you, sir, to put the lives and liberty of innocent Americans above all the politics involved and to just do what is necessary to end this nightmare and bring us home.

Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Now, we also understand from experts that there is some kind of deal potentially in the works.

It would obviously be, like all the others abroad, whether it's British hostages or other Americans, involve some kind of either prisoner swap or financial quid pro quo.

And we understand that Qatar is acting as an intermediary right now.

Of course, it happens at a time when the United States has very big arguments and conflicts with Iran over, certainly, the Iran nuclear deal. That still hasn't been signed.

Over Iran, allegations of sending weaponry to Russia to use in its war against Ukraine. And of course, over Iran's crackdown on human rights over the women's movement.

But many are saying you've got to be able to separate this and do what it takes to bring Iranian-Americans back home - Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Christian Amanpour, thank you so much.

The Iranian government still has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

The U.S. government says Iran's unjust imprisonment of U.S. citizens is outrageous and inhumane.

Coming up, cleanup efforts under way in Alabama after another Norfolk Southern train derailed this week. Officials believe defective wheels could be to blame. Details straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: All right, cleanup efforts are now under way in Alabama, after another Norfolk Southern train derailed this week in Calhoun County.

It's just the latest in a string of derailments across the country that's raising concerns about safety on the tracks.

It comes on the heels of yet another derailment, this time in Springfield, Ohio, last week. The exact cause still under investigation.

Norfolk Southern says it found loose wheels on a series of cars involved in the incident.

Officials believe there are nearly 700 rail cars nationwide that could have an issue with loose or defective wheels similar to the Springfield, Ohio, derailment.

Let's bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval.

Polo, what more are you learning about these derailments.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, we want to remind viewers that the administration says there's roughly 1,000 derailments that happen a year.

However, these are certainly increasing that attention on these lines that are going through communities and, in some cases, hauling cargo freight that is considered hazardous.

The good news in this latest incident, Norfolk Southern confirming the train was not carrying any hazardous material when it derailed this week in Calhoun County, Alabama.

But look at the mess it's left to clean up. This is going to be ongoing for 24 hours a day, according to authorities. They're basically going to be cleaning out what's left behind. No injuries to report. No hazmat.

There were reports, according to the company, that a couple of the cars did carry hazardous material initially at one point. However, they were empty at the time of the incident.

But look at it from a wider perspective, you have the toxic incident last month in East Palestine, you have the other incident you just talked about in Springfield, Ohio, a month later, which the company discovered that it had some loose wheels that they're looking at.

And then, of course, a recent one in West Virginia as well that a CSX train was involved in.

So you bundle it altogether and it certainly is going to lead to concerns and very serious questions for the people who live in these communities that have these trains going through their neighborhoods. These are questions that are being echoed by legislators as well.

They're calling on a closer look at these lines - Fred?

WHITFIELD: Yes, pretty big concerns.

Thank you so much, Polo Sandoval.

U.S. markets ended the week lower after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank yesterday, sending investors on Wall Street scrambling.

And the banking fallout upstaged what was set to be the biggest news of the day, the February jobs report.

CNN's Christine Romans has more on how the U.S. economy beat expectations last month.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Another strong month of hiring in American offices, malls, restaurants, hotels and construction sites.

Despite headlines of layoffs in tech and finance, employers added workers at a brisk pace, cooling from January's huge half a million jobs but still historically strong.

The tight jobs market bringing bigger paychecks, average hourly earnings up 4.6 percent on an annual basis.


Economists and Fed officials anxious to see wage growth cool because it feeds into inflation.

The jobless rate ticked up to 3.6 percent, still near the lowest levels in more than 50 years. Leisure and hospitality led payroll gains, adding 105,000 jobs.

Every report, another piece of evidence for investors and the Fed in its quest to slow down the economy and bring down inflation.

The Consumer Price Index for February, retail sales, the Producer Price Index and consumer sentiment all on tap this week.


WHITFIELD: Christine Romans, thank you so much for that.

All right, coming up, California's Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency as floods wash away roads, leaving some residents stranded. The latest forecast, straight ahead.