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Brrrr-Ringing in 2014; Olympic Security Fears; Help Within Reach?

Aired December 31, 2013 - 05:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Deep freeze. 2014 will ring in with an Arctic blast for much of the country. Just how cold will it get? Details ahead.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And serious security fears in Russia, after two deadly suicide attacks, in as many days. What is being done to keep everyone safe at the upcoming Olympics?

CABRERA: Help may finally be within reach. New efforts underway to rescue dozens of people trapped on that ship in Antarctica. Why it's more likely to work this time.

Good morning. Thanks so much for being here with us on EARLY START. I'm Ana Cabrera.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow, in for John Berman, who is hosting NEW DAY today. It is Tuesday, December 31st, the final day of the year. Happy almost New Year's Eve, everyone.

CABRERA: I know. Is it OK to say happy New Year? We are all doing it.

HARLOW: It is 5:00 a.m. on the East Coast.

We're going to begin with the freezing weather you're probably feeling chilling arctic blast to ring in 2014, when the ball drops in Times Square in New York tonight, the eastern half of the United States will be shivering in the New York, with temperatures near zero in parts of the Midwest and well below freezing here in the Big Apple.

Meteorologist Jennifer Gray kicks off our New Year's Eve coverage.

Good morning to you. It's going to get pretty chilly.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, it is going to be very chilly. And those folks in Times Square is going to feel like about 17 degrees when the ball is dropping, so brace yourself. You want to definitely pack the layers.

It is a cold morning this morning, especially across the North. International falls feeling like 27 degrees below zero, feeling like eight below zero in Chicago. This cold air is going to stay in the north for the next day or so. Then it's going to start to move.

We are going to see this cold air move towards the Northeast, 32 degrees your high temperature in New York City on Thursday. But look at Friday, 17. So that arctic air is going to find its way in the Northeast. And along with it could come quite a bit of snow and a mess for the Northeast in the coming days.

We already have very, very cold air in place. We don't need to tell you that to know it. It's very cold. We have these lows that are going to track across the East Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard, depending on the distance of the low, how far off shore it's going to be is going to mean a huge difference in the amount of snowfall that we will see in the impacts from this. We have basically two forecast models we are looking at and both of them are saying something pretty much completely different.

So, we have one scenario that keeps the low well offshore and then we have the second scenario that keeps the low a little closer to shore and you can see all of the snow in the Northeast, anywhere from Virginia all the way up to New York City and that includes Boston and Maine in a big way.

This is the higher scenario. We could see anywhere from about six to 10 inches of rain in New York City and 10 to 12 inches in Boston. That's the worst case scenario if the low tracks a little bit farther offshore, then we won't see quite as much snow.

But looking at your New Year's Eve forecast, guys, the wind-chills at midnight, here they are. We'll be at 18 below zero ringing in the New Year in Minneapolis.

HARLOW: Yes, hometown, enjoy it. Enjoy, it folks!

CABRERA: It's all relative, right?

HARLOW: I hear people say it's cold and it's just nothing like being in Minnesota.

CABRERA: Yes, hats off to those folks.

HARLOW: Thank you, Jennifer. Appreciate it.

CABRERA: Well, there will be plenty of partying around the world to ring in 2014. People are already celebrating the New Year in Samoa. And in less than an hour from now, the clock strikes midnight in Auckland, New Zealand. The celebration is already underway in Australia.

But the eyes of the world will be on Dubai, where they are hoping to get a Guinness World Record for the largest fireworks display ever. And that's where we find Sara Sidner this morning.

They sure like to do things big in Dubai, don't they, Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's always the same story, right? They want it bigger, brighter, better than anyone else. And that's what they're trying to do tonight.

I want to give you an idea of what we're going to see. Just behind me, we're The Palm, that's the man-made island that is shaped like a palm, and that is the Atlantis.

There will be huge amount of fireworks blowing off. We're not talking about just, you know, tens of thousands. We're talking about hundreds of thousands.

So, while they're blowing off there, they will also be blowing off just across the water here to the Dubai marina area, where you see all those fancy buildings. They'll be fireworks blowing off there.

And if you slide over here, you will see just beyond that bridge, that is the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, they'll be blowing off there, as well as the Burj Al Attar, which is that little white building that you can barely see underneath the bridge.

So, they're going to be going off all around us, along a hundred kilometers of coastline. So, this is going to be big. And what are they hoping to do? Yes, the Guinness Book of World Records, they are here to see if they're able to break the record -- Ana.

CABRERA: Oh, my goodness. I'm excited for you to be able to witness such beauty.

Sara, what is the current record anyway for the biggest fireworks display?

SIDNER: This is cool. OK. So, Kuwait holds the current record which is 77,000 fireworks that blew off over an hour's time.

Guess what they're doing here? They are trying to here to beat it, but like beat by miles -- 400,000 fireworks. They are planning to blow off in about six minutes. And then, there will be a second fireworks display well. So, they are trying to beat it beyond any measure so that nobody else can catch up, at least not for a while.

CABRERA: It will be like the grand finale times 10 and consistently going on and on and on.

SIDNER: Exactly.

CABRERA: Sounds exciting. Thank you. Sara Sidner reporting this morning.

And don't forget, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, the New Year's tradition continues here on CNN with over three hours of the crazy antics as our own Anderson Cooper is joined by Kathy Griffin once again on the platform in Times Square. That countdown show you can count for anything to happen.

Yes, it will be live. Yes, we know it will be entertaining. You don't want to miss it. It all starts again at 9:00 Eastern Tonight, on New Year's Eve.

HARLOW: Less than six weeks of the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi and there are serious concerns for the safety of tourists and athletes. One U.S. snowboarder already declaring he may skip the opening ceremonies at the games if he makes the team. I want to show you this video. It's just in to CNN but let me warn you first. It is upsetting to watch. This captures a deadly explosion at a train station in the southern Russian city of Volgograd. This is one of two suicide bombings within 24 hours in that region that killed at least 24 people.

Let's bring in our Diana Magnay. She is live for us in Moscow this morning.

Hello to you, Diana. What is the latest you can tell us?


Well, that video really is disturbing, showing you the moment of detonation in that railway station. That explosion killed 18 and on a trolley bus the next morning, yesterday morning, another 16 were killed in another suicide bombing.

There is a huge anti-terror operation going on right now in the city of Volgograd. There is something like 5,200 officers who have been brought in, alongside normal forces there. They are searching people's documents. They detained some 87 people so far.

Normally, most of them apparently for possession of weapons without the right documents, not necessarily related to the attack, but you can see how much authorities are trying to find out what went on here.

And, of course, investigators also trying to look through the body fragments that they have they said to see whether the DNA matches up with any of the names they have on their databases of suspected militants. They do believe that these two attacks were linked because of the explosives used in both attacks contained identical shrapnel fragments, they say, and that's what they believe that they were that plot -- that the bombings were conceived and plotted in the same place, which we can assume fairly safely, Poppy, is the north caucuses, that very volatile region in southern Russia, quite close to Sochi, not 200 miles away where Russia is effectively fighting an Islamist insurgency.

HARLOW: And when you talk about the proximity, Diana, and you look at being less than six weeks away from the opening ceremony of the games, I'm wondering how confident officials there are about the security of the games? I was just reading the organizing committee president of the Sochi Games called this the safest games ever.

MAGNAY: Well, that's certainly what the Russian officials are trying to give the impression that it is the safest games ever. And certainly, around Sochi, I'm sure the security will be extremely high. Officials are being, as you can understand, fairly cagey about what exactly their security measures are, but they say even in the wake of these Volgograd bombings, they don't have to change them.

But the terrorists don't have to attack Sochi. As we've seen in Volgograd, they can attack transportation hubs, softer targets, athlete visitors. They have to travel through certain areas. So that is the danger here. And terrorists know that in this gigantic country, not everything can be secure. And even at even at this stage, in railways and airports, you have metal detectors, everywhere. But the problem with that, Poppy, is that often, the metal detectors aren't working. The security guards aren't really on ball. You know, it's a huge country to police and it doesn't just have to be that tiny area around Sochi that needs policing.

HARLOW: That's a very good point. It just takes one miss, absolutely. Very scary for all those people there and our hearts go out to at least 34 victims from those two attacks.

Thank you very much, Diana. Appreciate it.

CABRERA: It's now about 10 minutes after five here on the East.

Let's look at the rest of your headlines this morning.

Fiery explosions after a train crash forcing evacuations in a North Dakota town at this hour. The train carrying crude oil, slamming into a derailed train yesterday, setting off a whole series of explosions, causing that huge fireball you see on your screen. This happened just outside Casselton. That's about 25 miles west of Fargo.


CABRERA: Wow is right. People living within a five-mile radius now being told to leave their homes because of potential health hazard here from all of that smoke. So far, however, the good news is no injuries reported.

HARLOW: And another week of hope for the family of a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead in California. On Monday, a judge granted a last-minute order keeping Jahi McMath on life support until January 7th. You'll remember after routine tonsil surgery last month, McMath went into cardiac arrest, and three days later, she was declared brain dead. The hospital has fought to take her off of life support, but her mother says the girl shows signs of life.


MAILAH WINKFIELD, MOTHER OF JAHI MCMATH: My child is not dead. I don't care what they say. How can she be dead as she urinates? How could she be dead and her heart beats? She has blood flowing through her system, when she responds to my touch and my voice? How can a dead person do that?


HARLOW: Well, the hospital insists the girl's condition is irreversible. An independent judge and doctor have agreed. Attorneys for the family say they are filing an appeal with the state.

CABRERA: Such a sad situation.

HARLOW: Yes. CABRERA: An airport worker found dead on the tarmac of Boston's Logan International Airport on Monday. Police say the 59-year-old man was likely hit by a truck as it backed up near a plane. So far, investigators say his death looks like an accident. The driver of that truck was later treated for stress. Police say he will be tested for drug and alcohol use.

HARLOW: Meantime, recreational pot sales becoming legal in Colorado at the stroke of midnight tonight, a lot of people waiting for that one. About a dozen retailers will begin selling marijuana in Denver at that time. About 20 other stores are expected to open up around the state. Customers have to be 21 years old to purchase marijuana. They cannot smoke it in public and if you are caught with it at the airport because you can't take it in or out of the state, you will be fined $999.

CABRERA: About 40,000 other new laws take effect in America at the stroke of midnight tonight. The biggest and the most politically charged perhaps is Obamacare. If you don't have health insurance when the New Year begins, you could face a fine.

In Illinois, two new laws went into the use of drones and one of them keeps them from interfering with hunters and fisherman, a tactic threatened by animals rights group, and a new gender identity law in California, allowing students to use bathrooms and join school athletic teams, consistent with their gender identity, even if that's different than their gender at birth.

HARLOW: All right. Coming up on EARLY START, they have been stuck for days on this stranded ship in Antarctica. So, will a new plan to rescue the dozens of passengers by air this time, will it finally work? We're going to take you live, straight ahead.

CABRERA: And strange crop circles found in California.

Harlow: Wow.

CABRERA: Where did these come from? The mystery that has people buzzing, next.

HARLOW: Look at that.


CABRERA: Welcome back to EARLY START.

One more day, that's how long it's supposed to take to hopefully rescue dozens of people still stranded on that Russian research vessel in the Antarctic. Now, the ship is trapped in the ice there since Christmas Eve. And after three different ice breaking ships have failed to reach them, well, they are now calling in the choppers.

Matthew Chance is tracking the latest developments for us live from London.

Matthew, the saga continues. MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, some developments taking place over the course of the past several hours. We've heard from both the Chinese and the Australians who have ice breaking ships in the area saying that essentially all the attempts to reach the research vessel by sea had to be suspended. The packed ice is too thick in the area of Antarctica for them to reach it.

The Australians saying they are in danger of getting their own ship, their own ice breaker trapped in that ice if they continued. But a decision has been taken to air-lift the majority of the 74 passengers and crew off that stranded research vessel by helicopter. They're going to be doing that as soon as they can. But as soon as they can is not any time soon because the weather conditions are so dire, they're not able to fly the helicopters in the high winds that are gusting through that region at the moment.

In the meantime, members of the ship's staff, the crew and passengers on board as well that are stranded are on the packed ice and stomping down manually the ice on the sea tarp to create a make-shift helipad for when the time comes for the helicopters come and air-lift them to safety. So, it looks like their rescue will come eminently but when that is, is not clear -- Ana.

CABRERA: We've heard from that crew captain that the attitude and the atmosphere aboard is rather festive, despite all of these setbacks. So, they are keeping that positive attitude. Have they heard this news about this upcoming rescue? I imagine they have to be elated?

CHANCE: Yes, well, to be honest, Ana, they have been elated it seems, according to their video blogs, from the outset, since Christmas Day when they were in the packed ice and they have been posting very positive messages about the mood on board the ship. Apparently, they had a huge festive meal on Christmas Day and they've got very big supplies of food and drink, very warm and they're pretty happy. They're continuing with their experiments as well.

So, they are aware to your question, of the latest developments. They are in contact by radio, with all the surrounding ships that have been trying to rescue them, and that's why they are on the packed ice, stomping down that landing zone area, the helipad for when the weather clears so they can be taken away to safety, Ana. The fingers crossed that weather clears very soon.

Thank you so much, Matthew Chance, for joining us morning.

And you can you hear more from the expedition leader, Chris Turney, about the potential rescue. He's going to be joining us on NEW DAY. That's at 7:00 Eastern.

HARLOW: I look forward to that. Their attitude has been unbelievable through all of this.


HARLOW: Also making headlines this morning, 26 Palestinian prisoners released by Israeli. The goodwill gesture coming just days before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a step towards, quote, "resuming the diplomatic process". Kerry travels to Jerusalem, in Ramallah tomorrow to try to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

CABRERA: Drone flights and heavily traveled U.S. airspace are one step closer to becoming a reality this morning. The FAA selecting six research sites to test and map out the best way to bring these unmanned aircraft into the existing system. These sites are located in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas A&M University, as well as Virginia Tech.

HARLOW: Meantime, listen to this, a newly released Pew Survey shows a growing gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to their view of Evolution. According to their survey, a majority of Republicans now do not believe in the Theory of Evolution.

The survey found that 43 percent of Republicans now think humans evolved over time. That compares with 54 percent who thought that in 2009. In that same period of time, Democrats who think humans evolved increased from 64 percent to 67 percent.

Overall, six in 10 Americans believe humans have evolved over time, 33 percent, though, reject the idea of Evolution.

CABRERA: Doctors now say race car driver Michael Schumacher is fighting for his life and in a medically induced coma. But doctors also say he is showing slight improvement. This is new information we are just getting this morning. Just got an e-mail saying that they've alleviated some of the pressure from around his brain with a second operation that has happened overnight. The operation took a couple of hours.

And his condition is improving slightly, but he is not out of danger just yet. They also add that helmet saved his life, but whether he'll survive is still a question.

HARLOW: Best wishes to him certainly at this perilous time.

Also, this is not a scene from the Mel Gibson movie "Signs." This is actual footage of giant crop circles that appeared on a farm near central California. So, naturally, this has people wondering is this the work of aliens, is this a hoax, or is this some very talented prankster?


MANUEL MADRID, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: I'm a skeptic but this could be aliens. I don't know. I'm always willing to believe something. If there is proof, then I can't deny proof, but right now, it looks like alien (ph) to me. So --


HARLOW: Well, two friends driving on a nearby road on Sunday night witnessed strange bursts of green light flashing on the horizon. They said they videotaped it, posted it on YouTube where it went viral bringing a number of curious onlookers to see it on Monday to see it for themselves.

I have no idea what could create this.


CABRERA: So, first, the green light flashes and then this pops up, huh? Hmm.

Well, coming up, a record in jeopardy. Why seven yards may cost Peyton Manning his newest record. That and more in our "Bleacher Report", next.


CABRERA: Welcome back to EARLY START.

OK, Tim Tebow back in the spotlight.

HARLOW: Back in Austin.

CABRERA: Yes, he's going to be back in football next season, but not necessarily on the field.

Andy Scholes joins us with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys.

Well, when you wake up on Saturday morning next fall to watch college football, Tim Tebow will be there to break it all down for you.

ESPN announced yesterday that they have assigned Tebow to be a part of their new SEC Network that will launch next fall. Tebow tweeted yesterday while he is excited for the opportunity with ESPN, he will still pursue his dream of playing quarterback in the NFL. Tebow will make his TV debut during next week's BCS national championship game.

All right. Number two in the lineup section on, Peyton Manning's record for yards in the season may be the shortest lived record of all time. According to reports, the NFL is currently reviewing this play Manning made to Eric Decker, pass to Eric Decker in Sunday's win over the Raiders. It went for seven yards but if you look at it again, it really does look like a lateral.

The NFL could change this to a running play. If they do, Manning would fall six yards dry of Drew Brees previous record for passing yards in a season.

All right. This week, Memphis Grizzlies made an awesome acquisition. The team, along with the Make-A-Wish foundation, made 8-year-old Charvis Brewer's wish come true. The Brewers drafted Charvis to the team, giving him his own press conference, contract, and, of course, a draft hat, he got to attend practice and the team's game with the Bulls.

Charvis who suffers from cerebral palsy not only got his wish to come true. He also made some history guys becoming the youngest player to ever be drafted in the NBA. What a cool deal for him.

CABRERA: What a feel-good story. You got to love that.

HARLOW: Got to love that. And Peyton Manning, we'll see. We'll see what happens.

SCHOLES: It will be good (ph) for him, right?

CABRERA: Go Broncos.

HARLOW: Go Broncos.

CABRERA: They took him out of the game early.

SCHOLES: Right. He didn't play most of the game. They should have padded that record a little bit, should have lift it up --

HARLOW: Andy, appreciate it.

Straight ahead, the top headlines -- everything you need to know to start your day, right after the break.


HARLOW: Happy New Year's freeze, everyone! Dangerously cold weather slamming much of the country this morning. We are going to tell you what you can expect for the start of the New Year.

CABRERA: And it is New Year's Eve from fireworks to confetti. Cities all around the world preparing to ring in the New Year. We're going to take you live to Dubai where a major record just might be broken.

HARLOW: And high alert after two suicide attacks. Can Russia keep everyone safe at the Olympics? The serious security concerns. We'll take you live to Moscow.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

CABRERA: And I'm Ana Cabrera. Thanks for being here.

John Berman is gearing up to host NEW DAY. So, that's why we're keeping the seat warm for him this morning.

Now, bottom of the hour, and, of course, it's New Year's Eve. You probably have a lot of plans this evening perhaps and perhaps. 2014 is going to ring in with a deep freeze.


CABRERA: When that ball drops in Times Square tonight, the eastern half of the United States will be shivering in the New Year with temperatures near zero in parts of the Midwest and well below freezing in the Big Apple.