January 6th, 2014
10:43 AM ET

'Historic and Life-Threatening' Freeze Brings Rare Danger Warning

On Monday morning, Nashville was 40 degrees colder than Albany, New York. Memphis, Tennessee, was 20 degrees colder than Anchorage, Alaska. And Atlanta was colder than Moscow.

But the U.S. South was downright balmy compared to the Great Lakes region, where temperatures hovered in the negative 20s - before wind chill, which dropped temps to the negative 50s, making it very dangerous to go outside.

The arctic blast slamming much of the United States is not just another winter storm. It's the coldest in 20 years in many areas, and breaking some records.

More than 3,000 flights nationwide were canceled by 10 a.m. ET Monday, according to flightaware.com.

While the current weather patterns gave the Northeast a bit of a reprieve, it's in for a brutal drop as the arctic air works its way east. New York, where it's about 50 degrees with wind chill Monday morning, could go as low as minus 7 on Tuesday, said CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons. The region could face a 60-degree temperature change in a single day.

The temperature spread within the United States is a stunning 130 degrees, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said, with wind chill putting northern Minnesota at 60 below zero, while Key West, Florida, basks in its dreamy 70 degrees. Much of the West can also expect relatively pleasant weather through Tuesday.

But from Minneapolis to Chicago to Milwaukee, people are under health warnings to stay indoors.

"Skin freezes in just five minutes with a wind chill of minus 50," said HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen.

Temperatures plummet in Green Bay as 49ers beat Packers

Frostbite occurs in 10 minutes with wind chills of minus 35, Hennen added.

In a very rare move, Minneapolis issued a "Particularly Dangerous Situation" warning about the "historic and life-threatening cold." Such warnings are typically issued for tornadoes, said Petersons.

The National Weather Service adopted the Twitter hashtag "#Chiberia" for Chicago, where temperatures were at 14 below zero. (Parts of the vast Siberian region, such as Tobolsk, had Fahrenheit temps in the low teens Monday, though other parts had temperatures of 50 below zero.)

Over the past week, at least 13 people have died of weather-related causes. Eleven people died in road accidents; one man in Wisconsin died of hypothermia and an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease who wandered away from her home in New York state was found dead in the snow in a wooded area about 100 yards away.

The immediate forecast offers little relief. But by Wednesday, temperatures will start edging closer to normal, forecasters said, and by Thursday temperatures in most of the country will be back to normal, or even above normal.

"It's bitterly 10 degrees here in Weatherford, Texas, with a wind chill of below zero," said Elizabeth Brew. "Very hard to watch my kids go to school in such weather, but it is what it is."

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December 26th, 2013
06:19 AM ET

UPS May Still Have Your Christmas Gifts

Santa wasn't the only one racing against the clock to get packages to homes Tuesday night. UPS was too.

But the company's backlog left some Americans with gifts missing from under the Christmas tree Wednesday morning, CNN's Nick Valencia reports.

"We're terribly sorry," spokeswoman Natalie Black told CNN.

In a statement, the company explained that "the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed."

FULL POST

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December 19th, 2013
11:09 AM ET

Indian Diplomat Arrested, Strip-Searched: Does She Have Immunity?

The arrest and strip-search of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, accused of visa fraud, has sparked questions about the complex, murky system of diplomatic immunity.

"There's a lot of subjectivity on this stuff," says CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Khobragade's lawyer, Daniel Arshack, says his client is entitled to diplomatic immunity and can't be prosecuted under U.S. law, CNN's Indian sister network IBN reported. But the State Department says Khobragade's consular immunity does not cover this kind of crime.

Now, Khobragade has been moved to India's Permanent Mission to the United Nations - where, Indian officials say, she may get full diplomatic immunity.

The rules involved are laid out by the State Department in a guidance document for law enforcement and judicial authorities.

"Most of these privileges and immunities are not absolute, and law enforcement officers retain their fundamental responsibility to protect and police the orderly conduct of persons in the United States," the document states.

Members of consular posts, such as Khobragade at the time of her arrest, do not have the same level of immunity as those who work at diplomatic missions.

Consular officers have some immunity involving official acts, but their "personal inviolability" is "quite limited," the document says. They may be arrested and detained for alleged felonies, and may be prosecuted for misdemeanors. Their families have no immunity of any kind.

Determining what distinguishes an official act from a personal one is often not cut-and-dry. "No law enforcement officer, State Department officer, diplomatic mission, or consulate is authorized to determine whether a given set of circumstances constitutes an official act.," the document states. "This is an issue which may only be resolved by the court with subject matter jurisdiction over the alleged crime."

A consular officer who is charged may argue that the allegations involve official acts. If the court agrees, the case must be dismissed.

Khobragade is accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her female housekeeper, paying her less than the amount stated. It's unclear whether she'll argue that the alleged act would be in the performance of her official duties, rather than personal.

Her attorney spoke to CNN's Chris Cuomo about the case and the issue of two contracts for the domestic worker.

Arshack said "There was one contract that defined how much this domestic worker was supposed to get paid. It defined the amount of pay and – the first contract said she'll get paid $9.75/hour. And that's what she got paid. The second contract was a contract that the domestic worker asked Dr. Khobragade to enter into, which could confirm that a portion of the money that she was going to get paid would get sent directly to husband in New Delhi."

SEE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW

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December 4th, 2013
10:20 AM ET

Innocent Man: How Inmate Michael Morton Lost 25 Years Of His Life

Imagine being out to dinner with the love of your life and your beautiful, smiling, 3-year-old child. It's a double celebration: your birthday and the end of your young boy's difficult recovery from surgery for a heart defect.

As you cross the street afterward, holding hands and swinging the little one up in the air, you think, "This is what it's about."

You know it's one of the best days of your life.

For Michael Morton, that day was August 12, 1986. He had just turned 32.

The next day, it was all taken away. The dream became a nightmare.

Christine, his wife, was attacked and killed at their home in Williamson County, Texas, just outside Austin. Michael Morton was at work at the time. Still, authorities suspected him.

"Innocent people think that if you just tell the truth then you've got nothing to fear from the police," Morton says now. "If you just stick to it that the system will work, it'll all come to light, everything will be fine."

Instead, Morton was charged, ripped away from his boy, and put on trial, CNN's Chris Cuomo reports.

The prosecutor, speaking to the jury in emotional terms with tears streaming down his face, laid out a graphic, depraved sexual scenario, accusing Morton of bludgeoning his wife for refusing to have sex on his birthday.

"There was no scientific evidence, there was no eyewitness, there was no murder weapon, there was no believable motive," Morton says. "... I didn't see how any rational, thinking person would say that's enough for a guilty verdict."

But with no other suspects, the jury convicted him. "We all felt so strongly that this was justice for Christine and that we were doing the right thing," says Mark Landrum, who was the jury foreman.

Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison.

He saw his son Eric only twice a year. "I would love seeing him, I was fascinated with his every move," Morton says. But Eric "was becoming more distant," Morton says. "He was becoming less mine."

As a teen, Eric had no memories of his father outside of prison. Letters his dad wrote him were "just a window into a life that never happened," he says. His father "barely existed in my life. I didn't have memories of him outside of the visits to prison."

Eric decided to stop visiting. "I think it was embarrassing for me to think that I had to go to jail to see my dad."

Michael Morton wrote Eric saying he had to come and tell him that in person. He did.

"It was another one of those numb, painful things," Morton says. "I just looked at my sister-in-law and said something like, 'Take care of my son.'"

Eric also changed his last name to that of the relatives who raised him.

A few years ago, a group of attorneys, working pro bono on Morton's behalf, managed to bring the truth to light. Not only was Morton innocent, but the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was accused of withholding crucial evidence.

The little boy, Eric, had seen the attack and told relatives that daddy was not home at the time. He described the man who did it. Neighbors had described a man parking a green van behind the Mortons' house and walking off into a wooded area. A blood-stained bandana was found nearby. None of that evidence made it into the trial.

It took years of fighting, but Morton's attorneys finally got the bandana tested for DNA. It contained Christine Morton's blood and hair and the DNA of another man - a convicted felon named Mark Norwood.

Norwood had killed Christine Morton. And since no one figured that out after her death, he remained free. He killed another woman in the Austin area, Debra Baker, in similar circumstances less than two years later, authorities say.

Norwood has now been convicted in Morton's killing, and indicted in Baker's killing.

Morton was freed in October 2011. He was 57 years old. "I thank God this wasn't a capital case," he said.

SEE PART TWO OF MORTON'S STOY:

For much more about the dramatic exoneration of falsely accused murderer Michael Morton, watch CNN Films' "An Unreal Dream, The Michael Morton Story," airing Thursday, December 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN TV.

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