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Brutal Winter Storm Wallops South U.S.; Two Teens Arrested in U.K. in Connection with Texas Synagogue Siege; Italian Nurse Charged with Administering Fake Vaccine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, ANCHOR, EARLY START: Good morning, everyone, it is Monday, January 17th. It's MLK Day here in the U.S., it's 5:00 a.m. in New York, thanks so much for getting an early start with me, I'm Laura Jarrett, Christine has the day off. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. We begin this morning with treacherous travel conditions right now along a 1,000 mile Winter storm front from Georgia to Maine.

Fifty million people under Winter weather alerts at this hour. Snow falling in Philadelphia overnight, forecast to switch over to rain as the temperatures warm up along the front. Officials in states up and down the East Coast urging people to stay off the roads if at all possible. This is what it looks like behind the wheel there in Washington D.C., more than 1,200 flights canceled in the U.S. today, more than 180,000 customers without power, mostly in the southeast.

Now, the storm center is moving into the northeast. Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin is standing by with the forecast this morning. First let's go though to CNN's Polo Sandoval in hard-hit Pittsburgh. Polo, I can see the snow coming down. How bad is it?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a frozen wintry mess, and you know what? We're actually experiencing some lulls since we began to see the snowfall yesterday. But nonetheless, it certainly has been piling up here. Now, Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Wolf has been urging the residents of the state to simply stay home as of yesterday here, because, again, that precipitation continues to come down.

The big challenge here in Pittsburgh, Laura, has been to try to keep these streets clear. And so we had a major snow event at the beginning of the month here, and the city just on Friday during the -- one of their latest briefings recognized that their response fell short. The result was that there were many of those side streets, they basically became a frozen mess because as the head of public works admitted, they did not anticipate a refreezing event.

So the big challenge and the focus this time has been just trying to keep these roads and highways clear should the temperature of course plummet as we expect to see throughout much of the affected areas. In fact, the big issue here has also been a really an aging fleet of snow plows and snow removal equipment.

The city said on Friday that they have well over a dozen vehicles already ordered to try to keep up with snow-plowing and snow removal operations, but those haven't come in here because they're basically on back order due to supply chain issues due to COVID. So, that's how all of this comes together and it's basically affecting the city's ability to respond, but nonetheless, the city here, Laura, as we send things back to you, says that they can expect -- residents here can expect a significant improvement in the way the city handles these kinds of storms.

JARRETT: All right, hopefully most folks stay at home. I see very few cars out there, stay safe, OK, Polo? Thank you.


JARRETT: Let's get the very latest on the storm with CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin, he is live in Atlanta for us. All right, Tyler, how bad is this going to get and how long is it going to stick around?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, Laura, so this system is moving up to the north and east, and in its wake, it has left behind melted snow and rain across the south with some freezing temperatures that spills black ice potential for us this morning and maybe on into tomorrow as well. We also have Winter weather alerts from northeast Georgia all the way up into Maine. Millions under Winter weather alerts because of this system.

You can see where it's pushing right now, it's clearing out in the Carolinas, the Mid-Atlantic beginning to dry out for you, they're really heavy snow across all of New York, much of Pennsylvania on into Ohio, and that's rounding the base of that low pressure system and moving up New York City. New York is dealing with a little bit of shower and thunderstorm activity right now, and Boston, you're about to see some snowfall really pick up in intensity here soon.

The system is going to continue to push up to the northeast, we'll deal with it all day long. On the warm side, you've got the rainfall and some thunderstorms, on the cold side, you continue with the heavy snowfall. We could see, Laura, we could see in the higher elevations more than a foot of snow.

JARRETT: Right, Tyler, thank you. New this morning, the investigation into that day-long siege at a Texas synagogue deepening now with two teenagers arrested in the U.K. Further details about their possible connection to the case have not been released so far. A loud boom could be heard outside as the ordeal came to an end Sunday with the gunman shot dead after a nearly 11-hour standoff. All four of those hostages were freed unharmed thankfully.


The FBI has identified Saturday's gunman as 44-year-old British citizen Malik Akram. Akram entered the synagogue as its Sabbath morning service live-streamed online. The feed appeared to capture part of the incident before it was removed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to die at the end of this, all right? Are you listening? I am going to die! OK? So don't cry over me. OK? Don't cry, we cannot (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)


JARRETT: Hard to hear there. Investigators believe Akram may have been trying to force the release of Aafia Siddiqui who is serving an 86-year prison sentence in Texas. He was -- she was convicted for the 2010 attempted murder of U.S. officers in Afghanistan. Here with me to dig in a little deeper on all this, this morning, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem; Harvard Professor and former assistant secretary aide, DHS. Juliette, it's so nice to have you this morning, I know you've been following this case all weekend.

Does it strike you as odd that neither U.S. officials nor U.K. officials appear to have had the suspect on any watch list?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Odd only in the sense that we're looking at this from hindsight after Akram has already, sort of, you know, attacked the synagogue and now he's dead. But the challenge for information is that someone has to do something derogatory before they would even be part of an investigation, let alone make the kind of list that would prohibit them from coming to the United States. The no fly list has a certain number of standards that would -- that are required to be satisfied by a potential suspect before they are on the no fly list.

It's meant to be limited, to be quite targeted. So, why there was no derogatory information, meaning, why they didn't know much about him may have to do with the fact that he seems to have drifted for huge chunks of his life, what we know right now. He certainly drifted in the United States for a couple of weeks and he may not have been tied to any formal group or have any interaction with law enforcement.

I'll tell you, Laura, the one question I have is, how did he get access to weaponry?


KAYYEM: I think that's going to be the bigger question, is, he's in the United States, he -- we all know what he had on him specifically, but how did he get -- if true, how did he get weaponry?

JARRETT: Yes, as you mentioned, appeared to have been sort of drifting, living at a homeless shelter --

KAYYEM: Yes --

JARRETT: For a period of time --

KAYYEM: Yes --

JARRETT: So, a lot of questions there. So, the FBI also put out a statement last night calling this a terrorism-related matter, quote --

KAYYEM: Yes --

JARRETT: In which the Jewish community was targeted. I mean --

KAYYEM: Yes --

JARRETT: It was a synagogue, you could say that on its face, but here's what --

KAYYEM: Yes --

JARRETT: The FBI said Saturday.


MATTHEW DESARNO, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, DALLAS FBI: I do not have any information right now that indicates that this is part of any kind of ongoing threat. We obviously are investigating. We'll continue to investigate. We do believe from our engagement with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.


JARRETT: So, help me reconcile --

KAYYEM: Yes --

JARRETT: What the FBI is saying here. Can you parse this out? Why target a synagogue if -- I guess the aim was to get this person released from prison?

KAYYEM: Right. So, and I -- you know, the FBI does such an incredible job, so I think that was sort of an unfortunate statement earlier. Actually, except that it was perceived by many as sort of being insensitive I think to the Jewish community. Obviously Siddiqui, the woman who was the focus of a potential release request in this hostage-taking, is a well-known anti-Semite. She's -- she -- during her trial, she insisted that the jury take blood tests to make sure they had no Jewish blood in them.

So, you can just get a sense of what her ideology is. So clearly, her anti-Semitism is part of her attraction to people like the culprit on Saturday and his targeting of the synagogue therefore can only be seen as related to that. He didn't choose a Church, he didn't choose a Mosque --

JARRETT: Right --

KAYYEM: He chose a synagogue. And I think that was just sort of an unfortunate way of putting it. To be fair to the FBI, what they were clearly saying is there's no reason to believe that other synagogues for these purposes would be attacked in terms of trying to release Siddiqui.

JARRETT: That's helpful, Juliette, thank you --

KAYYEM: Yes --

JARRETT: Appreciate all your analysis --

KAYYEM: Thank you --

JARRETT: All weekend.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

JARRETT: And coming up for you, Russia's Vladimir Putin and the threat of war over Ukraine. What is President Biden willing to do to stop him? Plus, a nurse accused of faking COVID shots for anti- vaxxers. And a remarkable scene captured from space. A powerful explosion under water. That's next.



JARRETT: Welcome back. New this morning, schools, masks, and already a new governor facing push-back. At least, three large school districts in Virginia say they aren't following Governor Glenn Youngkin's order to lift all mask mandates in schools. Arlington and Fairfax County public schools in the Washington suburbs and Henrico County, near Richmond have all released statements that they are maintaining their mask requirement for students and staff.

Youngkin signed an executive order that ended the state-wide school mask mandates shortly after his inauguration on Saturday. He was asked what he plans to do about school systems that defy his orders?


GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): We will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents' rights are protected.


JARRETT: Now, some parents are applauding their school district's decision to stick with the masks. Among them, this familiar face, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She tweeted, quote, "thank you to Arlington public schools for standing up for our kids, teachers, administrators and their safety."


Meantime, the spread of the Omicron variant seems to be slowing down in some of the earliest hot spots. So, is this the beginning of the end for the highly contagious variant? The Surgeon-General told CNN's Jake Tapper not so fast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON-GENERAL: There are parts of the country,

New York in particular, and other parts of the northeast where we are starting to see a plateau and in some cases an early decline in cases. The challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace. The Omicron wave started later in other parts of the country, so we shouldn't expect a national peak in the next coming days. Next few weeks will be tough.


JARRETT: The good news you can see here is that cases are dropping in some states like New York which were hit early and hit hard by this latest wave of Omicron. So, let's bring in Dr. Elizabeth Murray to discuss more on all this, she's a pediatric emergency physician at the University of Rochester Medical Center, a rare -- EARLY START riser here with me. Doctor, what do you think it means for the rest of the country that we're seeing this drop in cases in those early hot spots like New York?

ELIZABETH MURRAY, PEDIATRIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Any drop in numbers we're certainly going to take. No one is going to complain about that. But I think it's important that we remember looking at kind of these macro numbers, something that needs to be controlled at a micro level is a little bit tricky. So, yes, numbers coming down right now is really important. But in New York, has been referenced now, say the New York numbers are down to about 50,000 cases.

That's still more than twice where we were in early December. So, the cases are still quite significant. And those numbers are generally coming from down state. Upstate New York has many regions where the positivity rate is still 20 percent or higher. So, we really still need to be focusing on what's happening within the community levels. Again, we'll take the lower numbers, but there's a lot of communities that still are very much in the thick of it. So, ongoing mitigation measures are still so very important.

JARRETT: So speaking of those ongoing mitigation efforts, the CDC's latest guidance includes cancelling what you might think of as high risk activity in schools like football, choir, obviously because of all the transmission that could happen there. But I wonder in your view, is this sort of guidance at this stage in the pandemic helpful, given sort of the credibility issues that the CDC is facing?

MURRAY: And it's tough because I think kids want to be back to normal, and they want to participate in kind of the fun part of their school day for many, but we know that in schools with good mitigation measures, masking, ventilation, vaccination that the school experience can be very safe. But time and time again, even in communities that have done -- had had excellent numbers in schools, we're seeing outbreaks in sports and other after-school activities. We have certainly seen that in my community as well, and it's not the sports per se, it's the bus drive to the event, it's the locker room, it's things along those lines.

And so, if your community data is showing you that those are hot spots, that those are micro level hot spots, then, yes, I think we do need to cut back on some of those things. Again, the North Star is keeping kids in school safely, that seems to be happening in places where they have strong mitigation measures in place. But if we're starting to see in the communities, those numbers popping up, I think that's an important guideline. I don't know that I would make it a universal, but the local members are seeing it's a problem, we've got to follow it.

JARRETT: As you've often said, there is no one size fits all approach here, you kind of have to tailor it to what your individual community is going through. I know in your own practice, you're dealing with young COVID patients, you're seeing them every day, every week. How much of a difference do you think final approval of those vaccines for kids under five as parents like myself are wait with baited breath for news of that?

MURRAY: Yes, the collective sigh I think will be heard worldwide when that comes through. And it is certainly important, you know, young children do a great job of spreading illness to each other. We always have known that's the case, and we're certainly seeing them being impacted by this disease, whether it'd be the very young babies who get very concerned about it if they have a fever from any course or just the toddlers that have difficulty keeping themselves hydrated, they need to be hospitalized because of that.

You know, anything we can do to prevent disease is so very important. And so, if we can get this last segment of our population an extra layer of protection with the vaccination, I think it's going to be great and certainly a great comfort to parents who have been so very worried about their little ones getting them into day care, back into the school settings with an extra layer of protection is going to just be so great.

JARRETT: Every day that we see that negative COVID test is a good day in our household. So, we just wait and keep going as we have been. Elizabeth Murray, Dr. Elizabeth Murray --

MURRAY: It's been a --

JARRETT: Thank you --

MURRAY: Bye-bye --

JARRETT: Appreciate it, hope to see you back soon. All right, now to this remarkable case overseas. A nurse in Palermo, Italy, has been arrested for allegedly helping anti-vaxxers -- get this, by draining the syringes before giving the shots. Increase footage of this bogus vaccinations appear to show the 58-year-old woman emptying the vaccine into gauze, showing the patients before injecting the patient with an empty needle.


Police say she also received a fake shot herself with the help of another nurse who was arrested in December for allegedly administering fake vaccinations to 11 people, among them a leader in Italy's anti- vax movement. Coming up for you, a nuclear submarine makes a rare appearance at a Pacific port. Is it there to send a message? And Cowboys fans stunned. Their Super Bowl dreams dashed, see the chaotic final seconds.



JARRETT: The Australian Open now underway without Novak Djokovic. The unvaccinated tennis star seen a short time ago in Dubai boarding a flight to Belgrade. Unable to defend his title in the Open, he was officially deported from Australia on Sunday. CNN's Paula Hancocks joins me live from Melbourne, she's been following it all, Paula, quite a weekend.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Laura. Now we're expecting Novak Djokovic to land shortly in Belgrade, but there's still some fallout here in Melbourne from the mess of that visa fiasco that we saw over the past 10 days or so. Scott Morrison; the prime minister has been asked about it already, specifically about the three-year ban that ultimately is put in place. Once your visa is canceled and you're deported from Australia -- now he didn't say anything specific, but did say that it is open for a person to be able to have -- meet the right conditions and possibly have it overturned in the future, not specifically saying that was going to happen, but there is an opening there.

Everyone else here in Melbourne was trying to move forward. It is day one of the Australian Open here, there was some mixed reaction at the grounds, many people saying that they're just relieved that it is over. Many saying that there has been a mess up from officials even allowing him to come here in the first place. But many others saying that they were happy with the way it went, that rules were rules, and they believe he should have been treated the same as everyone else. Laura?

JARRETT: Paula, thank you for your reporting, appreciate it. Well, the Dallas Cowboys are out of the NFL Playoffs after a chaotic final few seconds. And Scholes has this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT", Andy, what a game!

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: What a game, Laura, and I tell you what, if you have a Cowboys fan in your life, be extra nice to them today, because the Cowboys have had some brutal playoff losses over the years, but owner Jerry Jones said afterwards, he can't remember a time that he's been more disappointed. Now, the Cowboys were trailing the whole game.

They had to go 80 yards in the final 32 seconds to win the game. They quickly got all the way to the 49ers' 41yard line with 14 seconds left, but then Dak Prescott ran a quarterback draw with the idea that they could get some yards, spike it really quick and then have a final play at the end zone.

But the umpires got to touch the ball -- and by the time he did, the clock read zero. The refs discussed it and said the game was over. Cowboys lose 23-17. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MCCARTHY, HEAD COACH, DALLAS COWBOYS: I've never seen that come down, you know, the way it came down, you know, as far as the collision between the umpire and the quarterback. You know, we're -- you know, trying to get inside the 30-yard line to set up the last play. The mechanics were intact from one end of it, you know, the communication that I was given on the sideline that they were reviewing it, they were going to put -- you know, time back on the clock, and the next thing I know they're going off the field.


SCHOLES: Right, so 49ers move on to play the Packers next week, the Chiefs meanwhile, they're down 7-0, the Steelers in the second quarter, but then they flipped the switch. Patrick Mahomes throwing five touchdown passes, Chiefs scored 35 unanswered, would win easily in this one, 42-21. With the Steelers eliminated, that means Ben Roethlisberger has now likely played the final game of his career.


BEN ROETHLISBERGER, QUARTERBACK, PITTSBURGH STEELERS: It's tough. But I'm proud to play with these guys. God has blessed me with an ability to throw football and has blessed me to play in the greatest city in Pittsburgh with the greatest fans and the greatest football team and players, and it's just been truly a blessing, and I'm so thankful to Him for the opportunity that He's given me.


SCHOLES: All right. Tom Brady and the Bucs meanwhile begin their title defense with a dominant performance over the Eagles. Brady looking for his eighth Super Bowl title this time around, hooked up with old buddy Rob Gronkowski on a third floor to touchdown. That was 105th time they've hooked up for a score. The Bucs won that one easily 31-15. Bucs now going to play the winner of tonight's game between the Rams and the Cardinals.

And here's a look at next weekend's schedule. On Saturday, we're going to have the Titans hosting the Bengals and then the 49ers are going to head to the Frozen Tundra in Green Bay to play the Packers, then will have the Bills and Chiefs on Sunday to wrap things up. And finally, what do you do when you have two sons playing in the NFL in the Playoffs on the same day? Well, you make it to both games of course. Donna Kelce was in Tampa for her son Jason's game against the Bucs, then headed to the airport to go to Kansas City to see Travis play later in the night.

Her flight was delayed but she still made it for the second half and surprised Travis afterwards.



TRAVIS KELCE, TIGHT-END, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: What's up, mom, I'm glad you made it.

D. KELCE: Yes, I know, I actually made it, had a disappointing Tampa game. This --