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CNN Tonight

Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Over The U.S.; Montana Man Filmed Spy Balloon It Passed Above Billings; Two Police Departments Unveil Black History Month Cruisers, Days After Release Of Tyre Nichols Video; Police Cruisers With Black History Month Designs Gets Criticized; Man Arrested For Dallas Zoo Theft Of Monkeys; Arctic Blast Hits Northern U.S. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 03, 2023 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates and this is CNN TONIGHT.

Well, they say what goes up must come down. Of course, the question tonight is where is that exactly and when will it come down? And, by the way, how will it come down? The it, of course, a spy balloon. The Pentagon refusing to say whether they are considering shooting it down what looks like a Chinese spy balloon floating high above some pretty sensitive sites in this country. But officials telling CNN they haven't ruled it out either.

Meanwhile, this balloon, which is the size, by the way, of three school buses, is just meandering along thousands of feet up in the sky. It was spotted twice on Wednesday over Montana and twice over Missouri today, including in Columbia, Missouri, this very afternoon, where this exclusive footage was shot.

Now, it's flying about 60,000 feet up, about 18,000 feet higher than a commercial airplane does. And now the Pentagon says there is another Chinese spy balloon that is currently somewhere over Latin America. We will talk about what the heck is going on in the skies tonight.

And here to help us figure all of this out, CNN's Tom Foreman and Military Analyst Colonel Cedric Leighton. I'm so glad to have both of you here.

Let me begin with you, Tom, at the magic wall, because where has this balloon been and where is it going?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if we trust what the military thinks about it, where it's been was China flying over the Aleutian Islands, coming in over Canada and then drifting down in here to Montana, where we had these sightings that you mentioned a minute ago, of course, a sensitive area because there are missile facilities up there, I used to live in South Dakota near a missile facility, and now sighted down here around Missouri. Last we heard maybe somewhere around Saint Louis. So, where is it going? That's a great question. If it's being purely pushed by the jet stream, which travels about 110 miles per hour, if that is what it's doing and if it's keeping pace with that, then you might say that if it traveled along this predicted route that it might be right now somewhere between Nashville and Louisville, Kentucky. That's just a guess on math.

The math could be completely wrong. The winds can change. The speed can change. And how much the balloon is reacting to that can also change. But the idea is that if it continued on this path, it would reach the coast over here near the outer banks. Obviously, it could be further south, a little bit further north. But that's what the jet stream is tending to push. And at that speed, nine, ten hours, something like that, from where we last had a sighting of it, that is no guarantee, whatsoever, but that's where might it be now and that's where it was making its way there, Laura.

COATES: So, what exactly do we know about this balloon? People have an image of what they think is happening and what it looks like, we have seen some images, but what do we know about this balloon, Tom?

FOREMAN: Well, as you noted, it's called the size of three buses. Little confusing there because they may just be talking about the overall size of the balloon. The balloons that NASA does that like this, in terms of high performance like this, are made of polyethylene, basically no thicker than a sandwich bag. They are filled with helium typically, some of them are made to stay up for a very long time, and they can lift several thousand pounds if you are doing this and controlling it for scientific purposes.

Eventually, what you would do is you would release the balloon. It would let the helium out, separate from the payload, which would drop by parachute back down to Earth. That's how you retrieve your equipment if you wanted to. That's what we know about the balloon.

We know it's visible to the naked eye. Even though as you noted, it's way up there. It's high enough up around, you know, 11 miles up or so that you can see it if the lighting is just right, if it's bouncing off it just right. It's in an area where, I tell you, you can't survive, I can't survive because you are not in a pressure suit or something, way too cold, way too little oxygen but a possible threat if airplanes went through the general area, although they're, again, as you noted, much lower than that in a common sense. But when you don't know what it is and you don't know when it might start coming down, obviously, a lot of safety there. That's what we know about it.

Other than that, a lot of questions about exactly what it was doing here and where it's going to wind up.

COATES: Colonel Leighton, let me bring you in here, because one of the big questions -- what we do know about it is that it's in our airs space. And there have been a lot of calls to make sure it's no longer in our airspace and bring it down. Should that happen?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Laura, what you really want to do is you want to gain the intelligence value that you can from this particular balloon. Because you know that there are sensors on there, you want to prove your case, if you are the United States government, you want to prove your case that this actually is a surveillance balloon.


So, one thing to make the assertion, it's quite another to say, look, we have the proof, we have the sensors, we know the sensors communicate with the space station in China or whatever the case may be, and that's the kind of thing that you want to have because once you have that, then you can take measures to mitigate these kinds of systems as they come in and you can also use this as a way in which to, frankly, embarrass China on the diplomatic front.

COATES: And so the idea of taking it down has been called for. That seems to imply destroying it at the airspace. But you are saying it would be more prudent from the intelligence standpoint to have it come down, to have it intact to be able to study and know exactly what it is, what it's been transmitting and its capabilities?

LEIGHTON: That's exactly right. Because what you want is a controlled descent, one that you control, one where, if you are really lucky, you get into the data stream that controls the balloon and make it land on your command, not on the command of the controller in China. And when you do that, you bring it down easily. You can examine it. You can say, okay, this is what these pieces do, this is how it works, this is where these things -- in essence, you are reverse engineering it.

COATES: I wonder if that's one of the reason we heard from the brigadier general, Patrick Ryder, who talked about the balloon having the ability to maneuver but wasn't very specific to go beyond that about who it was and how it's done. Maybe it's the idea of partially the unknown but maybe partially not wanting to divulge too much information.

But as you are talking about it, obviously, just the jet stream we have already seen. At some point, if it continues on this path, it will no longer be above our airspace and in the control and the domain of the United States. Is there a point in time where they are going to have to make a decision whether to destroy it or wait for it to land controlled?

LEIGHTON: Yes. If they want to look at it from a purely legalistic standpoint, it's much better if you bring it down on your territory, or in your territorial waters. So, that's what you really want to do. You want to bring it down in a way that you can control every single last aspect of it. It's certainly technically possible to bring it down over the ocean but then it becomes a bit legally questionable when you have got it in international waters as opposed to on your own territory or on your own waters.

COATES: Let me go to you, Tom, on that point. You have been following along the trajectory of this and sort of the flight paths, so to speak, of this balloon. Is there a particular area where it could be brought down perhaps in a controlled manner where, really, to minimize any disruption to what would be on the ground? FOREMAN: Well, safety on the ground, the places to do that have already passed. If you look at this path and you look at basically where the U.S. population is, look, the density is much, much less out here where it was. It's been moving over more dense areas. So, the idea of just dropping it here, if you are worried about risk, that's not great place for it.

And I will note, I always love having Colonel Leighton with us because he always has great insights into all of this. But when you talk about this area right here, let's say, the outer banks here, really, the part that is the territorial waters, if we put it in statute miles, it is only about 14 miles. It's not far. If you want to drop it right at that point, I have no doubt that the U.S. military could take it out of the sky right when it cleared the safety zone as long as they had no boats in the water there.

But it's still a narrow band there and I don't know how you guarantee it doesn't sink when you drop it. So, the problem is there has to be, as the colonel suggested, you either have to somehow take over control of it and trigger it to do this the way it's supposed to do it, which is tricky, or you have to try to shoot it down in some fashion that either doesn't bring it down dramatically or quickly or you just take your chances and you drop it here in that little narrow band and hope that that works.

Now, I will point out my finger here is making a band that is much, much, much wider than that 14 miles would be.

COATES: Real quick, I do want to get to one more thing, but while I have you here, Colonel Leighton, let me ask you, it's already covered a great part of the United States of America and presumably it's gone over things that are highly sensitive in nature. What do you make of the idea -- is there a way for us to be less vulnerable to what it could have already seen?

LEIGHTON: Yes. One of the things that you do, if you know it's coming, you can certainly change your communications pattern, you can hide things. For example, let's say, you have planes on a runway and you don't want the adversary to see those planes, you can camouflage them, you can put them in other places, you can do a lot of different things like that. But if you have no warning, then, of course, the intelligence picture becomes much less advantageous to you and much more advantageous to the adversary.

COATES: A really important point, I want to discuss more with the international implications here of all this. Fareed Zakaria, Host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, joins us now. Fareed, I'm glad you're here and you have been hearing the conversation, of course. And one of the things that was not shocking to people is the idea that there were -- the Chinese were spying, in some part, that there was a possibility of spying. Frankly, the U.S. and China have been known to spy on one another over the course of time.


So, what is it about this that is -- makes this so different? FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, it's a very good question. I think the discussion was fascinating about the mechanics of all this. But as you say, you step back and you ask yourself the big picture. This feels a little bit like that line in Casa Blanca where we are suddenly shocked to discover that the Chinese are spying on us.

Of course, the Chinese are spying on us. By the way, we spy on them probably a lot more than they spy on us. So, the national security agency has probably the biggest budget for all of this kind of stuff around the world.

The Chinese also have military satellites going around, you know, the United States constantly, probably have all the information that they are looking for. You were talking about sensitive sites. It's highly unlikely that there is something in Montana that has not been photographed by Chinese military satellites. There is some marginal increases you get because the balloon is lower.

But, you know, these balloons are very crude. I mean, this is stuff that was used during the French revolution, during the American civil war. This is not exactly cutting-edge technology. It does have a few advantages. But for the most part, the Chinese do this routinely. We do it routinely.

The really interesting question is why should something like this cause this kind of collective freak-out, particularly on the right, where people seem, you know, to be willing to get into a conversation about conflict and war over a balloon and then the administration finds itself having to react and cancel a trip by the secretary of state all over something, as I said, we know they do? We do it as well.

COATES: Well, I mean, it is visible to the eye. So, perhaps that's part of the reason why people are now more aware of it or you've got people actually everyday civilians now seeing what has probably been known to others. But there is something about perhaps the point being that they don't care if it's seen and what does that actually say about how they feel about the relationship with this country.

But there is also -- you mentioned technology. And I agree. I mean, depending what's in this balloon, not the most high brow level of technology. Senator Mitt Romney did today, though, talk about TikTok. He talked about that as being a bigger source to be concerned about than a balloon. In fact, he says a big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let's shut them all down. Is TikTok, ought it be a big concern?

ZAKARIA: Yes, I think that's a much more interesting problem. What exactly is the vulnerability? What kind of data are they getting? Can that data be returned to China? Is there a way to create servers in the United States where the data is stored here and it cannot be transferred to China?

I am a little reluctant to -- the United States believes in freedom of speech, and let's say what TikTok to be transferred to American ownership. Would that solve the problem? But, yes, there is something I think that is very real. It's very new. It's a kind of cyber war or cyber intelligence that we don't quite know how to handle. And I would be all for a serious investigation into it.

But, by the way, Laura, I still don't believe that these kinds of things should shut down communication between the United States and China. The secretary of state of the United States does not go to China to meet his counterparts as a favor to China. He does it in order to secure the interests of the United States, to clarify the United States' position in the world, to achieve some degree of stability and guardrails in that relationship and to preserve peace between the two largest economies in the world, and, increasingly, the two largest military powers in the world.

It seems like it has been treated like some kind of gift that is now being withdrawn, and I think that's the wrong way to think about international diplomacy. We are engaged in this precisely because we have problems with the Chinese.

COATES: I want to read for you a statement on what China has said about it just so you can -- this is from the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, saying it is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes. The airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace. You can flag the idea of the word regret being used by the spokesperson, but does that surprise you, the statement that was made, given all that you said and the idea of not believing it was in the interest in the United States, frankly, for Blinken to even cancel the trip?


ZAKARIA: Well, it's difficult to know what is going on there. The Chinese routinely, as I say, do engage in espionage. It's quite possible that this is, in fact, a spy balloon. It's possible, as some have suggested, it may have had dual purposes. What I'm pretty sure is that it's not some kind of highly sophisticated new step. The very fact that it's veered so far off course tells us that it's not particularly well controlled at this point.

So, I think that more than anything else this whole episode has revealed to me the degree of anxiety and insecurity, particularly on the right, where there is a kind of paranoia about what is going on in China, what the Chinese can do. And it's very troubling because, look, this is a very, very serious relationship that we need to be able to approach in a way that secures America's interest, preserves the peace, make sure that we deter China, and it doesn't help to have a kind of collective freak-out over a balloon.

COATES: Well, until we know what it is, I wonder if it is just a balloon or not, we will have to wait and see, Fareed. But we will see if information comes in.

ZAKARIA: Well, it is a balloon for sure.

COATES: It's a balloon. It definitely is a balloon.

ZAKARIA: We don't know what (INAUDIBLE) it is.

COATES: You're right. It is a balloon. It is absolutely a balloon. Now, what it can do in the capacity, we will have to defer to those who are specialized. But you are point is well taken about what the reaction is and something that maybe people don't realize is as commonplace, which says a lot about our relationship. Nice to talk to you.

ZAKARIA: Thank you as always.

COATES: Well, you might be tempted to go outside to see if you can catch a glimpse of the balloon, and Fareed is right, it is, in fact, a balloon.

But next, we have got a man who saw it for himself and then caught the whole thing on camera.



COATES: All eyes on the skies tonight as the nation is tracking the progress of the suspected Chinese spy balloon floating above the United States. My next guest was actually able to catch footage of the balloon as it passed over his Montana workplace. And Michael Alverson joins me from Billings, Montana. Michael, thank you for joining us this evening. We are getting a lot out of the footage to see what actually it looked like and just how close it was for it to be visible to the naked eye. What did you do when you first saw it? And, really, what did you think it was?

MICHAEL ALVERSON, FILMED CHINESE SURVEILLANCE BALLOON: At first we were working on some stuff and I happened to glance up at the sky while we were working. And I had noticed what appeared to me to be kind of like the moon. And then I appeared to look off to the right and noticed that the moon was out, clear as day, and that's when it started to bring concerns to me and my co-workers at the time.

COATES: What were you concerned about? What did you think it was?

ALVERSON: At first, when we saw it, it kind of had a tail on it, it seemed like. So, we were kind of thinking it might have been the comet that everybody was talking about that was coming through around this time. Then it kind of just stopped and started just hovering there and it seemed to just get bigger and get bigger as the sphere got closer to Billings.

And then we decided to bust out some binoculars and try to look at it, get a closer look at it. And it appeared to be a balloon of some sort. So, then we kind of just assumed that it was a weather balloon and didn't really think much more of it. So, I grabbed my camera and tried to get a good shot of it as well as I could for an iPhone and decided to post it up on my media page to see if anybody by chance in the area knew what it could be.

COATES: I mean, I am so glad that you did and got footage of it as well. It's so fascinating to see. But tell me, what is around you in Billings, Montana? And I wonder how people there are reacting. Because if it is a suspected spy balloon from China, many are wondering what it possibly could be seeing in your area?

ALVERSON: I am not really sure. There is not a whole lot around here in the Billings area. We used to have an old military air force base up there from Northridge of Billings, but it's no longer really a thing anymore. We just have the Logan International Airport right there as far as I know of anything that they'd possibly want to look into, I suppose, if it were to be a spy balloon.

COATES: Do you think that it should have been shot down or taken down in some way?

ALVERSON: Yes. I was hearing that they had a good opportunity to possibly shoot it down when it was more out in the middle of nowhere in Montana but they decided not go with it. And I feel like -- have an idea to get a better, closer look at what we were trying to see in the sky, I suppose.

COATES: Do you -- are people feeling in your area, in your community, are they reacting to the fact that it was in and around the skies around you? Has there been a sentiment about how people feel about the fact that it was this close?

ALVERSON: Yes. I definitely feel like it's kind of similar to like, I guess, a house break-in, I suppose, a foreign object flying into the United States airspace --

COATES: I mean, I wonder what --

ALVERSON: -- a source of uncomfort.

COATES: I hear you, please.

ALVERSON: -- since it wasn't normal or natural.

COATES: I'm sure it comes as quite a shock to think about that. And I know you have got -- I think you got some pretty major oil refineries in your area as well. I think there are three in the area. So, I am curious as to what it would have been like if they shot it down or taken it down, whether there would have been damage on the ground below or, of course, people who were in the area.

But, listen, I so appreciate you taking the footage, Michael, and allowing people to have a closer look and seeing what you saw in that moment. Thank you.

ALVERSON: Yes, thank you, guys.

COATES: Everyone, look, police departments in Florida and also Ohio showing off cruisers, unveiling them, as you see, that are wrapped in black history month artwork. But it happened just days after the video released showing the beating of Tyre Nichols. More in a moment.


COATES: All right. Everyone, check this out. This week, two police departments, one in Miami and another in Columbus, Ohio, unveiling police cruisers that are wrapped in black history month artwork. The Columbus cruiser even featuring Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote that says be the peace you wish to see in the world.

Mind you, the unveiling of these cruisers does come just days after the video release showing the horrific deadly beating suffered by Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis police officers. We are also learning tonight that the officer that was heard saying, quote, I hope they stomp his ass, unquote, on that video of that initial traffic stop has now been officially terminated and departmentally charged after being placed on leave this Monday. The department determining Preston Hemphill violated multiple department policies, including personal conduct and truthfulness.

Now, he is the sixth officer to be fired and one other officer is on leave, and of course, five have been charged with second-degree murder among other charges as well.

Joining me now is CNN Political Commentator Karen Finney, Republican Strategist Rina Shah and former Head of Intelligence for the D.C. Homeland Security Department Donell Harvin. I'm glad to see you all here today.

Let's begin with these unveiling of the police cruisers that were wrapped in black history month artwork.


I do wonder what you make it. Is it tone deaf? Is it something -- is that a rhetorical question? What do you make of it?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's tone deaf. It's absolutely tone deaf to the point of actually being offensive. And it's the kind of thing where, you know, if you -- I suppose you can give them the credit that they were trying to do the right thing, but it's one of those situations where if you don't know, ask.

So, instead of saying, hey, let's wrap our car in, you know, quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. on the heels, not only of that video, but in the middle of a national conversation, right, about the relationship between police and communities of color. Ask. Ask a community leader who is African-American, is this a good idea? Is this not a good idea?

COATES: So, if you follow that thread, I mean, the idea that if this cruiser were in rotation, of course, right, and then arrested somebody, this is the car that would be holding the person and if that person happens to be African-American you can see where this would be going. And I would mention, I want to hear your take on this, Donell, but I mentioned that both Miami and Columbus police departments, they tweeted statements, by the way, about Tyre Nichols. Columbus' statement for example says, after -- it's the chief, Elaine

Bryant -- after watching the videos released of the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols from the Memphis Police Department, I am deeply heartbroken and saddened. The actions of these former officers do not represent the standards we hold here at the Columbus Division of Police. Our officers are trained to treat every individual with dignity and humanity. We respect our community's right to voice their frustration and we will give them the space to do so peacefully." And talked about, "continuing to listen and work together to build trust."

Miami similarly did so as well. Their chief of police, Manuel Morales, also talking about the idea of wanting to show support. I wonder what your take is?

DONELL HARVIN, FORMER HEAD OF INTELLIGENCE, D.C. HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: It's certainly tone deaf. I'll try to give some deference to these police departments. These things don't happen in a week. They probably commissioned these things months ago. But certainly, they could have pulled that back and waited for a better time.

We have seen these types of wraps, emergency response vehicles for other types of months. So, breast cancer awareness and things of that nature. The problem is that I think it minimalizes particularly during Black History Month the impact and the positive type of contributions that Black History Month is supposed to represent.

And so, to do that on the heels of Tyre Nichols' death I think is poor taste, it's a horrible coms issue for them and it certainly, I think sparks a conversation about rethinking what Black History Month means. Is it just wrapping in a police vehicle? Is it being prospective and looking at what contributions can be made or looking backward? And I think it's a bad look for law enforcement right now and hopefully nobody does that again.

COATES: You know, you make a good point about particularly how this is not the first time this was done. Even in Columbus, Ohio. They actually talked about and responded to a lot of the criticism about it and talked about how as part of their community engagement they had their cruiser that is commemorating numerous holidays and events and they have done so for LGBTQ Pride Month, breast cancer awareness that you mentioned, Veterans Day and the holiday season. They plan to do so more this year.

But to the point that Donell raised as well, Rina, there is something about the performative aspect as opposed to the understanding of what the awareness months are actually supposed to be for. So, does this fall into the category of performative without going beneath the surface and then ending up with P.R. issues?

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think a bigger P.R. issue is with that one in Miami, the vehicle that was covered in graphics of Africa. Not every black American feels this connection to Africa. And to have this imagery, I thought was really confusing and, frankly, wrong. I think that was a bit of a P.R. stunt and it feels wrong.

When you look at that and you think, that's performative. That is trying to make it look like we are doing something here. And what is it really doing? It's not being an ally. Allyship isn't performative. There is a whole new generation of leaders coming up that are looking at law enforcement and they know the history, the dark history, the harmful history between black Americans and law enforcement in this country.

People who've been trusted to be agents of the law we with saw take Tyre Nichols' life away from him in the most cruel way possible. And that just doesn't sit right with me. And with so many other people who are non-black. So, what do we do now when we, again, talk about this next generation of leaders who are coming up in this era of authenticity, they want that talk and the walk to match and they are going to call people out for it.

COATES: I want to play for a second and I want to hear a response that Karen as well, what the Miami Police Department actually said in response. Here was their video statement.



STANLEY JEAN-POIX, CHIEF, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT: You know from the past we have had breast cancer, autism, military. So, in keeping with the tradition, we had a lot of officers and members come up to us and say, hey, how come we don't have one for Black History? We have one for the Hispanic Heritage Month.

And so, we said, sure. You know, we'll try to work on something and reach out to the chief and see, you know, what to work on. This was something for us to honor everyone. This had nothing to do with, you know, being disrespectful, being disgraceful, but this was something like the social pride for us, and is still is.


COATES: Karen, what's your thought?

FINNEY: Interesting to see who they put it out -- put out to clean it up. But also, you know, on all of these things, I would say just from a communications standpoint and having doing -- as someone who does public affairs work, speak to the community. It's a lost opportunity to not talk to the community and say we want to do something special for Black History Month. We want to do something for LGBTQ awareness. We want to be good allies. What can we do?

How -- if we -- you know, these cruisers probably spent $5,000, $10,000. What can we do with that money? Is there a community event that they could do to show their allyship that actually help to build a stronger bond and a stronger relationship between the community and the police officers. Again, I think it's, like you say, it's performative to just do a wrap when you have an opportunity to actually engage the community in a conversation.

COATES: And not to be outdone here, it's not just police departments. The IRS has weighed in on this as well, by the way. There was this tweet from the IRS criminal investigation today saying that, quote, "It celebrates the rich history and impactful contributions of black Americans to our nation and around the world during #BlackHistoryMonth."

Now, remember, just the other day, of course you were watching this program, I would hope, because we illuminated an issue that happened involving a study that showed that black American taxpayers are three times as likely as their white counterparts to be audited by the IRS. And I want to be clear, we've shown that tweet. This division that tweeted is not tied in the IRS to the algorithm that was making that happen.

But of course, the question would be, the idea of the right-hand and left hand being able to know what it was doing and the performative versus putting substance ahead of form. A lot more to talk about. Thank you to all of you. We also have a big update in the Dallas Zoo saga. Police now arresting a suspect in connection with habitat tampering.

But now in New York a Eurasian eagle owl has escaped the Central Park Zoo after its exhibit was vandalized. Those stories are next.



COATES: Tonight, a 24-year-old man in Texas is facing at least eight charges in connection with the tampering of animal habitats at the Dallas Zoo. Davion Irvin was arrested last night and charged with six counts of animal cruelty and the suspected theft of two tamarin monkeys earlier this week, and they were later found, you may recall, safe in an abandoned building.

Irvin also faces two charges of burglary in connection with the tamarin's and tampering of the clouded leopard's enclosure. Police all say that he is linked to the tampering of the langur monkey's habitat as well, but has not been charged in that incident. The zoo's president speaking this afternoon.


GREGG HUDSON, PRESIDENT, DALLAS ZOO: It's been an unbelievable three weeks for all of us here at the zoo and, you know, it's unprecedented what happened here.


COATES: Let's talk more about what is going on at the Dallas Zoo and what has happened there. Back with me again is wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, host of "Wildlife Nation." Jeff, I'm glad to see you this Friday night. You and I have been talking since this all began, the incident after incident after incident after incident, and now here we have a suspect who is -- has been arrested after being seen at the Dallas aquarium near animal exhibits there as well. And police believe that he may have been trying to commit another crime. What do you think is the motive or going on here? JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLIGIST: It's just really insidious. These

animals have paid such a horrible price. The great news is they've captured this gentleman and he is being held, I think, on $25,000 bail and I think he's in jail right now. There are also other crimes. So, we're looking at the state and the local crimes in Dallas.

A lot of people don't realize that since the 1900s, we've had some very strict regulatory laws that are designed to protect species, especially endangered species and when they cross county lines or other states. That's known as the Lacey Act. That could come up with five years in prison and I think upwards to $100,000 in fines.

COATES: I mean, the possibility is really are far more expansive than the idea of a prank or something that was supposed to be menial in nature. I will say we don't have any reporting whatsoever that there is a connection to that vulture, but you raise the possibility of course of the investigation is likely ongoing, especially because the Dallas Zoo did say today that the staff is still even having somebody who is a suspect and has been arrested, they are still on high alert. And I'm wondering, I mean, if this is maybe part of a larger operation, do you foresee that one person could have been responsible for these excessive acts that we've seen so far?

CORWIN: Well, Laura, as we earlier had discussed as this wild story, I mean literally a wild story began a week ago, is how that it's really hard to get these animals into the multibillion-dollar black market wildlife trade.


So, when we find that they were left to their own devices, these tamarin monkeys, these Emperor tamarin monkeys, these primates, that tells me I don't think he knew what he was doing. But he was stealthy enough he could get in there and get these animals out. And while we don't know what that connection is with the vulture, there seems to be some connection with these other species.

That for me is good news, that maybe one person is the culprit behind all of this. What really upsets me, Laura, is that what happened at the Dallas Zoo is bad enough. Again, a world-class zoo. It really is devastated that incredible community of conservationists there. We are now seeing copycat crimes in other zoos across the country.

COATES: I want to go there now because there is that new story tonight out of New York. And their City Central Park Zoo officials are saying that they are trying to recapture a Eurasian eagle owl named Flaco. Apparently, he escaped last night after the stainless-steel mesh of his exhibit was cut.

And this is, I mean, it's one thing for the Dallas Zoo and you see the concentration of different events happening. There was the one in Louisiana. There was the missing squirrel monkeys. And now in New York City, you mentioned the copycat aspect of this. I mean, are people becoming emboldened to see if they can try to accomplish something as well. And you've got to wonder what the end game will be in these instances as well. CORWIN: I think there definitely is that sort of underlying component

here of someone wanting to try to get away with this. We often see this with crimes like this. We see the copycat echo effect. In this case, this beautiful species, I mean, the Eurasian eagle owl is absolutely spectacular.

It's as big as an eagle, even though it's an owl, hence, its name, eagle owl. The only thing that's the saving grace here, Laura, is that this is a species that can thrive. They are incredibly hearty. They survive from Siberia to north Africa. So, these vicious cold spells we're having in New England and New York, I'm confident this owl will survive these elements until they can get into a position to secure this animal, this owl, and get him back to the zoo.

Again, they found that its enclosure had been vandalized, had been tampered with. One note I want to tell people, a lot of people are so worried about this eagle owl and millions of people flock, literally flock to Central Park every year to see the incredible birds that are there.

If you see this owl, you want to give it space. We don't want to push it off into traffic or harm's way. Once they have this animal secure, they will grab it and put it back into its home where it belongs at the zoo. But the saving grace is that this is an owl that lives in a cold environment. So, he should survive the cold harsh conditions of the Big Apple.

COATES: Well, as you say, you know, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, they say. It's up to you, New York, New York. We'll see if he lives through for that particular old adage to actually be applicable. Thank you so much, Jeff Corwin.

I certainly hope that this is a lesson, although, for other zoos around the area as well, but if people are trying to duplicate and be copycats, that is not just Dallas, it's not just New York, it's not just Louisiana, there has to be precautions almost in a national way. It's a sad testament to what's happening right now. Thank you, Jeff Corwin. Nice talking to you.

CORWIN: Thank you (inaudible). Two hoots to that.

COATES: I like it.

What I don't like and many of you don't like as well I'm sure is the arctic air that's blasting through the northeast with gusty winds bringing temperatures as low as 32 degrees below zero. The cold so dangerous, New York City is enacting Code Blue.



COATES: A blast of arctic air is blanketing the entire northeastern part of the country tonight. Temperatures plunging to dangerous levels, forcing many schools to even close today. Emergency plans are activated in many cities, especially to encourage homeless people to move into shelters.

It is so bitter cold, a new national record for the lowest windchill temperature has likely been recorded at Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Get this. Negative 108 degrees Fahrenheit just about three hours ago, negative 108. The arctic cold front moved into Oswego, New York, overnight packing ferocious winds and snow squalls and triggering thundersnow.

Take a look at this photo posted by the National Weather Service. The arctic blast causing what's called a steam devil to form this afternoon over Lake Champlain in Vermont. The agency says it's also known as a cold air funnel, which forms when arctic air passes over a warm body of water. Now, all of New England is under a winter chill alert. Reporter Adriana Sanchez of our affiliate WMTW in Portland, Maine, demonstrating just how dangerous the conditions really are.


ADRIANA SANCHEZ, WMTW REPORTER: My scarf, my hair, the winds here in Maine at least in southern Maine are really intense and we did do a science experiment this morning. Let me show you. We wet a pair of sweatpants that we found and it took less than half an hour for them to be frozen like this, really showing that if you get a piece of clothing wet, your gloves, your hat, pants, a shirt wet, you need to go inside and change immediately. It could be really dangerous for you. You might get frostbite.


COATES: Well, from frozen clothes in Maine to frozen pasta in Vermont.


UNKNOWN: In the winter there is nothing like hot buttered pasta. It's 5 below Fahrenheit and 20 below celsius. I mean, it doesn't really get a lot colder than that. Not in Vermont anyway.


COATES: Pasta outdoors in the winter? Well, look, there is good news for everyone. The arctic blast is moving out of the region beginning on Sunday.

U.S. officials, everyone, not ruling out shooting down that Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. We've got the very latest on that next.



COATES: Well, what a week it's been. And so, we're going to break down all of the top stories of the week.